What shall we do with time? – Ray Brassier
Ray Brassier in the Accelerationist Reader which I’ve written about in another post will offer a critique of the theological underpinnings of Jean Pierre-Dupuy’s antagonistic stance against the new “convergence technologies” (NBIC). Dupuy in his defense would rely on Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition which was itself influenced by Martin Heidegger’s notions of Dasein and Kant’s insight into finitude. Without going back over all this in detail I only want to go back to the heart of Brassier’s argument which dealt with Dupuy’s insistence that a balance or equilibrium must be maintained between the made and the given otherwise the dreams of reason may spawn monstrosities and introduce a disequilibrium into existence. Against such a notion Brassier will state:
What I want to suggest is that it is precisely this assumption of equilibrium that is theological; it is the claim that there is a ‘way of the world’; a ready-made world whose order is simply to be accepted as an ultimately unintelligible, brute given, that is objectionably theological. (p. 485)
Against this myth of the given – or the idea that the world was made by a Divine being and should not be messed with less we bring about some hubristic doom, Brassier tells us that “Prometheanism is the attempt to participate in the creation of the world without having to defer to a divine blueprint. It follows from the realization that the disequilibrium we introduce into the world through our desire to know is no more or less objectionable than the disequilibrium that is already there in the world. (p. 485). Against Heidegger’s fear that such a Prometheanism is grounded in voluntaristic assumptions Brassier will maintain that it need not be, that rather than being based on some notion of a vitalist will or activity it could be simply based – as in Kant, on a rule-governed activity (i.e., the notion of “rationality as the faculty of generating and being bound by rules” (p. 485). This form of rationality “consists in grasping the stratification of immanence, together with the involution of structures within the natural order through which rules can arise out of physical patterns” (p. 486). That this rationality ousts intentionalism from its bastion in philosophical speculation is not only a consequence of this new Prometheanism it is a enactment of the very principle of “technological ingenuity” that would allow such experimentalism to pervade the dynamism of this social project to begin with.
For Brassier we can either accept the old theological world of the given, accept finitude and the limits and constraints upon human and technological ingenuity and advancement; or, “more interestingly, we can try to reexamine the philosophical foundations of a Promethean project that is implicit in Marx – the project of re-engineering ourselves and our world on a more rational basis” (p. 487). Brassier sees this as part of a collective project, a research program that takes as its starting point an aspect of Badiou’s notions of event and subjectivity (although not exactly as Badiou describes these), through a reconnection to his “account of the necessity of the subjectivation to an analysis of the biological, economic, and historical processes that condition rational subjectivation” (p. 487). In that essay he would see the need to realize that reason should be tempered by imagination because it is both fueled by imagination, while at the same time being able to remake the limits imposed on imagination.
One aspect he did not go into in depth was the two paths of bifurcations upon which such a future might take. He mentions the capitalist view of those such as Ray Kurzweil and others who invest in a future that would reengineer society based on a transhumanist project in which AI, Cloning, More-than-human biotechnologically enhanced humans might transcend current humanity allowing for a new class division of those who would become superior in intellect and physical capacities, while others would be disposed into ‘zones of exclusion’ much like our slum-worlds that Mike Davis and others have already documented so well.
This notion of two futures: one based upon Marx’s posthumanist vision of remaking humans and society based on equalitarian views of social justice; and the other based on neoliberal visions of Nietzsche’s Übermensch are part of the Accelerationist Politics of Prometheanism I’ve slowly been working through over the past couple years since Williams and Srnicek’s manifesto was published. At the heart of it is this need to reevaluate as Brassier mentioned the “biological, economic, and historical processes” that inform both sides of this Prometheanism.
We can understand the capitalist Prometheanism as the command and control of nature through Science, Technology, and Society in the first Industrial Revolution based on steam and autonomization; the Fordist transformation based on Taylorism of efficiency and the assembly line; and, the computational transformation in economics and communications that brought about our Financial Network Society; as well as the new systems of capital that are moving into the NBIC Technologies of the 21st Century. All of these will need to be explored in depth and detail, as well as Marx’s initial critiques of the first Industrial Revolution. His basic insights will need further updates into these other forms of capital up to our time.
The Left during the twentieth-century broke away from Marx’s basic economic insights of the Industrial political economy and machinic civilization and turned toward Culture. This I believe was not a terrible mistake, yet it lost sight of the original vision set forth by Marxian analysis and thereby was unable to see the form of Prometheanism that Capitalism was taking in its various scientific and technological transformations aligned as it was with economic, military, and industrial complexes. With Lukacs and then the Frankfurt School Marxian analysis came to a dead end with the pragmatic fall of Stalinism and then the demise of Socialist State Tyrannies. We can no longer afford to dwell on past failures, but must realign our vision toward the future while investigating the historical aspects that made those failures possible to begin with.
The Left has of late been imploding and falling into an internecine war among its own members allowing both despair and self-defeat to set in. This must be stopped. Time to take Marx to heart and begin again from his initial insights, while at the same time not seeing them as some kind of frozen historical document that we must follow like the Torah to the letter of the Law. Marx spoke of change, dynamism, and the future reengineering of man and society. I think he meant just that. I also think if he were here today he’d be shaking his head at much of the defeatism we see in Leftist journals with their open despair and self-deprecatory attacks on each other. Sadly those who attack are usually less than adequately informed on just what Marx actually said. Instead of Solidarity the Left has atomized itself into identity therapies of race, gender, and sex wars that have little to do with overcoming the political and social ramifications we’re facing.
Addendum: Notes For later
When one looks at the base set of issues:
- Climate Change and Catastrophism in general (Sixth Extinction underway, etc.)
- Resource depletion (Water, Soil, Energy, Food, etc. the need for Sustainability);
- Inequality at the local and international level: the exclusion of what many term disposable people, etc.
- Economic Resource Wars – Middle-East, Africa, and other nations caused by resource wars Oil, Minerals, etc.
- Austerity in the first world
- Racism and Police brutality across the planet (Prison Planet, etc.)
One could go on and on with lists of areas that need to be organized by the Left. But instead we see nothing but infighting and academic one-upmanship in journals and press. We see the same critiques laid our against neoliberalism in book after book but the activism has died out as having no effect. Is it that we think these problems insurmountable? Or do we just lack imagination tempered by reason to actually formulate an initiative to actually change things? It’s time to do something more than spin our wheels.
I know in my own work-in-progress its the organization of the various problems we’re facing in this next century that concerns me most, while incorporating how the neoliberal capitalist vision is seeking to construct its own Utopian Future right before our eyes: one that will be based on inclusion/exclusion principles based on biological, economic and class distinctions. Many of the things we see at a local level in racism, gender, and sex related issues that are separated out into micro-narratives need to be brought back into a meta-narrative that allows us to see them in the larger frame. I disagree not with Focault’s basic premises, but see that he threw out the baby with the was in refusing the need for a larger meta-framework of imagination tempered by reason within which we can incorporate these various stratified issues as part of our critique of Neoliberal or Late Capitalism.
Financial capitalism is among other things based on a form of derivatives debt of failure and risk casino trading that bets on countries and other types of commodities failing rather than succeeding. Today, swaps are among the most heavily traded financial contracts in the world: the total amount of interest rates and currency swaps outstanding is more than $348 trillion in 2010, according to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). Even if you added up the current World GDP these Swaps would beat it by 50%. Instead of investing in people, in lives, in rebuilding the worlds actual foundations these are immaterial goods swapped in and out of light-speed transactions on markets that are both autonomous and inhuman.
Strangely I was turned onto something I’d not thought about before which is the notion of geoengineering, which is what the military used to term Weather modification, etc. By seeding clouds with aluminum oxides, barium, sulfur dioxide etc. they can modify moisture content, and change jet-stream patterns, etc. Video on this of worth by supposed whistle-blower Kristen Meghan. One of the surprisingly large stocks is Weather derivatives where people bet on bad weather happening. Weather derivatives are financial instruments that can be used by organizations or individuals as part of a risk management strategy to minimize risk associated with adverse or unexpected weather conditions. If one could control the weather on analyst stated in the documentaries on the geoengineering site that hundreds of billions could be made. Just as traditional contingent claims, a weather derivative has an underlying measure, such as: rainfall, wind, snow or temperature. Nearly $1 trillion of the U.S. economy is directly exposed to weather-related risk. More precisely, almost 30% of the U.S. economy and 70% of U.S. companies are affected by weather. The purpose of this monograph is to conduct an in-depth analysis of financial products that are traded in the weather market. Presenting a pricing and modeling approach for weather derivatives written on various underlying weather variables will help students, researchers, and industry professionals accurately price weather derivatives, and will provide strategies for effectively hedging against weather-related risk. This book will link the mathematical aspects of the modeling procedure of weather variables to the financial markets and the pricing of weather derivatives. Very little has been published in the area of weather risk, and this volume will appeal to graduate-level students and researchers studying financial mathematics, risk management, or energy finance, in addition to investors and professionals within the financial services industry.
Another aspect of Weather control with the use of aluminum oxides and barium and other substances is that they introduce into the atmosphere, soil, and human populations the risk of acidic neutralization of soil (i.e., makes the soil infertile), medical issues, and related issues of Alzheimers, Autism, etc. that are caused by aluminum oxides introduced into the human system. One can see where this leads. But it gets worse, there is also the notion of this use in India and Africa along with large cartels of chemical companies such as Monsanto that have due to such soil neutralization by chemicals introduced their terminator seeds that must be bought from these companies that have been genetically altered to withstand (what else?) the problem of aluminum oxides in the soil. Strangely in India and other countries the suicide death toll of farmers that cannot afford such seeds each year has also contributed to large international agribusiness in buying out such properties over the past 15 years. We’re talking trillions of dollars in revenue. This is just the tip of the ice-berg of what is left out of most national and international news reporting. Most of this is written off in main-stream media as “conspiracy theory”. Almost anything that relates to large corporatism on a national or international level that does not fit into the accepted vision of the neoliberal elite is cast into an exclusionary zone of conspiracy. But more an more many of the things once thought of as fringe notions at best are becoming a part of our everyday reality whether we like it or not.
As one medical whistleblower admitted the basic three agendas on the plate of global governance and control is depopulation through toxic agents released in the atmosphere that will slowly accumulate while neutralizing soil acidity, enforcing a food monopoly based on terminator seeds by Monsanto and other large Combine and International Control Agents. As well as the introduction of agents that will speed up the break down in neuro-activity causing autism, Alzheimer’s and other specific diseases to increase subtly and without knowledge of the host countries. All paid through tax funds and austere measures. Documentaries like Seeds of Death speak of genetic modification that leads to immunity and systemic damage across the environment. Null’s other documentary exposing the FDA. Another one of the history and toxicity of fluoride The Great Culling. Many learning disorders have been related to this. We use sodium fluoride (Hexafluorosilicic acid) from China. China banned the use of it in their own country due to it ineffectiveness and toxicity related to diseases. All done by Cargill the largest chemical maker of this waste product.
We’ve seen in recent time that human intervention into frakking, or the new forms of oil extraction in China and other countries have instigated man-made earthquakes. We know that the use of the HAARP is for weather related modification as well. Air Force admitted to using this system to make modifications to the ionosphere, and that they have found other ways to do it. One can make of it what one wants. Yet, many of these things being done are usually spoofed off into conspiracy sites or disinformation campaigns, etc. The only thing one knows for sure is that these are secret DARPA projects that know one knows in detail except those sworn to secrecy. This is one of the dark sides of democracy: that we have secrets, surveillance, Patriot Acts, etc. All the flavors of dictatorships without the supposed dictator.
When you realize that corporatism no longer cares one way or the other about humans, that humans have all become disposable as risk and failure in this latest edition of immaterial or semiotization of capital one realizes that the world is doomed unless we do something collectively to stop this machine in its tracks. If we don’t who will? The Neoliberal Transhumanist Agenda is one in which elites and the plutocracy shall enhance their futures with technological initiatives while slowly ridding the planet of its excess population through new forms of Eugenics (not called that, but by way of International Health Programs). This neoliberal Prometheanism seeks to overcome the human with a version of the enhance human through pharmaceuticals, medicines, technology, etc. Is this what we want?
As Zoltan Istvan a candidate for the Transhumanist Party puts it: “Transhumanism wants to improve the human body with science and technology–which is to say it wants to help people evolve. That’s a strange cultural and philosophical position for a movement. And yet, evolution is exactly what transhumanism aims to usher in–except transhumanists want to do it far more quickly than by glacial-paced natural selection.” They want to play at being gods who can reengineer humanity to fit the neoliberal agenda. At the heart of this is the notion of overcoming suffering, death, and human limitation:
Our identity should not only be based on who we are, or where we come from, but also on where we’re going and what we can become–especially in the 21st Century when science and technology is starting to change so many things about us. Transhumanists aim to make every person the very strongest, very best person they can be if they want to be. We aim to make it so that suffering, death, lack of ability, and lack of well-being never reach anyone ever again if they choose not to want it. (ibid.)
One hears nothing about creating a world based on equality and justice. In fact most of these right-wing transhumanist believe that to be impossible, so for them the path is one path only: those who share in their utopian system and also belong to the wealthy classes will enter this new global cosmopolitan world of enhanced humans. All others will be left outside the gates of their pearly palaces and evil paradises. Is this a Manichaen vision of the future? No. One can see it in the world today. The future is all around us if we’d just open our frekking eyes.