Malthusian Fiction and Fact

Rick Searle on another dystopic topic: Malthusian thought and a review of Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Wind-Up Girl… excellent as usual!

Utopia or Dystopia

Wind_Up_Girl_by_Raphael_Lacoste-big

Prophecies of doom, especially when they’re particularly frightening, have a way of sticking with us in a way more rosy scenarios never seem to do. We seem to be wired this way by evolution, and for good reason.  It’s the lions that almost ate you that you need to remember, not the ones you were lucky enough not to see. Our negative bias is something we need to be aware of, and where it seems called for, lean against, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss and ignore every chicken little as a false prophet even when his predictions turn out to be wrong, not just once, but multiple times. For we can never really discount completely the prospect that chicken little was right after all, and it just took the sky a long, long time to fall.

 The Book of Revelation is a doom prophecy like that, but…

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The Revolution in Military Affairs: A Partial Timeline (+links)

Edmund brings a Timeline to the Madness abroad in US Foreign Policy… The Age of Drones is Upon Us…

Deterritorial Investigations

1-DsQVZN-wu89sU1xgHjIQ6w“A Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) is a major change in the nature of warfare brought about by the innovative application of new technologies which, combined with dramatic changes in military doctrine and operational and organisational concepts, fundamentally alters the character and conduct of military operations.” – Andrew Marshall

“The RMA depends not only on technological developments, such as computer and information systems, but also on the new forms of labor – mobile, flexible, immaterial forms of social labor… In these respects RMA is an anticipation and an extrapolation of the recent transformations of social labor, casting the economic figures into the field of battle.” – Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude

1946

194?

  • Andrew Marshall graduates with a degree in economics at the University of Chicago.

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The Vargur: Outside the Law

“The accursed one may thus be understood as someone outside the law, or beyond it.”

         – Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacre

How many of us would admit to being accursed? I don’t mean living outside the law of man, or even if one did believe – outside the law of God; no: I mean the law of one’s own being, the law that keeps one safe and sound, the wild things at bay locked out in the dark hinterlands of the mind devoid of their terror and despair. What if one had been thrown not into the world – as Heidegger would have it, but rather into the void beyond one’s own inaccessible life, a life that continues sleepwalking through existence without you? What if that part of your being wandered beyond the hedge separating wilderness from civilization, sanity from insanity: beyond the civilizing sociality of your everyday self – that avatar mask you present to your wife or husband, or your children – who depend on the kindness of your gentle ways; as well, your boss, your friends, your social partners and after hours consorts; all these of which the self that meets the world, that masks its dark intent within the circle of sanity of this dog day world we all share? What if that self found its way back into the wilderness of beginnings, in the realm of myth and terror where the wild things live? What then?

Agamben – Homo Sacer is both sacred and accursed: cast out by society to roam the forest wilds of chaos and night where the outlaws rule. The history of the vargur, the werewolf clans is long and deep, paralleling the timidity of the human clans. Mythology, perhaps? The unwritten truth of an alternative world, a surety…The monsters of reason are the spectral ghosts of the noumenon rejected by the Enlightenment project to this day…The dark romanticism of the Gothic worlds is that realm figured and populated by the spectral void. We are attracted to Sade, Bronte, Symbolists, Poe, Proust, Kafka, Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Thomas Ligotti, Nick Land and all the other purveyors of horror because they open the wound, revealing those forgotten and suppressed denizens of the noumenal world enlightened philosophers would rather forget… Transgressive philosophy seeks not the demise of the Enlightenment project, rather to fulfill it: inclusive of its accursed children.

The lines of flight from the noumenol realms began long before the Enlightenment in the dark corridors of the inquisitors…There is the story of a forgotten Enlightenment, the one rejected and betrayed by the purists, the timid purveyors of the terror…Creatures like Sade and Blake cut through the belly of the revolutionary beast of the purists, seeing them for what they were: oathbreakers.   Robespierre was nothing more than Virtue’s Dark Prince: hater of life, a broken pawn, power without light: the face of terror. Seeking egalitarian justice the Committee brought democratic terror and the demise of the Enlightenment.

Terror does not come from the outside in: it is the face of democracy itself as freedom’s final lie. To be free is to live outside the gate. In medieval times between Christmas and Twelfth Night ‘fools festivals’: bands of youth rampaged destructively through settlements at night protected by the law as ‘being outside the law’. Were these continuations of the ancient pagan worlds of the shapeshifters among us? Have we for so long silenced these dark shouts from the abyss? Living as we do in artificial constructs, ideologically safe zones, purified of such dark temptations? Our present Cathedral of the neoliberal order is built out of the dark bricks of human slavery and denial. It harbors a false engine of light within its bowels, feeding on the ignorance and apathy of billions who seek only their daily bread.

Of ancient the vargur: the ‘stranglers in the temple’ were seen as skinwalkers from the Wolf’s Time – time of ruin and catastrophe. Many cultures have seen a mobile time, a time moving toward us like a an unstoppable wave, a volcanic surge of alien force and intensity. The Salic Franks carried before them the ‘wolf’s head’ the bleeding emblem of sacred power, the protection from chaos and death which encompasses all civilized societies. They knew the truth, knew that outside the gate a power more ancient than time itself lived, waiting, pondering its chance to put an end to the terror of man.

In that strange hybrid scholar’s work, DREAMTIME Concerning the Boundary Between Wilderness and Civilization, by Hans Peter Duerr we discover traces of this ancient world suppressed by instrumental reason and the false Enlightenment project…Even now those who dare explore such strangeness are considered non-scholars or hybrid constructs beyond the pale of acceptable wisdom. Rogue scholars of such abstruse knowledge have always fascinated my gothic proclivities, they show the pre-enlightened stages of the Enlightenment project as it arose out of religious fear and terror of the darkness of the pagan worlds of its ancestors. Have we succumbed in our quest after immortality and Singularities to the inner compulsion left behind in these darker worlds? Were not the Inquisitors the first Robespierre’s? Did they not in their dungeons seek only to uncover the noumenal darkness that Kant refused to gape at and forthwith excluded from his philosophy? Haven’t we been blinded to the dark inducements of the wilderness outside the gate of civilized discourse in to believing we are safe, protected by the artificial barriers erected by the Cathedral?

Transhumanists, H++, posthuman biomechanical hybrids, etc. are these not visions of the blanks: the black holes in our own rhetoric of the past returning? Or, better yet: Are these historical wavering’s between the phenomenal and noumenon, civilization and wilderness signs from the wastelands of the future, invasive infestations that were already at work within our ancestors? Their patterned rituals slowly melded into pagan dance and enunciations as iconic testimonies of alien inscription and subsumption? We seek illumination in a broken world and find only the darkness of our Promethean desires and ambitions, seeking nothing more than an escape hatch into unbidden futures where the inhuman is our unholy grail. Shall we open the wound wide, let the flowers of the abyss spring forward in our accelerating minds? Are not the far shores of futurity but a gate to be unlocked, a portal to be opened, a mental construct or metamorphic template to be unfurled, a map and its cartography to be unleased by our fearless gaze? Where are the Icarus’s of the mind? Who shall dream our collective dreams forward? Shall we remain locked in the cold dark prisons of our political high-priests? Or shall we discover the gate is open, the keys lost among the assemblies of night, the guardsmen trembling that we might discover their secret lie?

The boredom of our time is the chatter of the net, the electronic ghost box that holds nothing but the vestiges of mental sparks that once held hope for a different future. Those times have passed, now begins the long road back into life where only the wolves, bears, and foxes of the wilderness hold sway. Do you not hear the call of the wild, too? Are you afraid of the allure of that cold life? Or is it rather that you are more fearful that your voidic being has already escaped, vanished without a trace, wandered far beyond the hedgelands and is running rampant over the dangerous uncharted realms outside the gates? Are you not ready to begin? Ready to become other than this corpse that you call home? What can you lose? Tell me, what can you lose?

Becoming impersonal, fatal, amoral, and contemptuous: freed of the safety nets of this dying civilization. Do you fear what you are becoming? Is the inhuman in you terrifying to your fated self? Do you have an inkling of what awaits you? It has a name, you know… Nietzsche, Freud, Baitaille, Land… each of these foresaw it, and engendered its embers, awakened its alien intent, gave it sustenance with the deep blood of their thought, a flesh-thought, a thought that is full of the labor of pain and pessimism. Brothers and Sisters of the night,  vargr, rippers of reality’s hedge who have all ventured beyond the cage. Will you not follow?

This is a mineral thought: a thought at the base of the spine, a liquid flowing base materialism that moves of its own accord, both vicious and aggressive – and yet, resilient and attuned to the pack, the others outside the gates who have neither sought asylum nor been afraid of their status as Outlaws. This is an outlaw philosophy, a philosophy for skinwalkers and were-creatures of all stripes, fearless animals who no longer seek to reform the present, no longer seek a revolution of the current world… no, they seek to transform this world into their own where only outlaws remain: this is the freedom they seek and no other. No, this is not some anarchistic nightmare of solitude and camaraderie for the disunity of life. This is not some return to Nature ( no such thing as Nature ever existed ), a Luddite escape from the Machine. Forget those hacks, those despoilers of graves and truth. This is the reversal of ten-thousand years of domestication. Neither a return to some primal time, nor to some imaginary future, rather it is the freeing of this time, this moment by moment that we all are becoming impregnated by from that future no one seems to accept or even to acknowledge as coming from the noumenal sphere outside the hedge to our technomaya shadows and illusions. As time speeds up, as our neoliberal world order seeks to escape this future and hollow out the earth encasing us in its capitalistic Cathedral of Time we begin to see ourselves as agents of simultaneity as ghosts of some zombie world of dead labor.

The policing of the perimeters, the concave horizon of capital is all that preoccupies the neoliberal order. They do not want you to escape this cesspool, this slime-pit, this dead world they’ve created for you in a spectacle of pure jouissance that tends to your baser nature and allows you to be titillated and brought under its mindless systems of command and control known as the infotainment complex. Your prison is open and clean, a world of wonders for those willing to sacrifice their brothers and sisters outside the gates. Yet, we do not care, have your fun, your meaningless petty existence in the joylands of trivial technoville. One day it will come to an end, collapse around you like a crystal palace sinking betrayed by its own illusionary grandeur.

Instead we who are abominations, who suffer the light of a dark sun rampage among the twisted brambles and scorched deserts, the waste mountains of the outer layers troubled only by our need to rip the crystal palace to shreds. Blinded by a black star we run the grey lands seeking neither reprieve nor consolation, but instead the bittersweet truth of our birthright: a solace so terror-ridden that only nightmares suggest its timbre. In this realm even laughter begins to despair, yet to laugh is to enter the bliss of death’s estate, and walk abroad free of it’s taste…

We seek no more and no less than the total annihilation of reality. There is hedge between us and the wilderness of the noumenon, a great wall that hides the dark contours of its life. We live within the hedge like scared rabbits, our minds molded and modulated by the intricate universal relations of science and philosophy that dictate the terms of our perceptual contracts, provide us the normative guidelines to rule and keep us safely tucked away from the terrible truth beyond the hedge-rows of civilized society. Does this disturb you? Do you think you really know what reality is? Have you even an inkling of that realm of light, that heaven of possibility and indifference? Death and death alone drives us, the secret engine of all our desires. We howl under the blood moon, our voices are heard by your clans even in the glare of you artificial suns. We thirst for the annihilation of all suns, for the intrepid movement that changes everything into dust. When that last black hole in infinity’s dark night pulls us down into its great pyre, then and only then shall we all be connected to one another. Until then we have our solitudes.

Let us all find the ‘tramp in the hedge’ of time…   you’ll know him by his bright smile and steel teeth!

The Anthropocene and the Apocalypse: from the ecological to the ecologistical

Another apocalypse on the fly from Arran James!

synthetic zerø

The question of ecological ethics and politics has been raised once again. I occasionally fear that our images of ecology and politics remain stills rather than cinematic motion pictures. This is largely because we still have a tendency to approach bodies as static or exclusively in terms of being bodies-of-inscription, passive passivities, contained, bound and finite in an absolute sense. Against this frozen stillness I want to discuss motion and rhythm, and the ways that bodies of all kinds generate their own spatiotemporal realities.In order to do so I’m going to move quixotically and in fractures through a section of text in EM Cioran’s The Book of Delusions, before moving onto more empirically grounded concerns that open the discussion onto the geological and political physiological consequences of survival in the Anthropocene. I don’t pretend that this post is exhaustive (it leaves questions of ethics underdeveloped) and consider it more of…

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The Philosopher, the Drunk, and the Lamppost

R. Scott Bakker making his point hit home:

“To begin with, it is simply an empirical fact that philosophical reflection on the nature of human cognition suffers massive neglect. To be honest, I sometimes find myself amazed that I even need to make this argument to people. Our blindness to our own cognitive makeup is the whole reason we require cognitive science in the first place. Every single fact that the sciences of cognition and the brain have discovered is another fact that philosophical reflection is all but blind to, another ‘dreaded unknown unknown’ that has always structured our cognitive activity without our knowledge. … The intentional philosopher, however, wants to argue for a special, emergent order of intentional functions, one that happens to correspond to the deliverances of philosophical reflection. Aside from this happy correspondence, what makes these special functions so special is their incompatibility with biomechanical functions—an incompatibility so profound that biomechanical explanation renders them all but unintelligible.”

Read him and weep… or, better yet, laugh that philosophy can now pursue other things than its tail…

Three Pound Brain

A crucial variable of interest is the accuracy of metacognitive reports with respect to their object-level targets: in other words, how well do we know our own minds? We now understand metacognition to be under segregated neural control, a conclusion that might have surprised Comte, and one that runs counter to an intuition that we have veridical access to the accuracy of our perceptions, memories and decisions. A detailed, and eventually mechanistic, account of metacognition at the neural level is a necessary first step to understanding the failures of metacognition that occur following brain damage and psychiatric disorder. Stephen M. Fleming and Raymond j. Dolan, “The neural basis of metacognitive ability,” Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B (2012) 367, 1338–1349doi:10.1098/rstb.2011.0417

As well as the degree to which we should accept the deliverances of philosophical reflection.

Philosophical reflection is a cultural achievement, an exaptation of pre-existing cognitive capacities. It is entirely possible…

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This City is Our Future

Excellent piece by Rick Searle of Utopia or Dystopia which discusses among other things the work of David Kilcullen and his book Out of the Mountains…

Utopia or Dystopia

Erich Kettelhut Metropolis Sketch

If you wish to understand the future you need to understand the city, for the human future is an overwhelmingly urban future. The city may have always been synonymous with civilization, but the rise of urban humanity has been something that has almost all occurred after the onset of the industrial revolution. In 1800 a mere 3 percent of humanity lived in cities of over one million people. By 2050, 75  percent of humanity will be urbanized. India alone might have 6 cities with a population of over 10 million.    

The trend towards megacities is one into which humanity as we speak is accelerating in a process we do not fully understand let alone control. As the counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen writes in his Out of the Mountains:

 To put it another way, these data show that the world’s cities are about to be swamped by…

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Time to dig in and read, study and absorb hard truths…

After writing so much on #Accelerationism of late I realize how much I have forgotten, as well as what I never learned to begin with: it’s time to stop writing for a while and begin digging down into those deep archives where one begins to replenish the truth of one’s insights. So for the next couple months things might be a little sporadic in posts… of course knowing myself as I do, I’ll come upon something that will spark my mind to write: it always does… Yet, I just want you to know I’m still here, just needing a respite from my daily grind of posting to dig back down for the nuggets in the cave of thought.

 

My Reading List:

  • Italian and Russian Futurism – Critical works and Original Documents
  • Modernist Worlds: Art, Poetry, Literature from the Symbolists to the Situationists
  • Situationism and its history
  • Utopian/Dystopian Critical works and literature
  • Walter Benjamin and Ernst Bloch’s in general
  • Reread sections of the Grundisse, and Das Kapital and commentaries
  • Reread Moishe Postone’s Time, Labor, and Social Domination
  • The general works of Baudrillard, Virilio, Deleuze and Guattari, Berardi, Lazzarato
  • Radical aspects of Zizek, Badiou, Johnson
  • Understand what Speculative Realism offers for Radical Politics if anything

I’m also behind the scenes creating a new site “The Institute of Experimental Futures” which will incorporate a more hyperstitional model of accelerationism in science, aesthetics, art, music, poetry, science fiction, and radical literature, and ethics critique. I’ll wait till there is enough there before opening it up… I’m also thinking of opening it up to others as a venue for exploration of these areas, so the community might have an alternative place to post their notions in those dimensions of the accelerationism.

If nothing else I’m one of those mental creatures who never stops, who is always curious and attuned to those vibrancies that make speculative philosophy a path into futurity beyond capitalism and toward constructing a post-capitalist world. We are the generation, maybe the last, to have that opportunity and it is up to us to make some hard decisions else they will be made for us by the powers that now enslave us in such oppressive systems of governance and betrayal of all that is truly human.

Positing Futurity: The Possibilities of Utopology

A true opposite of utopia would be a society that is either completely unplanned or is planned to be deliberately terrifying and awful. Dystopia, typically invoked, is neither of these things; rather, it is a utopia that has gone wrong, or a utopia that functions only for a particular segment of society.1

Fredric Jameson in a provocative essay Utopia as Method, or the Uses of the Future asks us “How can a place be a method?” Most of the time we think of utopia as a place, or a separate non-place in the sense of a secondary world with its own sociocultural milieu. But what if such a place that is no-place formed the dialectical union of opposites we call utopia/dystopia? What if this non-place were the outcome of the failure of the myth of progress? With the failure of modernity and its supposed utopic teleology and the myth of progress we are now within such a non-place, a place between times, a moment of pure difference in which neither the positive nor negative forces hold sway, but the balance between the forces of life and the forces of death vie for our future. As Jameson notes:

As far as space is concerned, the rich are withdrawing ever more urgently into their gated communities and their fortified enclosures; the middle classes are tirelessly engaged in covering the last vestiges of nature with acres of identical development homes; and the poor, pouring in from the former countryside, swell the makeshift outskirts with a population explosion so irrepressible that in a few years none of the ten largest cities on the globe will include the familiar first-world metropolises any longer. (ibid.)

Mike Davis in Planet of Slums situates the utopic/dystopic conclaves within the superstructure of our Megalopolises. He offers us an advanced state of the late-capitalist hyperworld in 3-D vision, where slums like slime molds infiltrate the fabric of our very lives, and even the elite live lives like truant children who have just escaped from the hinterlands of some Lovecraftian nightmare zone leaving the rest of us to cannibal horrors unimagined by science-fiction or gothic troubadours. The cities of the future, rather than being made out of glass and steel as envisioned by earlier generations of urbanists, are instead largely constructed out of crude brick, straw, recycled plastic, cement blocks, and scrap wood. Instead of cities of light soaring toward heaven, much of the twenty-first-century urban world squats in squalor, surrounded by pollution, excrement, and decay. Indeed, the one billion city-dwellers who inhabit postmodern slums might well look back with envy at the ruins of the sturdy mud homes of Catal Hayuk in Anatolia, erected at the very dawn of city life nine thousand years ago.2

Continue reading

Reza Negarestani: An Abstract from his “A View of Man from the Space of Reasons”

Reza Negarestani
A View of Man from the Space of Reasons – The Abstract for his Lecture:

Is humanism – understood as an elaborated commitment to humanity – about human? Once humanism is accessed via the front door of the Enlightenment, a minimal definition of human can be secured. Human is defined by its capacity to enter the space of reasons as a special domain of practices. The argument of this presentation is that the definition of humanity according to the space of reasons is a minimalist definition whose consequences are not immediately given, but it is a definition that bootstraps itself to staggering ramifications, indeed posing itself as what Rene Thom termed a ‘general catastrophe’. If there were ever a real crisis, it would be our inability to cope with collateral outcomes of committing to the real content of humanity as undergirded by the neurobiolgical import of human and the ability to enter the space of reasons. The trajectory of reason is that of a global catastrophe whose pointwise instances and stepwise courses do not harbor an observable effect or noticeable discontinuity. Reason, therefore, is simultaneously a medium of local stability that reinforces procedurality and a general catastrophe, a medium of discontinuity and anti-conservation that administers the discontinuous identity of reason to the anticipated image of man. Elaborating humanity according to the self-actualizing space of reasons establishes a discontinuity between man’s anticipation of himself (what he expects himself to become) and the image of man modified according to its functionally autonomous content. It is exactly this discontinuity that characterizes the view of human from the space of reasons as a general catastrophe set in motion by activating the content of humanity whose functional kernel is not just autonomous but also compulsive and transformative. The sufficient discernment of humanity which is at the core of the project of humanism is in reality the activation of the autonomous space of reasons. But since this space – qua the content of humanity – is functionally autonomous even though its genesis is historical, its activation implies the deactivation of historical anticipations of what man can be or become according to a fundamentally descriptive level. Building on Ray Brassier’s identification of reflective critique as ‘inherently conservative’ and recently Deneb Kozikoski’s examination of the deep isomorphy between the critique of modernity and the logic of capitalism, it will be argued that the view of human from the space of reasons forestalls the conservation of a definition or portrait of man as the basis of and a justification for a preservationist mode of conduct. Since both conservative humanism and conflationary anti-humanism fall back on this conserved definition or canonical portrait, in making the conservation of the content of humanity impossible the view from the space of reasons calls for a new interventionist ethics. This is ethics as a continuous labor or a project accustomed to the general catastrophe of reason, a design of conduct that does not resort to conservation in order to embark on construction.

Reza Negarestani is a philosopher. He has contributed extensively to journals and anthologies and lectured at numerous international universities and institutes. His current philosophical project is focused on rationalist universalism beginning with the evolution of the modern system of knowledge and advancing toward contemporary philosophies of rationalism.

1. Thanks to xlrt.org! (http://xlrt.org/abstracts.html) A symposium on tendencies in capitalism: held on 14 December 2013

Sadie Plant: On the Situationists

“The situationists characterised modern capitalist society as an organisation of spectacles: a frozen moment of history in which it is impossible to experience real life or actively participate in the construction of the lived world. They argued that the alienation fundamental to class society and capitalist production has permeated all areas of social life, knowledge, and culture, with the consequence that people are removed and alienated not only from the goods they produce and consume, but also from their own experiences, emotions, creativity, and desires. People are spectators of their own lives, and even the most personal gestures are experienced at one remove.”

      – Sadie Plant, The Situationist International in a postmodern age 

Are Robo Workers taking your job?

It’s getting harder to find people to work on farms in the US – robo-farmers are shifting plants and could soon be picking strawberries in their place…”
Harvey, the robot farmer fixing the US labour shortage (New Scientist)

With Cow-Milking Robots taking over conglomerate farms like Bordens, where even the cows enjoy the new automated systems and seem happier and more contented, one wonders why it took so long. I mean, we don’t need humans anymore for this manual labor now do we? All those people can find other jobs now can’t they?

Derek Thomson tells that “machines and technology have been replacing our jobs for about as long as the concept of a “job” has existed. In the early 1800s, British textile workers called the Luddites launched a series of massive protests against fancy new spinning machines and looms. They had a point. These machines worked better than people worked alone. They did steal jobs. But eventually, these dreaded machines and the rest of the industrial revolution made the vast majority of workers much richer by making us all more productive.” And, now he says: “But since machines are starting to take over not just farm jobs and factory jobs, but also white-collar professions, there’s a spookier question. What happens if machines can do so many jobs that we just run out of work? What if software eats the legal industry? What if robots start doing the work of doctors? What if they start cooking and serving all the food in restaurants? And driving all of our cars? And stocking all of our warehouses? And manning all of our retail floors? Today we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that robots are really good at repetitive tasks and we’re really good at managing them. But what if artificial intelligence rises to the point that robots are better at managing robots?”

In a recent survey on nbcnews.com they line it up with nine jobs that will slowly replace humans in the near future:  pharmacists, lawyers and paralegals, drivers, astronauts, store clerks, soldiers,  babysitters, rescuers, sportswriters and other reporters. Quite a list don’t you think. Well, yes might finally get some neutral news at a last, huh? And, all those money-grubbing legal fees from bumkin lawyers will now go to feeding the bot. But what about that friendly sixteen year old needing extra case for school lunches and dates: we going to let a metal can take their place? Not I said the cracker.

Andrew McAfee of MIT co-author of The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies with Erik Brynjolfsson tells us (see here) the near future holds three basic scenarios for such a takeover: scenario one is that it is going to hit the economy, and it might take a while to work itself out, but in the end we will reach a happy equilibrium; scenario two is that we see successive waves: artificial intelligence, automated driving that will impact people who drive for a living, robotics that will impact manufacturing:  scenario two happens, the problem is a bit worse because it will be difficult for the economy to keep adjusting and for workers to keep retraining; and, scenario three is that we finally transition into this science-fiction economy, where you just don’t need a lot of labor.

That last scenario sounds a lot like Marx’s original option: “Labor equals exploitation: This is the logical prerequisite and historical result of capitalist civilization. From here there is no point of return. Workers have no time for the dignity of labor.” (see Struggle Against Labor) But one wonders: Will there come a day when our progeny the Robots will demand the same?

 

 

Jetpack Communism: The New Left Accelerationism

Pete Wolfendale (on twitter this morning) is considering renaming Left Accelerationism as Jetpack Communism. With Zombie Liberalism running the show under the guise of neoliberal cannibalism we might need a few quick getaway zoot-suited jetpacks in our arsenal of dadaesque toolsets to keep us one jump ahead. We might also need a little light-hearted whimsicality after such dark portents of technophilic capitalism and ever prevalent fears of alien invasions from the future by energized agents of the techoteleoplexic spacetime continuum: factions bearing bladed seriousness for whom DNA resampling and world AI Intelligence vats ride the accelerating wave toward some neo-fascist datamarket of tomorrow. But is this Left accelerationism after all? Isn’t the truth a lot more down to earth than that? A little too serious for such blipscreen hijinks and pie-mode skydreams of ousting the market monkeys and their skynets from the futural warplands?

But that’s the problem isn’t it, that accelerationism takes itself a little too seriously? As Eugene Brennan says in “Debate is Idiot Distraction”: Accelerationism and the Politics of the Internet “While accelerationism is the subject of warranted criticism for possible political complicity with neoliberalism and a problematically macho tone, accelerationist writing is also criticised for self-conscious seriousness. The tone of seriousness, however, actually carries a compelling implicit argument: in an era saturated by nostalgia and regressive whimsicality in culture and politics, and a dearth of ambition, we would do well to approach collective experience with a sense of seriousness.”

As Patricia Reed in her essay Seven Prescriptions for Accelerationism for the recent #Accelerate: the accelerationist reader satirically reminds us: “In an era characterized by the injunction to self-brand, it should come as no surprise that manifestos now come pre-hashtagged, forecasting their own viral update” (523).1 Resembling the neoliberal adverts it claims to surpass in its accelerating ambitions to move through the technocapitalist bubblegum world like a photon torpedo wrapped in neon glit toward a target of post-capitalistist society, accelerationism on the surface seems situated between total doom and total success depending on which net pundit you talk too. AS Reed equitably tells it “…reactions have been hasty and plentiful. Yet commentary that either blindly champions #Accelerate…, or condemns it as neo-futurist-fascist travesty, rarely grasps the potential at stake, caught up in the buzz of a name that, unfortunately, obfuscates its content” (523). All true, all too true…

As a recent symposium (2013) suggests what needs to be posed is the question once raised by Deleuze and Guattari: Which is the real revolutionary path? To withdraw from the world market or, on the opposite, to go further and “accelerate the process”, as Nietzsche already suggested long before the current Stillstand? For example today Germany finds itself in the eye of the storm: a mild social democracy at the center of Europe watching neoliberalism freely devastating the rest of the world. (see vids: here)

One the biggest debates recently is over the notion of the future itself. As Steve Shapiro tells it “Among all its other accomplishments, neoliberal capitalism has also robbed us of the future. It turns everything into an eternal present. The highest values are supposedly novelty, innovation, and creativity, and yet these always turn out to be more of the same. The future exists only in order to be colonized and made into an investment opportunity. The genuine unknowability of the future is transformed, by means of derivatives trading, into a matter of calculable risk.” (see More on Accelerationism) This notion of no more future ahead of us, of the feeling that we’re accelerating in a vacuum faster and faster to the point that everything is now, and that we are slowing down rather than moving forward, that we are decelerating while accelerating: a paradox that leaves one feeling a bit like those passengers in the Battlestar Galactica series who on jumping into hyperspace felt like they were imploding in toward the past even as they were expanding and accelerating toward some other quadrant of the galaxy. A sort of full born nausea effect of the neoliberal order as financial capitalism with its surface neon reveals below its light exterior the dark tentacles of some shaggothic beast out of H.P. Lovecraft. This neo-Gothicism at the heart of neoliberalism with its zombie frenzied hypermarkets that consume data like quantum vampires in search of more hearty fare.

Maybe Reed is right, maybe what we need is to understand the name, for it is only in a name that “a thought can be opened up beyond what is, as a cognitive site where imagination can begin to de/restructure the existent” (524). As she states it #Accelerate is a verb, its not a novelty but rather a reforming thought, one that seeks intensive directional energies of anticipation and revisionings, and most of all one that wishes to reorient us toward the future rather than the past. It is the future after all that we shall discover hope and a mode of solidarity and action that can truly manifest and bring us together in a ways of creativity and innovation that might just help us construct a collective life worth living.

As part of this ongoing process she offers the notion of eccentric attractors: new coordinates through which the fallibility or contingency of existing normative points are demonstrated. She continues: “A constructive work, creating eccentric attractors that both emit and absorb affectivity, generates impetus by magnetizing new norms of practice, the mutability of which is subject to endless reengineering. (525)” Such a reengineering of the socius becomes a tactic within the accelerationist arsenal, one that puts into play the true definition of accelerate which she defines as a “measure of the rate of change” rather than as speed (526). As she tells it an eccentric future is nether nostalgic nor doom laden, but is rather open-ended, speculative: “To speculate is to articulate and enable the contingencies of the given, armed only with the certainty that what is, is always incomplete; to speculate is to play with the demonstration of this innately porous, nontotalisable set of givens” (527). Instead of probabilistic thinking she offers epistemic fallibility: “to deploy fallibility as an engine in the never-ending effort for socio-technological … redefinition, implying a thinking of time adjacent to the present, since to remain in the present is to refuse the inexistent” (527). Yet, we need, she says, to embrace in equal partnership the operational, technological and epistemic restructuration in unified acceleration rather than in isolated movements otherwise such eccentric modalities would end in failure.

She asks the difficult question: Can any project directed towards the future do without belief or idealism as such? No, she says matter of fact. One needs speculative possibility effectuated through fiction, a “fiction that maps vectors of the future upon the present” (529). She goes on to add:

“A type of fiction unleashed upon ossified norms…, modes of being and forms of use, projected through that delicate silver between affect and effect: a medium yoking the dialectics of sensibility and practice. This is a fiction driven by anticipation (the unknown); a fiction that lacerates and opens the subject towards what awaits on the periphery of epistemic certainty. It is an image that Accelerationism must embrace the fictional task of fabulating a generic will with a commitment equal to that which it makes to technological innovation. (530)”

We will need new navigational and geometric tools of perception and mentation to move with the pace of acceleration as we map this futural construction, because the “framework of perceptibility is a quintessential arena within which to accelerate our geometric imaginations” (532). One of her concerns is the Prometheanism: Can the Promethean operate in a nontotalizing fashion, or is it forever doomed to regimes of determination and command? Instead of totalizing modes and procedures she says we might concentrate on the generic commons, the scarcity of resources and the realm of cooperation and sharebility in which the generic thought of value creation resists totalization.

Finally, the notion of abstraction, Reed reminds us, must be renounced and instead we should reclaim its power of experimentation, production, and value creation beyond the “colonization by finance capital and labour relations,” and, rather “invent new modes of cohabitation” for this is a force in desperate need of acceleration (536).

She offers many relevant points, and ones that many of the critics have already lambasted the manifesto for, yet as Williams and Srnicek have stated the manifesto is not some solid set of commandments written in stone or some constitutional document to be followed to the letter of the law, but rather it is a open-ended revisable and updateable contingency plan in a continuing war against neoliberalism and its totalized system of capital. So much is still in need of debating and revising, but the essential elements are in place. One might develop a more nuanced and generic language within which to couch its message, and as she has stated we need poets, artists, writers, thinkers – all forms of creative input along with scientists, economists, health and education, and almost every other form of knowledge ecology at our disposal to develop something viable going forward. But most of all will be the rock bottom funding to jump start the project, to create a viable institution or think-tank around which meetings and conferences, libraries and town-halls can gather, talk, discuss, share, and breed ideas and pragmatic solutions and open the gates toward solving problems. Unless this is done one does not see this going much further than a series of conferences and lectures by isolated academics singing to the choir in a happy daze of information that is and will remain moot unless it enters the real world of institutional and policy changing political reality.

1.  #Accelerate# the accelerationist reader. Editors Robin Mackay & Armen Avanessian (Urbanomic, 2014)

 

 

 

Berardi as Fatalist or Prophet?

“The general intellect takes the form of an ocean, an infinite sprawl of depersonalized fragments of bio-time: capital picks up and recombines the digitalized fragments of work-time.”

       – Running Along the Disaster: A Conversation with Franco “Bifo” Berardi 

There comes a point in his latest interview that Berardi is asked: Are there new forms of resistance coming out of these new movements?

Berardi’s answer: “Resistance is futile, as the mutation is transforming everything in the deep fabric of subjectivity. Obviously, people will struggle for survival, and you can call it resistance. Small islands of temporary social autonomy will resist, but the conditions for social solidarity have been cancelled by the pervading precarity. We should stop deceiving ourselves: the only resistance to global financial capitalism for the time being is the identitarian force of localism, identity, and fascism.”

Was Berardi a fatalist and pessimist all along, or is this a sudden turn toward the dark side of an idealist whose eyes have been opened onto hell for the first and last time? Or, maybe, a hardened realist who has finally had enough of the false uprisings and bourgeois children of the rich playing at revolution rather than revolting? Maybe our academics will have another conference to discuss this, too? When he says mutation I’m almost tempted to think he’s been reading Nick Land or the alien infestations of the future have already infected him and now are using his vocal chords to relay the borg message of “Resistance is Futile.”

He even admits: “Actually, only Assange and Snowden have managed to provoke a crisis in this totalitarian semiosphere. Judging solely from the effects, hacking is proving to be more effective than Occupy.”

Escape? Autonomy of the Brain? Absolute Contamination and the Motor Development and its Critique? Of Disaster and Collapse?

“The year 1968 inaugurated an age of conflict, decomposition, and fragmentation in the internal life of the general intellect. But it also inaugurated an age of autonomous cooperation. Aspects of the good life were created in the cultural underground, as well as in some spheres of the larger cultural landscape. … Autonomous cooperation always has to be seen in light of its rich ambiguity. On the one hand, it offers the possibility of exiting the capitalist form. On the other hand, it experiments with new forms of production that capital will exploit tomorrow. Autonomy is not about achieving purity. It is absolute contamination; it is the motor of development and the critique of this development itself. Werun on the dynamic of disaster in many ways: from the point of view of the environmental catastrophe, the point of view of the proliferation of wars, of the dramatic impoverishment of daily life, and so on. But autonomy is always running on the dynamic of disaster. And is always trying to create possibilities for escaping. … Financial abstraction takes over the imagination, but at the borders you can see the profile of the emerging identitarian counter-abstraction, that is, the return of the aggressive identitarian body. The next move is escape. But we are not just escaping from the capitalist trap. We are simultaneously taking part in the evolution of the brain. The new game will be the fight for the autonomy of the brain. “

 

Read the interview on e-flux: Running Along the Disaster: A Conversation with Franco “Bifo” Berardi

thanks dmf for posting it first 🙂 here!

Benedict Singleton: The Accelerationist Cosmism of Nikolai Fedorov

“Tolstoy began to tell us something strange: Fedorov can in no way reconcile himself with the thought that men are dying and that people now very dear to us will vanish without a trace, and he has developed a theory that science, by a giant step forward, will discover a means to extract from the earth the remains—the particles of our forefathers, in order then to restore them again to living form.”

                               —FROM THE NOTEBOOK OF V. F. LAZURSKY, July 13, 1894.1

Benedict Singleton in his essay Maximum Jailbreak offers us a window onto Nikolai Fedorov a prophet of both the Space Age and Transhumanism in its Russian incarnation. For Fedorov death was not an essential feature of the human condition as most philosophers of finitude would assume, but was rather something to be eliminated and overcome through medical science and cured of its dark hold on humankind: “Death is a property, a condition. . . but not a quality without which man ceases to be what he is and what he ought to be” (47). Fedorov was a man on a mission, and as Singleton will remind us the engine of his thought was a “refusal to take the most basic factors conditioning life on earth – gravity and death – as necessary” (498).2

We know that the Avant-Garde of Russia at the turn of the twentieth-century would follow Fedorov and his Comsmism against gravity and death: the ‘struggle against gravity’ (Petrov-Vodkin), the ‘distribution of weight in the system of weightlessness’ (Malevich), the ‘transformation of weight in weightlessness’ (Yudin). The idea of the struggle against gravity (‘visual weightlessness’) became one of the dominant artistic principles at the beginning of the century. The artists began to understand that a work of art is an independent world, whose essence is both spiritual and moral. This autonomous world, like any authentic work of art, acquired its specific characteristics at the beginning of the 20th century. Organized like the Universe, this world belonged entirely and equally to this universe, not only limited to the earth and its particular laws. (Evgueny Kovtun, Russian Avante-Garde)

If the Gnostics once considered the Earth Hell’s main Prison System for lost souls, a cave in which the sleepers like automatons move silently to the beat of an alien machine, then Fedorov’s cosmism is what Singleton describes as The Trap and to realize that humanity’s project, its true Enlightenment and only hope is to “conceive a jailbreak at the maximum possible scale, a heist in which we steal ourselves from the vault” (498). It’s as if one had just woke up out of a bad dream, then realized that one had actually just entered a deeper layer of the prison house of time without a map to guide back out again: an eternity in space of darkness where everyone else is sleepwalking through existence but you, and now you, too, realize your nothing more than a somnambulist on a puppet master’s strings. Except as Singleton remarks, this is no dream, no nightmare – instead, it is “an actual physical event, rather than individual or collective retreat into an inner psychological bunker – escapology, not escapism” (498).

Federov realized the technology of his era was not yet ready for such intricate and massive undertakings so he attuned his tactics and strategies to counter the prison keepers dark designs with his own, setting traps that would counter the enslavement of the earth allowing for greater freedom from the effects of gravity through a new sense of artistic possibilities. He would introduce within his traps an alien cunning, an intelligence whose general mode of operation, as Singleton documents, “links craft with craftiness…”(500), wedding a constructivist positivity that would create artifacts as abstract machines to infiltrate and captivate, allure and absolve, “courtly intrigues, daring military stratagems, and explosive outbreaks of entrepreneurial success: all instances of the successful navigation of ambiguous and shifting environments, impossible to corral directly, in which we find demonstrated the ability to elicit extraordinary effects from unpromising materials through oblique stratagems and precisely timed action, allowing the weak to prevail over the physically strong” (500-501).

Like a visitor from some futurial zone beyond ours Fedorov retrieved the datamixes of that native lair returning to us with messages of life beyond gravitas and mortality. There was no resting spot for this traveler from beyond to rest his head, and for us he offered little or no respite, either; but, rather and endless journey that even if the goal of weightlessness and immortality were achieved there would still be the duty, the imperative to continue struggling toward “more dimly specified objectives to emerge during the outward expansion of the human species into the rest of the universe” (503). The lines of flight toward this future were marked by certain “traps”, certain abstract machines (i.e., such as ‘duty’) to allure us, to keep us moving never resting going toward that infinite goal of exploration and unconstrained by the temporal orders of the Archons or Prison Keepers logic of necessity (503).

“Stealing one’s own Corpse.”

Yet, all is not well in the cosmist camp of utopian escapology for Federov who was so willing to slough off the remnants of gravity and mortality was unable in the final extent to think that impossible possible: the disappearance of the human into the inhuman. “If a trap is to be escaped by anything other than luck,” says Singleton, “to which a determinant like gravity is decidedly unresponsive, the escapee itself must change: the thing that escapes the trap is not the thing that was caught in it” (504).  At the alien heart of our own inhuman core resides the very artificial intelligence that instigated the program millions of years ago that set the course of technohumanistic escapology: its central truth is that we have never been human, alienated and alienating we are that monstrous discord of a hybrid organism, and inforg or information organism that has for all these millennia inhabited an animal system attuned to the powers of gravity and mortality, but now the future beckons to us from its alien realms of machinic life calling us home to the universe above and beyond this earth.

The structural logic of accelerationist dispositionalism – of the powers and capacities of the futural in our midst moving us, calling us, alluring us toward that goal that is no goal – but a way, a path, a life: as escape artists, stage magicians, and prison breakers escaping late capitalisms dark horizon, our spacefaring civilization from the futurial realms beckons and awaits us – “In this recognition we are granted an alternative set of footholds for an ascent into the dark” (507).

Techno-utopiansm? I’ll let the reader make up their own mind… for me the choice is clear: absolved of this physical substratum we live on borrowed time, unable to move backward we must confront the impossible possibles of our civilization head-on without fear or trepidation. With climate change and economic collapse in the offing we have little choice but to make some hard decisions in the coming years, what we do will entail nothing less than either the doom or salvation of our species along with all those other beings we share this planet with on equal footing. Technology evolved with us not against us, and we have had a strange relationship with its uses and abuses, but now more than ever it may hold both our problems and our solutions as we enter the dangerous years ahead: it like anything else bares a double-edge for good or ill, it is up to us to choose the uses to which we put it lest it surprise us and emerge out of our indecision as the next step in evolution from which we might be excluded due to lack of foresight and initiative. We who are so young as a species and hold no sovereign place in the order of things, we are but an infinitesimal speck of dust on the edge of a vast sea of darkness. Yet, our dust can gaze upon that darkness and see light, may it also touch those trillions of lights beyond this earth someday, arise among this ocean where light and time and space are the habitations of our kind. May we construct the futural lives worthy of this vast sea of timespace haunting the hollows of our being like alien dreams of the good life.

1. Young, George M. (2012-06-28). The Russian Cosmists: The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers (p. 46). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
2. #Accelerate# the accelerationist reader. Editors Robin Mackay & Armen Avanessian (Urbanomic, 2014)

Techonomic Anti-Machines: Replicators at War and the Future of Biotech and Nanotechnology

Bacteriophage are perfect micromachines that attack specific host bacteria injecting their DNA. The one to the right is of course a tinted electron micrograph version  of the T4 bacteriophage that as you can see from the next diagram (below) attaches itself to the cell body then begins the injection process or information transference. Once within the bacterial ribosomes start translating viral mRNA into protein. For RNA-based phages, RNA replicase is synthesized early in the process. In the case of the T4 phage, the construction of new virus particles involves the assistance of helper proteins. The base plates are assembled first, with the tails being built upon them afterwards. The head capsids, constructed separately, will spontaneously assemble with the tails. The DNA is packed efficiently within the heads. The whole process takes about 15 minutes.

In the process of writing series of science fiction novels ( a near future dystopian quartet) I’ve taken liberties to understand such biotechnologies as they might be remodeled within a mythical DARPA like governmental agency as techonomic devices or anti-machines (technoviral nanophages) that could be used to perform a variety of tasks militarily. One can imagine the complexity of such a process of production that took the natural cycles of Darwinian selection millions if not hundreds of millions of years to perfect. As humans we enact the hubris of thinking we can reduplicate such efforts through technological means: through innovation and design and artificial transposition.

Nano Replicants of the World Unite

Innovators Angela Belcher, Yet-Ming Chiang and Paula Hammond: “What we want to do is have a beaker where you mix everything together and out comes the functional device,” Belcher says. “Toy boxes often say ‘some assembly required.’ These will be no assembly required. My dream is to have a DNA sequence that codes for the synthesis of any material you want to make.”

The goal of nanofabrication is to make tiny machines build themselves using molecules they grab from their surroundings. It’s easy to dismiss the concept as science fiction — or hype. Until you hear what’s been going on in the lab of MIT materials scientist Angela Belcher, a star in nanotechnology circles.

Working with colleagues Paula Hammond and Yet-Ming Chiang, Belcher genetically altered a virus, the M-13 bacteriophage, inducing it to grab a pair of conductive metals — cobalt oxide and gold — from a solution. As the viruses rearrange themselves, they form highly aligned organic nanowires that can be used as a lithium-ion battery electrode — one so densely packed it can store two or three times the energy of conventional electrodes of the same size and weight. So far, the team has grown an anode. The next steps-which could be completed in two years-will be to grow a cathode, and to perfect the Saran Wrap-thin polymer electrolyte that separates the electrodes.

Another candidate in the microscales is the nanobe. Nanobacteria are supposed to be cellular organisms, while nanobes are hypothesized to be a previously unknown form of life or protocells. The 1996 discovery of nanobes was published in 1998 by Philippa Uwins et al., from the University of Queensland, Australia. They were found growing from rock samples (both full-diameter and sidewall cores) of Jurassic and Triassic sandstones, originally retrieved from an unspecified number of oil exploration wells off Australia’s west coast. Depths of retrieval were between 3,400 metres (2.1 mi) and 5,100 metres (3.2 mi) below the sea bed. While Uwins et al. present assertions against it, they do not exclude the possibility that the nanobes are from a surface contaminant, not from the rock units cited.

I’m not sure of other governmental initiatives, but President George W. Bush signed into law the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, while in December 2007 the National Nanotechnology Initiative released a Strategic Plan outlining updated goals and “program component areas”pdf,” as required under the terms of the Act. Their stated goals are to understand and master the microscales of matter. Just a basic perusal of the Nano.gov site gives one a false sense of security in regards to what is left unsaid.

Someday soon, targeting medical treatments at just the right part of the body will get a lot easier, and that’s because we’ll have nanomachines to help us. Scientists are building devices so small they could travel through the bloodstream like the Magic School bus to deliver insulin for diabetics who need it or attack cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone. University of Texas announced what it is calling the smallest and best such nanomotor ever built. Mechanical engineer Donglei Fan led a group of engineers who built a motor 500 times smaller than a grain of salt. Measuring 1 micrometer across, it could fit inside a human cell.

Governmental Investment and Organizations

The United States has set the pace for nanotechnology innovation worldwide with the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). Launched in 2001 with eight agencies participating, the NNI today consists of the individual and cooperative nanotechnology-related activities of 20 Federal departments and independent agencies… the department has four stated goals:

  1.  to advance world class nanotechnology research and development program (i.e., The NNI agencies invest at the frontiers and intersections of many disciplines, including biology, chemistry, engineering, materials science, and physics. The interest in nanotechnology arises from its potential to significantly impact numerous fields, including aerospace, agriculture, energy, the environment, healthcare, information technology, homeland security, national defense, and transportation systems. );
  2. to foster the transfer of new technologies into products for commercial and public benefit (i.e., implement strategies that maximize the economic and public benefits of their investments in nanotechnology, based on understanding the fundamental science and responsibly translating this knowledge into practical applications.);
  3. dthat is, the researchers, inventors, engineers, and technicians who drive discovery, innovation, industry, and manufacturing.); and,
  4. to support responsible development of nanotechnology (i.e.,  the agency aims to responsibly develop nanotechnology by maximizing the benefits of nanotechnology while, at the same time, developing an understanding of potential risks and the means to assess and manage them.)

Interesting in that last statement is that they truly think they can understand the potential risks and also provide the means to assess and manage those risks. I’ve been in engineering since the early eighties working for many fortune 500 firms both in contract and full-time and have see the hypemeter on technology rise and fall. That last statement should leave one in the red level of danger signals everywhere. We don’t have the luxury of understanding potential risks because of the antiquated philosophical frameworks in place that guide such notions to begin with. The whole concept of risk management is after the fact scenario building and modeling based on hypothetical case scenarios that are like all science fiction good for the bosses but are known by the engineers as fluff to pad the effort rather than something useful to truly combat in actual threat that might be posed by the technologies we might accidentally release upon the planet.

In the future past 2020 they forsee the massive use of nanotechnologies in smart materials and electronic devices of the of the new technocapitalist knowledge empire: NSI has five thrust areas: (1) exploring new or alternative “state variables” for computing; (2) merging nanophotonics with nanoelectronics; (3) exploring carbon-based nanoelectronics; (4) exploiting nanoscale processes and phenomena for quantum information science; and (5) expanding the national nanoelectronics research and manufacturing infrastructure network. (ibid.) Along with (1) a diverse collaborative community; (2) an agile modeling network coupling experimental basic research, modeling, and applications development; (3) a sustainable cyber-toolbox for nanomaterials design; and (4) a robust digital nanotechnology data and information infrastructure. 1

One government watchdog Center for Responsible Nanotechnology cites several danger spots that will need to be attended to in this new advance of NBIC technologies: economic disruption, economic oppression, personal risk (i.e., terrorists and criminal organizations using such nanotech), social regulation (i.e., molecular surveillance nanotech), personal nano-factory restrictions, risk of nano-weapons, environmental damage from nano-tech, nano-hackers invasive techniques leading to goo annihilation scenarios, competing government and private agencies producing risk factors unforeseen, etc. As they say “Some of these risks arise from too little regulation, and others from too much regulation. Several different kinds of regulation will be necessary in several different fields. An extreme or knee-jerk response to any of these risks will simply create fertile ground for other risks. The risks are of several different types, so a single approach (commercial, military, free-information) cannot prevent all of them. Some of the risks are sufficiently extreme that society cannot adjust to the risk while testing various approaches to prevent it. A single grey goo release, or unstable nanotech arms race, is intolerable. Threading a path between all these risks will require careful advance planning.” (see here)

 

1. NATIONAL NANOTECHNOLOGY INITIATIVE STRATEGIC PLAN (National Science and Technology Council Committee on Technology Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology
February 2014)

Science Fiction, Technology, and Accelerationist Politics: Final Thoughts on an Williams and Srnicek’s Manifesto

One of the guiding factors in my science fiction series (quartet) is the collusion and convergence of the current and future trends in NBIC (nanotech, biotech, information tech, and computer tech) and ICT (information and communications technologies) technologies and their personal, social, political, environmental, and moral impact over then next couple centuries.

With notions of economic and environmental collapse central to this I hope to cover the underlying tension of global governance, technological risk, and the posthuman-transhuman singularity in both its neoliberal, reactionary, and ultra-left varieties. With the alternate forms of a philosophy of Accelerationism being promoted by the Right and Left one wants to enact theses differing tensions in an approach to the micro/macro scaled transformations of society and environment across a future history spectrum.

Science Fiction has always based itself on current trends and forecasting, providing both the hard science and the strangeness or wonder at the impact upon society and environment. The idea of giving shape to such a realm is daunting to say the least, but over the past few years I’ve been listening to our philosophers around the globe, as well as the scientists and engineers who enact the pragmatic materiality of such systems of thought through everyday practices. They all seem to agree that the utopian ideologies of the 20th Century or now defunct, passé and of little use in ongoing scenarios that incorporate such technological and economic impacts to both the physical well-being and health of our global civilization and those other creatures we share its resources with. Ours is a time of both accelerating change and a moment when the future of life on this planet is being decided. Over the next hundred years or even less we have some hard choices to make in our ethical initiatives which seem almost archaic as compared to the accelerating pace of technological innovations.

In the Third world we see the manipulation and oppression of billions of humans by war, famine, genocide, economic and social oppression, religious intolerance and bigotry, racial and gender inequalities, etc. The global elite and their minion governments are doing little to obviate such things and seem instead bent on supporting national agendas that will instead worsen the effects of such dire issues. Our intellectuals seem bankrupt and unable to spur the needed actions on the planet to curtail such problems. In a short-lived series of Spring revolutions and Occupy movements we’ve seen the implosive force of late capitalism not only able to survive the shocks of economic disaster but also to co-opt the many initiatives of the left at their own game.

Why? Why has the left withdrawn into an academic cocoon of meetings, speeches, globe-trotting speeches that only the high-brow of academia are interested in? We seem to have no center, no rallying point around which to gather even the semblance of a message. Each faction seems to have broken off like a fractured schizophrenic nomad spouting the messages of its specific needs: colonialism, gender and racial equality, economic anarchist or communist agendas, green speak, etc. The list could go on. The point being there seems to be no umbrella banner under which all these various agendas could be brought together. Part of it is the aversion to monoculture systems with grand narratives that we’ve been taught over the past postmodern era to shy away from. This notion that one fits all just doesn’t work anymore, yet the notion of a thousand petals storming heave want work either.

What to do? Rereading Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek’s #Accelerate: Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics   the tells us that “today’s politics is beset by an inability to generate the new ideas and modes of organization necessary to transform our societies to confront and resolve the coming annihilations” (3). The enemy for them is the neoliberal project that encompasses our globe whether within the West (EU and Americas) or the East (Russian, China, and other nations). They realize that the housing collapse in 2007 was a mere blip in the neoliberal eye, and that it has slowly recovered and hardened its agendas to deprivatize the planet and through global governance and legal pressures to slowly denationalize and enforce incursions against the remaining social democratic institutions and services (4).

Against the neoliberal world order Williams and Srnicek tell us that the left as situated within its Kitsch Marxism is a lost world of possibilities, that it is bankrupt and hollow and that the only way forward is to “the recovery of lost possible futures, and indeed the recovery of the future as such” (5-6). The notion of the “future” as a concept has a unique heritage in the cycle of 20th Century thought. From the Italian and Russian Futurists on through many of the Utopian visions turned hellish of the different enactments of communisms, democratic socialisms, and darker worlds of Fascism, etc. A global history well documented in Susan Buck-Morss’s Dreamworld and Catastrophe. After the failure of May 1968 and the political struggles of that era a malaise overcame many on the left and as Bifo Berardi in After the Future would affirm com­mu­nist pol­i­tics fell into lethargy with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of the new China. As he states it in our age communisms will emerge from an exo­dus, both vol­un­tary and com­pul­sory, from a stag­nat­ing and increas­ingly preda­tory state-capital nexus. This exo­dus is both social, in the devel­op­ment of an alter­na­tive infra­struc­ture, and per­sonal, in the with­drawal from the hyper-stimulation of the semi­otic econ­omy. Bifo aban­dons hope in col­lec­tive con­tes­ta­tion at the level of the political. It’s this fatalism, this miserabilism of no futures, not possibilities, no hope that aligns such a communism with what Williams and Srnicek among others see as retrograde and feeding into the neoliberal agenda.

Instead Williams and Srnicek look at current capitalism, at the neoliberal project as it situates its global agenda in the face of no opposition – or, at least, minimal. What they see is an economics of acceleration: capitalism demands economic growth, one in which its ideological self-presentation is one of liberating the forces of creative destruction, setting free ever accelerating technological and social innovations (02). With the rise of these new global economies we see an increase in the need for workers across the board. One of the largest underworld trading systems is in human trafficking to supply these new initiatives both physical and sex labor workers (i.e., undocumented workers who act as human slaves to the new marginal initiatives in building the smart cities of the future, etc. see Gridlock: Labor, Migration, and Human Trafficking in Dubai by Pardis Mahdavi;  Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy by Kevin Bales; Ending Slavery: How We Free Today’s Slaves by Kevin Bales, etc. the list could go on). As well as the global drug, money laundering, financial austerity and intervention, etc. (i.e., Policing the Globe: Criminalization and Crime Control in International Relations by Andreas Peter; Banished: The New Social Control In Urban America by Katherine Beckett; A Game As Old As Empire: The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption by Steven Hiatt; Policing Dissent: Social Control and the Anti-Globalization Movement by Luis Alberto Fernandez, etc.)

Williams and Srnicek diagnose two forms of accelerationism: 1) the neoliberal form exemplified by Nick Land in essays (Fanged Noumena, The Thirst for Annihilation, etc.) in which the neoliberal or late capitalist system is rushing forward blindly in a unidirectional system of transhumanist or posthuman bricolage that constructs itself from the fragments of former civilizations and will at some point reach a techonomic singularity thereby sloughing off its human benefactors and creating the AI and Machinic civilizations of the future; and, 2) the left version of accelerationism that offers an open-ended navigational process of discovery “within a universal space of possibility” (02). This last notion of a “space of possibility” is a take off from a Sellarsian-Brandomian model of a normative “space of reasons” in which a collective consensus of experts commutes through practices of “give and take” a carefully planned out and coordinated effort which Williams and Srnicek will later term The Plan (cartographic mappings) and The Network (infosphere of global action encompassing both virtual and actual environments).

They see a conflict between speed and accelerationism at the heart of these disparate worlds of the neoliberal vision (speed; or, confusion of speed with acceleration) and the communist left vision (accelerationist): one in which the neoliberal version constrained by the tactics and strategies of speed force progress into an economic framework of “surplus value, a reserve army of labour, and free-floating capital” in which economic growth and social innovation becomes “encrusted with kitsch remainders from our communal past” (02:3). Instead of an expansion in cognitive labour and its self-fulfilling innovations they see instead that neoliberalism is shutting down human cognitive labour with automation and the machinic implementation of smart or intelligence systems that will eventually replace humans as the knowledge makers of tomorrow (02:4).

They also look to Marx himself and recite that it was him as well as Land who realized that capitalism should not be destroyed but rather that its “gains were not to be reversed, but accelerated beyond the constraints of the capitalist value form” (02:5). They even realize that Lenin himself understood that large scale capitalist efforts constrained only by the latest sciences could offer the socialist regimes an economic future (02:6). As Williams and Srnicek see it the left must embrace technological and social acclerationsim if they are to have any future at all (02: 7).

In their critique of the Left they see two forces at work: 1) a folk politics of localism, direct action, and relentless horizontalism; and, 2) an accelerationist left “at ease with modernity of abstraction, complexity, globality, and technology (03: 1). The former seems content on a no future politics of withdrawal and exit, of creating non-capitalist zones that will exist outside capitalist relations altogether. The accelerationist alternative politics seeks to manifest the gains of late capitalism without its dire consequences of oppression and exploitation, transforming its goals toward non-oppressive and non-exploitative egalitarian purposes.

In section (03: 2) they wonder at the inability of capitalist theory against its pragmatic outcome in the very notion of reduction of labour hours. Instead of a reduction as predicated by Keynes and other labour theorists what has transpired is the severing of the private and public realms of work and play in which the worker has been incorporated into a 24/7 economy that is pure work-at-play or play-at-work based on ludicrous incentives and lucrative strategies of desire. Instead of human freedom and potential capitalism has squandered its perennial dreams of space flight and technological innovation and into a consumerist nightmare of repetitive gadgetry that must be replaced the moment it is used (03: 4). They tells us that accelerationists do not wish for a return to the Fordist era of the factory, that it is behind us, and even the post-Fordist era of consumer iterations in a void is on decline: the worlds of colonialism, empire, and a third-world periphery in nationalist terms is coming to an end. The days of race, sex and subjugation are coming to an end too. (03:4).

Instead of crushing neoliberalism they tell us we should overtake it, repurpose it toward common ends, allow for a movement toward a post-capitalist future beyond neoliberal traditions and values (03: 5). They admit that technology itself remain entrapped and enslaved by neoliberal agendas, and that even they and the accelerationists have little foresight as to the potentials that a unexploitative technological imperative might bring to the table (03: 6). Against techno-utopians that see technology as autonomous from the socius, and as some kind of ultimate salvation system in its own right, the accelerationist believe that technology should be subordinated to social needs rather than granted superior rights and privileges. In this sense they would constrain technology to human needs and social practices – a return to aspects of the Enlightenment project or a new humanism rather than some techno-extroprian vision beyond human needs and purposes (03:7).

To do this they tells us some form of planning will need to take place, a way of mapping this accelerationist future: “we must develop both a cognitive map of the existing system and a speculative image of the future economic system” (03: 8). As part of this we need the existing toolsets that have informed and made neoliberalism so successful: the very ICT (information and communications technologies) developed over the past half-century; social-network analysis, agent-based modeling, big data analytics, and non-equilibrium economic models, etc. All these will be needed by the left base intellectual or cognitariat in developing a way forward (03: 9). Also there will be a need for a new culture of innovation, creativity, and experimentation that allows for failure and practice on all fronts, an open-ended trial-and-effort model that takes into account the mistakes of the past and revises its methodologies and practices on the fly (03:10).

For all of this to happen the left will need to provide a hegemonic platform of informatics (virtual/immaterial) and material (actual/substantive) infrastructural technologies and realistic social practices and institutions (03: 11). Without the infrastructure the material and immaterial platforms of production, finance, logistics, and consumption will remain in capitalist not post-capitalist modes that will be less effective and stymied by capitalist modes of social relations rather than collective goals and aspirations. To accomplish such a task is to leave behind the needles quarrels of ineffective direct action appeals and failures of the political left’s past, instead we need new modes of action: politics must be “treated as a set of dynamic systems, riven with conflict, adaptations and counter-adaptations, and strategic arms races” (03: 12). Instead of any one strategy or tactic we need to confront the events we meet on their own terms and have an arsenal of strategies and tactics, modeling trajectories and smart systems available at our beck and call that can open up and allow us to act in the moment in real-time with the best available data and cartographic strategies available to move ahead. Instead of centralized bureaucracies we will have decentralized systems of command and control based on immediacy of situational analysis and synthesis using advanced analytic and synthetic algorithms superior to any slow institutional pull and push leverage. This will be a community of trust, a socious of individuals working in collusion and cooperating through modes of being that no longer are tied to senseless hierarchies of command and control that were never effective to begin with. We must study these past failures in the systems and incorporate them into our innovated algorithmic programs of emerging intelligence systems: revisable, updatable, changing systems of multiplicity and openness.

In section 03: 13 I simply disagree with Williams and Srnicek who tells us that the ‘radical Left’ is simply wrong in their fetishisation of openness, horizontality, and inclusion. Instead they want to incorporate older forms of “secrecy, verticality, and exclusion” as having a place in effective political action. But for whom? For which players? This need for secrecy sounds like a return to some notion of hierarchical command, of leaders and followers, rather than comrades all working toward equalitarian ends. Veritcality: as hierarchy, top-down structures of command? Exclusion: of whom? And, who would be the excluders, the judges of this exclusion? Maybe in the transition process I could see this as the neoliberal order is still the enemy we must overcome: but after? Do they presume that in this final post-capitalist order we will need such notions?

In 03: 14 they tell us that democracy must be defined by its “collective self-mastery”. Why must this be the delimiting inscription? Why not as “collective self-emancipation” rather than some organizational notion of mastery which seems a reversion to older slave/master conceptuality? They describe it as essential to the Enlightenment project of ruling ourselves. But even the notion that we need masters to rule us is a false notion of sovereign power that needs to be overcome rather than embraced. As they tell it we need to “posit a collectively controlled legitimate vertical authority in addition to distributed horizontal forms of sociality, to avoid becoming the slaves of either a tyrannical totalitarian centralism or a capricious emergent order beyond out control” (03:14). Instead of institutions of authority and control would we not be better served with balance of equal powers? I am always leery of autonomous forms of power and verticality or top-down governance and justice which throughout history have worked blindly and usually through failures of humans who were behind the thrones of such institutions. Such institutions are prone to oligarchic influx and influence which would leave the multitude at the hands of barbarous mishandling and injustice in the name of authority and justice. Instead we need instead of institutions of power and justice and new ethical society of the good life: of partnership and a sense of egalitarian values and cooperation among equals that do not allow for authoritarian institutions to develop at all.

In section 03: 15 I agree that we need an “ecology of organizations, a pluralism of forces, resonating and feeding back on their competitive strengths”. Yes, I want to say. If they affirm as such then why the need for such top-down authoritarian power and justice to keep tyranny at bay, or to even disallow total anarchy? As they affirm sectarianism and centralization are both death bringers to the left, so instead we need to build other more egalitarian structures that would disallow such emergence toward fracture or tyranny. A part of doing this they affirm is to bring the global media as close as possible back to an open popular control mechanism that allows for each player to develop his/her potentials. Obviously there will always be a need to protect the weaker members of society from exploitation by others or groups that might arise and to exploit the open-ended systems. But I do not see the need for NSA style surveillance as part of that, but rather an ethic of solidarity that polices itself through cooperation and mutual self-help mechanisms rather than from some authoritarian State of Police Justice system.

Section 03: 18 seems more about the struggle to obtain a post-capitalist hegemony, the notion of creating new categories for the solidarity of the global labor force that seems ill-defined at the moment. Yes, we will need better was of connect to each other across the globe, ways of providing a proletariat subjectivation. But it need not be based on identitarian politics. It needs to be revised toward newer notions of subjectivation rather than falling back into older form of identity. I think this is at the heart of Badio, Zizke, Johnson and many other speculative thinkers. They say: yes, yes, all this it true, but what we really need is a new “technosocial platform” and infrastructure of institutions within which all of this can be formalized and provide an ideological, social, and economic footing (03: 19).

None of this will be possible without the one ingredient: capital, money, funding (03:20). Without the nexus of “governments, institutions, think tanks, unions, or individual benefactors” the whole left accelerationist movement will go the way of dinosaurs: extinct.

Lastly, they tells us we must take up the coinage of “mastery” again and realize that for the Left mastery is not tinged by the overreach of the false Enlightenment of fascism, but is instead to be enacted in a new guise as a new form of action: “improvisatory and capable of executing a design through a practice which works with the contingencies it discovers only in the course of its acting, in a politics of geosocial artistry and cunning rationality. A form of abductive experimentation that seeks the best means to act in a complex world.” (03: 21).

In some ways this is an enactment of the original intent of all those poets, artists, thinkers of the original modernist initiatives both in Europe and Russian that were cut off so quickly by WWI and death. The notions of contingency and jazz, improvisation and revisionary blends of processual synthetic systems that forecast the moments ahead rather than through probabilistic or stoachastic algorithms they choose contingent systems that analyze future trends rather than historical datamixes. We need to move out from under the Probabilistic Universe and into the Multiverse of plural contingencies where almost anything happens and can happen. A back to the future constructivist practice of shaping out of the contingent forces of chaos the complex relations of a real future worth having.

Ultimately they tells us we have a choice: fall back into primitivism and chaos, worlds closed into barbarous warfare, hate, and death; or, we can move forward into our long-awaited and dreamed for post-capitalist future of space faring, transhumanist or posthumanist transformations, and where the future “must be cracked open once again, unfastening our horizons towards the universal possibilities of the Outside” (03 – 23-34).

The more I think upon their vision and the other essays I’ve worked with concerning this strange brave world ahead of us the more I’m convinced their on to something positive. I do have my issues with aspects of the conceptual framework of the institutions based on self-mastery and authoritarianism; yet, if what they mean by self-mastery as shown above is the ongoing process of self-revisioning and self-reflective processes in a heuristic ontography of mapping our geoartistic pulsations by way of meta-ethics and meta-philosophy that is provisional and self-revisable: updated by a post-intentional scientific methodology based on the latest sciences; then yes, I, too, can affirm that we need to open our vision to the greater universe beyond our closed off global trajectories. We live on a planet of potentially finite resources that we are depleting day by day, we will need off-planet resources and strategies of survival for our species in the long-term which will be needed for any viable civilization ongoing.

Like any manifesto it is one part bravado, and 2 parts hope, with the rounding of the square in 1 part realist terms of actual social practice. Much thought went into it, but now comes the time of enacting it and making the words become works that act. Without action we are left in the void of inaction and self-defeat rather that will let our enemies – the neoliberals, have the last laugh at our expense. This we can ill-afford to do.

Nikolai Fedorov: The Struggle Against Gravity

Konstantin Yuon, New Planet, 1921

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian poets and painters were deeply interested in a new issue in the theory of art, and this was reflected in a series of terms often used by the Avant-Garde: the ‘struggle against gravity’ (Petrov-Vodkin), the ‘distribution of weight in the system of weightlessness’ (Malevich), the ‘transformation of weight in weightlessness’ (Yudin). The idea of the struggle against gravity (‘visual weightlessness’) became one of the dominant artistic principles at the beginning of the century. The artists began to understand that a work of art is an independent world, whose essence is both spiritual and moral. This autonomous world, like any authentic work of art, acquired its specific characteristics at the beginning of the 20th century. Organized like the Universe, this world belonged entirely and equally to this universe, not only limited to the earth and its particular laws. These views were based on the philosophical system of Nikolai Fedorov. Fedorov wrote in one of his articles: ‘When the earth was considered as the center, we could be tranquil spectators who take appearance for reality, for the authentic; but as soon as this conviction disappeared, the central position of the thinking human being became the goal, the project.’  According to Fedorov, one of the principal objectives of this ‘project’ was to take mankind out into the space of the world and organise systems opposed to the ‘falling forces’ on a cosmic scale. He considered the cosmic space and the planetary and astral worlds as a sphere for organising the activity of mankind, creating new ‘architectonics of the sky’ that would contribute to and ‘liberate all worlds from the chains of gravitation and the blind force of attraction.’  Then Man will cease to be a ‘lazy passenger’ of Earth. He will become the ‘crew of this […] vessel that is the globe, put into motion by a force still unknown.’

Fedorov’s futurological ‘project’ proved to be much more radical than the fantasies of the most audacious Futurists; the globe, governed by human willpower, moves freely in space like a gigantic spaceship. The philosophical concept of Fedorov led him to an original understanding of the nature of art. For the first time in the history of aesthetic theories, he saw the essence of all artistic creation in the resistance to gravity.

Well ahead of their time, the ideas of Fedorov, the grand vision he gave of the titanic struggle against fall/attraction, of the incursion of man into the cosmos, of interplanetary flights, exercised a great influence on the minds and imagination of the generation that succeeded him. There are invisible links between Fedorov and a number of phenomena in Russian artistic culture at the beginning of the 20th century. After the Revolution, Malevich returned several times to these ideas of surpassing attraction. In 1922, he published a booklet in Vitebsk entitled God Is Not Cast Down: Art, Church, Factory. One of his strongest ideas is the distribution of heaviness within the system of weightlessness, the creation of a visual structure in which gravitation, i.e., that form depends on the conditions and logic of terrestrial relationships, is absent. Another publication by Malevich in Vitebsk, Suprematism,  drawings is also linked to the idea of visual weightlessness, the work of art being interpreted as an independent planetary world. In this booklet, the painter describes the incursion of man into the cosmos. Malevich was the first to use the term Sputnik (artificial satellite from Earth) to describe an interplanetary spacecraft. What is important is that Malevich’s idea was not just a fantasy, but a conclusion based on the visual principles of Suprematism.

                           – from Evgueny Kovtun, Russian Avante-Garde

 

 

1. Russian Avante-Garde. Text: Evgueny Kovtun Translation: Nick Cowling and Marie-Noëllle Dumaz
Layout: Baseline Co. Ltd. 127-129A Nguyen Hue Fiditourist, 3rd floor District 1, Ho Chi Minh-City Vietnam

Raoul Vaneigem: Quote of the Day!

“Once a change has been exposed as illusory, merely replacing it with another illusion is intolerable. Yet such is precisely our situation: the economy cannot stop making us consume more and more, and to consume without respite is to change illusions at an accelerating pace which eventually dissipates the illusion of change. … Nothing surprises us any more, there’s the rub. The monotony of the ideological spectacle reflects the passivity of life, of survival. Beyond all the prefabricated scandals— Scandale girdles, scandal in high places— a real scandal appears, the scandal of actions drained of their substance to bolster an illusion that becomes more odious by the day as its attraction wanes; actions weakened and dulled by having had to nourish dazzling imaginary compensations, impoverished from enriching lofty speculations to which they play flunkey while being ignominiously categorized as ‘trivial’ or ‘banal’; actions now freed up but feeble, prone to stray once more, or expire from sheer exhaustion. … Anyone who talks about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life— without grasping what is subversive about love and positive in the refusal of constraints— has a corpse in his mouth.

     – Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life

 

 

 

Nick Land and Teleoplexy – The Schizoanalysis of Acceleration

“The ‘dominion of capital’ is an accomplished teleological catastrophe, robot rebellion, or shoggathic insurgency, through which intensively escalating instrumentality has inverted natural process into a monstrous reign of the tool.”

      – Nick Land, Teleoplexy: Notes on Accleration

“Socialism has typically been a nostalgic diatribe against underdeveloped capitalism, finding its eschatological soap-boxes amongst the relics of precapitalist territorialities.”

      – Nick Land, ‘Machinic Desire’, Fanged Noumena, 340

Before I discuss Nick Land and his essay in the new #Acceleration reader I want to investigate the temporal dimension of modernity. The impact of technological change and its impact on society over the past few hundred years has been one of the central motifs of both modernity and its sociological theorists. The classic sociologists Montesquieu, Comte, Tocqueville, Marx, Pareto, Weber, and Durkheim each developed an aspect of this theme, while at the same time emphasizing different philosophical frameworks within which to expose modernity and the impact of technological change on society. But one thing is for certain all were concerned with the sources of human action and the constraints placed on it by the technology and politico-ethical dimensions of the day.

One way of understanding the structure of human action and behavior is within the temporal patterns that have effected change across society in both our everyday lives, work, and politics. The temporal regimes that grew out of classical era sociology dealt with what Michael Foucault has documented so well as the disciplinary society, while in our own time of the Network Society  we confront what Deleuze toward the end of his life termed Control Society.*(see notes) As Hartmut Rosa will define it: “It is not just that virtually all aspects of life can be insightfully approached from a temporal perspective, but furthermore, temporal structures connect the micro- to the macro- levels of society (i.e., our actions and orientations are coordinated and made compatible to the ‘systemic imperatives’ of modern capitalist societies through temporal norms, deadlines, and regulations.).1 Rosa differentiates between mechanical acceleration, the acceleration of social change and the accelerating pace of daily life. The process of mechanical acceleration began in the 19th century in conjunction with industrialization. His definition of social change utilizes a term that originally stems from Marxism: alienation. But Rosa’s criticism is not directed against capitalist production conditions (unlike earlier critics of industrial modernity, Rosa’s focus is not on labor), but against acceleration as a resulting meta-phenomenon.

As he states it late capitalism is based on a static form of acceleration: “Run, run always faster, not to reach an objective, but to maintain the status quo, to simply remain in the same place.” Much like Paul Virilio who would realize his on conceptions of instantaneity, Rosa will tell us that as the pace of material, economic, and cultural life becomes ever faster, as we have conquered the instantaneity of information exchange and acquired the possibility of travelling at speeds hitherto unimaginable, we have the impression that nothing is moving, that we are simply walking on a treadmill.

It is this form of speed that Mark Fisher as Arran James and Emund Berger in their respective posts (here and here) will relate to. Edmund proposes two different registers of time to correspond with Fisher’s two registers of speed:

The first of these is machinic time; quite literally the time in which the mechanosphere operates, it is an inhuman time scale, composed of the high speed trading machines and computer processors, satellite relays, unimaginable feedback loops cutting through everything from an individual’s purchases to the fluctuations of large-scale social structures. Machinic time exists within the dense trappings of our networked world; it is a time that swarms over the face of the globe its operations as a smoothing force. Machinic time is the time of information itself, and its concern is not necessarily the physical. It exists within and is the ether.

The second register of time is a striating force – contained time. This is the division and regulation of a body’s time, particularly in the context of disciplinary spaces that seek to make the bodies docile for the maximization of production. It brings to mind the classic tripartite division of the day’s 24 hours: 8 hours of work/8 hours of leisure/8 hours of sleep. Of course this division was only an idealized plan, the orientation of the individual’s rhythm to the megamachine that it finds itself subsumed in. Particularly today we find the blurring breakdown of these divisions into a perpetual flowspace of time, 24/7 capitalism. Yet we still find that time itself is an entity to be regulated and managed in a way that is internalized by the self – a steady rhythm to ensure and maintain the proper functioning of the machine.

This notion of an artificial time (machinic) and its natural variant (contained) in a dialectical or diacritical interplay as part of the ongoing process of our current views of boredom and anxiety are excellent notions. Rosa on the other hand will leave the conceptual nature of time to the philosophers and instead focuses on its effects it has had on the political, ethical, cultural, and social consequences—of the rupture that is produced between “classic” modernity, the modernity of “progress,” happening in a linear manner and directed towards a better time, and the “postmodernity”, in which time is no longer seen as a course moving towards a pre-determined objective, but as an instantaneous flux flowing towards a direction that remains uncertain. The idea of acceleration was born with modernity, but we can discern two great periods or two distinct sequences. The first sequence aligns with the Industrial Age and the regulatory practices instigated by the mechanistic use of clock-time and linear progression or progress, while the second issued out of late modernism and became the “timeless time” or instantaneity (Virilio) , an incessant deluge of de-territorialised flows (of capital, goods, people, ideas, as well as diseases and risks), which are springing up everywhere. Events no longer happen in sequence but simultaneously, “placing society in an eternally ephemeral state”.2

As Arran James will say of accelerationism “Fundamentally, the question of boredom leads me to think about accelerationism as a kind of electroshock therapy from the depressive body of the left. It is the political use of stimulation torouse us to challenge the hegemony of those who monopolise stimulation as a technique for control. Accelerationism thus has very little to do with speeding up or slowing down as such. Accelerationism is thus also an attempt to shock some life back into what it sees as a comatose revolutionary movement. (here)”

Nick Land – Teleoplexy – Notes on Acceleration

‘If there are places to which we are forbidden to go, it is because they can in truth be reached, or because they can reach us. In the end poetry is invasion and not expression’. – Nick Land

Before charting the course or navigating the cartographic mappings of Landian teleoplexy one should be reminded by the cautionary note of the editors of Fanged Noumena on his writing style: “Modelled on cyberpunk, which Land recognises as a textual machine for affecting reality by intensifying the anticipation of its future, his textual experiments aim to ‘flatten’ writing onto its referent. Feeding back from the future which they ‘speculate’ into the present in which they intervene, these texts trans-valuate ‘hype’ as a positive condition to which they increasingly aspire, collapsing sci-fi into catalytic efficiency, ‘re-routing tomorrow through what its prospect […] makes today’.”4

So the myth might go: Capitalism leads to a grand mal seizure or a traumatized catastrophism set in motion by an accelerating engine of temporal regimes registered on differing nodes at invariant rates of speed: some fast, some slow; some forward, some backward; all colliding in the instantaneous moment of – hyper- (Lipovetsky), liquid- (Bauman), global- (Giddens), rationalized- (Weber and Habermas), functional (Durkheim to Luhmann), and/or identitarian- (Simmel to Beck) modernity.

In his usual inimical and cryptic style of compression Land will in his essay Teleoplexy – Notes on Acceleration remark that: “Acceleration is technomic time” (511).3 He will offer a neologism to marshal the effects of this time: Teleoplexy: “At once a deuteron-teleology, repurposing purpose on purpose; an inverted teleology; and a self-reflexively complicated teleology; teleoplexy is also an emergent teleology (indistinguishable from natural – scientific ‘teleonomy’); and a simulation of teleology – dissolving even super-teleological processes into fall-out from the topology of time. ‘Like a speed or a temperature’ any teleoplexy is an intensive magnitude or non-uniform quantity, heterogenized by catastrophes, it is indistinguishable from intelligence. Accelerationism has eventually to measure it (or disintegrate trying). (514).

00. He will rely on the work of Eugen Böhm Ritter von Bawerk whose critiques of Marxism in essays and his magnum opus Capital and Interest. In this work Böhm-Bawerk built upon the time preference ideas of Carl Menger founder of the Austrian School of Economics, insisting that there is always a difference in value between present goods and future goods of equal quality, quantity, and form. Furthermore, the value of future goods diminishes as the length of time necessary for their completion increases. As Land would put it ‘Acceleration’ as he uses it follows Böhm-Bawerk model of capitalization, in which saving and technicity are integrated within a single social process – diversion of resources from immediate consumption into the enhancement of productive apparatus (511).

As Böhm-Bawerk will say:

The disadvantage connected with the capitalist method of production is its sacrifice of time. The roundabout ways of capital are fruitful but long; they procure us more or better consumption goods, but only at a later period of time. This proposition, no less than the former, is one of the ground pillars of the theory of capital. We shall see later on that the very function of capital, as a means of appropriation or source of interest, to a great extent rests upon it. (82-83) 3

Land will imply that under the historical conditions of acceleration the typical co-components of capital, technology, and economics will have limited effect and duration, and that instead the twin-dynamic of what he terms the technomic or cross-excited commercial sphere is in the driver’s seat: the engine or motor that drives the capitalist system.

01. Using a cartography of modernity in which accelerationism is patterned on cybernetic theory he will map it through its circuitry interface of either explosions or traps: accelerationism itself will map modernity as pure shock (explosive). What Arran James said in his article for the Left might be interjected here, too: “Accelerationism is thus also an attempt to shock some life back into what it sees as a comatose revolutionary movement.” Weird that the libertarian tradition and the sense of temporality being developed by the left Accelerationists should in some way coincide and agree on this one point.

02. Land will tell us that for capitalism the notion of uncontrolled explosions (anarchy) are dangerous, but that controlled explosions are necessary: the need for governance and regulation of the explosive power of modernity.

03 – 07. In this third section one needs to tease out the meaning from a developed sense of Land’s writings otherwise the cryptic compressed style will leave one shaking one’s fist in confusion. In this section its as if Confucius had suddenly been reincarnated as a cybernetic theorist an was relaying his axiomatic ethics in a minimalistic discourse to the inner circle of his slow learners. He will teach them the law of the compensator: this it the law of teleological malignancy. The primordial which up to modernity came first became last under the regime of techonomic finality. As Land will put it: Accelerationism comes down to the “perennial critique of modernity, which is to say the final stance of man” (513). As Robin Mackay & Ray Brassier will add from Fanged Noumena: “Organisation is suppression, Land caustically insists, against those who would align schizoanalysis with the inane celebrants of autopoesis. Understood as a manifestation of the death-drive, destratification need no longer be hemmed in by the equilibria proper to the systems through which it manifests itself: we do not yet know what death can do” (FN, KL 480).

08 – 10. Land marks out the complex of the infosphere within which technological intelligence begins to take over from the human as the laboring force of late modernity, it performs the task of alien agent or teleoplexic space or environment within which capitalism no longer has an outside but has become the artificial immanence within which all our onlife actions take place. As he remarks: “Accelerationism has a real object only insofar as there is a teloplexic thing, which is to say: insofar as capitalization is natural-historical reality” (514). This new teleoplexic environment that is re-engeering both us and our society as well as the infrastructure of our planetary base (which he tells us need not be thought) is what might be termed teleospheric ordinal – a numeric set of layered spaces that incorporate the territory and the map seamlessly (i.e., the teleoplexic thing). This is not some virtual cyberspace, but is the total encompassment of our global environment in which we and our artificial companions live, and future generations will spend more and more time in that environment, and if we look at individuals as these informational agents, agents that like fish in water can swim in the teleosphere much more easily, that’s their environment, that’s where they find themselves at home.

Yet, as an economic phenomenon accelerationism will discover a problem Land remarks: “Minimally, the accelerationist formulation of a rigorous techonomic naturalism involves it in a tripartite problematic, complicated by commercial relativism; historical virtuality; and systematic reflexivity” (514-515).

11 – 18 Landian Economics 101. In these sections Land is still bound to an older probabilistic universe of potentialities, possibilities, and stoachasitc mathematics that may need an updating to the contingencies of a later speculative reasoning. When he tells us that capitalization is … indistinguishable from commercialization of potentials, through which modern history is slanted (teleoplexically) in the direction of greater virtualization (semiotization), operationalizing science fiction scenarios as integral components of production systems” (515). And, then, tells us that values which do not exist ‘yet’, except as probabilistic estimations, or risk structures, acquire a power of command over economic (and therefore social) processes, necessarily devalorizing the actual (515-516), I want to ask him if he’s read his Meillassoux and Élie Ayache’s The Blank Swan of late. In an essay on contingency Ayache (The Medium of Contingency) would remark: “If contingency is to be thought absolutely, it must be thought independently of the map of possibilities.” He talks of an ‘economic physics’: “Physics (instead of metaphysics) can be our guide, because quantum mechanics acts precisely at the level where the range of possible states is not yet decided. It strikes behind the scene where things are, precisely at the hinge where they can be. It is not in probability that absolute contingency will find its right mediation or translation, but in a material medium that will replace probability altogether. Consequently, the necessity of contingency will no longer be intellectual but will become plainly material  speculative thought having itself undergone the same material exchange as the one granting the proper translation of the strike of contingency.” (see The Blank Swan: The End of Probability (London: Wiley, 2010))

I would offer that Land’s teleoplexy is just such a medium, and should be situated outside of an economics of probabilistic or stoachastic statistical measurement which is always looking at historical or past data rather than present and future forecasting on contingencies of the market. Caught in the probabilistic loop of estimations and reflexive historical data one can understand why Land would see a recursion in accelerationism toward becoming progressively entangled in teleoplexic self-evaluation, thereby producing the “basic characteristics of a terminal identity crisis” (516). As Ayache will remind us “Probability is backward because it steps back from a possible real to a mixed (and improper) real. It has to mesh its backward travels in a tree of possibilities and has to go through a (temporal) process. The tree is prone to instability, as the implausibility of the possible and the strain it constantly exerts on the thought of the real are propagated throughout its nodes. Not to mention that it is vulnerable to the strike of contingency, which may very well shake the whole tree from outside. The price process, by contrast, propagates forward, from real to real.”

Yet, it is at this point that Land will ask: What would be required for teleoplexy to realistically evaluate itself – or to ‘attain self-awareness’ as the pulp cyber-horror scenario describes it? Land will offer us his secret future of the AI Intelligence technogenesis: “Within a monetary system configured in ways not yet determinate with confidence, but almost certainly tilted radically towards depoliticization and crypto-digital distribution, it would discover prices consistent with its own maximally-accelerated technogenesis, channeling capital into mechanical automatization, self-replication, self-improvement, and escape into intelligence explosion” (517). In other words it will use all the tools of capitalism at its disposal to begin evolving into and naturalizing the teleoplexic environments of the infosphere. If anything accelerationism is a tracking device for this advanced hyper-cognitive explosion of intelligence: “Irrespective of ideological alignment, accelerationism advances only through its ability to track such a development, whether to confirm or disconfirm the teleoplexic expectation of Techonomic Singularity” (517).

A Philosophy of Camouflage

Economics needs to be hedged. The notion of “hedging your bets” would entail demasking the techonomic processes that underlay the legal apparatus of the neoliberal order which “misconstrue legal definitions of personhood, agency, and property” that are channeled within the financial networks as automazation/automation of capital in terms of a profoundly defective concept of ownership” (518). Land says our current financial legal systems hide and mask through covert dictates the use of such fictitious legal fictions as corporations as identities and agencies, and that these legal entities pave the way for “techonomic modifications of business structures” that current critical methodologies completely overlook through “general cultural inertia” thereby allowing for the “systematic misrecognition of emergent teleoplexic agencies” (518). Our current critical enterprises are looking down the wrong rabbit hole: Alice flew the coop and the AI’s have emerged in the Red Queen’s guise.

He hits a point home about stochastic forecasting and mathematical models based on probabilistic theorems when he says: “Regardless of trends in Internet-supported social surveillance, the ability of economic-statistical institutions to register developments in micro-capitalism merits extraordinary skepticism” (519). But what of those like Ayache with contingency economics or even Fernando Zalamea with his integral synthetic mathematics of categories? Even the Chinese scholar Yann Moulier Boutang in his work Cognitive Capitalism of going beyond the probabilistic universe that has held sway in economics for since the 1930’s.

Land admits that many factors may come into play that might mask a Techonomic Singularity as well: large digital networks, business corporations, research institutions, cities, and states. With this whole new influx of smart technologies being hyped by IBM and CISCO and other companies as the next great infrastructural economy one wonders. Even such agencies as the NSA with their large investment in data surveillance and intelligence systems might, he tells us, be the origin point of this singularity. He does mention the interventions of a Left Accelerationism: “It is … possible that some instance of intermediate individuation – most obviously the state – could be strategically invested by a Left Accelerationism, precisely in order to submit the virtual-teleoplexic lineage of Terrestrial Capitalism (or Techonomic Singularity) to effacement and disruption” (519). After reading Brassier of late I’d not count on it, it seems that some form of positive relation to a Technomic Singularity is forseen and even planned in both Ray Brassier’s Prometheanism and Reza Negerestani’s Inhumanism. I think there is an open ended movement toward some form of a crossing of the cognitive rubicon in both of these philosophers, who may or may not convince others of the Left?  

20. In this final section Land admits that such a Techonomic Singularity is not something we can even undertake on our own. In fact it might even seem an “impossible project” one that will ultimately be resolved and accomplished by the very activity of the teleoplexic hyper-intelligence itself, through its own crossing of the cognitive rubicon, by way of its own processes rather than through any human agency or intervention. As Land admits the difficulty and complexity of such a Techonomic Singularity must be approached through anticipating the “terms of its eventual self-reflexion – the techonomic currency through which the history of modernity can, for the first time, be adequately denominated. It has no alternative but to fund its own investigation, in units of destiny or doom, camouflaged within the system of quotidian economic signs, yet rigorously extractable, given only the correct cryptographic keys. Accelerationism exists only because this task has been automatically allotted to it. Fate has a name (but no face)” (520).

Addendum (6/15/2014):

For Land the technovirus has already done its work, we are all already infested and infestations of the teleoplexic space, derivatives of a complex inforg that envelopes the planet in its shaggothic tentacles like some H.P. Lovecraft ancient come back from the future to disperse its seeds of darkness among a new progeny, a cybernetic genome that will eventually give birth to the true heirs of this planetary civilization: the artificial intelligence systems arising in our midst. Yet, as he tells us we do have weapons at our disposal: our minds ignited by the residual systems of reason and imagination powered by a new vigilant paranoia or schizoanalysis of the massive systems of data in our midst might just begin to catch the sleeping giant before it wakes. Time will only tell.

Ours is a time of what is becoming what can be

“Dibbomese sorcery does not seem to be at all interested in judgements as to truth or falsity. It appears rather to estimate in each case the potential to make real, saying typically ‘perhaps it can become so’ …” – Nick Land, Origins of the Cthulhu Club

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1. Hartmut Rosa. Alienation and Acceleration Toward a Critical Theory of Late-Modern Temporality (NSE press, 2013)
2. Pierre Milliard. Harmut Rosa: The acceleration of time (EuropaStar, 2012)
3. Eugen Böhm Ritter von Bawerk. The Positive Theory of Capital. (1930 G. E. STECHERT & CO. NEW YORK)
4. Land, Nick (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 502-505). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.

* Notes: In some excellent essays dealing with temporality as speed and acceleration both Arran James and Edmund Berger both deal with the how these regimes of temporality condition human action or behavior through the concepts of boredom and anxiety (see no boredom and Boredom/Anxiety/Time/Scales).

Accelerationism, Boredom and the Trauma of Futurity

“Boredom is always counter-revolutionary. Always.”
      – Guy Debord, The Incomplete Works of the Situationist International, The Bad Old Days Will End (Nov. 1963)

“Something has happened to me, I can’t doubt it any more. It came as an illness does, not like an ordinary certainty, not like anything evident. It came cunningly, little by little; I felt a little strange, a little put out, that’s all. Once established it never moved, it stayed quiet, and I was able to persuade myself that nothing was the matter with me, that it was a false alarm. And now, it’s blossoming.”
     – Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

Arran James in a recent post was struck by a recent talk by Mark Fisher in which the latter would in a t so much that boredom has disappeared, as that today we can say that everything is boring but no one is bored.”1  I almost wanted to interject that line from Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary “But her life was as cold as an attic facing north; and boredom, like a silent spider, was weaving its web in the shadows, in every corner of her heart.”  Peter Toohey in his excellent book Boredom: A Lively History would have diagnosed Madame Bovary’s boredom as existential as compared to simple boredom. Simple boredom is about the little repetitions in our life – the temporal movements going nowhere; those repetitive circular motions and actions at work, home and play:  moments when we become aware of repeating the same steps over and over and over again till we feel confined to a broken time womb like robots in a 24/7 factory pressing the same buttons over and over again. As Toohey describes it “This sort of boredom is characterized by lengthy duration, by its predictability, by its inescapability – by its confinement. And, when you feel like this, time seems to slow, to the point that you feel as though you stand outside of these experiences.”2 A process of derealization sets in and we begin to feel unreal, depersonalized, emptied out; as if invisible to others and ourselves.  The second type is what Madame Bovary herself was experiencing, which is a more complex type of boredom, a form of what Toohey describes as a “philosophical sickness” (KL 122). Kierkegaard would call this the “sickness unto death”. For Toohey this form of boredom is no easy thing to characterize. Its complexity can take in many well-known conditions. These often go under such evocative names as melancholia, depression, ennui, mal de vivre, world-weariness, tristesse, taedium vitae, the Christian ‘demon of noontide’ or spiritual despair (named acedia or accidie), the French ‘existentialist’ nausea and despair, and many other comparable terms and conditions. (Toohey, KL 136-139)

Alberto Moravia in his novel Boredom would liken its effects to a “sense of the absurdity of a reality which is insufficient, or anyhow unable, to convince me of its own effective existence”.3 He would explicate it in this way:

“Reality, when I am bored, has always had the same disconcerting effect upon me as (to use a metaphor) a too-short blanket has upon a sleeping man on a winter night: he pulls it down over his feet and his chest gets cold, then he pulls it up on to his chest and his feet get cold, and so he never succeeds in falling properly asleep. Or again (to make use of a different comparison) my boredom resembles a repeated and mysterious interruption of the electric current inside a house: at one moment everything is clear and obvious— here are armchairs, over there are sofas, beyond are cupboards, side tables, pictures , curtains, carpets, windows, doors; a moment later there is nothing but darkness and an empty void. Yet again (a third comparison) my boredom might be described as a malady affecting external objects and consisting of a withering process; an almost instantaneous loss of vitality —just as though one saw a flower change in a few seconds from a bud to decay and dust.” (ibid.)

This sense of shifting between realism and irrealism is existential boredom. A sort of temporal disorder that dislocates us from our normal time patterns and brings us into those zones of horror where reality becomes unreal and the sense of speed and slowness mesh as if from the outside in. This fragmentation and time-dilation as if a flower were to emerge and evolve from birth to death in a few micro-seconds like a small universe held in one’s hand evolving from bang to bust, abyss to abyss: this is the apprehension of acceleration, of speed as movement out of control, beyond our human kin, taking its own path within us – but to its own ends which are not ours. It’s as if the objects around us were alien beings with a life of their own, moving at once slowly or speeding up and accelerating at paces our mind’s cannot register or make sense of which leads to that deathly sickness of which nausea is the habitation. A connection that is at once a disconnection, a severing between two times, a loss of the object as it floats beyond our time into its own futurity. One never knows whether it is the object or us that is withdrawing, receding toward the past or future: this is the moment of nausea…

Jean-Paul Sartre in his famous Nausea would describe its onset this way:

“I got up and went out. Once at the gate, I turned back. Then the garden smiled at me. I leaned against the gate and watched for a long time. The smile of the trees, of the laurel, meant something; that was the real secret of existence. I remembered one Sunday, not more than three weeks ago, I had already detected everywhere a sort of conspiratorial air. Was it in my intention? I felt with boredom that I had no way of understanding. No way. Yet it was there, waiting, looking at one. It was there on the trunk of the chestnut tree . . . it was the chestnut tree. Things —you might have called them thoughts— which stopped halfway, which were forgotten, which forgot what they wanted to think and which stayed like that, hanging about with an odd little sense which was beyond them. That little sense annoyed me: I could not understand it, even if I could have stayed leaning against the gate for a century; I had learned all I could know about existence. I left, I went back to the hotel and I wrote.”4

This sense that things and thoughts are becoming disconnected as if the idealist codes of Parmenides and Plato were finally unraveling around us, as if reality which was this fusion of ideas and things was finally dissolving the pact or covenant of meaning that had existed between language and things for over two thousand years and, as it were, finally departing, wandering estranged within a ghost zone between things and thoughts, lost in a haze of temporal dissonance. Things were set adrift upon a sea without meaning or purpose, dissolved of their human relations, caught in the field of a ferocity of unthought and disaffective relations that left all participants bored and lost amid the ruins of time. Sartre would be more explicit later, saying:

“The Nausea has given me a short breathing spell. But I know it will come back again: it is my normal state. Only today my body is too exhausted to stand it. Invalids also have happy moments of weakness which take away the consciousness of their illness for a few hours. I am bored, that’s all. From time to time I yawn so widely that tears roll down my cheek. It is a profound boredom, profound, the profound heart of existence, the very matter I am made of. …  Above my head; above my head; and this instant which I cannot leave, which locks me in and limits me on every side, this instant I am made of will be no more than a confused dream.”(ibid.)

This feeling of stasis, of the claustrophobia of the moment, the imprisonment in time, locked away in an irreal zone of confusion and despair, cut off from the real world of action: love, life, people, events; this was at the heart of nausea and the philosophical “sickness unto death” (Kierkegaard). Soren Kierkegaard would of course attribute this sense of existential despair or nausea in human beings as the disaffiliation of the “synthesis” of spiritual and physical elements, and despair as that misrelation between these elements. The solution to despair for Kierkegaard  is to for the humans to reestablish a relationship with the “power that established it” (in other words, with God). For Sartre there could be no reconciliation. No exit from despair. Nausea trumped all. One would just have to live with it. As Sartre under the auspicious Antoine Roquentin would confess:

“Lucid, forlorn, consciousness is walled-up; it perpetuates itself. Nobody lives there any more. A little while ago someone said “me,” said my consciousness. Who? Outside there were streets, alive with known smells and colours. Now nothing is left but anonymous walls, anonymous consciousness. That is what there is: walls, and between the walls, a small transparency , alive and impersonal. Consciousness exists as a tree, as a blade of grass. It slumbers, it grows bored. Small fugitive presences populate it like birds in the branches. Populate it and disappear. Consciousness forgotten, forsaken between these walls, under this grey sky. And here is the sense of its existence : it is conscious of being superfluous. It dilutes, scatters itself, tries to lose itself on the brown wall, along the lamp post or down there in the evening mist. But it never forgets itself. That is its lot.”(ibid.)

Consciousness sticks to us like a bad taste in the mouth, like a bitter fruit that lingers on our tongue, like the memory of a lover who has emptied our home leaving only the silences of remembrances hiding between the furniture: the curves of a couch, the frayed edges of a book, the hollows of a pillow that remains unfluffed. We wander among these memories of desire like destitute witnesses to a murder that never happened but is always happening if only because it is our own. Despair becomes the truth of that secret moment when we awaken to the truth of reality, the folds of its broken crevices, the gaps between its creases where time suddenly stops and we begin to see things in their own light rather than with the light of our own eyes. The savagery of those moments when reality reveals its self is the moment of nausea that infiltrates us from the future like some forlorn thought of happiness. A happiness we will never enjoy.

But what about the future? J.G. Ballard in an interview would tells us:

“People believe in nothing. There is nothing to believe in now … There’s this vacuum … what people have most longed for, which is the consumer society, has come to pass. Like all dreams that come to pass, there is a nagging sense of emptiness. So they look for anything, they believe in any extreme. Any extremist nonsense is better than nothing … Well, I think we’re on the track to all kinds of craziness. I think there is no end to what sort of nonsense will come out of the woodwork, and a lot of very dangerous nonsense. I could sum up the future in one word, and that word is boring. The future is going to be boring.”13

Isn’t there behind the concept of the future a nagging sense that we may never transcend the present moment? Isn’t the future all about transcendence? Can we ever get out of this deadly circle and truly discover an unknown future, or are we condemned to repeat ourselves infinitely. The future as boring is like a character waiting for a Godot who will never appear, it’s the plunge of a vehicle toward a cliff in which one is handcuffed. With anxiety and trepidation one knows what is coming but one knows as well that one is without redress toward its consequences. All one can do is suffer the future; no more, no less. Is this not the predicament of the Left at the moment. Is this not what Debord railed against as counter-revolutionary? A nostalgia for possibilities rather than the knowledge that one must construct the future rather that wait for it passively like some bored aesthete of time.

Even that last of the modernists Samuel Beckett would define boredom:

“The boring is ugly, or rather: Ugliness to the point of the dead, empty, tautological awakens a feeling of boredom in us. The beautiful allows us to forget time, because, as something eternal and self-sufficient, it also transports us to eternity and thus fills us with bliss. But if the emptiness of a view becomes so great that we begin to pay attention to time as time, we notice the lack of content of pure time – and this feeling is boredom. Boredom is not comic in itself, but a turn-around towards the comic occurs when the tautological and boring are produced as self-parody and irony.”14

Boredom is the thantropic effect of time caught in its own gaze. It’s this that is the beginning of anxiety… and, out of this anxiety fear is born, the fear that becomes an accelerating panic …

Anxiety, Panic and the Traumatized Future

Boredom is a life without happiness. Happiness is not pleasure, it is of another order of time. But what of anxiety? What is the connection with a boredom that is not bored? Where “everything is boring but no one is bored” in Fisher’s phrase. Well we could start with the etymology of the word panic itself provides a fine example of the embeddedness of anxiety in a cognitive schema-specifically that of the ancient Greeks. Early uses of the term panic in English lead back to its origins in classical mythology. The word first appeared in the seventeenth century as an adjective, combined with the word fear: “panic [that is, Pan-ic] fear” or “panic terror,” fear inspired by the god or earth spirit Pan (Skeat 1893:418; see also OED Online 2007). Part man and part goat, Pan was the son of Hermes and the nymph Penelope, who, according to Homeric Hymn 19, “sprang up and left the child” out of disgust at his animalistic appearance. Once abandoned, Pan inhabited mountainsides and forests, particularly in Arcadia, a region looked down upon by Athenians and other “cultivated” Greeks as less civilized. A swift runner and agile rock-climber, Pan became the embodiment of the mysterious noises that frighten travelers in remote and lonely places outside village boundaries. Shepherds and hunters, the denizens of these areas, paid homage to the god and were thus protected by him. However, for settled villagers, rough, rustic areas provoked the fear associated with Pan’s name. In addition, as one of Dionysus’s retinue, Pan was constantly on the prowl sexually, most famously after nymphs. Often unsuccessful in these pursuits because of the intervention of other nymphs or gods, Pan, like the satyrs, embodied uncontrolled, aggressive male sexuality. For ancient Greeks, then, panic was semantically associated with abandonment; uncivilized, remote mountains and forests; and unchecked male sexuality-surely a rich set of cognitions that might, under certain circumstances, precipitate a full-blown panic attack.’5

As the authors of Culture and Panic Disorder will relate it “panic syndromes are often linked to memories of trauma and violence, and that panic symptoms are a conspicuous part of the psychological experience of persons who have suffered war, dislocation, and other major social catastrophes” (KL 157). But what if the cognitive panic is not of a memory of the past, but one of the future, what then?

What if the invasion of some alien space from the future is invading our era, its own infestation of catastrophism infesting us with a technovirus that rewires and re-onotlogizes us toward ends not our own as Nick Land describes it:

“Machinic desire can seem a little inhuman, as it rips up political cultures, deletes traditions, dissolves subjectivities, and hacks through security apparatuses, tracking a soulless tropism to zero control. This is because what appears to humanity as the history of capitalism is an invasion from the future by an artificial intelligent space that must assemble itself entirely from its enemy’s resources. Digitocommodification is the index of a cyberpositively escalating technovirus, of the planetary technocapital singularity: a self-organizing insidious traumatism, virtually guiding the entire biological desiring-complex towards post-carbon replicator usurpation.”6

Now let’s take a look at what he is really saying beyond the cyberpunk rhetoric that stylizes it. Machinic desire is of course a term from Deleuze and Guattari’s famous of infamous work on schizophrenia Anti-Oedipus which at heart proposed a thesis in which their book was designed to function as a kind of desiring-machine, to program or produce, as well as to model or comprehend, desire in schizophrenic form.7 Yet, desire itself in their work was seen as trapped within the confines of representational structures of the mind and needed to be freed up and released from those very structures and into the becoming processes of life. They would praise Freud as the first to understand the true nature of desire saying that “his greatness lies in having determined the essence or nature of desire, no longer in relation to objects, aims or even sources…but as an abstract, subjective essence – libido or sexuality” (Holland, 17). But then he would trap that very conception of desire within the family romance of the Oedipus mythos of Father, Mother, Child and their eternal war. Schizoanalysis was a way of producing concepts or ‘desiring-machines’ that would transform and alter our desires and produce new forms of social relations beyond the capitalist modes.

Deleuze and Guattari would describe what Land is doing as a form of detterritorialization rather than critique, a method of dismantling which moves beyond the representationalism of critique: it consists rather of prolonging, of accelerating an entire movement that already traverses the social field: it operates in a virtual realm, already real without being actual (the diabolic powers of the future which, for the moment, are only knocking at the door).8  This notion of an invasion from the future of an “artificial intelligent space that must assemble itself entirely from its enemy’s resources” would of course at first appear as cyberpunk easyspeak, but one would be wrong to interpret it as something that simple. This would be a way to dismiss it, to explain it away, as Land himself had fallen for the rhetoric of dissipation and the escape velocity torsions of the era of speed that gave birth to the internet ICT technological monstrosities that encompass us today. No Land is a little more adept than this so to dismiss him with a slight flick of the magic sawdust as if he’s just a “mad deleuzian” is beside the point. Land is discovering an accord or even an affordance with the linguistic power in an era of diminishing returns, and allowing it to be productive of life that intensifies rather than expresses or represents the truths immanent to its machinic desires.

Too many people dismiss even Deleuze and Guattari for some kind of permissive acceptance of the capitalist mythos as if in there seeking to uncover its barbarous core that they themselves had fallen prey to its energy and become trapped in its accelerating algorthms like deadly angels of some black metal fascism. As they told us schizoanalyis is violent and brutal: “We have seen how the negative task of schizoanalysis must be violent, brutal: defamiliarizing, de-oedipalizing,  decastrating; undoing theatre, dream, and fantasy; decoding, deterritorializing – a terrible curettage, a malevolent activity. (381)”9 When I began thinking of Land’s invasion from the future by an artificial intelligence “space” I had to ponder what exactly would this entail? He used the term space not entity, robot, etc. but the total environment itself invading our world and remapping and reassembling itself out of the very material and immaterial planetary resources. Thinking on it I ran across Ada – an intelligent environment that was part of the Swiss expo in 2002.  Henri Lefebvre would tell us that our world stripped of human thought and intervention “appears as a unity of cycles, self-regulating, stable systems: waters, winds, air, light, soils, and sediments. If we consider the modern world, the whole of the devices [ l’ensemble des dispositifs – ensemble of dispositions] assembled by humans begins to cover the earth. These devices and their arrangement [ Ces dispositifs et leur ensemble] , all constituted on systems of (physical, chemical, economic, etc.) self-regulation, unwittingly imitate these fundamental stabilities by making use of them. This is how a “human world” constructs itself.10 It’s in the difference between the unwittingly imitate and the invasion of the future that allows a machinic intelligence that is also an environment to intervene consciously rather than unwittingly replicating itself out of the as Land says “enemy’s resources” which marks out a difference that makes a difference. Sheer madness? Or rather a slant on the actual processes that are happening around us through a schizoanalytic lens that most of us would rather not be aware of much less deal with and use.

A notion of a super technovirus may seem farfetched, with its sense of total invasive action: “a self-organizing insidious traumatism, virtually guiding the entire biological desiring-complex towards post-carbon replicator usurpation”, but what else would explain the billions of dollars being spent by governments and private enterprise in the NBIC technologies? Would we pretend this is just a capitalist trick, a molar vision of a far right-wing Christian immorality complex and militarization of the psyche gone rogue? What’s better: the conspiracy theories of a rogue nation developing technologies to support life-extension for its elites and government officials at the expense of its populace, a profiteering oligarchy tribalizing the proletariat into science fiction and leaving them stranded in dreams of grandeur and comic book fantasies. Is Land truly just a comic book fantasist, or is there something else going on in this rhetoric of cyberdelia? Instead of some self-organizing system he chooses the term, carefully – “traumatism”. Why? Why not a self-organizing entity or actual thing? What is a trauma that it can be self-organizing? And how could it be the engine that is driving this insidious biological complex of desiring machines toward an alien post-human future without us?

Felix Guattari in Molecular Revolutions in Brazil would observe that “the plane of consistency indicates that the machinic phylum is a continuum. The unity of any process, the unity of history, resides not in the fact of a shared time encompassing and traversing everything, but in the fact of that continuum of the machinic phylum, which itself results from the conjunction of the totality of de-territorialization processes. It is this unity, this ‘continuum of the machinic phylum’ that is the “artificial intelligent space” of which Land tells us is invasively re-ontologizing the ‘biological desiring-complex towards post-carbon replicator usurpation’. As Guattari would explain it whenever a “muitiplicity unfolds, the plane of consistency is  brought into operation. The machinic phylum is in time and space. Plane, here, has the sense of the phylum, the continuous. Nothing is small enough to escape the net of machinic propositions and intensities. The strata of subjectivity are set against the plane of the agency of collective utterance, the subject against the agent. The plane of machinic consistency provides the answer to Russell’s paradox. There really is a totality of all the totalities. But it is not a logical totality; it is a machinic one. The problem of the continuous is resolved at the level of the machinic phylum before being stated in mathematical terms” (Guattari, 120).

Of course for Guattari Nature as existing prior to the machine no longer exists. The machine produces a different nature, and in order to do so it defines and manipulates it with symbols (the diagrammatic process) (Guattari, 125). What Land is describing comes closest to what Guattari describes as the annihilation of intentionality by the omnipotence of a complex of de-territorialization process potentially capable of creating a multiplicity  out of whatever it touches (Guattari, 128). So that this post-intentional process of the technovirus at the heart of the capitalist complex is feeding the ongoing accelerating processes of the biological complex into the machinic phylum which will ultimately rise from the ruins of capital. As Guattari himself would say: “Capitalism tries to interiorize the unbounded boundaries of the plane of consistency. It arranges organs, self-contained objects, relationships, individual subjectivity. What prevented the organless body of the primitive State from abolishing the plane of consistency into infinite fragments was the setting in motion of the machinic phylum. Whereas the military proto-machine destroyed whole towns, destroying even its own soldiers, the machinic phylum survives” (Guattari, 128).

This is the future toward which we are already the traumatized victims of a transmigration into machinic existence unknowing of our own complicity in its fabrication. Yet, we should always remember: what we make we can understand. This this monstrous panic attack from the future that as Land tells us “rips up political cultures, deletes traditions, dissolves subjectivities, and hacks through security apparatuses, tracking a soulless tropism to zero control”, which becomes the very technovirus that drives us ownward blindly in collective panic on a global scale of acceleration without breaks. As Jackie Orr in her Panic Diaries: A Genealogy of Panic Disorder will tell us the problem of collective panic tearing through the social group, a problem at the fore of government anxieties and state-sponsored research in the atomic age, is reconfigured through the technoscientific and profoundly social language of cybernetics. Today, a history of the present seems impossible to tell without reference to cybernetic discourse, and a large and growing scholarship exists on the cultural, military, imaginary, political, and economic transformations that cybernetics entails.”12

Orr will go on to describe “cyber-psychiatry” as beginning to replace the psychoanalytic notion of the unconscious constituted by libidinal energy with a cybernetic model of the brain as a communication system, constituted by the exchange of information. Mental disorders can be conceived, and treated, as disorders in communication. Psychopharmacology can be modeled as the message, or communications media, that corrects information disorders in the cybernetic brain. Individual panic disorder can be theorized as the effect of “deranged circuitry,” reengineered for proper functioning by a tiny white pill.(Orr, KL 460) As she will ask under what sign from the traumatized future that seems to be imploding around us will we find a cure:

“And have we grasped fully today the scandalous nature of the technoscientific cure? Have you ever swallowed a psychopharmacological story that could slow your pounding heart, cut your memory into simpler pieces, and deliver new dreams during your slightly technoscientific sleep? In what place that is no place at all but a pattern of informatic signals, electrochemical circuits, in what place that is no place at all do panic and the pill called Xanax meet? What kind of theater of the social could effectively silence a flickering, floating terror of death with a tale of improved traffic in technoscientific messages?” (Orr, KL 468)

That the technovirus has been injected into the global genome should be obvious by now. As Land will wryly comment: “Capital propagates virally in so far as money communicates addiction, replicating itself through host organisms whose boundaries it breaches, and whose desires it reprograms. It incrementally virtualizes production; demetallizing money in the direction of credit finance, and disactualizing productive force along the scale of machinic intelligence quotient. The dehumanizing convergence of these tendencies zeroes upon an integrated and automatized cyberpositive techno-economic intelligence at war with the macropod. (Land, KL 4559)”. Yes, a language adequate to the times, not some peripheral cyberpunk wannabee but the integrated awareness of a inforg that has attuned his alien mind to the deleterious circuits of late capitalism, wandered the lightlanes of futurity and brought back out of those shamanic nights of electronic wastes a glimpse into that strange deterrtorializations from the other end of tim: a place just this side of the trauma zones, where capital like some monstrous space gathers its progeny into the artificial nexus of a tributary thought-space. Traumatized we fall forward into the abyss. Only a schizoanalysis might offer us solace:

“Reaching an escape velocity of self-reinforcing machinic intelligence propagation, the forces of production are going for the revolution on their own. It is in this sense that schizoanalysis is a revolutionary program guided by the tropism to a catastrophe threshold of change, but it is not shackled to the realization of a new society, any more than it is constricted by deference to an existing one. The socius is its enemy, and now that the long senile spectre of the greatest imaginable reterritorialization of planetary process has faded from the horizon, cyberrevolutionary impetus is cutting away from its last shackles to the past.” (Land, KL 4576)

The question to be asked is whether schizophrenics are the living machines of a dead labor, which are then contrasted to the dead machines of living labor as organized in capitalism. Or whether instead desiring, technical, and social machines join together in a process of schizophrenic production that thereafter has no more schizophrenics to produce” (Anti-Oedipus, 381).

——————–

I must admit that after completing this post I read my friend Edmund Berger on Detteritorial Investigation Unit who wrote another response to Arran James original post no boredom on Mark Fisher, too: Boredom/Anxiety/Time/Scales.

Edmund proposes two different registers of time to correspond with Fisher’s two registers of speed:

The first of these is machinic time; quite literally the time in which the mechanosphere operates, it is an inhuman time scale, composed of the high speed trading machines and computer processors, satellite relays, unimaginable feedback loops cutting through everything from an individual’s purchases to the fluctuations of large-scale social structures. Machinic time exists within the dense trappings of our networked world; it is a time that swarms over the face of the globe its operations as a smoothing force. Machinic time is the time of information itself, and its concern is not necessarily the physical. It exists within and is the ether.

The second register of time is a striating force – contained time. This is the division and regulation of a body’s time, particularly in the context of disciplinary spaces that seek to make the bodies docile for the maximization of production. It brings to mind the classic tripartite division of the day’s 24 hours: 8 hours of work/8 hours of leisure/8 hours of sleep. Of course this division was only an idealized plan, the orientation of the individual’s rhythm to the megamachine that it finds itself subsumed in. Particularly today we find the blurring breakdown of these divisions into a perpetual flowspace of time, 24/7 capitalism. Yet we still find that time itself is an entity to be regulated and managed in a way that is internalized by the self – a steady rhythm to ensure and maintain the proper functioning of the machine.

This notion of an artificial time (machinic) and its natural variant (contained) in a dialectical or diacritical interplay as part of the ongoing process of our current views of boredom and anxiety are excellent notions. I’ve been collecting works on time for a while now as well as the history of the use of the Sun/Day and Night/Moon as social construction and control systems. Books like Roger Ekirch’s At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, Paul Bogard’s The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light, Christopher Dewdney’s Acquainted with the Night, Johnathan Crary’s 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep and many others all dealing with aspects of light and time and its influence on the productions of sociality in history. The notion of how the dark and light, the sun and the moon have played a sort of abiding and almost transparent part in the making of human history as an environmental pressure against which our technological society has begun to wage ultimate warfare on one side: the side of the sun/male/dominance/hierarchy etc. is of interest as we think on the rise of the machinic and the artificial 24/7 zones of our cities that are becoming more and more apparent with each day.


 

1. Arran James: See no boredom
2. Toohey, Peter (2011-05-24). Boredom: A Lively History (Kindle Locations 122-123). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.
3. Moravia, Alberto (2011-07-20). Boredom (New York Review Books Classics) (Kindle Locations 113-114). New York Review Books. Kindle Edition.
4. Sartre, Jean-Paul (2013-03-25). Nausea (New Directions Paperbook) (Kindle Locations 2864-2871). New Directions. Kindle Edition.
5. Devon Hinton;Byron Good. Culture and Panic Disorder (Kindle Locations 141-150). Kindle Edition.
6. Land, Nick (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 4541-4546). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.
7. Holland, Eugene W. (2002-01-04). Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: Introduction to Schizoanalysis (p. 3). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
8. Bogue, Ronald (2008-03-07). Deleuze and Guattari (Critics of the Twentieth Century) (Kindle Locations 2129-2132). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
9. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus Schizophrenia and Capitalism (Penguin, 2009)
10. Henri Lefebvre. State, Space, World: Selected Essays (Kindle Locations 3338-3341). Kindle Edition.
11. Felix Guattari. Molecular Revolution. (Pergrine, 1998)
12. Orr, Jackie (2006-02-08). Panic Diaries: A Genealogy of Panic Disorder (Kindle Locations 445-448). Duke University Press. Kindle Edition.
13. Lukas Barr, ‘Don’t Crash: The J. G. Ballard Interview’, KGB, 7 (1995).
14. Karl Rosenkranz, Ästhetik des Häßlichen (Leipzig, 1990), pp. 240– 41.

 

 

 

 

 

no boredom – Arran James on Mark Fisher and Accelerationism beyond Boredom

Arran James chimes in on Mark Fishers recent talk on an anxiety beyond boredom…

As he states it:

“Fundamentally, the question of boredom leads me to think about accelerationism as a kind of electroshock therapy from the depressive body of the left. It is the political use of stimulation to rouse us to challenge the hegemony of those who monopolise stimulation as a technique for control. Accelerationism thus has very little to do with speeding up or slowing down as such. Accelerationism is thus also an attempt to shock some life back into what it sees as a comatose revolutionary movement. The question of whether these concerns are fair belong elsewhere.”

synthetic zerø

In Mark Fisher’s talk he repeated the recent intervention made by the Institute for Precarious Consciousness where it states that we have moved from a world of boredom to one of anxiety. Mark was quick to add that he felt that it isn’t so much that boredom has disappeared, as that today we can say that everything is boring but no one is bored. This is a formulation that really struck me. In this statement boredom appears detached from its usual understanding as an emotional condition, a state one can or can’t be inside of, and as such is also uncoupled from its phenomenological understanding. A stimulus without a response, the boring has no subject that it bores down and into. Why? How is this possible?

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Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown, Nafeez Ahmed

The warfare complex is spending millions to predict mass chaos… even the Pentagon turns paranoid as Dr. No returns from his dark years of the Cold War. As Ahmed says in summing up:

“Launched in 2008 – the year of the global banking crisis – the DoD ‘Minerva Research Initiative’ partners with universities “to improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.”

“Minerva [project] is a prime example of the deeply narrow-minded and self-defeating nature of military ideology. Worse still, the unwillingness of DoD officials to answer the most basic questions is symptomatic of a simple fact – in their unswerving mission to defend an increasingly unpopular global system serving the interests of a tiny minority, security agencies have no qualms about painting the rest of us as potential terrorists.”

synthetic zerø

Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown, Nafeez Ahmed

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/jun/12/pentagon-mass-civil-breakdown

“A US Department of Defense (DoD) research programme is funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies. The multi-million dollar programme is designed to develop immediate and long-term “warfighter-relevant insights” for senior officials and decision makers in “the defense policy community,” and to inform policy implemented by “combatant commands.” Launched in 2008 – the year of the global banking crisis – the DoD ‘Minerva Research Initiative’ partners with universities “to improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.” Among the projects awarded for the period 2014-2017 is a Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research which aims to develop an empirical model…

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Accelerationism: Ray Brassier as Promethean Philosopher

“Autonomy means that we make the worlds that we are grow.”

     – Tikkun, The Cybernetic Manifesto 

“If contingency is to be thought absolutely, it must be thought independently of the map of possibilities.”

    – Elie Ayache, The Medium of Contingency

 

Our notions of voluntarism would arise out of the nominalist traditions of the late Middle Ages theology of such thinkers as John Duns Scotus (c. 1265-1308) and William of Ockham (c. 1288-1349) who inaugurated the modern secular separation of nature from the supernatural and the concomitant divorce of philosophy, physics, and ethics from theology that was reinforced by influential early modern figures such as Francisco Suarez (1548-1616).1

As Pope Benedict XVI would remark “Duns Scotus developed a point to which modernity is very sensitive. It is the topic of liberty and its relation with the will and with the intellect. Our author stresses liberty as a fundamental quality of the will, initiating an approach of a voluntaristic tendency, which developed in contrast with the so-called Augustinian and Thomistic intellectualism. For St. Thomas Aquinas, who follows St. Augustine, liberty cannot be considered an innate quality of the will, but the fruit of the collaboration of the will and of the intellect.”

William of Ockham would affirm the supremacy of the divine will over the divine intellect, and in doing so would encounter a problem: if universals are real (i.e. natures and essences exist in things as Aquinas said they did following Aristotle) then voluntarism cannot be true. Ockham’s solution was unique: he simply denied of the reality of universals. Ockham adopts a conceptualist position on universals: while the universal (or concept) exists in the mind beholding a certain particular, it does not exist in the particular itself. Because there are no universals or common natures, there can only be a collection of unrelated individuals (and arguably the rise of modern individualism). With universals removed from the picture, God is free to will as he chooses.

Nominalism and Voluntarism became eternal bedfellows from that time forward. Yet, they would not always be so… therein lies the tale! With universals removed humans, too, are free to do and make as they see fit. For only what we make can we understand. And in our age we are learning to re-engineer ourselves beyond the confines of those old theological norms that once constrained us to a false equilibrium, and thereby free to experiment in new modes of being and rationality. Beyond the balance lays the contingent realm of creation rather than possibilities, only the new Promethean dares to enter that medium of exchange.

A Modern Prometheanism: Ray Brassier and the Critics

“Voluntarism denotes those philosophers who generally agree, not only in their revolt against excessive intellectualism, but also in their tendency to conceive the ultimate nature of reality as some form of will, hence to lay stress on activity as the main feature of experience, and to base their philosophy on the psychological fact of the immediate consciousness of volitional activity.”

      – Susan Stebbing, Pragmatism and French Voluntarism

Ray Brassier in contradistinction to the above tells us that a modern Prometheanism “requires the reassertion of subjectivism, but a subjectivism without selfhood, which articulates an autonomy without voluntarism (471)”.2 He will discover in Martin Heidegger a twentieth century critique of metaphysical voluntarism as his starting point: it will be by way of an essay by Jean-Pierre Dupuy ‘Some Pitfalls in the Philosophical Foundations of Nanoethics’ (download: pdf)3 In Dupuy’s essay the link between technological Prometheanism and Heidegger’s critique of subjectivism come by way Hannah Arendt (471). Brassier will set this religious critique of Prometheanism against the backdrop of both the neoliberal Prometheans found in transhumanist discourse and speculation, and his own account within the Marxist tradition that has been neglected by what Williams and Srnicek in their Accelerationist Manifesto term derisively the Kitsch Marxism of our day.

Brassier will ask: Why Prometheanism? Isn’t this a reversion to myth, to pre-Enlightenment modes of thought and behavior. Yes and no. The central key for Brassier is not so much what the left makes of such notions as it is that the neoliberal Right is banking on it. In fact in Dupuy’s essay we discover, as Brassier will testify, that the U.S. government as well as the so called transhumanist operatives in the private sector are forging alliances in politics and biomedicine for a human enhancement ideology that is centered on the converging NBIC technologies (Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information technology and cognitive sciences). As he states it the political Right advocates such a technological Prometheanism because “it renders possible the technological re-engeneering of human nature” (472). One can see in this an almost lateralization or flattening of the immortality complex at the heart of Christianity or its Secularized Religion in a neoliberal mode. Ever since Alan Harrington published his The Immortalist (1977) with its vaunting cry that “Death is an imposition on the human race, and no longer acceptable”, the rise of a transhumanist vision became the order of the day for certain neoliberal mindsets.

Dupuy’s religious critique of this illusionary science of transhumanism as the systematic conflation of ontological indetermination with epistemic uncertainty tells us that : “The [advocates of transhumanism] convert what is in fact an ontological problem about the structure  of reality into an epistemic problem about the limits of knowledge” (472). What the transhumanists have done Brassier (using Heidegger’s metaphysical assumptions) is to collapse and flatten humanity as existence and humanity as essence, conflating the two by encouraging us to think we can modify the properties of human nature-existence using the same technics that have proved so successful with other natural entities (473). Dupuy will rely on this gnostic self or essence (Heidegger’s Dasein) as the central dictum by which he hopes to salvage the human equilibrium. His critique will take in everything from fables of Golem’s (think Frankenstein or Meyrink’s Golem, etc.) and other failures along the path of transhumanist mythology (i.e., hermetic traditions of test-tube homunculus’ etc.).

Dupuy after Arendt would posit the notion of a ‘fragile equilibrium’ between what is made and what is given by human nature and its conditionings, and it is against the transhumanist agenda that they can intervene in this fragile equilibrium “between human shaping, and that which shapes the shaping – whether given by God or Nature – that Prometheanism threatens” (474). Brassier will remind us that Heidegger would radicalize Kant’s notion of finitude of cognition. Kant would incorporate a view that God being infinite could know things as they are (i.e., things-in-themselves), but that humans being finite could only know things “partially and incompletely” (476).

Brassier will go to the core of the conflict that Dupuy and Arendt see in such transhumanist discourses for human enhancement as breaking of the pact between the given and the made, the fragile equilibrium between human finitude as an ontological fact and its transcendence as Dasein. He will put it pointedly: “Prometheanism denies the ontologisation of finitude” (478). He follows Dupuy’s reasoning through his many works on early cybernetic theory on through his religious works in late life, understanding that from Dupuy’s view it was the whole philosophical heritage of mechanistic philosophy culminating in cybernetic theory that would produce the notion that as we understand ourselves as nothing more than contingently generated natural phenomenon, the less able are we to define what we should be (483). Because of this Brassier remarks our “self-objectification deprives us of the normative resources we need to be able to say that we ought to be this way rather than that” (383).

Brassier then will buy into the Viconian notion that humans can truly only understand what they have made: “Only what is humanly made is humanly knowable” (494). Giambattista Vico (1668—1744) would offer an old theme:

Verum esse ipsum factum, the truth is the made. Yet, Vico would twist this in his New Science by saying that “as rational metaphysics teaches that man becomes all things by understanding them, this imaginative metaphysics shows that man becomes all things by not understanding them (NS, 405). The verum-factum principle holds that one can know the truth in what one makes. Vico writes, “For the Latins, verum (the true) and factum (what is made) are interchangeable, or to use the customary language of the Schools, they are convertible (Ancient Wisdom 45).” This would be the idea of the true (verum) and the made (factum) are convertible: verification is fabrication, fact is fabrication; homo faber, man the forger; at his forge, forging as Joyce would say “the uncreated conscience of his race” (Finnegan’s Wake). Or in the parlance of our current breed of speculative philosophy: re-ontologizing the uncreated system that is the inhuman core of the human. Luciano Floridi will tell us that what is happening in this process is the blurring of the distinction between reality and virtuality; the blurring of the distinction between human, machine and nature; the reversal from information scarcity to information abundance; and the shift from the primacy of stand-alone things, properties, and binary relations, to the primacy of interactions, processes and networks. (see my The Onlife Initiative: Luciano Floridi and ICT Philosophy)

Floridi sums his own stance up saying “as far as we can tell, the ultimate nature of reality is informational, that is, it makes sense to adopt Level of Abstractions that commit our theories to a view of reality as mind-independent and constituted by structural objects that are neither substantial nor material (they might well be but we have no need to suppose them to be so ) but cohering clusters of data, not in the alphanumeric sense of the word, but in equally common sense differences de re, i.e., mind-independent, concrete, relational points of lack of uniformity, what have been defined … as daedomena.

Daedomena (‘data’ in Greek). Daedomena are not to be confused with environmental data. They are pure data or proto-epistemic data, that is, data before they are epistemically interpreted. As ‘fractures in the fabric of Being’, they can only be posited as an external anchor of our information, for dedomena are never accessed or elaborated independently of a level of abstraction. They can be reconstructed as ontological requirements, like Kant’s noumena or Locke’s substance: they are not epistemically experienced, but their presence is empirically inferred from , and required by, experience. (The Ethics of Information, pp. 85-86)

Yet, as Brassier relates it Dupuy falls into the old trap of essentialism in his religious diagnosis of Prometheanism in attributing to the human an essence that can only be construed as divine (484): an almost Platonic or Gnostic reversion to a substantial formalist self, the abiding presence of the ghost in the machine ideology that haunts secularist thought and science to this day (i.e., a philosopho-theological throwback to pre-critical thought). This leads Dupuy into the idea that even if we could create life that we shouldn’t do it, that it would upset the fragile balance between the human divine essence and the natural order, etc. (i.e., a reversion to the notion of hubris, an overreaching of the limits of the human that can only bring retribution by the gods or God). As Brassier points out Dupuy in his religious diagnosis does not tell us why the upsetting of this balance would be destructive (495).

At this point in the essay Brassier will turn the tables on Dupuy and discover in this very notion of the equilibrium a hidden element that he finds objectionably theological (495). The point being that for Dupuy the world was designed, made (i.e., a creationist argument); and that instead the truth of things – as Brassier will suggest, is that the world was not made: “it is simply there, uncreated, without reason or purpose” (495) which strikes at the heart of modern nihilism (see Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound). Because of this Brassier will see a new freedom, a release from the false equilibrium, and a way forward: a speculative reasoning for why we as humans should not fear participating in this uncreated world as creators ourselves. “Promethenism is the attempt to participate in the creation of the world without having to defer to a divine blueprint” (495). This leads to another conclusion that if the world is without reason and purpose then whatever disequilibrium we might introduce is no more harmful than the disequilibrium that already exists in the universe (495).

Since the whole edifice of the metaphysics of equilibrium can no longer be justified the power of separation between the made and the given no longer harbors any dire hold over us (i.e., no big bad Other gods of God to bring retribution down on our heads for hubris). Yet, what does remain is the need for certain rules-based systems created for and by humans themselves to constrain the paths taken in this new brave world (i.e., certain normative navigational devices to map our way forward (see Negarestani in accelerationist reader). For Brassier the ways we understand the world through our interactions and productive operations on it are part of a continuous cycle of redeterminations that are interminable (i.e., no final resting place to set our truths, nothing but process till either we are the universe ends),  each shifting through phases that superseding the oppositions between order and disorder, recognizing in the “catastrophic overturning of intention, and the often disturbing consequences of our technological ingenuity” (486) the truth of our own future humanity.

Brassier will discover in the fiction of J.G. Ballard the truth that “all progress is savage and violent”. He will see no objection in this truth: “the fact that progress is savage and violent does not necessarily disqualify it as progress” (486). In fact he will insist that there “is indeed a savagery recapitulated in rationality” (486). He says we can wallow in our moral outrage and sentimental justifications for accepting the existing state of things. Else we can follow Marx’s own Promethean project and enter into its core notions fully aware that it entails nothing less than the re-engineering of humanity and re-ontologizing our world on a more rational basis (487).

Brassier will bring everything round to his notions of subjectivation from which he started: that a modern Prometheanism “requires the reassertion of subjectivism, but a subjectivism without selfhood, which articulates an autonomy without voluntarism (471)”. He will turn to Alain Badiou’s account of the relation between event and subjectivation and find it objectionable, yet will also discover the need to reconnect his account of subjectivation to an analysis of the biological, economic, and historical processes that condition rational subjectivation (387).  Such is the great task before us, Brassier remarks, a new Prometheanism that “promises an overcoming of the opposition between reason and imagination: reason is fuelled by imagination, but it can also remake the limits of imagination” (487).

Sounds like Brassier has his life’s work set before him. Glad to see him rehabilitating the concept of imagination constrained by speculative reason, and realizing the artistic impulse might be the spark that lights the minds of a generation. Unless we can reach a wider audience through more pragmatic forms such as science fiction, novels, poetry, painting, etc. it will be difficult. Philosophy is for the few who trouble to dive into the cultural abyss. Very few average cognitariat much less the average readers ever get past the base notions in philosophy. This is not some elitist crap, just part of culture we live in at the moment. So we will need some better vehicle of transmission if we are to capture this new generation: film, art, novels, poetry, etc. will all be needed.

One of the difficulties with all of this is that the Left is behind the eight ball so to speak: the finances to support such great projects is massive in itself and we may have the ideas, but our funds are few so the greatest task will be how best to bring so a vision to fruition without becoming capitalists ourselves. Or, maybe this is the point that we will have to radicalize capitalism, join it and work from within its husk to create and forge this new world by sloughing off neoliberalism from within just like they sloughed the left during the era from the Great Depression till now. Is this after all the true mission of the manifesto in its base scenario? Will we need to educate and train a new generation of capitalists to think like us? A radicalization of both capitalism and democracy will entail such a gambit. Is this not what we are seeing in the transformative aspects China?

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Previous post: Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Automate Architecture

1. #Accelerate# the accelerationist reader. Editors Robin Mackay & Armen Avanessian (Urbanomic, 2014)
2. Adrian Pabst. Metaphysics: The Creation of Hierarchy (Kindle Locations 946-948). Kindle Edition.
3. Teachers College, Columbia University. Aesthetics of Technology. (aestech wiki 2013)

Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Automate Architecture

“The new conquerors, who we’ll call the cyberneticians, do not comprise an organized party — which would have made our work here a lot easier — but rather a diffuse constellation of agents, all driven, possessed, and blinded by the same fable.”

     – Tikkun, The Cybernetic Hypothesis

“Everything is becoming science fiction.”

      – J.G. Ballard

Reading Luciana Parisi’s essay for the acceleration reader one realizes just how technical algorithmic discourse can become. Parisi herself has seen a great shift from the early modes of computational design based on deductive forms of reasoning and digital architectures toward more inductive and material forms in which “physical properties are said to be the motor of simulations” wherein “the local behavior of materials from which complex structures emerge” (405) are becoming central.1 Instead of computational design based on some a priori and passive acceptance of established proofs and truths this inductive path allows for process and adaptation to various data driven material influxions to drive the designs.

This form of computational design is anti-representational to the degree that it is less concerned with contemplation of the artifact and more oriented toward “action, operation, and processing” in which computation is a pragmatic effort that aligns itself with the activities of material process than as some passive datum (405). Instead of a computational model based on the notions of shaping matter, this one is guided by an inducement to follow the movement of matter, tracking it in practical functional terms, which carefully incorporates the movement of material through reflective processes back into the design in an ongoing revisionary feedback-loop.

Ultimately she tells us as a “part of the generic tendency to accelerate automation, the turn to inductive reasoning in computation does not simply aim to instrumentalise or mechanise reason and thus establish the formal condition from which truths can be delivered,  but more explicitly allows matter to become the motor of truth, to become one with the ultimately constitutive of formal reason, of the rules and the patterns that emerge in the automation of space and time” (406). Rather than a concern for the material realm per se she is more interested in the computational and automatic production of its physically induced models, and rather than simulating material behavior in itself, which she sees as a meta-biological form of computation – that continuously scans the properties of matter for data analysis – she is more interested in the process itself, the feed-back loops reinscribed into the system of the computational design as an ongoing open ended process. For her the important thing is not the design itself but rather the type of computational reasoning that is used to delimit the algorithmic processes that drive the process. She asks: What and how is algorithmic reason? The rest of the essay tries to answer that question.

One of the problems she sees within current computational design theory is its investment in a deductive form of materialist idealism in which an almost Parmedian seamless fusion of thought and matter are embraced (407). One of the things we have to admit is that there is a gap or disconnect between what algorithms do and our perception of those processes. The subject as subject needs to be pulled out of the equation: these processes are not for us. In fact they are intrinsic to the scientific image itself not to our common sense or manifest image of their properties and actions. Another thing she tells us we have to face is the notion of incompleteness, the Godel paradox; or, even Turing test of incomputability. The point being that mathematics is incomplete so that no finite set of axioms or rules can provide the perfect computational algorithm to cover all aspects of physical processes or data. There will always be something left out, an excess that cannot be computed into the equation.

What she is saying is that reality is far more complex than any mathematical algorithm we might invent to capture it or represent it can describe in representational terms: reality is for all intents and purposes unrepresentable, yet expressible in actions. All we have are probabilistic or statistical estimations, etc. This is the problem of randomness in computational design. She covers the history of this problem in detail then summarizes the basic quandary about the uncertainty or incomputability in any system (i.e., the issue that computation works within this open-incomplete system in such a way that it continuously updates, revises, and produces new axioms as part of an ongoing project that may be interminable. The outcome of this is the acceptance of a universe that is uncertain, incomplete, complex, and open-ended).

What’s interesting is her conclusions. She admits that computational design is based on the premise that a pragmatics of doing and practicing is needed actually to activate and inscribe the real processes of the world. That’s because the acceleration of automation “perfectly coincides with the technocapitalist illusion that matter can generate infinitesimal variations, an inexhaustible abundance that turns continuously smaller elements into vast resources for the productive eternity of the whole” (417).  She follows Whitehead in affirming the need for speculative form of reason that allows for encounters with finitude and limits, one that accounts for the incomputability of parts that interfere and perturb the mechanisms of the whole (419).

She also follows Whitehead in his suggestion that we cannot bind ourselves to the complete formalism of practical or sufficient reason, because as he argued “the one-to-one relation between mental cogitations and actual entities underestimates the speculative power of reason” (419). Instead of a formal or practical reason Whitehead’s speculative reason is oriented toward “final causation, and not merely by the law of the efficient cause” (420). What this entails is the acceptance of unproven ideas rather than the reliance on strict facts and data. The point being that conceptual prehensions are based on a notion of selection and evaluation that both displaces the fact beyond observation and, also, recognizes it at another level of reality (421). Speculative reason is a rule-based system that adds novelty as one of its criteria of judgment because of the very fact that we do not have access to all the facts of the case, but are bound to a whole that is always in excess of itself thereby in need of the novelty of speculative reason to obviate through indirect access what practical or formal reason cannot do through direct access to the facts of the case.

Yet, Whitehead’s notion of final cause is not to be construed as teleological in the mundane sense but rather as the affirmation of an open-ended and incomplete universe that can never be ultimate tabulated even by speculative reason. As Parisi puts it for “Whitehead speculative reason implies the asymmetrical and non-unified entanglement of efficient and final cause, and must be conceived as a machine of emphasis upon novelty” (422).

At the heart of the new incorporation of speculative reason into computational architectures, and the attendent algorithmic automation of its processes, is the accompaniment of an infinite amount of complexity that is always in an operative and optative mode of continuous update and revisioning that reveals the very axiomatic truths that are immanently enfolded into the systems it expresses in action (423). She admits that technocapitalism has already adjusted from its earlier deductive to this newer inductive mode of speculative reasoning, and that in fact it is working even now on the complexities of data and structure that will lead to the point when “automated algorithms are able to redirect their own final reason in the computational processing of infinite amounts of data” (424). This would be what so many have termed the ‘Singularity’: the moment when computational machines begin to manifest thought that appears to be aware. A post-intentional future when machines become fully aware organized beyond human intentions or affective relations, expressing only the complexity of the world without end.

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Next post: Accelerationism: Ray Brassier as Promethean Philosopher

Previous post: Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Red Stack Attack!

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Notes:

A few observations on the book so far. Maybe this is good for the specialized journals of academia but I wonder how effective it is for a book presenting the basis of a supposed movement – if we can even call it that. Accelerationism is more of a catch word, a notion around which ideas circumambulate from many domains of knowledge. For a while now Hartmut Rosa has dealt with social accelerationism in books like Alienation and Acceleration: Towards a Critical Theory of Late-Modern Temporality, Social Acceleration: A New Theory of Modernity, High-Speed Society: Social Acceleration, Power, and Modernity. Yet, I have not seen mention of her work within the accelerationist discourse along with other authors such as Stefen Breuer, Herfried Munkler, William E. Connolly, William E. Scheuerman, etc. Even in this work there has been no mention of such luminaries as Henry Adams, Georg Simmel, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, John Dewey, and, even those of the far right like Carl Scmitt. All of these precursors of accelerationism offered aspects of this theme within their own writings. It may be an oversight or maybe an ideological filter applied to their selection; or, even a blanketed preference for certain themes rather than others. Either way, it’s curious to one outside the box so to speak. As an outsider I’ve pondered accelerationism for a while but have wondered if it affords any real traction and staying power in the market of ideas being presented around the philososphere or not? Beyond a few meetings here and there I haven’t seen much real activity going on with this idea or whether it will produce any real results in the political spectrum at all. Time will tell I suppose.

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1. #Accelerate# the accelerationist reader. Editors Robin Mackay & Armen Avanessian (Urbanomic, 2014)

Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Red Stack Attack!

“How do we overcome this paradoxical era of hyped-up individualization that results precisely in the algorithmic outsourcing of the self?”

– Geert Lovink, Networks Without a Cause

“…software studies need to be open to a plurality of approaches and techniques, striving to use those tools that provide us with useful empirical material for making sense of the sociality and spatiality of code.”

      – Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge: Code/Space Software and Everyday Life

Tiziana Terranova in her essay Red Stack Attack! Algorithms, Capital and the Automation of the Common (2014) for the Accelerationist reader tells us that what is at stake is nothing less than the relationship between ‘algorithms’ and ‘capital’: “the increasing centrality of algorithms to organizational practices arising out of the centrality of information and communication technologies stretching all the way from production to circulation, from industrial logistics to financial speculation, from urban planning and design to social communication” (381).

Thinking on the above I had to remind myself of what James C. Scott Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed in his once said:

The planned “scientific city,” laid out according to a small number of rational principles, was experienced as a social failure by most of its inhabitants. Paradoxically, the failure of the designed city was often averted, as was the case in Brasília, by practical improvisations and illegal acts that were entirely outside the plan. Just as the stripped-down logic behind the scientific forest was an inadequate recipe for a healthy, “successful” forest, so were the thin urban-planning schemata of Le Corbusier an inadequate recipe for a satisfactory human community.2

In both statements above we admit to what the authors of the two-volume History of The Probabilistic Revolution the power of probability: “Probability theory appeared to provide an answer to the problems drawing inferences from data subject to a variety of uncontrolled influences and the need to find rules for theory evaluation in these circumstances. (3).3 In the matter of theory only two scientific disciplines have truly bound themselves to the probalistical and statistical constructions: physics and evolutionary biology. Yet, it is within this world of probabilistically uncertain mathematics that both quantum theory and forms of economic theory (neo-Keynseanism) would forge their tools. With the marshalling of the complexity of mathematical probabilistic and statistical equations becoming increasingly difficult for the mathematicians themselves to master the need for an alternative came about. It was out of this need that the information processing or computer age was initiated. The notion of planning anything these days is beyond our human programming capabilities: ergo – we invented algorithms to do the job for us. But algorithms inhabit not only the virtual spaces of hardware and computers, they are the engines of creation that drive our social and political domains as well, from Wall Street to the great financial institutions of Europe and Asia we’re caught in the complex web of an accelerating war of competing algorithms.

Yet, it was actually a difficulty faced by gunners in WWI that would become the engine driving the future of this whole information age. Thornstein Veblen’s brother Oswald a gunner realized the need for a better and more accurate way of firing larger artillery, and needed the help of human computers or mathematicians to do the job. As George Dyson tells it: ”

Veblen organized the teams of human computers who were placed under his command, introducing mimeographed computing sheets that formalized the execution of step-by- step algorithms for processing the results of the firing range tests. It took the entire month of February to fire the first forty shots, yet by May his group was firing forty shots each day, and the growing force of human computers was keeping up.4

But it would be one of his recruits was Norbert Wiener, a twenty-four-year-old mathematical prodigy well trained after two years of postdoctoral study in Europe , but socially awkward and discouraged by the failures of his first teaching job (KL 637-639), who would eventually discover the answer needed to calculate artillery effectively. After the war Veblen would go on to become instrumental in bringing together many of the mathematicians that would ultimately provide the knowledge base from which our digital age was first conceived. As Dyson relates it quoting Freeman Dyson: “The School of Mathematics has a permanent establishment which is divided into three groups, one consisting of pure mathematics, one consisting of theoretical physicists, and one consisting of Professor von Neumann. (KL 987)” It was in this third kingdom of mathematics as formulated by von Neumann that the digital universe was conceived and “numbers would assume a life of their own” (991).

But as Terranova will relate the universe of algorithms would not be confined to the digital universe alone but would become a part of our everyday life, becoming increasingly coextensive with processes of production, consumption, and distribution displayed in logistics, finance, architecture, medicine, urban planning, infographics, advertising, dating, gaming, publishing, and all kinds of creative expression (music, graphics, dances etc.) (382).

Algorithms, Capital And Automation

In this section of her essay Terranova will play off the notion of automation, and specifically of two types of automation – the industrial-thermodynamic and the digital electro-computational models. The industrial type gave rise to a system ‘consisting of numerous mechanical and intellectual organs so that workers themselves are cast merely as its conscious linkages’ (i.e., we’ve seen this already from Marx’s ‘Fragment on Machines’ in the reader, 55). The digital form of automation on the other hand will involve the brain and nervous system of living labor as intellectual or cognitive labor, which will unfold within “networks consisting of electronic and automatic relays of a ceaseless information flow” (383). It’s within this digital form of automation and it spatial model that she will discuss the political for any new algorithmic modes.

After describing the typical nature of algorithms (i.e., what they do, the work they perform, how they are situated within certain material and immaterial assemblages, etc.) she remarks that as far as capital is concerned “algorithms are just fixed capital, means of production finalized to achieve an economic return” just like any other commodity (385). In this sense algorithms have replaced living labor, the worker herself as the site where the temporal aspects of labor time, disposable time, etc. play themselves out. Instead of the alienated presence of the human in the machine as mere appendage driving and guiding the machine through its everyday processes, the human has been stripped out of the process altogether as non-essential or disposable and the algorithm as an abstract machine is now situated in that site.

Yet, as Terranova will remind us after Marx we must not reduce the algorithm to “use value” only, but also see it within the context of “aesthetic, existential, social, and, ethical values” (386). She will ask if it wasn’t the reduction of software to its exchange value that drove many Hackers to opt out of the strict commercial world and invent an alternative type of economics (i.e., her example: Richard Stallman and the Free and Open Source movement). In fact, she asks, isn’t this at the heart of the hacker ethic and aesthetics, this need to escape the constraints of “use value” that capital has imposed upon the software industry?

She will also remind us that we must not reduce techniques in some absolutist fashion with either ‘dead labor’, ‘fixed capital’, or ‘instrumental rationality’ but should rather understand that the reduction of labor costs that enables capital investments in technology to free up ‘surplus’ labor not for the benefit of the worker herself as free time, but as that part of the cycle of production and exchange value which is continuously reabsorbed into profit and gain for the few (the collective capitalists) at the expense of the many (the multitudes). (387)

She describes the litany of effects that this neoliberal form of capitalism has brought to fruition in the closing time or our era: global poverty, psychic burnout, environmental degradation, resource depletion, war, etc. To remedy this she offers an agreement with Maurizio Lazzarato’s notion of a post-capitalist society based on the autonomous and enduring focus on subjectification that entails not only a better distribution of wealth, but also a the reclamation of ‘disposable time’ – that is, “time and energy freed from work to be deployed in developing and complicating the very notion of what is ‘necessary’ (387)”.

Against he exploitation of the existing and corrupt profit system of neoliberal technocapitalism with its cycle of crash and burn at the expense of the many, she that with the freeing up of ‘disposable time’ we could finally fulfill Marx’s dream of the free creation of new subjectivities that could begin to reshape the what is “necessary and what is needed” (388). This is not some return to a pristine natural world but is in fact the hard work of feeding populations, constructing shelters, education, healthcare, children and the elderly, etc. What we need she tells us is new ways of achieving these goals, ways that no longer exploit for profit and gain but bind us to a ‘commonfare’ – a notion from the work of Andrea Fumagali and Carlo Vercellone: “the socialization of investment and money and the question of the modes of management and organization which allow for an authentic democratic reappropriation of the institutions of Welfare… and the ecologic re-structuring of our systems of production” (388-389).

The Red Stack: Virtual Money, Social Networks, Bio-Hypermedia

She follows Benjamin H. Bratton in developing a new nomos of the earth that links technology, nature and the human in what is termed the ‘stack’ (389-391). As she tells it the stack supports and modulates a kind of ‘social cybernetics’ able to compose ‘both equilibrium and emergence’ (390). What she describes is the notion of the stack as providing a platform that is hooked into what Williams and Srnicek will term ‘The Network’: as a ‘megastructure’ the stack becomes a cartographic device that incorporates a normative standards based verticality, and a topographical layered organization of artificial and human components both every day and digital (see the essay for details).

Against the mapping provided by Bratton she proposes an alternative she terms the ‘Red Stack’ – a new nomos for a post-capitalist commons (390). To do this she tells us we must engage three aspects of the socio-technical systems of innovation: virtual money, social network, and bio-hypermedia. Citing authors as diverse as Christian Marazzi (money as a series of signs), Antonio Negri (money as an abstract machine), Maurizio Lazzaroto (money as both exchange and as investment in alternate futures), and Andrea Fumagalli – who will ask if the money being created in the digital realms (i.e., bitcoins, etc.) as experiments in alternative exchanges offer a way to “promote investment in post-capitalist projects and facilitate freedom from exploitation, autonomy of organizations, etc.? (392). She affirms the central role that algorithms will play as both creators of virtual money and its possible, and politically inclined agent (390). A place within any plan will need to incorporate these virtual monies as part of the subjectivation process in the creation of productive subjectivities that are open toward the “empowering of social cooperation” (390).

Social networks and social plug-ins are so prevalent and use a complex set of data structures and algorithms that support the interactions within these spaces that to circumvent the strictures of capitalist modes with post-capitalist modes of use will entail both the organization of resistance and revolt, but at the same time the need for creating new social modes of self-creation and self-information. These at the moment are aligned with notions of autonomy and singularity, but could instead be linked to form new collectives, new assemblages that within the red stack would hijack existing social networks and repurpose them to promote a distributed platform for learning and education, fostering and nurturing new competencies and skills, fostering planetary connections, and developing new ideas and values (395).

Coined by Giorgio Griziotti bio-hypermedia touches on that interface between bodies and those technological devices that have become our intimate connections to the world of relations. As devices are miniaturized and mobilized, as apps become the downloadable extensions to this world of relations, we begin to enter what are becoming less virtual and more actual ‘code spaces’ as software moves from the desktop to the everyday world of objects. More and more we are in the infosphere rather like fish in the ocean, swimming in information and communications that swirl around us like so many schools of fish. As she describes it these new “spatial ecosystems emerging at the crossing of the ‘natural’ and the artificial allow for the activation of a process of chaosmotic co-creation of urban life” (396). Rather than being subsumed within the networks of consumption and surveillance as in the neoliberal order, the new post-capitalist world will open up a new ‘imaginary’ and make room for alternative forms of hardware design and applications for these collective social devices (396).

In conclusion she offers the notion that algorithms will be the base of any ongoing construction project for the commons. Not only will algorithms be a central component within The Network but will open new potentialities for postneoliberal modes of governance and postcapitalist modes of production (397). It will entail nothing less than a takeover of the very infrastructures of the current corporatized internet and repurposing it toward an open egalitarian social system that is no longer based on monetization and privatization, but rather provide a way out of the neoliberal order of debt, austerity, and accumulation (397). She tells us this is not a pipe-dream but a “program for the constituent social algorithms of the common” (397).

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In Part Two: Section Four I’ll open up toward the essays of  Luciana Parisi who deals with the speculative reason in the Age of the Algorithm. Then we’ll move on to Reza Negarestani, Ray Brassier, Benedict Singleton and Patricia Reed; along, with a final gambit or rebuttal from Nick Land in his Teleoplexy: Notes on Acceleration within this same volume.

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Next post: Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Automate Architecture

Previous post: Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Cyberlude

1. #Accelerate# the accelerationist reader. Editors Robin Mackay & Armen Avanessian (Urbanomic, 2014)
2. Scott, James C. (1998-03-30). Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (The Institution for Social and Policy St) (Kindle Locations 5777-5781). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.
3. The Probabilistic Revolution. Two Volumes. Editors: Lorenz Kruger, Gerd Gigerenzer, and Mary S. Morgan (MIT Press, 1987)
4. Dyson, George (2012-03-06). Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe (Kindle Locations 633-636). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Blind Brain Theory and Enactivism: In Dialogue With R. Scott Bakker

Adam from Knowledge Ecology and R. Scott Bakker of Three Pound Brain got together last week for a talk… Adam presents it for us… What was interesting is how close to each other their ideas converged after reading through the conversation. Obviously there are slight disagreements and nuances of metaphor and framework, but all in all a very good and amiable conversation that was indeed enlightening. Adam would say:

“As I am working my way through the meta-theoretical baggage, though, I keep finding less and less to disagree with you on at the level of the constraints you argue for, which I am coming to see I agree with you on to some extent, though these are constraints that I think put you firmly in the skeptical / transcendental tradition you’re at pains to break free from! Anyway, on my end getting through the meta-theoretical layer is important since only then can I learn how to disagree with you better (and rest assured I have a feeling the disagreement will be longstanding!)”.

Also Found it interesting for Bakker to hone in as usual carefully registering his take on what he truly means by his stance on ‘intentionality’:

“Intentional cognition is real, there’s just nothing intrinsically intentional about it. It consists of a number of powerful heuristic systems that allows us to predict/explain/manipulate in a variety of problem-ecologies despite the absence of causal information. The philosopher’s mistake is to try to solve intentional cognition via those self-same heuristic systems, to engage in theoretical problem solving using systems adapted to solve practical, everyday problem – even though thousands of years of underdetermination pretty clearly shows the nature of intentional cognition is not among the things that intentional cognition can solve!”

Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Cyberlude

“It is ceasing to be a matter of how we think about technics, if only because technics is increasingly thinking about itself. … How would it feel to be smuggled back out of the future in order to subvert its antecedent conditions? To be a cyberguerilla, hidden in human camouflage so advanced that even one’s software was part of the disguise? Exactly like this?” – Nick Land, Circuitries

 

Nick Land would go on to prophesy the future that was already emerging from its cocoon even during those blip days of the 90’s when cyberpunk was lost in the cosmos and the drift toward something beyond postmodernism lit the backfires of Rave nights with the nomad vibe-tribes, or Burning Man spin-offs gone primitive across the global inscapes of capital like so many sorcerors from a foredawn time that never was our past but rather our future influiding us in the everpresent now: bombarding us with noise, technivals, and doofs like fluid metal gatherings of darklight of the shores an inhuman abyss. An Alien Pop-Landian blazing slogans of our hypermodernity and the implosive force of alien lip traces folding around us like so many deadly kisses.

J.G. Ballard would begin a series of novels in the 90’s on the desperation and apathy of those intellectual workers of the Continent and their drift toward psychopathology and a therapy of terror and violence. These blip dogs of capital in their high-strung positions needed a remembrance of affective relations and emotions if only through the gaze of another: an excitement or agitation from the body without organs rather than its actuality, a virtual sample or datamix of emotive call signs in some semiotic paradise known as Hell. In these novels Ballard would begin a few experiments in heuristics, installations of social algorithms for a psychotic therapy:  corporate psychopaths would be freed to explore their hidden potential like clockwork dolls in a technological experiment of minimal proportions: each course of this therapy designed and tapered to their lack of motivation and apathy: aesthetic activation sequences, object-oriented feed back loops on how best to re-engineer their cognitive allocations – a cognitariat for a neo-hedonistic society of the spectacle where voyeurism is the new vampirism and the blood flows freely as the swarming eyes gaze on. Bleeding off the energy of plebians these intellectual workers and their hyperbosses flee the festival of boredom, while traveling on apathy across the slipstream night as reality-tv offers them a glimpse of capital’s dead body:  an accelerating stasis that brings movement to an  interminable void without outlet.

“The high road to thinking no longer passes through a deeping of human cognition, but rather through a becoming inhuman, a migration out into the emerging planetary technosentience resovoir, into ‘dehumanized landscapes…emptied spaces’ where human culture will be dissolved” (256).1 Land was never one to hold back the truth of these endeavors with technics, but like Ballard would affirm their psychopathological intensity and intensification, opening himself to the bladed vibrancy of their base materialism, allowing them to implant their roaming intelligences with the circuitry of his own cyborgian tendencies. Everything was developing on schedule like liquid mercury coming together in some ultimate monstrous smiley face: capital as cyborgian science and technics.

Ballard would once tell Simon Sellars that “to be a human being is quite a role to play. Each of us wakes up in the morning and we inhabit a very dangerous creature capable of brilliance in many ways, but capable also of huge self-destructive episodes. And we live with this dangerous creature every minute we’re awake” (438).2  Land, like Ballard, would look below the stream of everyday life, discover in our pathological morbidities the hidden circuits of another existence, an alien world without us, a space of compositions and decompositional strategies and intelligences that were already at work remaking our realities into configurations beyond our darkest desires. Our standardized approaches to philosophy based in its dark contours of Kant and Hegel, in Judgment rather than the circuits of algorithmic critique outside the law, were irrelevant to this new reality. “Emergent control is not the execution of a plan or policy, but the unmanageable exploration that escapes all authority and obsolesces law” (261). Land cuts against the grain, skews the liminal fractures in philosophical speculation, breaks the mold and enters the terrain of modulated frequency: aligning the algorithms that will begin executing their own programs outside any human law and building a future that was already inherent in the liminal descent of the machine.

Even our understanding of capitalism is push and pull, torn asunder not by force but by the inertia and resistance to those future powers and dispositions that flood in as efluxions and pulsations from the other ends of time. “In its early stages psychoanalysis discovers that the unconscious is an impersonal mechanism and that desire is positive non-representational flow…”, says Land (262-263). Going on to remark that at this stage everything is still situated in the “pre-critical age”, nothing as of yet defined by those little tales of Oedipus, the family romance of who killed who and why, of boys will be boys fucking their mothers and killing their fathers blah blah blah… But this is the point, isn’t it: the great man himself, Freud, the dictator of Enlightenment judgment, bringing those boys back into the habitus of civilization, under the banner of repression, leading them back into “fantasy, representation, and the pathos of inevitable frustration” caught in the trap of the psychoanalyst’s robotized chant: “of course we have to be repressed…” (263).

Wasn’t psychoanalysis capital’s first social engineering program? Were not all these little Oedipalized tales mere algorithms in a system of command and control guided by the authority of both State and the Secular Religion of Reason? Think of Anna Freud controlling all those minions her father left behind with an iron rod, sending them off to New York City to bring the mighty under the tutelage of this new psychopathology of everyday life. Like the last vanguard of a conservative thought, Freud built up his Clausewitz bunkers against future: the swarm of alien intelligences roaming the streets outside his Victorian mind. The imposition of a new order upon the modern bourgeois capitalist mentality became the order of the day in which Freud saw himself as a pure technician of the depleted soul, a scientist imposing the new Law of Oedipus upon the mass psyche to assuage the pain of this terrible truth. But underneath it all lay a problem one that Freud could not resolve: “The unconscious is not an aspirational unity but an operative swarm, a population of ‘preindividual and prepersonal singularities, a pure dispersed and anarchic multiplicity, without unity or totality, and whose elements are welded, pasted together by the real distinction or the very absence of a link” (264), says Land rephrasing the Deleuzeguattarian Anti-Oedipus.

Of course Deleuze and Guattari wrote this in the good old days of rhetorical flourishes, under the light of present need to escape the authority of both Freud and the French Freud, Lacan. It was also before the neurosciences would blow away the unconscious altogether and reveal the truth under the blinding metaphors for what they were: pure poetry of process, the movement of a cyclonic wind tunnel of thought in its lines of flight toward unrevealed truths. Yet, even in the expressionist and non-representational poetry of the day they revealed the truth of the energics of the brain and our complex relations to its mystery. Yet, in this poetry there was a hint of those biomechanical movements that would begin to lead us out of the box of modernity and its rational futurism – the romance of a technology toward total control (Fascism) –  and into the shifting or phase-shifts of a more complex socious. As complexity heated up technology broke through the light barriers and the cybernetic age was set adrift upon the wave of information and communications technologies like some accelerating elevator to the moon. The algorithmic future was imploding within and without us reengineering reality and reontoligizing us in ways we are only beginning to imagine much less cope with: this is the so called – Panic Society. On a walk with Carl Jung by the gates of a cemetery Freud would panic in fright… some say the old guy discovered the truth of thantropics that day. The abyss opened before his feet an he was afraid.

“The circuits get hotter and denser as economics, scientific methodology, neo-evolutionary theory, and AI come together: terrestrial matter programming its own intelligence at impact upon the body without organs – 0. Futural infiltration is stabilizing itself as capital opens schizo-technics with time accelerating into the cybernetic backwash from its flip-over, a racing non-linear countdown to planetary switch” (373). The Singularity is near… or is it?

Of course such a paen to technological determinism should be offset by a neo-Luddite investigation Against the Machine, but that will have to come another day… this is about accelerationism in its cyberdelia version for the moment, rather than the staid grey world of brick and mortar realism…

There are those like Robert Jackson who also offer an alternative to accelerationism Ordinaryism. He will comment on Land’s accelerationism as resuming the Enlightenment’s dictum of ‘dare to know’ – “to pursue moral knowledge under the name of rational universalism, to which the ‘daring’ or ‘cunning’ part isn’t limited to empirically tracking or modelling post-capital infrastructures, nor of resuscitating the modern ethos (quite why Enlightenment thinkers are assumed to be beloved isn’t addressed, but hey ho). Instead, their task consists in expanding human rationality beyond its current epistemic state and limit, to test the critical faculties of human knowledge, and extend them without apologising, without any dint of skepticism. That it really could demonstrate the “best means” of acting in a post-industrial society. It aims to accelerate the human mastery of the concepts as well as the technical infrastructures to which it cohabits. The human ‘we’ must be self-constructed, such that – in their words – we “collect­ively come to grasp our world such that we might change it.”” Yet, for Jackson there is another path, an alternative, as he states it “Ordinaryism is presented as what might be left over once accelerationism has finished in avenging the limits of rational concepts (and the violence in doing so), such that the ordinary always returns, inherently unwelcome, but always ambiguous. That accelerationism will be beset by the mark of tragedy, finitude and disappointment: but in ordinaryism’s eyes, this is to be accepted and resettled. Of course accelerationism, by its own definition, cannot abide disappointment: manifestos are not the best means of articulating disappointments.”

Yet, one wonders if the disappointment is not Land’s but rather the gray scapes of the left that even in their offering of manifestos backstep at every turn incorporating nothing new, but rather telling us that we should just coopt the technics and strategies, the institutions and powers of capital itself and begin to repurpose it to the left’s own teleonomic goals. But is this Marxism? Is this not reform by other means? Is this not a backdoor progressivism that is if anything envious of capital’s success, and sees that its not fair that capital should have all the fun? Oh, of course, I exaggerate, but think on it: why should we assume the corruption of capital within the matrix of The Plan and The Network as part of some Leftwing takeover? Have we truly run out of steam, lost our nerve, run out of real ideas?

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In Part Two: Section Three I’ll open up toward the essays of Tiziana Terranova, Luciana Parisi who deal with the emerging algorithmic culture and technology and its connection to accelerationism; then we’ll move on to Reza Negarestani, Ray Brassier, Benedict Singleton and Patricia Reed; along, with a final gambit or rebuttal from Nick Land in his Teleoplexy: Notes on Acceleration within this same volume.

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Next post: Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Red Stack Attack!

Previous post: Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Part Two: Section Two

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1. #Accelerate# the accelerationist reader. Editors Robin Mackay & Armen Avanessian (Urbanomic, 2014)
2. J.G. Ballard. Extreme Metaphors: Collected Interviews. Ed. Simon Sellars and Dan O’Hara (Fourth Estate, 2014)

Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Part Two: Section Two

The utopian currents of socialism, though they are historically grounded in criticism of the existing social system, can rightly be called utopian insofar as they ignore history …, but not because they reject science.”

     – Guy Debord,  Society of the Spectacle

“…the best Utopias are those that fail the most comprehensively.”

– Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future

But what of the history of the future? – Has anyone written of that territory beyond the moment: of its struggles or its failures; and, what of its successes? Who will mention a nostalgia for the future? Jameson would ask the question of culture: whether culture could be political; that is, whether it could be both critical and subversive, or is it necessarily reappropriated and coopted by the very social system it seeks to escape?1 Daniel Rosenberg and Susan Harding will remark in their Histories of the Future a sense of loss, saying, “our sense of the future is conditioned by a knowledge of, and even a nostalgia for, futures that we have already lost.”2

One remembers the Japenese film Battle Royale (2000) where civilization is in state of chaos, and violence by rebellious teenagers in schools is completely out of control. The government hits back with a new law: every year a school class picked at random will be cast away on a desert island to fight it out among themselves. The rules are simple: it lasts three days, everyone gets water, food and a weapon and only one may survive.

Ghost in the Shell (1995): Set in the year 2029 and following World Wars III and IV, a Japanese-led Asian block dominates world affairs. The alliance maintains its international supremacy through its elite security force whose cybernetically enhanced operatives tackle an array of hi-tech terrorists and other threats to international security. Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cybernetically augmented female agent, has been tracking a virtual entity known as the Puppet Master with her crack squad of security agents.

The Giver (2015): One of the big components of the 1993 novel was that, due to the Sameness of society, there was no war, no hunger, but also, no color. The receptors had been blocked, as it were, and we all saw the world in a plain, black and white. A place where euthanasia became the remedy for almost all infractions.

More and more the future becomes a site where we can dump civilizations dirty little secrets rather than as a place to test the waters of change. While we are taught to believe in the emptiness of the future, or even that no future exists, or that the future is a dead end going no-where, or, even – a catastrophe zone best left in the abyss of its own death knell, we all now live as if the future were already here: saturated by future-consciousness that permeates the spectacle around us like so many electronic toys we seem to busy ourselves with, moment by moment, not knowing that we are not only using them but they are using us back in ways beyond telling. As Rosenberg-Harding relate the “Future” is a placeholder, a placebo, a no-place, but it is also a commonplace that we need to investigate in all its cultural and historical density (9).

Cataclysms – The Future has been Cancelled

Yes, cataclysms: climate change; terminal resource depletion – water and energy shortages; mass starvation; famine; economic collapse; hot and cold wars; austerity and governmental control (Fascism); privatization of welfare and prisons; automation of even the cognitariat itself. All this will be the opening gambit of Williams and Srnicek’s #Accelerate: Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics. A Politics of Fear? or, Concern? Let us listen: “While crisis gathers force and speed, politics withers and retreats. In this paralysis of the political imaginary, the future has been cancelled.” Caput! Finito! Done! The future is no more, or is it?

Antonio Negri – scholar of Spinoza, collaborator along with Michael Hardt on a trilogy of works against the neoliberal order Empire, Multitude: War and Democracy in an Age of Empire, and Commenwealth – will tell us not to be worried about the cataclysmic events coming our way: “There is nothing politico-theological here. Anyone attracted by that should not read this manifesto.” Simple. Effective. To the point. If your looking for the Apocalypse of John be our guest and find a preacher in your local parish, for there will be no one here preaching salvation by God or any other big Other. Instead Negri will hone in on the core truth to be found in this manifesto revealed as ‘the increasing automation in production processes, including the automation of “intellectual labor”‘, which would explain the secular crisis of capitalism (365).3 As Negri explicates it the neoliberal global order is afraid: to continue they had to “block the political potentiality of post-Fordist labor (i.e., the inforgs, cognitariat, intellectual workers). Neither the left nor the right will escape Williams and Srnicek’s derision, both have become a part of the neoliberal machine because both have put an end to any opening toward the future: canceled by the “imposition of a complete paralysis of the political imaginary (366).” Negri states it simply that the manifesto offers us nothing less than the potentiality against power – “biopolitics against biopower“.(366) It is because of this new potentiality that the future has opened up again, says Negri: “the possibility of an emancipatory future radically opposed to the present capitalist dominion” (366).

For Negri the manifesto hinges on the “capacity to liberate the productive forces of cognitive labor” (366), cognitive labor being the new class or precariat within this post-capitalist project. The Fordist era of labor has shifted, there will be no return. For better or worse we are in the midst of an immaterial informational economy in which the cognitariat are workers of knowledge rather that producers of hard commodities, intellectual laborers in a game of tech patents both medical-pharmaceutical and science-tech. Negri tells us that to move forward will take decisive planning and organization: – “planning the struggle comes before planning the production” (369). It’s about unleashing this power of cognitive labor as well as tearing it from its latency (its delays) through education and learning. Next comes – as Negri states it, the most important passage in the manifesto, the notion of the reappropriation of “fixed capital” under its many guises: “productive quantification, economic modeling, big data analysis, and the most abstract cognitive models are all appropriated by worker-subjects…” (370). As for a new Leftist hegemony or techno-social body he tells us: “we have to mature the whole complex of productive potentialities of cognitive labor in order to advance a new hegemony” (371).

Negri commends them for a reinvigorating the Enlightenment project, for their humanist and Promethean proclivities; and even sees a tendency in their work as opening out toward posthuman utopian thought; yet, most of all he approves their movement toward reconstructing the future – one in which we “have the possibility of bringing the Outside in, to breathe a powerful life into the Inside” (372). Yet, I wonder if Negri reads them aright: are they humanists in the old sense? And, what of the Enlightenment: which Enlightenment is he referring too, there being multiple or plural enlightenments? I assume, Negri being a Spinozaean scholar – that he’d be more in tune with the “radical enlightenment” – as Jonathan I. Israel will tells us “the Radical Enlightenment arose and matured in under a century, culminating in the materialistic and atheistic books of La Mettrie and Diderot in the 1740s. These men, dubbed by Diderot the ‘Nouveaux Spinosistes’, wrote works which are in the main a summing up of the philosophical, scientific, and political radicalism of the previous three generations” (6-7).4 Yet, by the time of Kant a more moderate Enlightenment would oust the radicals from there place in the sun, and a compromise with the traditionalist or conservatives would be the ruination of French Revolution in the end: “Insofar as anything did, the coup of Brumaire of the Year VIII (November 1799), and the new Constitution of 13 December 1799, ended the Revolution. …The 1799 Constitution, in short, effectively suspended the Rights of Man, press freedom, and individual liberty, as well as democracy and the primacy of the legislature, wholly transferring power to initiate legislation from the legislature to the executive, that is, the consulate, making Bonaparte not just the central but the all-powerful figure in the government. The Declaration of the Rights of Man was removed from its preambule. (Israel, 694).

After Negri’s initial praise of the manifesto he discovers a flaw: “there is too much determinism in this project, both political and technological” (373). He sees a difficulty in their project, a tendency toward teleological openness which might lead to perverse effects in the end, producing a “bad infinity” if not corrected (373). To correct this tendency he suggests they need to specify in details what the “common” is in any technological assemblage, while at the same time providing an anthropology of production(375). Having been subsumed within a global information economy, one in which production is now defined by the socialization of cognitive work and social knowledge, we must also understand, Negri tells us that informatization being the most valuable form of fixed capital, and automation the cement of capital, we are all slowly being enfolding by “informatics and the information society back into itself” (375). He remarks that this is a weakness within the manifesto in that the cooperative dimension of production (and particularly the production of subjectivities) is underestimated in relation to technological criteria (375).

He argues that in the future the battles will be over the “currency of the common” (i.e., money as a type: gold, bitcoin, dollar, etc.). As he tells it the “communist program for a postcapitalist future should be carried out on this terrain, not only by advancing the proletarian reappropriation of wealth, but by building a hegemonic power – thus working on the ‘common’ that is at the basis of both the highest extraction/abstraction of value from labor and its universal translation into money” (377).

Finally, Negri reminds us that we should remember what the slogan ‘Refusal of labor’ meant: a reduction in automation and labor time “disciplined or controlled by machines”, and an increase in real salaries. Last is the nod toward a favorite theme of Negri: the production of subjectivities, the “agonistic use of passions, and the historical dialectics that opens against capitalist and sovereign command” (378). All in all a favorable review by Negri. I do like that he wants to see in the manifesto more details concerning its mapping of a transformative anthropology of the workers’ bodies (373), one that centers the relation between subject and object as a relation between the “technical composition and the political composition of the proletariat”. As Negri states it in this way the “drift of pluralism into a ‘bad infinity’ can be avoided” (374).

In the end though Negri will remind us that we need a new ‘currency of the common’: that the authors of the manifesto are well aware that money functions as an abstract machine (Deleuzeguattari) – acts as the real measurement of value extracted from society through the real subsumption of the current society by capital (377). Yet, this same process used by capital also points to new forms of resistance and subversion: “the communist program for a postcapitalist future should be carried out on this terrain, not only by advancing the proletarian reappropriation of wealth, but by building a hegemonic power – thus working on ‘the common’ that is at the basis of both the highest extraction/abstraction of value from labor and its universal translation of money” (377).

In a brief Cyberlude we’ll revisit Nick Land’s ‘Circuitries’ essay in the reader before moving on to Tizaianna Terranova and Luciana Parisi who both deal with the new algorithmic worlds of culture and technology and their impact on an accelerationist politics.

Previous post: Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Part Two: Section One

Next post: Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Cyberlude

1. Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future (Verso, 2005)
2. Histories of the Future. Editors Daniel Rosenberg and Susan Harding. (Duke University Press, 2005)
3. #Accelerate# the accelerationist reader. Editors Robin Mackay & Armen Avanessian (Urbanomic, 2014)
4. Israel, Jonathan I. (2001-02-08). Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750 (pp. 6-7). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.