Felix Guattari: The Schizo, the New Earth, and Subjectivation

From now on, no domain of opinion, thought, image, affect or narrativity can pretend to escape from the invasive grip of ‘computer-assisted’ data banks…
………– Felix Guattari, Schizoanalytic Cartographies

“How should we talk today about the production of subjectivity?” asked Felix Guattari. Then he’d recognize the obvious: “A first observation leads us to recognize that the contents of subjectivity depend more and more on a multitude of machinic systems”.1 Ahead of his time, or just looking around and seeing what was already obvious, and yet bringing to the fore the hidden kernel of that ubiquitous world we now term the network society we’ve become.

I remember reading and rereading a particularly poignant section of Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia – that collaborative project of Deleuze and Guattari, two friends whose lives would be entwined. As  Francois Dosse relates it in a biography of the two friends: Intersecting Lives, Deleuze and Guattari have described their work together on several occasions, but they did so somewhat discreetly. Describing their writing together when Anti-Oedipus first came out, Guattari remarked:

This collaboration is not the result of a simple meeting between two people. In addition to the particular circumstances leading up to it, there is also a political context. At the outset, it was less a matter of sharing a common understanding than sharing the sum of our uncertainties and even a certain discomfort and confusion with respect to the way that May 1968 had turned out.2

Deleuze remarked:

As regards writing together, there was no particular difficulty and both of us realized slowly that this technique had some clear function. One of the very shocking aspects of books about psychiatry or psychoanalysis is their duality in the sense of what an ostensibly sick person says and what the healer says about the patient. . . . Curiously, however, we tried to get beyond this traditional duality because two of us were writing. Neither of us was the patient or the psychiatrist but we had to be both to establish a process. . . . That process is what we called the flux.

As I said previously the passage in Anti-Oedipus that captured for me the sense of the project and its acute diagnosis of our society and capitalism relates to what they termed “our very own ‘malady,’ modern man’s sickness: “Schizophrenia as a process is desiring production, but it is this production as if function at the end, as the limit of social production determined by the conditions of capitalism.”(Anti-Oedipus, p. 139). So that when Guattari asks: “How should we talk today about the production of subjectivity?” It’s this sense of the end of history and capitalism as its final form to which Guattari speaks. As they say in AO: “The end of history has no other meaning. In it the two meanings of process meet, as the movement of social production that goes to the very extremes of its deterritorialization, and as the movement of metaphysical production that carries desire along with it and reproduces in a new Earth.” (ibid., pp. 130-131).

Just here D&G will suddenly rise to the occasion and deliver a paeon to the schizo:

The schizo carries along the decoded flows, makes them traverse the desert of the body without organs, where he installs his desiring-machines and produces a perpetual outflow of acting forces. He has crossed over the limit, the schiz, which maintained the production of desire always at the margin of social production, tangential and always repelled. …. For here is the desert propagated by our world, and also the new earth, and the machine that hums, around which the schizos revolve, planets for a new sun. (ibid., p. 131)

Poetry, hyperbole, utopian? – And, they will even liken this new type of being, this schizo as a new Zarathustra: “These men of desire – or do they not yet exist? – are like Zarathustra. They know incredible sufferings, vertigos, and sicknesses. They have their spectres. They must reinvent each gesture. But such a man produces himself as a free-man, irresponsible, solitary, joyous, finally able to say and do something simple in his own name, without asking permission; a desire lacking nothing, a flux that overcomes barriers and codes, a name that no longer designates any ego whatever. He has simply ceased being afraid of becoming mad. He experiences and lives himself as the sublime sickness that will no longer affect him. (ibid., p. 131). Nietzsche’s influence permeates this work, the sense they are updating a revaluation-of-all-values, creating for their generation a work to extend and fulfill Nietzsche’s mission and task of a production of a new type of being, a new subjectivity, a new process of subjectivation.

What are we to think of this? For me it was a confirmation of my own being, of having come thus far, of having pushed passed those limits in my own life after my own childhood, Viet Nam, its aftermath, my own suffering and entry into madness, of having come through and applied that very weapon of my own being to the wound of my madness and come out the other side strangely different, whole, having died to that creature I’d been; subtly realizing the old notion of twice-born, of having suffered utter defeat and the end game of my ego’s torturous enactments. These words spoke volumes, clarified the madness of my youthful rebellions, struggles, and defeats; and, yet, also confirmed my own struggle passed the barriers, the boundaries, the strange entry into my own desert of the earth, and arrival into a new earth. Was this too madness? Yes, a new type of madness. Being schiz… a multiplicity, and not only surviving it, but knowing it, being it, without center, without ego… a multitude; or, “I am Legion!” Haven’t I always been more than “I” that singular point becoming only the truth of what D&G would term “singularity”?

So that when Guattari admonishes us to accept the machine, rather than turning luddite, and “rather than associating with the fashionable crusades against the misdeeds of modernism, rather than preaching the rehabilitation of ruined transcendental values, or giving in to the disillusioned delights of postmodernism, we can try to challenge the dilemma of contorted refusal or cynical acceptance of the situation. Because machines are in a position to articulate statements and record states of fact at the rhythm of the nanosecond and, perhaps tomorrow, the picosecond1 does not mean that they are diabolical powers that threaten to dominate man. In fact, people are all the less justified in turning away from machines given that, after all, they are nothing other than hyperdeveloped and hyperconcentrated forms of certain aspects of human subjectivity and, let us emphasize, precisely not those aspects that polarize humans into relations of domination and power.” (SC, KL 501)

One realizes Guattari was on to something toward the end of his life, realizing ours was into rather than out of the machine and capitalism. We would need to embrace technology not as victims, nor slaves, but rather as a new type of being, the Schizo. In fact he’d realize we’d need to set up a bridge, an interface, a two-way communication between human and machine and machine and human: 1) current informatic and communication machines do not just convey representative contents but equally contribute to the preparation of new (individual and/ or collective) Assemblages of enunciation; and, 2) all machinic systems, whatever domain they belong to – technical, biological, semiotic, logical, abstract – are, by themselves, the support for proto-subjective processes, which I will characterize in terms of modular subjectivity. (SC, KL 517)

The more I have thought about it over the past couple years the more I realize that those such as Badiou, Zizek, Johnson are still living in the past, still devoted to outmoded and dead worlds of thought and being, defending Idealisms as material and immaterial strategies of the ‘gap’ as break, distance, qualifier.  Instead Deleuze and Guattari were onto something else, onto a truth about our current and future dilemmas that no longer relied on outmoded forms of thought or being. It is to their work we should turn to recover and realign a vision of a new earth. What they had was the courage of their ideas, rather than the courage of despair as in Zizek. The Left needs to turn away from despair not to optimism, but rather to struggle and the future where our hopes and dreams still move in multiplicity; yet, we should not remain with a gap between here and there, but rather undertake the path across, the bridge to the new earth by way of the schizo. True madness is staying with the sanity of our world, holding onto the insane violence of capitalism which is destroying the very foundations of life on our planet. True sanity is in rejection of this world, of exiting its mad ways, of marshalling the energetic creativity to enter a new earth, a new realm of freedom beyond the madness. Yet, to do this is to push past the boundary lines of our current thinking, to enter into a new relation with ourselves and the environment around us.

Maurizio Lazzarato’s Signs and Machines follow Guattari and Deleuze, showing how signs act as “sign-operators” that enter directly into material flows and into the functioning of machines. Money, the stock market, price differentials, algorithms, and scientific equations and formulas constitute semiotic “motors” that make capitalism’s social and technical machines run, bypassing representation and consciousness to produce social subjections and semiotic enslavements. Lazzarato asks: What are the conditions necessary for political and existential rupture at a time when the production of subjectivity represents the primary and perhaps most important work of capitalism? What are the specific tools required to undo the industrial mass production of subjectivity undertaken by business and the state? What types of organization must we construct for a process of subjectivation that would allow us to escape the hold of social subjection and machinic enslavement?

This is the path we should take, questions we should ask, and let the “dead bury the dead” of the old schools of thought.


  1. Guattari, Felix (2012-12-06). Schizoanalytic Cartographies (Impacts) (Kindle Locations 501-504). Bloomsbury Academic. Kindle Edition.
  2. Dosse, Francois (2010-06-22). Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari: Intersecting Lives (European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism) (p. 8). Columbia University Press. Kindle Edition.

The End of Sovereignty: Control Societies in a Networked World

Deleuze would follow Foucault’s notion of the panoptican and apply it to a post-Fordist world. We’re living in it. Our network society incarnates the formula of ‘seeing without being seen’.1 If the Panoptican is a Factory Prison for producing knowledge and subjectivity, then the internet in both its mobility and its immersive ubiquity in sensors, surveillance, and the base nervous system of the networks that permeate our Onlife lives incarnates the latest version of this disciplinary system. As Foucault would suggest the panoptic enclosure sought to abolish punishment and replace it with self-control (Foucault, p. 124).

We have seen that we are probably the last generation to experience a clear difference between online and offline environments. Some people already live onlife. Some cultures are already hyperhistorical. A further transformation worth highlighting concerns the emergence of artificial and hybrid (multi) agents, i.e., partly artificial and partly human (consider, for example, a family as a single agent, equipped with digital cameras, laptops, tablets, smart phones, mobiles, wireless network, digital TVs, DVDs, CD players, etc.). These new agents already share the same ontology with their environment and can operate within it with much more freedom and control. We (shall) delegate or outsource, to artificial agents and companions, our memories, decisions, routine tasks, and other activities in ways that will be increasingly integrated with us and with our understanding of what it means to be an agent. We have begun to see ourselves as inforgs (i.e., informational organisms) not through some transformations in our bodies but, more seriously and realistically, through the reontologization of our environment and of ourselves. This move from nature to the artificial in thought and practice is part of that transitional movement. The old dichotomies of Nature/Culture are vanishing, and in their place is new forms that breakaway from such binary associations in favor of seeing the environment/society distinction as erroneous at best, and superficial in the sense that we live in the midst of information, we are immersed in it, it permeates every aspect of our lives sleeping and waking. (Floridi, p. 14).

Capitalist society is now completely rhizomatic (i.e., in the sense that Deleuze and Guattari affirmed in Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus): leave one cell and enter another, they’re all part of a vast networked modulatory system of discipline, education, and factories for producing subservient and inattentive citizens, compliant and uncommunicative. The so-called dumbing down of education and society. Whether you move to a factory, school, home, theatre, shopping mall, city street, etc., you move within an invisible grid of sensors and eyes-surveillance that tracks, analyzes, filters, profiles; and decodes and recodes your Onlife into data-metric statistics and probabilistic sequences of algorithms, which are tagged to your virtual or ‘dividual’ being with potential markers that can be appended to thousands of products as well as rhizomatic exit/entry points that can perform regulative tasks upon your life.

Everything has been dematerialized within a distributive network of connections, disconnections, and reconnections (i.e., D&G’s territorialization, deteritorialization, and reterritorialization). No longer bound to chrono time-space materializations, but rather within a set of sets of mathematical diagrams, topographies, and cartographic assemblages that trap and capture human desires, and modulate them as data to be recodified into ontic-information for sale, policing, governing, and control as part of a global Infosphere Empire governance system. One that operates on pure communication of flexible and filtered data, within the visible and invisible code-spaces bound to the rule-based systems of intrinsic and extrinsic bioinformatics and neuroinformatics. As William Bogard remarks Capital’s project today is to engineer the disciplines directly into our DNA, which after all is just coded information. The final frontier in this project is to transform the socious into a distributed bio-network, whose relations nano-technologies can adjust in real time, all in the name of power and money.2

Frank Pasquale’s post on The Emerging Law of Algorithms, Robots, and Predictive Analytics. The author suggests that advances in information and communications technology and the “datafication” of broadening fields of human endeavor are generating unparalleled quantities and kinds of data about individual and group behavior, much of which is now being deployed to assess risk by governments worldwide. Law enforcement personnel are expected to prevent terrorism through data-informed policing aimed at curbing extremism before it expresses itself as violence. According to Agamben, the signature of a state of exception is ‘force-of’; actions that have the force of law even when not of the law. Software is being used to predict which people on parole or probation are most likely to commit murder or other crimes.

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Monstrous Existence: Icon of Creativity and Destruction

.‘Oh Mother’  – Kali-Ma, Queen of Life and Death: dance upon my ashen bones, dine upon my entrails, feed upon my darkest soul!
…..– Hymn to Night & Time

Smash the mirror: it’s a lie what you tell yourself, the world is invisible and waiting. Let the darkness seep in and envelop you. The world of light you see around you is but the flotsam and jetsam, a drift of rainbow plumage on a sea of energy that seeks its daemonic day in the Sun.

Enter your melancholia as if it were your lover’s body; and like a lover savor its dark passions, then like a Mantis slay it, be done with it, and eat it alive till there is nothing of melancholy left but only the power of your dread life.

Think on Black Kali-ma, an image of the fierce life of creative destruction that is this universe – Time’s darkest face and image: a poetic icon of all that exists in its most monstrous form and formlessness, – being and becoming, the turning plover of the ancient milky way: the sea of milk and pure energia; the ever-turning wheel of death and becoming, the distilling wisdom of tens of billions of years living in the circle of fire at the center of hell: Time’s dark dominion that shapes the powers of all things, good or ill. The Iron Prison within which we circulate like algorithms forged in the electronic void. Broken vessels of some former age of silence wherein the collapse of all being brought forth the bursting flames of being like the breath of a great dragon, only to falter in the extremity of Night’s dark and impenetrable belly…

Seek out the graveyards of ancient fools of time, sit on the headstones of forgotten masters of despair, laugh at the impossibility of your monstrous existence. Then savor its bittersweet tang, and enter into your dark jouissance!

The Kālikāhṛdaya says:

‘I worship Kālī the Destructress of Kāla the Shining One, who is the Bīja Krīm who is Kāma who is beyond Kāla and who is Dakṣinakālikā.’ Gandharva-Tantra says: ‘Hrīm, I bow to Mahādevī who is Turīya and Brahman. He who remembers Her does not sink in the ocean of existence.’ Candī says: ‘Oh Thou whose Body is pure Energia who hast three divine eyes, who weareth the crescent moon, to Thee I bow for the attainment of all Evil.’

Alien Capitalism: Marx – Prophet of our Fractured Age?

Karl Marx analyzing the incorporation and absorption of the human worker as a mere appendage within the machine had already seen the teleological tendency within capitalism toward our present civilization’s fascination with robotics and artificial intelligence: “once adopted into the production process of capital, the means of labour passes through different metamorphoses, whose culmination is the machine, or rather, an automatic system of machinery (system of machinery: the automatic one is merely its most complete, most adequate form, and alone transforms machinery into a system), set in motion by an automaton, a moving power that moves itself; this automaton consisting of numerous mechanical and intellectual organs, so that the workers themselves are cast merely as its conscious linkages.”1

Marx had already seen the movement toward self-autonomous machinic systems, as well as the time when humans would no longer determine but would themselves be determined by the machines within which they were absorbed: “it is the machine which possesses skill and strength in place of the worker, is itself the virtuoso, with a soul of its own in the mechanical laws acting through it; and it consumes coal, oil etc. (matières instrumentales), just as the worker consumes food, to keep up its perpetual motion. The worker’s activity, reduced to a mere abstraction of activity, is determined and regulated on all sides by the movement of the machinery, and not the opposite. The science which compels the inanimate limbs of the machinery, by their construction, to act purposefully, as an automaton, does not exist in the worker’s consciousness, but rather acts upon him through the machine as an alien power, as the power of the machine itself.” (ibid., p. 620).

In fact Marx would see the emerging civilization of global capitalism as a machinic organism cannibalizing both human and nonhuman resources as part of its ongoing systematic self-automating processes and wealth creation: “the production process has ceased to be a labour process in the sense of a process dominated by labour as its governing unity. Labour appears, rather, merely as a conscious organ, scattered among the individual living workers at numerous points of the mechanical system; subsumed under the total process of the machinery itself, as itself only a link of the system, whose unity exists not in the living workers, but rather in the living (active) machinery, which confronts his individual, insignificant doings as a mighty organism.” (ibid. p. 621).

He would see this as no accident of time or place but rather as the inherent telos of capitalism: “the development of the means of labour into machinery is not an accidental moment of capital, but is rather the historical reshaping of the traditional, inherited means of labour into a form adequate to capital. The accumulation of knowledge and of skill, of the general productive forces of the social brain, is thus absorbed into capital, as opposed to labour, and hence appears as an attribute of capital, and more specifically of fixed capital, in so far as it enters into the production process as a means of production proper.” (ibid., p. 622).

Ultimately Marx would equate Civilization itself as Capitalism, and that the top tier live off the workers by extracting from their free time or surplus time the very wealth that makes them fat and happy. The Capitalist lives out his Utopian life at the expense of his slaves, the workers:

He is a capitalist — i.e. representative of capital, personified capital, only by virtue of the fact that he relates to labour as alien labour, and appropriates and posits alien labour for himself. The costs of circulation therefore do not exist in so far as they take away the capitalist’s time. His time is posited as superfluous time: not-labour time, not-value-creating time, although it is capital which realizes the created value. The fact that the worker must work surplus labour time is identical with the fact that the capitalist does not need to work, and his time is thus posited as not-labour time; that he does not work the necessary time, either. The worker must work surplus time in order to be allowed to objectify, to realize the labour time necessary for his reproduction. On the other side, therefore, the capitalist’s necessary labour time is free time, not time required for direct subsistence. Since all free time is time for free development, the capitalist usurps the free time created by the workers for society, i.e. civilization, and Wade is again correct in this sense, in so far as he posits capital = civilization. (ibid., 565-66).

In other words the free time that we could have used with our families, educating ourselves, enjoying life, etc. is stripped from us and reincorporated back into the machinic beast which is civilization itself as capitalism. Very simply put, the worker “sells himself as an effect. He is absorbed into the body of capital as a cause, as activity.” Except that in our current era there are vast numbers of human beings, barely at or below subsistence level, who cannot be integrated into the new requirements of markets, and they are irrelevant and expendable. Disposable. Death, in many guises, is one of the by-products of neoliberalism: when people have nothing further that can be taken from them, whether resources or labor power, they are quite simply disposable. However, the current increase in sexual slavery and the growing traffic in organs and body parts suggest that the outer limit of disposability can be profitably enlarged to meet the demands of new market sectors.2

In our age of mediatainment and the infosphere we are all part of an illusionary reality system. As J.G. Ballard reminded us over and over: “We are all living in fictions at the moment, one need not write about it; instead the task of the writer, or any astute inquirer is to uncover what is left of reality.” Our leaders encase us in debt, force us to become dependent on them for our livelihoods, our security, our very source of human freedom. Yet, instead of any of these they give us the chains of taxation, 24/7 work days, fear of religious terrorism, eternal war, and the likelihood of endless misery and pain. Yet, we seem to accept this as if there were no other way, as if this was all natural, just the way things are rather than the embellishments of an aesthetic order of calculated planning and ingenuity that has reconfigured the very foundations of democracy over the past sixty years.

A fantasy world of neoliberal fiction and ideology that has subtly worked its propaganda systems shaping Hollywood, major news networks, news papers, journals, think-tanks, academic systems through the pressure of economic power and the nomos of legal and ethical systematic coercion. A system so subtly built over time gradually remaking the Industrial enclaves of the Fordist era, destroying it, decentralizing labor, shifting the old factory systems to the periphery of the globe, while dismantling the unions and their security, the family farm systems, and isolating the workers through divisive politics, multicultural racism, difference, and monetary refinancialization and immaterial subterfuge.

A society in which  the world is flattened out across a grid of electronic circuits providing a platform for both non-human and human agents a 24/7 Onlife system of exchanges and transactional arbitration. Technologies and technics based on the emerging ICT technologies (Information and Communications), outsourcing and global networking. These Virtual organizations are “open and temporary coalitions of independent and usually geographically dispersed economic entities, whose structure is being constantly reorganized, whereas the scope and aim of the performed activities depends on the emerging market opportunities”.3

Corporatism and Globalism go hand in hand as the twin hands of this artificial enity Marx saw as a vast inorganic machinic organism. Corporatism depends first on our disconnection. The less local, immediate, and interpersonal our experience of the world and each other, the more likely we are to adopt self-interested behaviors that erode community and relationships. This makes us more dependent on central authorities for the things we used to get from one another; we cannot create value without centralized currency, meaning without nationally known brands, or leaders without corporate support. This dependency, in turn, makes us more vulnerable to the pathetically overgeneralized and fear-based mythologies of corporatism. Once we accept these new mythologies as the way things really are, we come to believe that our manufactured disconnection is actually a condition of human nature. In short, we disconnect from the real, adapt to our artificial environment by becoming less than human, and finally mistake carefully constructed corporatist mythologies for the natural universe.4

We have moved inside the infosphere, the all-pervading black box which depends on the extent to which we accept its interface and illusions as integral to our reality matrix and transparent, almost totalistic ubiquity to us (in the sense of no longer perceived as present). What matters is not so much moving bits instead of atoms— this is an outdated, communication-based interpretation of the information society that owes too much to mass-media sociology— as the far more radical fact that our understanding and conceptualization of the very essence and fabric of reality is changing.5


My friend Dirk informed me of Frank Pasquale’s post on The Emerging Law of Algorithms, Robots, and Predictive Analytics. The author suggests that advances in information and communications technology and the “datafication” of broadening fields of human endeavor are generating unparalleled quantities and kinds of data about individual and group behavior, much of which is now being deployed to assess risk by governments worldwide. Law enforcement personnel are expected to prevent terrorism through data-informed policing aimed at curbing extremism before it expresses itself as violence. According to Agamben, the signature of a state of exception is ‘force-of’; actions that have the force of law even when not of the law. Software is being used to predict which people on parole or probation are most likely to commit murder or other crimes.

The steep rise in the rate of drone attacks during the Obama administration has been ascribed to the algorithmic identification of ‘risky subjects’ via the disposition matrix. According to interviews with US national security officials the disposition matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against other factors derived from data in ‘a single, continually evolving database in which biographies, locations, known associates and affiliated organizations are all catalogued.’

The ultimate logic of the algorithmic state of exception may be a homeland of “smart cities,” and force projection against an external world divided into “kill boxes.” At the moment the military-industrial complex is speeding us toward the development of “human out of the loop” drone swarms, ostensibly because only machines will be fast enough to anticipate the enemy’s counterstrategies. The Age of the Terminator is upon us…


One can also find the Grundrisse at the Marxist Archive: here…


  1. Marx, Karl. Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy Penguin; New Ed edition (November 24, 2005) (Page 620).
  2. Crary, Jonathan (2013-06-04). 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep (pp. 38-39). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.
  3. Dzidowski, Adam (2015) “New and Speculative Organisational Aesthetics,” Organizational Aesthetics: Vol. 4: Iss. 1, 19-31.
  4. Rushkoff, Douglas (2009-05-27). Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back (Kindle Locations 671-677). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
  5. Floridi, Luciano (2013-10-10). The Ethics of Information (p. 17). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.

Apple’s iPhone Problem: The Prisoner’s Dilemma



Reading CEO Tim Cook’s argument that allowing a narrow option for unlock one specific mobile device for the FBI is ‘bad for America’ makes me wonder how clear cut that is. His argument is as follows:

Federal officials have said they’re only asking for narrow assistance in bypassing some security features on the iPhone, which they believe may contain information related to the mass murders. Apple has argued that doing so would make other iPhones more susceptible to hacking by authorities or criminals in the future.

“At stake is the data security of hundreds of millions of law-abiding people and setting a dangerous precedent that threatens everyone’s civil liberties,” Cook said.

Is it? Is that the truth? Or is there more than meets the eye?

Stop and think about it. We already have circumstances in the Laws for let’s say Doctor/Patient privilege, etc., just to take the most obvious example: we know that the Federal Rules of Evidence do not apply at the Federal level, yet vary at the state level in the United States (I’ll not go into other countries.).

As for Digital storage devices there are also rules on the books for this, although it is newer and not as well tested:

Many courts in the United States have applied the Federal Rules of Evidence to digital evidence in a similar way to traditional documents, although important differences such as the lack of established standards and procedures have been noted. In addition, digital evidence tends to be more voluminous, more difficult to destroy, easily modified, easily duplicated, potentially more expressive, and more readily available. As such, some courts have sometimes treated digital evidence differently for purposes of authentication, hearsay, the best evidence rule, and privilege. In December 2006, strict new rules were enacted within the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requiring the preservation and disclosure of electronically stored evidence. Digital evidence is often attacked for its authenticity due to the ease with which it can be modified, although courts are beginning to reject this argument without proof of tampering.

Digital evidence is often ruled inadmissible by courts because it was obtained without authorization.In most jurisdictions a warrant is required to seize and investigate digital devices. In a digital investigation this can present problems where, for example, evidence of other crimes are identified while investigating another. During a 1999 investigation into online harassment by Keith Schroeder investigators found pornographic images of children on his computer. A second warrant had to be obtained before the evidence could be used to charge Schroeder.

Hypothetical Situation

I do not know if CEO Tim Cook has children or a mate, he keeps his personal life private and we’ll respect that. I’m only thinking of a hypothetical situation, fictional…

Let’s say that Tim adopted children, and one of them had taken a cab to meet a friend, on the way the hypothetical child was kidnapped but the iPhone was left on the cab seat, etc. All hypothetical to be sure.

Now the FBI attains the phone but is unable to get into to see if there might be a call log or something left as evidence, a text message, note, etc. that might offer a clue to the kidnapping: who took her, maybe she snapped a photo, etc.

Now with Tim Cook having banned such access – What to do? Will Tim Cook stand by his current policy and principles and disallow the FBI access to his child’s iPhone even if it might lead them to his child and gain her safety? Of course in Game Theory this type of situation is a classic Prisoner’s dilemma event. But this time it is a combination of Tim Cook in conflict with his own principles and beliefs: should I or should I not allow the FBI access to the iPhone by-pass? If I do it will obviously allow the potential for future hackings to occur by both criminal and official parties; or, do I remain adamant and stand by my principles of absolutely no access, and possibly allow my daughter to either be harmed or killed by my action on this matter? Which does he choose?

This is only one such situation, but it illustrates only that things are not just carved in stone: that there are circumstances when even under the best circumstances one must be able to weigh the options in the balance of things; things are not always clear-cut, there are gray areas in life: life is messiness, and for the most part does not meet our rational prescriptions, either ethically or philosophically – much less, politically. So we have to make allowances. Or do we? Who makes the choice? That’s the dilemma.

Does a private corporation have the right to act as a person and forgo the Law of the Land? Is this a political/ideological issue? Or a matter of Law? A moral and ethical dilemma or a company protecting its property? Which? Or both? Is this actually about freedom and the security of Apple’s customer data, or something else altogether? Nothing is ever as clear as that… Who will decide? Courts? Politicians? The People? Will State and Local Laws and courts take precedence over Federal as they do now? How will the Supreme Court handle such a ruling?

I can see this dragging on for years and years ….

Subtraction Theory: The Future of Capitalism

Over on The Real Movement blog Jehu has a timely post that carefully evaluates the so-called post-capitalist notion as erroneous. He begins with the worn and obvious quote by Zizek ironizing the notion that “it’s much easier to imagine the end of all life on earth than a much more modest radical change in capitalism.” As Jehu says, “I have been reading a lot of writers who are trying to prove Zizek wrong by imagining a society that might be loosely categorized as post-capitalism — a term I personally detest.” Read his post: here.

Marx in the Grundrisse sees the future of capitalism as the End of History, or as he termed it the monopoly capitalist was ultimately seeking the elimination of space and time in a global system of absolute control:

“In as much as the circuits which capital travels in order to go from one of [its] forms into the other constitute sections of circulation, and these sections are travelled in specific amounts of time (even spatial distance reduces itself to time; the important thing e.g. is not the market’s distance in space but the speed – the amount of time – by which it can be reached), by that much the velocity of circulation, the time in which it is accomplished, is a determinant of… how often capital can be realized in a given time.” (2005: p. 538)

Marx develops these ideas on the next page in a famous passage which has come to represent more generally the inherently accelerating and globalizing tendencies of capitalism:

“Thus whilst capital must on the one side strive to tear down every spatial barrier to intercourse, i.e. to exchange, and to conquer the whole earth for its market, it strives on the other side to annihilate this space with time, i.e. to reduce to a minimum the time spent in motion from one place to another.” (2005: p. 539)

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Notes from the Apocalypse #1

Arrogance, lack of achievement after a prosperous period, selfishness, shirking work, and liberalism, are all evils to be avoided… Liberalism is taken to mean that one may avoid conflict or work in order to be more comfortable for the moment, while the problem continues to grow.
……..– Chairman Mao to his People

“I must now shock you by telling you that we have no longer anything which you, a native of another planet, would call a government. … As a matter of fact, the history of the terrible period of transition from commercial slavery to freedom may thus be summarized. When the hope of realizing a communal condition of life for all men arose, quite late…  the power of the middle classes, the then tyrants of society, was so enormous and crushing, that to almost all men, even those who had, you may say despite themselves, despite their reason and judgement, conceived such hopes, it seemed a dream.”
………– William Morris, News From Nowhere

Our problems have grown too great, our leaders to fat and happy, our rich and elite abandon their nations going rogue and too global, and out of joint with the populations – living in their dream palaces and travel-channel yachts and deco-punk cities; the sovereignty of nations is failing, the world of boundaries dissolving, migrations hollowing out the earth in civil-war, ethnic cleansing, broken and viral epidemics, climate catastrophes…. we seem tittering on the edge of doom; and, like citizens from an alien planet wondering what will come next we watch on sadly knowing it want be good, yet believing we are powerless to alter the shape of the future…

While populism grows in Russia, the EU, and the U.S.A., a world full of middle-class fervor seeks regain its former strength and power, seeking to seize the day lest the rest of the planet sinks into a fetid quagmire of local turmoil and chaos. Racism, speciesism, the methodical hate squads arising everywhere… All the while global corporations and criminal cartels cannibalize the remaining resources of the planet, bringing death and division everywhere, seeking only to profit from war, chaos, and utter defeat. Is this a time of Apocalypse? Doom? Our pundits and experts spout cliché’s, our philosophers turn away from human affairs to the nonhuman… our young play idol video games of pure war and fantasy… our politicians bring us news of austerity and debt… and, our matinee idols of music, Hollywood, and sports live out the corruptions of late capitalism as if there were no tomorrow.

As a young man I began reading Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Marx, Hegel, Bataille, and others… realizing we we’re all failed Utopians. Pessimism is the face of Utopianism in the world today rather than Hope. Ernst Bloch once stated “Evil does not approach us as pride any more, but on the contrary as slumber, lassitude, concealment…”. One wakes up and realizes the real world has become a Reality TV series, a fantasy for a middle-class that cannot be bothered with the world’s problems but would rather wile away their hours in make-shift paradises of illusion and self-enslavement to desire and narcissistic self-love. Despair is born of hope, a dis-ease with the way things are… some of us on the Left are Marxian optimists with a vengeance, except that the world Marx once critiqued is dead and buried under a thousand flowers. In its place is an immaterial financial world, and invisible empire of risk and electronic counterfeit built on cynicism, profit, and global catastrophe. Hedging their bets against apocalypse these casino players of the new economics slip into pocket niches, playing the roulette will of capitalism with weak AI algorithms that can make or break a nation in at the speed of light.

Today we are living in the midst of Generation X’s coming of Age Party as the Middle-Class. The old structures and forms of the world based on liberal and conservative visions are dead, they were ruled by other media  and control systems than today… Generation X grew up with the net, children today even in some parts of the Third World are immersed in the net… it feeds their minds.

Yet, capitalism has migrated there, too. Colonizing the young with their capture systems, prodding them on into madness, chaos, video games, toys, global crapology… We had a chance in the 90’s to keep the net free, that’s gone… now we live in stupidland, a realm of commercial search engines that promote the fourth wave of industrialization, the second machine age, the capitalist anti-utopian future… and excess without humans… a future full of transhuman and post-human beings where auto-modification, cross-gender excess and biogenetic experimentation would make even H.G. Wells think twice…

I grew up in Podunkville U.S.A. in the fifties… the world is no longer my world… which is a good thing. Information overload may be here, but the children of our age know that and are developing tools to work this knowledge base and turn it into something that can shape and change our minds and our worlds. So, yes, I’m still a utopianist… it’s us, the oldsters who need to change, begin to listen to the youth once again. All these young philosopher wannabes are scattered across the world speaking to us of their hopes and dreams. Yet, before them there is this uncertain future of Climate Change, World Civil War, Secular and Religious turmoil, Ethnic violence everywhere, social decay… one wants to repeat Mao:

“Socialism must be developed… and the route toward such an end is a democratic revolution, which will enable socialist and communist consolidation over a length of time. It is also important to unite with the middle peasants (classes), and educate them on the failings of capitalism.”

Some saw Mao as a little too utopianist as well (cultural revolutions gone mad…), but in the above one sees a man shrewd enough to realize it was the Middle-Estate, the middle-classes that needed education and leadership… here at least in the U.S.A. the middle-class is Generation X’s coming of age party… those who were entering their teens in the 90’s are now the middle-class, and they know the difference, and are educating themselves the hard way. The democrats and republicans both speak to a middle-class that died long ago… the world has changed and neither the dems or the reps understand this. Populism seems to be the order of the day everywhere? Why? Because these middle-classes have seen themselves, their parents, and the future of their children sold down the river by thieves and scoundrels after the 2007 crash… they’ve seen the Bankers grow rich at their expense, the elite .01% walk away unscathed while they and their children gained nothing in return… this is the legacy of corruption and excess… Capitalist Utopianism at its degrading best… a legacy of doom.

I sometimes feel like one of those cranks on the street corner spouting from a soapbox the coming apocalypse. Problem is it’s not coming, it’s all around us but we can’t see it or believe what is in front of our eyes. Apocalypse from Greek apokalyptein “uncover, disclose, reveal,” a sort of mystery novel or noir disclosure of those old standbys of fate and freedom, the pendulum of time swinging on Poe’s horror flicked stage of the world. A post-cyberpunk tale replete with all the usual morbidity of normalcy. That’s the problem it is all so normal now that it’s ubiquitous, we can’t see it because it’s everywhere. We kept thinking apocalypse would be some drastic one-time event. Instead its just our normal madness. We have created a mentality that accepts as normalcy the apocalyptic time of no-time, a present without outlet. We call it global capitalism and have convinced ourselves there is no alternative. So we lie down in our pits of revenge, our hovels of critical theory and critique and poke fun from the sidelines as if we might make a difference. While the sleepers continue their sleep unaware that reality TV is no longer a fantasy.

I just keep wondering when this generation now entering their 30’s and 40’s is going to find its voice and take control of the stupidity and act before it’s too late? In our time Global Capitalism is divorcing itself from sovereign nations, tearing down the walls between Third and First world, seeking migrations as tools to further their agenda of no more democracy… the rich, elite, powerful conglomerates and corporations are creating networks, laws, systems outside the sovereignty of nations… the don’t need democracy anymore. We do! We’ll people wake up and realize this before it’s too late. The rich are abandoning sites like the EU for have cities, evil dream cities of City States around the planet where they can live in luxury and decadence unheard of while those left in the old democracies pay the bill. We seem to believe in outmoded philosophies, politics, and revolutions of emancipation from a different world. Things have changed… we no longer have the luxury of time on our side. If we do not act in this generation it truly will be too late. I know, I know… this has been said before, too many times.. by me and others… but that doesn’t make it false. What do we want? What kind of world do you want for yourself and your children?

On the Left we target a ghost, neoliberalism as if it existed, we have all our cards laid out in a line, theories, histories, economic and philosophical; yet, under it all the truth is that neoliberalism was our fantasy, our construction kit for a world that has moved on… we’re targeting and indexing an object that does not exist accept in our theories. Reality is where people live and die, not some theoretical construction kit one can model like a weather application. Oh, don’t get me wrong…. geez … we need the modeling, too. What I’m getting at is that we need to know things from the street-level, from the gut-level… we have too much theory… too much of it is now repeating the same gestures, the same idiocies, the same groove over and over again… When was the last time you read a book, an article of substance that actually had something new to say? We seem running in circles saying the same thing in new metaphors… this is hyperdecadence or hyperawareness with a vengeance. Most of the philosophical and political bric-a-brac one reads is warmed over thought from the pomo era, either castigating or promoting Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida, or German Idealisms, Heidegger-Husserl, or the analytical Sellars-Brandomonian normative pack… then all these New Materialisms, Objects, Realisms spinning out what? What is ontology getting us? Is this going to change the world for the better? Are we just following the reality game into utter doom with either our direct or indirect access to it processual or structural insanity?

Maybe I’m an old fool, my time done or nearing… Nah… I’ll keep fending off the death-squad a while longer, thank you… and, I’ll continue being a Crank, churning out my little bit of narrative disruption here and there trying to wake people up… what else can one do? I still believe in hope… I dream… I seek a way forward… a world worthy of human love… maybe I’m just a stubborn old fool, and Jesus used to say we should just “turn the other cheek,” but I’m tired of turning that cheek, tired of watching the world sink down into oblivion, I’m – as Peter Finch in Network once said:

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Think on it… notes from the Apocalypse…


Savage Nights: Chapter Two – Ruins of Empire

Matt saw it before I did; he touched me leg: motioning, up and to the right. It was hovering about twenty yards beyond us studying the shadows between the dead moon and us. Must’ve caught something in its heat-signature, it darted to the opposite side of the crumbling office-building we’d just entered. We lay there silently listening to it hum away. It was looking for something. Not us, at least.

A shot boomed out as it lazed the street with several bursts of viper-spray. We saw it moving down the street then after a stray dog that had wandered into the zone by mistake or seeking food. Either way the last burst caught its hind-legs and it went down groaning. Not much we could do for the dying animal. Tough luck.

Matt set the necrosynth axial onto red mode, then hit the secnav relay, the drone punched forward and he hit the kill-mode LED overlay. The drone twittered then veered off to the left crashing into the wreckage of an old grocery outlet. We waited. Drones flew in packs of two or four. There must be more outside our field of vision. One of them would get curious sooner or later if a signal dropped.

The drones were autoriders, independent of human intent or contact for the most part. About the only time a CommTech would know something was up was either during downtime repair, when the batteries and other maintenance would bring the units home or if an emergency signal had made its way to the Satcom satellite relays far above, traveling the night sky around the earth like Archons of some deadly thought. Matt’s software disruptions made sure neither happened.

We sat there quiet for a few more minutes. Nothing moved.

I got itchy about it. Usually the drones would detect a lost sig-trace signal and been running frantic in a tree vector search and seek operation after their fallen comrade. Even though these things had a weak AI they still performed almost agent like, as if they had personalities. Maddening.

I finally had enough, motioned to Matt. “Let’s do it!”

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Mêtis: Cunning Intelligence in Greek Thought

In Hesiod’s Theogony we attain an informative and detailed description of how Metis came to be the first consort of the Olympian god Zeus and the mother of the goddess Athena:

“Zeus, king of the gods, took as his first wife Metis,
a mate wiser than all gods and mortal men.
But when she was about to bear gray-eyed Athena,
then through the schemes of Gaia and starry Ouranos,
he deceived the mind of Metis with guile
and coaxing words, and lodged her in his belly.
Such was their advice, so that of the immortals
none other than Zeus would hold kingly sway.
It was fated that Metis would bear keen-minded children,
first a gray-eyed daughter, Tritogeneia,
who in strength and wisdom would be her father’s match,
and then a male child, high-mettled
and destined to rule over gods and men.
But Zeus lodged her in his belly before she did all this, that she might advise him in matters of good and bad.”

Already trickery, guile, and deception surface as the kernel of a form of reason that seems to emerge not from the Mind but rather from the belly or the affective domain of the body and sense rather than the intellect and abstraction; and, that our notions of good or ill are from the affective regions of sense rather than cold harsh reason as well. One wonders if there is a darker materialism hiding in the shadows of ancient thought that has yet to be written? An undercurrent of cunning and naturalism forged in the dark folds of affective relations rather than in the intelligible regions of Platonic thought? Could it be that Plato’s long war against the poet’s and sophist’s is none other than this agon against Mêtis – cunning reason and natural intelligence?

For the Greeks and particularly for Plato, episteme and techne represented knowledge of an order completely different from mētis.  Technical knowledge, or techne, could be expressed precisely and comprehensively in the form of hard-and-fast rules (not rules of thumb), principles, and propositions. At its most rigorous, techne is based on logical deduction from self-evident first principles. As an ideal type, it radically differs from mētis in terms of how it is organized, how it is codified and taught, how it is modified, and the analytical precision it exhibits.1

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Cunning Intelligence: The Wiley Craftsman and Practical Knowledge

Reza Negarestani would have you believe the human animal is done, finished, a natural creature that has seen its day, the last of a breed of natural and cunning intelligence born of organic necessity and a long progression of evolutionary interactions that have in our time come to a singular point of climax awaiting the next player on the stage of temporal succession: the artificial mind. Reza asks: “If the activity we call thinking is realized by such and such functional capacities and if these capacities or activities can be analyzed in terms of their realizers—or specific conditions, processes, and mechanisms required for their realization—then would it be possible to reconstruct or artificially realize such functions? … Or more simply, if thinking is such and such and if it is materialized in thus and so mechanisms and processes, then how can it be reformed and rematerialized in something else?”  He’ll explain:

“This is the question that shapes the field of artificial general intelligence as a program that seeks to integrate the intelligibility of different dimensions of thinking in its full perceptual, conceptual, and intentional complexity under one ideal task: designing a machine that has at the very least the complete package of human cognitive abilities with all capacities such abilities imply (diverse and comprehensive learning, different modalities and levels of knowledge and knowledge-use, reasoning, deliberation, belief formation independent of current perception, competencies enabled by different levels of semantic complexity as specialized and context-sensitive modes of computation, and so on).”1 (my italics)

The answer to “how can it be reformed and rematerialized in something else?” is the task of “designing a machine that has at the very least the complete package of human cognitive abilities with all capacities such abilities imply”. Reza joins all those posthuman and transhumanists who seek to escape the human, to exit the organic ties of natural and cunning reason, merge with our latest convergence technologies, begin that process of leaving the animal behind and becoming other, becoming machine. I don’t single him out as an individual, only that his thought clarifies a specific kernel of a new type of reason that he’s discovered in the heritage of Kant. If anything its helping me to understand many of the differences in philosophical perspectives over the past two thousand years still reside in the age old battle between the intelligible and the sensible, empirical and intuitionist, etc. modes of speculation. For him this new form should no longer be bound to the sensible or cunning animality of natural reason, but should be registered in a a-animal form of machinic intelligence divorced from intentionality…. a pure knowledge machine based on functional and computational models of mathematical and algorithmic complexity (levels of abstraction): autonomous, auto-adapting, and self-modifying.

One thing I’m convinced is that Reza is not so much wrong, as wrongheaded in his approach – as was Kant and others were before him, in wanting to overturn or displace natural reason and cunning intelligence without incorporating the power of their ancient heritage in practical knowledge and pragmatic wisdom. There is something wrong with this overthrow of tens of thousands of years of the growth of intelligence with its environmental and evolutionary pressures as if it were of little or no use for constructing machinic intelligence. Whatever these engineers, scientists, and philosophers might think they are constructing it will not be based on human intelligence, but will be something else, something other… I keep asking myself if there might not be an accommodation of modes of reason, a plurality of forms of intelligence that might be incorporated into such a modeling or construction set? Why must it be one form only? Why reduce it to cognitive and normative modes of intelligence based on spurious philosophies rather than facticity and factual empirical data of human intelligence in theory and practice? Why have humans sought to escape animality, and reason based on it? What is the bottom line in such thinking as this that seeks to escape and exit the animal base of intelligence, to bask in the light of anorganic bliss or machinic design divorced from its organic roots? Does all this come down to a displaced spiritualism under the guise of rational secular thought? Rather than a heaven beyond, we storm the reality studio and incarnate in a beyond of machinic life? Is this a displace theo-ontology, a theological secularism for the 21st Century? These are the questions I want to understand, which lead back to metaphysical not science as the root of such scientific or philosophical endeavors.

The Wiley Trickster: Greek Cunning and Practical Knowledge

In ancient Greece there was a form of practical knowledge in contrast to its cousin the more formal, deductive, epistemic knowledge of the philosophers. The term mētis, which descends from classical Greek and denotes the knowledge that can come only from practical experience.2 The anarchist writers (Kropotkin, Bakunin, Malatesta, Proudhon) who consistently emphasize the role of mutuality as opposed to imperative, hierarchical coordination in the creation of social order follow this same wiley cunning of the Greeks. Their understanding of the term “mutuality” covers some, but not all, of the same ground  covered by the term “mētis.”3

Following the illuminating studies of Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant, we can find in the Greek concept of mētis a means of comparing the forms of knowledge embedded in local experience with the more general, abstract knowledge deployed by the state and its technical agencies. 4 The concept comes to us from the ancient Greeks. Odysseus was frequently praised for having mētis in abundance and for using it to outwit his enemies and make his way home. Mētis is typically translated into English as “cunning” or “cunning intelligence.” While not wrong, this translation fails to do justice to the range of knowledge and skills represented by mētis. Broadly understood, mētis represents a wide array of practical skills and acquired intelligence in responding to a constantly changing natural and human environment. Odysseus’s mētis was in evidence, not only in his deceiving of Circe, the Cyclops, and Polyphemus and in binding himself to the mast to avoid the Sirens, but also in holding his men together, in repairing his ship, and in improvising tactics to get his men out of one tight spot after another. The emphasis is both on Odysseus’s ability to adapt successfully to a constantly shifting situation and on his capacity to understand, and hence outwit, his human and divine adversaries.4

Mētis is most applicable to broadly similar but never precisely identical situations requiring a quick and practiced adaptation that becomes almost second nature to the practitioner. The skills of mētis may well involve rules of thumb, but such rules are largely acquired through practice (often in formal apprenticeship) and a developed feel or knack for strategy. Mētis resists simplification into deductive principles which can successfully be transmitted through book learning, because the environments in which it is exercised are so complex and nonrepeatable that formal procedures of rational decision making are impossible to apply. In a sense, mētis lies in that large space between the realm of genius, to which no formula can apply, and the realm of codified knowledge, which can be learned by rote. Knowing how and when to apply the rules of thumb in a concrete situation is the essence of mētis. The subtleties of application are important precisely because mētis is most valuable in settings that are mutable, indeterminant (some facts are unknown), and particular.5

There is not doubt that mētis is a type of intelligence and of thought, a way of knowing; it implies a complex but very coherent body of mental attitudes and intellectual behavior which combine flair, wisdom, forethought, subtlety of mind, deception, resourcefulness, vigilance, opportunism, various skills, and experience acquired over years of practice and apprenticeship to trades, etc.. It is applied to situations which are transient, shifting, disconcerting and ambiguous, situations that take a hand/eye coordination rather than a formal intelligence or cognition. How to sail, fly a kite, shear sheep, drive a car, or ride a bicycle all rely on mētis. One of the truth of mêtis is that it requires activity training rather than book learning. Teaching someone how to farm land from a book is almost impossible, with all the subtle inflections of day to day changes, nuances, temperature, climate, rain, sun, heat, cold variations that take place and enforce moment to moment changes in approach, technique, evaluations, etc. Things that would be difficult to teach in a class. Husbandry and other subjects taught in school for agriculture are usually the technical aspects of equipment, feed, chemicals etc. rather than the hands on practical knowledge of actually farming. Same thing for a fireman, policeman, carpenter, pipefitter, plumber, electrician, steel-worker, etc.. All trades and crafts require mētis rather than the typical formal knowledge of theory.

So one wonders what we will lose in our shift to the types of general artificial intelligence that Negarestani and many of the posthuman engineers, developers, AI experts have planned which will see such practical knowledge as just natural cunning and animal intelligence to be sloughed off and replaced with this more refined theoretical general artificial intelligence? I have a feeling we will be losing much more than we gain, and that these scientists will be surprised as well that their super intelligent machines work great at puzzles like Go and Chess, but would suffer defeat in farming the earth. Maybe it is our cunning and our crafty wiliness that has kept our species alive and well on planet earth for so long rather than those like Kant and his progeny that seek to escape this ancient mode of being.

Much of the world of mētis that we have lost is the all but inevitable result of industrialization and the division of labor. And much of this loss was experienced as a liberation from toil and drudgery. But it would be a serious error to believe that the destruction of mētis was merely the inadvertent and necessary by-product of economic progress. The destruction of mētis and its replacement by standardized formulas legible only from the center is virtually inscribed in the activities of both the state and large-scale bureaucratic capitalism. (Scott, pp. 335-336)

The genius of modern mass-production methods, Frederick Taylor, saw the issue of destroying mētis and turning a resistant, quasi autonomous, artisan population into more suitable units, or “factory hands,” with great clarity. “Under scientific management… the managers assume … the burden of gathering together all of the traditional knowledge which in the past has been possessed by the workmen and then of classifying, tabulating, and reducing this knowledge to rules, laws, formulae. . . . Thus all of the planning which under the old system was done by the workmen, must of necessity under the new system be done by management in accordance with the law of science.” 78 In the Taylorized factory, only the factory manager had the knowledge and command of the whole process, and the worker was reduced to the execution of a small, often minute, part of the overall process. The result was often remarkably efficient, as in the early Ford plants; it was always, however, a great boon to control and profit. (Scott, pp. 336-337).

As Scott remarks “universalist claims seem inherent in the way in which rationalist knowledge is pursued. Although I am no philosopher of knowledge, there seems to be no door in this epistemic edifice through which mētis or practical knowledge could enter on its own terms. It is this imperialism that is troubling.” As Pascal wrote, the great failure of rationalism is “not its recognition of technical knowledge, but its failure to recognize any other’.  By contrast, mētis does not put all its eggs in one basket; it makes no claim to universality and in this sense is pluralistic. (Scott, p. 340).

Negarestani and others scientists, engineers, scholars etc. seek to suborn the human project of optimized intelligence to a notion of the Good, saying that any “form of intelligence that wills the good must emancipate itself from whatever or whoever has given rise to it. And those species that can recognize the good must not obstruct but rather expedite the realization of an intelligence that, even though it acknowledges them as integral to the intelligibility of its history, nevertheless won’t be impeded by them.” (here) What he is saying is simple, he is appealing to those reluctant humans who do not see the future of his machine based intelligence and artificial world as obstructionists. He seeks to instill a new ethos and normativity to – as he says, “expedite the task” of creating this superior intelligence, an imposed utopian of the “good,” our good (Law from Above). Such impositions smell of tyranny and chains. Such Promethean projects seem happily and merrily ready to wipe out human natural intelligence and cunning and to replace it with machinic enslavement to a higher order reason, a general artificial intelligence. For all his talk of emancipation, it seems to be emancipation only for that machinic (algorithmic) intelligence whose mission or task has nothing to do with the human. Shall we call this the real alien invasion? Humans have become nothing more than parasites, a utility in the hands of machinic intelligence, a stop-gap on the way to emancipation not of humanity, but of intelligence from humanity. What of those who obstruct and oppose it? What of them? Will humanity once left behind by these vast machines be rendered useless? What then?

  1. Negarestani, Reza. What Is Philosophy? Part Two: Programs and Realizabilities. © 2016 e-flux.
  2. Vernant, Jean-Pierre; Detienne, Marcel. Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society University of Chicago Press (June 18, 1991)
  3. 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) (pp. 6-7). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.
  4. ibid., p. 313
  5. ibid., p. 315-316
  6. ibid., p. 316

BwO – Deleuze and Guattari: The Impossible Thing We Are Becoming

Timid, devoid of dynamism, the good is inept at communicating itself. Evil, much more zealous, seeks to transmit itself, and succeeds because it possesses the double privilege of being fascinating and contagious.
……………– E.M. Cioran

Or is it a question of a real passage of substances, an intensive continuum of all the BwO’s? Doubtless anything is possible. All we are saying is that the identity of effects, the continuity of genera, the totality of BwO’s, can be obtained on the plane of consistency only by means of an abstract machine capable of covering and creating it, by assemblages capable of plugging into desire?
……..-Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

Is that it? Is that all that is needed? A construction kit for abstract machines, a magical tour bus of the impossible in a science fiction apparatus or time-machine between Aeon and Chronos? An entry into the nagual? Hyperchaos? The dark corridors of the Thermospasm? A collective assemblage project to undo two thousands years of western civilization one brick at a time? An exit plan with a treasure map to boot: a path forward: a movement between that which is and that which is not? A conduit for the impossible? Odysseus riding between Scylla and Charybdis? Sirens weaving a song of death? Howling’s in the wind driving us forward in despair?

Having never been born how could we exist? Oh, no, you’ll point to that hole, that cut, that toothed womb – vagina dentata –  from which the first worm emerged, a bloody pitiful mess of meat crying into the world (no, this is not a gendered slap in the face of time); a gushing out of an immanent ocean of the impossible. A virtual discography set producing time itself as a product of its own production? That wasn’t birth, that was a scandalous act of cowardice, beautiful and ugly. Ever since we’ve been floating between a sadomasochistic pendulum of infernal delights, never satisfied with our gift we seek out our true Body-without-organs; this thing we never are, but are always exiting toward. What would you risk to actually find it?

How many of us are willing to risk it? Experiment. Take the chance on becoming other? If real change is the movement of the world, or we not always changing? Every physical cell in my body is not the same as when I was born out of my mother’s womb, bloody and violently – awakened to the monstrosity I Am? What am I then? Or should we ask more appropriately: What is this thing we are becoming?

Are we fearful of the ugly truth? Is it too disgusting to approach? Why hide from this monstrous existence? Shouldn’t we follow those before us? Aurel Kolnai’s long essay “Disgust” from 1929, the first dedicated philosophical study of this emotion; William Ian Miller’s Anatomy of Disgust (1997); and Winfried Menninghaus’s compendious Disgust: The Theory and History of a Strong Sensation (2003). It bears affinity with certain theoretical applications such as Martha Nussbaum’s Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law (2004) and Julia Kristeva’s examination of the abject in The Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (1982), as well as the many analyses of the disgusting in art such as Robert Rawdon Wilson’s The Hydra’s Tale: Imagining Disgust (2002). Carole Talon-Hugon’s Gout et degoit: L’art peut-il tout montrer?

But that is for a future study, now we wander the mazes of the Body-without-Organs. Seek a way a long the dark riverrun of abysmal thoughts where origins hide the motioning lust of desire’s broken vessels, those lights of evil energy that seems to seep into our lives from everywhere. Will you follow? What line of flight shall we follow today?

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Savage Nights: Chapter Two – Dog Day Nights

We drove up to the edge of a clearing. I backed the truck into a hovel next to the road, pulled out the nanouflage I’d kept in the shop for such an emergency. It would hide the truck undercover while we were in the d-zone. Poured it across the hood, the microscopic seeders took over from there, spreading over the metal and paint like a tribe lost ghosts fleeing across a temporal rift. Within a minute the truck looked more like rubble than a hot-rod. The nanotubules were locked to my biogen relays so that the moment we returned and I touched the hood with the palm of my hand a chain reaction would set in and the whole mirage would implode leaving my truck intact. Strange what scientists spend their lives doing for advanced military systems.

I’d given Matt explicit instructions before we left, knowing his base neuroplants were Civilian Issue, rather than Military grade. Even with the handicap his memory feeds were beyond mine at the moment. At least he had salvage access to the trade systems in the Sphere – the last network on the planet.

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Infopocalypse: Capitalism, Information Glut, and Assemblages of Struggle

More and more, the shrewdest thinkers and artists are precocious archaeologists of these ruins-in-the-making, indignant or stoical diagnosticians of defeat, enigmatic choreographers of the complex spiritual movements useful for individual survival in an era of permanent apocalypse. The time of collective visions may well be over: by now both the brightest and the gloomiest, the most foolish and the wisest, have been set down. But the need for individual spiritual counsel has never seemed more acute. Sauve qui peut.
…………– E. M.Cioran, The Temptation to Exist

Born in Romania in 1911, Cioran spent most of his life in France, where he lived out his days among the literati of the existential world, became friends of Samuel Beckett (and, in the end lost even this friendship) and others. A disquieting thinker who has haunted me since the first time I read A Short History of Decay many years ago. Sadly like other writers of the era he seems to have let that dread world of fascism touch him with its dark allure. Marta Petreu documents in her excellent An Infamous Past: E.M. Cioran and the Rise of Fascism in Romania this sordid history.

One remembers the life and work of Paul de Man the literary scholar and critic and the posthumous 1988 discovery of an anti-Semitic wartime article he’d published that scandalized the academic world. Or Karl Löwith’s Martin Heidegger and European Nihilism and others exposes, biographies, and philosophical disquisitions on Heidegger’s troubling past. This type of expose is not new and seems to crop up from time to time depending more on the political mood of the times. One remembers that High Modernists of the era Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Wyndham Luis and others were all either flirtatious and embryonic fascists, or as in the case of Pound full-blown rhetoric advocates of this ideology as if it were some dread disease of the mind.

Yet, we still read these authors even after having discovered their histories and involvements. What does that say about us? Deleuze and Guattari would document this history in their now famous Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Exposing the core liberal fascism of our own time, saying that fascism has only deepened and extended even since the early years of Hitler and Mussolini. This is the fascism of liberalism itself, the fascism of Kant, of humanism; it is a fascism of desire turned against itself, of the most basic aspects of power and authority that seemingly dominate every aspect of our lives, public and private. In fact the so-called transparency being preached as a core motif of the progressive era of PC is at heart a fascist move to obliterate the private life of individuals and bring it under the public eye of a continuous scrutiny of the vast meditainment and surveillance industry.

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Our Vanishing Estate: Crossing the Rubicon into Inhumanism?


I didn’t have a manifesto. I had some discontent. It seemed to me that midcentury mainstream American science fiction had often been triumphalist and militaristic, a sort of folk propaganda for American exceptionalism. I was tired of America-as-the-future, the world as a white monoculture, the protagonist as a good guy from the middle class or above. I wanted there to be more elbow room. I wanted to make room for antiheroes.
…….– William Gibson, The Paris Review

William Gibson reminisces the future of science fiction’s past in an interview on the Paris Review. Critical of the typical 50’s fare of SF with its Saturday matinee box office appeal, the sunny vision of a prosperous chrome filled futurism and progressive shenanigans, a world of Jetson humor and Asimov industriousness, Gibson says he wanted to get down and dirty, create a form of speculative fiction that was more ‘naturalistic,’ and ‘could crank up the resolution’ on our perceptions of technology and the future of humans, give us a little more of that video game feel “before the invention of fractal dirt” where one could see “dirt in the corners”.

I remember reading Thomas Pynchon a year after I’d come back from an American Nightmare. I speak of Viet Nam of course, a nightmare best left in the sink hole of historians and novelists, documentaries and satire, eulogy and a Wall of the Dead. Sometimes I take a peak into that dark place within where death is more like a friend than an enemy and feel a trembling; a sickening unto death, as Kierkegaard would say  at one point when the world lay too heavy on his mind. Even on returning I was a zombie walking, one of the living dead; a sort of ghost seeking the habitation of his former self: a man who’d seen the abyss but had not survived its wounds, instead I was a walking open-wounded abyss in amber smudges of corruption; an open bleeding death awaiting its final unmaking. Then Pynchon happened. I can still recount the moment I read this monstrosity of a novel or epic satyrs play – what I call the banana scene, the moment I was awakened once again to the life of the senses, that I’d suddenly emerged from the death throws of ennui and dark agnosia – and, believed in my body again, believed in the natural cunning of reason and existence; in its organic trust in reality, its ability to receive and interpret the messages of the senses, to smell the rotting earth or the pungent sweetness of fried bananas:

Now there grows among all the rooms, replacing the night’s old smoke, alcohol and sweat, the fragile, musaceous odor of Breakfast: flowery, permeating, surprising, more than the color of winter sunlight, taking over not so much through any brute pungency or volume as by the high intricacy to the weaving of its molecules, sharing the conjuror’s secret by which— though it is not often Death is told so clearly to fuck off— the living genetic chains prove even labyrinthine enough to preserve some human face down ten or twenty generations . . . so the same assertion-through-structure allows this war morning’s banana fragrance to meander, repossess, prevail. Is there any reason not to open every window, and let the kind scent blanket all Chelsea? As a spell, against falling objects. . . .1

Yes, as a spell against death, against the extreme force and weight of war, pain, misery, politics, hate, injustice – and, most of all the memories of dying friends on battlefields one can never again leave, where one’s own mind cracked and splintered and fell into the bleeding earth among soldiers and rose up like a great howling of madness…. a scream

A SCREAMING COMES ACROSS THE SKY. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.
– Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

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End of Sovereignty: Bare Life and the Coming Civil-War?

…the sovereign is the point of indistinction between violence and law, the threshold on which violence passes over into law and law passes over into violence.
– Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer

When one actually thinks about it, rather than just spouting rhetoric from some ideological mythology of the Left or Right the problem of immigration in our world is about Sovereignty. It’s about the emerging war against boundaries, limits, and finitude in politics, science, philosophy, the arts, and gender. In politics it’s about immigration, migration, and the sense of breakdown of nations and their paranoiac reactionism against imaginary and perceived threats to their own integrity and sovereignty. Same in the sciences we see explorations emerging in biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information and communications converging to form a global network society that will break free of political and social constraints and provide a larger framework and platform for such politically motivated notions as transhumanism that seek to transcend the limits of the human into a inhuman other or enhanced humanity – the so-called H++. In philosophy we see the move away from Kant’s heritage of finitude and limits as speculative philosophies of idealist, materialist, and realist notions have begun to takeover the academic treadmill seeking inhuman, nonhuman, or posthumanist ways of transcending the humanists traditions based in either religious or Enlightement philosophies. Same goes for the arts whether in Sonic installations, Cinema, Performance art, and all the media based systems based on breaking free of technological limitations of traditional arts of painting, music, or other forms. In gender we see the transcension of the male/female dichotomies in the issue of transgender dysphoria current in our world of body modification and sexual identity.   All these issues are about the notion of Sovereignty and should be centered on this concept whether we’re speaking of Self, Body, Politics, Sciences, Art, or Love.

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The Anthropocene: Platonov and the Tragedy of the Commons

One should keep one’s head down and not revel in life: our time is better and more serious than blissful enjoyment. Anyone who revels in it will certainly be caught and perish…
………..– Andrey Platonov, On the First Socialist Tragedy

McKenzie Wark in his latest work Molecular Red: A Theory for the Anthropocene tells us that the Anthropocene is a “catalog of the reasons why the ever-expanding commodifcation of everything is on a collision course with planetary limits”.1 Of all the authors he explicates it is Andrey Platonov as Wark reminds us who has a masterful intuition of what the Anthropocene future is going to be like. (Wark, p. 31) He’ll provide a short story of Platonov’s On the First Socialist Tragedy (translated by Tony Wood) as an opening toward a series of meditations of the impact of humans in the era of the Anthropocene. The Guardian talking of Robert Chandler’s translation of The Foundation Pit would say of Platonov that Stalin called him scum. Sholokov, Gorky, Pasternak, and Bulgakov all thought he was the bee’s knees. But when Andrey Platonov died in poverty, misery and obscurity in 1951, no one would have predicted that within half a century he would be a contender for the title as Russia’s greatest 20th-century prose stylist.

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Secular Ecstasy: Kant and the Capitalist Violence of Reason

You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.
……– Friedrich Nietzsche

There is in divine things a transparency so great that one slips into illuminated depths of laughter…
……– Georges Bataille

Bataille in Inner Experience brings us to the edge of the impossible: “to face the impossible – exorbitant, indubitable – when nothing is possible any longer is in my eyes to have an experience of the divine; it is analogous to a torment.1 At the heart of Bataille’s secular mysticism is the notion of sacrificial negativity, whether in the form of mysticism, eroticism, art, poetry, gambling, or any other – “deficit operations,” that he discovers the key to “sovereign” existence; an “existence free of all limitations of interest”. Following Durkheim he would divide the world into Sacred / Profane, and against the profane world of work and utilitarian, goal oriented, purposeful behavior, thought, and instrumental reason, and its concern for the discontinuous individual self he would transgress through a counter-operation of sheer sacrifice, excess, and utter destruction of the festival of capitalist accumulation and experience. For Bataille sacrifice broke the barriers, shunted the taboos and constraints and regulations of the Bourgeoisie that atomized and constricted the individual to a hermetic ego whose only concern was self-protection defined by pecuniary interest, individual concern, and fear of death.2

Nick Land in Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007  will quote E.M. Cioran’s essay ‘Thinking Against Oneself’ in which he says: ”

There is no work that does not return against its author: the poem crushes the poet, the system the philosopher, the event the man of action. Some form of self-destruction, responding to his vocation and accomplishing it, is at work in the core of history; only he saves himself who sacrifices gifts and talents in order that, disengaged from his quality as a man, he is able to strut into being.

Could we apply this to civilizations? This sense that at the core of capitalist civilization there is a process of self-destructive annihilation, and in the end be the only possible salvation left for Western Civilization is to sacrifice its gifts and talents, disengage from its humanist heritage, its religious and secular commitments, and the very foundations of history itself, and thereby allow the future to emerge from its deathly ashes like the Phoenix flaming toward the undying Sun?

As Nick Land surmises on the medieval mindset, in a age when the Church erected cathedrals in a disfigured celebration of the death of God, the nobility built fortresses to glorify and to accentuate the economy of war. Their fortresses were tumours of aggressive autonomy; hard membranes correlative with an acute disequilibrium of force. Within the fortress, social excess is concentrated to its maximum tension, before being siphoned off into the furious wastage of the battlefield.(FN, KL 3452) In the end this aggressive force would turn not outward toward the Other, the Enemy, but rather inward toward its own people, targeting the very heart of the human project itself, the children. Speaking of the monstrous world of Gilles de Rais’ and his compatriots:

The children of the surrounding areas disappeared into these fortresses, in the same way that the surplus production of the local peasantry had always done, except now the focus of consumption had ceased to be the exterior social spectacle of colliding armies, involuting instead into a sequence of secret killings. Rather than a staging post for excess, the heart of the fortress became its terminus; the site of a hidden and unholy participation in the nihilating voracity which Bataille calls ‘the solar anus’, or the black sun. (FN, KL 3456)

Are we even now staging the Age of Blood, the Black Sun? A time when the children of men, the young women and men, boys and girls will be sacrificed to the gods of Capital? When the elite aristoi (aristocratic .01%) fold in the world’s youth in a pyre of civil-war to depopulate the earth and make room for the future of these top-tiered Goths and their secular pyramid of sacrificial excess? Is civilization in process of immolation and apocalypse? Or, is this just the transitional nightmare of abstract reason emerging from the chrysalis of flesh into machinic dreams, a transcendent sacrifice of animality at the hands of a more sublime mathematical and dynamic Gothicism? Was Kant the father of Gothic Sublime and Capital Reason?

Immanuel Kant: The Sublime and Gothic Violence of Reason

Kant, Land remarks, was the first to recognize the modern sublime in its two variations of ‘mathematical’ and ‘dynamic’: the mathematical sublime is the pleasure taken by reason in the collapse of the imagination induced by the intuition of magnitude, and the dynamic sublime is the equivalent pleasure corresponding to the intuition of power. In other words, the mathematical sublime is associated with the insignificance of the human animal, and the dynamic sublime with its vulnerability. (FN, KL 1890-1892). This sense of being at risk and insignificant against the backdrop of the cosmos and natural process forces us back on our solitude, our finitude. As Land continues,

Sublimity has three elements; on the one hand the two elements of the subject: its sensibility or animality and its reason or pure intelligence, and on the other an object that overwhelms the imagination, and which is driven between the two parts of the subject like a wedge. (FN, 1893-1895). Between affect and intellect a wedge or gap is driven within which the nullity of the Subject emerges as from chaos and the void.

At the heart of the Kantian enterprise was the ultimate escape plan, an exit plan from sensibility (i.e., affect and animality) into pure instrumental reason and intelligence. As Land comments that Kant was the first grand horror story author, a Gothicism of violence “in which the enlightenment reached its crescendo; philosophers feast in the palaces of reason, and luxuriate in the screams that reach them from the dungeons of sublimity” (FN, KL 1922). Yet, for all that Kant had something else, as Land tells it, “he has actually taught us something quite different, if our stomachs are strong enough for it” (FN, 1927).

Kant would teach us new path, a path of violence and demolition, of annihilation of imagination as natural intelligence or animal cunning. (FN, KL 1929) At the heart of the Kantian project is the negation and contempt for the body and base matter, a repugnance, disgust, and ultimate horror of sensibility and animality that would drive modernity forward and institute within the capitalist project a death-drive for mastery and accumulation without sacrifice that is in our own time culminating in the Human Security Regime: transhumanism, posthumanism, etc., all those systems of transcending the human order into the machinic and inorganic sublime had their beginnings in Kant’s veritable crucifixion of natural intelligence in which the human animal comes to prostrate itself before universal law. (FN, KL 1930) Kant would destroy man’s natural reason or cunning animality and replace it with an artificial construct, an unnatural and sublime instrumental reason, instead. As Land wryly says,

The Kantian moral good is the total monopoly of power in the hands of reason, and reason finds its principal definition as the supersensible element of the subject, and thus as fundamentally negative. In other words, morality is precisely the powerlessness of animality.  (FN, KL 1934)

Kant’s moralism aligns itself with the inhuman power of instrumental reason against the body and animality of humanity, and as Land with glee relates “Kant’s anti-utilitarianism is a mark of his integrity as a moralist in the Western tradition” (KL 1944). “For reason has programmatically deafened itself to the howls of the body, and it is only by means of the aesthetic detour of the sublime that the devastating effects of its sovereignty can come to be enjoyed.” (FN, 1949) Ultimately Kant discovers what Freud and others would only catalogue later on that the “pathological lunge towards death rediscovers itself in the process of its own rigorous extirpation; sublimated into the thanatropic frenzy of reason” (FN, 1953). Norman O. Brown, Ernst Becker, and Herbert Marcuse would term this the Quest for Immortality: the great escape or exit from the physical limits of organicsm against the animality of our fleshly existence. A secular mythology brewing under the hood of the Sublime repression of the death-drive as the immortal complex. This is the heart of transhuman, posthuman, and inhuman forms of escape…


  1. Bataille, Georges. Inner Experience (SUNY series, Intersections: Philosophy and Critical Theory) Stuart Kendall, trans. State University of New York Press (September 1, 2014).
  2. Negative Ecstasies: Georges Bataille and the Study of Religion (Perspectives in Continental Philosophy (FUP))  Kindle Edition. Jeremy Biles (Editor), Kent Brintnall (Editor). Fordham University Press; 1 edition (July 1, 2015).
  3. Land, Nick (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 1734-1736). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.




Savage Nights: Scene Five – The Shop

Red was a big man, a redbone from the sea-infested swamps of Calcasieu parish Louisiana. Wasn’t much left of his people now, most had migrated to one place or another as the tides had risen over the past twenty-years or so. The world wasn’t what it used to be by any means.

As a kid I watched the holofeeds on my HogVR 121. Boy that brings back memories… but that’s another story, before things fell apart. This one’s built out of fragments of death and misery; well, that and people trying to actually live and get on together. What else could we do? The pejorative of ‘outsider’ actually means something now, cause we’re all Outsiders here in the Grunge, a buffer zone between the Island City of Consilience and the Wildlings. One could say the Grunge is a sort of open prison, a place you could leave at anytime, with one catch: there’d be no return trip. Once you left the barriers into the Wildlings your id-chip would be permanent erased, your pattern stricken from the Book of Memory forever. You’d be legally dead.

Matt stood to the side after we entered the shop. I’d told him to have a seat, grab a cup of java or some biscuits and jam. Red’s old lady, Maria arrived promptly every morning with a big batch of biscuits, gravy, and her own concoction of marmalade. Not much grew on the surface anymore, but the Consilient gave us access to the Grove – a domed agri-fab where many of the Grunge worked long hours planting, collecting, and tending the sharecrops for the Consilience. For their efforts they were given the basics on a day to day basis as they came available.

The Grunge was an update to the oldest form of serfdom known to man: slavery is slavery anyway you look at it, only difference now was the technology. Nothing really ever changes with humankind in that respect. Oh, sure we all wanted to break free, run away, enter the Wildling. But the truth is there wasn’t anything out there but gangs of hybrid machines, dregs of roving bands of the walking dead, were-creatures, the mad, cannibals… I guess you get the picture? Not the kinda place you really want to raise kids in even if you could. Oh, yea, that’d been outlawed for us Outties… we were caught between a rock and a hard place for sure. Nothing much to be done but ride out my sentence without causing any more infractions. Compromise? Sure it is. But life is one long compromise if you ask me… go ahead, be a radical, live in freedom, the door is always open, walk on through. Truth is that’s not freedom out there in the Wildling; it’s hell, pure and simple. No thank you I’ll work hard, finish my sentence, and regain freedom another way.

Red was hammering on what looked like a broken sligrac – a cutting tool for stripping concrete and other crap the boys gathered in the ruins. He turned and said: “Dam, Jesse, don’t sneak up on a fellah like that, I almost threw this hammer between your eyes.” He frowned and squinted his eyes, then let out a deep belly laugh that almost knocked poor Matt off his feet.

“Where’s Beau and the boys, Red?”

“Oh, their out collecting some grapple for Benny. Got a contract for some iron.” He seemed nonplussed. Yea, Red was more the shop foremen for the outfit. Did most of the repairs, kept the books, wrote the contracts, set the times and schedules. Well, in truth, it was his daughter, Louisa did most of that for him, he just took credit for it. Made him feel important. I let him. Even though I let Louisa know she was the real boss. She’d always laugh at that.  Her father’d look mean and angry and say he was going to quit the Outfit someday. I’d say: “Go for it! Find a better job! Plenty of them around, you know!” He’d pout a moment then come back: “What would you do without me, Jesse? I mean dang, who’d fix up that old beater of yours, anyway?”  I’d laugh: “Old beater, is that what my Chevy is now?” He’d snicker: “Well, you knows what I mean…”. Yeah, I knew.

“Good! Yea, I got to take care of a couple of things out in the Dead Zone, Red…”

“Whoah! What the hell…” He spit his tobacco all over the table. “Dam, Jesse, what you talking about, Dead Zone?”

I hadn’t seen him so upset since Louisa broke up with the Turner boy. “Well Matt over there found something, and I think it might be something to make all our lives a little easier if you know what I mean.”

“Yea, I know what you mean. That kind of thinking could get you killed, Jesse. That’s no place for you, no sireee…” He shook his head, kept on hammering. “What’s Betsy thing about this business?”

That was a good one, she’d kick me up and down the street if she found out. “I’m not going tell her quite yet, Red.”

“What? You a fool or something? Leave that girl homeless and all if you die out there?” He looked hard at me then. “What, you mama raise a fool? Boy, what a world, can’t even count on your boss to be sane. No, sireee, it’s going to be a cold day in hell before Beauregard let’s you live this one down.”

He was right of course. Beau was an Alsakan, come down south after the ice-melt when things got just too weird up there. He didn’t like this place at all, but like Red and I was pretty sure to remain a neuroserf for at least the rest of his natural born life. The Grunge was all we had, and to take a chance of entering the Dead Zone was almost certain suicide. If the Mechnoids didn’t get you then either the biogens or the critters would. And, even though in my younger days I’d wandered there with the other boys during our final military exercise I’d almost died. There were things in there I didn’t want to remember.  Yet, it had to be done. It was in there that I’d have to sooner or later find Talia. Tol Glavin was smack in the middle of it, an old ComSat military base where the ghosts ran the snakes across the planet.

Matt may be a hybrid idiot, but the neuralsoft running what was left of his skullpan knew what it was about even if the man and his personality were squibbed. “Red, he’s got the soft that tells him he’s on to something, but he’s half-there, you know that. I got to go check it out. It might be our ticket to a better life, even a way to cross out the contracts, set us free, let us enter the Consilient enclave for good.”

His eyes grew wide. “Really? It’s that big?”

“Yea, Red, I think it is…” At least that’s what I hoped.

(Note: This is the end of Chapter One… that’s all I’m publishing for now. Hopefully the second rewrite will be done by summer, and the final by mid-summer. Going to try to get it to press either with a small publisher or self-published indie. Not sure which angle to take, yet. But that’s all I’m going to offer for a while… hope you enjoyed!)

Chapter One: One | Two | Three | Four | Five

Chapter Two: One | Two

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2016 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Savage Nights: Scene Four – The Treasure Hunt Begins

Popped the air-tank, inflated the tires, gazed up into the blanched sky, where the sun like a burning soldier seemed to hang in the orange haze like a bloody fist, red and devilish. As I scooted into the truck, and flushed the ashes from the seat, I kept my eye on Matthias Bowden who seemed to be eyeing me from across the street with his sawed-off shotgun. Didn’t have any slugs in it, not even sure why the bastard carried the rusty thing around with him, unless to scare the street riff-raff who hadn’t yet heard about the poor bastard and his tale.

Twisted tales seem to run rampant on the streets of the Grunge. The city seemed to be a sponge for the darkest materials of the universe. Things fold into it as if the force of the cosmos were invaginating within it, folding back into a nightworld where nothing but the folds of gravity and temperature plunged from deep space, falling into the broken ruins where things old and terrible lived in it’s cold and molten core. Sound, light, pressures, air, all of these things were folded into it and it unfolded these things like a spider twirling out its silk net of death to capture unsuspecting bugs or humans. Yea, the Grunge lives up to its name alright. There is a festering life just below the streets, a froth of ancient capitalism, like a smudge, a noise rumbling below in the sludge of former lives, a hum of energy erupting here and there in spores bursting from the dew laden stones, and rusty, broken steel; caged desires that seemed ready at any moment to find their way back up from the roots of civilization’s graves like ghosts ready for war and revenge.

Matthias was only one of thousands of blaggards who’d lost their minds in this sorry ass labyrinth. Poor bastard lost his wife, kids, and sanity long before the war was over between Mexico and the States. They’d been out picnicking from what I hear one bright day, minding their own business when a Zli’soto biker-cult drove up to their campsite. Needless to say rape, mayhem, death, and torture seemed to be the modus operandi of these thugs, ritual borgs – slicers, slayers, and fugmeisters: general all-around bleeders if you’d asked me. But no one was asking me at the time. Felt sorry for the poor bastard, but wasn’t much to be done but put him out of his misery. But the Consilient had taken care of that, those guardians of Law and Order from the Assemblage. Don’t worry, I’ll get to that soon enough.

Mind-wipe and deneuralized back-wash of his sub-autononomic systems I hear tell. They’d tried to rememorize him: plant new memories, or false ones, the story goes. But they’d not taken, something about his patterns didn’t match the known perimeters of the AI’s datafeeds, etc.. Bungled the job, they did. Waste of a man’s life…  Deadly stuff those technomic’s have. Now Matthias was a sort of glued together salvage-borg, not much good to himself or others except to dig through the ruins, leftovers scattered across the Grunge.

That’s the thing about the Grunge, it’s what’s left of what they used to call Southern California. Exotic territory that once blessed civilization with Hollywood and the accoutrements of a vast mediatainment empire. That was a laugh now I come to think about it. Gazing out over this wasteland is like wandering around in someone else’s apocalypse, maybe one of those old movies from the turn of the century. Yea, in 2187 all that was buried in a pile of rubble ten feet down so thick it’d take a salvager years to get to it now. And, believe me some have tried… treasures down there the Consilient Aristoi would pay high cred for, believe me.

I backed out and drove past Matthias slowly, saying: “Hey, Matt,” smiling easily, “what you styling there buddy.”

He frowned, then grinned ear to ear his idiot smile, and laughed: “I got me a treasure, Rider.” Seemed happy with himself.

Most people knew me by my nickname. Very few knew my real name. Not something I liked to broadcast. Didn’t matter much, anyway, if ConTel’s Enforcers wanted you all they had to do was read your neuropattern. The Assemblage was a massive datastore spread across the planet like the old net once was but different, now it held the patterns for every living human left on the planet. The day of your birth you were chipped and patterned. Nothing you could do about it. The Law was the Law. Reason why I’m on the Outside now. Life’s a bitch then you die. Old cliché but worse now, because they had your pattern: death was just another word for rebirth. Yea, you might not come back the same Joe Schmooze, but your pattern could return over and over and over like a bad dream. One more reason to hate the Aristoi and their Assemblage.

Curious I asked: “What kind of treasure you got there, Matt?”

“It’s mine, and you can’t have it.”

“Okay, bud, don’t get all worked up about it. I’s just asking… that’s all, I  don’t want your treasure. Forget I asked.”

“Nah, nah… that’s not what I meant, Rider…” he seemed uneasy. “I mean… I need to talk to someone about it. I think it’s dangerous or something. But I just don’t know.”

Now I really was curious, so I said to him: “Well, hop on in the truck, Matt, let’s go see if we can find out.”

He smiled at that and hopped in. I gave him some jerky to chew on, and some Red Man to plunk in his mouth. He seemed obliging. Then he pulled out a piece of paper, saying, “I wrote the address down here, close by where it’s located. Problem is it’s beyond the DMZ.”

He looked at me then kinda scared, his eyes blinking and his breath a little short. I said: “Okay buddy, what were you doing there fore anyway?” No one was allowed beyond the specified barriers, stepping beyond into the Dead Zone was crazy and real dangerous. Mechs patrolled the area day and night. Caught by a Mech and your ass was grass. No… if’s, and’s or but’s… dead, blam, finito…

Oh, sure there were ways around it, but those were as illegal as getting caught, and meant torture if you did get caught. Blinders, drone-splicers, radar-repellants, all the tools of the smugglers trade could be used to roam at will in the Dead Zone. I’d done it myself a time or two and luckily never gotten caught. Had my tools in my shop where Red and Bow ran things for me. Yea, I’m a salvager. About the only means of living in this world left to us outside the Consilient. Just the way of things… survive or perish. No one else much cared which, it was all up to you.

“Matt, I got to make a run to the shop, and get some things. Alright?” He nodded. I started the engine and headed down a side street toward the RedLine. Back of my mind I wished I had the creds for an x-tra fliptop iGalaxy for Betsy. Dam! She’d have to wait for a bit. Knew she’d be pissed by the time I showed up, but it couldn’t be helped. Matt might be on to something… something big, and I’d not know till he showed me what it was. Dam!

I’d need the creds to find Talia, too. I was sure of that.

* * *

One | Two | Three | Four | Five

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2016 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.


Kurt Vonnegut Jr. – Welcome to the Monkey House

In his best short story collection Welcome to the Monkey House Kurt Vonnegut, in his short story “Harrison Bergeron” invites us to think about not-thinking, about a society with an equalizer – a society where the notion of total equality and egalitarian values, ethics, politics, religion, etc. reigned, and the final solution is a tyranny of stupidity or total regulation of thought right down to the neural transmitter. Think on that, what would life be like if our government implanted a General Equivalence Regulator in your Brain so that your thoughts would be bounded by a specific set of rules and regulations beyond which you would – like any Pavlovian dog, be shocked and restricted to go thus far, but no further in your thoughts? Robot City? A well-oiled machinic society regulated by the dictates of a Strong AI? Or some Elite nefarious organization behind the scenes pulling the strings to our paranoid American comic-book spook conspiracy theories? None of the above? All of the above? Let’s visit Vonnegut…

In Harrison Bergeron we meet your typical Mom and Pop George and Hazel Bergeron whose son, Harrison, a seven-foot tall giant – a natural genius, has just been arrested by the equalizers, Handicap General. Yep, that’s right, everyone is forced to wear implants on their heads (this was back in 1964) that produced sonic noises in such a way that one’s thoughts would vanish if you went beyond certain perimeters of social acceptability. You can see where this is leading.

Poor George and Hazel are beside themselves when their son is arrested, yet the moment they begin thinking about it they forget it due to the equalizer. I want spoil you with further details, nor the dark and bitter truth of Vonnegut’s finale. Instead let’s think about such a notion as it might play out in our own age of implants, neurogovernance, and the tyranny of an egalitarian socialization carried to its extreme conclusion. What would that look like? And, mind you, like Vonnegut I like to push extremes to their logical insanity.

Harrison is of course free… but what is this freedom? He has broken free of his head-gear, smashed it and begun to use his own brain and realized he’s thoughts are no longer regulated. But is this true? The story leads us to believe that poor old Harrison is a victim of the social regulators, the bad boy government agency that will hunt him down… no spoilers here. But in fact the story shows us a young man already defective, regulated by cultural ideas from previous eras: the notion that he can become Emperor of the World. We can see a Napoleonic Complex arising here… but I’ll let the reader follow this to the end of the story for her/him self… (Download: pdf)

Well let’s take a step back and see what those on the far Left and far Right of the spectrum have to say about such things. Thinking of Libertarians and Social Anarchists as the typical variations on a theme: a style and philosophy of thought that if one read them side by side would differ only in their economic stance, rather than in their appraisal of the human condition. If you’re a Libertarian you want capitalism to stay around, you just don’t want the State or some Corporate enclave to tyrannize over and regulate it. If you’re a Social Anarchist then capitalism as a competitive credo must go, and some other close knit association of economic exchange take its place; one that’s more favorable and equal to all involved, rather than profit driven by that old Marxian standby – “surplus value”.

I’ll assume people might be familiar with those good old bad boys from Mises Institute? Or even Students for Liberty. If not then hop on over and take a gander at their library and online learning. These guys defend the notion of the Libertarian view of life, philosophy, and economics. What is Libertarianism, anyway? Well a typical rendition of their ideas comes from that old standby, Murray Rothbard who came up with a simplified axiomatic credo for Libertarianism that states:

The libertarian creed rests upon one central axiom: that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else. This may be called the “nonaggression axiom.” “Aggression” is defined as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of anyone else. Aggression is therefore synonymous with invasion.1

This is kind of like Isaak Asimov’s three laws for robotics:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws

One could apply this to humans and get something like this based on Rothbard’s simplistic axiom:

  1. A human may not think about another human being or, through thought, allow another human being to think about him beyond the perimeters set by the General Intelligence Agency.
  2. A human must obey his neuralfeedback systems except where such orders would conflict with agency rules (i.e., overrides, criminal wiretapping, neuralaggression, etc.).
  3. A human must protect its integrity as long as such protection does not conflict with the axiomatic rules of the General Intelligence Agency as set forth and qualified in Axioms One or Two.

Of course this is a satiric take and not to be taken serious, knowing that the syllogism is ridiculous and full of holes as many of those reading this will probably want to inform me through their rigorous and analytical perusal of the matter. I’m being facetious. Let’s move on. Of course the devil in the details in the above is obvious for a Libertarian: Isn’t the General Intelligence Agency a part of the State? Isn’t it the arm of the Law, the enforcement agency carrying out that Law? We libertarians hate the State, Libertarianism is the radical alternative that says state power is unworkable and immoral.2 I mean for Rothbard the whole history of liberalism from its beginnings, the classical liberal movement was, throughout the Western world, a mighty libertarian “revolution” against what we might call the Old Order—the ancien régime which had dominated its subjects for centuries. This regime had, in the early modern period beginning in the sixteenth century, imposed an absolute central State and a king ruling by divine right on top of an older, restrictive web of feudal land monopolies and urban guild controls and restrictions.3

Let’s not bicker over the details, this isn’t a lesson on Libertarianism but rather an expose on the labors of tyranny even if it is exposed by those extreme defenders of Liberty on Left or Right.  Now what about Social Anarchism? Well this is tricky  for a simple reason, anarchists have had a difficult time on the Leftward spectrum of agreeing on a platform, or even a specific umbrella name, term, or framework under which it might build a common consensus. There’s anarchism on reddit? Various schools of thought? Anarchist communities? It has a unique and sordid history of betrayal and resistance, internal strife and external aggression. Not a pretty picture, not formalized like its brethren on the far Right. Where to begin? Who to follow? Who is our guide in this strange and bewildering non-territory of freedom loving anarchists? If I point to one like Noam Chomsky just to take a well-known academic, others will snarl at me.

I guess the closest one can come currently might be the Anarchist Agency from their Mission Statement they tell us they engage the public and the mainstream media about anarchist ideas, practice, and action. That the ground of their work is on two basic ideas: first, that anarchism is the most liberating political theory and practice and the least harmful way of approaching the world, and second, that all of society would benefit from a greater public understanding of what anarchists believe and how anarchy works. That they facilitate the media and public in finding and accessing a multitude of anarchist perspectives, through both pro-active and re-active efforts as well as through acts of cultural intervention. We do this by combining our shared knowledge and experience in public relations and communications work with the writing, speaking, organizing, and awareness-raising skills of contributing writers and activists. By creating original, accessible materials written for a broad audience including anarchists and non-anarchists alike, and promoting anarchist perspectives on a wide range of current events, we amplify the reach of existing anarchist voices and projects. And, that they distribute a diversity of anarchist positions that adhere to an anti-state, anti-capitalist, and anti-oppression framework. We acknowledge that there are many different anarchist perspectives and visions, and this project’s aim is to make the public aware of a range of anarchist beliefs, in a spirit of solidarity and non-sectarianism.

Let’s talk about the beginning then. Bakunin, who wrote in his anarchist manifesto of 1865 that to be an anarchist one must first be a socialist. I am also concerned  with the anarchism of Adolph Fischer, one of the martyrs of the Haymarket affair in 1886, who said that “every anarchist is a socialist, but every socialist is not necessarily an anarchist.” A consistent anarchist must oppose private ownership of the means of production. Such property is indeed, as Proudhon in his famous remark asserted, a form of theft. But a consistent anarchist will also oppose “the organization of production by Government. Proudhon in 1851 wrote that what we put in place of the government is industrial organization organized by the workers themselves. Of course none of these gentlemen had a specific variety of anarchism, some revolutionary while others were more social and collective (i.e., there has always been a Left and Right wing temperament even within anarchistic traditions), but all agreed that the State was their Enemy. So that in this they were in absolute agreement with the Libertarians on the Right, all except their position regarding economics. Oh, it does get complicated. I guess an even handed history as any is by David S. D’Amato On Libertarian Socialism. The main tenet of libertarian socialism is that government should not intrude upon the natural rights of its citizens. To the degree that it refrains from doing so, it is good; to the degree that it does so, it is bad. The problem is, libertarians often differ in their opinion on what constitutes natural rights. Yet, Chomsky and others will defend it a little differently. Here’s Chomsky:

The libertarian socialist goes on to insist that state power must be eliminated in favor of democratic organization of industrial society, with direct popular control over all institutions by those who participate in-as well as those who are directly affected by-the workings of these institutions. So one might imagine a system of workers’ councils, consumers’ councils, commune assemblies, regional federations, and so on, with the kind of representation that’s direct and revocable, in the sense that representatives are directly answerable to and return directly to the well-defined and integrated social group for which they speak in some higher order organization-something obviously very different than our system of representation.4

Okay so the key words here is elimination of State, democratization of industry under popular control, various assortments of workers’, consumers, commune, regional councils,  assemblies, federations, etc., based on direct participation by a select representatives bound to local, regional, and federal jurisdictions of a “well-defined and integrated social group,” all bound to some “higher order organization” which is never detailed out… one almost thinks of a well-oiled assembly line, a machine where everything has its place, its limits, its defined and regulated place in the system or organization, etc., all ruled by some “higher order” elite group. Hmmm… does this really sound like democracy at all, or rather a form of social tyranny in which every aspect of society is bound by rules, regulations, and axioms, and enforced by some hierarchical and mysterious “higher order” power at the top of the pyramid? I’m not sure Mr. Chomsky if I’d quite agree with your invisible force guiding the world as a well-oiled machine of more and more splintered groups, assemblies, federations…. what if they all disagree? What then? Will the almighty hand of the “higher order” step in and impose its Law? Does this lead to freedom or tyranny? Ask Students for Liber

As you can we’re once again in a quagmire, but this time the Enemy is Us rather than some grand institution we can point concretely too. Rather now instead of some know enemy we have the “higher organization” up there beyond things, a sort of mythical Law and Order group silently imposing and directing things from above like Olympian Gods. Oh my! I doubt those old 19th Century anarchists quite had this in mind…

Well as you can see freedom seems to imply in these standards the need for total tyranny and regulation, a well-oiled machine guided from some secret “higher order”… How to play this out in our futuristic scenario? Let’s replace the “higher order” with an Strong AI scenario – weak AI being what we have now on the stock market, with AI’s bound by specific rules and algorithms and under the control of humans to do bids, buys, etc. faster than their human reps, yet still kept within certain limits; while, strong AI is the unbounded General Artificial Intelligence – General meaning “universal” etc. of a being that is self-modifying, aware, and unbounded by human control or mechanisms, etc. So let’s put our – hopefully? – friendly AI at the place of “higher order” in regulating, controlling, and arbitrating the difficult decisions for all these happy camper liberty loving Left and Right anarchist/libertarians, etc. What then? I’ll leave that to you imagination…

I think our friend Vonnegut, if he were alive today would know just where this one leads. Zoink! Tyranny of the Machine! Dumbed down humans controlled and performing the dictates of machinic life, cogs in a well-oiled social system of command and control, all under the perfect dictates of an apparently libertarian democracy where everyone is blind to the truth, and all think they are living in a freedom with an ability to vote and do what they want within prescribed and qualified limits they themselves have put into place. Oh, my… what a future this will be. Tyranny as Democracy… zow, shebang… plunk… Neural implants, collective hive minds, impersonal top-down hooks regulated by the “higher order” strong AI… oh, jeeze… freedom at last… Long Live Freedom!

One can see this in Reza Negarestani: Prometheanism, Intelligence, Self-Determination or Crossing the Cognitive Rubicon: Reza Negarestani and the Inhuman. As I said in the later:

This Inhuman Project is in full swing, an undoing of the domesticate animal known as humanity: a revisioning process that is reinventing the very terms and nature of what it is to be human. A new nomadic impersonalism, forcing humans into landscapes of waste and disruptive material processes of dislocation, separation and disequilibrium from their rooted domiciles, villages, cities and countries; an exclusionary process that is forcing new exoduses, exiles, and nomadic migratory labor movements from the Third World into the ultracities and edgeworlds of hypercapitalism. One based on a new form of theory and practice: the veritable deconlonization of the human animal from its ancient links to language, thought, family, ethnic, religious and social collectivities and symbolic cultures. The naturalization of mind and the denaturalization of nature converging in what many term the InfoSphere of the Global Hypercapitalist Economy.

As the new elites and cognatariats live in spherical enclaves of creativity and techno-intelligent systems, the mass of humanity will enter a withdrawal stage, zones of inhuman suffering and misery, impersonal enclaves of apathy where the ongoing inhumanist erasure of their very ancient belief systems in identity, reason, and subjectivity will be merged with the impersonal force of the machinic phylum. It’s the first step in a process that will eventually lead us into that next stage of artificial evolution: the posthuman. Whether it will take form as H+ (transhumanism), or some strange melding of and disconnect from the human into the inhuman other of the machinic phylum remains to be seen.

One might say that we are living under the sign of erasure, that our worlds are being both deconstructed and reconstructed through a new dedomestication and decolonization of the human into the inhuman or impersonal labor and transhumance of a global economic networks, affiliations, and neutralized market worlds of global capitalism. Those that tout H+ or Transhumanism which underpins much of the capitalist mysticism of posthuman enhancement through pharmaceutical, biochemical, or neural and technological transformation and upload scenarios etc. see this as the new Good and the Beautiful. Yet, while these hypercapitalist visionaries seek to become gods, there are other paths that seek a new progressive inhumanism based on crossing another cognitive Rubicon.

Wonder what Kurt Vonnegut Jr. would make of our brave new world?


  1. Rothbard, Murray N. (2010-05-23). For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto (LvMI) (Kindle Locations 427-430). Ludwig von Mises Institute. Kindle Edition.
  2. ibid. (Kindle Locations 28-29).
  3. ibid. (Kindle Locations 101-104).
  4. ibid.  (Kindle Location 164).

Savage Nights: Scene Three – JoJo’s Diner

It was raining hard and heavy by the time I got back to the Grunge. Drops pelting the windshield and hood with splotches of black and yellow dribble; probably acidic chems from China or some blasted industrial system on what was left of the Pacific. Each drop seemed to congeal and create fissures here and there like lepro-pustules on a dying cow. I edged up to JoJo’s Diner down on Cobain Dr., sat there for minute or two deciding whether it was worth it or not. My stomach growled after a while…

Yea, it was worth it.

Pulled an old AV-Poncho from behind the seat, made sure my hunting rifles and other weaponry were still set and locked in the welded cage I’d had specially built after the war. Pushed the button on the tire-sieve, and gently let out all the air from back tires just in case. Yea, had to be careful, didn’t want the jackals to snip my ride before the night was over. They’d killed my dog, Lester Young last month. Dam, son-of-bitches! Needless to say I’d found them. Let’s not talk about that.

I studied the clientele through the grimy windows of the old converted bus JoJo used for a neighborhood eatery. He’d made this metal trap out of a couple old rusty greyhounds: pre-war jobs; welded them end-to-end. Looked more like two trains passing in the night that had ended in an apocalypse, teeth bared to the world like two wolves in heat. Wasn’t anyone to worry or fret over I could see. Two young guys, hoodies, sitting back playing and fiddling with electronics; flip-scale gibs, prongs, floaters – the usual netcrackers. Nothing much. Two-time bitcoin traders most likely. Otherwise it was a quiet, lonely night. Everyone else looked normal. Working stiffs either coming on, or going off salv-shift. Short for salvegers, scrammers, diggers and shovebone men. Too dead tired to cause any trouble.

Saw Tully at the cash register. She smiled. That old woman been there from eternity it seemed. Still had those missing buck-teeth smack in the center of her mouth where she’d been kicked by a couple of Bogan’s Boys way back. Those boys looked worse after it was over. Six feet down worse. Didn’t bother Tully none about the teeth; in fact she grew used to it, and kinda liked it after a time. She could whistle through the empty space between her teeth like a siren on a dog patrol. She had a laugh that would make you jiggle right along with her, a  gut slinging cackle laugh that reached all the way down and grabbed you, and wouldn’t let go till the tears dropped like flames, bitter and painful.

“Sup, Tul?” She eyed me cautiously. Old eyes. Then I saw the slow recognition seep in as she snickered, then said: “By God, Jonah,” she motioned to the kitchen, banging the pot down a few times, “Jonah, wake up, it’s Rider he’s come home for a visit…”.

Jonah – or his facsimile, peered around the corner of the serving iron: “By dam if it isn’t,” he said. “What the hell you doing out in this mudslide, Jessie? And so far from your Lady?”

“Business, Jo,” I said. “Just business…” And, left it at that.

“Humph… talkative bastard tonight aren’t you…” Jo said, and smiled, then slapped his hand down, yelled at Pris to pick up, then turned back to his fry-line, turning a row of burgers over – or something that passed for burgers. With Jo you just never knew.

Tully motioned me to the far seat next to the window. My usual spot. I didn’t like my back to the door. She knew. She walked up with a pot of steaming coffee, sat a big mug down and plopped the whole pot down, saying, “Guess you’ll need this, Jessie…”. She knew I would. She knew things about me I didn’t know myself.

After the war when things had gone south, it was her and JoJo had fixed me up with a place out back in a tool-shed. Wasn’t much, but hey it served the purpose. And, at the time beggars couldn’t be choosy. Even if I wasn’t a beggar. I remember one night when we were all alone, probably 2 a.m or so, she was watching me. Gave me the creeps, as if she was reading my soul or something. I kept spinning an old dollar piece while sipping some nasty dregs she’d laid before me. After a while I finally just said: “What the freck you looking at old woman, giving me the hebe jeebies.”

Those coal black eyes set back real far in her skull focused to a point on me and she spoke softly, saying, “Jessie there’s death in your body: a ghost, a terrible thing riding you like a hellborn.” I had no idea what the hell she was talking about. She spoke again: “It’s following you, Jessie, its got its mark on you. I can see it. It’s like a small black knot on your heart, sucking at you, a parasite eating away at your mind.” She coughed. Went on: “If you don’t get rid of it it’s going not only kill you, but kill everything you ever loved. You understand?” I didn’t. Thought she was whacked.

After that I kept pretty much to myself. Didn’t eat there unless the place was so busy she’d have a hard time looking at me much less talking to me. But that was all history now, as they say. Water under the bridge. After a few years I discovered what she meant. The hard way – the dirty, nasty, screwed way. The way a man screws over his best friend after he’s gone and fell in love with his girlfriend. A sort of sucka-punch to the throat kind of screw. Not pretty. But who ever said life was pretty was an idiot. And I knew: I was one, an idiot and a sucker. And, yes… a killer, to boot. That, too, was another piece of the puzzle, a piece of history that had brought me to this moment. One doesn’t fight fate so much as hinder its success. Fate and freedom are just the sisters of some turnstile mobius-strip on the road to hell.

After a while the Kid – as I called Pris, walked out from behind the counter and laid that patch of vittles down across the formica tabletop. Lunch-loaf was the blue-plate special today with mashed, green beans and cauliflower, and a side of cornbread made with spiced peppers (hot ones!). She smiled at me, popped a bubble, and smacked her lips: “Hey, Jessie, you never come by anymore. Why? I scare you away or something?” I laughed. “Nah, Kid, I’ve just been to blame busy doing what a guy’s got to do out there.” I shook my head toward window into the night rain.

Pris was another reject, another lost soul on the mend. Tully and JoJo seemed to have a knack for such things. Acting like magnets for the detritus and misfits of the world. She was a good Kid, still a little innocent around the edges. Wore her hair in a pigtail. Smiled and laughed too much. Came from farm country farther south and east of Grunge City. All wastelands now. Parents had died years ago. Left her with her Uncle and brothers. They’d abandoned her here one day, driven off without her and never come back. Guess they had their reasons. Who knows? Probably the best thing for her though. At least now she ate, had a bed, warm clothes, a place to rebuild her life. Even if it was a anti-life. What else would you call it?

After eating and finishing off the pot of coffee. I sat there brooding. That’s what I do, brood. Helps me forget things. But not tonight. Tonight I was thinking long and hard about ghosts, about Talia, and most of all… about Falcon. That bastard was back in town. My best friend, or what used to be my best friend. Now he was my enemy. Probably had always been my enemy.

So I sat there all night thinking about what I’d do next. Tully didn’t mind. She kept refilling the pot. Clucking away about all the nonesuch crap going on in Grunge. Didn’t bother me in the least. By the time the sun came up I knew what had to be done. I also knew I needed to check in on Betsy. There was an order to things, even if one didn’t always know what it was, or how to act on it.; and, one of them was to make sure your woman knew you were still alive. The other was to make sure she was alive…

** ** **

One | Two | Three | Four | Five

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2016 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

The Capitalocene: – China Miéville and the Limits of Utopia

Each day we seem to do the same thing, repeat the same ill-founded gestures, tell ourselves it’ll get better, that the news can’t be that bad, that somewhere over the next horizon there’s a silver lining with our name on it. This is what Fredric Jameson after Ernst’s Bloch’s three-volume The Principle of Hope termed the ‘utopian impulse’:

[T]he lifework of Ernst Bloch is there to remind us that Utopia is a good deal more than the sum of its individual texts. Bloch posits a Utopian impulse governing  everything  future-oriented  in life and culture; and  encompassing everything  from games  to  patent medicines,  from myths  to  mass  entertain­ment,  from  iconography  to  technology,  rom  architecture  to  eros,  from tourism to  jokes  and the  unconscious.1

The Limits of Utopianism

Yet, as China Miéville in his The Limits of Utopia reminds us:  “We need utopias. That’s almost a given in activism. If an alternative to this world were inconceivable, how could we change it? … But utopia has its limits: utopia can be toxic. …What price hopelessness, indeed? But what price hope?” As he tells it:

Utopias are necessary. But not only are they insufficient: they can, in some iterations, be part of the ideology of the system, the bad totality that organises us, warms the skies, and condemns millions to peonage on garbage scree.  […] The utopia of togetherness is a lie. Environmental justice means acknowledging that there is no whole earth, no ‘we’, without a ‘them’. That we are not all in this together. […] Which means fighting the fact that fines for toxic spills in predominantly white areas are five times what they are in minority ones. It means not only providing livings for people who survive by sifting through rejectamenta in toxic dumps but squaring up against the imperialism of garbage that put them there, against trash neoliberalism by which poor countries compete to become repositories of filth. […] And it means standing directly against military power and violence.

Yes, indeed. Slavoj Zizek in his recent essay on Greece in the New Statesman said of such utopian limits: “The people of Greece are not being asked to swallow many bitter pills in exchange for a realistic plan of economic revival: they are asked to suffer so that others in the European Union can go on dreaming their dream undisturbed.” The point being that what seems appropriate for the financiers and the governments that have put Greece into economic servitude as the Utopia of Capitalocene, – a servitude to austerity that will stretch over the coming decades and generations, seems to think this enslavement is justified for the benefit of their own utopian dreams. As sort of dystopian nightmare of the Utopian Impulse these bureaucrats, bankers, marketers, governmental leaders, etc. believe this to be the enactment of EU salvational myth for the 21st Century.

Like Miéville in that same essay tells us everywhere the “stench and blare of poisoned cities, lugubrious underground bunkers, ash landscapes [seems to permeate the world, and]… Worseness is the bad conscience of betterness, dystopias rebukes integral to the utopian tradition. We hanker and warn, our best dreams and our worst standing together against our waking.”

Jameson continuing cites Wayne Hudson who tells us of Bloch: “The Principle of Hope Bloch provides an unprecedented survey of  human wish pictures and day dreams of  a better life.” (Jameson, p. 2). Yes, the future, a site of wish dreams and a better life. Yet, that’s always been a source of pain and issue concerning utopia, hasn’t it? It’s always remained ‘beyond us’ – over there, elsewhere… a sort of non-site of pure imaginative need, a site where we would like to live, but for some reason know that it is just that – out of reach, an impossible dream. So what happens is this great disconnect between now and then, the dream and the present, utopia and dystopia.

There is a difference between utopian impulse and utopian program in Jameson’s estimation. For Bloch the utopian impulse governs  everything  future-oriented  in life and culture; and  encompassing everything  from games  to  patent medicines,  from myths  to  mass  entertain­ment,  from  iconography  to  technology,  from  architecture  to  eros,  from tourism to  jokes  and the  unconscious. While the utopian program involves a commitment to closure:

Totality is  then  precisely  this  combination  of  closure  and  system,  in  the name of  autonomy  and  self-sufficiency  and  which  is  ultimately the source  of that  otherness  or  radical,  even  alien,  difference  already  mentioned above  and to  which  we  will  return  at  some  length.  Yet  it  is  precisely  this  category  of totality that presides over  the  forms of  Utopian realization:  the Utopian city, the Utopian revolution,  the Utopian commune  or village,  and 0f course  the Utopian text itself, in all its radical and unacceptable difference from the more lawful  and  aesthetically  satisfying  literary  genres. (Jameson, p. 5)

I’ve written of Georges Bataille whose battle was against just this notion of utopian programs as system and closure (here) would lead him and his ephebe, Nick Land to a base materialism of an pre-ontological and chaotic thermospasm cosmos, etc..  Bataille and Land both write against this notion of utopia is an idealism,  showing how its objectifying notion of the Idea as system, totality, and enclosure within an ‘space of textuality’, where the play of difference (poststructuralism)  traces the interminable black holes of rhetoric in politics and culture into their darkness outside the Real –  is the Great Fall into a spurious Ontology. Of course for Bataille this notion of utopia would not lead to emancipation, but to actual and real enslavement in idealisms of the Idea: the planned City, Nation, World, etc. A closed empire of the Mind within the folds of its own monstrous self-autonomous systems of difference: a labyrinth without outlet, where the Minotaur at the center is none other than the Void itself, the impossible and inhuman core of our own humanity. Instead we need a dynamic and open sense of possibilities in untopian thinking, rather than this closed off sphere of Ideas and idealism. I mean by Untopia the need for “unknowing” rather than knowing:

“I love the ignorance concerning the future,” wrote Nietzsche, and Bataille seconded him. For Bataille, any assurances concerning the future, either good or bad, were beside the point, even silly; instead, there was the play of chance, the affirmation of what has happened, what will happen. The left hand spends, in gay blindness as well as science, and the future is affirmed, in the night of non-knowledge.11

Yet, as Jameson shows Bloch’s interpretive principle is most effective when it reveals the operation  of  the  Utopian  impulse in unsuspected places, where it is concealed or repressed, and he seeks against Bataille  a systematic knowledge of these hidden and repressed elements. “But what becomes,  in that case, of delib­erate and fully self-conscious Utopian programs as such?” (Jameson, p. 3).

Susan Buck-Morass in her Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West would describe utopia turned totalitarian dream in the twentieth century as the construction of mass utopia in the East and West became part of a nightmare world of dystopian impulse rather than an egalitarian and emancipationist vision of life and beauty in harmony with nature. As the twentieth century closed, this dream was being left behind; the belief that industrial modernization can bring about the good society by overcoming material scarcity for all has been challenged by the disintegration of European socialism, capitalist restructuring, and ecological constraints. The larger social vision has given way to private dreams of material happiness and to political cynicism. Developing the notion of dreamworld as both a poetic description of a collective mental state and an analytical concept, Susan Buck-Morss attempted to come to terms with mass dreamworlds at the moment of their passing. She showed how dreamworlds became dangerous when their energy was used by the structures of power as an instrument of force against the masses.

As she asks: “Is there cause to lament the passing of mass dreamworlds?”2 She’ll go on to describe them, saying, “They were compatible with terrifying assemblages of political and economic power: world war machines, machines of mass terror, violent forms of labor extraction. But it was the structures of power, not the democratic, utopian idea, that produced these nightmare forms.” (Buck-Morass, p. 276)

So ultimately Utopia is the mask of Idealism as Monstrous Form and System bound within the enclosures of the great prison house of experimental programs and impulses of terror: a totalitarian program for the algorithmic and computational remaking of humanity, and the impulse to follow the threads of every possibility to its logical end within a labyrinth of psychotic and solipsistic closure. Some say this is why it led to such utter extremes of disaster and catastrophe as the Gulag and Holocaust.

The Sixth Extinction Draws Nigh

In our own time the big catch word of future catastrophe looms over the wastelands of the utopian and dystopian impulse. As Derrick Jensen an extreme advocate for exit and the almost ludditean vison of terror against the machine civilization of death and culture we live in says: “The dominant culture— civilization— is killing the planet, and it is long past time for those of us who care about life on earth to begin taking the actions necessary to stop this culture from destroying every living being.”3 So here the utopian impulse has turned to utopian program and a mass appeal to take up arms against the threat of extinction.

Some warn us of what is already happening. The Sixth Extinction is well underway, that we humans are in partial to blame, that we are part of what is now termed the problem not the solution. We even have a new term for what our kind has done to impact the environment: The Anthropocene Age.  As one scientist tells it:

No creature has ever altered life on the planet in this way before, and yet other, comparable events have occurred. Very, very occasionally in the distant past, the planet has undergone change so wrenching that the diversity of life has plummeted. Five of these ancient events were catastrophic enough… but now we are in the midst of a Sixth.4

As another author Fred Guterl states it “the success of Homo sapiens has created new and terrifying risks that didn’t exist a few decades ago. By our dominating presence on the planet, we are changing its geochemistry and its biology. We are upsetting climate systems— not just global average climate, but also an intricate network of regional weather systems— in ways we don’t fully understand. Ocean current cycles, monsoons, glaciers, and rain forests could each turn suddenly, or in tandem.”5

Yet, as Miéville will speak of much of this Green Movement as itself a part of the problem, not the solution either: what are sometimes called the Big Ten green groups – The Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, the National Resources Defense Council, the Wilderness Society, and others – refused the request to join the campaign. Because, they said, it was not an environmental, but a ‘community health’ issue. […]  The fallacies of Big Green. Start with heuristics like rural versus urban, nature versus the social, and in the face of oppressive power you easily become complicit, or worse, in environmental injustice, in racism. Such simplistic urbophobic utopianism can unite the most nostalgic conservative, seeking solace in a national park with the most extropian post-hippy touting an eco-start-up.

This sense of frustration is everywhere as both the far Left and far Right of the spectrum battle over the body of the earth. The one saying the Left is full of shit, the other that the Right is full of childish neo-reactionary blindness. Those such as Jim Hansen even as late as 2009 were warning that we only had four years left to act, etc., saying that The IPCC estimates that rising temperatures will melt ice and cause ocean water to heat up and increase in volume. This will produce a sea-level rise of between 18 and 59 centimetres. However, some predict a far faster rate of around one to two metres. Inundations of one or two metres would make the Nile Delta and Bangladesh uninhabitable, along with much of south-east England, Holland and the east coast of the United States. Warning that the world was now in “imminent peril”, he insisted, and nothing would quench his resolve in spreading the message. It is the debt he owes his grandchildren, after all.


Of course back in 2014 Professor Ottmar Edenhofer who led the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said: “It doesn’t cost the world to save the planet.” And, as the Guardian reported in the same article, Kaisa Kosonen, at Greenpeace International, said: “Renewable energy is unstoppable. It’s becoming bigger, better and cheaper every day. Dirty energy industries are sure to put up a fight but it’s only a question of time before public pressure and economics dictate that they either change or go out of business.” In recent thought a catastrophe caused by climate change is seen as the biggest potential threat to the global economy in 2016, according to a survey of 750 experts conducted by the World Economic Forum. As the Guardian reported a failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation was seen as likely to have a bigger impact than the spread of weapons of mass destruction, water crises, mass involuntary migration and a severe energy price shock – the first time in the 11 years of the Global Risks report that the environment has been in first place.

But as Miéville satirizes this almost comical enactment of belated defense of the earth says: “Faced with the scale of what’s coming, there’s a common and baleful propriety, a self-shackling green politeness. ‘Anything’, the argument goes, ‘is better than nothing.’ Hence solutions to tempt business, and the pleading for ecologically-inflected economic rationality. Capitalism, we are told by Jonathan Porritt, an eminent British environmentalist, is the only game in town.” In this sense many on the Right fear the Green Movement as a utopian program to eliminate the capitalist utopia. As Brian Sussman in Eco-Tyranny: How the Left’s Green Agenda will Dismantle America one gets the sense of paranoia and total eclipse of the Right’s way of life, etc., in his own version of the environmental movement:

[S]ince the inception of the environmental movement, its leaders have been consumed with eliminating capitalism and ushering in a global era of socialism. Their call for being “green” goes far beyond demanding clean air, pure water, healthy forests, and alternative sources of energy. The leftists at the helm of the environmentalist hierarchy want to control the air, water, forests, and natural resources. Because I only touched on this research in Climategate, I felt it necessary to write another book that would provide the most comprehensive exposé of how the left’s green agenda is trashing American liberty.6

One commenter from the left reviewing Climategate and Eco-Tyranny, Sussman’s books lambasting the Green Movement and its political agenda, saying:  Mr. Sussman thinks there’s a cabal of heathenish hippy Climate Scientists, in league with godless, Marxist Politicians. And they’re meeting under cover of darkness in a secret forest, wearing green hooded cloaks, holding ancient rituals honoring the Pagan Gods of tree hugging and Anti-Industrialism. As they chant incantations and burn The Constitution, on a altar lit by black candles. All the while conspiring to spread, steaming turd, whopper lies, to the unbeknownst masses. In an effort to propagate alarmist-paranoia with the goal of creating mass hysteria…so extreme, that society collapses into a state of Mad Maxian style Anarchy. Only then, is the prophecy fulfilled and their sinister, Green Totalitarian World State, finally implemented…(insert maniacal laughter, and thunder clap for effect) Are you with me so far? That’s right, The Environmental Movement is really about Global Domination…”. (found on EnviroAction)

Yet, others like Stuart Brand in his Rethinking Green and Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto argues  that taking account of the emerging global forces of climate change, urbanization, and biotechnology forces us to rethink of some traditional environmental positions. The one that most people still don’t take into consideration is that power is shifting to the developing world, where 5 out of 6 people live, where the bulk of humanity is getting out of poverty by moving to cities and creating their own jobs and communities (slums, for now). The other is biotech engineering of crops as a needed rethink: to genetically engineered food crops, Brand noted that they are a tremendous success story in agriculture, with Green benefits such as no-till farming, lowered pesticide use, and more land freed up to be wild. The developing world is taking the lead with the technology, designing crops to deal with the specialized problems of tropical agriculture. Meanwhile the new field of synthetic biology is bringing a generation of Green biotech hackers into existence.

Yet, as Miéville points out much of this Green Capitalism is actually “environmentalism as dispossession, what the Indigenous Environmental Network calls Carbon Colonialism”. As he tells it “[f]orget any spurious human totality: there is a very real, dangerous, other modern totality in commanding place, one with which too much environmentalism has failed to wrestle. As Jason Moore puts it, ‘Wall Street is a way of organizing Nature.’” Going on to argue:

The very term ‘Anthropocene’, which gives with one hand, insisting on human drivers of ecological shift, misleads with its implied ‘We’. After all, whether in the deforestation of what’s now Britain, the extinction of the megafauna in North America, or any of countless other examples, Homo sapiens, anthropos, has always fed back into its –cene, the ecology of which it is constituent, changing the world. Nor was what altered to make these previously relatively local effects planetary and epochal, warranting a new geochronological term, the birth (as if, in too many accounts, by some miracle) of heavy industry, but a shift in the political economy by which it and we are organised, an accelerating cycle of profit and accumulation.  […] Which is why Moore, among others, insists that this epoch of potential catastrophe is not the ‘Anthropocene’, but the ‘Capitalocene’.

Conspiracy of the Anthropocene

Fredric Jameson brings out the motif that many have found problematic in the postmodern turn: the elimination of the Subject and subjectivity in favor of the achievement  of a radical impersonality in Utopia, the efface­ment  of the private  property  of  the  self  and  the  emergence  of  some new decentered and collective practice of social and individual relations…”(Jameson, p. 168). As he states it, it would “in the best  of  cases  scarcely  correspond  to  an  abolition of  subjectivity  but rather merely to a new form of  the latter, in which bourgeois individualism – another name for the  old humanist “centered subject” under attack by con­temporary theory – has been replaced by the “multiple subject positions” of  postmodernity and late  capitalism. Once again the notion of  the replication of the system becomes the final form of  conspiracy theory, and the concept of a Utopian transformation becomes an additional resource in the warehouse of late capitalism’s ruses and lures.” (Jameson, p. 168).

For Miéville we start with the non-totality of the ‘we’. From there not only can we see the task but we can return to our utopias, to better honor the best of them. So this sense of the impersonal collective as a hyperorganism, or what Timothy Morton terms ‘hyperobject’: the term hyperobjects to refer to things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans, such as the biosphere or even the “or the sum of all the whirring machinery of capitalism,” etc.;  ultimately hyperobjects, then, are “hyper” in relation to some other entity, whether they are directly manufactured by humans or not.7

Miéville will remark, saying that “Utopia, for one thing, has never been the preserve of those who cleave to liberation. Settlers and expropriators have for centuries asserted their good environmental sense against the laziness of feckless natives, in realizing the potential of land spuriously designated empty, of making so-called deserts so-called bloom. Ecotopia has justified settlement and empire since long before the UN’s REDD schemes. It has justified murder. […]There is a vision of the world as a garden, under threat. Choked with toxic growth. Gardening as war. And the task being one of ‘ruthlessly eliminating the weeds that would deprive the better plants of nutrition, the air, light, sun.’”

Post-Apocalyptic Utopia: The Elimination of Now

“Reactionary apologists for Big Pollute,” Miéville remarks, “routinely slander ecological activists as fascists. That doesn’t mean those committed to such activism should not be ruthless in ferreting out any real overlaps: very much the opposite.” And, that aspects of “eliminationist bad utopia can be found much more widely than in the self-conscious Far Right”. Nick Land as a neo-traditionalist in a recent essay Reactionary Horror explicates:

Reaction is articulated as an inversion of the progressive promise, dissociating ‘the good’ and ‘the future’. The tacit science fiction narrative that corresponds to projected social evolution is stripped of its optimism, and two alternative genres arise in its place. The first, as we have fleetingly noted, is mild and nostalgic, rebalancing the tension of time towards what has been lost, and tending to an increasingly dreamlike inhabitation of ancient glories. A conservative-traditionalist  mentality devotes itself to a mnemonic quest, preserving vestiges of virtue among the remnants of an eroded society, or — when preservation at last surrenders its grasp on actuality — turning to fantastic evocations, as the final redoubt of defiance. Tolkien exemplifies this tendency in its most systematic expression. The future is gently obliterated, as the good dies within it.

[…] The second reactionary alternative to the ruin of utopian futurism develops in the direction of horror. It does not hesitate in its voyage to the end of the river, even as smoke-shrouded omens thicken on the horizon. As the devastation deepens, its futurism is further accentuated.  Historical projection becomes the opportunity for an exploration of Hell. (The ‘neo-‘ of ‘neoreaction’ thus finds additional confirmation.)

[…] On this track, reactionary historical anticipation fuses with the genre of horror in its most intense possibility (and true vocation). Numerous consequences are quite rapidly evident. One special zone of significance concerns the insistent question of popularization, which is substantially resolved, almost from the start. The genre of reactionary populism is already tightly formulated, on the side of horror fiction, where things going to Hell is an established presupposition. Zombie Apocalypse is only the most prominent variant of a far more general cultural accommodation to impending disaster. ‘Survivalism’ is as much a genre convention as a socio-political expectation. (When, as VXXC points out on the blog, .22 ammunition functions as virtual currency, horror fiction has already installed itself as an operational dimension of social reality.)

[…] Reaction does not do dialectics, or converse with the Left (with which it has no community), yet historical fatality carries its message: Your hopes are our horror story. As the dream perishes, the nightmare strengthens, and even — hideously — invigorates.

For Miéville this is an ecological utopia of mass death. That we could also call an apocalypse. Apocalypse and utopia: the end of everything, and the horizon of hope. Far from antipodes, these two have always been inextricable. Sometimes, as in Lactantius, the imagined relationship is chronological, even of cause and effect. The one, the apocalypse, the end-times rending of the veil, paves the way for the other, the time beyond, the new beginning. […] We’re surrounded by a culture of ruination, dreams of falling cities, a peopleless world where animals explore. We know the clichés. Vines reclaim Wall Street as if it belongs to them, rather than the other way round; trash vastness, dunes of garbage; the remains of some great just-recognizable bridge now broken to jut, a portentous diving board, into the void.

The Global Empire of Ruins

One remembers DEREK WALCOTT, “Ruins of a Great House,” Collected Poems 1948– 1984:

A green lawn, broken by low walls of stone, Dipped to the rivulet, and pacing, I thought next Of men like Hawkins, Walter Raleigh, Drake, Ancestral murderers and poets, more perplexed In memory now by every ulcerous crime. The world’s green age then was a rotting lime Whose stench became the charnel galleon’s text. The rot remains with us, the men are gone. But, as dead ash is lifted in a wind That fans the blackening ember of the mind, My eyes burned from the ashen prose of Donne.

As Ann Laura Stoler’s in her Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination remarks, ruins indicates privileged sites of reflection— of pensive rumination. Portrayed as enchanted, desolate spaces, large-scale monumental structures abandoned and grown over, ruins provide a favored image of a vanished past, what is beyond repair and in decay, thrown into aesthetic relief by nature’s tangled growth. Such sites come easily to mind: Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, the Acropolis, the Roman Colosseum, icons of romantic loss and longing that inspired the melancholic prose of generations of European poets and historians who devotedly chronicled pilgrimages to them.8 Yet, while we begin thinking of planetary collapse and the ‘ruins of empire’ Stoler argues that we must work against this melancholic gaze and reposition our present perspectives to include the wider structures of vulnerability, damage, and refusal that imperial formations sustain. She goes on to say,

Nor is it the wistful gaze of imperial nostalgia to which we turn. Walter Benjamin provides the canonical text for thinking about ruins as “petrified life,” as traces that mark the fragility of power and the force of destruction. But we are as taken with ruins as sites that condense alternative senses of history, and with ruination as a ongoing corrosive process that weighs on the future. (Stoler, p. 9)

Yet, for her against tracking things in themselves, she seeks to follow the “trail of the psyche” the rejected fragments of lives that have been lost in time and space, the ghostly presences that hide in the absences of things haunting us like remembrances of utopian expectations and antinomies.

As Miéville will argue” a real-world interpenetration of apocalypse and utopia. Apocalypse for those thousands who drowned on their own lungs. And for the corporations, now reassured that the poor, unlike profit, were indeed dispensable? An everyday utopia. […] This is another of the limitations of utopia: we live in utopia; it just isn’t ours. […] So we live in apocalypse too.” Yet, he’ll also remind us that our fight is not just over ecological justice, that this “battle won’t always be over catastrophic climate change or land expropriation: in neoliberalism, even local struggles for fleeting moments of green municipal life are ultimately struggles against power”.

I’m reminded of Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams Utopian vision in Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work:

Any movement that wishes to remain relevant and politically potent must grapple with such potentials and developments in our technological world. We must expand our collective imagination beyond what capitalism allows. Rather than settling for marginal improvements in battery life and computer power, the left should mobilise dreams of decarbonising the economy, space travel, robot economies – all the traditional touchstones of science fiction – in order to prepare for a day beyond capitalism. Neoliberalism, as secure as it may seem today, contains no guarantee of future survival. Like every social system we have ever known, it will not last forever. Our task now is to invent what happens next.9

As I’ve written elsewhere on hyperstitional utopianism, “truth is science fiction”: here and here. Where Deleuze and Guattari once suggested that what we need is abstract machines: a language that connects the semantic and pragmatic contents of statements, to collective assemblages of enunciation, to a whole micropolitics of the social field. A rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles.10 This sense of a wider collective endeavor that brings together the theoretic and the practical, imaginative and concrete elaborations of scientific, artistic, and performative struggles for a new world vision that can enable us to work together, to bridge the divides between Left and Right, face the insurmountable odds of the future which is already accelerating through us, shaping us, remaking us into monstrous and terrible things of beauty and terror. We need to face this monstrousness we are most of all rather than live in denial of its power over our lives.

We see in the many aspects of cultural theory the impending doom of inhumanist thought as we struggle for terms; posthumanism, transhumanism, inhumanism, etc., as if we knew that something both monstrous and unnamable were making us over into its image. Like children who will not believe the truth of what is right there in front of their eyes we gaze into the future disturbed by the visions we see in cinema, science fiction, fantasy, post-apocalyptic, YA-dystopian, etc., all pointing to a hard truth: we are becoming unmoored from our ancient heritage in culture and civilization, becoming other: a metamorphosis and mutation which we are all going through together. Will we survive this transition? Will we discover in ourselves the imaginative ‘poverty’ to enable us to see the invisible and impossible thing we are becoming? It is at this juncture of the invisible and impossible that Utopian thought exists – as impulse and program. Let us begin, there.


  1. Jameson, Fredric. Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions Verso (April 17, 2007)
  2. Buck-Morass, Susan. Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West. The MIT Press; Reprint edition (February 22, 2002)
  3. Jensen, Derrick; Keith, Lierre; Mcbay, Aric (2011-01-04). Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet (Kindle Locations 60-62). Random House Inc Clients. Kindle Edition.
  4. Kolbert, Elizabeth (2014-02-11). The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (pp. 2-3). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.
  5. Guterl, Fred (2012-05-22). The Fate of the Species: Why the Human Race May Cause Its Own Extinction and How We Can Stop It (p. 3). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  6. Sussman, Brian (2012-04-17). Eco-Tyranny: How the Left’s Green Agenda will Dismantle America (Kindle Locations 71-75). Midpoint Trade Books. Kindle Edition.
  7. Morton, Timothy (2013-10-23). Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Posthumanities) (Kindle Locations 106-111). University of Minnesota Press. Kindle Edition
  8. Ann Laura Stoler.  (2013-04-19). Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination (p. 9). Duke University Press. Kindle Edition.
  9. Nick Srnicek; Alex Williams. Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work (Kindle Locations 3599-3604). Verso.
  10. Gilles Deleuze & Feliz Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (University of Minnesota, 1987)
  11. Allan Stoekl. Bataille’s Peak: Energy, Religion, and Postsustainability (Kindle Locations 2965-2967). Kindle Edition.


Savage Nights: Scene Two – Chabin Beach

Chabin Beach Pier

“Okay, Bobby Lee, give it to me straight!” We sat at the edge of the pier,  legs dangling over the edge, looking out over Shark Bay where nothing at all lived or could live. Everything was coated in bronze, the clouds flowing down over the waves like thick honey as if the world were being dipped in amber for some eternal grave plot for the anonymous souls of some watery Apocalypse.

Bobby sat there like a stone, a stone at the bottom of the sea, that is. His eyes seemed glued to something far out beyond the horizon, blank and lifeless. He wasn’t ready to say a dam thing. I knew that. He knew that. Yet, it had to be done.

“Bobby, I liked Talia, you know that, we were close for a long time. She needs help, and I can help her. But I need to know what happened. I need to hear that from you. You understand. I know it’s hard. I know you’re hurting. Pain isn’t a nice thing. We all know that.” His eyes softened, his lips began to tremble, he was coming back from whatever dark place he’d been to. He’d speak to me now.

“I told her not to go…” he stuttered.

“Go where, Bobby?”

“You know, down there…” He turned his head as if I could see the place his mind was taking him. “Down by Tol Glavin where they keep the ghosts.” He spoke like he was a ghost himself. Voodoo. Dead things that wouldn’t stay dead. Wired freaks. Old war tunnelers, drone frogs. Mind merged and brain dead ghosts who gave their all for a lost cause. Half-lifers now in a frozen world. A city below a city where dreams affected the real world.

“What the hell, Bobby,” I almost hit him. “Why the freck you let her go there? What kind of idiot brother are you?” He jumped, and slammed his head against the pier’s break wall. “Why? Why’d she go there, Bobby?” He sat back down, rubbing his scalp, and started to weep all over again.

“She… she met him,” lips moving like a robot. “Falcon.” He said that like it was an ultimatum; a death warrant, a judgment.

“When the freck did he get back in town?”

“Two days ago,” his tears turned to anger now. “Called her up, asked for a place to stay and some money.” His lips curled back now: “Said he had a job in the enclave waiting for him. Fucking lie that’s what it was…” he sat back for a second, eyes almost epileptic, the whites drawing up into his skull as if he were having a seizure, then he slumped down and passed out.

I sat there for a few more minutes watching the muddy water, the sloshing of the kelp and dead fish eddying around the old pier’s logs. Trash and poisonous waste in globs of oily slime lay on the surface. Only thing alive in these waters was the bottom feeders, everything else kept to the outer banks except what the current swilled in. I remembered swimming in these waters long ago. No one would do that ever again. At least not in as many generations as I could count on my fingers. Nuclear waste. Biochem warfare… the detritus of governments gone wild. Politics as usual. Things lived under those waves that had no names. Things that even horror writers never dreamed of in their worst nightmares. No one gave a shit until it was too late.

I wasn’t going to get anything else out of Bobby Lee. I left a few bucks in his jacket pocket. Nothing much else to do for him. I wasn’t going to carry him back. He didn’t have much left in him anyway. He knew it. I knew it. All he had was his sister, nothing else. I was going to find her. Not for him. Not for myself. But for a woman who once gave a shit. A woman who pulled me out of the abyss of my insanity. Gave me my life back. I owed her in more ways than I’d ever be able to repay.

I sat in the truck for a while watching the scorched sun go down under the brown haze that always seemed to settle over Grunge City. By the time it was dark I was out of cigs, out of patience, and out of time…

** ** **

My old man used to tell me things, things that would curdle the back of your head right off.

“You know, boy,” he’d say, a little devilish gleam in his eyes, “Utopia’s a state of mind, a no-man’s land between reality and hell, a sort of infernal zone where people go who need to know things, terrible things, things that can kill. Yet, in this zone one can find other things, too. Beauty and life and magic…”

He’d smile then, knowing I was hanging on every word: “Living sentient beings: buildings and sculptures, alive and full of wondrous power and music. Things that speak to you of ancient worlds, time’s out of mind.” He’d wink: “Sometimes if you dig real hard, go way down into that darkness you find things: treasures, thoughts and ideas so powerful they’ll haunt you, deliver you to the ancient powers of time, space and destiny. Ideas, immanent forces before the world of light, old things living in the sea of chaos and night, things that can move out and shape the world, change things, move people and assemblages. Ideas are magical living machines, abstract things that eat away the darkness and replace it with knowledge and light. Things that can think, living intelligences, that come to us from the far shores of the future sending us messages, luring us onward into the final push: the convergence of all things toward that point, a singular place, an empty site, a kenoma. Here, just here, everything that has ever been, everything that will be, and everything that now is comes together, and in the blink of an eye changes, transforms, mutates into something else, something wild and free. A metamorphosis like the chrysalis of a butterfly that turns to beauty and flies away from the hard encrusted armor of its earthly existence into the purity of space, and light, and time…”

He’d get real serious then and his eyes would narrow down to two thin slits, and he’d lean over and whisper in my ear: “I’m the keeper of an Idea, a treasure that’s been passed down from the beginnings of Time, an Idea so terrible it could eat our planet alive; or, it could transform it into a paradise, a garden world, a place so beautiful and full of wildness, untamed life: animals – tigers, elephants, zebras, antelope, and, yes… even horses roaming the empty lands, the wastelands, the western lands where love and peace still find their abode.”

He’d wait. Silent. Knowing I was too afraid to ask the question, yet patient, knowing that sooner or later I’d get up the courage to finally ask it, demand it, cherish it: “Dad, what’s this terrible Idea you hold way down in the crawl of your Mind?”

He’d laugh, then. His eyes would begin to glow with those nanofilaments they’d been made with, sparks of gold and blue light twittering in out of his pupils, then say: “It’s a secret, son, one you must earn. I can’t just give it too you. You’ll discover it down the way, when you become a man. It’ll find you, you want have to go looking for it. It’ll come so swift and powerful it’ll hit you right between the eyes like a shotgun blast. You’ll know it by its dark power, the edge of its magical light will enter you, change you, make you one of those who know things, terrible things. You’ll know what I mean son. Someday you’ll know what I mean.”

He’d leave it at that. His eyes would turn fierce – and yet, there would be in the midst of those flames a pain and joy at the same time, a sense of sadness for all things, a sense that this was a knowledge, a burden, an Idea he hoped I’d never have to carry in my head.” He’d turn away then and go quiet, meditative, and still as a predator.

I now know what he meant. Yet, one thing he left out, one thing he never mentioned: such knowledge comes with a terrible price. Yea, he never told about that.

** ** **

One | Two | Three | Four | Five

China Miéville writes that “[w]e need utopia, but to try to think utopia, in this world, without rage, without fury, is an indulgence we can’t afford […] we cannot think utopia without hate.”

A Near Future post-cyberpunk “Grunge” or “Salvagepunk” Noir: bleak and pessimistic, yet full of hope for all that. A broken world full of our own world’s dark truths, dreams, and nightmares. Schizoanalytic psychoscape of tears done up in dark humor and cataleptic laughter. An anti-hero you can hate and love at the same time. A sort of Warren Ellis Spider Jerusalem reject bound to a anti-consumerist / anti-corporate media-scape slippage. It goes against consumerist society and fights for our rights to be free from the ownership of corporations, media and society.

Grunge is about freedom, pure and simple. It’s stepping away from self-absorption and starting to care about the people around you. It’s protesting against the fixation of beauty and perfection and letting us know that appearance doesn’t matter. Ugly is the new beautiful. It’s realizing that happiness doesn’t come from fortune and fame, rather the opposite: the guttersnipe dreams of fools and madmen, lovers and old hags, children and mothers. The punk of salvagepunk is what makes it revolutionary.

Punk is not the commodified and commercialize image of Mohawked teens with pins through noses. It is certainly not the PVC slick technological wet dream of cyberpunk with its Deleuzian ‘intense’ nomadic multitudes and immaterial labour. Nor is it the “false dream image” of steampunk,where “its falseness lies in it being the wrong dream image, the ideological blind that is the dream image proper to the liberal escape plan for the contemporary crisis and its envisioned fall-out”. Punk is thus the “deep fidelity to its historical moment and the fact it no longer believed in a future – the present is already the hollowed out present of that future”.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2016 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Savage Nights: A Salvagepunk Novel


China Miéville writes that “[w]e need utopia, but to try to think utopia, in this world, without rage, without fury, is an indulgence we can’t afford […] we cannot think utopia without hate.”

A Near Future post-cyberpunk “Grunge” or “Salvagepunk” Noir: bleak and pessimistic, yet full of hope for all that. A broken world full of our own world’s dark truths, dreams, and nightmares. Schizoanalytic psychoscape of tears done up in dark humor and cataleptic laughter. An anti-hero you can hate and love at the same time. A sort of Warren Ellis Spider Jerusalem reject bound to a anti-consumerist / anti-corporate media-scape slippage. It goes against consumerist society and fights for our rights to be free from the ownership of corporations, media and society.

Grunge is about freedom, pure and simple. It’s stepping away from self-absorption and starting to care about the people around you. It’s protesting against the fixation of beauty and perfection and letting us know that appearance doesn’t matter. Ugly is the new beautiful. It’s realizing that happiness doesn’t come from fortune and fame, rather the opposite: the guttersnipe dreams of fools and madmen, lovers and old hags, children and mothers. The punk of salvagepunk is what makes it revolutionary.

Punk is not the commodified and commercialize image of Mohawked teens with pins through noses. It is certainly not the PVC slick technological wet dream of cyberpunk with its Deleuzian ‘intense’ nomadic multitudes and immaterial labour. Nor is it the “false dream image” of steampunk, where “its falseness lies in it being the wrong dream image, the ideological blind that is the dream image proper to the liberal escape plan for the contemporary crisis and its envisioned fall-out”. Punk is thus the “deep fidelity to its historical moment and the fact it no longer believed in a future – the present is already the hollowed out present of that future”.

Now on Wattpad: Visit me!



Savage Nights

Woke up with a savage hangover, my head throbbing like a viral strum from a Nachtmystium bass-drum. We’d partied down hearty last night, and I was paying plenty for it. Oh well… serves me right for drinking that Klos’rek Wine Beau brought back from the Serengeti Folds. The liquid scarlet looked more like the blood of Limbonic Selptura. Don’t even ask.

Slapped Betsy on the ass. She looked up at me with her one good eye cocked and ready, and the other – a purple and pink syntech eye rotated in its socket like a twisted nanctopus, twitching feverishly with a warped anti-life all its own. Both eyes eyed me closely as if she might infest me with virulent dose of mutagens: the whizzing and buzzing around the black pits of her irises were screaming a loud “fuck you and the horse you rode in on,” but on second thought she just punched me in the shoulder, rolled back over and started to snore again.

Yea, never wake your lady up too early.

Problem was I had to be gone soon. She knew it, too. Hell she’d been the one kept telling me to come home last night. So it goes, I’d probably never learn. So I reached over and this time gently bit her on the ass. She laughed. “Jess, why you up so early? Can’t a girl get a little shut-eye these days?” Yep, she was alive alright, and I knew if I didn’t pop out a bed and into the commode she’d wallop me right back… and soon.

Couldn’t quite say the same for me self, though. Looked in the fractured mirror in dilapidated bathroom and saw death staring back at me like a broken toy somebody left out in the mud for a little too long, all caked and mutilated. Reminded me of an on old black vinyl record I’d once had, got stuck in a rut playing some black metal tune from Infernal Paradise’s last album – the one just before they were shot down over the DMZ – till I thought I’d entered Pandemonium and winged things were pulling me apart piece by piece. Not a memorable site to say the least. Standing there scratching myself I studied the twisted gunk in the white-enamel basin, something running around the black hole, creeping listlessly like a rusty bot-slug – hungry as all get out, waiting to feed. It wasn’t going to be on me. I lifted Betsy’s toothbrush out of the coffee-stained mug, her burnt orange lipstick traced around its rim, and watched as a cockroach popped its head up and over the squiggly teeth of the brush. It sat there a second wheedling its antennae as if to say, “Hey, sucker, put me back down and get the hell outta here.” I obliged him.

Instead I walked over to the bedside, grabbed a fifth of Jim Beam and my cigs off the end table, took a long slug, gurgled and chugged it down clean as a whistle. Reminded me of my Old Man’s favorite drink: Napalm Sally, a mixture of Beam and dirty juice from Joe Kragen’s rusty gin still down by Smith’s Hill. Something about the mix of juniper berries and corn mash churning in me belly was sick, but it worked just fine, and I just loved the after-bite. I felt like a dead man warmed over, one who’d been given a reprieve, a short respite from the Day of Worms or Judgment Day. That was alright with me. Hell was a fine place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there.

By the time I’d gotten my jeans on Betsy was already at the hotpot skittle cooking us up some eggs and bacon. She liked to cut a hole in the center of the wheat bread and pop those eggs right down in the middle of it. Sweet stuff. A little butter and yolk goes a long way. Slabs of raunchy bacon dripping out of the package to the side, smelled like a bad day in the sewers; kind of yellow and buttery, slimy to the point I could imagine those Salmonella or E. Coli mating with each other on that hot skillet, happy suckers, singing to themselves that they’d soon be crawling around in my intestines scrummaging through my life like a bad dream.

My iGalaxy ripped an old Tom Waits tune on the uptake, vibrating across the floor like a squig yelping on the getaway. I could see Betsy thinking about reaching over an popping it till I said: “Don’t!”

I grabbed it off the crusty floor and walked out the front door and down the rickety stairs, almost stumbling over my neighbor Joey Qix’s youngest son’s freaking scooter. Stubbed me toe. Kicked it across the chipped asphalt, it fell into a sink hole and down into a mud pit. That’d teach that fat boy a lesson or two. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t be such a bastard, but sometimes I just feel like being mean. Can’t help myself. Comes with the territory.

I pried the slip-case, peeled back the facing, and I slid the ampule in till I could see a wormy face jut into view, a slithering voice came out of its pod on the screen: “Yeah, what the freck you up too Bobby Lee?”

“Com’on Jessie,” his voice squirmed down the electric flyways like a scared rabbit in heat. “I need your help, Jessie; real help.” A slight chill came over that cold tube-light. I grinned, it was like a blessing seeing someone else in so much pain. I’d had enough of it myself for a lifetime.

“You’ve always needed frecking help, Bobby Lee: How has that changed?” His face went blank, turned a little yellow, almost rancid; then white as a sheet. I asked: “So what happened, did that dipshit screw-girl you hang with slip you? Run off with your last wad?” Bobby Lee was a natural born loser, one of a kind screw-up. They didn’t make his kind anymore. No. He was a reject before rejects were a bad name.

“Nah, man… it’s not like that at all.” His voice was cracking. “It’s my little sister, Talia.” Tears flowed down his grimy cheeks like the coal black treads on an old 64 Pontiac muscle car; couldn’t fart so he bled it thick and hot from those bloodshot eyes. He choked.

Dam! I’d heard she was having a bit of trouble with the gang down on Hollis Avenue. Bad crowd there. Bunch of sorb-biker types always shaming the gals as if they were just meat puppets. Slice and dice bitches. Dead Girls with trodes and bleeder fangs. She’d hooked up with Wolf Davidson. Mean son-of-a-bitch. Ran the Choko Vagars between Meat Town and Grunge City. Low life’s, one and all. But hey, what could I say, people had to survive. Frecking U.S.A.’d become Dog Bone Nation soon after the Civil War. Yea, the one between the U.S and Mexico. Not pretty. All that low-tech Biomech. Brain food. Neuroservs. Bangers and Neurocaine drug-sliders. Gave me the chillies just thinking about it. Freck it I was a made man, one of the Changu Hitters (short for sinrunner… run the Bog to ShaTau run so many times they’d finally had to slipfeed ‘plants in my neuralnet relays to keep from becoming a full tilt zomb).

“Okay, Bobby, meet me down at Drake’s, hear me?” He shook his head like dead fish, up and down. “Yea… yea, man… I’ll be there.” Heard tires screeching in the background. The amp tooled out. Flicked the screen shut. Took another drag. Sky white and deadly. Ozone world circling above, empty, refined to merciless radiance. Silence.

I looked at the time. Scaped-eyed the lot and streets for signs of movement. Nothing living out there for sure. Made me remember things…

I’d gotten lucky after the war, caught a Neocorp gig with SynTech Global, worked the pac-rim NGO Circuit, oceanic partials mainly; none of those quick feed-packs either, no – this was legit, had the code for egregore intakes that would sink a Sec-Corp AI without even cracking an electrosweat. Could turn a whole Zomb-Unit into pus against its own CEO in jig time. Easy money. That is if you didn’t mind squeezing the fryboys on the GovPol vessels. International Police. Global Governance. Dickheads. By the book skinheads. Fascists. Everything had gone fine till I slipped up and lost a package in Tokyo. My Shagen Director told me to patch it or die. I patched and went under for good. Heard the SynTech AI took down Tokyo’s Yakuza’s mainframe in Okado for laughs. Deadly. Couldn’t get the bitch back in its cage after that. I was cooked. A wanted man without a way out. They took my SecCard offline, I went rogue. Black market shave, stapled pass. Cost plenty, too. So now I was slippage for the outworlds, an excluded man; exile. A man without a name, and most of all without Security SimCity implant. No clearance, meant no city life within the enclaves. I’d been a bad boy. Stuck out here in the cold wastes with everyone else.

But I had a plan. I always had a plan.

I went back upstairs. Betsy had finished cleaning up and was sitting on the bed brushing her long auburn hair, cute as a pixie; her grin and her strange eyes. She was the kind of gal a guy could marry someday. She’d stuck by me for two years. Seen the rugged tumble with me in the Grunge. I didn’t love her, and she knew it. Didn’t bother her much. She’d seen too much death to worry about love. No. She just liked having a warm body next to her in the night, a hug here and there. She liked sex but it wasn’t a priority, she’d had a hysterectomy at the age of sixteen. A rape gone bad, hurt here real bad. She’d never really gotten over it, either. Too bad for us both, I wasn’t the marrying kind. She was a good woman, and I tried my damnedest to keep her healthy and happy best I could. What the hell else could you do in this dead world? I reached down and gave her a peck on the cheek, she grabbed my crotch, said: “Why don’t you pull those off and come here to mama?”

We both laughed at that knowing why that wouldn’t happen. War. What else should I say. Shrapnel. You get the idea.. “You know I’d love to baby, but I got business to attend too.” She shrugged.

“Hell, you always got business. What about me? I’m not going to sit here all day waiting for your sorry ass to show up. No, siree.” She grinned, saying: “I’m goin’ find me a good man, that’s what I’m going to do.” We always did this, a sort of ritual so the pain between us wouldn’t come out.

“Good!” I said, smiling. “Maybe he’ll bring in enough dough for us both.”

She kicked me in the chin, laughing. “Okay, get your ass outta here before I change my mind.” Nudging me… “But remember you’re taking me to Chou Ling’s tonight… or, did you forget that?” Dang, she had me there. I’d forgotten all about that.

“Uh huh… you know I wouldn’t forget a thing like that honey.” I gave her one of those looks.

She frowned. “Well, if you come in late just don’t expect me to be sitting here with food on the stove.”

Nada. I knew better than to think that. She was fiercely independent. I sometimes wondered if she were my sidekick or I was hers, everything being copacetic. “I know,” knowing I better have something for her, a gift or I’d be sleeping on the floor, too. “You know me better than that.”

“Uh, huh…” she grinned again. “I sure do!”

I grabbed my satchel and my gun, slipped my cap on, patted her on the ass again, and reached down and gave her my tongue this time. She squirmed, then punched me again, lovingly. Didn’t need to say anything else. She knew. We both did.

* * *

I found Bobby pacing the cracked water pipes down on SimCity Blvd. Eyes bloodshot. Hands shaking, he was about to sit down on the steps outside Drake’s when I drove up in my old Chevy truck. Sad. I grabbed him and we took off down toward Chabin Beach, about the only freezone left in the Grunge.

* * *

(Note: Comments welcome! Just the opening sequence in a new work cross noir and grunge – a  Salvagepunk – Necropunk novel… thanks!)

One | Two | Three | Four | Five

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2016 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Future Updates on Wattpad – I’ll be adding a chapter per week:


China Miéville writes that “[w]e need utopia, but to try to think utopia, in this world, without rage, without fury, is an indulgence we can’t afford […] we cannot think utopia without hate.” Working a new Near Future Grunge Salvagepunk noir: bleak and pessimistic, yet full of hope for all that. A broken world full of our own world’s truths. Schizoanalytic psychoscape of tears done up in dark humor and cataleptic laughter. An anti-hero you can hate and love at the same time. A sort of Warren Ellis Spider Jerusalem reject bound to a anti-consumerist / anti-corporate media-scape slippage. It goes against consumerist society and fights for our rights to be free from the ownership of corporations, media and society.

Grunge is about freedom, pure and simple. It’s stepping away from self-absorption and starting to care about the people around you. It’s protesting against the fixation of beauty and perfection and letting us know that appearance doesn’t matter. Ugly is the new beautiful. Evil is Energy unleashed, creativity from the bottom-up, gutwise. It’s realizing that happiness doesn’t come from fortune and fame, rather the opposite: the guttersnipe dreams of fools and madmen, lovers and old hags, children and mothers. The punk of salvagepunk is what makes it revolutionary. Punk is not the commodified and commercialize image of Mohawked teens with pins through noses. It is certainly not the PVC slick technological wet dream of cyberpunk with its Deleuzian ‘intense’ nomadic multitudes and immaterial labour. Nor is it the “false dream image” of steampunk,where “its falseness lies in it being the wrong dream image, the ideological blind that is the dream image proper to the liberal escape plan for the contemporary crisis and its envisioned fall-out”. Punk is thus the “deep fidelity to its historical moment and the fact it no longer believed in a future – the present is already the hollowed out present of that future”.

What if… Information Processing as Hyperobject


Capitalism is not a human invention, but a viral contagion, replicated cyberpositively across post-human space. Self-designing processes are anastrophic and convergent: doing things before they make sense. Time goes weird in tactile self-organizing space: the future is not an idea but a sensation.
……Sadie Plant and Nick Land

Hyperorganisms and Zombie Society

As I was reading R. Scott Bakker’s blog this morning, he had an interesting post The Zombie Enlightenment . In it he mentioned the notion of “…post-Medieval European society as a kind of information processing system, a zombie society”. Like many things this set my mind on hyperdrive. I was reminded of my recent reading of Timothy Morton’s interesting work Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World where he describes a hyperobject:

the term hyperobjects to refer to things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans.  A hyperobject could be a black hole. A hyperobject could be the Lago Agrio oil field in Ecuador, or the Florida Everglades. A hyperobject could be the biosphere, or the Solar System. A hyperobject could be the sum total of all the nuclear materials on Earth; or just the plutonium, or the uranium. A hyperobject could be the very long-lasting product of direct human manufacture, such as Styrofoam or plastic bags, or the sum of all the whirring machinery of capitalism. Hyperobjects, then, are “hyper” in relation to some other entity, whether they are directly manufactured by humans or not.1

Morton’s “the sum of all the whirring machinery of capitalism” brought to mind Nick Land’s adaptation of Deleuze and Guattari’s accelerating capital as a informational entity that is auto-organizing energy, matter, and information toward a technological Singularity (i.e., “There’s only really been one question, to be honest, that has guided everything I’ve been interested in for the last twenty years, which is: the teleological identity of capitalism and artificial intelligence” – here).  We’ve seen how the debt system in D&G is part of an algorithmic memory or processing system to mark and channel desire or flows of energy-matter: here and here (i.e., “Society is not exchangist, the socious is inscriptive: not exchanging but marking bodies, which are part of the earth. We have seen that the regime of debt is the unit of alliance, and alliance is representation itself. It is alliance that codes the flows of desire and that, by means of debt, creates for man a memory of words (paroles).” and: “Man must constitute himself through repression of the intense germinal influx, the great biocosmic memory that threatens to deluge every attempt at collectivity.”). Of course they spoke in anthropological terms that seem quaint now in our computational jargon age which brings me to Ceasr Hidalgo.

We build against sadism. We build to experience the joy of its every fleeting defeat. Hoping for more joy, for longer, each time, longer and stronger; until, perhaps, we hope, for yet more; and you can’t say it won’t ever happen, that the ground won’t shift, that it won’t one day be the sadisms that are embattled, the sadisms that are fleeting, on a new substratum of something else, newly foundational, that the sadisms won’t diminish or be defeated, that those for whom they are machinery of rule won’t be done.
…..– China Miéville, On Social Sadism

Emergence, Solidity, and Computation: Capital as Hyperorganism

In Cesar Hidalgo’s Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies where he describes the basic physical mechanisms that contribute to the growth of information. These include three important concepts: the spontaneous emergence of information in out-of-equilibrium systems (the whirlpool example), the accumulation of information in solids (such as proteins and DNA), and the ability of matter to compute.2

Explicating this he tells us that the first idea connects information with energy, since information emerges naturally in out-of-equilibrium systems. These are systems of many particles characterized by substantial flows of energy. Energy flows allow matter to self-organize. (Hidalgo, KL 2448) The second idea is that the mystery of the growth of information is that solids are essential for information to endure. Yet not just any solid can carry information. To carry information, solids need to be rich in structure.(Hidalgo, KL 2465) And, finally, energy is needed for information to emerge, and solids are needed for information to endure. But for the growth of information to explode, we need one more ingredient: the ability of matter to compute (i.e., the final step is intelligence and auto-awareness, decisional and ecological). (Hidalgo, KL 2475) As he remarks:

The fact that matter can compute is one of the most amazing facts of the universe. Think about it: if matter could not compute, there would be no life. Bacteria, plants, and you and I are all, technically, computers. Our cells are constantly processing information in ways that we poorly understand. As we saw earlier, the ability of matter to compute is a precondition for life to emerge. It also signifies an important point of departure in our universe’s ability to beget information. As matter learns to compute, it becomes selective about the information it accumulates and the structures it replicates. Ultimately, it is the computational capacities of matter that allow information to experience explosive growth.(Hidalgo, KL 2477-2482).

Of course Hidalgo like many current thinkers never asks the obvious questions of what’s behind this if anything, is there a telos to this IP initiative of the universe, is it all blind accident and process, a sort of accidental start-up algorithm in matter that suddenly began with the Big Bang; a part of the nature of things from the beginning? He describes self-organizing matter, its need for more permanent and enduring structures to support its processes, and then the emergence of computation or intelligence: “these objects allow us to form networks that embody an increasing amount of knowledge and knowhow, helping us increase our capacity to collectively process information” (Hidalgo, KL 2518).

I’ve never like the “self” in self-organizing – just seems too human, all too human a concept. Maybe auto-organizing should be its replacement. Either way what needs to be elided is the notion that there is some essential or core being behind the appearances directing this auto-organizing activity. It’s more a blind process having to do with the actual aspects of quantum and relativity theory in our universe rather than some notion of a personality behind things (i.e., God or Intelligence). When does matter become purposeful, attain a teleological goal oriented ability to organize itself and its environment? Is this what life is? Is life that threshold? Or something else? Many creatures alive do not need an awareness of auto-distancing from their environment to appear purposeful; and, or not. Think of those elder creatures of the oceans, the predators, the sharks, their drive to hunt, select, kill etc. Is this a telos, or just the organic mode of information as blind process working in an environment to satisfy the base requirements to endure?

We as humans seem to think we’re special, situated as the exception rather than the rule. But are we? No. What if we are like all other durable organic systems just the working out of blind processes and algorithms of information processing as it refines itself and emerges into greater and greater complexity? But this is to assume that “us” will remain human, that this teleological or non-teleological process ends with the human species. But does it? Or we but the transitional object of some further emergence, one that would be even more permanent, more adaptive to self-organizing matter, more enduring, more viable computationally oriented? I think you know where I’m going here: the machinic phylum, the emergence of AI, Robotics, Nanotech, ICT’s etc. that we see all around us, or these not the further immanent self-organization of matter into greater and more lasting forms that will eventually outpace the organic hosts that supported their emergence? Or we not seeing the edge of this precipice in such secular myths as posthumanism and transhumanism? The Technological Singularity as a more refined emergence of this self-organizing information processing entity or entities: this collective or hive, even distributed intelligence emerging in such external devices?

Hidalgo mentions the personbyte theory which suggests a relationship between the complexity of an economic activity and the size of the social and professional network needed to execute it. Activities that require more personbytes of knowledge and knowhow need to be executed by larger networks. This relationship helps explain the structure and evolution of our planet’s industrial structures. The personbyte theory implies that (1) simpler economic activities will be more ubiquitous, (2) that diversified economies will be the only ones capable of executing complex economic activities, (3) that countries will diversify toward related products, and (4) that over the long run a region’s level of income will approach the complexity of its economy, which we can approximate by looking at the mix of products produced and exported by a region, since products inform us about the presence of knowledge and knowhow in a region. (Hidalgo, KL 2524-2530).

In this sense capitalism is an informational entity or hyperobject, a self-organizing structure for energy, matter, and information to further its own emergence through temporal computational algorithms. As Hidalgo reiterates this dance of information and computation is powered by the flow of energy, the existence of solids, and the computational abilities of matter. The flow of energy drives self-organization, but it also fuels the ability of matter to compute. Solids, on the other hand, from proteins to buildings, help order endure. Solids minimize the need for energy to produce order and shield information from the steady march of entropy. Yet the queen of the ball is the emergence of collective forms of computation, which are ubiquitous in our planet. Our cells are networks of proteins, which form organelles and signaling pathways that help them decide when to divide, differentiate, and even die. Our society is also a collective computer, which is augmented by the products we produce to compute new forms of information. (Hidalgo, KL 2532-2537).

Crossing the Rubicon?

Yet, is the organic base the most efficient? Are we not already dreaming of more permanent structures, more enduring and durable robotics, machinic, etc.? Hidalgo is hopeful for collective humanity, but is this necessarily so? It looks more like we are but a form of matter that might have been useful up to this point, but that is becoming more and more apparent as obsolete and limited for the further auto-organization of information in the future. What Kant termed finitude is this limiting factor for humans: the human condition. Are we seeing the power of matter, energy, and informational auto-organization about to make the leap from human to a more permanent form? A crossing of the Rubicon from which humanity may not as a species survive? Possibly even merging ourselves into more permanent structures to support information and intelligence in its need to escape the limits of planetary existence?

The questions we need to be raising now are such as: What happens to humans if machines gradually replace us on the job market? When, if ever, will machines outcompete humans at all intellectual tasks? What will happen afterward? Will there be a machine-intelligence explosion leaving us far behind, and if so, what, if any, role will we humans play after that?3 Max Tegmark* lists the usual ill-informed suspects on the blogosphere circuit that cannot and will not ever answer this:

  1. Scaremongering: Fear boosts ad revenues and Nielsen ratings, and many journalists seem incapable of writing an AI article without a picture of a gun-toting robot.
  2. “ It’s impossible”: As a physicist, I know that my brain consists of quarks and electrons arranged to act as a powerful computer, and that there’s no law of physics preventing us from building even more intelligent quark blobs.
  3. “ It won’t happen in our lifetime”: We don’t know what the probability is of machines reaching human-level ability on all cognitive tasks during our lifetime, but most of the AI researchers at a recent conference put the odds above 50 percent, so we’d be foolish to dismiss the possibility as mere science fiction.
  4. “ Machines can’t control humans”: Humans control tigers not because we’re stronger but because we’re smarter, so if we cede our position as the smartest on our planet, we might also cede control.
  5.  “ Machines don’t have goals”: Many AI systems are programmed to have goals and to attain them as effectively as possible.
  6. “ AI isn’t intrinsically malevolent”: Correct— but its goals may one day clash with yours. Humans don’t generally hate ants, but if we wanted to build a hydroelectric dam and there was an anthill there, too bad for the ants.
  7. “ Humans deserve to be replaced”: Ask any parent how they’d feel about your replacing their child by a machine and whether they’d like a say in the decision.
  8. “ AI worriers don’t understand how computers work”: This claim was mentioned at the above-mentioned conference and the assembled AI researchers laughed hard. (Brockman, pp. 44-45)

Tegmark will – as Hidalgo did – speak of humans as information processing systems:

we humans discovered how to replicate some natural processes with machines that make our own wind, lightning, and horsepower. Gradually we realized that our bodies were also machines, and the discovery of nerve cells began blurring the borderline between body and mind. Then we started building machines that could outperform not only our muscles but our minds as well. So while discovering what we are, will we inevitably make ourselves obsolete? (Brockman, p. 46)

That’s the hard question at the moment. And, one still to be determined. Tegmark’s answer is that we need to think this through: “The advent of machines that truly think will be the most important event in human history. Whether it will be the best or worst thing ever to happen to humankind depends on how we prepare for it, and the time to start preparing is now. One doesn’t need to be a superintelligent AI to realize that running unprepared toward the biggest event in human history would be just plain stupid.” (Brockman, p. 46)

Inventing a Model of the Future? Hyperstitional Energetics?

What would be interesting is to build an informational model, a software application that would model this process from beginning to now of the universe as an auto-organizing system of matter, energy, and information into the various niches of complexification as it stretches over the temporal dimensions as a hyperobject or superorganism. Watch it ins the details of a let’s say Braudelaian input of material economic and socio-cultural data of the emergence of capitalism as a hyperobject over time and its complexification up to this projected Singularity. Obviously one would use statistical and probabilistic formulas and mathematical algorithms to accomplish this with sample data, etc. Either way it would show a possible scenario of the paths forward of human and machinic systems as they converge/diverge in the coming years. I’ll assume those like the complexity theorists in New Mexico university have worked such approximations? I need to study this… someone like a Stuart Kauffmann? Such as this essay: here:

the universe is open in being partially lawless at the quantum-classical boundary (which may be reversible). As discussed, the universe is open upward in complexity indefinitely. Based on unprestatable Darwinian exaptations, the evolution of the biosphere, economy and culture seem beyond sufficient law, hence the universe is again open. The unstatable evolution of the biosphere opens up new Adjacent Possible adaptations. … It seems true both that the becoming of the universe is partially beyond sufficient natural law, and that opportunities arise and disappear and either ontologically, or epistemologically, or lawlessly, may or may not be taken, hence can change the history of our vast reaction system, perhaps change the chemistry in galactic giant cold molecular clouds, and change what happens in the evolution of the biosphere, economy and history.

Sounds familiar in the sense of Meillassoux’s attack on sufficient causation (i.e., ‘principle of sufficient reason’), etc. when Kauffman mentions “the evolution of the biosphere, economy and culture seem beyond sufficient law, hence the universe is again open”. Of course Kauffman’s thesis is: “a hypopopulated chemical reaction system on a vast reaction graph seems plausibly to exhibit, via quantum behavior and decoherence, the acausal emergence of actual molecules via acausal decoherence and the acausal emergence of new ontologically real adjacent possibles that alter what may happen next, and give rise to a rich unique history of actual molecules on a time scale of the life time of the universe or longer. The entire process may not be describable by a law.” In other words its outside “sufficient reason”.

In his The Blank Swan: The End of Probability  Elie Ayache is like Land tempted to see Capitalism as a hyperobject or entity, saying, “What draws me to Deleuze is thus my intention of saying the market as univocal Being”.4 He goes on to say:

The problem with the market is that it is immanence incarnate. It has no predefined plane. Much as I had first intended derivatives and their pricing as my market and my surface, I soon found myself making a market of the writings of Meillassoux, Badiou and Deleuze. They became my milieu of immanence. The plane of immanence on which to throw my concept of the market soon became a plane of immanence on which to deterritorialize thought at large. I soon became tempted to remake philosophy with my concept of the market rather than remake the market with a new philosophy. The market became a general metaphor for writing, the very intuition of the virtual with which it was now possible to establish contact. I was on my way to absolute deterritorialization, and the question became how to possibly deliver this ‘result’ otherwise than in a book that was purely philosophical. (Ayache, pp. 303-304)

Of course he’s dealing with specifics of trading in the derivatives market, etc., but one can extrapolate to a larger nexus of possibilities. As he suggests: “I soon became tempted to remake philosophy with my concept of the market rather than remake the market with a new philosophy. The market became a general metaphor for writing, the very intuition of the virtual with which it was now possible to establish contact. I was on my way to absolute deterritorialization, and the question became how to possibly deliver this ‘result’ otherwise than in a book that was purely philosophical.” This notion of both capital and thought making a pact of absolute deterritorialization seems to align with Hildalgo’s history of information theory and its own auto-organizational operations.

Ayache will like Land see the market as a unified entity: The market, as market, is one reality. It cannot be separated or differentiated by external difference.  It is an intensity: the intensity of the exchange, presumably. It follows no stochastic process, with known volatility or jump parameters. It is a smooth space, as Deleuze would say, not a striated space. (Ayache, p. 325)

As wells as an organism: What gets actualized and counter-actualized (i.e. differentiated) here is the whole probability distribution, the whole range of possibilities, and the process is the process of differentiation (or distinction, or emergence, literally birth) of that put. The market differentiates itself literally like an organism, by ‘growing’ that put (like an animal grows a tail or like birds grow wings) and by virtually growing all the successive puts that our trader will care to ask about. (Ayache, p. 338) In his book Hidalgo mentions a curious statement: “As of today, November 11, 2014, “why information grows” returns four hits on Google. The first one is the shell of an Amazon profile created for this book by my UK publisher. Two of the other hits are not a complete sentence, since the words are interrupted with punctuation. (By contrast, the phrase “why economies grow” returns more than twenty-six thousand hits.)”(Hidalgo, KL 2645) So that the notion of the market as an entity that grows informationally seems almost apparent to many at the moment.

Hidalgo will also mention the father of neoliberalism Friedrich Hayek who famously pointed this out in a 1945 paper (“ The Use of Knowledge in Society,” American Economic Review 35, no. 4 [1945]: 519– 530). There, Hayek identified money as an information revelation mechanism that helped uncover information regarding the availability and demand of goods in different parts of the economy. (Hidalgo, KL 3060) This notion of money as a “revelation mechanism” fits into current trends of Bitcoin as an virtual apparatus for informational mechanisms and market growth of Capital as a Hyperorganism.

The Virtual Economy: Blockchain Technology and Bitcoin-Economics

Some say we are the Age of Cryptocurrency in which Bitcoin and Blockchain technology will move things into the virtual arena where energy, matter, and information are enabled to push forward this growth process in an ever accelerating manner. (see here) Part of what their terming the programmable economy. As Sue Troy explains it the programmable economy — a new economic system based on autonomic, algorithmic decisions made by robotic services, including those associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) — is opening the door to a range of technological innovation never before imagined. This new economy — and more specifically the concept of the blockchain and metacoin platforms that underpin it — promises to be useful in improving an astonishingly varied number of issues: from reducing forgery and corruption to simplifying supply chain transactions to even greatly minimizing spam. In her interview she states:

Valdes explained the technical foundations of the blockchain ledger and the programmable economy. He described the programmable economy as an evolution of the API economy, in which businesses use APIs to connect their internal systems with external systems, which improves the businesses’ ability to make money but is limited by the fact that the systems are basically siloed from one another. The Web was the next step in the evolution toward the programmable economy, he said, because it represents a “global platform for programmable content. It was decentralized; it was a common set of standards. Anyone can put up a Web server and plug into this global fabric for content and eventually commerce and community.”

I can give my teenage son $20. … In the future, that money would have rules associated with it: You can’t buy fast food, you can only spend it on a movie, but you can’t go to a movie during the day. – Ray Valdes vice president, Gartner

The programmable economy, Valdes said, is enabled by “a global-scale distributed platform for value exchange. … The only thing that’s uncertain is what form it will take.” Valdes pointed to Bitcoin, which uses blockchain ledger technology, as a prominent example of a “global-scale, peer-to-peer, decentralized platform for global exchange.”

Ultimately Valdes states that the idea of programmability can be extended to the corporate structure, Valdes said. Today the rules of incorporation are fixed, and the corporation is represented by its employees and a board of directors. In the future, corporations could be “more granular, more dynamic and untethered from human control”.

Of course this fits into the notion that the future City States or Neocameral Empires will also become “more granular, more dynamic and untethered from human control” as machinic intelligence and other convergences of the NBIC technologies take over more and more from humans.

One want to take a step back and get one’s breath and say: “Whoa, there partner, just wait a minute!” But by the time we institute some ethical or governmental measures it will like most of history be far too late to stop or even slow down this juggernaut of growing informational hyperorganisms. As one advocated suggested there will come a time when everything is connected in an information environment: “You can put monitors in the anything to measure or quantify exchanges, the sensors are connected to smart contracts, the contracts are changing as the exchanges take place, so you have this dynamic process that’s taking place in the supply chain, constantly refreshing the economic conditions that surround it…” (see). In this information programmable economy as Troy sees it Organizations of the future will need a different organizational model, he said. “You see society changing in a sharing, collaborative environment. Think about it being the same internally.”

As one pundit Jacob Donnelly tells it Bicoin is in existential crisis, yet it has a bright future. What is increasingly likely is that the future of bitcoin is bright. It is the seventh year in the development of this network. It takes years to build out a protocol, which is what bitcoin is. As Joel Spolsky says, “Good software takes 10 years. Get used to it.”

“Bitcoin is comparable to the pre-web-browser 1992-era Internet. This is still the very early days of bitcoin’s life. The base layer protocol is now stable (TCP/IP). Now engineers are building the second layer (HTTP) that makes bitcoin usable for average people and machines,” Jeff Garzik, founder of Bloq and Core developer of bitcoin, told me.

Once the infrastructure is built, which still has many more years ahead of it, with companies like Bloq, BitGo, 21.co, and Coinbase leading the charge, we’ll begin to see solid programs built in the application layer.

But even while we wait for the infrastructure to be built, it’s clear that bitcoin is evolving. Bitcoin is not perfect. It has a lot of problems that it is going to have to overcome. But to label it dead or to call for it to be replaced by something new is naive and shortsighted. This battle in the civil war will end, likely with Bitcoin Classic rolling out a hard fork with significant consensus. New applications will be built that provide more use cases for different audiences. And ultimately, the Internet will get its first, true payment protocol.

But Bitcoin is seven years old. It will take many years for the infrastructure to be laid and for these applications to reach critical mass. Facebook had nearly 20 years after the browser was released to reach a billion users. To imagine bitcoin’s true potential, we need to think in decades, not in months or years. Fortunately, we’re well on our way.

Future Tech: Augmented Immersion and Policing Information

One imagines a day when every aspect of one’s environment internal/external, intrinsic/extrinsic is programmable and open to revision, updates, changes, exchanges, etc. in an ongoing informational economy that is so invisible and ubiquitous that even the machines will forget they are machines: only information growth will matter and its durability, expansion, and acceleration.

In an article by Nicole Laskowski she tells us augmented and virtual reality technologies may be better suited for the enterprise than the consumer market as these technologies become more viable. Google Glass, an AR technology, for example, raised ire over privacy concerns. But in the enterprise? Employees could apply augmented and virtual reality technology to build rapid virtual prototypes, test materials, and provide training for new employees — all of which can translate into productivity gains for the organization.

“The greatest level of adoption is around the idea of collaboration,” Soechtig said. Teams that aren’t in the same physical environment can enter a virtual environment to exchange information and ideas in a way that surpasses two-dimensional video conferencing or even Second Life Enterprise. Nelson Kunkel, design director at Deloitte Digital, described virtualized collaboration as an “empathetic experience,” and Soechtig said the technology can “take how we communicate, share ideas and concepts to a completely new level.”

For some companies, the new level is standard operating procedure. Ford Motor Company has been using virtual reality internally for years to mock up vehicle designs at the company’s Immersion Lab before production begins. Other companies, such as IKEA, are enabling an augmented reality experience for the customer. Using an IKEA catalogue and catalogue app, customers can add virtual furnishings to their bedrooms or kitchens, snap a photo and get a sense for what the items will look like in their homes. And companies such as Audi and Marriott are turning VR headsets over to customers to help them visually sift through their choices for vehicle customizations and virtually travel to other countries, respectively.

Vendors, too, see augmented and virtual reality as an opportunity — from Google and its yet-to-hit-the-market Google Glass: Enterprise Edition to Facebook and its virtual reality headset, Oculus Rift, to Microsoft and its HoloLens, which it describes as neither augmented nor virtual reality, but rather a “mixed reality that lets you enjoy your digital life while staying more connected to the world around you,” according to the website. All three companies have eyes on the enterprise.

Neocameralism or Governance of Information

Is this techno-optimism or its opposite, utopia or dystopia… we’ll we even be there to find out? In his book The Disordered Police State: German Cameralism as Science and Practice on the old princedoms of the Cameral states of Germany Andre Wakefield comments:

The protagonist of my story is the Kammer, that ravenous fiscal juridical chamber that devoured everything in its path. History, I am told, is only as good as its sources, and the cameral sciences, which purported to speak publicly about the most secret affairs of the prince, were deeply dishonest. We cannot trust them. And because many of the most important cameral sciences were natural sciences, the dishonesty of the Kammer has been inscribed into the literature of science and technology as well. There is no avoiding it.5

The German cameralists were the writer-administrators and academics who had provided a blueprint for governance in early modern Germany. Much like our current systems of academic and Think Tank experts who provide the base blueprints for governance around the world today.

When we read many of the books about our future it is spawned in part and funded by such systems of experts, academics, and governmental or corporate powers seeking to convince, manipulate, and guide in the very construction of a future tending toward their goals and agendas. A sort of policing of culture, a policy is a policing and movement of the informational context to support these entities and organizations.

In the future we will indeed program many capabilities that closely resemble those arising from ‘true’ intelligence into the large-scale, web-based systems that are likely to increasingly permeate our societies: search engines, social platforms, smart energy grids, self-driving cars, as well as a myriad other practical applications. All of these will increasingly share many features of our own intelligence, even if lacking a few ‘secret sauces’ that might remain to be understood.6

One aspect of this I believe people and pundits overlook is that the large datastores needed for this will need knowledge workers for a long while to input the data needed by these advanced AI systems. I believe instead of jobs and work being downsized by automation that instead it will be opened up into ever increasing informational ecosystems that we have yet to even discern much less understand. I’m not optimistic about this whole new world, yet it is apparent that it is coming and organizing us as we organize it. Land spoke of the hyperstition as a self-replicating prophecy. If the books, journals, and other memes elaborated around this notion of information economy and exchange are valid we are moving into this world at light-speed and our older political, social, and ethical systems are being left far behind and unable to cope with this new world of converging technologies and information intelligence.

More and more our planet will seem an intelligent platform or hyperorganism that is a fully connected biospheric intelligence or sentient being of matter, energy, and information, a self-organizing entity that revises, updates, edits, and organizes its information on climate, populations, bioinformatics, etc. along trajectories that we as humans were incapable as an atomistic society. Change is coming… but for the better no one can say, yet. Eerily reminiscent of Ovid’s poem of the gods Metamorphosis humans may merge or converge with this process to become strangely other… at once monstrous and uncanny.

(I’ll take this up in a future post…)

*Max Tegmark: Physicist, cosmologist, MIT; scientific director, Foundational Questions Institute; cofounder, Future of Life Institute; author, Our Mathematical Universe

  1. Morton, Timothy (2013-10-23). Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Posthumanities) (Kindle Locations 106-111). University of Minnesota Press. Kindle Edition.
  2. Hidalgo, Cesar (2015-06-02). Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies (Kindle Locations 2446-2448). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
  3. Brockman, John (2015-10-06). What to Think About Machines That Think: Today’s Leading Thinkers on the Age of Machine Intelligence (p. 43). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
  4. Ayache, Elie (2010-04-07). The Blank Swan: The End of Probability (p. 299). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
  5. Andre Wakefield. The Disordered Police State: German Cameralism as Science and Practice (Kindle Locations 379-382). Kindle Edition.
  6. Shroff, Gautam (2013-10-22). The Intelligent Web: Search, smart algorithms, and big data (p. 274). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.


Erasing God: ‘Neuro-Hackers’ Create, Delete Memories

As I was reading this article on ‘Neuro-Hackers’ Create, Delete Memories I kept thinking to myself What if we could erase the memory of God and Religion from Humanity? In the documentary they profile several different research programs in which scientists manipulate, suppress or even implant false memories in the human brain. As my friend R. Scott Bakker in his little theory-fiction recently surmised the notion of a mass mind-wipe of traumatic events might just lead to our eventual demise as a species: –  ‘Crash Space’,

Reverse engineering brains is a prelude to engineering brains, plain and simple. Since we are our brains, and since we all want to be better than what we are, a great many of us celebrate the eventuality. … And now we’re set to begin engineering our brains in earnest. Engineering environments has the effect of transforming the ancestral context of our cognitive capacities, changing the structure of the problems to be solved such that we gradually accumulate local crash spaces, domains where our intuitions have become maladaptive. Everything from irrational fears to the ‘modern malaise’ comes to mind here. Engineering ourselves, on the other hand, has the effect of transforming our relationship to all contexts, in ways large or small, simultaneously. It very well could be the case that something as apparently innocuous as the mass ability to wipe painful memories will precipitate our destruction. Who knows?

What if – to push the limits of feasibility, our governments could erase our memories, manipulate, or transplant false ones? What if people became empty husks to be sliced and diced with erasure / replacement memories that would service some nefarious power unknown to oneself? What if we all became the Stepford Wives in situ: men, women, children nothing more than the play things of a globalized system, a totalized utopian capitalism where everyone was happy and everyone did their required job to the beat of some machinic temporality; a sort of We on steroids? None of this is news, science fiction writers wrote of these scenarios from the early pulp days to now. It’s just that it’s no longer fiction… recently Neuropath by R. Scott Bakker.

All this plays to our sense of Self: Do we have selves that pre-exist our bodies? Do we exist only as linguistic signs in a sea of textuallity, forged by the forces of knowledge and power: the networks of language and communication systems (ICT’s) as Foucault and others once suggested? Are we but a self-reflecting nothingness, a contentless void filled with data not our own, a dialectical pin-cushion that is nothing but the meat puppet of the brain’s survival mechanism? Just what is this thing we are?

And if we gave the power to experts to handle our lives, our identities, our sense of self and memory what then? Would we still be human? If our memories, identities, and lives were but the manipulated datastore of external forces that shaped us to goals (telos) not of our own choosing, how define what we are then? If we lose our sense of Self and Memory would we be something else: a tool, a machine, a servant?

Think of criminals or other elements of society that might be changed by such technologies? What if prisoners now on death row, or in long term imprisonment chose to be mind-wiped and have their identities change, new memories transplanted, revised histories, new lives that would offer them instead of long years behind bars another path to freedom? What would that entail in ethics? If one is mind-wiped and has one’s memories erased, new ones transplanted based on ethnic, social, and other familiar patterns of thought and behavior what would this entail? What a strange and disturbing thought…

And lastly if the world was erased of God, Religion, Transcendence, Spirituality, Ecstasy, Pain, Laughter, Tears: all those mental state of affairs, etc…. what kind of beings would we become? Empty husks to be shaped and manipulated? What then? And, even our notions of being Secular atheists like myself… what of that? What if we all became like those creatures in Scott’s stories empty vacuums with neuralfeed connections and implants they mimicked human behavior rather than actually feeling it? Losing affects, beliefs, intentional being… losing our mind, losing our humanity… would we all become passive and indifferent, impersonal machines in the hands of the State? Is this a utopia or a dystopian in the making? Need we even ask…

After reading the article I kept thinking how technology is always a two-edged sword that can be used for good or ill, to heal or to wound. In the wrong hands such a technology as neurohacking and reengineering brains, manipulating memory, self, and identity might lead to a far different outcome than what these scientist probably assume. A world far darker than we’ve ever imagined before… I could imagine a YA Dystopian fiction to envision it, too. What about you? Any thoughts, opinions? (I’m always amazed how many people read this blog but say nothing one way or the other. Is it me or is the planet brain dead? Have we forgotten how to speak? Even if one disagrees? People seem to flip around the web as if it were non-committal, as if this wasn’t a place to reason together, as if we were already mind-wipes and zombies…lost among our false memories. Hmm… maybe we are?)



Georges Bataille, Nick Land: Base Materialism, Aberrant Thought, and the Archontes


In his essay Base Materialism and Gnosticism Georges Bataille will give a rather different reading of our ancient spiritual systems: “In practice, it is possible to see as a leitmotiv of Gnosticism the conception of matter as an active principle having its own eternal autonomous existence as darkness (which would not be simply the absence of light, but the monstrous archontes revealed by this absence), and as evil (which would not be the absence of good, but a creative action). This conception was perfectly incompatible with the very principle of the profoundly monistic Hellenistic spirit, whose dominant tendency saw matter and evil as degradations of superior principles.”

The notion that matter is not dead as most of our philosophical and scientific thinkers thought up till the introduction of quantum theory, along with this notion that rather than some eternal realm of Ideas, some Platonic acosmic world of archetypal powers superior to our Cosmos, another view onto things might be: a truth that matter harbored within its immanent fold a strange and energetic, even monstrous and daemonic source of intelligence and creative action never entered these ancient systems of philosophy. In fact, as Bataille would remark: “It is difficult to believe that on the whole Gnosticism does not manifest above all a sinister love of darkness, a monstrous taste for obscene and lawless archontes… If today we overtly abandon the idealistic point of view, as the Gnostics and Manicheans implicitly abandoned it, the attitude of those who see in their own lives an effect of the creative action of evil appears even radically optimistic. It is possible in all freedom to be a plaything of evil if evil itself does not have to answer before God”.

Bataille has also come to the conclusion that philosophy, and even the sciences should not concern itself with Being or the Science of Being, Ontology: “Thus it appears – all things considered – that Gnosticism, in its psychological process, is not so different from present-day materialism, I mean a materialism not implying an ontology, not implying that matter is the thing-in-itself.” So that against Kant and all his inheritors matter would no longer be reduced to ontology, nor even to the epistemic view onto “being” or “phenomena” as if these were the attributes and core of matter, Being’s Kingdom. No. As he’d suggest,

Base matter is external and foreign to ideal human aspirations, and it refuses to allow itself to be reduced to the great ontological machines resulting from these aspirations. But the psychological process brought to light by Gnosticism had the same impact: it was a question of disconcerting the human spirit and idealism before something base, to the extent that one recognized the helplessness of superior principles.1

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Short History of Necropunk Philosophy

A Short History of Necropunk Philosophy

Decided to move this from my last post on my work-in-progress Savage Nights.

Thinking of Capitalism as a necropunk invasion from the future, driven by death-drives, cannibalizing through crisis, collapse, catastrophe is at the core of what Bataille and Nick Land after him would term “base materialism” converging on the closure of history into a posthuman future. Or, what my friend Scott Bakker would term the ‘crash space’ of the Semantic Apocalypse.

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Chronicles of the High Inquest by S.P. Somtow

Working a new near future Grunge or Necropunk Noir Science Fiction I began collecting information regarding past uses of this notion. For me the master stylist of this genre remains Richard Calder with his Dead Girls/Dead Boys/Dead Things trilogy. (see review) He lived in Thailand 1990-1996 and later in the Philippines until returning to London in the first years of this century – who began publishing sf with “Toxine” in Interzone. Yet, there is also S.P. Somtow whose works may or may not have influenced Calder’s fusion of decodence, decadence, and necrotical politics and socio-cultural inflections, yet have at their bases the necropunk style and philosophy that seems to infect, contaminate, and corrupt this genre through its hyperstitional, memetic, and egregore enactments and disclosures of the was in which the future infects and bleeds into the past through slippage.

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Hyperstitional Closure: Historical Change as Retro-Virus

At Hyperstion.org several meetings and movie planned around the globe:

Truth is Science is Fiction.


And what if there was no beginning?” (Iain Hamilton Grant)

HYPERSTITION: A film on time and narrative. Of thoughts and images. On plants and the outside. Abduction and Recursion. Yoctoseconds and Platonia. Plots and anaerobic organisms. About the movement of thinking and philosophy in anthropology, art, design, economy, linguistics, mathematics, and politics. And back into abstraction.

“You’re always at the beginning and always at the end.” (Ray Brassier) HYPERSTITION: The retooling of philosophy and political theory for the 21st Century.

Featuring: Armen Avanessian, Elie Ayache, Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant, Helen Hester, Deneb Kozikoski, Robin Mackay, Steven Shaviro, Benedict Singleton, Nick Srnicek, Christopher Kulendran Thomas, Agatha Wara, Pete Wolfendale, and Suhail Malik in 2026.

Appearances: Georg Diez, Anke Hennig, Tom Lamberty, Nick Land, Quentin Meillassoux, Reza Negarestani, Björn Quiring, Patricia Reed, Tom Streidl, James Trafford, Jeanne Tremsal, Alex Williams, and Slavoj Žižek.

Title sequences/Intermissions 2026: Diann Bauer
Drawings: Andreas Töpfer
Music: Cosimo Barnet

a film by Christopher Roth
in collaboration with Armen Avanessian

(100 minutes including an 8minute break)


Just notes… not really an essay, the scattered ramblings and notations with a friend in an email. Just wanted to get them down…

Hyperstition and Theory-Fiction

Q6. Does hyperstition exist outside of time and how is it hidden? This is fascinating, particularly in relation to the apocalypse meme, which is not at all. How do the two terms relate?
R6. Time is the working in historical time of that which lies outside (but constructs itself through) historical time. Apocalypse closes the circuit.
……….– from interview with Nick Land by Delphi Carstens

Over and over as I read various theory-fictions the name that seems to hover like a bad nightmare, yet circulates through many texts like an invisible presence or corruption, an immanent field of jouissance – a bittersweet degradation is that of Nick Land:

Functioning as magical sigils or engineering diagrams hyperstitions are ideas that, once ‘downloaded’ into the cultural mainframe, engender apocalyptic positive feedback cycles. Whether couched as religious mystery teaching, or as secular credo, hyperstitions act as catalysts, engendering further (and faster) change and subversion. Describing the effect of very real cultural anxieties about the future, hyperstitions refer to exponentially accelerating social transformations.

Or Bataille’s “archontes” – those deadly kellipots of the Lurian Kabbalah: “The acephalous gods who, as we will still need to show, represent matter are precisely the images of dismembered bodies that the substitutions of the series are rushing toward. If the dismembered body represents one of these primal images that sets in motion the chain of images, and if the series is once again inclined toward an approximation of this image, with regard to the movement of the chain, we are dealing with a form of circulation. With the dismembered body, a circle closes itself but only to unroll itself once again.”1

Land will turn the gods into capitalists and retro-viral infestations blitzing the last stop gap of a no future zone:

Acephalization = schizophrenia: cutting-up capital by way of bottom-up macrobacterial telecommerce, inducing corporate disintegration. The doomed part of intensively virtualized techonomic apparatuses subverts the fraying residues of anthropomorphic guidance. Control dissolves into the impossible.2

Think of Deleuze’s notion of Aion and Chronos: the force of non-linear time cannibalizing historical time, a narrative between the linear dynamics of the monotheistic or Blakean notion of narrative as Genesis > Apocalypse (History, Chronos > chronological); and the circular and eternal return of Joyce’s “riverun past Eve and Adam’s” of the cyclical times of Shelley’s fossil poetry (Cyclic, Viconian, Nietzsche’s amor fati – love of fate – the eternal return of the Same, Deleuze’s Aion or the eternal return of “difference”, etc.).

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Lee Braver on Philip K. Dick’s “Ubik” as Postmodern Gnosticism

By such a title I do not mean to imply that Dick or Braver are religious gnostics or obscurantists by any means, but rather that they affirm a cybernetic positive-feedback loop of information and communication with a “more than rational” notion of time, self, and cosmos. More of a secular and ironic twist to gnostic thought than an affirmation of some acosmic God. Or as with most anti-realists secularites of the pomo mode they harbor a intertextual or poststructuralist sense of being cut off in the prison house of culture. Shadows of shadows flowing in a world of signs in a solipsistic universe without access to the real world. Children of Kant and the turn toward subjectivity and subjectivation they seek ways back out of the maze and traps of a catastrophe that is also a fall into language.

The Philip K. Dick as Braver portrays him in Coin-Operated Doors and God: A Gnostic Reading of Philip K. Dick’s Ubikoffers us a Gnostic adventurer whose early works already prefigured the war between good and evil in the linguistiverse of rhetorical gestures, where humans are half-lifers in a scripted story ruled by a false demiurgic half-wit kid whose mission is to cannibalize the energy of these locked away zombies like virtual drones in frozen tombs dreaming they are alive and in ultra-paradise. Happy Campers that believe they are safe and secure until they begin receiving disturbing interventions from a strange object: the Ubik.  I’ll let you read the book and Braver’s essay for the details…

Such a reading shows just how difficult it is to reduce our inner experience or outer environmental systems to a verbal universe through art or science, religion or fiction. We live on the borderlands of truth rather than at its core, and everything is caught in the act of change rather than in the static field of static contemplation. We know in part, not whole; our minds are but the slow and selective evolutionary machines that have adapted to environmental pressures over millions of years that have in our age become disconnected from their early frames of reference. We now live in artificial worlds of our own making and suffer the consequences of these made habitats of meaning. A world where “heuristics” or models or reality that are partial, based on statistics and probability, rather than philosophical presuppositions; and, are more mathematical and organized by Set and Synthetic theory than by either Intellect or Sensation. In fact it is the main issue of our time that our “theories of meaning” or collapsing, are breaking down and leading us into what my friend Scott Bakker terms the ‘crash space’ of the symbolic apocalypse. Nick Land will associate it with the driving force at the core of capitalism that is accelerating us toward the closure of human history and time as Chronos. Let us venture into a world of fictive hyperstition, meme and egregore.

My friend Dirk (dmf) sent me a copy of Lee Braver’s* essay on Philip K. Dick’s use of Gnosticism in his science fiction novels. Of course many who have read his later novels such as the Valis trilogy or Radio Free Albemuth, as well as his 8,000 page Exegesis which is Dick’s mish-mash private journal, commentary, spiritual or agnostic adventures into the event in his life that occurred that many refer to as “the golden fish”.

On Feb. 20, 1974, Dick was hit with the force of an extraordinary revelation after a visit to the dentist for an impacted wisdom tooth for which he had received a dose of sodium pentothal. A young woman delivered a bottle of Darvon tablets to his apartment in Fullerton, Calif. She was wearing a necklace with the pendant of a golden fish, an ancient Christian symbol that had been adopted by the Jesus counterculture movement of the late 1960s.

The Sceptical Turn:  Postmodern Irony and Undecidability as Rhetorical Doomfest

To be honest my own interest in Gnosticism and heresies in general came about from a few of my own personal experiences during a troubling period of my life during and after the Viet Nam war. Like Dick I’ve never been able to quite explain satisfactorily to myself or others what I experienced during a series of events. Were they real? Psychological: psychotic episodes, schizoanalytical adventures in a more than rational ‘crash space’? Metaphysical motions on the wheel of cognitive disassociation? Lapses into older animistic and magical neuroblasts from evolution? Encounters with future intelligences?

In a sense my whole life from 1969 onward has been a search for a theory of meaning that would satisfy my restless mind concerning this series of inexplicable events transpiring over a number of years from 1969 to 1976. This is not the place to describe this period of my life in detail (I’m doing that in a fictional novel), just to note that my interest in both scientific explanations and philosophical speculations began in that timeframe. I’ve pushed both inner experience (Bataille) and rational and scientific explanandum from every angle of both ancient, modern, and postmodern forms of thought. Scoured libraries, friends, enemies, stars, lizards, madness to discover the underlying truth hidden in these events. Discovering that truth after all is relative to one’s socio-cultural perspective (i.e., Symbolic Order – Lacan/Zizek), rather than some eternal part of the order of things. Even Badiou/Meillassoux matheme’s are open to change and events, so that such truths are immanent to the world as process or even future retroactive intervention, rather than eternal Ideas inhabiting some external Outside. Below I’ll deal with Deleuze’s notions of virtual Ideas and intensities, etc. Let’s leave this for now.

Even now like Dick I remain both open and skeptical of human systems of meaning which have never quite explained to me such invasions of the Real into my early life’s existence. All such ‘Theories of Everything’ seem like dark horse scenarios for some dogmatic worldview that would enclose us in some Utopian tyranny. No. My experiences go against such things. To say I went through an existential crisis is an understatement. To say that like those ancient physicians who stated: “Healer heal thyself!” Or Nietzsche’s apply the “spear to your own wound”, etc. is to say I pushed myself to the breaking point, entered the abyss and came out the other side a changed being. One who would no longer be bound by any specific creed, dogma, or philosophical system. Or as William Blake would say: “Create your own system, or be enslaved by another man’s.”

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Crash Culture: Panic Shock, Semantic Apocalypse, and our Posthuman Future

“We have swallowed our microphones and headsets … We have interiorized our own prosthetic image and become the professional showmen of our own lives.”
…….– Jean Baudrillard

“I think now of the other crashes we visualized, absurd deaths of the wounded, maimed and distraught. I think of the crashes of psychopaths, implausible accidents carried out with venom and self-disgust…”
……..– J. G. Ballard, Crash

The machine gazes into the mirror, an abyss within an abyss. The eye that stares, stares back in a closed circuit – a feed-back loop contorted to the torsion of a solipsistic dance. Caught in the vacuum endgame of performativity rather than knowledge, each lost image moves in a circular void tempting it toward existence; else in utter disgust, an exit from this dark world of virtual multiplicity. Following the trajectory of ideas immanent to the register of thought unbound each image rides the time-wave of a falling arc into history, where human and machine gaze into each other’s eye discovering in the twisted lands of the twenty-first century a latent transport into oblivion.

Selfies are often shared on social networking services such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We follow the gaze of their gaze through its manifold electronic incarnations like blip scores in a self-replicating image-feed for lost memes. Lost among our memetic images, our thoughts blank and emptied of their former glory, we ponder the inane vision of our bodies become immaterial objects – pixel pigments of another Order: the symbolon of an alien cult from the future displayed on the screen of our inexistence. All that remains is to chart the cartography of a hidden image; emptied of its meaning, we follow the nihilist gaze of dissident powers, extreme dispotifs accelerating us toward the extreme convergence of human history onto the Semantic Apocalypse.

Blind Brain Theory: The Theory of Meaning

R. Scott Bakker is an odd man out in the world of comic nihilism – caught between the wars of the Sciences and Philosophy he promotes what he terms Blind Brain Theory (BBT): a final theory of meaning. Well known for his two intellectual fantasy series: The Prince of Nothing and The Aspect-Emperor Trilogies. Each of which as he suggests in his essay “is literature that reaches beyond the narrow circle of the educated classes, and so reaches those who do not already share the bulk of a writer’s values and attitudes. Literature that actually argues, actually provokes, rather than doing so virtually in the imaginations of the like-minded.”

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Grand Unified Theory of the Brain?

Neuroscientist Karl Friston and his colleagues have proposed a mathematical law that some are claiming is the nearest thing yet to a grand unified theory of the brain.
………– Stanislas Dehaene

Carrying on a conversation with my friend Scott Bakker of Three-Pound Brain led him to mention Stanislas Dehaene. Dehaene a couple years back had mentioned the work of Karl Friston who may be closer than anyone else to providing a solid framework for the neurosciences going forward. In his paper on the free energy principle (here: A free energy principle for the brain: pdf) he mentions the basics of this concept:

By formulating Helmholtz’s ideas about perception, in terms of modern-day theories, one arrives at a model of perceptual inference and learning that can explain a remarkable range of neurobiological facts: using constructs from statistical physics, the problems of inferring the causes of sensory input and learning the causal structure of their generation can be resolved using exactly the same principles. Furthermore, inference and learning can proceed in a biologically plausible fashion. The ensuing scheme rests on Empirical Bayes and hierarchical models of how sensory input is caused. The use of hierarchical models enables the brain to construct prior expectations in a dynamic and context-sensitive fashion. This scheme provides a principled way to understand many aspects of cortical organisation and responses.

As Gregory T. Huang in Is this a unified theory of the brain? (or here complete article) reports: What we still don’t have, though, is a way to bring all these pieces together to create an overarching theory of how the brain works. Despite decades of research, neuroscientists have never been able to produce their own equivalent of Schrödinger’s equation in quantum mechanics or Einstein’s E=mc2 – a powerful, concise, mathematical law that encapsulates how the brain works. Nor do they have a plausible road map towards a “theory of everything”, like string theory in physics. Surely if we can get so close to explaining the universe, the human brain can’t be that hard to crack? Continuing he states:

Until now none of their ideas has been general or testable enough to arouse much excitement in straight neuroscience. But a group from University College London (UCL) may have broken the deadlock. Neuroscientist Karl Friston and his colleagues have proposed a mathematical law that some are claiming is the nearest thing yet to a grand unified theory of the brain. From this single law, Friston’s group claims to be able to explain almost everything about our grey matter.

It’s a controversial claim, but one that’s starting to make people sit up and take notice. Friston’s work has made Stanislas Dehaene, a noted neuroscientist and psychologist at the College of France in Paris, change his mind about whether a Schrödinger equation for the brain might exist. Like most neuroscientists, Dehaene had been pessimistic – but not any more. “It is the first time that we have had a theory of this strength, breadth and depth in cognitive neuroscience,” he says.

Friston’s ideas build on an existing theory known as the “Bayesian brain”, which conceptualises the brain as a probability machine that constantly makes predictions about the world and then updates them based on what it senses.

The idea was born in 1983, when Geoffrey Hinton of the University of Toronto in Canada and Terry Sejnowski, then at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, suggested that the brain could be seen as a machine that makes decisions based on the uncertainties of the outside world. In the 1990s, other researchers proposed that the brain represents knowledge of the world in terms of probabilities. Instead of estimating the distance to an object as a number, for instance, the brain would treat it as a range of possible values, some more likely than others.

This notion of using values as predictive parameters and variables in a probabilistic systems of inferences made me think of the recent AI deep learning system that beat the GO champion of Europe, etc. The game of Go has long been viewed as the most challenging of classic games for artificial intelligence owing to its enormous search space and the difficulty of evaluating board positions and moves. Here we introduce a new approach to computer Go that uses ‘value networks’ to evaluate board positions and ‘policy networks’ to select moves. These deep neural networks are trained by a novel combination of supervised learning from human expert games, and reinforcement learning from games of self-play. Without any look ahead search, the neural networks play Go at the level of state-of-the-art Monte Carlo tree search programs that simulate thousands of random games of self-play. We also introduce a new search algorithm that combines Monte Carlo simulation with value and policy networks. Using this search algorithm, our program AlphaGo achieved a 99.8% winning rate against other Go programs, and defeated the human European Go champion by 5 games to 0. This is the first time that a computer program has defeated a human professional player in the full-sized game of Go, a feat previously thought to be at least a decade away.

Two works that go in depth on the notion of the predictive mind are Jacob Hohwy’s The Predicitve Mind, and Andy Clarke’s Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind. As Hohwy’s explains it this new theory of the brain as a probabilistic machine, or a predictive and anticipation system offers the neurosciences a larger framework to tie many aspects of various singular and experiential knowledge’s of the brain onto a new footing:

A new theory is taking hold in neuroscience. The theory is increasingly being used to interpret and drive experimental and theoretical studies, and it is finding its way into many other domains of research on the mind. It is the theory that the brain is a sophisticated hypothesis-testing mechanism, which is constantly involved in minimizing the error of its predictions of the sensory input it receives from the world. This mechanism is meant to explain perception and action and everything mental in between. It is an attractive theory because powerful theoretical arguments support it. It is also attractive because more and more empirical evidence is beginning to point in its favour. It has enormous unifying power and yet it can explain in detail too.1

Andy Clark will describe this minimization of error this way: “one of the brain’s key tricks, it now seems, is to implement dumb processes that correct a certain kind of error: error in the multi-layered prediction of input. In mammalian brains, such errors look to be corrected within a cascade of cortical processing events in which higher-level systems attempt to predict the inputs to lower level ones on the basis of their own emerging models of the causal structure of the world (i.e. the signal source). Errors in predicting lower level inputs cause the higher-level models to adapt so as to reduce the discrepancy. Operating over a plethora of linked higher-level models, the upshot is a brain that encodes a rich body of information about the source of the signals that regularly perturb it.”2 He’ll go on to describe Friston’s top-down system:

the generative model providing the ‘top-down’ predictions is here doing much of the more traditionally ‘perceptual’ work, with the bottom-up driving signals really providing a kind of ongoing feedback on their activity (by fitting or failing to fit, the cascade of downward-flowing predictions). This procedure combines ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom–up’ influences in an especially delicate and potent fashion, and leads to the development of neurons that exhibit a “selectivity that is not intrinsic to the area but depends on interactions across levels of a processing hierarchy” (Friston (2003) p.1349). Hierarchical predictive coding delivers, that is to say, a processing regime in which context-sensitivity is fundamental and pervasive. (ibid., p. 26)

As Hohwy comments “one important and, probably, unfashionable thing that this theory tells us about the mind is that perception is indirect…[…]…what we perceive is the brain’s best hypothesis, as embodied in a high-level generative model, about the causes in the outer world.” (Hohwy, p.322) This notion of “indirect” perceptual access to the world aligns with many new speculative realist and materialists notions of our ontological status as well. (I’ll not go into details here.) Clark commenting on this states that

There is something right about this. The bulk of our daily perceptual contact with the world, if these models are on the mark, is determined as much by our expectations concerning the sensed scene as by the driving signals themselves. Even more strikingly, the forward flow of sensory information consists only in the propagation of error signals, while richly contentful predictions flow downwards, interacting in complex non-linear fashions via the web of reciprocal connections. (Clark, p. 56)

Quoting Bubic he will remark that “an expected event does not need to be explicitly represented or communicated to higher cortical areas which have processed all of its relevant features prior to its occurrence” (ibid., p. 56) Going on to say:

If this is indeed the case, then the role of perceptual contact with the world is only to check and when necessary correct the brain’s best guessing as to what is out there. This is a challenging vision, since it suggests that our expectations are in some important sense the primary source of all the contents of our perceptions, even though such contents are constantly being checked, nuanced, and selected by the prediction error signals consequent upon the driving sensory input. (ibid., p. 56)

Rather than representing reality we infer it through a continuous feed-back forecasting and Baysean percetual grid: “the percept – even in the case of various effects and illusions  – is an accurate estimation of the most likely real-world source or property given noisy sensory evidence and the statistical distribution, within some relevant sample, of real-world causes.” (ibid., p. 57).

Yet, as Clark will affirm the upshot of this theory is that a full account of human cognition cannot hope to ‘jump’ directly from the basic organizing principles of action-oriented predictive processing to an account of the full (and in some ways idiosyncratic) shape of human thought and reason. (ibid., p. 62) He concludes, saying,

What emerges instead is a kind of natural alliance. The basic organizing principles highlighted by action-oriented predictive processing make us superbly sensitive to the structure and statistics of the training environment. But our human training environments are now so thoroughly artificial, and our explicit forms of reasoning so deeply infected by various forms of external symbolic scaffolding, that understanding distinctively human cognition demands a multiply hybrid approach. Such an approach would combine the deep computational insights coming from probabilistic generative approaches (among which figure action-oriented predictive processing) with solid neuroscientific conjecture  and with a full appreciation of the way our many self structured environments alter and transform the problem spaces of human reason. (ibid., p. 62)

We’ll have to keep our eyes on this… interesting times in the neurosciences.


  1. Hohwy, Jacob. The Predictive Mind. OUP Oxford; 1 edition (November 28, 2013)
  2. Whatever Next? Predictive Brains, Situated Agents, and the Future
    of Cognitive Science. Andy Clark School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences 


(Note: this was a scheduled post! I’ll be back end of week!)