“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?
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.
Previous post: Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Part Two: Section Two
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)