What about Communism?

I came across the work of Jean-Pierre Dupuy while reading of all things Slavoj Žižek’s Less Than Nothing where he praised Dupuy The Mark of the Sacred as the most “radical critical analysis of the “mystery of sacrifice” as a fundamental ideological category”.1 Of course the driving force behind Dupuy is the work of two other thinkers, Rene Girard and Ivan Illich, both of whom would lead Dupuy on a journey to understand the deep roots of violence and how it was religion that developed over thousands of years and under a myriad of circumstances ways of both expiating and transforming violence into social practices in ways that obviated the deathly power it held over people’s lives. As Zizek tells us:

Although the “official” topic of Dupuy’s The Mark of the Sacred is the link between sacrifice and the sacred, its true focus is the ultimate mystery of the so-called human or social sciences, that of the origins of what Lacan calls the “big Other,” what Hegel called “externalization” (Entäusserung), what Marx called “alienation ,” and— why not?— what Friedrich von Hayek called “self-transcendence”: how, out of the interaction of individuals, can the appearance of an “objective order” arrive which cannot be reduced to that interaction, but is experienced by the individuals involved as a substantial agency which determines their lives?

So for Dupuy it is the central quest of how Order arrives in our lives, how we humans create the very powers of order that ultimate become our masters and thereby control our behaviors in work and play. From Girard he discovered the ‘Mimetic Hypothesis’:

Girard’s theory may be thought of as an inverted pyramid, balanced on the mimetic hypothesis. Everything arises from this , the idea that our own desires are not our own, that we desire what others tell us by their own desires is desirable. From this it follows that those whom we take as our models automatically become our rivals. Human violence is not the manifestation of an innate aggressiveness; it is the result of a peculiar deficiency, a lack of being that inevitably brings us into conflict with those whom we believe will be able to remedy it.2

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Technocapitalism: Time, Value, and Labor

As it colonizes human society, nature, and the planet, corporatism degrades us, turning our most precious human qualities into commodities. Our creativity, our knowledge, and our learning thus become not qualities that emancipate but commodities that bind us to our alienation from the human condition, from society, and from nature. This degradation of human values is not grounded in technology, in and of itself. It is grounded in the character of a new kind of corporatism and its authoritarian control over technology. It is a new kind of corporatism that is more clever, rapacious, and invasive than any previous form and that is imperial in its quest for power and profit as it tries to control any and all aspects of the public domain.

– Luis Suarez-Villa. Technocapitalism: A Critical Perspective on Technological Innovation and Corporatism

It is not so much that, at a certain point in its development, capitalism begins to waste labor time on a massive scale — rather, the case is more horrifying: labor that is not social necessary (superfluous) is itself the direct aim of the capitalism mode of production from its very inception!

– Jehu, Can We Completely Abolish Labor, Right Now?

In the first volume of Capital Marx remarks that “the worker is nothing other than labour-power for the duration of his whole life, and that therefore all his disposable time is by nature and by right labour-time, to be devoted to the self-valorization of capital”.1 If this is true, and I think it is, then disposable time is the central issue for technocapitalism. As Marx explicitly states it capitalism:

…usurps the time for growth, development and healthy maintenance of the body. It steals the time required for the consumption of fresh air and sunlight. It haggles over the meal-times, where possible incorporating them into the production process itself, so that food is added to the worker as to a mere means of production, as coal is supplied to the boiler, and grease and oil to the machinery. It reduces the sound sleep needed for the restoration, renewal and refreshment of the vital forces to the exact amount of torpor essential to the revival of an absolutely exhausted organism. It is not the normal maintenance of labour-power which determines the limits of the working day here, but rather the greatest possible daily expenditure of labour-power, no matter how diseased, compulsory and painful it may be, which determines the limits of the workers’ period of rest. Capital asks no questions about the length of life of labour-power. What interests it is purely and simply the maximum of labour-power that can be set in motion in a working day. It attains this objective by shortening the life of labour-power, in the same way as a greedy farmer snatches more produce from the soil by robbing it of its fertility. [my italics]

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Do Mental States Exist? – The Problem of Intentionality

Maybe I should rephrase it this way: Does the Mind even Exist? Why not the brain only? Reading Philosophy of Mind you get the itchy feeling that these philosophers, who spend so much time trying to understand the Mind-Brain correlations that one wonders if the effort is at all worth it. What if all we have is the brain itself doing what it does moment by moment, processing the environment, analyzing its findings, then making decisions based on its own intricate evolutionary needs. What if the Mind is just an illusion of the philosophers? I mean we’ve built up over centuries all these accrued correlations between the brain and mind just to prove the Mind exists. But what if we were wrong, what if all this work is just a lot of bickering over nothing. What if the Mind is in itself just an empty philosophical category filled with illusionary propaganda of the philosophers?

What set me off on this tangent is trying to understand whether ‘mental states’ exist or not, and if they don’t then why is there so many philosophers still hooked to the notion of intentionality? It was Betrand Russell who gave a specific name to these mental states, he referred to them as propositional verbs or “propositional attitudes”:

What sort of name shall we give to verbs like ‘believe’ and ‘wish’ and so forth? I should be inclined to call them ‘propositional verbs’. This is merely a suggested name for convenience, because they are verbs which have the form of relating an object to a proposition. As I have been explaining, that is not what they really do, but it is convenient to call them propositional verbs. Of course you might call them ‘attitudes’, but I should not like that because it is a psychological term, and although all the instances in our experience are psychological, there is no reason to suppose that all the verbs I am talking of are psychological. There is never any reason to suppose that sort of thing. (Russell 1918, 227).

Now the term intentionality refers to the ability of the mind to form representations and has nothing to do with intention. The term dates from medieval Scholastic philosophy, but was resurrected by Franz Brentano and adopted by Edmund Husserl. The earliest theory of intentionality is associated with St. Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God and his tenets distinguishing between objects that exist in the understanding and objects that exist in reality.

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Notes on Levi R. Bryant’s Onto-Cartography: Chapter One

Young Man: In this process of “working up to the matter” is it your idea to work up to the proposition that man and a machine are about the same thing, and that there is no personal merit in the performance of either?

Old Man: Yes—but do not be offended; I am meaning no offense.

– from Mark Twain,  What is Man?

Mark Twain lived in a deterministic universe. For him the environment ruled all, external influences controlled, directed, and commanded both human and inhuman agencies from end to end. He might also be the progenitor of what my friend R. Scott Bakker terms the Blind Brain Theory:

Young Man: Oh, come! Where did I get my opinion that this which you are talking is all foolishness?

Old Man: It is a quite natural opinion—indeed an inevitable opinion—but you did not create the materials out of which it is formed. They are odds and ends of thoughts, impressions, feelings, gathered unconsciously from a thousand books, a thousand conversations, and from streams of thought and feeling which have flowed down into your heart and brain out of the hearts and brains of centuries of ancestors. Personally you did not create even the smallest microscopic fragment of the materials out of which your opinion is made; and personally you cannot claim even the slender merit of putting the borrowed materials together. That was done automatically—by your mental machinery, in strict accordance with the law of that machinery’s construction. And you not only did not make that machinery yourself, but you have not even any command over it.1

For Twain the presumption of free will was erroneous, a belief that would fall away one day.  We are the end product of the brain’s ongoing processes, temporary agents or functions in a never-ending cycle of environment testing. We are blind to the very processes of choice and decision that control our lives. We are in fact according to Twain nothing more than mere automata – biological machines built by natural selection over the course of history. The young man of the tale argues that we are free and willing creatures. But the old man says: “I am sorry, but you see, yourself, that your mind is merely a machine, nothing more. You have no command over it, it has no command over itself—it is worked solely from the outside. That is the law of its make; it is the law of all machines.”

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Technocapitalism: War Machines and the Immortalist Imperative

   Having recognized religious doctrines to be illusions, we are at once confronted with the further question: may not other cultural possessions, which we esteem highly and by which we let our life be ruled, be of a similar nature?

– Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion

Psychical researchers , supported by some of the leading figures of the day, believed immortality might be a demonstrable fact . The seances that were so popular at this time were not just Victorian parlour games invented to while away dreary evenings. They were part of an anxious, at times desperate, search for meaning in life…

from John Gray’s – The Immortalization Commission: Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death

The longer one peers into the depths of human history the more one wants to escape it. From the outside history seems one long saga of tyranny, violence, and coercion while from the inside it seems – as Macbeth suggested, a ‘tale told by and idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing’. Yet, we go on. Why? Why do we continue? Why persist? Out of habit? Because we think there must be something better? That if I just try a little harder I can make a go of it, create a happy, healthy life for myself and my children in the midst of all this death and decay? But at whose expense? Isn’t my chance in the sun at the expense of some other poor soul (me being a white Caucasian male living in a first world country with a basic living wage, etc.). And, by poor soul I mean all those millions of beings, other humans living in not only poverty but degradation, decay, and ultimately uninhabitable spaces of death? Why should my life be supposedly blessed with such amenities? Why do I exist in these circumstances that give me opportunities to even think about such things?

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Just a note…

Out of town at the moment… doing some good reading while I’m visiting my son and daughter in Colorado.

  • Levi R. Bryant’s new work, Onto-Cartography: An Ontology of Machines and Media
  • Takayuki Tatsumi’s Full Metal Apache – Japan and American postcyberpunkedelia
  • Erika Gottlieb’s Dystopian Fiction East and West: Universe of Terror and Trial
  • J. David Osborne,  Low Down Death Right Easy (good old noir for myself )
  • Frank Herbert’s, Hellstron Five ( decided to reread this in the light of present studies in posthumanism)


All in all some interesting reads for a couple weeks…. be back soon!

The Rise of the Machines: Brandom, Negarestani, and Bakker

Modern technological society constitutes a vast, species-wide attempt to become more mechanical, more efficiently integrated in nested levels of superordinate machinery.

– R. Scott Bakker, The Blind Mechanic

Ants that encounter in their path a dead philosopher may make good use of him.

– Stanislaw Lem, His Master’s Voice 

We can imagine in some near future my friend R. Scott Bakker will be brought to trial before a tribunal of philosophers he has for so long sung his jeremiads on ignorance and blindness; or as he puts it ‘medial neglect’ (i.e., “Medial neglect simply means the brain cannot cognize itself as a brain”). One need only remember that old nabi of the desert Jeremiah and God’s prognostications: Attack you they will, overcome you they can’t… And, like Jeremiah, these philosophers will attack him from every philosophical angle but will be unable to overcome his scientific tenacity.

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Levi R. Bryant: First Impressions on Onto-Cartography

Onto-cartography is the investigation of structural couplings between machines and how they modify the becoming, activities, movements, and ways in which the coupled machines relate to the world about them. It is a mapping of these couplings between machines and their vectors of becoming, movement, and activity.

– Levi R. Bryant, Onto-Cartography: An Ontology of Machines and Media

I have barely even begun to delve into Levi’s new work but already I’m pleased with the way he is approaching his investment in materialism. There is an opening preface by Graham Harman that introduces Levi’s previous and current work and situates it within Speculative Realism. Harman is generous with his praise telling us that Onto-Cartagraphy “is not only a thought-provoking and erudite book, but also a thoroughly enjoyable one”.1 I concur so far I’m impressed with Levi’s keen sense of materialism’s many traditions and how he differentiates the subtitles and nuances of these various forms. One thing he does right off the bat is to let the reader in on his own philosophical conversion. Levi like many of us had been weaned on twentieth-century Continental philosophy or as many term it the ‘Linguistic Turn’. Levi had gone the full gamut and become convinced that the socio-cultural or discursive materialism arising out of this era was the only way to go. Yet, something happened.

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Future Mutation

Shanzhai companies operate in a nebulous, quasi legal zone external to both corporate regulations as well as government rules. The name shanzhai means mountain village and the term signals a kind of bandit, anarchist mode of production that functions outside the formal legitimacy of either capitalism or the state.

– Anna Greenspan, Suzanne, Livingston, Future Mutation: Technology and the Evolution of Species

Happened on a post on Nick Land’s Outside In blog on this short work by Anna Greenspan, Suzanne, Livingston, Future Mutation: Technology and the Evolution of Species. Seems to be based around a set of concepts Copy, Reproduce, Mutate, Replicate, Evolve, and Rewind. Starts with a couple epigraphs from Nick Land our technofuturist in residence and John Gray ex-Thacherite turned chronicler of liberalism through all its phases. Nick’s is cryptic as usual “You cannot stop what can’t be stopped, you cannot touch without being touched.” Obviously suggesting the juggernaut of our accelerating late capitalist era of globalism as well as the subtle truth of a libidinal materialism in which affective relations will burn or mutate you with use. In Gray we hear the old adage of technological determinism:”Technology obeys no-one’s will. Can we play along with it without laboring to master it?”

A wisdom fraught with a moment of wisdom from such masters of technology lit as Lewis Mumford and Jaques Elul.

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Stanislas Dehaene: Global Neuronal Workspace Hypothesis

We have discovered signatures of conscious processing, but what do they mean? Why do they occur? We have reached the point where we need a theory to explain how subjective introspection relates to objective measurements.

–  Stanislas Dehaene,  Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts

When did reality leave off and fiction begin? I never did get the memo on that. Maybe that’s the problem with us all, if it is a problem – no one ever told us it had happened, or if they had it was somehow lost in translation long ago. So it goes. T.S. Eliot once stipulated that people couldn’t bare “too much reality”, but he never told us that there might be a further problem, the one I’m facing now: it’s not reality, but too much fiction that has become the issue. I mean we keep getting messages from the media Moghuls about Reality TV. Sure, but whose reality? I keep thinking that reality must be in there somewhere: but where is where? Is this a problem of space or time, or maybe – spacetime? I never could get those figured out either.

What to do? There are those that tell us we need to inquire into the nature of being – as if that was somehow the magic key to reality, as if we could finally discover the truth about life, the universe, and everything if we could only grasp existence as it is (i.e., in the parlance of metaphysics: being qua being – being in so much as it is being or beings insofar as they exist). But then I wondered: What does it mean for a thing to exist? That’s when I stopped thinking about things and existence and realized we’d never have access to such knowledge about things and existence for the simple reason that language is incapable of reaching beyond itself much less describing things or existence, whether that language is natural or as latter day philosophers and scientists presume, mathematical. All one is doing is manipulating signs that point to things and existence, rather than giving us those things as they are in them selves. But that was the point, right? There are those who say things do not exist until we construct them, that reality is a model that the mind constructs out of its own manipulation of those very symbols of natural and mathematical language. These philosophers tell us that there is a mid point between things and mind where reality becomes reality for-us in a new object, or concept. For these philosophers it is the concept that ties the mind and reality together in a communicative act of solidarity. So that if we create effective concepts we can all share in the truth of this reality for-us. So reality is a shared realm of meaning between certain minds as they negotiate the unknown realm of being.

Now I’m no philosopher but am a creature who has read a lot of philosophy and have come to the moment like Socrates before me to the realization that what I know is that I don’t know much of anything. But what is the knowing and unknowing that I don’t know? When we speak of knowing something what do we mean? What is knowing? I thought for this exercise I’d begin a Wiki:

Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness or understanding of someone or something, such as facts, information, descriptions, or skills, which is acquired through experience or education by perceiving, discovering, or learning. Knowledge can refer to a theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. It can be implicit (as with practical skill or expertise) or explicit (as with the theoretical understanding of a subject); it can be more or less formal or systematic. In philosophy, the study of knowledge is called epistemology; the philosopher Plato famously defined knowledge as “justified true belief“. However, no single agreed upon definition of knowledge exists, though there are numerous theories to explain it.

Knowledge acquisition involves complex cognitive processes: perception, communication, association and reasoning; while knowledge is also said to be related to the capacity of acknowledgment in human beings. (Knowledge)

Well that’s a lot of information on knowledge and ultimately frustrating in that we discover that no one really knows what it is, or at least there is no agreement among those who should know as to what knowledge is. Yet, as we see above it gives us some hints. And, the biggest hint, is that it seems to be connected to the Mind or as that one sentence stipulates: the cognitive processes. This would lead us to that three-pound lump of neurons and biochemical mass in our skull we call the Brain. But, we ask: Can the brain speak for itself? How can we inquire into the nature of the brain and its processes when the very tool we use to inquire with is itself the cognitive processes of consciousness. Can consciousness grab its own tail? Can it see its self in the act of seeing? Isn’t consciousness by its very nature always directed toward something, intentional by its very nature? If it can only ever process that which is outside itself, its environment then how can it ever understand or know itself? Consciousness is no ouroboros  even if we speak about self-reflexivity to doomsday.

In my epigraph Stanislas Dehaene comes to a point in his brain book in which our need to peer into the mysteries of the brain and bring together our self-reflexive subjective notions and our objective and quantified scientific knowledge. But isn’t that the crux of the problem? Can we ever bring those disparate worlds together? Of course Dehaene thinks we can, and has spent fifteen years inventing through trial and error a set of protocols to do just that. As he tells us he proposes a “global neuronal workspace” hypothesis, my laboratory’s fifteen-year effort to make sense of consciousness.1 Now just what exactly is a “global neuronal workspace”? In my mind I picture a Rube Goldberg contraption of strange electrodes, miles of cable, computers emulating the brain’s processes all in some fantastic Frankenstein laboratory with a brain in a vat connected to electromagnetic imaging processor spun upon a cinematic 3-D Screen. Of course this is all fantasy and the truth is more concrete and less fantasy:

The human brain has developed efficient long-distance networks, particularly in the prefrontal cortex, to select relevant information and disseminate it throughout the brain. Consciousness is an evolved device that allows us to attend to a piece of information and keep it active within this broadcasting system. Once the information is conscious, it can be flexibly routed to other areas according to our current goals. Thus we can name it, evaluate it, memorize it, or use it to plan the future. Computer simulations of neural networks show that the global neuronal workspace hypothesis generates precisely the signatures that we see in experimental brain recordings. It can also explain why vast amounts of knowledge remain inaccessible to our consciousness. (Dehane, KL 2711-2716)

Ah, there we go, so that’s the reason we as Socrates told us we are: Blind as Bats, unknowing of the little we know, or even think that we know. Why? Because our brains function differently than that, and knowledge is not one of its strong points – at least for that part of the brain we call self-reflexive consciousness. We do not have access to “vast amounts of knowledge”, not because the knowledge does not exist, but because our consciousness was configured by the brain to do other things like being attentive to specific temporary bits of information, and as a regulatory device within a larger broadcasting system. One needs also to recognize that there is a subtle difference between knowledge per se and information. Consciousness has access to bits of information fed to it by other processes within the brain. Now Dehaene tries to bring in intentionality with a notion of “current goals” and our ability to “name it, evaluate it, memorize it, or use it to plan the future”. But is this true? Do we truly have goals? Or do the goals have us? What I mean is consciousness the one that has intent or a telos – a sense of directional or goal oriented finality? Is this true? Does consciousness actually have the ability to name, evaluate, memorize for future recall and use? Or is this, too, an illusion of consciousness, too?

We’ve come a long way over the past fifteen years or so toward an understanding of the brain, but have we truly been able to bridge the gap between our knowledge of the brain’s processes and our understanding of just why those processes create consciousness to begin with? As Dehaene comments: “Although neuroscience has identified many empirical correspondences between brain activity and mental life, the conceptual chasm between brain and mind seems as broad as it ever was.” The first thing I notice in his statement is this dichotomy between brain activity and mental life as if brain and mind were two distinct things. But is this true? Is there some dualism between brain and mind? Does the mind in itself exist in some transcendent sphere beyond the brain? How are the two connected? Does the mind even exist? Is this notion of a separate mental activity an illusion of our self-reflexive consciousness? What if consciousness is continuous with the brain activities? What if it were just a specialized function of the brain itself, not some special entity in its own right? What if we are still bound to older theological notions of Self, Identify, Consciousness, Mind, Soul, etc. that just no longer hold water, no longer answer the questions of these physical processes? What if the physical processes of the brain were all continuous with each other and that consciousness is just a function within a myriad of other ongoing processes that are neither permanent nor stable, but rather continuously rise and fall, fluctuate and disperse as needed in the flow of the brains own ongoing activities. Why this need for a dualism of Brain and Mind?

Deheane himself sees the problem but seems to continue its discussion as if he too were blind to its illusion:

In the absence of an explicit theory, the contemporary search for the neural correlates of consciousness may seem as vain as Descartes’s ancient proposal that the pineal gland is the seat of the soul. This hypothesis seems deficient because it upholds the very division that a theory of consciousness is supposed to resolve: the intuitive idea that the neural and the mental belong to entirely different realms. The mere observation of a systematic relationship between these two domains cannot suffice. What is required is an overarching theoretical framework, a set of bridging laws that thoroughly explain how mental events relate to brain activity patterns.

Neural correlates tips the hand. With that one statement we fall back into a dualistic or Descartian approach. But as he realizes this approach to consciousness constructs a division between the two realms of brain and consciousness as if the neural processes and mental processes were of a different order of being. Yet, he proposes a framework, a set of bridging laws to “explain how mental events relate to brain activity patterns”. Hmm… isn’t this still to fall into that same trap? All he’s done is to rearrange the words from neural and mental, to events and patterns. But why do we need such a framework to begin with? Is there really some difference between a pattern and its event? Are not the two one and the same, continuous. Is there are reason to see a separation where none may in fact exist? He goes on – and, I think mistakenly:

No experiment will ever show how the hundred billion neurons in the human brain fire at the moment of conscious perception. Only mathematical theory can explain how the mental reduces to the neural. Neuroscience needs a series of bridging laws, analogous to the Maxwell-Boltzmann theory of gases, that connect one domain with the other. … In spite of these difficulties , in the past fifteen years , my colleagues Jean-Pierre Changeux, Lionel Naccache, and I have started to bridge the gap. We have sketched a specific theory of consciousness, the “global neuronal workspace,” that is the condensed synthesis of sixty years of psychological modeling.(Kindle Locations 2743-2745).

I think his approach, personally, is all wrong headed. I do not think any computer model or mathematical model will ever bridge the gap between the one domain and the other for the simple reason that there is no separate domain to bridge. I’ll have to come back to that at a future time. My reasoning has to do with all the new techniques already available that are being used to study the brain’s activities with much effect: Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), Electronic brain stimulation (ESB), Brain Implants, Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS), Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), Magnetic seizure therapy (MST), and psychotherapy, pharmaceutical and biopower medical applications, etc. Through these we can map the brains activity precisely right down to the decision making processes. So why do we need some grand theoretical framework to describe some mapping of brain to mind? Is this a recursion to outmoded forms of philosophical prejudice and the intentionality that has for so long held us in its clutches? Isn’t it time to release ourselves from the intentional universe of philosophical speculation, of trying the mind to consciousness in some elaborate mapping as if that would describe anything at all much rather just an exercise in complexification?

I mean listen to how complicated it gets when Deheane begins trying to philosophize about this new framework:

When we say that we are aware of a certain piece of information, what we mean is just this: the information has entered into a specific storage area that makes it available to the rest of the brain. Among the millions of mental representations that constantly crisscross our brains in an unconscious manner, one is selected because of its relevance to our present goals. Consciousness makes it globally available to all our high-level decision systems. We possess a mental router, an evolved architecture for extracting relevant information and dispatching it. The psychologist Bernard Baars calls it a “global workspace”: an internal system, detached from the outside world, that allows us to freely entertain our private mental images and to spread them across the mind’s vast array of specialized processors. (Kindle Locations 2749-2755).

If we carefully understand the logic of the above we see this underlying intentionality written into its less than adequate descriptions. First is the notion that we can “mean” something. As if we can explain information bound to a specific storage area in the brain that then can be retrieved. None of this is actually visible nor explanatory of the actual processes at all, but is rather a human description or construction after the fact of those processes for our delectation. Obviously we have no other choice than to use natural language and try to explain things that are not in fact what the fact is, but for us to say this is what information means? And then he tells us that this information stored is part of what we term mental representations and that consciousness is never aware of all these bits of knowledge and information but only of those that are selected do the “relevance to our present goals”. But one asks who intends the selection and the goalsfollowing Bernard Baars, terms, the “global workspace”. So the conscious systems seems to be this “s vast array of specialized processors”. This sentence spells out the whole intentional fallacy. As if consciousness was a free intentional entity in its own right that could actively and intentionally make its own decisions between the brain and the outside environment and work with its own internalized set of mental images then send them down into the brain for processing.

Again, I ask, is this true? Sounds like he is trying to slip the notion of Self and Subjectivity back into the equation without naming them as the active agent, but instead reduces self and subjectivity to Consciousness as the Agent between Brain and Environment.  Either way I think there is something too complex in this move and that whatever consciousness is it is not some active agent in its own right, but is rather a bit player in a temporary stage play of the brains ongoing productions. Consciousness rather than being like some unruly Hamlet strutting across the stage is more like his friend Horatio who know one ever sees but who rather sees all anonymously without intent and always fully impersonal and disinterested. Consciousness comes and goes at the behest of the brains own physical needs and processes, and when not needed is sent to sleep or withdraws till called out to effect the brains decisions.


1. Dehaene, Stanislas (2014-01-30). Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts (Kindle Location 2710). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Posthumanism and Transhumanism: The Myth of Perfectibility – Divergent Worlds?

History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

– James Joyce

Enhancement. Why shouldn’t we make ourselves better than we are now? We’re incomplete. Why leave something as fabulous as life up to chance?

– Richard Powers,  Generosity: An Enhancement

In Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow a point is reached in the text in which the inexorable power of an accelerating capitalism is shown out of control mutating into something else something not quite human:

The War needs electricity. It’s a lively game, Electric Monopoly, among the power companies, the Central Electricity Board, and other War agencies, to keep Grid Time synchronized with Greenwich Mean Time. In the night, the deepest concrete wells of night, dynamos whose locations are classified spin faster, and so, responding, the clock-hands next to all the old, sleepless eyes— gathering in their minutes whining, pitching higher toward the vertigo of a siren. It is the Night’s Mad Carnival. There is merriment under the shadows of the minute-hands . Hysteria in the pale faces between the numerals. The power companies speak of loads, war-drains so vast the clocks will slow again unless this nighttime march is stolen, but the loads expected daily do not occur, and the Grid runs inching ever faster, and the old faces turn to the clock faces, thinking plot, and the numbers go whirling toward the Nativity, a violence, a nova of heart that will turn us all, change us forever to the very forgotten roots of who we are.1

This notion of a violent nativity, of giving birth to something that is both new and as old as the very “forgotten roots of who we are” seems appropriate to our time of accelerating impossibilities. We who are atheists seem to visualize some secular apocalypse of the semantic, a breaking of the bonds of the Anthropocene era, of a bridging of the gap, a great crossing of some inevitable Rubicon of the inhuman within us into something post-human, something strange and almost unthinkable. Yet, as we study our religious forbears we notice a paradox, a sort of literalization of the Christian mythos of the perfectibility of Man, the veritable myth of a New Adam in the making. But whereas the church going population saw this as a release from embodiment, of a shift into transcendence of spirit, our new atheistic or secular priests of posthumanism and/or transhumanism see it as just an immanent change within the very condition of the human animal itself.

The idea of the perfectibility of man emerges in the 18th century, with the relaxation of the theological barriers protecting the property for God alone. In Enlightenment writers such as the Condorcet and Godwin, perfectibility becomes a tendency actually capable of being realized in human history. Before Kant, both Rousseau and the Scottish thinker Lord Monboddo (1714–99) envisaged perfectibility as the power of self-rule and moral progress. The 19th century represented the high-water mark of belief in perfectibility, under the influence first of Saint-Simon, then Kant, Hegel, Comte and Marx. With the arrival of the theory of evolution it was possible to see successive economic and cultural history as a progress of increasing fitness, from primitive and undeveloped states to a potential ideal associated with freedom and self-fulfilment. This optimism, frequently allied with unlimited confidence in the bettering of the human condition through the advance of science, has taken on a new twist in the pseudo-science of Transhumanism.2

Abraham Maslow, the central figure in “third force” psychology, was one of the first to use the term “transhuman” to describe a new form of secular religion of peak experiences. Maslow described peak experiences as very like orgasms : “the peak experience is temporary, essentially delightful, potentially creative, and imbued with profound metaphysical possibilities.” One cannot live on such peaks but, he insisted, a life without them is unhealthy, nihilistic and potentially violent. The peak experience sat at the summit of a pyramid built on a hierarchy of psychological and physiological needs. At the base of the pyramid was food, shelter, sleep; above that came sexuality, safety and security; above that, love, belonging, self-esteem; and finally, at the peak itself, self-actualization. This last state was regarded as spiritual but in no way religious. One of the achievements of a peak experience, Maslow thought, was that people became more democratic, more generous, more open, less closed and selfish, achieving what he called a “transpersonal” or “transhuman” realm of consciousness. He had the idea of a “non-institutionalized personal religion” that “would obliterate the distinction between the sacred and the profane”— rather like the meditation exercises of Zen monks, whom he compared to humanistic psychologists. Maslow’s idols in this were William James and Walt Whitman.3

George Bernard Shaw, a Fabian socialist, along with H.G. Wells affirmed a view of the perfectibility of human nature. Shaw once stated that the “end of human existence is not to be ‘good’ and be rewarded in heaven, but to create Heaven on earth.” As he wrote to Lady Gregory: “ My doctrine is that God proceeds by the method of ‘trial and error.’ . . . To me the sole hope of human salvation lies in teaching Man to regard himself as an experiment in the realization of God.” (Watson, KL 1959) Shaw also much like Quentin Meillasoux in our own time espoused the notion of inexistent God, of the god that does not yet exist but might. Shaw wrote to Tolstoy in 1910: “To me God does not yet exist. . . . The current theory that God already exists in perfection involves the belief that God deliberately created something lower than Himself. . . . To my mind , unless we conceive God as engaged in a continual struggle to surpass himself . . . we are conceiving nothing better than an omnipotent snob.”(Watson, KL 1930) Notions of perfectibility, good, and progress were all fused into the idea of neverending improvement in Shaw as well in which he “good” is a process of endless improvement “that need never stop and is never complete.”

For Wells on the other hand improvement, good, progress were conceived of within the tradition of “perfectibility” not in a theological way,  but as a three-pronged process— perfectibility of the individual but within the greater structure of the state and of the race. As he stated it:

The continuation of the species, and the acceptance of the duties that go with it, must rank as the highest of all goals; and if they are not so ranked, it is the fault of others in the state who downgraded them for their own purposes. . . . We live in the world as it is and not as it should be. . . . The normal modern married woman has to make the best of a bad position, to do her best under the old conditions, to live as though [as if] she were under the new conditions, to make good citizens, to give her spare energies as far as she can to bringing about a better state of affairs. Like the private property owner and the official in a privately conducted business, her best method of conduct is to consider herself [as if she were] an unrecognized public official, irregularly commanded and improperly paid. There is no good in flagrant rebellion. She has to study her particular circumstances and make what good she can out of them, keeping her face towards the coming time. . . . We have to be wise as well as loyal; discretion itself is loyalty to the coming state. . . . We live for experience and the race; the individual interludes are just helps to that; the warm inn in which we lovers met and refreshed was but a halt on the journey. When we have loved to the intensest point we have done our best with each other. To keep to that image of the inn, we must not sit overlong at our wine beside the fire. We must go on to new experiences and new adventures. (Watson, KL 2566)

John Passmore in his classic study The Perfectibility of Man  begins by distinguishing between “technical perfection” and the perfectibility of a human being. As Harold Coward points out following Passmore Technical perfection occurs when a person is deemed to be excellent or perfect at performing a particular task or role. In this sense we may talk about a perfect secretary, lawyer, or accountant, suggesting that such persons achieve the highest possible standards in their professional work. But this does not imply that they are perfect in their performance of the other tasks and roles of life. Passmore points out that Plato in his Republic allows for technical perfection by allocating to each person that task to perform in which the person’s talents and skills will enable a perfect performance of the task. But that same person might be a failure as a parent; and so, in Plato’s Republic he or she would not be allowed to be a parent. The parent role would be reserved for someone else whose talents enabled him or her to perfectly perform the task of raising children. But Plato distinguishes such technical perfection from the perfection of human nature evidenced by the special class of persons who are rulers of the Republic. These “philosopher-kings,” as he calls them, are not perfect because they rule perfectly; they are perfect because they have seen “the form of the good” and rule in accordance with it. Passimore comments, “in the end, the whole structure of Plato’s republic rests on there being a variety of perfection over and above technical perfection-a perfection which consists in, or arises out of, man’s relationship to the ideal.”‘ Passmore goes on to point out that other Western thinkers including Luther, Calvin, and Duns Scotus follow Plato in talking about technical perfection in terms of one’s vocation or calling. But the perfecting of oneself in the performance of the role in life to which one is called is not sufficient by itself to ensure one’s perfection as a human being.4

Plato by introducing the idea of a metaphysical good as the ideal to be achieved, he also evoked the idea of evil or the lack of good, and the tension between the two. They are related to the terms “perfect” or “perfection” in the sense of an end or goal that is completed (the Greek telos [end], and the Latin perficere [to complete])’ Thus, human nature attempts to perfect itself by actualizing the end (the “good,” in Plato’s thought) that is inherent in it. Insodoing it “completes” itself. (Coward, KL 124) Peter Watson in his The Age of Atheists wonders at such notions of good, perfection, progress, telos, etc. asking: “Is the very idea of completion, wholeness, perfectibility, oneness, misleading or even diverting? Does the longing for completion imply a completion that isn’t in fact available? Is this our predicament?”(Watson, 545)

Vernor Vinge in his now classic The Coming Technological Singularity gave his own answer to this question saying,

The acceleration of technological progress has been the central feature of this century. I argue in this paper that we are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. The precise cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater than human intelligence.5

Vinge brought to fruition many of the ideas of the good from Plato to David Pearce. Illah R. Nourbakhsh commenting on David Pearce’s The Biointelligence Explosion, tells us that Pearce sets up an antihero to the artificial superintelligence scenario, proposing that our wetware will shortly become so well understood, and so completely modifiable, that personal bio -hacking will collapse the very act of procreation into a dizzying tribute to the ego. Instead of producing children as our legacy, we will modify our own selves, leaving natural selection in the dust by changing our personal genetic makeup in the most extremely personal form of creative hacking imaginable. But just like the AI singularitarians, Pearce dreams of a future in which the new and its ancestor are unrecognizably different. Regular humans have depression, poor tolerance for drugs, and, let’s face it, mediocre social, emotional and technical intelligence. Full-Spectrum Superintelligences will have perfect limbic mood control, infinite self-inflicted hijacking of chemical pathways, and so much intelligence as to achieve omniscience bordering on Godliness.6

In this same work, Singularity Hypotheses: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment, Dr. David Roden of Enemy Industry blog stipulates his Diconnection Thesis. Part of his wider Speculative Posthumanist stance this thesis provides that basic tenets that the “descendants of current humans could cease to be human by virtue of a history of technical alteration”; and, the notion of a “relationship between humans and posthumans as a historical successor relation: descent.” (Singularity, KL 7390) At the heart of this thesis is the notion “that human-posthuman difference be understood as a concrete disconnection between individuals rather than as an abstract relation between essences or kinds. This anti-essentialist model will allow us to specify the circumstances under which accounting would be possible.” (Singularity, KL 7397) In acknowledgment of Vinge Roden states “Vinge considers the possibility that disconnection between posthumans and humans may occur as a result of differences in the cognitive powers of budding posthumans rendering them incomprehensible and uninterpretable for baseline humans” (Singularity, 7554).

There seems to be a fine line between certain posthuman theorists and transhumanist theorists. Where they seem to converge is in the notion of progress, improvement, and perfectibility of human nature. On the one hand we see the enactment of a total divergence, or transcension, a disconnect between our current embodied natural humans (i.e., you and I), and those that will become our descendents – our posthuman descendents – the yet to be. Yet, the line of difference is more of nuance than of substance. Posthuman seem to seek a transformation to another order of being, a surpassing of the human into the inhuman/posthuman order of being. While the transhumanists seek a new inclusion of existing humanity in an enhanced order of being in which the immortality is the central telos rather than perfectibility of the human condition. Transhumanists find little point in living forever in old bodies, however, even in bodies that remain healthy. So in addition to being immortal, they want humans to engineer themselves to be forever young. Ray Kurzweil, for example, is counting on cloning and stem cells to do the trick, the same technologies that John Harris wants to employ to eliminate the diseases of old age. Our bodies will be rejuvenated, says Kurzweil, “by transforming your skin cells into youthful versions of every other cell type.”7

Secularist dreams of immortality seem more like religionists without a religion, a sort of philosophical humbug trip for disgruntled atheists to wonderland without the need to pay the ticket to Charon. Behind the whole drama of transhuman science is the century old notions of eugenics. The eugenic goals, which had informed the design of the molecular biology program and had been attenuated by the lessons of the Holocaust, revived by the late 1950s. Dredged from the linguistic quagmire of social control, a new eugenics, empowered by representations of life supplied by the new biology, came to rest in safety on the high ground of medical discourse and latter-day rhetoric of population control.8 But the shadow of eugenics has for the most part been erased from our memories. One must be reminded that the original holocaust was part of the progressive movement in medicine within the United States not Germany:

The goal was to immediately sterilize fourteen million people in the United States and millions more worldwide-the “lower tenth”-and then continuously eradicate the remaining lowest tenth until only a pure Nordic super race remained. Ultimately, some 60,000 Americans were coercively sterilized and the total is probably much higher. No one knows how many marriages were thwarted by state felony statutes. Although much of the persecution was simply racism, ethnic hatred and academic elitism, eugenics wore the mantle of respectable science to mask its true character.9

Many might think this is a thing of the past but they would be wrong. Eugenics no longer hides in plain site under the rubric of some moral or progressive creed of eliminating from the human stock a particular germ line. It now hides itself in other guises. One needs only seek out such new worlds of the Personal Genome Project: http://www.personalgenomes.org/ dedicated to what on the surface appears to be a perfectly great notion of health: “Sharing data is critical to scientific progress, but has been hampered by traditional research practices—our approach is to invite willing participants to publicly share their personal data for the greater good.” But such notions were already in place by one of the leaders of the eugenics movement Charles Davenport a century ago:

  • “I believe in striving to raise the human race to the highest plane of social organization, of cooperative work and of effective endeavor.”
  • “I believe that I am the trustee of the germ plasm that I carry; that this has been passed on to me through thousands of generations before me; and that I betray the trust if (that germ plasm being good) I so act as to jeopardize it, with its excellent possibilities, or, from motives of personal convenience, to unduly limit offspring.”
  • “I believe that, having made our choice in marriage carefully, we, the married pair, should seek to have 4 to 6 children in order that our carefully selected germ plasm shall be reproduced in adequate degree and that this preferred stock shall not be swamped by that less carefully selected.”
  • “I believe in such a selection of immigrants as shall not tend to adulterate our national germ plasm with socially unfit traits.”
  • “I believe in repressing my instincts when to follow them would injure the next generation.”10

From the older form of sharing one’s “germ plasm” to the new terms of sharing one’s “personal genome” we’ve seen a complete transformation of the eugenics movement as the sciences transformed from early Mendelian genetics to mid-Twentieth century Molecular Genetics to our current multi-billion dollar Human Genome Project. But the base science of germ line genetics remains the same, and the whole complex of hereditarianism along with it. The reason for this new book which included a facsimile of the original educational manual textbook by Davenport Heredity in Relation to Eugenics is stated by the Cold Harbor review boards as:

…the most compelling reason for bringing Davenport’s book once again to public attention is our observation that although the eugenics plan of action advocated by Davenport and many of his contemporaries has long been rejected, the problems that they sought to ameliorate and the moral and ethical choices highlighted by the eugenics movement remain a source of public interest and a cautious scientific inquiry, fueled in recent years by the sequencing of the human genome and the consequent revitalization of human genetics.

When Mendel’s laws reappeared in 1900, Davenport believed he had finally been touched by the elusive but simple biological truth governing the flocks, fields and the family of man. He once preached abrasively, “I may say that the principles of heredity are the same in man and hogs and sun-flowers.” 54 Enforcing Mendelian laws along racial lines, allowing the superior to thrive and the unfit to disappear, would create a new superior race. A colleague of Davenport’s remembered him passionately shaking as he chanted a mantra in favor of better genetic material: “Protoplasm. We want more protoplasm!”(Black, KL 1053) Redirecting human evolution had been a personal mission of Davenport’s for years, long before he heard of Mendel’s laws. He first advocated a human heredity project in 1897 when he addressed a group of naturalists, proposing a large farm for preliminary animal breeding experiments. Davenport called such a project “immensely important.”(Black, 1068)

In our own time this notion of redirecting evolution is termed “transhumanism”. In section eight of the Transhumanist Declaration one will find: “We favor morphological freedom – the right to modify and enhance one’s body, cognition, and emotions. This freedom includes the right to use or not to use techniques and technologies to extend life, preserve the self through cryonics, uploading, and other means, and to choose further modifications and enhancements.”11 This freedom would also include the use of the latest biogenetic and neuroscientific technologies to transform or enhance humanity. As one proponent of this new morphological freedom put it:

Given current social and technological trends issues relating to morphological freedom will become increasingly relevant over the next decades. In order to gain the most from new technology and guide it in beneficial directions we need a strong commitment to morphological freedom. Morphological freedom implies a subject that is also the object of its own change. Humans are ends in themselves, but that does not rule out the use of oneself as a tool to achieve oneself. In fact, one of the best ways of preventing humans from being used as means rather than ends is to give them the freedom to change and grow. The inherent subjecthood of humans is expressed among other ways through self-transformation. Some bioethicists such as Leon Kass (Kass 2001) has argued that the new biomedical possibilities threaten to eliminate humanity, replacing current humans with designed, sanitized clones from Huxley’s Brave New World. I completely disagree. From my perspective morphological freedom is not going to eliminate humanity, but to express what is truly human even further.(Transhumanist Reader, 63)

That last sentence holds the key to the difference between most posthumanist and transhumanists: posthumans support in Roden’s terms some for of the disconnect thesis of a divergent descent from humans to something else through some technological transformation; while, most transhumanists want to bring the older humanistic notions into some morphological freedom in which humans become enhanced by technologies in ever greater empowerment.

As one outspoken spokesman tells us “genomic technologies can actually allow us to raise the dead. Back in 1996, when the sheep Dolly was the first mammal cloned into existence, she was not cloned from the cells of a live animal. Instead, she was produced from the frozen udder cell of a six-year-old ewe that had died some three years prior to Dolly’s birth. Dolly was a product of nuclear transfer cloning, a process in which a cell nucleus of the animal to be cloned is physically transferred into an egg cell whose nucleus had previously been removed. The new egg cell is then implanted into the uterus of an animal of the same species, where it gestates and develops into the fully formed, live clone.”12 This same author even prophesies that new NBIC technologies will help us in reengineering humanity in directions that natural selection never dreamed of:

Using nanobiotechnology , we stand at the door of manipulating genomes in a way that reflects the progress of evolutionary history: starting with the simplest organisms and ending, most portentously, by being able to alter our own genetic makeup. Synthetic genomics has the potential to recapitulate the course of natural genomic evolution, with the difference that the course of synthetic genomics will be under our own conscious deliberation and control instead of being directed by the blind and opportunistic processes of natural selection. …We are already remaking ourselves and our world, retracing the steps of the original synthesis— redesigning, recoding, and reinventing nature itself in the process. (Regenesis, KL 345)

As Nick Bostrom and Julian Savulescu suggest that human enhancement has moved from the realm of science fiction to that of practical ethics. There are now effective physical, cognitive, mood, cosmetic, and sexual enhancers —drugs and interventions that can enhance at least some aspects of some capacities in at least some individuals some of the time. The rapid advances currently taking place in the biomedical sciences and related technological areas make it clear that a lot more will become possible over the coming years and decades. The question has shifted from ‘‘Is this science fiction?’’ to ‘‘Should we do it?’’.13 They go on to state:

It seems likely that this century will herald unprecedented advances in nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, cognitive science, and other related areas. These advances will provide the opportunity fundamentally to change the human condition. This presents both great risks and enormous potential benefits. Our fate is, to a greater degree than ever before in human history, in our own hands.( Human Enhancement, 20-21)

Yet, as the great historian of the eugenics movement Daniel J. Kevles admonished speaking of Francis Galton, one of the progenitors of the genetic enforcement of the eugenics heritage tells us:

Galton, obsessed with original sin, had expected that the ability to manipulate human heredity would ultimately emancipate human beings from their atavistic inclinations and permit their behavior to conform to their standards of moral conduct. But in fact, the more masterful the genetic sciences have become, the more they have corroded the authority of moral custom in medical and reproductive behavior. The melodies of deicide have not enabled contemporary men and women to remake their imperfect selves. Rather, they have piped them to a more difficult task: that of establishing an ethics of use for their swiftly accumulating genetic knowledge and biotechnical power.14

Ethics, Law, Politics have yet to catch up with these strange twists of the eugenic heritage as it is brought to fruition by the great Corporate Funds, Think Tanks, Academies, and Scientific laboratories all part of the vast complex of systems that are moving us closer and closer to some form of Singularity. What should we do? Ultimately I wonder if we have a choice in the matter at all. That is my nightmare.

The novelist’s argument is clear enough: genetic enhancement represents the end of human nature. Take control of fate, and you destroy everything that joins us to one another and dignifies life. A story with no end or impediment is no story at all. Replace limits with unbounded appetite, and everything meaningful turns into nightmare.

– Richard Powers, Generosity: An Enhancement

1. Pynchon, Thomas (2012-06-13). Gravity’s Rainbow (pp. 133-134).  . Kindle Edition.
2. See more at: http://www.philosophycs.com/perfectibility.htm#sthash.ESqeoqFt.dpuf
3. Watson, Peter (2014-02-18). The Age of Atheists: How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God (Kindle Locations 7511-7519). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.
4. Harold Coward. The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Eastern and Western Thought (S U N Y Series in Religious Studies) (Kindle Locations 89-100). Kindle Edition.
5. Vinge, Vernor (2010-06-07). The Coming Technological Singularity – New Century Edition with DirectLink Technology (Kindle Locations 16-18). 99 Cent Books & New Century Books. Kindle Edition.
6. Singularity Hypotheses: A Scientific and Philosophical Assessment (The Frontiers Collection) (Kindle Locations 6222-6229). Springer Berlin Heidelberg. Kindle Edition.
7. Mehlman, Maxwell J. (2012-08-10). Transhumanist Dreams and Dystopian Nightmares: The Promise and Peril of Genetic Engineering (p. 23). Johns Hopkins University Press. Kindle Edition.
8. Lily E. Kay. The Molecular Vision of Life: Caltech, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Rise of the New Biology (Monographs on the History & Philosophy of Biology) (Kindle Locations 4511-4513). Kindle Edition.
9. Black, Edwin (2012-11-30). War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, Expanded Edition (Kindle Locations 182-186). Dialog Press. Kindle Edition.
10. Davenport’s Dream: 21st Century Reflections on Heredity and Eugenics (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2008)
11.   (2013-03-05). The Transhumanist Reader: Classical and Contemporary Essays on the Science, Technology, and Philosophy of the Human Future (p. 55). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
12. Regis, Ed; Church, George M. (2012-10-02). Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves (Kindle Locations 269-274). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.
13. Savulescu, Julian; Bostrom, Nick (2009-01-22). Human Enhancement (Page 18). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
14. Kevles, Daniel J. (2013-05-08). In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity (Kindle Locations 6624-6629). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


Radical Change equals Radical Reformation: The Politics of Saul Alinsky

Over the years I’ve kept a promise to myself, one that through everything has helped me to survive, and not only survive but to actually keep my mind alive and radical. Radical? Do we even know what that means anymore? We like to tout our heritage. Oh, let’s say Thomas Paine. Yes, yes, he was a radical, a man of the enlightenment, a creature who paid the price of his beliefs in a radical democracy. Imprisoned by  Robespierre – who was himself the betrayer of the revolution, Paine barely escaped the fate of the chopping block during the great purge. With the ascendency of Robespierre to the Committee an era of anti-radicalism took charge of the revolution. It was a full-blooded Counter-Enlightenment. Condorcet was outlawed and sentenced to confiscation of his possessions in October 1793, Brissot guillotined on 31 October, Pierre-Louis Manuel following a fortnight later. Olympe de Gouges was guillotined on 3 and Bailly on 12 November. In December, Tom Paine, ‘the most violent of the American democrats’ in Madame de Staël’s words, in whose eyes the ‘principles of the Revolution, which philosophy had first diffused’, were ‘departed from, and philosophy itself rejected’ by the Robespierristes, was first expelled from the Convention and then arrested and imprisoned. Already months before, he had become entirely convinced that the Jacobin government was a tyranny ‘without either principle or authority’. Left in his cell, the United States government made remarkably little effort to extricate him.1

At the end of his life the writer and orator Robert G. Ingersoll wrote:

Thomas Paine had passed the legendary limit of life. One by one most of his old friends and acquaintances had deserted him. Maligned on every side, execrated, shunned and abhorred – his virtues denounced as vices – his services forgotten – his character blackened, he preserved the poise and balance of his soul. He was a victim of the people, but his convictions remained unshaken. He was still a soldier in the army of freedom, and still tried to enlighten and civilize those who were impatiently waiting for his death. Even those who loved their enemies hated him, their friend – the friend of the whole world – with all their hearts. On the 8th of June, 1809, death came – Death, almost his only friend. At his funeral no pomp, no pageantry, no civic procession, no military display. In a carriage, a woman and her son who had lived on the bounty of the dead – on horseback, a Quaker, the humanity of whose heart dominated the creed of his head – and, following on foot, two negroes filled with gratitude – constituted the funeral cortege of Thomas Paine.2

Such was a radical democrat in the enlightenment era. When I grew up there was another radical who I did not discover till later in life. I will hold off from sharing his name till you read one of his most pungent statements:

First , there are no rules for revolution any more than there are rules for love or rules for happiness, but there are rules for radicals who want to change their world; there are certain central concepts of action in human politics that operate regardless of the scene or the time. To know these is basic to a pragmatic attack on the system. These rules make the difference between being a realistic radical and being a rhetorical one who uses the tired old words and slogans, calls the police “pig” or “white fascist racist” or “motherfucker” and has so stereotyped himself that others react by saying, “Oh, he’s one of those,” and then promptly turn off.

This failure of many of our younger activists to understand the art of communication has been disastrous. Even the most elementary grasp of the fundamental idea that one communicates within the experience of his audience — and gives full respect to the other’s values — would have ruled out attacks on the American flag. The responsible organizer would have known that it is the establishment that has betrayed the flag while the flag, itself, remains the glorious symbol of America’s hopes and aspirations, and he would have conveyed this message to his audience. On another level of communication, humor is essential, for through humor much is accepted that would have been rejected if presented seriously. This is a sad and lonely generation. It laughs too little, and this, too, is tragic.

For the real radical, doing “his thing” is to do the social thing, for and with people. In a world where everything is so interrelated that one feels helpless to know where or how to grab hold and act, defeat sets in; for years there have been people who’ve found society too overwhelming and have withdrawn, concentrated on “doing their own thing.” Generally we have put them into mental hospitals and diagnosed them as schizophrenics. If the real radical finds that having long hair sets up psychological barriers to communication and organization, he cuts his hair. If I were organizing in an orthodox Jewish community I would not walk in there eating a ham sandwich, unless I wanted to be rejected so I could have an excuse to cop out. My “thing,” if I want to organize, is solid communication with the people in the community. Lacking communication I am in reality silent; throughout history silence has been regarded as assent — in this case assent to the system.

The words above are from none other than Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and was based on the basic assumption that to change things one first needs to understand not only what communication is but also, and more important one needs to know how to communicate effectively. Without the ability to break down the barriers that divide us from each other democracy is impossible. Humans have got to start from the ground floor, and that entails a total behavioral change in one’s approach to communication. Being radical isn’t dressing up in black and red and bombing institutions, it isn’t sitting on Wall-Street decrying the power of the system, it’s not even bellowing on in blog after blog about the great struggle, etc. No. It’s about the simple things in our everyday lives. As Alinsky reminds us:

As an organizer I start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be. That we accept the world as it is does not in any sense weaken our desire to change it into what we believe it should be — it is necessary to begin where the world is if we are going to change it to what we think it should be. That means working in the system.

Notice he does not say we should destroy the system to change it. No. He says we should start with what is right in front of our noses and begin there working in the midst of the ruins of democracy. We have no other choice. This is our home, our earth, our habitat. If we destroy it what then? Yet, there is another reason:

There’s another reason for working inside the system. Dostoevski said that taking a new step is what people fear most. Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people. They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and chance the future. This acceptance is the reformation essential to any revolution.

And, yet, we live in a time when people demand change now, as if the only thing viable were a year of living dangerously, of entering some apocalyptic pact or revolutionary moment of pure violence that would forever change the world. But is this really what we want and need? –

Our youth are impatient with the preliminaries that are essential to purposeful action. Effective organization is thwarted by the desire for instant and dramatic change, or as I have phrased it elsewhere the demand for revelation rather than revolution.

There are those that would say: What’s the point of working within the system? How has change ever come about from within a failing system? Wouldn’t it be better just to lay it to death, slay the system and start from the beginning? –

What is the alternative to working “inside” the system? A mess of rhetorical garbage about “Burn the system down!” Yippie yells of “Do it!” or “Do your thing.” What else? Bombs? Sniping? Silence when police are killed and screams of “murdering fascist pigs” when others are killed? Attacking and baiting the police? Public suicide? “Power comes out of the barrel of a gun!” is an absurd rallying cry when the other side has all the guns. Lenin was a pragmatist; when he returned to what was then Petrograd from exile, he said that the Bolsheviks stood for getting power through the ballot but would reconsider after they got the guns! Militant mouthings? Spouting quotes from Mao, Castro, and Che Guevara, which are as germane to our highly technological, computerized, cybernetic, nuclear-powered, mass media society as a stagecoach on a jet runway at Kennedy airport?

The point of starting with the system is simple: there is no other place to start from except political lunacy. It is most important for those of us who want revolutionary change to understand that revolution must be preceded by reformation. To assume that a political revolution can survive without the supporting base of a popular reformation is to ask for the impossible in politics.(ibid.)

Did you understand that? No revolution can hope to survive unless there is a strong base of popular support organized around a set of reforms based on a knowledge and understanding of the current ills and malpractices of the current system. Without reformation no revolution will succeed.

Men don’t like to step abruptly out of the security of familiar experience; they need a bridge to cross from their own experience to a new way. A revolutionary organizer must shake up the prevailing patterns of their lives— agitate, create disenchantment and discontent with the current values, to produce, if not a passion for change, at least a passive, affirmative, non-challenging climate. “The Revolution was effected before the war commenced,” John Adams wrote. “The Revolution was in the hearts and minds of the people … This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.” A revolution without a prior reformation would collapse or become a totalitarian tyranny. A reformation means that masses of our people have reached the point of disillusionment with past ways and values. They don’t know what will work but they do know that the prevailing system is self-defeating, frustrating, and hopeless. They won’t act for change but won’t strongly oppose those who do. The time is then ripe for revolution.(ibid.)

A revolution of the Mind rather than of brute fact is the order of the day when one wants radical change permanent and lasting.


1. Israel, Jonathan (2011-08-11). Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution, and Human Rights 1750-1790 (pp. 947-948). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
2. Paine, Thomas (2008). Works of Thomas Paine. MobileReference. Retrieved November 22, 2013.
3. Alinsky, Saul (2010-06-22). Rules for Radicals (Vintage) (Kindle Locations 87-91). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Geographical Ignorance and Americans’ Views on Ukraine

Political Violence reposted an article dealing with reportage on American’s who seem to be less than adequate concerning geography. In my comment, after reading the Monkey Cage article, I realized this is part of a larger issue in American Culture and Society that was not even touched on by either Political Violence nor the Monkey Cage. That is the deliberate dumbing down of the Education curriculum over the past half century that has been documented repeatedly by some of the educators themselves.

The truth is it has nothing to do with politics, partisan or otherwise. For years critics have been decrying the educational system itself which many believe are actually being forced to dumb down Americans. It’s sad that one points the finger at the people for not knowing, rather than at the system that should have taught them the facts to begin with. I mean there are several older and newer works that describe in detail much of the issues involved:

Dumbing Down America: The War on Our Nation’s Brightest Young Minds (And What We Can Do to Fight Back) by James Delisle Ph.D. (Aug 1, 2014)

Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write, or Add by Charles J. Sykes (Sep 15, 1996)

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, 10th Anniversary Edition by John Taylor Gatto and Thomas Moore (Feb 1, 2002)

The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America, Revised and Abridged Edition by Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt (2011)

Death By Supermarket: The Fattening, Dumbing Down, and Poisoning of America by Deville, Nancy (Mar 1, 2011)

So instead of poking fun at the working class including the prevaricariat, cognitariat, etc. why not do an article on the educational system itself that has failed Americans.

The Age of Insomniacs: 24/7 and the Posthuman Dilemma

Amid the mass amnesia sustained by the culture of global capitalism, images have become one of the many depleted and disposable elements that, in their intrinsic archiveability, end up never being discarded, contributing to an ever more congealed and futureless present.

–  Jonathan Crary, 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep

If as Berardi argues in Time, Acceleration, and Violence that time is what we store in our bank accounts, then time is the final security deposit that is no longer secured for us time bound creatures of late capitalist society. Like those objects that Graham Harmann tells us continuously withdraw from all relation we too have been cut off from our own accumulated time, set adrift upon the sea of things without the ability to connect, link up, relate. Solitary and isolated, withdrawn from all relation, we too feel like those precarious, depleted, and disposable elements of an inhuman system that no longer needs us.

J.G. Ballard in Notes Toward a Mental Breakdown recounts the slow withdrawal of an anonymous author into a final fugue state of pure insomniac bliss. It is purported that the journal is actually by one Dr. Robert Loughlin who kept a speculative diary of his experiences just before the untimely death of his wife. It describes “in minute detail the events of his personal and professional life. It seems that he was already aware of the erratic nature of his behaviour and of the recurrent fugues, each lasting several days, from which he would emerge in an increasingly dissociated state” (851).1 In another short story ‘Myths of the Near Future’ we discover that this fugue state is a form of space sickness:

At first touching only a small minority of the population, it took root like a lingering disease in the interstices of its victims’ lives, in the slightest changes of habit and behaviour. Invariably there was the same reluctance to go out of doors, the abandonment of job, family and friends, a dislike of daylight, a gradual loss of weight and retreat into a hibernating self.(Ballard, 1064)

In another instance we discover that this fugue state is brought on by a particular implosion of Time: “Time was condensing around him a thousand replicas from the past and future had invaded the present and clasped themselves to him. (Ballard, 1064)” Each of these stories implies the notion that the characters involved are somehow trying to elude historical linear time for some alternative world of time, trying to find a way out of time and into a time Outside.

Marshall McLuhan in Counterblast reminded us that our new media is not a bridge between humans and nature, rather the digital worlds of our posthuman systems are nature – nature as Nature vanished into darkness long ago and was replaced by a facsimile, a dark progenitor, a liquid double of electronic circuitry and lightspeed. McLuhan agrees with Oscar Wilde. Life imitates art, not the other way around. We are all living in an art world, a world of artifice, and artificial world. We are all performative artists, creators of our own fictional lives; or, more bluntly – we have been created by the mechanized media in which we live. We are no longer individual, but as Deleuze and Guattari have iterated we are ‘dividuals’. Or as McLuhan tells us: “Our bridges are gone and the Rubicon is yet to be crossed! We have either to assume a large new role or to abdicate entirely. It is the age of paratroopers.”

That books and essays written on “new media” only five years ago are already outdated is particularly telling, and anything written with the same goal today will become dated in far less time. At present, the particular operation and effects of specific new machines or networks are less important than how the rhythms, speeds, and formats of accelerated and intensified consumption are reshaping experience and perception.2 Governments and private corporations are spending billions in R&D seeking mechanisms and new technologies that will reduce the time interval between decision making processes and the actions affected by these decisions. As Crary reminds us this is what progress means in our contemporary world: the relentless capture and control of time and experience (Crary, 40).

As Crary implies futurism itself has a history, and that it has changed from modernist, postmodernist, to contemporary liquid modernity through differing phases. In modernist conceptions the production of novelty and the new were part of a continuous series of innovations and experiments which were linked over time with empowered visions of “global prosperity, automation benignly displacing human labor, space exploration, the elimination of crime and disease, and so on” (Crary, 40). But from the postmodern age to now the future seemed to implode as time accelerated to the speed of light and became the 24/7 realm of pure illuminated time in which “individual goals of competitiveness, advancement, acquisitiveness, personal security, and comfort at the expense of others. The future is so close at hand that it is imaginable only by its continuity with the striving for individual gain or survival in the shallowest of presents” (Crary, 41).

Yet, as Crary reports it we must not see this modulation between modernist and postmodern 24/7 time as separate, but rather as part of a system that forms a continuous loop or modulated performance of capitalism in our age. Some of the key features of early-twenty-first-century capitalism can still be linked with aspects of the industrial projects associated with the early pioneers of technological capital. As he states it the “consequences of these nineteenth-century models, especially the facilitation and maximization of content distribution, would impose themselves onto human life much more comprehensively throughout the twentieth century” (Crary, 41-42).

Yet, in our time of the unsleeping consumer new forms of  social regulation and subjection, new modes of management of the economic behavior of individuals towards compliant docile consumers. Corporations arelinking the individual’s needs with the functional and ideological programs in which each new product is embedded. One’s status is defined by the services and interconnections one inhabits, which in turn become the “dominant or exclusive ontological templates of one’s social reality” (Crary, 43). The individual as dividual or encoded application or datafeed connected to the systems and controlled by its algorithms becomes part of a continuous process of distension and expansion, occurring simultaneously on different levels and in different locations, a process in which there is a multiplication of the areas of time and experience that are annexed to new machinic tasks and demands. A logic of displacement (or obsolescence) is conjoined with a broadening and diversifying of the processes and flows to which an individual becomes effectively linked.(Crary, 43)

We as humans are slowly being purged of our humanity and slowly devolving into pure commodities to be incorporated in the machinic system of capital as part of the process rather than as isolated and withdrawn consumers of the process. Yet, not all former humans will become a part of this new machine. As Crary relates:

At the same time, there are vast numbers of human beings, barely at or below subsistence level, who cannot be integrated into the new requirements of markets, and they are irrelevant and expendable. Death, in many guises, is one of the by-products of neoliberalism: when people have nothing further that can be taken from them, whether resources or labor power, they are quite simply disposable. However, the current increase in sexual slavery and the growing traffic in organs and body parts suggest that the outer limit of disposability can be profitably enlarged to meet the demands of new market sectors.(Crary, 44)

We are all products of the new media systems that have become naturalized inside us. The assertion by some neoliberal pundits that technology is neutral that it actually provides new forms of emancipatory politics and services to counter the effects of consumerism are according to philosopher Giorgio Agamben lies, he refutes such claims as Crary explains saying that “today there is not even a single instant in which the life of individuals is not modeled, contaminated or controlled by some apparatus.” He contends convincingly that “it is impossible for the subject of an apparatus to use it ‘in the right way.’ Those who continue to promote similar arguments are, for their part, the product of the media apparatus in which they are captured.”(Crary, 46-47)

Critics of the neoliberal world order are quickly marginalized or silenced by the new mediatainment systems. As Crary reports any questioning or discrediting of what is currently the most efficient means of producing acquiescence and docility, of promoting self-interest as the raison d’être of all social activity, is rigorously marginalized. To articulate strategies of living that would delink technology from a logic of greed, accumulation, and environmental despoliation merits sustained forms of institutional prohibition.(Crary, 50).

Crary points out philosopher Bernard Stiegler who believes we are living in a fugue time, a time fully synchronized and synchronizing consciousness and memory. An age of amnesia in which humans are forgetting themselves. He calls urgently for the creation of counter-products that might reintroduce singularity into cultural experience and somehow disconnect desire from the imperatives of consumption.(Crary, 51) Yet, as Crary defines it is not the capture of consciousness by things, but is rather the reprogramming of consciousness itself to become a system of repetition and response embedded in an ever present milieu of narrowed consumptions.

Ultimately we are becoming passive followers of the new order, no longer questioning our role within this new economic world of products of which we, too, are one among many. Soon our DNA will be patented and owned by some synthetic biotech corporation to be used in some future R&D project to clone or mutate or splice. We “choose to do what we are told to do ; we allow the management of our bodies, our ideas, our entertainment, and all our imaginary needs to be externally imposed. We buy products that have been recommended to us through the monitoring of our electronic lives, and then we voluntarily leave feedback for others about what we have purchased. We are the compliant subject who submits to all manner of biometric and surveillance intrusion, and who ingests toxic food and water and lives near nuclear reactors without complaint. The absolute abdication of responsibility for living is indicated by the titles of the many bestselling guides that tell us, with a grim fatality, the 1,000 movies to see before we die, the 100 tourist destinations to visit before we die, the 500 books to read before we die.” (Crary, 60)

Who needs a Bucket List in such a world that is already manufactured for you? Planned obsolescence never had it better. The new leisure society – the perfect android: safe, secure, compliant.

1. Ballard, J. G. (2012-06-01). The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard (p. 851). Norton. Kindle Edition.
2. Crary, Jonathan (2013-06-04). 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep (pp. 38-39). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.

The Great Purge: How Greed brought us the Great Semantic Apocalypse

I’ve long thought that the real ‘Skynet Doomsday Scenario’ will involve financial AI systems, which are hungry to hoover up and ‘comprehend’ as much information as they can get their circuits on. The crazy thing is the way the AI seems to metastatizing throughout the system, so that you now have systems to automatically report ‘financial news’ for consumption by HFT systems. The whole thing bears very careful watching because the way the inefficiencies of the human are being purged from these systems could very well provide the model for the way the human will be purged elsewhere. For me all this is simply proof of concept: the more machines do semantic double-duty, the more apparent it becomes that the semantic is an illusion.

– R. Scott Bakker, Three Pound Brain

In the above Scott reminds us that there really is a process and a method to computing madness apparently going on below the surface of Wall-Street. I know recently reading Michael Lewis’s Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt that one of its key arguments is that those powerful institutions of financial capital, the banks, that have for so long dominated the markets have themselves become their own worst enemies and are being purged of their human element. Their need for what Paul Virilio once termed speed or in the new financial parlance as high-frequency trading is now part of an inhuman intelligence system that no one corporation can either understand nor master. As he tells us the bankers are now semantically caput: ” The high-frequency traders would always be faster than Goldman Sachs— or any other big Wall Street bank.”1

He continues telling us that the great Wall Street banks based as they are on large bureaucracies are no longer able to keep up with the new intelligence systems, that these obsolete financial institutions are going the way of the dinosaurs. The new boys in town the HFT or High Frequency Traders had devised methods to capture 85 percent of the market shares and leave a mere 15 percent of the crumbs for their former taskmasters. These great institutions of greed that have for so long ruled the world of finance are imploding due to their own need for speed.  As he states it the “new structure of the U.S. stock market had removed the big Wall Street banks from their historic, lucrative role as intermediary” (265). What had happened beyond the technical aspects of improving hardware (i.e., adding microwave transmitter towers between Chicago and New Jersey which shaved 4 milleseconds off the older fiber-optic cabels, etc.), and software (i.e., new AI technology and high-speed algorithms to the system that could outpace human decisioning processes)? As Lewis tells it a limit or threshold or Rubicon had been crossed from which there would be no return: “People no longer are responsible for what happens in the market, because computers make all the decisions” (270).

As my friend Scott Bakker would have it humans have been purged from the decision making process altogether. Humans are no longer needed and have become a detriment to the late capitalist system they started up several hundred years ago. Humans are being replaced by vast impersonal intelligence systems whose inscrutable designs far outpace the three pound sack of meat we call a brain. Wall Street financial systems are slowly being purged of their human progenitors and the financial decisions of late capitalism are now in the hands of the machines. The economy is now controlled by machinic intelligences. What next?


1. Lewis, Michael (2014-03-31). Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt (p. 263). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

24/7: Sleepless Soldiers and the Psychopathy of Civilization

On first reading Johnathan Crary’s new book 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep  I wondered if I’d shifted into some dark  psychopathic journey into the heart of darkness where citizens have become machines, augmented cyborgs in a sleepless universe of absolute death where no one dies and everyone works endlessly. In this work we discover that the American Imperium through its Defense Department (DARPA) for the past five years has sponsored research into “sleeplessness techniques, including neurochemicals, gene therapy, and transcranial magnetic stimulation”.1 Why? “The near-term goal is the development of methods to allow a combatant to go for a minimum of seven days without sleep, and in the longer term perhaps at least double that time frame, while preserving high levels of mental and physical performance” (2). Yet, this is just one part of a larger program, 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.(3)

It’s as if our military-industrial complex has already bought into the Transhumanist Manifesto’s declared message: “Technological evolution is fast, efficient, accelerating and better by design. To ensure the best chances of survival, take control of our own destiny and to be free, we must master evolution.” I don’t make this stuff up, sometimes I wish I had for it is so wild and unbelievable as to where it is taking us that I sometimes wonder if I live in the same universe of thought as these other humans. But – and this is key, are these others human in the old sense of that term? What are we becoming? We bandy about such terms as posthuman(ism) etc. with philosophical delight, as if we could play with these ideas in exclusive realms of philosophical discourse outside the actual world of pragmatic realities. But this is no longer the case. We live in a movie set, where the cyborgs and robots have become real, mutants are just another term for genetically engineered humans run amok, and our leaders put on smiling faces but are underneath reptilian predators on the road to oblivion. I joke about it in hyperbolic fashion, but the truth is that one begins to wonder if conspiracy theory is the order of the day rather than philosophy when it comes to what is going on in our military-industrial complex.

The American establishment seems at the moment to be working outside any legal or ethical system of values: as if the video games they’ve sponsored were suddenly coming alive as a real possibility. The whole notion of intervention into a voluntary soldiers physical system to produce such strange behaviors as sleeplessness for the efforts of unimagined missions seems ludicrous at best.  But what strikes me that we have finally entered the psychopathic realms of madness is this quest for soldiers whose physical capabilities will more closely approximate the functionalities of non-human apparatuses and networks.(3) Here we have billions of dollars being pored into defense programs to produce living cyborgs who have finally become inhuman machines devoid of what was once a young man or woman. This metamorphosis at the hands of our government and corporate fascist state seems a final blow against all that we’ve called human in the past.

Yet, we as philosophical thinkers may have helped in this state of affairs, we may be guilty of giving these monstrous authorities the very mental tools to allow them to remake humanity in their own image as if they were mortal gods in control of a new technological imperative. For years philosophers have been seeking to go beyond the old philosophical foundations of humanistic thought and civilization.  In the process of doing this we’ve been responsible for giving those with a more literal minded sense of power and knowledge the very tools to enforce new forms of command and control. Are we, as philosophers, guilty of creating a posthuman civilization? The answer is simple: yes, we are the guilty ones who through our own discourses have slowly given birth to the technological monstrosity we most feared.

J. Robert Oppenheimer on July 16, 1945, in the Trinity test in New Mexico remarked that seeing the atomic bomb mushrooming across the landscape brought to mind words from the Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” I think he realized just what he and other scientists had brought into the world. But did that stop them? No. Scientists love to compartmentalize their efforts, to remain anonymous and particularized concerning their scope and efforts, to absolve themselves of ethical responsibility as if science(s) were devoid of ethical impact in their eyes. They feel no responsibility for the actions of those who have tasked them with specific goals. They leave all ethical consideration to others and consider their work as purely formal and objective. At least that was the old way of looking at the sciences. For years now debates against that 1930’s view of the sciences has been on the table, yet for the most part most working scientists even today remain within this impersonal template absolved of the crimes of their creations. If the scientists are not responsible for such things then who is? Of course I exaggerate, not all scientists are unethical, I speak of certain clichés that mark the profession rather than of specific individuals. There are ethics among the disciplines, yet I wonder at times how much impact the ethical writings have on the work-a-day efforts of most of the scientists themselves? I mean when you look at such governmental entities as DARPA and private entrepreneurs and corporate entities that invest heavily into these efforts most scientists keep their ethical thoughts to themselves while working on these projects. And, for many the efforts are so compartmentalized that the individual scientist may be working on just one aspect of the project and know nothing of the overall intention of the program as a whole. Knowledge is compartmentalized and segmented in these larger projects to the point that only those with specialized clearances ever know the goals of the intended program. That said one wonders just what the intended outcome of all these new convergence technologies is moving toward and who is drawing up the plans and initiatives?

The more I think about it the more I’m of the view that it is the philosophers themselves who have fallen into oblivion as far as the major thrust of our current civilization is concerned. Philosophers seem more like pets in a cultural playground spouting their theories, going to meetings, giving speeches, praising or blaming each other, but essentially powerless within the world of our ultra-modern late capitalist society to do much more than beg the question(s). I keep returning to Badiou and Zizek who seem to represent the face of an aspect of the Left. Badiou martialing with great precision an edifice of philosophy that to all apparent thinkers seems to have entered that pure abstract lair of mathematics to produce the perfect system. Yet, as many will tell us this system is flawed by the very mathematical theories that underpin its main arguments. Zizek on the other hand presents himself as the new Lacanian Hegel of our era, a clown without power, a philosopher of questions and more questions, a man who would speak on endlessly in entertaining speeches dialectically measuring the edge culture of our late capitalist society. Yet, as I’ve said before: we need answers not questions. Who will provide us with a common language for the common man and woman on the streets of our fragile earth. Philosophers seem to be dancing apes at the end of time rather than true revolutionaries offering us a way forward.

If I am wrong then tell me where is the philosopher today who knows a way out of this present quagmire of our inhuman civilization? Is the agenda being set by our Imperial Elite? Are we to become herd animals, cattle prodded and controlled by the biopower technologies of robotics, nanotech, biotech, and the ultimate cyborgization of a planned subhumanity of workers? Is this truly our future? The other night I watched the Continuum tv series up to season 3. Watching some of the footage we see a future where a Neocamerlist Society where humans are enslaved through neuroimplants and other invasive technologies to work within corporate hives as minions to elites. It’s not as simple as that but that is the gist. In such a world even the experts, and the apparent security forces and people who are part of the upper tier can be controlled as well. From birth you are manufactured, stamped, and patterned to work for a particular corporate conclave. You are a patented commodity in a world wide system of capital. There is no escape unless you plan on rewiring history itself. And this is exactly what happens when a group of anarcho-socialist self-proclaimed freedom fighters known as “Liber8” escape execution by fleeing to the year 2012. I’ll not go further than that…

But that is science fiction. We do not have that luxury to fictionalize what is truly happening around us in the sciences and the control regimes of our planetary civilization. As J.G. Ballard reminded us over and over: “We are all living in fictions at the moment, one need not write about it; instead the task of the writer, or any astute inquirer is to uncover what is left of reality.” That brings us back to DARPA’s science fictional soldier of the future. As Crary tells us “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.”(3) One wonders what happens to such young men or women once the fighting is over and they are returned to their homelands? Will such invasive practices have lasting effects? Obviously. If we have such postmodern affective disorders as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), will the new disorder be post-traumatic sleep disorder? Sleepless in civilian life: the ultimate fugue syndrome. Time compression. Memory sickness. Insomnia.

Insomnia corresponds to the necessity of vigilance, to a refusal to overlook the horror and injustice that pervades the world. It is the disquiet of the effort to avoid inattention to the torment of the other. But its disquiet is also the frustrating inefficacy of an ethic of watchfulness; the act of witnessing and its monotony can become a mere enduring of the night, of the disaster .(19)

Yet, we must not stop there. No. For what is good for soldiers is ultimately to be used on the rest of us:

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. …24/ 7 markets and a global infrastructure for continuous work and consumption have been in place for some time, but now a human subject is in the making to coincide with these more intensively.(3)

Welcome to the neocameral global world vision where humans are machines in a sleepless universe of illuminated unending work. Maybe the parody corporation of ByoLogc is the template for all future syntech dominators: “The modern world expects more from the people who claim to take care of them, and at ByoLogyc, we think they deserve it.” And, although this is a parody, dreamed up by a Toronto art ensemble (Zed.To) to portray the dangers of this future world one can imagine that this is the future that will be portrayed to us down the pipe: beauty, health, happiness, immortality… the dream of perfectibility. ZED.TO was an 8-month narrative told in real-time through an integrated combination of interactive theatrical events and online content. It told the story of the beginning of the end of the world, from a viral pandemic created by ByoLogyc, a fictional Toronto-based biotech company. As one commentator reported: “ByoLogyc’s CEO Chet Getram is a ruthless and manipulative fictional character — a living experiment designed to explore how the language of human-centred design, sustainable business, and social innovation could be used to obscure a nefarious and short-sighted vision of profit as generated by a new biological economy.” 2 Of course no one reads the fine print in the contract, not even our emerging social contracts:

The events that make up ZED.TO will follow an apocalypse-level event in Toronto, with ByoLogyc setting the stage. This takes the form of a launch party for the titular biotech company‘s new designer drug, populated by the corporate senior staff and a team of new interns (i.e., the audience). The interactive, mobile format is similar to a murder mystery, where the audience members must collect what information and office gossip they can between speeches and team-building exercises. The ZED.TO team prove themselves to be capable innovators in this intricate scenario, though sharing information with your fellow interns is crucial. The party’s climax is only the beginning, setting things up for big events to come.

Meet Chet Getram, CEO of ByoLogyc and innovator on the frontier of lifestyle biotechnology products and services. Take in the ByoRetreat while your at it. And, a final message from Chet Getram:

After the recent devastating attack on ByoLogyc’s production facilities by the online terrorist organization known as EXE, ByoLogyc is ready for action.

Escape the deadly BRX Virus that has mutated from our world-changing ByoRenew product. Purchase a ticket that guarantees you a place at our ByoRetreat facility in Toronto on November 2nd and 3rd, where you will be kept safe under the watchful eye of our Sanitation and Containment Division.

Such a parody corporation with its fictional introduction of a synthetic supervirus into the socio-cultural world of our non-history to bring about a State of Emergency to bring humanity under the umbrella of a new security bio-regime may be a parable of our neocameralist age, yet it portrays exactly the psychopathological imperatives that are driving the transhumanist vision toward human perfection and earthly paradise of immortality. As Cary suggests 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.(9) In such a world sleep becomes the ultimate crime, it is thievery against the corporation and the state which demands the ultimate sacrifice of labor for the gift of immortality and happiness, security and health: sleeplessness forever.

to be continued…

1. Crary, Jonathan (2013-06-04). 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep (pp. 1-2). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.
2. Trevor Haldenby April Fools: The Truth about ByoLogyc (Singularity)‏


GOP Offers more crapology cuts from the Right

Ever notice that the Republicans never offer a cut in military spending? But, hey, they never forget to offer giant cuts in healthcare:

Ryan’s budget brings back a now-familiar list of spending cuts to promise balance, including $2.1 trillion over 10 years in health care subsidies and coverage under the Affordable Care Act, $732 billion in cuts to Medicaid and other health care programs, and almost $1 trillion in cuts to other benefit programs like food stamps, Pell Grants and farm subsidies.

from AP House GOP plan seeks health cuts to balance budget

So they propose cutting health, welfare, and already hurting family farms. Lovely people these Republicans. Why not just cut their own frakking pay? I’m sure over 10 years that would save us… oh, say, 20 Trillion?  Republicans again show their true stripes as uncaring crapartists of the 21st Century who sponsor more money for Guns and War than for the care of its citizenry. If we abolish the military budget we’d save almost six trillion in 10 years alone not including Overseas and Homeland Security which would bring that up to about 12 Trillion in ten years:

The U.S. military budget is $612.4 billion for FY 2014. This includes $91.9 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) to pay for the War in Afghanistan, and $520.5 billion to maintain the Department of Defense. It does not include Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs or the State Department. (see http://useconomy.about.com/od/usfederalbudget/p/military_budget.htm)

As the reporter on the military budget relates: “If all defense spending could somehow be safely eliminated, there would be a budget surplus of $491.1 billion, instead of a $280 billion budget deficit.” Now that would be a cut worth having.

from U.S. Military Budget.

As Chalmers Johnson in his latest work Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope tells it:

The failure to begin to deal with our bloated military establishment and the profligate use of it in missions for which it is hopelessly inappropriate will, sooner rather than later, condemn the United States to a devastating trio of consequences: imperial overstretch, perpetual war, and insolvency, leading to a likely collapse similar to that of the former Soviet Union.1

The American Empire is in decay, her citizenry has become for the most part a-political, her politicians part of the corporate and military payroll that feeds the financial system on Wall-Street. Welcome to the 21st Century when the world collapsed under its own stupidity and greed.

1. Johnson, Chalmers (2010-08-17). Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope (American Empire Project) (p. 183). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.