It’s time to bring this long digression to a conclusion, by reaching out impatiently towards the end. The basic theme has been mind control, or thought-suppression, as demonstrated by the Media-Academic complex that dominates contemporary Western societies … the Cathedral.
Nick Land, The Dark Enlightenment
An illuminated 24/ 7 world without shadows is the final capitalist mirage of post-history , of an exorcism of the otherness that is the motor of historical change.
Jonathan Crary, 24/7
There is Mark Fischer said “the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it” (2).1 As another author Luis Suarez-Villa in his recent Globalization and Technocapitalism tells us “the ethos of technocapitalism places experimentalism at the core of corporate power”, much as production was at the core of industrial corporate power, undertaken through factory regimes and labor processes. And , much as the ethos of past capitalist eras was accompanied by social pathologies and by frameworks of domination, so the new ethos of technocapitalism introduces pathological constructs of global domination that are likely to be hallmarks of the twenty-first century.2
There are those like Steven Best and Douglas Kellner in their now dated The Postmodern Adventure who once believed that democracy was salvageable, that “the future of democracy” they tell us “depends in part on whether new technologies will be used for domination or democratization, and whether each individual will sit on the sidelines or participate in the development of new democratic public spheres” (248).3 Yet, that time has passed, too; and, with it any hope of democracy as we once knew it.
Another author Barry C. Lynn of the New American Foundation in his latest work on the economics of destruction of our monopoly capitalism Cornered states: “the entire system of distributed and oppositional ownership over the American industrial corporation – developed over the course of a century – was undone in a generation” (236).4 Speaking of the Chicago School of Economics and the obliteration of the old industrial economies during the 80’s, 90’s, and beyond. Now the Banker, the Shareholder, the CEO are the central power elite: the Capitalist as Agent is no longer in charge of a thriving system of work in which it protects the livelihoods of its employees and supports their rights, but is now bound by a new economic agenda in which it must reduce the workforce capacity, deplete the older industrial base by no longer maintaining the machines and infrastructures that supported it, and stripping out the various forms of wealth that once kept such systems in place: such as salaries and pensions, R & D funds, and safety and redundancy capital (Lynn, 234).
The older image of the Capitalist as some singular owner (a J.P. Morgan or John D. Rockefeller) has vanished and in its place as Lynn reminds us is “an extremely powerful class that has largely commoditized all its holdings and thus escaped all the legal strictures that tie individual owners to real property” (Lynn, 235). All of this has led to what he calls ‘The Citadel’. First they killed off three of the key defenders of the old world: the worker, the engineer, and the state. They corrupted the CEO by creating a system in which they became the elite members of a new pay club with millions in their pockets to do the bidding of this new power elite. Then they maximized the fictional construct of the Shareholder to be the frontman mask for their insidious pulverization of the market place, workers rights, and the slow devolution of the industrial-era economics of a now obsolete age. Lastly the reinstated the ultimate heist, they put a human face onto this beast under the legal rubric of the Corporation as Person, as a legal entity to hide their nefarious and illegal world of theft, piracy, and economic destruction. As Lynn tells it this is the new amoral world of the financiers: “Control without ownership; power without responsibility; appetite without mind. Our industrial treasures smashed. Our ability to create destroyed. (237).
As Douglas Ruskoff recently said unlike Europe’s fascist dictatorships, this state of affairs [our incorporation in the Corporate State] came about rather bloodlessly—at least on the domestic front. Indeed, the real lesson of the twentieth century is that the battle for total social control would be waged and won not through war and overt repression, but through culture and commerce. Instead of depending on a paternal dictator or nationalist ideology, today’s system of control depends on a society fastidiously cultivated to see the corporation and its logic as central to its welfare, value, and very identity. That’s why it’s no longer Big Brother who should frighten us—however much corporate lobbies still seek to vilify anything to do with government beyond their own bailouts. Sure, democracy may be the quaint artifact of an earlier era, but what has taken its place? Suspension of habeas corpus, surveillance of citizens, and the occasional repression of voting notwithstanding, this mess is not the fault of a particular administration or political party, but of a culture, economy, and belief system that places market priorities above life itself. It’s not the fault of a government or a corporation, the news media or the entertainment industry, but the merging of all these entities into a single, highly centralized authority with the ability to write laws, issue money, and promote its expansion into our world.4.5
There are those on the far Left and the far Right who see no alternative to this state of affairs short of a full and complete: exit. On the left we have the Exodus of such Paolo Virno who tells we must form a new alliance between Intellect and Action which is forged, has a number of fixed stars in its heaven: radical Disobedience, Intemperance, Multitude, Soviet, Example, Right of Resistance. These categories allude to a political theory of the future, a theory perhaps capable of facing up to the political crises of the late twentieth century and outlining a solution that is radically anti-Hobbesian.5 Virno sees this as a sort of exodus, a great movement of the multitude beyond the State, anti-statist in intent and method.6
In another of my articles Franco Berardi: Panic Society and the Semiopath I once described the new citizen of this dark capitalism as the semiopath. As I read between the lines in Berardi’s precarious rhapsody I am coming to the realization that the perfect citizen of semiocapitalism is not the psychopath but the Semiopath, the infonaut caught in the web of deceitful capital neither fully Borg nor a member of that species we once quaintly called homosapiens. The Semiopath is a voyeur of signs rather than a creator, a semiotician of the death-drive rather than a desiring machine, a cyberzombie of the edge worlds frozen on the cyberscreens of an endless night of civilization. A living semblance of our former humanity glued to the economics of an Occasionalist nightmare in which the mediator of causality is no longer God or Mind, but, as Zizek reminds us, the immaterial software algorithms on those pieces of material hardware we call Computers. Our machinic cousins now arbitrate the virtual subjects of the new cybertariat, those neo-intellectuals of our posthuman era. What modes of composition and recomposition connect us to the lightwaves and digitized byways of cyberspace; its movement of along the lines of consistency we term social composition? Is the mode of composition of this machinic subjectivation formed out of the traumatic zero world of our negative economics? As the modes of its communication among machines stretching across the global networks and assemblages sucks up more and more of the bitter dregs of humanity what will be left to salvage by century’s end? The communication of machine with machine goes on without us in the silent nights and days, while we oblivious to its music dive into the slipstreams idly playing the strings of its throbbing diodes like troubadours of some new alien sound poetry. Will the singularity (possible or not?) come in like a tiger or like the whimper of some bad suicide? Do we play the computer, or does it play us?
On the Right you have both Libertarians and what is tentatively termed by their loosely knit cohorts as the Neoreaction, which is best described by Nick Land:
For the hardcore neo-reactionaries, democracy is not merely doomed, it is doom itself. Fleeing it approaches an ultimate imperative. The subterranean current that propels such anti-politics is recognizably Hobbesian, a coherent dark enlightenment, devoid from its beginning of any Rousseauistic enthusiasm for popular expression. Predisposed, in any case, to perceive the politically awakened masses as a howling irrational mob, it conceives the dynamics of democratization as fundamentally degenerative: systematically consolidating and exacerbating private vices, resentments, and deficiencies until they reach the level of collective criminality and comprehensive social corruption. The democratic politician and the electorate are bound together by a circuit of reciprocal incitement, in which each side drives the other to ever more shameless extremities of hooting, prancing cannibalism, until the only alternative to shouting is being eaten. (see: The Dark Enlightenment)
For Land “democracy might begin as a defensible procedural mechanism for limiting government power, but it quickly and inexorably develops into something quite different: a culture of systematic thievery. …Democracy is essentially tragic because it provides the populace with a weapon to destroy itself, one that is always eagerly seized, and used. Nobody ever says ‘no’ to free stuff. Scarcely anybody even sees that there is no free stuff. Utter cultural ruination is the necessary conclusion.”(ibid.)
Yet, for Land this is not all, for we are fast approaching the bionic horizon in which there is no “essential difference between learning what we really are and re-defining ourselves as technological contingencies, or technoplastic beings, susceptible to precise, scientifically-informed transformations. ‘Humanity’ becomes intelligible as it is subsumed into the technosphere, where information processing of the genome – for instance — brings reading and editing into perfect coincidence” (ibid.). He goes on to say: “Religious traditionalists of the Western Orthosphere are right to identify the looming bionic horizon with a (negative) theological event. Techno-scientific auto-production specifically supplants the fixed and sacralized essence of man as a created being, amidst the greatest upheaval in the natural order since the emergence of eukaryotic life, half a billion years ago. It is not merely an evolutionary event, but the threshold of a new evolutionary phase. John H. Campbell heralds the emergence of Homo autocatalyticus, whilst arguing: “In point of fact, it is hard to imagine how a system of inheritance could be more ideal for engineering than ours is.”
Some say we are living in the Age of the Zettabyte. A recent study, in 2011 shows that we passed the zettabyte (1000 exabytes) barrier: In 2011, the amount of information created and replicated will surpass 1.8 zettabytes (1.8 trillion gigabytes)— growing by a factor of 9 in just five years. (Gantz and Reinsel, 2011) This figure is now expected to grow fourfold approximately every three years. Every day, enough new data is being generated to fill all US libraries eight times over. (Floridi, 2012c).7
In this age of information overload when machines not humans begin to take over as agents with the capacity to navigate this new infosphere of information in ways our Renaissance forbears could only dream of we are being reontologized as a new breed commoditized citizenery of this great Infosphere says Luciano Floridi, philosopher of information and its ethical implications:
We are already living in an infosphere that will become increasingly synchronized (time), delocalized ( space ), and correlated (interactions). Although this might be interpreted, optimistically, as the friendly face of globalization, we should not harbour illusions about how widespread and inclusive the evolution of the information society will be. Unless we manage to solve it, the digital divide will become a chasm, generating new forms of discrimination between those who can be denizens of the infosphere and those who cannot, between insiders and outsiders, between information rich and information poor. It will redesign the map of worldwide society, generating or widening generational, geographic, socio-economic, and cultural divides. Yet the gap will not be reducible to the distance between rich and poor countries, since it will cut across societies. Pre-historical cultures have virtually disappeared, with the exception of some small tribes in remote corners of the world. The new divide will be between historical and hyperhistorical ones. We might be preparing the ground for tomorrow’s informational slums (Floridi, 9).
Floridi goes on to tell us that we’ve been steadily moving through the passage from a nominalist world of unique objects to a Platonist world of types of objects, all perfectly reproducible as identical to one other, therefore epistemically indiscernible for a while now. As he states it when our ancestors bought a horse, they bought this horse or that horse , not ‘the’ horse. Today , we find it obvious that two automobiles may be virtually identical and that we are invited to test-drive and buy the model rather than an individual ‘incarnation’ of it. We buy the type not the token. Indeed, we are fast moving towards a commodification of objects that considers repair as synonymous with replacement, even when it comes to entire buildings. This has led , by way of compensation, to a prioritization of informational branding—a process compared by Klein to the creation of ‘cultural accessories and lifestyle philosophies’ — and of re-appropriation. The person who puts a sticker in the window of her car, which is otherwise perfectly identical to thousands of others, is fighting an anti-Platonic battle in support of a nominalist philosophy. The information revolution has further exacerbated this process. Once our window-shopping becomes Windows-shopping and no longer means walking down the street but browsing through the web, the processes of de-physicalization and typification of individuals as unique and irreplaceable entities start eroding our sense of personal identity as well. We begin to act and conceptualize ourselves as mass-produced, anonymous entities among other anonymous entities, exposed to billions of other similar informational organisms online. We conceive ourselves as bundles of types, from gender to religion, from family role to working position, from education to social class. So we construct, self-brand, and re-appropriate ourselves in the infosphere by using blogs and Facebook entries, homepages , YouTube videos, and Flickr albums, fashionable clothes, and choices of places we visit, types of holidays we take, and cars we drive, and so forth. It is perfectly reasonable that Second Life should be a paradise for fashion enthusiasts of all kinds. Not only does it provide a new and flexible platform for designers and creative artists, it is also the right context in which users (avatars) intensely feel the pressure to obtain visible signs of self-identity and unique personal tastes. After all, your free avatar looks like anybody else’s. Likewise, there is no inconsistency between a society so concerned about privacy rights and the success of services such as Facebook. We use and expose information about ourselves to become less informationally anonymous and indiscernible. We wish to maintain a high level of informational privacy almost as if that were the only way of saving a precious capital that can then be publicly invested (squandered, pessimists would say) by us in order to construct ourselves as individuals easily discernible and uniquely re-identifiable by others. (Floridi, pp. 12-13)
Floridi describes this great transformation in economics, technology, and the post-human break as the fourth revolution and the evolution of inforgs or Informational Organisms. As he tells it an inforg “should not be confused with the sci-fi vision of a ‘cyborged’ humanity, or a revised version of the extended mind thesis” (Floridit, 15). No. Instead it is happening transparently, day by day as you walk around with your Bluetooth wireless headset implanted in your ear is bringing you under its seductive transparency a slow immersion in a new kind of enslavement to a new technologized environment in which the very foundations of our identity are being reshaped and redefined without us ever realizing this consciously. Floridi argues that this subtle process of re-ontologization taking place across the globe:
We are witnessing an epochal, unprecedented migration of humanity from its Newtonian, physical space to the infosphere itself as its Umwelt, not least because the latter is absorbing the former. As a result, humans will be inforgs among other (possibly artificial) inforgs and agents operating in an environment that is friendlier to informational creatures. And as digital immigrants like us are replaced by digital natives like our children, the latter will come to appreciate that there is no ontological difference between infosphere and physical world, only a difference in levels of abstraction. When the migration is complete, we shall increasingly feel deprived, excluded, handicapped, or impoverished to the point of paralysis and psychological trauma whenever we are disconnected from the infosphere, like fish out of water. One day, being an inforg will be so natural that any disruption in our normal flow of information will make us sick.(Floridi, pp. 16-17)
Floridi’s take is that we are already so far along in this transformation that our fictions of the future are in themselves obsolete. The SciFi paradigm of cyborgs, posthuman machines, etc. is no longer the point and will probably never happen in the way these authors envisioned, instead we should begin looking around us at the invisible layers of our own technological Information and Communications Systems that actually are already transforming the way we think and live. As he states it we have begun to accept the virtual as reality. Our information society is better seen as a neo-manufacturing society in which raw materials have been superseded by data and information. We now live for better or worse in a new synthetic commons, a synthetic environment in which the breakdown of human identity is becoming more and more passé as we are digitized and reprogrammed into inforgs.
Deleuze once described the dividual as a physically embodied human subject that is endlessly divisible and reducible to data representations via the modern technologies of control, like computer-based systems.8 Our new technocapitalist elite both in governmental and corporate circles have been funding heavily in data mining, ICT’s (Information and Communications Technologies), etc. for some time now all with an objective to further their own control agendas. As we begin to merge with this new co-evolved environment of the InfoSphere we are also becoming what one author terms the Sleepless Generation.9 Even as the strategic logic of US military planning has been directed toward removing the living individual from many parts of the command, control, and execution circuit. Untold billions are spent developing robotic and other remote-operated targeting and killing systems, with results that have been dismayingly evident in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. We discover that the remaining human soldiers are entering what must be termed sleeplessness research which is part of a quest for soldiers whose physical capabilities will more closely approximate the functionalities of non-human apparatuses and networks. There are massive ongoing efforts by the scientific-military complex to develop forms of “augmented cognition” that will enhance many kinds of human-machine interaction. Simultaneously, the military is also funding many other areas of brain research, including the development of an anti-fear drug. There will be occasions when, for example, missile-armed drones cannot be used and death squads of sleep-resistant, fear-proofed commandos will be needed for missions of indefinite duration. As part of these endeavors, white-crowned sparrows have been removed from the seasonal rhythms of the Pacific coast environment to aid in the imposition of a machinic model of duration and efficiency onto the human body. As history has shown, war-related innovations are inevitably assimilated into a broader social sphere, and the sleepless soldier would be the forerunner of the sleepless worker or consumer. Non-sleep products, when aggressively promoted by pharmaceutical companies, would become first a lifestyle option, and eventually, for many, a necessity.(Crary, Kindle Locations 38-51).
As this author puts it:
[M]any institutions in the developed world have been running 24/ 7 for decades now. It is only recently that the elaboration, the modeling of one’s personal and social identity, has been reorganized to conform to the uninterrupted operation of markets, information networks, and other systems. A 24/ 7 environment has the semblance of a social world, but it is actually a non-social model of machinic performance and a suspension of living that does not disclose the human cost required to sustain its effectiveness. It must be distinguished from what Lukács and others in the early twentieth century identified as the empty, homogenous time of modernity, the metric or calendar time of nations, of finance or industry, from which individual hopes or projects were excluded. What is new is the sweeping abandonment of the pretense that time is coupled to any long-term undertakings, even to fantasies of “progress” or development . An illuminated 24/ 7 world without shadows is the final capitalist mirage of post-history , of an exorcism of the otherness that is the motor of historical change.(Kindle Locations 112-119).
In other words even the old Enlightenment conceptions of a progressive politics have finally lost their way and are now being abandoned literally by both the cognoscenti (digital intellectuals) and the dark elites (power merchants) of our present era. What remains of our humanity is anyone’s guess. The Inforgasm is upon us, the slipstream worlds of human/machine have begun to reverse engineer each other in a convoluted involution in which we are returning to our own native climes as machinic beings. Maybe a schizoanalyst could sort this all out. For me there is no escape, no exit, just the harsh truth that what is coming at us is our own blind brain in reverse, an engineering feat that no one would have thought possible: consciousness gives way to the very machinic processes that underpin its actual and virtual histories.
Welcome to the Fourth Estate…
I can add colors to the chameleon,
Change shapes with Proteus for advantages,
And set the murderous Machiavel to school.
— William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part Three, Act III, Scene ii
The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
Some wait alone, some share their invisible rooms with others. Invisible, yes, what do the furnishings matter, at this stage of things? Underfoot crunches the oldest of city dirt, last crystallizations of all the city had denied, threatened, lied to its children. Each has been hearing a voice, one he thought was talking only to him, say, “You didn’t really believe you’d be saved. Come, we all know who we are by now. No one was ever going to take the trouble to save you, old fellow. . . .”
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
1. Fisher, Mark (2012-08-07). Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? (Zero Books) (p. 2). NBN_Mobi_Kindle. Kindle Edition.
2. Luis Suarez-Villa (2013-01-28). Globalization and Technocapitalism (Kindle Locations 803-807). Ashgate. Kindle Edition.
3. Steven Best and Douglas Kellner. The Postmodern Adventure. (The Guilford Press, 2001).
4. Barry C. Lynn. Cornered. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010)
4.5. Rushkoff, Douglas (2009-05-27). Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back (Kindle Locations 292-302). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
5. 1. Paolo Virno;Michael Hardt. Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics (Kindle Locations 2578-2580). Kindle Edition.
6 (see my post The Political Theory of the Future: Paolo Virno and Bifo Berardi)
7. Floridi, Luciano (2013-10-10). The Ethics of Information (p. 5). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.
8. see my post: Control Society: The History, Logic, and Methodologies of Control
9. Crary, Jonathan (2013-06-04). 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. Verso Books. Kindle Edition.