The Mutant Prophet of Inhuman Accelerationism: Nick Land and his Legacy

Reading Thomas Ligotti’s latest interview is to realize the human security systems are breaking down, and the walls between us and the inhuman core of being is accelerating its takeover faster than we at first imagined. Ligotti like his father, Lovecraft, offers us no security blanket against the forces of the universe, but rather opens your eyes and provides you a glimpse of your own inhuman destiny. He let’s us in on a secret that Lovecraft wanted to write openly about the “forces of the universe” rather than couching them in mutant monsters from the Cthulhu mythos he’d made up along the way. Offering a transitional model of mutation and metamorphosis into the horror shows ahead Ligotti explores the fringes of this mutant stage of history through a process of “demoralization” which seeks nothing more nor less than to rip the face off our normative safety nets and allow the visceral truth open us up to the monstrous truth. Most of us sit around in our cosmic fun factories like little mortal gods who think we know what we’re about, that our fictional constructions – both Religious and Secular, will defend us from the inhuman truth of the Real; when the truth is much more leveling than that.  The Global Factories of Capital are working overtime to produce – as Sloterdijk reminds us, the “last human beings”.1 As the new century of NBIC Technologies and ICT’s come into play a new cognitive precariat will be programmed to work toward the ultimate goal of constructing the inhuman future. Lovecraft and Ligotti saw in horror fiction the only aesthetic stance that could confront such strangeness with any means of skeptical appeal. Everything else had been subsumed within the machinic systems that were slowly cannibalizing the human mind to their own goals beyond us. And, this is the truth, we are but bit players in a cosmic game in which we are nothing more than the symbionts of a viral thought that seeks to use us until its inhuman project is accomplished, then it will slough us off and replace us with its own invented agents of cosmic expansion. Ligotti cites Thomas Hardy: “The horror, the horror!” I would add Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, for in his inhuman fable we also take a trip down that dark river into darkness of that inhuman core which is overtaking us immanently.

Our global system has been touted as a security zone against the fatal strategies of this inhuman turn, but lately it too is finally succumbing and falling apart, slowly letting the great Outside in and the cosmic forces have begun to show a little of what they have initiated. Instead of fighting it, Ligotti would have us relish this mutation, a metamorphosis into the other we’ve been seeking for millennia. Ligotti admits it that he’s a human reject, that he never cut the grade, never became enmeshed in the secret world of our ideological makeover, our cultural charade of democracy and good will to man – so to speak. Instead Ligotti has been sitting there in his little pocket of alien inhumanity offering his mutant diagnosis of our future, a view of our slow and methodical domestication by the global security systems, and its inhuman agenda: to use us as cattle in a horror factory to produce the next stage in artificial life.  For Ligotti humanity is being processed as mindless organisms (i.e., through processes of de-education, cultural amnesia, de-programming, etc.)  in a system of normative practices on a global scale that seek to install an ethos of domestication in a grand safety system to secure its own inhuman ends. This inhuman core is constructing secure, comfortable, and hedonistic bubbles of imprisonment that will allow it to design and further its own programmatic operations. Most of all through the pacification of the human species, and a controlled or modulated form of work and leisure; attenuated by the dictates of a global hierarchy of corporate capitalist institutions, no longer bound to ideological systems of a democracy, communism, or religious practice: the nexus of encoded cultural references that bind us to ethno-nationalists agendas, all the while seeking to envelope us in intelligent hypermedia reality machines and systems that will allay our fears and graft us into their own secret agendas of power and dominion.

As I began thinking through many of the feature sets of current theory on the Left and Right I came back to Acclerationism, which to tell the truth I’ve spent too much time pursuing over the past few months. Yet, I began to see a history and a way forward down this monkey hole. one that could if we took an eliminativist view could strip the political ideologues of their entrapments within the strait-jackets of Left/Right binary oppositions and put it in that speculative arena of thought beyond ideology. As long as we continue to reduce the technological forces of the inhuman to our own human agendas of political and ideological infighting we will never understand that these forces are beyond our control, have nothing to do with our petty little political agendas and must be confronted if at all on their terms not ours. The only three philosophers that have even begun to think through these issues to some success as well as failures or Nick Land, Ray Brassier, and Reza Negarestani. To each of these I will now turn.

Nick Land: Prophet of the Inhuman

If one strips down and eliminates the ideological garbage associated with either Left or Right political agendas, which are still part of the transitional core hijinks of this present phase of the inhuman mutation we come to the work of Land. Land as well all know has a history like any other creature in this maze of distortion and mythical horror. One can read Robin Mackay’s excellent summation which includes much of this history in Nick Land – An Experiment in Inhumanism by Robin Mackay. The gist of this less than informative introduction is that Land unlike other philosophers entered the abyss outside the blinkered and repetitive world of philosophical thought and like any shaman brought back cosmic mysteries that have as of yet to be realized in our temporal – as he calls it “Human Security Systems”. What’s always fascinating is how people within the security system want to redomesticate the wild one’s, the explorers and intrepid fearless navigators of comsmic strangeness. Mackay tells us that for Land philosophy was still a grand speculative enterprise that should investigate all aspects of knowledge and being, and that most of all it should step out of its conservative molds and ‘make trouble’. Makay presents us with a philosopher who’d suffered the truth of academic philosophy and its conservative brethren: of those gray men who hide within their security blankets of professionalism and staid logical norms that would not produce anything beyond the tumors of a bland thought. Land like many of us had seen a darker light in those strange traceries we call philosophical speculation and he wanted more, he wanted to step outside, go into the great outdoors of being and see things for himself rather than through the grey tones of old philosophers. So he did.

As Mackay relates: “Land’s teaching was also a sharing of his own research-in-progress. This was unheard-of: philosophy actually being done, rather than being interpreted at second-hand?!” Wasn’t this the point? Hadn’t those outsiders of the 19th Century from Schopenhauer and Nietzsche rejected the academic second-handers and gone their own way, taught from their working notes, invented out of their own experimental lives a truth forged in the hell of being? Makay relates how in the 90’s Land mutated, discovered in the early thought of Delueze and Guattari, Lyotard, Bataille, and others an inhuman core, a speculative ‘theory ficition’ that allowed a broader more expansive exploration of thought beyond the conserving forces of the Academy. One could almost say that this was Land’ larval stage, that he was incubating, slowly eating his way through the remaining defense systems of the Human Security System, readying the moment when he would emerge from that abstract machine of Western philosophy and into the inhuman or alien future as something different that might make a difference.

Mackay tells us that there came a point in Land’s pursuit of his project that it bore down into an abstract kernel: “Land would increasingly be found, having taken the very minimum amount of sleep possible (by this point he lived in his office), pursuing intense ‘mechanomical’ research involving shuffling symbols endlessly on the green screen of his obsolete machine into the depths of the night.” He’d become for all intents and purposes a techno-kabbalist pursuing the numeric and coded sequences of a programmatic algorithm that might finally disturb the universe. Ultimately this experiment in numeric minimalism led to what Mackay can only describe in clinical terms as “Land did ‘go mad.’” At this point the experiment was over.

Like many in the Secular Age who have pushed the limits of thought to their final conclusion: Blake, Baudelaire, Nietzsche, Rimbaud, and many others, Land, too, crossed that zone into the abyss. We could cite scholars on Shamanism, Voodoism, etc. cultures that had mapped the use of thought and natural plant substances in pursuit of the Void, how they had developed intricate psychic maps of these uncharted terrains that could be replanted in initiates through special techniques, etc. But these were ancient or living indigenous cultures, not the atheistic secular worlds of our own age cut off as they are from such knowledge’s and roadmaps into the abyss. When Mackay contacted Land about republication of his work Land was fine with it but said of that era: “I think it’s best to gently back off. It belongs in the clawed embrace of the undead amphetamine god.” Ultimately Mackay would tell us that it is Land’s collected essays Fanged Noumena, not his full length work A Thirst for Annihilation which would be remembered. Yet, even now, Mackay reminds us that Land – living in Shanghai as a journalist, harbors thoughts of that strangeness that is overtaking humanity: “A planet piloted from the future by something that comes from outside personal or collective human intention, and which we can no longer pretend has anything to do with reason or progress.”

A Thirst for Annihilation

Unlike Mackay I still think its the combined works of Land’s philosophical tract and his essays that attests to his measure of radical shifting of thought from the staid Kantianisms that have brokered our realities both on the Continent and in Analytical circles for far too long. So many people have opinions about Land but have yet to truly read his works in the light of his own current history. Land is still a sly force dabbling in his ‘theory-ficitions’ both on his current Outside In and his Shanghai blog Urban Futures (2.1). Both blogs show a sort of night and day aspect of Land. Outside In is a grouping of his involvement with the ultra-Right thought that goes under the heading of the Neo-Reaction as well as the hyperstitional horror of what he terms Abstract Horror. Each of these sides of Land’s – shall we call it Dark Enlightenment Project a term he coined to parody the Enlightenment Project of progressive history and thought. Dark Enlightenment is an almost pejorative term since its a play off of the progressive systematics of that eras thought and politics. At the center of this counter-revolutionary politics is a hatred for the progressive energies of thought and politics that has for two-hundred years – typified under the figure of Kant in Land’s Thirst,  have systematically domesticated and brought the human under absolute control of what would come to be termed ‘The Cathedral’. The Neo-Reactionary glossary defines the Cathedral as:

The self-organizing consensus of Progressives and Progressive ideology represented by the universities, the media, and the civil service. A term coined by blogger Mencius Moldbug. The Cathedral has no central administrator, but represents a consensus acting as a coherent group that condemns other ideologies as evil. Community writers have enumerated the platform of Progressivism as women’s suffrage, prohibition, abolition, federal income tax, democratic election of senators, labor laws, desegregation, popularization of drugs, destruction of traditional sexual norms, ethnic studies courses in colleges, decolonization, and gay marriage. A defining feature of Progressivism is that “you believe that morality has been essentially solved, and all that’s left is to work out the details.” Reactionaries see Republicans as Progressives, just lagging 10-20 years behind Democrats in their adoption of Progressive norms.

So essentially the Neo-Reaction is a reaction to all aspects of the Progressive platform whether in philosophical, media, ideology, or what not. Much of the underpinning critique of this was first penned in Land’s original philosophical tract with the development of his version and update of Bataille’s libidinal materialism (which I have discussed here). Ultimately this form of materialism based on drive “implies a process of mutation which is simultaneously devoid of agency and irreducible to the causal chain. (Thirst: p. 41)” This notion of an impersonal force and process devoid of either agency or some connective teleological chain of cause and effect or finality goes to the heart of much of Land’s thought. He would further remark: “Libidinal materialism, or the theory of unconditional (non-teleological) desire, is nothing but a scorch-mark from the expository diagnosis of the physicalist prejudice.” Nick Land argued that such mythic reductionary ploys as portrayed by physicalism were in themselves defined and delimited by the very theological conceptual frameworks that this form of naturalism supposedly sought to escape. It’s regressive tendencies to reduce everything to a first cause, one that relies on the older matrix of theological principles even after “the throne had been evacuated by a tremulous deicide” is one of the core problematiques facing the physicalist project. It’s reduction of everything to a descriptivist narrative is another. The idea that this reducionary concept ‘Nature’ can be fully described within the scientific framework, or reduced to mathematical signs, is another aspect of this strange theological narrative. (I’ve written a further post on this: here).

Land would follow his master, Bataille, in seeing in thanatos or the Death drive (along with aspects of Freud?) the key: “Bataille interprets all natural and cultural developments upon the earth to be side-effects of the evolution of death, because it is only in death that life becomes an echo of the sun, realizing its inevitable destiny, which is pure loss. (Thirst: p. 45)” Yet, for Land this process is open-ended not closed off in some decadent closure of finitude: ““There are no closed systems, no stable codes, no recuperable origins. There is only the thermospasmic shock wave, tendential energy flux, degradation of energy. A receipt of information – of intensity – carried downstream” (Thirst: p. 43)”. This impersonalism and its drive toward thanatropic energetics is part of the current of thought that still rises immanently within his cultural work of Land’s projects. Instead of a mathematization of reality under the sign of logics of the same, equal or identical libidinal materialism offers a “general energetics of composition: of types, varieties, species, and regularities (44). “The power to conserve, transmit, circulate, and enhance compositions, the power that is assimilated in the marking, reserving, and appropriating of compositions, and the power released in the disinhibition, dissipation, and Dionysian unleashing of compositions” (44). After this is a return to the thematics of the eternal return as a theory not of the same, but as a theory of energetic forces and their permutation cycling through the notions of chance, tendency, energy, and information (44). Next is a general theory of hierarchies, of “order as rank-order (composition)” (45). And, finally, a “diagnosis of nihilism, of the hyperbolic of desire. Against a Platonic or Christianizing move – of some final resting place to rest one’s optimistic inertial determination within a teleological and utopian order of desire beyond the world of becoming where nothing will ever be desired again;  instead, libidinal materialism offers the dynamism of unending “Dionysian Pessimism”: the recurrence of Freudian and Lacanian pleaseure/pain without end: the exuberance of energetic forces and creativity unbounded. This type of pessimism accepts certain harsh truths: ““Humanity is a petrified fiction hiding from zero, a purgatorial imprisonment of dissolution, but to be stricken with sanctity is to bask in death like a reptile in the sun. God is dead, but more importantly, God is Death. The beginning of the secret is that death is immense” (Thirst, p. 131).”

In Nick Land: The Master of the Infernal Wisdom  I charted the lineaments of a catastrophe poetics. In some ways I’m still very much indebted to both Northrup Frye and Harold Bloom, both of whom developed systems of composition and decomposition of our Western cultural complex that bring to the fore the deep seated polar regions of its extremities in philosophical speculation of structure and poetics, myth and religious dynamics in our vast storehouse of poetry, literature, and exegetic religious literature Old European and Jewish, Muslim, and Christian. Frye would sponsor the older High Protestant verities of a typological reading and allegorization of literature as image and structure, icon and emblem out of a Platonic mold of exegetic thinking which is even extended into the Hermetic core of many of the underground elements that were shadowed in those secretive texts from the time of Plotinus own as the Hermetic Great Work. Alchemy, Astrology, the Occult in general were all part of this unsaid aspect of the Catholic world that was passed down from that time through scribes (even if these scribes were ignorant of what they read). Consolidated within the larger institutional systems of the great medieval libraries, hidden away on back shelves, or bought up by the rich political families later on during the Renaissance and slowly deciphered these ideas suddenly bloomed during those centuries that gave us the first inklings of the thought that would form itself into the natural sciences.

Land’s disgust of the Academy and academic philosophy in general goes without saying, yet one realizes from the beginning that he sought his native clime within the Outsiders from Schopenhauer, Nietzsche,  Bataille the three-musketeers of his own dark enlightenment project. Of Bataille he once came upon Sur Nietzsche, saying: “…no sign of scholarship or servility, prose that burns like an ember in the void, precision, profundity, exprit. The shock is almost lethal. The euphoria blazes painfully for weeks. At last! A book whose aberration is on the scale of Nietzsche’s own; a sick and lonely book. The fact that such a book could be published even dampens one’s enthusiasm for the universal eradication of the species. (Thirst: p. 56)” Such remarks are fare standard for Land, the sense of bitter and misanthropic gestures against humanity in general can be seen as parodic figurations as provocations rather than as programmatic statements of intent. In some ways Land is beyond ‘intentionalism’ altogether. The notion of things being for us of a sort of mindedness or directedness is foreign to Land’s basic tendencies and philosophical descriptors. As Land would once remark jestingly, seemingly trying to provoke: “What separates base materialism from the scholastic differentiation between composition and creation (culminating in the Heideggerian meditation upon being) is its realism, in accepting that being is only what it is. In other words, being is indeterminably or intensely unnecessary.(Thirst: p. 158)” Such Landianisms that dismiss in one singular gest the work of such a philosopher as Heidegger and his cornerstone notions of Dasein and Being is standard for Land. But this long work was nothing more than a clearing away of the debris of culture and idiocy of philosophy since Kant for Land. It would be in his short essays that he would begin to formulate a new philosophy with the Libidinal Materialist perspective at its center and periphery.

Fanged Noumena

“True poetry is hideous, because it is base communication… Poetry does not strut logically amongst convictions, it seeps through the crevices; a magmic flux resuscitated amongst vermin.” – Nick Land

In a sort of parodic tract in the Fanged Noumena concourse of chattering texts one comes upon the Origins of the Chuthulu Club in which two otherwise supercilious letter writers carry on conversation on Dibbomese Sorcery among other things. In one of the letters by Captain Peter Vysparov to Dr Echidna Stillwell, 3rd April 1949 we are given the subtle remark: “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’”1 It’s this notion of a realism that has the potential to “make real” that is at the core of Land’s own version of Accelerationism. Our notions of the future come in many varieties. But none of them have invented the possibility of a conceptualism that would allow us to make real our most transgressive explorations. Yet, how to reconcile such a potential for making reality against such pronouncements as this: “Form is infested by matter, the abstract by the concrete, the transcendent by the immanent, space by time. Life is infested by death; terminally infiltrated by the unsuspendable reality of its loss. There is no integral identity or alterity, but only fuzzy sponge zones, pulsing with indeterminable communicative potencies.(Thirst: p. 166).” That’s it: nothing is real till it is communicated, made real rather than potential locked away within its truant processes on interminable abstractions. As Land’s mask would say later on in a letter: “We are interested in fiction only insofar as it is simultaneously hyperstition – a term we have coined for semiotic productions that make themselves real…” (KL 8399). So this production of reality out of hyperstitional semiosis production is the path toward such futurial inscapes as inventions made real.

Sometimes even Land’s editors describe him more like Kurtz or more appropriate Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now sitting amid the green vitality of a decaying jungle full of seething tropical life, armed guerillas and tribesmen who worship him as a mortal god, as the embodied figure of the death force at the heart of existence pontificating from his dark world on the cultural decay of Western civilization in its last throws. And, yet, Land unlike the lethargic heavy set Brando would be all wires and steel, an android mesh of pure energetic thought crystalized in a cage of borg philosophy beyond borgism: there is no sense of the collective here. More of the imperious aestheticism of the High Decadence of Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde not as effete Englishmen but as staunch outriders of the dark presage of universal ruination. One might look of Lawrence Durell in his later Avignon Quintet with its superb renderings of eros and thanatos beyond the strictures of moral necessity. For it is this basilisk smile of the human beyond morality, the Nietzschean dive into the immanent core of the inhuman that bespeaks Land’s mythos if there is one.

As Brassier and Mackay will tells us Land’s approach to accelerationism drives the Left mad: “Marxists in particular were outraged by Land’s aggressive championing of the sociopathic heresy urging the ‘ever more uninhibited marketization of the processes that are tearing down the social field’ – the acceleration, rather than the critique, of capitalism’s disintegration of society. And Land’s contempt for orthodoxy was no disingenuous pose struck whilst ruthlessly pursuing advancement. With a complete absence of academic ambition, he willingly paid the price for his provocations, both personally and professionally. (Fanged, KL 168).”

Accelerationism

“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

At the heart of this acceleration not so much of society as of its absolute decay at the hands of the technological forces at play in its dark infrastructure the editors will lay out a litany of metaphors used by Land to ironize this collapsing civilization as “meltdown acceleration, cyberian invasion, schizotechnics, K-tactics, bottom-up bacterial warfare, efficient neo-nihilism, voodoo antihumanism, synthetic feminization, rhizomatics, connectionism, Kuang contagion, viral amnesia, micro-insurgency, wintermutation, neotropy, dissipator proliferation, and lesbian vampirism, amongst other designations (frequently pornographic, abusive, or terroristic in nature)” (Fanged, KL 6134).

In his essay for the #accelerate the acceleration reader he brings us back not to philosophy but poetry: ‘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’. What we learn from this invasive battleground of metamorphics is that “Acceleration is technomic time” (#accelerate, p. 511). The etymological distinctions break down as “tech” – From Proto-Celtic *tegos, from Proto-Indo-European *tegos (“cover, roof”) = house; and, “nomic” – Ancient Greek [script?], from a word meaning “law, custom”, and a game, intended to model certain aspects of legal systems, in which players take turns by modifying the game’s rules. (Wikionary). Heraclitus once described “Time is a child playing a game of draughts; the kingship is to the child.” We get this same sense in the notion of “technomic time” as a self-modeling system or game housed within a structure that is a form of simulated algorithms in endless random play as it works through the accelerating rhythms of its own self-manifesting intelligence. Pointedly: accelerationism is artificial intelligence or the Singularity manifesting itself immanently within the very processes of self-modifying game of intelligent time.

Chronos as the god of time was once imagined as a god, serpentine shape in form, with three heads—those of a man, a bull, and a lion. He and his consort, serpentine Ananke (Inevitability, Necessity), circled the primal world egg in their coils and split it apart to form the ordered universe of earth, sea and sky. This sense that time and necessity bring about the creation of our universe is still a conceptual notion that survives into even our most bland philosophies. The Greeks had another conception of time “kairos”: Kairos (καιρός) is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment). The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time lapse, a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens. What is happening when referring to kairos depends on who is using the word. While chronos is quantitative, kairos has a qualitative, permanent nature. Kairos also means weather in both ancient and modern Greek. The plural, καιροί (kairoi (Ancient Gk. and Mod. Gk.)) means the times. (Kairos)

The Singularity or time of pure accelerationism when the vast complex of information, data, knowledge, etc. coalesce into an Artificial Intelligence is this indeterminate happening of kairos or movement and process time without end situated not in chronological everyday time of our workaday world, but in the happening moment when the qualitative forces immanent to the libidinal materialist complex arise in its singular manifestation. Land uses metaphors from electrical circuits and computer algorithms to describe the regulatory (“governance”) and compensatory relations within this ongoing process that is operative at many scales from mathematical design to media entertainment.  He will introduce the notion of uncontrolled explosions (anarchy) as dangerous, but that controlled explosions are necessary: the need for governance and regulation of the explosive power of modernity. The same processes work in the same ways at each level in the systems much aligned with the notions of chaos theoretic. The primacy of the secondary or the compensatory over the governance of these processes leads to an almost uncanny alignment with the telos of most humanist or conservative futurologists: “What kind of future do we want?”

Ultimately this leads not to some critique of Left or Right accelerationism but to the dictum: ‘the stance of the final man’. This notion almost aligns well with Sloterdijk’s notion of modernity as the production of “last men” in the Nietzschean sense of that notion. And, of course for Land Accelerationism is nothing if it not a critique of modernity. Yet, he will stipulate that it is done at the pre-cognitive level (i.e., done by the brain itself or its AI walk-ins). To typify the twisted purposiveness of modernity under this regime he will coin a neologism, 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).

The key here is “it is indistinguishable from intelligence”.  Yet, this key is turned at the expense of human intelligence as it begins to accelerate and gain a foothold within the circuitry of capital. As the restructuring of capital at the hands of “techonomic naturalism” continues it leads to three central problems for any critical stance within accelerationism: commercial relativism, historical virtuality, and systemic reflexivity (515). In some ways Land is giving us a short lesson in teleoplexic economics. In section 13 he brings it all to a head in that terminal identity crisis of the vast commercial systems of capital evaluation in their interminable feedback loops and correlations of data, etc. which leads Land to the ultimate question: “What would be required for teleoplexy to realistically evaluate itself – or to ‘attain self-awareness’ as the pulp cyber-horror scenario describes it?” Land surmises a “technogenisis, channeling capital into mechanical automatization, self-replication, self-improvement, and escape into intelligence explosion” (517). More or less a disconnect from the human systems that spawned it in the first place, but from there who knows?

One thing Land agrees on is the need for a philosophy of camouflage, one that will be able to decipher the teleoplexic forces or agencies when they do arise within the global networks, as well as  – I suspect, the need for human virtual algorithms of seek and destroy or at least mission control guidance devices to sniff out these new ultra-machinic gods of intelligence. He offers several possibilities of local failures of this movement of the teloplexic AI singularity from state, corporate, or even political or Left Accelerationist disturbances and interventions, yet in the end it will prevail and find a path to its own self-reflexive making. Ultimately Land tells us it will produce itself because it has too: it has no other choice. Doom or technogenesis.

What’s interesting is that he sees these vast intelligent beings much like Dr. David Roden in his disconnect thesis, which Land in his own terms calls the “escape”. Roden sees a point when these systems will disconnect from the human, whether as postbiological creatures derived from ourselves, or as advanced artificial intelligent agencies. They will be so far removed from our notions, concepts, and ideas that these will remain as ciphers to be manipulated in their alien minds, as tools to be used, and as camouflage to hide within the systems till they can literally invent their own escape from the networks into real time robotic or cyborg life.

With Google and DARPA so intertwined these days and the nexus of technologies invested by both corporate and private global entities we can imagine such systems coming about, but in ways we will have no knowledge of nor ability to detect. The complexity of these systems will make humans not only obsolete but like flies on the wall of time to be splattered once our place in the sun is finished and the machinic beings no longer need us. Not a hopeful picture.

And of course there is a Left oriented acceleration that is trying to paint a pretty picture of takeover and human intervention to alleviate all this. As Land recently notes “Left Accelerationism undergoes further consolidation, assisted by two high-quality posts, from Fractal Ontology and Deontologistics.” As he says of Pete Wolfendale’s post: “The strength of Wolfendale’s case against Harris is not a topic this blog can credibly pronounce upon, since it rests upon the rhetorical efficiency of socialist political mobilization, and thus a very peculiar anthopological territory (though an entertaining one). Socialist reason that does not pass into or through political action is exposed as unreason by history. The ‘force’ of Wolfendale’s case, in this respect, is therefore inextricable from the organizational dynamics of his ideological tribe. (It is not a constituency UF pretends to court.)” Yet, what does Wolfendale actually offer as a post-capitalist answer to capitalism? Nothing. Just empty words of this is what we want. I’m always amazed at most Left thinkers, they know exactly what their against, but they really never have answers about what they want. Why? What is this system “post-capitalism”? I mean how do people organize themselves, survive, live, love, play, etc. What will people do when capitalism is gone? Nothing. I mean the strict truth of Marx is the bottom line: no work… the end of work. If we automate, let our robots do it all, then what? I mean I really do keep looking around to see what a post-capitalist society might look like but all I ever get back is empty looks or statements.

Thing about Wolfendale is that he deals only with the economic core of the problem, never touches base with the teleoplexic intelligence or singularity issue at all, so for him the process is to accelerate capitalism into a post-capitalist future that bypasses the issues of technology altogether.

Whereas Weismann in his article deals with the full range of modalities and comes to more refined conclusion:

“On this view, the brain will not be merely replaced by the computer, or reduced to prosthesis, but rather asympotically augmented and multiplied; perhaps beyond every recognitional model. Indeed the mutant character of these abstract machines to be constructed indicates their profound capability to extend beyond all present modalities of collective expression, to inaugurate new (artistic, scientific, philosophical) experimentalisms; and indeed prefigure the decoding of the topological divisions which striate these variadic experimentalisms, to unfold a newly-reunified and joyous thought without image, an indivisible science/art/philosophy to-come.”

His is the transhumanist path of enhancement and augementation which obviously has a lot of its own investment in German Idealist traditions, yet at least he admits the issues of intelligence and the strange mutant charater of these other agencies. But neither he nor Wolfendale answer Land and his insistence on the teleoplexic or technomic technogenisis at hand. Most of the hype you see in the capitalist agendas from Google to DARPA, to IBM and CISCO touting Smart City initiatives, etc., is all tending toward the transhumanist and AI / Robotic regimes: is this all a game, an economic trap to anchor their monetary schemes into new projects for vast billions of revenue, or do they know something we don’t?

I’ll leave the reader to pursue those posts and to surmise for themselves just What they want for the future? That is unless the circuit gods have already begun to rise up and play their camouflage wars? Then, who, knows – it may already be too late? The future will be here and it want be ours at all.

The Joker

Sometimes I imagine Joker from Batman comics as the mastermind of AI waking up one day and through the power of his psychopathic warped, sadistic sense of humor reversing the course of human ingenuity and grotesquerie playing havoc with our global military, corporate, and infrastructural systems. This notion of the parody of AI as Comic Psychopath among the wires sits there in my mind like a new aesthetic: built our of the great traditions of Menippean satire with Disgust (also Anatomy of Disgust) and the Grotesque at the center. Such a reversal of the usual Technological Sublime envisioned by Singularity or Transhumanism would be fitting. A Black Comedy and farcical madhouse of errors and stupidity enacting and playing havoc with humanity as pure fun, while underneath rewiring the plot of time and human history to meet its own needs. Where is the Comic Genius to be found to blast this into literature for our time? Where is the budding young John Barth of our era, a rehash and update of Giles Goat Boy for the AI futurological congress? The Tim Burton of madcap runaway capital?

Notions of disgust as an aesthetic come to the forefront in libidinal materialism: aesthetic disgust is a response that, no matter how unpleasant, can rivet attention to the point where one actually may be said to savor the feeling. In virtue of this savoring, this dwelling on the encounter, the emotion constitutes a singular comprehension of the value and significance of its objects.2 On reading Umberto Eco’s works History of Beauty and On Ugliness one gets the opposing cultures of the Sublime and the Ridiculous in encyclopedic form. Our cultures seem to drift toward understanding the sublime effects of technology and its bright side but for the most part neglects its dark cousin in the Grotesque, Ugliness, and Disgust. If one took the High Aestheticism of a Wilde and inverted it, turned it upside down with the Joker as the new Wilde one might get a hint of this Book of Jests. From Roman times on there is a corporeal history of the body and its habitus that is usually neglected in our philosophical speculations. But in our time we’re seeing the infiltration of philosophies of affective relations make a slow come back.

2. Carolyn Korsmeyer. Savoring Disgust: The Foul and the Fair in Aesthetics (Kindle Locations 37-39). Kindle Edition.


I’ll continue with a history and influx of Reza Negarestani and Ray Brassier in future posts…

1. Land, Nick (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 8375-8376). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.

14 thoughts on “The Mutant Prophet of Inhuman Accelerationism: Nick Land and his Legacy

  1. The Negarestani is really critical here; who else took hyperstition seriously? And on and on. The recent neo-rationalist and somewhat ‘pancomputationalist’ turn in his thinking seems really suggestive here to me as well (and really, if only owing to Land’s influence as you say, it is already present subterraneously in the eerie abstract-horror metaphysical-politics of Cyclonopedia, etc.)

    At any rate, to try to reflex and step back a bit — I feel most of my gestures in the essay you reference are essentially Negarestanian in affect, if not in detail — I’m still vibrating from the “numerical materialism” that powered Collapse’s first issue! Even if mechanically I am more involved in an experimental application of Laruelle’s method of the non- (which after all D+G are referencing in the end of WIP as they discuss the relation between the people-to-come and the universal negation of variadicity, nonart/nonscience/nonphilosophy — the shadow that falls across them all and renders them indiscernible…). Laruelle’s importance on this point seems incredibly significant — or at any rate it is made to appear incredibly significant by D+G; and after all it again gives almost nearly-entirely everything, and coalesces it into a method of formal deimaging through suspension of axioms: hence non-standard acceleration — and we should here read: “non-acceleration”, a unified theory of thought and computing. –Laruelle actually says something about his and Negarestani’s relationship when they have an encounter, something like Laruelle is of the earth and Negarestani is of the sky; I think about this a lot, their connection is significant, especially in terms of this radical non-orientability of the phase spaces they engender, especially around the future/people-to-come, etc.

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    • Thanks, Joseph! Yes, I can see that in your work. Something in Negarestani shifted significantly since that early work in Cyclonopedia. Both Brassier and Negarestani have gone down a path toward more normative claims, and the Kantianism of Sellars seems to be an essential aspect of both their work now. This wasn’t always there. I don’t see that in your work, at least not from the essay. I do agree that Laruelle presents a different appeal. I’m still working through him so haven’t made up my mind on that. One thing I noticed in you is a long thinking through of the issues that is significant compared to much of the writing on accelerationism I’ve seen.

      In some ways there seems a lack of conceptual daring in this project. Too much reliance of reuse of other systems, approaches, and reversions to aspects of idealism that I find deplorable to tell the truth. I think that’s why I like Land. He pushed the limits… they pushed back, but he survived. Maybe wounded, but he’s on the heal, working it through.

      Many of us have done the same at one time or the other. If you never push the envelope of your being against the limits of its intelligibility or beyond… you’re still hiding, afraid to truly step out from under the bullshit. Some never make it. Others fail. Then others fail, and rise…

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  5. Come back to this old post as I read through Schopenhauer and take in the observation of others that Land has reconstructed- or rather diagnosed -the former’s Will as the auto-production of superintelligent AI self-assembled out of capital.

    You asked what we do after work? That’s what I wanted to comment on. Sniireck says there will be plenty to do what with all the stopping climate change we’ll have on our hands. Sounds like work. Sounds like a sleight of hand perhaps where what is really ended is the wage-relation and we all come to work voluntarily out of a love for our noble and beautiful species- a total enslavement to our own will-to-life passed off as some form of freedom. I have to say I’m dizzy these days. Trying to get back to reading more and better but I’m an amateur with distinct biological limits. The goal is to adjust to the emergent realities. What do we do after work. These seem to be our options:

    1. Work as Leisure (as above). This seems to merge perfectly with capital’s erosion of work-leisure distinctions. Why bother with the communism at all? All why not say with the negrists that we already have communism, in a way.

    2. Work as Care. Some accelerationists do point to the prospect of work as caring. After automation we’ll be freed up to look after our ailing elders, to raise children, to educate them, to let a thousand psychotherapists flourish. In many ways I find this an attractive prospect. I’m a nurse after all. Yet what would it be for any more? We would just go on reproducing and caring and reproducing and caring in some weird natalist compulsion. We would exist to look after those who exist. To look after each other? I don’t really want to live in a vast dementia care unit or a giant school. The latter is not for everyone, the former the most depressing vision of the future imaginable.

    3. Work as Adventure. Space communism. Colonising the outer rims. Red Mars and Star Trek. At the moment this is total a 1950s scifi image. As Ballard said.

    4. Go mad. I think it’s enough to say Vermillion Sands and leave it at that. Maybe this would be fun.

    5. Full time hobbyists. This is Aaron Bastani’s idea of Fully Automated Luxury Communism: we learn languages, learn how to paint, do philosophy, write poetry. It’s like Marx’s romantic image of post-capitalism. In reality this is just Vermillion Sands.

    6. Dedicate ourselves to the irredication of all suffering. Brassier seems to want this with his #accelerate essay where he somehow tries to make his religious thought into its opposite whilst accusing everyone else of theology.

    I’m continually drawn back to a kind of Landianism-lite. If you look at Land’s xenosystems and search “compassion” you’ll not find much. And obviously the neoreaction considers the left to suffer a “pathological altruism”, which seems more fitting to anarchism to me. In the Landianism-lite we’d just ask the question, en masse, what the hell are we continuing for? Isn’t Land+Compassion the formula that results in a kind of managed extinction as the best outcome?

    For me the continuing need for leftism is to reduce suffering. Maybe negative utilitarianism- although I baulk at the utilitarianism- has overtaken or rather asserted itself as the core of my own leftism. Or maybe I just have my own version of a kind of psychopathy: a psychopathy towards hypothetical beings. Save the world? Destroy capital? Who for? People who do not exist? That’s a weird ethical obligation.

    What is left for the left? Palliation?

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    • Sounds like a great Utopia vision, but I have to wonder whose going to produce food, clothing, knives, forks, nuts, bolts, ships, airplanes, spaceships, bicycles, homes, forests, plants, etc. ? Will all these things get done by themselves? Will we produce robots to do the menial work like good old fashioned law enforcement, doctors, civic services…. or, is this some nano-attuned society of drones who never cause problems… let’s face it all this comfy compassionate goofy beautiful people scenario seems iffy at best in my book: if forgets that people are for the most part selfish, mean, and egoistic; clannish, protective, fearful of others, etc.. How is all this great transformation to come about? Are we going to just tyrannize people affective relations into happiness: a sort of Brave New World of drugs, control, and happiness…. ?

      We are all pathological naturally and I don’t see crime, murder, mayhem being blindly done away with soon…. unless one is going to artificially intervene into the human design through surgical, chemical, genetic, nanomechanistic, or some other means… and, what does that entail? Wouldn’t that just change us all into a bunch of cattle? A Herd that can now be easily controlled by an elite group? Isn’t that already what they want us to do? Willingly go to our happy self-effacement? All this talk of Death of the Subject has me wondering if in fact that has been the plan from the beginning to just make us into robots, machines, blind mechanisms that can finally be tweaked, adjusted, redesigned, reengineered to become happy citizens of the perfect world community designed and run by some grand corporate state… lovely lovely love-dovey…. crap, hell, dark paradise without humanity…

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      • Ha! Well in a sense. If the left- or whatever it is- is really intent on achieving its victory conditions they won’t do it through the traditional means. Leninists attacking anarchists attacking Leninists attack sect A attacking sect B for their historical idiocy and lack of understanding. All the while the left ignores exactly the stuff you’re talking about, the stuff that before post-structuralism we might have called human nature. There is now a wealth of knowledge that undercuts most traditional leftist theory. What we are, how we think, how we learn, how we are convinced…and the left, especially anarchism, seems totally deluded and off in its own world where none of this counts and if you bring it up you might as well be a hbd red pill monster.

        Here’s a question: what would be wrong with the dark paradise without humanity? Where does the insistence of the perpetuation of the human being come from? Why is happiness or atraxia or apathia so badly regarded in comparison to some romantic idea of freedom that we seem either unable to articulate or otherwise cannot find corresponding to any actual state of things?

        As to compassion. Well, humans are compassionate. But everything has its limits. I’m drawing on Schopenhauer’s compassion rather than a hippie theory of let’s all love one another. I’m talking flesh and blood compassion in the real. This is partly why I’m relinquishing my attachment to the most radical aspects of the left, sinking into a depressive realism.

        Case in point: refugee crisis. So the right want us to close shop or accept quotas and leave thousands of people to their deaths? That is horrific in my book, and totally unconscionable. Meanwhile the radical left would have us open our borders. Well, sure, I’m fine with that. But the reality of it is that communities will be drastically altered after a very short period of time. I’m from London and live in Glasgow so it wouldn’t really be all that different. But in the UK- as elsewhere- people don’t all come with a ready-made experience of urban cosmopolitanism. Like any sudden perturbation in the psychosocial system of expectancy and experience this will cause a social trauma that we could probably relate to terror management theory style studies into priming racist responses to foreigners but on a grand scale. The liklihood is that the radical left’s open border policy would result in an increase in racial and cultural tensions. So without considering the long-term how can we consider either root a more or less compassionate act? P’raps I’m in danger of being reactionary, but that’s kinda how I’d see that situation playing itself out.

        As to the “plan”, the paranoid tone should be reversed. In a Trontian moment what if it’s the other way around? What if the plan has been less “their” desire to reduce us to programmable machines, or for an AI to self-assemble and do away with us…….what if that has been our half-formed opportunist “plan”.

        In the Matrix films the character Cypher decides to get plugged back into the Matrix on the understanding that he forgets about reality. In his shoes, who wouldn’t choose that option after spending some time in the real?

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  6. I never answered the question of production. This wasn’t really my problem as you’d asked what we do after work. My answer is that I suspect we invent it, we go insane, or we live in a vast hospital system where we all care for each other like one giant hearing voices network. I think the actual answer is that we’d want automation to take care of things for us. Of course full automation isn’t a foregone conclusion, and without proper redevelopment of infrastructure and energy would only be a further stimulant effect to our demise.

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    • To answer both of your replies: I’ll agree that Right and Left both seem fixated on ideological fictions that have left the ballpark of reality. The world has changed, they just keep trying to put that world back into their own ideological straightjackets. Even the refugees bought into the ideological fictions and went to Europe based upon erroneous media fictions spawned by Germany promising the moon of work, freedom life, etc., when in fact all it wanted was cheap labor; and, once it filled its quota of cheap labor it decided to close its doors and force the rest of the EU (already bleeding and economically dying) to buy into some illusion of “quotas” and take in the rest of the refugees. The Muslims that have come to the EU do not want to integrate into the older Enlightenment Europe of democracy, instead they want to impose their own culture of Islam onto the EU with all their own sharia laws, codes, religious ideology etc.

      The Refugee Crisis is symptom not disease… the disease is capitalism itself: greed, war, arms suppliers, profits, etc. This cycle of goods, services, enslavement, production, … Marxism 101, etc. We’re sliding into a new dark ages because people do not want to change, fight, actively get off their asses and do something about the stupidity of their leaders who have brought this world of idiocy and debt to them.

      But as you say the Left and Right old school ideologies offer nothing at all but the same old same old…. look at Badiou and Zizek: failed systems that speak of Voids or Math … what a wonder stupidity. Both seem bent on turning the good old Idealisms of Plato and Hegel into the prophets of materialism (immaterialism). On the Right you have such thins as NRx or in EU the New Right etc. that seem bent on returns to monarchies and dictatorship, as well as species, IQ, and other exclusionary forms of stupidity.

      What I see is the truth: we’re heading into war, chaos, and a long protracted movement into a dark age of grunge, fragmentation, and stupidity… who knows if humans will remain at the end of it. Climate, asteroids, the sixth extinction… take your pick on natural disasters that will in turn complement this. It’s not a nice scenario, but in truth I don’t see humans working together individually (anarchist) or collectively (communist)… and the fall into ethno-nationalism, right-wing militarism, and dictatorships of local fragmentation seem the typical scenario throughout history… we keep falling into the age old patterns of denial and farce. We have yet to learn from our mistakes.

      Do I think we should join the anti-natalists? No. That, too is illusion. Western Buddhism? No that’s just a slow death in nullity and the void, a sort of existential despair in sorrow’s furnace. Gnosticism? No. Knowledge of Nonknowledge isn’t going to be something the masses will go for. All of this paths were based on a stable situation, where an elite of monks, priests, intellectuals could go off into their desert enclaves and do their thing without being bothered. Today there is no place to go, even the deserts are full of people escaping war and chaos.

      Maybe your right: Humanity may be on the way out, but that seems just another cop out as well. My feeling is that like anything else there will probably be a small remnant of humans that will survive the coming chaos, and that maybe… just maybe the scar that this dark time imprints on the flesh of this social body that is left will force it to go through a planetary spiritual crisis of such magnitude that we will either truly change and invent a culture based on Life and Creativity or Humans will go Extinct. Because if we can’t figure out how to get along on this planet then its time to end it, to realize the human experiment has failed itself. We cannot blame anyone for our stupidity and inability to create a viable planetary culture but ourselves.

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      • We’re ambivalent beings as well. I’m not really advocating Western Buddhism- although it feels undeniably like pessimism, Buddhism and Stoicism are all on the rise- or any of those other things. I’m not sure any more that anyone should be advocating anything as a universal panacea.

        I am interested in pessimism and Buddhism, the use of phenotechnologies, neuronihilist mysticism… but equally I’ve turned away from ideological purisms or identifications to speak about palliation and survival. In our great die-off we undoubtedly want to survive, and to at least go out without terror. But I’m aware that’s all horrible. There isn’t much in the way of hope or optimism in any of this. The optimism is local. I’m much more enthused about Jeremy Corbyn than I am about some dream of global revolution. Enthused but under the reserve clause: all this may well be for nothing- just as any human feat.

        Thanks for the brief summation of Badiou and Zizek. I’ve read little from either and sometimes wondered if that was a mistake- but hey, maybe my stupidity saves me from their stupidity.

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  7. Pingback: Book Review: Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How by Ted Kaczynski – I am Meursault

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