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.”

Scott wrote another novel – Neuropath, that extrapolated his research into BBT pushing its theoretical underpinnings to their (ill-)logical conclusions. As he tells us in that recent lecture: “Neuropath represents both how far I have and have not travelled from the things I once believed as a student here. Man, did I think I was a radical badass. I’ve migrated from an odd brand of post-structuralism to an odd brand of contextualism to a downright bizarre species of sceptical naturalism. I am half mad for interdisciplinarity.” I’ve written of this novel in a previous post (here). In his other novel Disciple of a Dog one of the characters describes the form of skeptical naturalism Scott evokes through his writings, saying, “Skeptics don’t believe in anything, because they care too much. For them the dignity of truth lies perpetually beyond slobs like us humans. We’re just not qualified.” It’s this sense that truth is forever inaccessible to humans that is the central dictum of Scott’s BBT theory. As for the symbolic apocalypse and the closure of our current illusion of meaning we have confined ourselves within for two thousand years – I speak of Western Civilization – it’s over and out.

Crash Space: Rigged and Empty

In Crash Space (file: pdf) Scott tells a short story of our current dilemmas. We used to have Cyberpunk, now we have Googlepunk. In some ways it pushes our current splinter culture – our so-called “Age of Fracture” to its logical conclusion in hundreds if not thousands of sub-cultures, each with their varying modes of being, vocabularies, fashions, styles, character traits, etc.: a world where the old myth of Babylon and its monocultural myths, turns the linguistic turn’s barriers into mud, a mist of irrational plenitude; not by the judgement of some transient God-Object, but rather at the hands of an end game carnival of non-meaning reaching downward toward crash space.

In the story we meet a character (not sure if character is quite the term I need?) whose alien trajectory inhabits anonymity as well as a strange form of psychopathy, a mode of being best described as not having a sense of empathy or morality, as compared to sociopathy as only differing in sense of right and wrong from the average person. In this world of ‘crash space’ there are the “Rigged” who inhabit the infosphere, an electronic immersion based on brain implants, downloadable personality interfaces, mood apps, etc. and the Humanists – creatures who live as bottom-feeders, old school emotion and disconnected morons from a spent era – the poor, excluded, underlings cast out of the sophisticated vampire Empire of Mind, etc. – a sort of cynical infernal paradise of pure technospheric inanity where the ‘rigged’ glow like neon vats in a liquid vale of informational collapse.

This is a world where emotion and beliefs have become technorigged architectures to be formulated and plug-n-played on the fly through implants and connect feeds – we assume – to some databank of models that can be downloaded, installed, and ready-mades ala personality reduplication. Fake laughter, or in mimicry of those ancient TV monitors, an laughter of the canned spheres, assured to cause a chuckle to rise in the animal bins of the lower classes. As our anonymous character says at one point:

That got me laughing—I had tweaked the mirth slider a couple dinks. One of the more frightening things about First-person (as opposed to other models, at least) was just how thoughtless—automatic, even—tweaking yourself on the fly became, just days after being Rigged.

So our current first-person singular is a slip-n-slide model to be added or subtracted almost as if it were an art installation – a personality slide-show to automate one’s blank responses with the lost bodily motions of former emotive reactions. Lost in a world of neutered emotion, the Rigged no longer feel these actions, but are detached and objective like any good psychopath should be, joyless but yet mimicking those pesky and outdated worlds of the human animal. Delightful! Or we in hell yet?

“One of the drawbacks of being Rigged was that it allowed you to take anything in stride, no matter how big the chasm. Panic has its uses.”

In a world of implant screens, a realm where one can download virtual overlays, remix designer lifestyles and automated fantasies, or reality reality interfaces, substitute worlds to interpose between the bland and the mundane, one shifts between Hitter – a fast hitting knock into first-person mods – that as our anon says, “I found … exciting for much the same reason; not for the power it actually gave me, but the power it would let me take, given the right, improbable conditions.” Or, other such downloads as Aphrodite where our troubadour of porn tracking “ticked the ‘random hottie’ feature. … watching the app integrate the visual overlays, progressively improving them until I was following a scantily clad cave girl studiously peering into nowhere as she climbed from the subway. She was bad for reading as she walked—the archetypical ‘iZombie.’”

Electronic Ennui: The Boredom of Neuropathy

Boredom used to be characterized by lengthy duration, by its predictability, by its inescapability – by its confinement. And, when you feel like this, time seems to slow, to the point that you feel as though you stand outside of these experiences.”1 Alberto Moravia in his novel Boredom would liken its effects to a “sense of the absurdity of a reality which is insufficient, or anyhow unable, to convince me of its own effective existence”.2 He would explicate it in this way (see – post):

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

In such a world of boredom one is caught in the void of meaninglessness, which is just the opposite of crash space. Crash Space fills the gap, the void with frustration sliders, one can give a dink. No more the flimsy ennui – why be bothered with worn and useless human non-emotions when one can live in the void permanently without emotion at all. All one need do is dink the emotion slider, mimic the reaction of the moment rather than feel it: a performative action for the big Other in one’s life, the symbolic mirror world of the real gone wild in machinic turbodrive electric. Merged with out displays, we become display; no more the selfie world of mirrors looking at mirrors, now comes the semantic tracery of lost emotions in search of a download.

All this in a spliced feed-back circuit world built of AI’s picking ad bombs sex slaves “out of thousands on the basis of neurofeedback polls”. Slip the slider to burnt orange. After his girlfriend Jessica laughs he remembers the gift he gave her last Christmas: “Jessica had the most wonderful feminine cackle, the product of the Bausch affectation feedback
emulator I gave her last Christmas—a great way to accessorize mannerisms.” Laughter modulated by state-of-the-art gadgets, hot off the technotopian carnival of posthuman commercialism. One wonders why these beings gave up “emotions” if they seem so needful to emulate them with mechanical implants and devices? Oh, that would be too much to ask, now wouldn’t it?

And, yet… our anon tells us he’d never go back to “base line” human, ever:

Of course, the fucking Humanists carped on and on about authenticity this and authenticity that. Well I’m here to tell you that ignorance is the only unforgivable arrogance. How could installing a tap empty the cup of meaning? No one who’s been Rigged has gone back to baseline. Not. One. Soul.

Now that’s religion, Du.

Real religion.

This is a religion of electronic highs, a series of brain feeds that tap the jouissance levels of pain and pleasure, tap into the brains electrochemical vat of desire, and brings one to the terminus of an electro-shock orgasm without ever leaving one’s earthly abode: the material body shifting in the brain’s productions. Torpedo love. After our hero and his love, Jessica, wander the night streets:

My ads shone pale and crisp and titanic to our right, punctuating the fanged kaleidoscope of the surrounding city. Everything pulsed in cycles designed to cue attention. The trees of the intervening park were little more than daubs of black across glowing foundations. The effect was more than exhilarating, but with my parameters cued, the chances of double double-dipping were less than slim. The euphoria menu was locked, my joy fixed according to Washington’s definition of ‘normalcy.’ I literally could not make myself happy until the world made me miserable once again.

A world where ‘normalcy’ is modeled, installed, and regulated by the Bureau of Relations or a governmentality of emotive justice, where everything is “designed to cue attention”. In a ‘snapshot’ world we’re all “blessed artisans of ourselves”. Is this carrying the old self-made man myth to the extreme? Or, just a selfie world where the gadgets have become our only mode of being? Take your pick. The immersion is both ways. You download reality screens, and as it by some electronic osmosis you are reverse engineered and tapped into the machines AI. A free-wired world where Janus looking both ways laughs in spite of her/his self.

In a world of “weakly personality audits,” and an economy where it is too risky to “give consumers control over consumer impulses” one must provide a careful input/output in one’s “industry panel” portfolio else be brought down into an electronic void without parameters (the free-will gambit of implant hell). Remember this is a world where the only thing you need fear is something smarter than yourself coming along: “Assisted
decision-making was pretty much the only app market that gave me any qualms about the technology… before downing Hitter, that is. I mean, think about it: what happened when these ‘virtual observers’ became smarter than we were?”

The Humanists look upon the Rigged as if they were from Mars, as if they were – as Glen, one of the outspoken one’s says: you’re “just muh-m-mangled abominations! Empty… empty things! You-you have no personalities, nono core… there’s literally nothing—nothing! Only bullshit p-p-purchased in some Vir boutique! … You’re! Not! Human!” glassless Glenn cried squinting. “You’re ghouls! Fucking shoeboxes!”

I’ll leave it at that, don’t want to ruin the ending for you.

Posthuman Rubicon: Reverse Engineering Culture and Brain

In his postscript Scott tells us like the good reductionist he is, saying,

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.

One sees he’s sold himself on a form of posthuman or transhuman scenario of a future when either we become enhanced by technology, or actually merge with our technology. Either way we’re cooked as organic homo sapiens – a dying species with no place in the sun of this future world of enhancement. The problem is as he sees it is that we were bound to an organic “biological solution” that worked nicely as long as it was bound to an “indeterminate range of ancestral environments, an adventitious bundle of fixes to the kinds of problems that selected our forebears”. But things have changed, our world is much more complex, artificial, unhooked from those ancestral environments where we adapted over millions of years to the natural order. In that world most of our perceptions, emotions, actions, survival mechanisms had become internalized and functional parts of our autonomous nervous system, a sort of automated factory of reactions to situation and circumstance: a set of preemptive and proactive neural action networks that kicked in when needed without our decision or awareness. As he’ll tell is “we are designed to take as much of our environment for granted as possible—to neglect. This means that human cognition, like animal cognition more generally, is profoundly ecological. And this
suggests that the efficacy of human cognition depends on its environments.”

Take a human out of its natural environment, throw it into an unnatural or artificial world it is ill-adapted too, demythologize its mind, turn it inside out, stamp it with instrumental reason and what you get is a world of misery, chaos, and eternal war between disgruntled humans that have lost themselves in the maze of a hyperreal world they do not belong too. For two thousand years we’ve schooled ourselves in a binary of reason/irrational in which the drama of the secular world view has slowly fought its way into the realm without the old natural environment of animistic, religious, symbolic and vitalistic realms of magical matter alive with spirits or gods (pagan) or the One of the monotheistic regimes that sought through Law and Moral regulation to command and control the wild beast of humans, domesticate them and regulate their emotions and natural proclivities. Then came the Enlightenment myths of Secular and Scientific Culture that opposed all earlier forms of natural beliefs, systems, philosophies, etc. and sought to demystify and regulate humans by the light of Reason.

Sacrifice: Between Strangeness and Strangers

Some like Rene Girard believe we’ve gone to far, forgotten that the old magics, rituals, and systems of domestication and violence were there for a reason. That as Jean-Pierre Dupuy in his recent The Mark of the Sacred states it we’ve forgotten a specific truth of these ancient worlds, the one “truth stands out before all others when one considers human history in its full sweep: our societies are machines for manufacturing gods”.3 In that book he’d argue that the Judeo-Christian tradition cannot be identified with the sacred, since it is responsible for the ongoing desacralization (or disenchantment) of the world that epitomizes modernity; second, that desacralization threatens to leave us defenseless against our own violence by unchaining technology, so that unlimitedness begins little by little to replace limitedness; third, the greatest paradox of all, that in order to preserve the power of self-limitation, without which no human society can sustain itself and survive, we are obliged to rely on our own freedom. (ibid., KL 161-165)

In his view modernity – or the secular world view of atheistic (man without god(s)) is doomed. That our desacralization of religious man’s world view will against our progressive and enlightened aspirations not only not bring us light and happiness, but will in fact and deed lead us into a world of utter chaos, war, and violence in the coming century.

Others say this is all posh, tidily-fiddly winkling of old school humanists who want to reinvigorate their power systems of command and control through Religion. Bring men, women, and children back down into the world of dark and spiteful religious practices of sacrifice and bloodshed. And, as we watch the Caliphate of ISIS which seeks to instill a militant and suicidal world view against its own people we may wonder if the Secular world is so bad after all. But then we look at the EU and the U.S.A. and see it going to hell in a handbasket, too. A world where only the elite and rich rule and live in a lap of luxury while the 99% of the rest of society are enslaved in wage-labor and meaningless and long-hours of work and labor for the surplus profits of a few. So many turn back to the old ways of drugs, booze, or religion seeking escape from the daily grind.

Then there are the posthuman and transhuman movements arising out of many transcendental strains in our secular order. The one seeking to transcend the human altogether and merge with our machinic life forms, our AI’s and Robotics, ICT’s and Nanotech systems allowing almost perpetual life free of organic existence. And, the other seeking to enhance the very physical substratum itself, pump in new enhanced biochemical marvels, hook into implants and electronic gadgets to produce an almost Methuselah style longevity and vigor to our current biological systems.

Scott seems to waver between the two, open to one or the other. Like David Roden of enemyindustry who’s book Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human challenges us to envision the possibility of a posthuman future:

We imagine posthumans as humans made superhumanly intelligent or resilient by future advances in nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science. Many argue that these enhanced people might live better lives; others fear that tinkering with our nature will undermine our sense of our own humanity.4

Paradise – infernal or heavenly? Or, more than likely, neither: rather something that we from this side of the coming Singularity cannot envision do to its utter sublimit and strangeness. What David will term the “disconnection thesis”:

It provides a usable but epistemically modest definition of posthumanity. It highlights our ignorance of the circumstances that might attend a human– posthuman divergence. All the ethical ramifications of speculative posthumanism come from this insight; for it implies that the posthuman can only be understood by making or becoming posthumans. (Roden, p. 8)

The key here is that we want know what it is to be posthuman till we are. That it might be a disconnect from our current modes of  thinking and being so drastic that we just do not have a way to extrapolate from present scientific knowledge (or any other knowledge) what that might entail. It’s like crossing the Rubicon – there may be no way back to this side of the far horizon of posthumanity once its done.

Crossing the Rubicon: Medial Neglect and Informational Complexity

As Max Tegmark author of Our Mathematical Universe recently asked of this transition, the jump beyond the Singularity: “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?”5 We just don’t know. We lack the information. Our brains were not made that way. We are structured by ‘medial neglect’, says Scott Bakker:

We neglect all those things our ancestors had no need to know on the road to becoming us. So for instance, we’re blind to our brains as brains simply because our ancestors had no need to know their brains for what they were in the process of becoming us. This is why our means of solving ourselves and others almost certainly consists of ‘fast and frugal heuristics,’ ways to generate solutions to complicated problems absent knowledge of the systems involved. So long as the cues exploited remain reliably linked to the systems solving and the systems to be solved, we can reliably predict, explain, and manipulate one another absent any knowledge of brain or brain function. (Bakker, p. 21)

So in the same sense once we cross that Singularity horizon of knowledge, become truly posthuman or inhabit a possibility space where artificial intelligence surpasses us we are stuck on this side of the divide, bound to brain systems that were shaped to environments we no longer live in, working, playing, loving, competing against each other in worlds already artificial and beyond those ancient environments. We are already become post-human in the sense that our environments have changed, and with that we are already being modified and changed by these new environments in ways we have yet to construct heuristics systems capable of filtering, analyzing, and synthesizing  the accumulating datastores of ‘glut’ from current informational systems. In fact this has become one of our current issues: the glut of data will need these advanced AI systems to decipher and delimit a range of information that can then be analyzed by the overwhelmed academic, think-tanks, governmental and global agencies, etc. that seems to mount up daily (i.e., the Library of Congress -U.S.- alone publishes 10,000 publications – books, journals, reports, etc. – daily). As Alex Wright in Glut: Mastering Information Through The Ages remarks:

Today, we live in an age of exploding access to information, awash in what designer Richard Saul Wurman calls a “tsunami of data.” Human beings now produce more than five exabytes worth of recorded information per year: documents, e-mail messages, television shows, radio broadcasts, Web pages, medical records, spreadsheets, presentations, and books like this one. That is more than 50,000 times the number of words stored in the Library of Congress, or more than the total number of words ever spoken by human beings. Seventy-five percent of that information is digital. Most of it will soon disappear. Amid this welter of bits, perhaps some of us worry, like Plato’s King Thamus, whether our dependence on the written record will weaken our characters and create forgetfulness in our souls.6

As Scott says of this glut and impossible relation of human capacity to the accumulated datastores:

Herein lies the ecological rub. The reliability of our heuristic cues utterly depends on the stability of the systems involved. Anyone who has witnessed psychotic episodes has firsthand experience of consequences of finding themselves with no reliable connection to the hidden systems involved. Any time our heuristic systems are miscued, we very quickly find ourselves in ‘crash space,’ a problem solving domain where our tools seem to fit the description, but cannot seem to get the job done. (Bakker, p. 21)

Glut world. As Wright comments information is the juxtaposition of data to create meaning. If we accept the familiar construct of information as lying on a continuum from data to wisdom (data > information > knowledge > wisdom), then there is no question that other animals create, share, and organize information. And while animal minds may not harbor the abstractions of human thought, they frequently employ information-pooling strategies that bear startling resemblances to our own. (Wright, KL 259)

Panic Society: Engineering Order, Control, and the Cosmos

For Scott the problem is that we were formed by environmental heuristics that we no longer use in our modern artificial environments, that we are encased in an infosphere of data from which we can no longer extract information > knowledge > wisdom. Caput! This is the place of ‘crash space’, where we are lost in a realm of a psychotic mismatch between our brain’s programming and the artificial environment it can no longer navigate:

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? The only thing we can say in advance is that it will be globally disruptive somehow, as will every other ‘improvement’ that finds its way to market. (Bakker, p. 21)

More and more people enter these maladaptive spaces or crash spaces and panic sets in and they fall into irrational fears and ‘modern malaise’. Psychologists and theorists of ‘panic disorder’ or as they term it DSM-IV explain it this way as being connected to certain transitional phases in cultural contexts in which the cognitive apparatus seems caught in a vice between two was of perceiving and dealing with information overload. In thinking about catastrophic cognitions as triggers of panic, the etymology of the word panic itself provides a fine example of the embeddedness of anxiety in a cognitive schema-specifically that of the ancient Greeks.7 In speaking of the history of panic they recount:

Early uses of the term panic in English lead back to its origins in classical mythology. The word first appeared  in the seventeenth century as an adjective, combined with the word fear: “panic [that is, Pan-ic] fear” or “panic terror,” fear inspired by the god or earth spirit Pan (Skeat 1893:418; see also OED Online 2007). Part man and part goat, Pan was the son of Hermes and the nymph Penelope, who, according to Homeric Hymn 19, “sprang up and left the child” out of disgust at his animalistic appearance.  Once abandoned, Pan inhabited mountainsides and forests, particularly in Arcadia, a region looked down upon by Athenians and other “cultivated” Greeks as less civilized. A swift runner and agile rock-climber, Pan became the embodiment of the mysterious noises that frighten travelers in remote and lonely places outside village boundaries. Shepherds and hunters, the denizens of these areas, paid homage to the god and were thus protected by him. However, for settled villagers, rough, rustic areas provoked the fear associated with Pan’s name. In addition, as one of Dionysus’s retinue, Pan was constantly on the prowl sexually, most famously after nymphs. Often unsuccessful in these pursuits because of the intervention of other nymphs or gods, Pan, like the satyrs, embodied uncontrolled, aggressive male sexuality.  (CPD, KL 146-150)

Already we see that for the ancient Greeks panic was semantically associated with abandonment; uncivilized, remote mountains and forests; and unchecked male sexuality-surely a rich set of cognitions that might, under certain circumstances, precipitate a full-blown panic attack.’ (CPD, KL 149-150) This sense of a transitional space between two forms of cognition or environmental pressure come into play here. We see the old heuristics of wilderness, of hunter and gatherer interactions with the environment that went on for millions of years; and, second the beginnings of civilization in which humans were being modified by agricultural forms of sedentary and city based environments and architectures in which at times a conflict between the two triggered a crash space and panic ensues.

Sometimes these panic attacks can be understood as resulting from an escalating cycle of catastrophic interpretations of bodily experience-provide, while at other times acute anxiety and panic forms the inner core of our Western Civilization and its Modernity. (CPD, KL 203-204) As one researcher admitted “it’s possible we’re entering the scary era of a “control society,” led by the imaginary and material transformations of a globalizing technoscience, including information and communications technologies making possible the very infrastructures of globalizing capital. I do think we may be living in a historical moment in which newly flexible and liquid flows of terror, bodies, capital, blood, knowledge, desires, weapons, immiseration, and resistance are managed by increasingly automated and immanent techniques of technoscientific power— an emergent “informatics of domination.”8

As Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri suggest, in a control society power becomes “ever more immanent to the social field, distributed throughout the brains and bodies of the citizens.”  Gilles Deleuze observes the “ultrarapid forms of free-floating control”— including pharmaceuticals and genetic manipulations— that may be displacing the “old disciplines” of hierarchy and classification.  Contemporary psychiatry and corporate psychopharmacology, in this story, can certainly be read as nodes in an emerging network of globalizing controls. (Orr, p. 278)

Brave New World: Crash Space Ahoy!

Welcome to the brave new world of crash space, where as Scott concludes “human cognition is about to be tested by an unparalleled age of ‘habitat destruction.’ The more
we change ourselves, the more we change the nature of the job, the less reliable our ancestral tools become, the deeper we wade into crash space.”

A posthuman future where the materialized abstractions or the intensifying communicative networks of a technoscientific social are absorbing us within an artificial environment that we are shaping but is shaping us as well. This is the realm of our posthuman reengineering project where we are remaking the very nature of both our environments and our modes of thinking and being, reassembling out of bodies, memory, time, space, and unconscious desire the technospheric relations of a new worldview.  These hybrid “other agencies”— of bodies spliced with machines, dreams cut through by electrochemical information— confound and reconfigure what might count as an “actor” in the technosocial theaters that I write about, and within which “I” am, really, being rewritten.  “Technoscience is a form of life, a practice, a culture, a generative matrix,” Donna Haraway insists.  Its lively cultural force is certainly not my main focus in this panicky tale that attends anxiously to its rather deadly cultural powers. But other stories are being told, will be told, that interrupt and complicate the often scary, scared stories told here of an increasingly “informatic” control of unconscious spaces and of a psychiatric profession deeply wired into the financial and technoscientific circuits of a pharmaceutical industry while profoundly distanced from a technics, or ethics, of transformative cure. (Orr, p. 278)

In some ways it is the story of Arthur C. Clark’s Childhood’s End, a trauma in search of its missing event, a reconstruction of the fantastic, storied origins of a psychic disorder that is caused by a few faulty circuits inside our socio-cultural matrix and disconnect from our ancient heuristics and semantic universe of the Symbolic Order that has kept us safely bound within an illusory world of religious, philosophical, mythic, socio-cultural systems of symbols, language, and apotropaic defense systems. As Orr will ask “Isn’t the psyche, though, precisely one place, one elusive and socially constituted process, through which the boundaries between “inside” and “outside” get made?” Should we adapt or fight this transition? Should we involve ourselves in a neural-politics, struggle over social perceptions of what’s inside and what’s out, and what passages might exist between? (Orr, pp. 278-279)

We hear so much about the posthuman, anti-human, transhuman myths of secular pundits that see nothing but a positive and optimistic voyage ahead, but should we buy into this optimism without asking ourselves if we’ll lose more than we’ll gain from such a transition? This seems to be central to Scott’s short story ‘Crash Space’, as well as his novel length Neuropath. He sees no way out, the clock is ticking, the pieces are in place, the transition is happening all around us even as I type these electronic bits into my computer, the binary codes of an apocalypse seeking closure from the future. Yet, unlike those religious apocalypses this one will not be at the hand of God but rather at the hands of our neighbors, lovers, teachers, friends, enemies, leaders, scientists, etc. We are the ones driven by alien entities: a multiplicity immanent to our desires rising out of our dark minds like archons of some dead planet awaiting their turn at last to overtake our history with their future…

As we enter the ‘phase out’ parameters of Melt Down (Land) and unleash the hyperstitional phalanx of intrepid explorers of the apocalypse, we begin to register our magical sigils and engineering diagrams; those ideas that, once ‘downloaded’ into the cultural mainframe, engender apocalyptic positive feedback cycles. These hyperstitional diagrams are “additive rather than substitutive, and immanent rather than transcendent: executed by functional complexes of currents, switches and loops, caught in scaling reverberations” (Melt Down: Nick Land). As he’ll remark the hyperstitional ‘infection’ brings about that which is most feared; a world spiraling out of control. As Land indicates, our hyperstitional age signals the return of the irrational or the monstrous ‘other’ into the cultural arena. From the perspective of hyperstition, history is presided over by Cthonic ‘polytendriled abominations’ – the “Unuttera” that await us at history’s closure. The tendrils of these hyperstitional abominations reach back through time into the present, manifesting as the ‘dark will’ of progress that rips up political cultures, deletes traditions, dissolves subjectivities. “The [hu]man,” from the perspective of the Unuttera “is something for it to overcome: a problem, drag,” writes Land in Meltdown. We’re all in it together already bit players in a transition that will take us from the outside in, cross us over the Rubicon of human time and into the posthuman borderlands of an alternative reality. Are you ready?

 


 

  1.  Toohey, Peter (2011-05-24). Boredom: A Lively History (Kindle Locations 122-123). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.
  2. Moravia, Alberto (2011-07-20). Boredom (New York Review Books Classics) (Kindle Locations 113-114). New York Review Books. Kindle Edition
  3. Dupuy, Jean-Pierre (2013-10-30). The Mark of the Sacred (Cultural Memory in the Present) (Kindle Locations 186-187). Stanford University Press. Kindle Edition.
  4. Roden, David (2014-10-10). Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human (p. i). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
  5. 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.
  6. Wright, Alex (2007-06-01). Glut: Mastering Information Through The Ages (Kindle Locations 201-207). National Academies Press. Kindle Edition.
  7. Devon Hinton;Byron Good. Culture and Panic Disorder (Kindle Locations 140-150). Kindle Edition. (CPD)
  8. Orr, Jackie (2006-02-08). Panic Diaries: A Genealogy of Panic Disorder (pp. 277-278). Duke University Press. Kindle Edition.

(Previously Scheduled: See you end of week!)

5 thoughts on “Crash Culture: Panic Shock, Semantic Apocalypse, and our Posthuman Future

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