Paul Virilio: Exile and Mutant Migration

At the end of ‘The Original Accident’ by Paul Virilio one can feel the utter despair, an almost total fatalism as he realizes the ‘turbo capitalism of the single market’ that pervades the globe is reaching a wall beyond which nothing will remain, so that a neo-human – a transhumanity leaves the ruinous wastelands of a dying earth for a New Found Land Beyond The Stars:

“…the day comes when the star can no longer bear the disaster of progress, the collateral damage that results, as we have seen throughout this book, from the acceleration not only of the history of humanity, but of all reality. … In fact and for the first time perhaps in such a tangible way, for each and every one of us the perimeter of life is strictly circumscribed by the void. The old fullness of the biosphere has been overtaken, now, by this negative horizon that defines both the world and what is out of this world at once. … It is now all about a transhumanity exiling itself in quest of a vaster earth, the promised Land of a new ‘New World’, one no longer lying westwards across a continent, but over our heads, in the firmament.”

In the end Virilio seeks a sort of mythology of transcendence in the scientific mythos of biogenetic migration and mutation. This was an odd work in his canon, a sort of paen to the ‘accident’ that seems to oppose his enemy, the techno-social progressive world of hyper-accelerating capital which he sees heading toward collapse at the end of history. The difference between his vision and Nick Land’s not that they both agree in the end, but that Virilio sees humanity migrating into a neohuman or transhuman Manifest Destiny seeking a home in the stars, while Land sees the Age of Man at an end while the Age of the Intelligent Machines is only just beginning.

Why do we seek to fill the void of the future with such visions of the end? Seeking to overcome finitude, we seem to be accelerating toward it in ever faster scales of hyperawareness.

  1. Virilio, Paul. The Original Accident. (Polity Press, 2007)

Zaha Hadid: Mistress of Parametric Design Architecture

Sadly, Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi-British architect whose curving, elongated structures left a mark on skylines around the world, and who was the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize, her profession’s highest honor, died in Miami on Thursday. She was 65.

Ms. Hadid “contracted bronchitis earlier this week and suffered a sudden heart attack while being treated in hospital,” her office, Zaha Hadid Architects in London, said in a statement. (from NY Times)

She was an avid promoter of the new Parmetric Design Architecture. Parametricism is an avant-garde architecture and design movement that has been growing and maturing over the last 15 years, emerging as a remarkable global force. The tendency started in architecture but now encompasses all design disciplines, from urban design to fashion. In architecture, the style has an international following and is currently progressing beyond its experimental roots to make an impact on a broader scale, with practices like Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) winning and completing large-scale architectural projects worldwide. Parametricism implies that all elements and aspects of an architectural composition or product are parametrically malleable; and the style owes its original, unmistakable physiognomy to its unprecedented use of computational design tools and fabrication methods. All design parameters are conceived as variables that allow the design to vary and adapt to the diverse, complex and dynamic requirements of contemporary society.


 Biography (from Encyclopedia World Biography)

Often named as the most prominent contemporary female architect, or singled out for notice because of her Iraqi Arab background, Hadid is significant beyond these accidents of birth for her intellectual toughness, her refusal to compromise on her ideas even when very few of them were being realized in concrete and steel. For many years, her designs filled the pages of architecture periodicals but were dismissed as impractical or as too radical, and Hadid even thought about giving up architecture after she suffered a major rejection in her adopted homeland of Britain in 1995. Her star began to rise internationally when her design for Cincinnati, Ohio’s new Center for Contemporary Art was selected and built, earning worldwide acclaim. By the mid-2000s Hadid employed nearly 150 people in her London office and was working hard to keep up with new commissions that were coming in, offering her a chance to help reshape the world architectural landscape.


Toured Sumerian Ruins

Born in Baghdad, Iraq, on October 31, 1950, Zaha M. Hadid grew up in a well-educated Islamic family oriented toward Western multiculturalism. Her father was an executive and, for a time, the leader of a liberal Iraqi political party. The drawing ability that would later attract attention in art museums was first absorbed from her mother. Hadid’s interest in architecture had roots in a trip her family took to the ancient Sumer region in southern Iraq, the site of one of the world’s oldest civilizations, when she was a teenager. “My father took us to see the Sumerian cities,” she told Jonathan Glancey of London’s  Guardian  newspaper. “Then we went by boat, and then on a smaller one made of reeds, to visit villages in the marshes. The beauty of the landscape—where sand, water, reeds, birds, buildings, and people all somehow flowed together—has never left me. I’m trying to discover—invent, I suppose—an architecture, and forms of urban planning, that do something of the same thing in a contemporary way.”

Hadid attended a Catholic school where French was spoken and nuns served as instructors, but which was religiously diverse. As Hadid told  Newsweek  ‘s Cathleen McGuigan, “the Muslim and Jewish girls could go out to play when the other girls went to chapel.” Hadid’s family expected her to pursue a professional career, and she studied math at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon. Her family left Iraq after the rise of dictator Saddam Hussein and the outbreak of war with neighboring Iran, but she has retained ties to both Iraq and Lebanon and has at times had difficulty talking to interviewers about the ongoing violence in her home region.

In 1972 Hadid moved to London (later becoming a British citizen) and enrolled at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. She has never married nor had children. “If [architecture] doesn’t kill you, then you’re no good,” she explained to Glancey. “I mean, really—you have to go at it full time. You can’t afford to dip in and out.” By 1977 Hadid had received her degree, along with a special Diploma Prize, and she began working for a London firm, the Office of Metropolitan Architecture, founded by one of her key teachers, the similarly daring Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. One of her student projects was a design for a hotel built atop the span of London’s Hungerford Bridge.

Hadid opened an office of her own in 1980, but at first her ideas were more in demand than her actual designs. Hadid taught courses at the Architectural Association and filled notebooks with one-of-a-kind ideas, some of which were published in architecture magazines or exhibited in galleries. Hadid began to enter design competitions, some of them research-oriented and others for buildings intended for construction. Her design for The Peak, a sports club jutting out horizontally from one of the mountain slopes that surround the city of Hong Kong, won the top prize in the institution’s competition, but the building was never constructed. Hadid’s competition entries in the 1980s and early 1990s were little known to the public at large but stirred up interest among her fellow architects, and even after she became famous, her website continued to list her competition prizes before focusing on her actual building projects.


Designed Fire Station

After several small projects, including one for the interior of the Moonsoon Restaurant in Sapporo, Japan, Hadid’s first major building was constructed in 1993 and 1994: it was a small fire station, with numerous irregular angles (Hadid has been widely quoted as saying that since there are 360 degrees, she sees no reason to restrict herself to just one), on the grounds of the Vitra Furniture Company in Weil am Rhein, Germany. In 1994 Hadid seemed to be on the verge of a breakthrough: her design for the new Cardiff Bay Opera House in Britain’s Wales region was selected for construction. It was to be an unorthodox building, with sharp angles and interior spaces that ran into and through one another rather than falling neatly into separate areas, but it was also planned to be inviting to the user, with an auditorium surrounded by glassed-in spaces that gave views of nearby Cardiff Bay.

With Hadid an unknown quantity and Britain’s Prince Charles in the midst of a widely publicized campaign in favor of neo-traditional architecture in Britain, the design ran into trouble almost immediately. The design competition was reopened, and Hadid’s design was once again named the winner, but the project’s funder, Britain’s National Lottery, eventually withdrew its commitment. Hadid was devastated. “It was such a depressing time,” she recalled to Rowan Moore of the London  Evening Standard  . “I didn’t look very depressed maybe but it was really dire. I made a conscious decision not to stop, but it could have gone the other way.”

At the same time, Hadid began to amass a solid core of admirers among her staff, among architecture experts, and among ordinary observers. At the same time the Cardiff project was going down in flames, Hadid designed a temporary pavilion to house an exhibit for the architecture magazine  Blueprint  at a builders’ convention. She had to present the structure, described by Moore as “a thing of flying steel,” to a gathering of the magazine’s advertisers, most of whom greeted it initially with silence. But an executive from a firm that made portable toilets stood up and said “I think it’s bloody marvelous” (according to Moore), and began applauding. The other advertisers joined in, and Hadid gained a moment in the building-trade spotlight.

As clients became more and more fascinated with Hadid’s plans, some of the plans advanced from theory to reality. She designed the unique Bergisel Ski Jump on a mountain near Innsbruck, Austria, and a parking garage and transit station in suburban Strasbourg, France, that later won the Mies van der Rohe Award from the European Union. In 1998 came the biggest commission yet: the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, popularly known as the Contemporary Arts Center.


Sidewalk Incorporated into Structure

The new building had to fit the confines of a narrow street corner lot in downtown Cincinnati, but Hadid made a virtue of necessity by linking the museum’s internal and external environments: the outdoor sidewalk continued into the building, where it propelled visitors toward a sleek black central staircase that melded dramatically into the structure’s back wall. As viewers ascended the staircase they looked into galleries that completely overturned the usual neutral conception of museum display spaces—the galleries had different shapes and sizes, and each one seemed to present something new to those approaching. “Not many people voluntarily walk up six stories anywhere,” noted Joseph Giovannini of  Art in America  , “but Hadid’s space so intrigues visitors that few think of bypassing the experience by hitching a ride on the elevator: they sense they would miss chapters.” A bonus in Hadid’s design was its economy: the building used only common materials, and construction costs came in at a reasonable $230 per square foot.

Hadid’s creative fulfillment of a plum commission raised her international profile considerably. Where Hadid had sometimes been considered abrasive and difficult to work with, now she was hailed as a pioneer who had stuck to her vision even while facing difficult obstacles. At times, Hadid ascribed the resistance her ideas encountered to her gender and ethnicity. She also conceded that her work and personality were challenging. “I am eccentric, I admit it,” she told Moore, “but I am not a nutcase.”

Hadid’s next major American commission came from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, site of the Price Tower designed by legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Hadid was hired to design a museum adjoining the Wright building—a choice that made sense, for Hadid was sometimes compared to Wright for her futuristic designs and her visionary rethinking of the relationships between humans and buildings. In 2006 it was one of Wright’s most famous structures, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, that played host to a major retrospective of Hadid’s work.

Indeed, the links between building and environment, and between building and user, loomed larger in Hadid’s thinking as her fame grew and commissions poured into her office. “I started out trying to create buildings that would sparkle like isolated jewels; now I want them to connect, to form a new kind of landscape, to flow together with contemporary cities and the lives of their peoples,” she told Glancey. A new factory she designed for German automa- ker BMW was laid out in such a way that workers and management personnel crossed paths more frequently.


In 2004 Hadid was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, considered the profession’s highest honor. She was the first woman to receive the award. In the mid-2000s she finally received a full-scale commission in the British Isles, for a cancer-care building called Maggie’s Centre in Fife, Scotland. Highly visible Hadid buildings planned or underway included a bridge in the Persian Gulf state of Abu Dhabi, a movie theater complex in Barcelona, Spain, and several new museums. Greater international exposure seemed assured in a project waiting further down the line: the aquatics building for the 2012 Summer Olympics to be held in London. And she seemed to be outdoing herself with each successive design. “Co-curator Monica Montagut quotes Hadid’s statement that ‘I still believe in the impossible,'” noted Raymund Ryan in his  Architectural Review  commentary of Hadid’s Guggenheim exhibition. “Judging from this display in New York City, there are few limits to what Hadid might do next.”

Read more:

Skynet Rising: IBM and Deep Learning for Nuclear Arsenal

On ZDNet Danny Palmer describes IBM’s ‘brain-inspired’ supercomputer to help watch over US nuclear arsenal:

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will use the new system to “explore new computing capabilities” surrounding the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) missions in cybersecurity, control of US nuclear weapons, and, in theory, management of agreements to reduce the number of nuclear missiles in the world.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), a federal government research facility in California, tasked with ensuring the safety, security, and reliability of the United States nuclear deterrent, is working alongside IBM on what’s been described as a “first of a kind” brain-inspired supercomputing platform for deep learning.

The neural-network will be based on IBM’s neurosynaptic TrueNorth computer chips. These processors are designed to aid computers in performing cognitive tasks, such as pattern recognition and sensory processing, more efficiently than conventional computer chips.

That efficiency is made possible because a single TrueNorth processor consists of 5.4 billion transistors wired together in such a fashion that it creates an array of one million digital neurons, which can communicate with each other via 256 million electrical synapses.

In total, the platform will consist of 16 TrueNorth chips and will process the equivalent of 16 million neurons and four billion synapses, while only consuming the energy of a tablet — just 2.5 watts of power.

On the IBM site Dharmendra S. Modha tells us that six years ago, IBM and our university partners embarked on a quest—to build a brain-inspired machine—that at the time appeared impossible. Today, in an article published in Science, we deliver on the DARPA SyNAPSE metric of a one million neuron brain-inspired processor. The chip consumes merely 70 milliwatts, and is capable of 46 billion synaptic operations per second, per watt–literally a synaptic supercomputer in your palm. He continues, saying,

Let’s be clear: we have not built the brain, or any brain. We have built a computer that is inspired by the brain. The inputs to and outputs of this computer are spikes. Functionally, it transforms a spatio-temporal stream of input spikes into a spatio-temporal stream of output spikes.

If one were to measure activities of 1 million neurons in TrueNorth, one would see something akin to a night cityscape with blinking lights. Given this unconventional computing paradigm, compiling C++ to TrueNorth is like using a hammer for a screw. As a result, to harness TrueNorth, we have designed an end-to-end ecosystem complete with a new simulator, a new programming language, an integrated programming environment, new libraries, new (and old) algorithms as well as applications, and a new teaching curriculum (affectionately called, “SyNAPSE University”). The goal of the ecosystem is to dramatically increase programmer productivity. Metaphorically, if TrueNorth is “ENIAC”, then our ecosystem is the corresponding “FORTRAN.”

We are working, at a feverish pace, to make the ecosystem available—as widely as possible—to IBMers, universities, business partners, start-ups, and customers. In collaboration with the international academic community, by leveraging the ecosystem, we foresee being able to map the existing body of neural network algorithms to the architecture in an efficient manner, as well as being able to imagine and invent entirely new algorithms.

To support these algorithms at ever increasing scale, TrueNorth chips can be seamlessly tiled to create vast, scalable neuromorphic systems. In fact, we have already built systems with 16 million neurons and 4 billion synapses. Our sights are now set high on the ambitious goal of integrating 4,096 chips in a single rack with 4 billion neurons and 1 trillion synapses while consuming ~4kW of power.

The architecture can solve a wide class of problems from vision, audition, and multi-sensory fusion, and has the potential to revolutionize the computer industry by integrating brain-like capability into devices where computation is constrained by power and speed. These systems can efficiently process high-dimensional, noisy sensory data in real time, while consuming orders of magnitude less power than conventional computer architectures.

On one hand, with portable devices: think smart phones, sensor networks, self-driving automobiles, robots, public safety, medical imaging, real-time video analysis, signal processing, olfactory detection, and digital pathology. On the other hand, with synaptic supercomputers: —think multimedia processing on the cloud. In addition, our chip can be used in combination with other cognitive computing technologies to create systems that learn, reason and help humans make better decisions. Over time, our hope is that SyNAPSE will become an integral component of IBM Watson group offerings.

We have been working with iniLabs Ltd., creators of a retinal camera—the DVS—that directly produces spikes, which are the natural inputs for TrueNorth. Integrating the two, we have begun investigating extremely low-power end-to-end vision systems.

If we think of today’s von Neumann computers as akin to the “left-brain”—fast, symbolic, number-crunching calculators, then TrueNorth can be likened to the “right-brain”—slow, sensory, pattern recognizing machines.

We envision augmenting our neurosynaptic cores with synaptic plasticity to create a new generation of field-adaptable neurosynaptic computers capable of online learning.

The Future of Techno-Socialist City States

“We don’t really believe in democracy.”

The tech futurists behind Sui Generis, a Montreal-based company with ambitious plans to jumpstart stagnant nations with networks of startup-friendly city-states, don’t see the point in revamping existing countries and their dying governments. The world we live in, they posit, is too far gone. If we want innovation, creativity, and experimentalism, we’re going to have to begin again.

Co-founder Guillaume Dumas argues that the evolution of science, medicine, and technology is being stifled by restrictive governments designed in ways unsuited to humanity’s future needs. Dumas envisions a network of “corporate socialist” utopian societies — built on a foundation of economic freedom, transhumanist ideals, and fun — erected on land shared by existing nations in exchange for a cut of the profits. (from here)

The Future of Techno-Socialist City States

On the Sui Generis site one gets a preview of their concept:

Innovators are hackers, and the first thing a hacker hacks is his own life. However, since we spend our lives navigating between dysfunctional institutions, obsolete legislation and chaotic urban spaces, hacking ones own life has somehow become a full-time job.

But what if you could outsource this job? What if you could go live and work in a place that was already hacked for you – a place designed precisely for maximal freedom, significance and pleasure? As an innovator in this situation, you could then put all your effort into solving real world problems and focusing on personal growth.

At Sui Generis, they believe that freedom and happiness are partly technical problems. If you combine the right people, culture, fiscal and legal framework, weather, urban setting and spirit of competitiveness, then magic happens…

Magic? Techno-Utopianism for the hypercapitalist? A sort of City-within-the-City, walled off for all those lesser inhabitants, built for the neo-entrepreneurs of the future, a place separated out from the common run-of-the-mill slave, a site for the innovators of the creative (knowledge) or cognitive workers of the corporate assemblages?

In many ways this is not a new concept at all. As Luis Suarez-Villa in Technocapitalism: A Critical Perspective on Technological Innovation and Corporatism remarks “the socialization of experimentalism means that society as a whole becomes the laboratory of technocapitalism. This is a laboratory that is certainly quite different from the traditional labs of experimental science, not only physically but also in terms of scope, governance, and reach. And, it is a laboratory in which all of society is forcibly engaged, through the commercial compulsion of the new order. All of society, in essence, becomes the guinea pig of corporate experimentalism”.1

Sui Generis offers an accelerationist vision suggesting that over the next decade, they will accelerate human evolution by building a network of city-states around the ideas of economic freedom, transhumanism, sustainability, inclusiveness and creativity. Offering their clients economic symbiosis:

A state willing to establish a startup city on its territory would benefit extensively from investment, job creation, long-term business opportunities or equity in the project.

A Techno-Utopian tax-haven with an optimal legal environment for workforce mobility, bio-medical research and medical tourism. Like a bubble world after Disney’s heart or as Sloterdijk will say “the creative people, one hears now and again, are those who prevent the whole from being bogged down by harmful routines”. The creative class that seeks a paradise apart, an intelligent alternative, a city of the future where technology and the artificial worlds of tomorrow seem to collude in some Corporate take-down of the myth of socialist praxis. Is this truly the wave of the future?

Startup incubator City States? Sui Generis promotes an entrepreneurial zone of hypertech innovation, “offering funding, guidance, housing and extensive resources in exchange for equity”. Sounds like an IBM add campaign for the new Smart City. As General Manager of IBM’s smarter city projects in Madrid Michael J. Dixon unabashedly tells us: “Over time, we expect that cities will increasingly become a “system of systems” — independent systems (in areas such as transportation, energy, education, and healthcare) will increasingly work together. Leveraging the Internet of Things, a myriad of devices will communicate with each other to deliver benefits, but without human intervention.”

Yet, as Suarez-Villa reminds us not all is happy times in the neo-future cities of the creative class. “Social mediation through networks also involves relations of power. Networks are not neutral insofar as the governance of social relations is concerned. Their extent, structure, and access are largely articulated by those who participate in them. Such participation can become a means to dominate other network participants or it can become a vehicle to collapse hierarchies, oligarchies, and exploitive control.” (KL 135)

Before we fall into the techno-utopian dream of such creative paradises maybe we should take a look at the complexity involved in such innovation. As Gautum Shroff suggests there are at least six elements that any network based intelligent or sentient system will need to acquire before it can truly be enabled to support such large scale sensoriums of the future:  looking, listening, learning, connecting, predicting, and finally self-correcting algorithms.2 As Shroff tells us “for the web-intelligence systems of today to cross the chasm, integrate the six different elements, and become a mind, I believe the link between perceptual and symbolic needs to be understood properly. So, it certainly appears that there is much science remaining to be done. Hopefully, though, I have convinced you of both the potential as well as the purpose of such an effort.” (281)

Another sceptic yet not wholly against such creative paradises Adam Greenfiled remarks, saying that building such a place will surely mean looking past the shallow visions of urban futurity we’ve been offered in places like PlanIT Valley, Masdar and New Songdo City. It will mean learning how to work productively with enterprises like IBM, Cisco and Siemens, while asking more pointed questions of them than perhaps they are used to, or will be comfortable with. It will require that we work past the contours of our own comfort zones, both teaching ourselves the things we need to know and helping others arrive at the same level of proficiency. Above all, it will mean demanding that the systems on which our networked city is founded are designed with concerns about power, privilege and justice at their very heart. But we can have it. We can live and thrive there, if we never once lose sight of the people in whom any city’s capability actually subsists, for theirs — ours — is the only kind of urban intelligence that will ever truly matter.3

Yet, is it? Is this still the dream of exceptionalism? The dream of humanity as the exception to long dark heritage of evolutionary protocols? And, what of our age, when certain advocates of Transhumanism, Human Enhancement, H++, etc. seek to instigate an artificial intervention into the human genome? To experiment with the very structural relations of the human program? Produce an artificial variation on the theme of humanity? As one advocate of such interjections states it

Using nanobiotechnology, we stand at the door of manipulating genomes in a way that reflects the progress of evolutionary history: starting with the simplest organisms and ending, most portentously, by being able to alter our own genetic makeup. Synthetic genomics has the potential to recapitulate the course of natural genomic evolution, with the difference that the course of synthetic genomics will be under our own conscious deliberation and control instead of being directed by the blind and opportunistic processes of natural selection. We are already remaking ourselves and our world, retracing the steps of the original synthesis— redesigning, recoding, and reinventing nature itself in the process.4

Smart Cities, Biohackers, Creative Class… Is there a division in the human species ahead, a sort of drift to the bioethical divide, a movement between those who will inherit the earth not because they are poor, but rather because they are changed, changed utterly into something inhuman – or, other than human? Apollinaire the poet said during the heyday of modernist discourse that “More than anything, artists are men who want to become inhuman.” What of women? What might they say? And, what of those who seek to trans out of such biological straight-jackets altogether? Adorno once suggested that art “remains loyal to humankind uniquely through its inhumanity in regard to it”. Lyotard in his late work The Inhuman would ask: “What if humans are being constrained by the very process of their creative and experimental truth to become inhuman?”

Maybe the better question would be: “What are the conditions under which this new mode of being is being enacted and constrained? And, who is modulating, regulating, and constraining us to become inhuman to begin with? Is this an impersonal process, a political or social decision; or, is it something immanent to desire itself?”

Robin MacKay in an interview once said if what “we want to do is to tap into future intelligence, bringing it to bear on the present, by opening up epistemic, technological and social paths to change… is this intelligence the blind autosophistication of capital, which only seeks to intensify, and has no regard for the human as such? Or does a collective intelligence come forth through a collective practice of rationality (as in Reza Negarestani’s very boldly rationalist text in the book, ‘The Labor of the Inhuman’)? Or is the future a twisted, constantly churning abyss of possibility that we can voluntarily participate in by throwing off dogmatic constraints on our thinking, but can never bring under control for the purposes of a political programme? That’s accelerationism, the political question of futurality, intelligence and politics. And intelligence is not necessarily ‘our’ friend.”

So is the notion that you can create a special place, a City-State planned like some socialist experiment, where innovators and creative cognitive workers can live and work, share and compete. Such utopian designs might as J.G. Ballard in High Rise once suggested:

In a sense, these people were the vanguard of a well-to-do and well-educated proletariat of the future, boxed up in these expensive apartments with their elegant furniture and intelligent sensibilities, and no possibility of escape.5

In the end this techno-utopian City-State might be the prison house of a future elite who have constrained themselves to believe their own hype, believe they’ve escaped the world of mere existence for a technological realm of pure creativity and fun, when the truth is that they are the slaves to a ubiquitous intelligence whose deigns to even recognize their humanity and secretly seeks to command and control their every whim to ends not their own.

  1. Luis Suarez-Villa. Technocapitalism: A Critical Perspective on Technological Innovation and Corporatism (Kindle Locations 118-120). Kindle Edition.
  2. Shroff, Gautam (2013-10-22). The Intelligent Web: Search, smart algorithms, and big data (p. 275). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.
  3. Greenfield, Adam (2013-12-20). Against the smart city (The city is here for you to use) (Kindle Locations 1482-1488). Do projects. Kindle Edition.
  4. Regis, Ed; Church, George M. (2012-10-02). Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves (pp. 12-14). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.
  5. Ballard, J. G. (2012-03-05). High-Rise: A Novel (pp. 100-101). Liveright. Kindle Edition.

Franco Berardi: The Xeroxed Hero

In And: Phenomenology of the End Berardi diagnosis of Progressive Modernity moves toward abstraction and away from the sensuous, a male trajectory toward immortalization and the eclipse of the human. He’ll see within the aesthetic dimensions of modernist artistic expression the slow dematerialization of the sensuous and the bodily life for the pure fascist gleams of a life outside time. The interminable image-cultures of the Age of Cinema when Hollywood glamour and the forms of purity and beauty parade across the silver screen, along with the slow dawning of the later part of the twentieth-century with its horror films, when spatter matinees and disaster films bring the disgust of the material connections to substantive existence to the fore and humans enter the inhuman rapture of cyborg existence. The escape velocity of false accelerationist culture and the drift of abstract movement into the virtual worlds of a new imaginary bring with it both the death sequences of suicide punkers and the immersive culture of speed and mediatainment replicants. In our age of Selfies and neo-narcissism its hard to imagine the glitter splatter of post-punk sociality and its scratch sounds downward turn to metalloid fracture ending in the return of those solitary fascist wolfens of the North and Black Metal. Today we are overwhelmed by the Human Security Regimes that seek to transport us to Safe Zones where the inhuman is nothing but the name of a neohuman bargain, not with the Devil of old mythologies, but rather with the solipsistic panic worlds of migrant rage. Below is a quote from Berardi’s short spectrum analysis of the 80’s and 90’s:  

Confronted with the ultimate threat, the nuclear destruction and the sexually transmitted immunodeficiency syndrome, the cyberpunk culture prepared the jump in the hyper-world of abstraction. In the cyberpunk imagination the body is perceived as the heavy painful residual of the organic past. Cyberculture replaces the body with the sanitized clean smooth surface of the screen.

A sort of masculine hysteria is hidden in the digital culture of the ‘80s and of the ‘90s. The late nineteenth century Decadence was originated by the spread of sexual infectious diseases like syphilis, the techno-glamour aesthetics of the late twentieth century flourishes in the aftermath of the sexuo-viral epidemics of AIDS.

The prosthetic-aesthetics of the cyborg, imaginary organism enhanced by digital prosthesis can be seen as the arrival point of the romantic male hysteria that wants to escape the dangerous ambiguity of sensuousness. When the Romantic sublimity meets the frigid surface of the digital experience, panic and depression are the outcomes. Panic crisis is a symptom that spreads widely in the experience of the connective generation. No more the passionate panic resulting from the confusing inexhaustible possibilities of nature, but a frigid panic resulting from the contraction of time: frantic time, unattainable body, fragmented experience, ever widening space of possibilities that never get real.

This hero’s immortality no longer originates in the strength to survive all possible ordeals, but from its ability to be xeroxed, recycled, and reincarnated. Destruction will alter its form and appearance, yet its substance will be untouched. The immortality of the thing is its finitude, not its eternity. The hero is dead, long live the hero!1

  1. Franco “Bifo” Berardi. And: Phenomenology of the End (Semiotext(e) / Foreign Agents). Semiotext(e) (November 6, 2015)



Paul Virilio Quotes

Paul Virilio was asked: Are you against progress?

No. I’ve never thought we should go back to the past. But why did the positive aspect of progress get replaced by its propaganda? Propaganda was a tool used by Nazis but also by the Futurists. Look at the Italian Futurists. They were allies with the Fascists. Even Marinetti. I fight against the propaganda of progress, and this propaganda bears the name of never-ending acceleration.

We are approaching the pit of ignorance. I fear another accident, the accident of knowledge. Number one, of substances, the environment. Number two, of distances, the world is too small. And number three, the huge risk, is the one of nihilism, of losing knowledge, the coma of sciences because we hit the wall of time.

The Large Hadron Collider poses the question of risk, not only of the hadron. You know, they call it God’s particle. And the accelerator, they call it the cathedral.

The genetic bomb, if it explodes, will divide the human race in two. The natural pre-humans and the artificial but superior post-humans. Remember the replicants in that movie…

…matter is now being exterminated by means of acceleration, the specular bomb of screens, those mirrors of time that cancel out the horizon.

The Integral World: VR Junkies Ride Again


The much-hyped consumer virtual reality headset, Oculus Rift, is finally hitting the market. The reviews have been mixed. As The Wall Street Journal put it, “the first totally immersive home virtual reality rig is a pricey, awkward, isolating—and occasionally brilliant—glimpse of the future of computing.” In an NPR radio interview Kelley McEvers spoke to Palmer Lucky who invented the device while still in his teens and founded the company Oculus VR, which is now owned by Facebook. Lucky remarks “… virtual reality is potentially the final major computing platform. … With virtual reality – If you have perfect virtual reality eventually, where you’re be able to simulate everything that a human can experience or imagine experiencing, it’s hard to imagine where you go from there. Once you have perfect virtual reality, what else are you supposed to perfect?”

My issue with that last statement is the notion that one will ever be able to “simulate everything,” as well as the whole underpinning metaphysics of perfectionism he’s implying. It’s smacks of all those who think reality can be reduced to some analytical description if only we can find the correct language, etc. Reality is more about what is unknown and unknowable, broken and in ruins than it is about the capturing the known in a black box; even a shiny holodeck like Oculus Rift seeks to program into our perceptive fields. As Franco Berardi recently suggested:

Skin stays between us and the world and acts as sensitive processor of the worldly experience. It is continuously re-generated, emerging at the surface, aging, decaying and finally disappearing, melting into air, forgotten. But the sensitive data it has recorded do not die, do not disappear: they are “stored” in the brain, transformed into memories, and turned into sensitive expectations. Skin is feeding the brain with perceptions of the world, but conversely brain is supplying the skin with sensitivity, aesthetic inclinations, and tendencies: desire. Desire is not the need of something, but the sensible creation  of the world as aesthetically meaningful environment.1

What we all seek from such intelligent environments is to get rid of the interface, to enter those worlds of imagination for ourselves, to organize these realms in aesthetically sensible ways for learning, loving, sensual living. Oculus Rift may provide a scripted environment that’s programmed to appear real, but it is still and enclosed and passive system that one can only experience much like an MMO type system. One knows one is playing through an avatar, a modeled reality rather than truly being immersed in a realm of imagination. Of course we may be expecting way too much for the current state of technology. Probably so…

“There’s so much hype and money being thrown into this thing,” said Yoshio Osaki, president at market researcher IDG. He believes VR will take two to four years to develop, but warned there’s 30 percent chance it will fail.

Zuckerberg of Facebook who owns Oculus Rift has signaled he’s willing to wait it out, knows it will take few more years to fledge out the full power of the system. “This is going to grow slowly,” he warned in September. “If you think about the arrival of computers or smartphones, the first units shipped did not ship tens of millions in their first year. But they proved an idea and made it real.”

Upload VR gives a good overview of the Oculus Rift system and content (games), saying,

The Rift is a masterpiece of industrial and technical design, a product that fits the mass consumer market it seeks. It’s sexy, it’s easy to use, and it works incredibly well. For everything you get, the price feels like a bit of a bargain, but the cost of upgrading one’s computer may cause many customers to wait a bit before taking the plunge.

All in all, however, the Oculus Rift is one of the best new product launches since the iPhone – and it has the chance to be just as impactful. As McLuhan said, “the medium is the message.” Virtual reality is the most personal medium we have ever encountered. It gives us the chance to experience empathy in a literal sense, to see from the perspective of others.

Ian Bogost tell us in his short history of VR, Dystopian Virtual Reality Is Finally Here, a little disappointed but still hanging in there: “We shouldn’t even call it “virtual reality.” It’s no overwhelming sensory immersion experience that fully and completely transports you to another world. It’s something far more obvious, and far more mundane, and perhaps even far more terrifying: VR is just television for the computer junkie.”

Like anything else I think I’ll wait a few years till the mass marketing hype runs the course and there are more games and content. Maybe by then it will also improve the 3D immersive look and feel. But that’s up to you… if you’re a tech-geek it might be the ticket you’ve been waiting for.


  1. Franco “Bifo” Berardi. And: Phenomenology of the End (Semiotext(e) / Foreign Agents). Semiotext(e) (November 6, 2015)

Paul Virilio: The Primal Accident


Museum of Accidents

…a prefiguration of a future Museum of Accident, the exhibition aims first and foremost to take a stand against the collapse of ethical and aesthetic landmarks…
…..– Paul Virilio, The Original Accident

What if the Universe itself is the primal accident, the catastrophe that is a productivity? Signs and portents, invention as a “way of seeing” – a revealing of the substance of things unseen until the eruption occurs, and that which was hidden is revealed at last. What if the shadow of accidents held the key to all those inventions, the technological and scientific wonders that surround us coming at the expense of disasters, catastrophes, the accidental? As Paul Virilio will say:

And so serial reproduction of the most diverse catastrophes has dogged the great discoveries and the great technological inventions like a shadow, and, unless we accept the unacceptable, meaning allow the accident in turn to become automatic, the urgent need for an ‘intelligence of the crisis in intelligence’ is making itself felt, at the very beginning of the twenty-first century – an intelligence which ecology is the clinical symptom, anticipating the imminent emergence of a philosophy of post-industrial eschatology. 1

Eschatology: Latinized form of Greek eskhatos “last, furthest, uttermost, extreme, most remote”. From the other ends of time, the extreme movement of time itself as the primal accident, the temporal decay or entropic fulfillment, the eschaton – the “divinely ordained climax of history”. Is the Universe itself an accident, a catastrophe? Was the very burst or eruption into time of this substantive realm, the ontological thingness of our Universe a pure accident? But what if we elide the divine element? Empty the sign of its origination, its inventive dispotif and tendency? Yet, as Virilio will surmise, what if our very awareness were elided, too? What if we were through some accident of biogenetics or bioengineering subtracted from the very power of awareness, would the insane nature of our acts not only stop consciously worrying us, but shape us to a thrilling and captivating jouissance without knowledge? (6)

What if our love of knowledge were an accident, a dispotif that drives us toward catastrophe, a joyous tendency that seeks in us its catastrophic transport? (6) What if our emerging neurosciences and technologies of intelligence (AI) were already spawning catastrophes, models of the apocalypse, driving us toward goals we have from the beginning always already been knowing in the dreams of philosphers and poets for millennia? In fact, it is our responsibility to look after the future, to anticipate and “expose accidents along with the frequency of their industrial and post-industrial repetition” (7).

For a century now we have invented the very terrors and disasters that are now revealing themselves out of the shadows, erupting out of the very realities we once took for images, films prefiguring the actual in the virtual movement of minds long dead. Death stalks us in cinematic frames like a dark intentional substance from the flickering frames of some science fiction horror film of the 1950’s. Only now have these shadowy images entered the daylight of our present movement of disaster. Only now in the careful elaboration of this exhibition do we “pay homage to discernment, to preventative intelligence, at a time when threats of triggering a preventative war … abound” (8).

  1. Virilio, Paul. The Original Accident. (Polity Press, 2007)

The Dime Spared

Bakker puts out his Blind Brain Theory in a story framework narrative… for those that have yet to read Bakker’s Prince of Nothing and the two trilogies this gives a hint of his storytelling power in describing BBT….

Three Pound Brain


[This is more of a dialogue than a story, an attempt to pose Blind Brain Theory within a accessible narrative frame… At the very least, I think it does a good job of unseating some fairly standard human conceits.]


Her name was Penny. She was as tall and as lovely as ever—as perfect as all of Dad’s things.

“What’s wrong, Elijah?”

They followed a river trail that stitched the edge of a cathedral wood. The sunlight lay strewn in rags before them, shredded for the canopy. She shimmered for striding through the random beams, gleamed with something more than human.

“I can tell something’s bugging you.”

Young Elijah Prigatano had come to treasure these moments with her. She was pretty much his mom, of course. But she possessed a difference, and an immovability, that made her wise in a way that sometimes frightened him. She did not…

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Franco Berardi: And: A Phenomenology of the End

Franco Berardi in his work And: A Phenomenology of the End remarks that the mutation and shift through which our world is moving is the conjunctive ‘and, and, and…'(Deleuze) of “the dissolution of the political order inherited from Modernity, and the vanishing of the rational  foundations of Western philosophy; and, that there is both a synchronic and diachronic aspect to this shift:

This shift is diachronic as it happens as a transition and extends over the span of various human generations, transforming throughout time cognitive patterns, social behavior and psychological expectations. But I want to investigate as well the synchronic frame in which the shift happens: I want to describe composition, conflict and coevolution of different psycho-cultural regimes that simultaneously approach, collide, interweave in the process of globalization.1

Berardi has followed Guattari’s diagramatic notions in his last few works, trying to find a viable way of integrating both Deleuze and Guattari’s work together, along with their separate work into his own autonomist vision. Even though in my own estimation that vision is limited, his work is still worth investigation. Overshadowed by his predessesors he is still one of the best commentators on their work, for the simple reason that he builds on it, puts it to work in his own projects.

Developing his Phenomenology of Sensibility he’ll see the diachronic (temporal) axis as a transition from the mechanic to the digital order, and the effects of this transition in the psychosphere. While at the same time seeing the synchronic (structural, spatial) axis as providing for the coevolution of different cultural regimes of subjectivation in the contemporary sphere of globalization.(11)

Berardi will provide a diagnosis and genealogy of this transitional process of mutation. In so doing he will investigate the shift from conjuctive to connective modes of being in the world. The conjunctive he will describe this way:

When I speak of conjunctive concatenation I mean that no original design is to be restored: conjunction is a creative act because the conjoining act is able to create an infinite number of constellations without following the lines of a pre-conceived pattern, or an embedded program. At the beginning of the act of conjunction there is no design to fulfill, there is not a model at the origin of the process of emergence of the form, and beauty does not correspond to any hidden harmony embedded in the universal spirit or in the mind of god. Nor is there any code to comply with. Conjunctive concatenation is source of singularity: it is event, not structure, and it is unrepeatable because it happens in a unique point in the net of space and time.(12).

But when it comes to connection the conceptual frame changes completely. When he uses the word “connection” he means the logical and necessary implication between two segments, the inter-functionality between segments. But connection does not belong to the kingdom of Nature, it is only a product of the logical mind, and of the logical technology of mind.(14).

Berardi will follow the work of both William S. Burroughs and Paul Virno on the notion of language as the enemy, a viral agent and machine of production of subjectivity. William Burroughs (in Ah Pook is here) says that language is a virus that spreads as a mutation in the human environment. Virno adds that the content of this virus is “negation”, a laceration in the canvas of the shared perception and projection that we call reality.(15) As he states it:

Empathy is the source of conjunction. During the history of civilization
and of techno-evolution the syntactization of the world (the reduction of
the common world to the syntaxis of linguistic exchange) slowly erodes the
traces of empathic understanding, and slowly enhances the space of syntactic
conventions. Linguistic mediation develops technologies that are shaping the
Umwelt, the surrounding environment.(15).

For Berardi human civilization as we’ve known it is over, we are migrating from the temporal realms of history into another form to Time, a technical time of accelerating strangeness in which the lines between the artificial and natural are blurring and humans are taking on more and more the look and feel of their technological creations. The Age of the Swarm is beginning:

The technical transformation of the last decades of the twentieth century, the infinite proliferation of information sources and flows, unleashed by the accelerating network technology, has made impossible the conscious elaboration of information by the individual mind, and the conscious coordination of individual agents of will.(23)

The loss of effectiveness of political action is essentially an effect of change in temporality: because of the acceleration and complexification of the Infosphere, reason and will, the essential tools for political action, are unable to process in time and to decide in time. The technical transformation has changed the conditions of mental activity and the forms of interaction between the individual and the collective sphere.(24)

Now the distinction between individual and collective has been blurred. Crowds and multitudes are involved in automatic chains of behaviour, and driven by techno-linguistic dispositives. The automation of the behaviour of many individuals traversed and concatenated by techno-linguistic interfaces results in the effect of Swarm. Man is the animal who shapes the environment that shapes his/her own brain, the swarm effect therefore is the outcome of human transformation of the technical environment leading to automation of mental behavior.(24)

I’m still working through this specific work and will probably add further notations down the pipe…

We are in that site that Deleuze and Guattari described in the intro to A Thousand Plateaus, the Rhizome… and, and, and… the conjuntive movement of a mutation in-between two assemblages, a topsy-turvy chaotic period when things seem on the one hand to be speeding up, acclerating out of control, deterritorializing the world of technosocial systems; but, at the same time, there is a reverse process of decelleration, of certain older systems of territorialization that have like Luhmann’s operational closure drawn a distinction in the sand of time, closed themselves off from time’s movement in a fake utopia of timeless instances, seeking to reterritorialize even as their power base is slowly eroding into the infosphere… it’s these two forces that are vying with each other over the (I never get tired of saying it) ‘body-without-organs’… do we yet know what that is yet?

Berardi will tell us that some decades after the publishing of Rhizome we understand now that the rhizomatic metaphor can be seen as a way of mapping the Neoliberal process of globalization, and the implied precarization of labor. Furthermore, the rhizomatic metaphore refers to the interminability of the philosophical task. Does the philosopher have a task? And what, in that case, is the philosopher’s task? Mapping the territory of the mutation, forging conceptual tools for orientation in the everchanging deterritorialising territory of the ongoing mutation, these are tasks for the philosopher in our times. (10)

  1. Franco “Bifo” Berardi. And: Phenomenology of the End (Semiotext(e) / Foreign Agents). Semiotext(e) (November 6, 2015)
  2. see Alan Goldfein’s intro to Closing Time on Commentary (April, 1, 1974)

On Reading Barbara O’Brien’s Operators and Things


Last year read Adam Kotsko’s “Why We Love Sociopaths: A Guide To Late Capitalist Television” where he describes real-life sociopaths as pitiable creatures, often “victims of severe abuse, they are bereft of all human connection, unable to tell truth from lies, charming and manipulative for a few minutes at most but with no real ability to formulate meaningful goals”. He’ll mirror this against what he termed the fantasy socipath as portrayed on TV, Film and in our urban imaginations, saying, “The contemporary fantasy of sociopathy picks and chooses from those characteristics, emphasizing the lack of moral intuition, human empathy, and emotional connection. Far from being the obstacles they would be in real life, these characteristics are what enable the fantasy sociopath to be so amazingly successful.”1

Reading Barbara O’Brien’s work about her schizophrenic break Operators and Things she describes what led up to it, telling us about the corporate environment within which she worked for seven years of her early life. What she’ll describe as Hook Operators is the veritable image of the sociopathic mind of what Kotsko describes as the Climber. Barbara will describe it this way,

“A Hook Operator has a nose for power, and as soon as he enters an organization, he follows his nose until he comes upon the individual who is giving off the strongest odor. Having spotted him, the Hook Operator feels out the Powerman for his soft spot until he knows the exact location of the spot and its degree of softness.”2

As Kotsko remarks of these types of sociopaths: “The climbers believe they’re perfectly self-seeking, yet they let the social order completely define what “self-seeking” means, i.e., what it means to succeed.”(77) Speaking of most of our modern corporate cultures he’ll add that its “upper echelons need to be filled in by sociopathic climbers because the system is inherently sociopathic” (78).

In his sociological study of the United States Charles Derber will tell us the United States, with a long history of sociopathic institutions and practices, is now evolving toward a full-blown sociopathic society. We still have a chance to change course. But our society is increasingly structured to turn people and institutions toward sociopathic behavior that harms other individuals and entire societies, including our own. The United States is beginning to socially unravel, haunted now by the specter of war with weapons of mass destruction, economic meltdowns, and uncontrolled climate change. What this shows is that sociopathic individuals in the United States are often successful and well-adjusted, most of them sane and socially integrated. They are more likely to be conforming to the values and rules of conduct in our society than violating them. It is the rules and values that are at least metaphorically “sick.”3

For O’Brien watching such creatures over a period of seven years gain places of prominence in the corporate organization she works for becomes more and more problematic as she becomes a target of their manipulation. She decides enough is enough and leaves. What comes next is something she was ill prepared for, the next morning after having left her job of seven years she is presented with three strange entities wandering around her bedroom. So begins here voyage into schiziphrenia.

Right off the bat we discover these entities, known as Operators in their own right, have inhabited our world long before humans. They’ve come to Barbara and exposed themselves as part of an experiment. She describes it this way:

When I awoke they were standing at the foot of my bed looking like soft, fuzzy ghosts. I tried feeling the bedclothes. The sensation of feeling was sharp. I was awake and this was real. … Burt continued. A great Operator whose name was Hadley had wanted to make an experiment of this type for some time. The experiment consisted of selecting a person like myself, revealing the facts of the Operators’ world to the individual, and observing the results. A guinea pig in a cage, I thought. So much for that. Second things second. Could they or couldn’t they? Yes, there wasn’t much doubt about it. They were reading my mind. I could see it in the way their eyes focused on my face, the expressions on their faces, as they watched me think. Burt explained: Every thought in the mind of a person like myself was always clear to any Operator who might be tuned in. I considered this situation. Would I, perhaps, be able to think on some sub-cellar level and so reduce this tremendous advantage they had? Nicky grinned broadly and Burt smiled gently. Burt again: No thought of my mind on any level could escape them. Operators could penetrate the minds of Things at any level. Things! Hinton sighed. “Things. Yes, of course. Think of the word with a capital initial, if you like. It may help your ego a bit. All people like you are Things to us — Things whose minds can be read and whose thoughts can be initiated and whose actions can be motivated. Does that surprise you? It goes on all the time. There is some, but far less, free will than you imagine. A Thing does what some Operator wants it to do, only it remains under the impression that its thoughts originate in its own mind. Actually, you have more free will at this moment than most of your kind ever have. For you at least know that what we are saying is coming from us, not from you.”

The notion that humans are mere organic robots, operated like computers by Operators, doing their bidding, performing at the beck and call of their alien programs seems par for the course in Barbara’s new world. She accepts it as she’s accepted so many strange and twisted aspects of her life. Eerily that last couple of sentences leaves an almost horror novel feeling rather than the truth of a young woman’s schizophrenic reality: “A Thing does what some Operator wants it to do, only it remains under the impression that its thoughts originate in its own mind. Actually, you have more free will at this moment than most of your kind ever have. For you at least know that what we are saying is coming from us, not from you.”

  1.  Kotsko, Adam (2012-04-27). Why We Love Sociopaths: A Guide To Late Capitalist Television (p. 2). NBN_Mobi_Kindle. Kindle Edition.
  2. O’Brien, Barbara (2011-07-07). Operators and Things, Illustrated with new Foreword, Afterword, and Interview (Kindle Locations 462-464). Silver Birch Press. Kindle Edition.
  3. Derber, Charles (2015-11-17). Sociopathic Society: A People’s Sociology of the United States (Kindle Locations 276-280). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.


The End of Democracy: The Reign of Ignorance and Stupidity?

Long ago Socrates’ analysis of the hatred he incurred at the hands of Athenian citizenry is one part of a larger theme that he dwells on throughout his Apology. Athens is a democracy, a city in which the many are the dominant power in politics, and it can therefore be expected to have all the vices of the many. Because most people hate to be tested in argument, they will always take action of some sort against those who provoke them with questions. But that is not the only accusation Socrates brings forward against his city and its politics. He tells his democratic audience that he was right to have withdrawn from political life, because a good person who fights for justice in a democracy will be killed. In his cross-examination of Meletus, he insists that only a few people can acquire the knowledge necessary for improving the young of any species, and that the many will inevitably do a poor job. He criticizes the Assembly for its illegal actions and the Athenian courts for the ease with which matters of justice are distorted by emotional pleading. Socrates implies that the very nature of democracy makes it a corrupt political system. Bitter experience has taught him that most people rest content with a superficial understanding of the most urgent human questions. When they are given great power, their shallowness inevitably leads to injustice.1

In a recent conversation with Jehu about his post SYRIZA, the Left and the long, slow, painful death of the nation state  I said,

I think what people miss in most critiques of the EU is the simple truth that democracy no longer exists. What I mean is that financial capitalism combined with the impersonal bureaucracy has inverted the traditional schematic and we now live in a totalitarian system of financial governance divorced from democratic politics. The model is the Corporation rather than the Nation State that is now in power. It’s not even fascism in the older sense of the collusion of State and Corporate power since the EU is economic only rather than political. Politics has no power in the modern world, it is bankrupt and has become only a mediatainment system of control and buffer against the fact of Plutocracy. The State will remain only as long as the police systems, both military and civilian, are needed to protect the interests of the Plutocracy not the people themselves.

He asked:

What then of the state? It exists only as an agent of a now global capitalism. Can we push to abolish it? Or are there other forces that prevent this?

My answer:

No. I see the State continuing as part of the military regime protecting the Plutocracies for the time being. Politicians are dramaturgists, media personalities rather than workers in Law. In our age the Plutocracies have allowed these vast migrations or refugees from the South to bring about a great intensive fragmentation in the democratic systems so that they can ultimately do away with the last pretense of democratic civilization through the imposition of a permanent ‘State of Emergency’. Even the analysts in the non-dialectical democratic regimes target only external threats rather than facing the truth that the greatest threat to democracy today is democracy itself. We’ve allowed it to enter that stage the Greeks warned us of two-thousand years ago.

Hell if you just study our literature and paintings of the past hundred years you see where its all going. I’m still a firm believer that the arts speak what we don’t want to hear. Most of our academics are idiots, bound to an ideological culture of the Left that has put on its blinkers and has only one enemy, the Right (whatever the hell that is?). Instead of stepping outside of their straightjackets and looking around at the world we actually live in they continue to live in the 19th Century with only the effects of mass media added to their arsenal.

Even though I disagree with Nick Land politically, he like Thomas Pynchon sees the system that is shaping our time as an extension of our own inhuman core, and it is autonomous, intelligent, and exists outside the control of both politics and democracy altogether. In some ways it’s closer to Nicklas Luhmann’s notions of operational closure and the communication of communication. A variation of self-engendered and autopoetic systems that work outside any human command and control structure. Technology is not some alien thing, it is what we are: our creation, an extension of the inhuman core of our own being. We’ve externalized memory, intelligence, and our physical and bodily lives to the extent that the human is being dispersed and fragmented among its own inhuman components. We live in a moment of mutation.

Some speak of an artificial/natural distinction. We were never natural, we’ve always built defense systems against the natural both intrinsic and extrinsic. Civilization itself is the most artificial construct to arrive on planet earth, a Human Security System to stave off the entropy of existence through the self-perpetuation of a cultural complex of temporal immortalization. We have lived in an artificial time of no time, both cyclic and linear since the first humans divided the sun and moon to plant crops. We are the production of machinic systems of subjectivation that span thousands of years. What Deleuze and Guattari spoke of as the dividual is but the production of digital man, the migration of humans into the infosphere. Our worth is tracked in bits of data selected, analyzed, filtered, sorted, and segmented into various statistical and probabilistic systems that continually produce new forms of dividuality moment by moment across the infosphere 24/7. Even as we sleep in our bodies our dividual self roams the electronic corridors of the dataverse performing transactions with or without our consent. We have no control over our digital life.

Generation by generation as technology becomes more and more ubiquitous, as intelligence migrates to every aspect of our sensorium, as our lives become more and more externalized and controlled, tracked, and preempted by surveillance capitalism our children and their children will forget our fears, our physical dependence on individuality and disconnection or withdrawal from the infosphere. They will become one with this worldwide system through implants, nanotech and biotech undreamed of by us to the point that their lives will become machinic to the point of total dependence on these external intelligence systems. At that time if a natural or unnatural disturbance were to bring the world network down humans would have forgotten themselves. They would be lost without their external memories and intelligence systems. Humans are losing their minds… what Raymond Llull and others spent years developing in internalizing intelligence and memory is in our generation being dismantled and externalized.

We fool ourselves if we think there is any secret cabal behind the curtain (like a conspiracy). There’s no one home. The system is impersonal and an extension of our own technological being. We are our technics – in that I agree with Steigler. Our global mesh of complex systems of economics and control far outstrip our ability to reduce it to some critical apparatus. Politics is dead. We’ve got to construct something other than the critical apparatus that has kept us locked in a loop for far too long.

The Modern State is now nothing more than a PR firm to keep the children asleep and unthinking, believing that the dramaturgy of politics is still real. It isn’t… and the world is a much more dangerous place than even those gray lords would like to believe. I actually see no real way out, only a dark path through the world we pretended for too long doesn’t exist. Sad, but true. It’s time to pay the piper…

Consumer societies were predicated on the capture of desire as a continuous process of obsolescence, which produces a world without a future, a timeless grid of illusionary anti-realist practices that bind humans to a system rotating around the possible end game of annihilation. As Bernard Stiegler remarks “today, this harnessing of libido has finished by destroying it, and this major fact constitutes an immense threat for industrial civilization: it is leading inevitably and eventually to an unprecedented global economic crisis” (12).2 As I watch what is happening in Belgium, the fractured world of communication, distrust, hate, and division; as I watch in my own homeland the idiocy of politics, finance, and stupidity I’m reminded of Henry A. Giroux’s remark:

Our global civilization is descending into madness. The stories it now tells are filled with cruelty, deceit, lies, and legitimate all manner of corruption and mayhem. The mainstream media spin stories that are largely racist, violent, and irresponsible— stories that celebrate power and demonize victims, all the while camouflaging their pedagogical influence under the glossy veneer of entertainment. Violence now offers the only currency with any enduring value for mediating relationships, addressing problems, or offering instant pleasure. A predatory culture celebrates a narcissistic hyper-individualism that radiates a near sociopathic lack of interest in— or compassion and responsibility for— others. Anti-public intellectuals who dominate the screen and aural cultures urge us to spend more, indulge more, and make a virtue out of the pursuit of personal gain, while producing a depoliticized culture of consumerism.3

If I wasn’t a creature who still believed we need to wake people up and do something about this before its too late I might almost go with William S. Burroughs ironic remark when he said: “Time to look beyond this run down radioactive cop-ridden planet.” Problem is wouldn’t we just take that very problem with us wherever we go in the cosmos? Maybe it’s time to fix the problem rather than run from it…



  1. “Socrates”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
    Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 24 Mar. 2016
  2. Stiegler, Bernard (2014-08-28). The Re-Enchantment of the World: The Value of Spirit Against Industrial Populism (Philosophy, Aesthetics and Cultural Theory) (p. 12). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  3. Giroux, Henry A. (2014-07-21). The Violence of Organized Forgetting: Thinking Beyond America’s Disimagination Machine (City Lights Open Media) (Kindle Locations 64-76). City Lights Publishers. Kindle Edition.


Explosions in Brussels: What is our Responsibility?


Explosions in Brussels.

A friend on Facebook asked: “What now constitutes an overreaction or under-reaction?”… I think you’re right, our so to speak Western Civilization is morally bankrupt, unable to act, unable to make up its mind and accept the responsibility of this issue as its own. We pretend with ourselves that we are not responsible. We are responsible… and, its about time we act on this responsibility. Violence or reaction has never been the answer, yet to sit on the fence and do nothing is itself a form of action by inaction: a passivity and moral bankruptcy in the face of atrocity. I think of my own country, the U.S.A., and how ineffective we’ve been on the stage of leadership for decades… posturing’s, wars, atrocities… now it is all coming back to haunt us and N.A.T.O., and yet no one will take responsibility. So instead we’ve allowed this problem that we ourselves created to fester to the point that people are willing to build bombs, suicide themselves, just to wake us out of our stupor, try to punish us out of sheer desperation.

One need only study the history of violent anarchists to know just how effective random violence is against a passive populace. Because there is no solidarity, no leadership on this planet we are all falling apart into inaction, apathy, and stupidity. And, as usual we’ll play the blame game rather than judge ourselves and act. Paul says there is no morally or ethical motivation he can conceive or ought to justify such an abominable act of atrocity. That’s the point: this is outside morality, outside our Western attitudes, our moral handwringing… or passivity… these are people who do not see with our eyes, who see us as their enemy. They don’t see themselves as terrorist (a label we place on them). After all these years we have yet to see or know the world through their eyes, walk in their shoes, live in their world… that would take an act of imagination and moral power that we as Westerners no longer have nor can have… our culture is bankrupt.

I accept the fact that I’m just as much responsible for this bullshit as the next guy, but I’m not going to sit back and play the blame game or wring my hands. We have a problem… now we must do something more than react to it, we must act intelligently, come together and take responsibility for these atrocities, and quit fearing what we do not understand and deal with it rather than deny it. We have to break down the barriers between ourselves and the Islamic world. Until we can deal with these issues head on we’ll continue to face it as terror instead. Terror happens in a vacuum. We have no leadership in the West. Unable to act we do nothing and this lack opens out in violence. Until we can accept that there is a radical element within Islam, not Islam itself, that must be understood and reformed this type of world terror will continue. Communication is two-way, which entails a conversation that accepts we have a problem, that we are partially responsible, and accepting the fact that we need to sit down with those who practice their Islamic faith everywhere about what needs to be done to expunge the militant element within its world that apparently goes against its non-violent beliefs. I’m not a policy maker so want even pretend to know how to go about such a worldwide effort. I’m just one human among a worldwide species who affirms that this is an issue we as a species must both acknowledge and deal with if civilized existence is to continue.


The Immortality Project: Delusions of the Impossible?

Reading another of those sprightly articles from the BBC The immortalist: Uploading the Mind to a Computer on the recent work of Dmitry Itskov who promises to make us all immortal within the next 30 years:  “Within the next 30 years,” promises Dmitry Itskov, “I am going to make sure that we can all live forever. … The ultimate goal of my plan is to transfer someone’s personality into a completely new body.” Impossible? Delusionary? Another crank whose convinced the scientific community that he’s on to something? As Tristan Quinn whose documentary Horizon: The Immortalist seems to be playing in Britain’s BBC at the moment says: “The scientific director of Itskov’s 2045 Initiative, Dr Randal Koene – a neuroscientist who worked as a research professor at Boston University’s Center for Memory and Brain – laughs off any suggestion Itskov might have lost touch with reality.”

Some of us will remember the Takeshi Kovacs Novels by Richard K. Morgan where his protagonist dies and is resleeved (as they call being reformatted and pattern matched to a new cloned body) ready to go for his next mission. A sort of mission impossible agent for hire who will always come back for more even if you kill him. But of course that begs the question: Who is coming back? Which copy of me is me? Of course we could all go back to Plato and scratch our heads like he did about the bad choices of following this path down the rabbit hole. For Plato, a purist of the Idea, a realist who believed our world a tissue of delusions, while the real world was elsewhere – a realm of pure Ideas of which ours was a feint copy. For him the notion that we could imitate life, pattern it and copy it from one form to another was in itself sheer madness.

In the Republic, Plato says that art imitates the objects and events of ordinary life. In other words, a work of art is a copy of a copy of a Form. It is even more of an illusion than is ordinary experience. On this theory, works of art are at best entertainment, and at worst a dangerous delusion. Some of our current trends in the neurosciences lead us to believe we are our brains, that whatever we are is something that can be reduced to the three-pound glob of neuronal meat and soup caged in our skull. Of course many believe we are deluded to think we’ll be able to ever understand the complexity of all these tentative processes, while others are hard at work trying to reverse engineer the brain and decompose it into all its complex bits of data that they hope will allow us to reconstruct and understand the very truth of what we are as conscious beings.

As one article  Reverse-Engineer the Brain puts it: “Discovering those secrets by reverse-engineering the brain promises enormous opportunities for reproducing intelligence the way assembly lines spit out cars or computers.” With new imaging technologies scientists are beginning to unlock some of the secrets that we’ve been blind too, and this is opening up an avenue of study that governments both in the EU and U.S.A. are investing billions in to map the brains basic processes. As the article suggests these modern noninvasive methods for simultaneously measuring the activity of many brain cells have provided a major boost in that direction, but details of the brain’s secret communication code remain to be deciphered. Nerve cells communicate by firing electrical pulses that release small molecules called neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that hop from one nerve cell to a neighbor, inducing the neighbor to fire a signal of its own (or, in some cases, inhibiting the neighbor from sending signals). Because each nerve cell receives messages from tens of thousands of others, and circuits of nerve cells link up in complex networks, it is extremely difficult to completely trace the signaling pathways.

As Wired magazine reports it the key to reverse-engineering the human brain lies in decoding and simulating the cerebral cortex — the seat of cognition. The human cortex has about 22 billion neurons and 220 trillion synapses. They go on to say:

A supercomputer capable of running a software simulation of the human brain doesn’t exist yet. Researchers would require a machine with a computational capacity of at least 36.8 petaflops and a memory capacity of 3.2 petabytes — a scale that supercomputer technology isn’t expected to hit for at least three years, according to IBM researcher Dharmendra Modha. Modha leads the cognitive computing project at IBM‘s Almaden Research Center.

Ray Kurzweil who seems to pop up everywhere in connection to these various initiatives says in the same article: “Reverse-engineering the brain is being pursued in different ways. The objective is not necessarily to build a grand simulation — the real objective is to understand the principle of operation of the brain.”

At M.I.T. scientist Sebastian Seung describes the audacious plan to find the connectome–a map of every single neuron in the brain. Here, he says, is the secret of human identity. In his new book, Connectome , he argues that technology has now reached a point where it is conceivable to start mapping at least portions of the connectome. It’s a daunting task, he says, but without it, neuroscience will be stuck. He answered questions from Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook.

As he tells Cook:

Most people are familiar with the regional approach to neuroscience:  divide the brain into regions such as the “left brain” and “frontal lobe,” and figure out what each region does.  This approach has helped physicians interpret the symptoms of brain injuries, but at the same time has frustrating limitations.  How do regions carry out their functions? Why do they malfunction in mental disorders? What happens to regions when we learn? We can never obtain satisfying answers to these questions if we consider regions as the elementary, indivisible units of the brain.

An obvious solution is to understand a region by subdividing it into neurons, and figure out how the neurons work together to perform the region’s function.  This neuronal approach has the potential to answer the big questions above, but so far has not succeeded.  In fact, those who study regions sometimes criticize those who study neurons as too focused on minutiae.

Asked what a Connectome is Seung replies, saying, “A connectome is a map of a neural network. It is like one of those route maps you find in the back of airline magazines. Just replace each city with a neuron, and each route between cities by a connection between neurons. Keep in mind, though, that your brain contains about 100 billion neurons, so your connectome would never fit in the pages of a magazine.”

When asked what he implies by a person having a unique identity in terms of the brain Seung answers, saying, “You are your connectome.”  We are the product of our genetic inheritance and our lifetime experiences.  Genes have influenced your connectome in many ways–for example, by guiding how your neurons wired together during the development of your brain.  Experiences have also modified your connectome, because connections are altered by the neural activity patterns that accompany experiences. To put it another way, your connectome is where nature meets nurture.

So that maybe the pattern recognition of this “connectome” is what will eventually be transposed or transferred to another medium or substrate or cloning process in the future? Yet, as Seung tells Cook this want be an easy process:

Indeed, mapping an entire human connectome is one of the greatest technological challenges of all time. Just imaging all of a human brain with electron microscopes would be difficult enough.  This would yield about one zettabyte of data, which roughly equals the world’s current volume of digital content.  Then analyzing the images to extract the connectome would be even more demanding. Yet I believe that we will eventually prevail. Success will not come with a sudden bang but rather through sustained growth over time. I imagine that the speed of mapping connectomes will double every year or two. If so, then it will become possible to map an entire human connectome within a few decades.  There are similar success stories for other technologies.  Computers have improved at this rate for the past half century.  DNA sequencing has advanced similarly for the past forty years, and accelerated even further over the past decade.

Seung even has a site for the public to help out named EyeWire, a place you can help map the connectome of the retina, the sheet of neural tissue at the back of the eye.  You don’t need specialized training to participate, because EyeWire is like a virtual coloring book with pages that are images of the retina.  (The images were taken with an electron microscope in the laboratory of our German collaborator, Winfried Denk.) Your task is to color in neurons, and you already know how to do this: just stay inside the boundaries. In this way, you will trace the “wires” of the retina, the branches of its neurons.  This is the most laborious task required for mapping a connectome.

Year by year new technologies accelerate the process of reverse engineering the brain. As Seung tells us using new methods of light microscopy, neurophysiologists are now able to image the signals of hundreds or even thousands of individual neurons at the same time, in the brains of living animals. (Compared to microscopy, MRI has the advantage of being applicable to living human brains but blurs 100,000 neurons into a single pixel.)   Such studies of neural activity can be followed by electron microscopy to map the connections of the same neurons.  Imagine knowing the activity and connectivity of all the neurons in a small chunk of brain. This capability is finally within reach, and is bound to revolutionize neuroscience.1

Paul Allen, the 59-year-old Microsoft cofounder who has plowed $500 million into the Allen Institute for Brain Science, a medical Manhattan Project that he hopes will dwarf his contribution as one of the founding fathers of software. The institute, scattered through three buildings in Seattle’s hip Fremont neighborhood, is primarily focused on creating tools, such as the mouse laser, which is technically a new type of microscope, that will allow scientists to understand how the soft, fleshy matter inside the human skull can give rise to the wondrous, mysterious creative power of the human mind.

As Allen tells Forbes Magazine’s Matthew Herper in Inside Paul Allen’s Quest To Reverse Engineer The Brain, “As an ex-programmer I’m still just curious about how the brain functions, how that flow of information really happens,” says Allen in a rare interview, in a conference room overlooking an active ship canal. “The thing you realize when you get into studying neuroscience, even a little bit, is that everything is connected to everything else. So it’s as if the brain is trying to use everything at its disposal–what it is seeing, what it is hearing, what is the temperature, past experience. It’s using all of this to try to compute what the animal should do next, whether that animal is a mouse or human being.”

Allen’s form of philanthropist hands-on approach seems to be putting one’s pocketbook to the test. His first $100 million investment in the Allen Institute resulted in a gigantic computer map of how genes work in the brains of mice, a tool that other scientists have used to pinpoint genes that may play a role in multiple sclerosis, memory and eating disorders in people. Another $100 million went to creating a similar map of the human brain, already resulting in new theories about how the brain works, as well as maps of the developing mouse brain and mouse spinal cord. These have become essential tools for neuroscientists everywhere.

Yet, skeptic that I am I wonder if this is all to the benefit of humankind? Why genetics and the brain specifically, and not cancer or some other research? Curiosity? Business interests? He’s worth billions, the 20th richest man in America, with an estimated net worth of $15 billion, has committed another $300 million for projects that will make his institute more than just a maker of tools for other scientists, hiring several of the top minds in neuroscience to spearhead them. One effort will try to understand the mouse visual cortex as a way to understand how nerve cells work in brains in general. Other projects aim to isolate all the kinds of cells in the brain and use stem cells to learn how they develop. Scientists think there may be 1,000 of these basic building blocks, but they don’t even know that. “In software,” Allen says, “we call it reverse engineering.”

His funding is more than most governments. We learn that much of this quest for reverse engineering the brain began in the 1990’s as Herper reports. Allen began thinking about a big neuro-science project in the late 1990s, while he was making a flurry of investments in Seattle biotechnology companies. One, an outfit called Rosetta Inpharmatics, was doing genetic work that could be seen as a precursor of the Institute’s Mouse Brain Atlas. Cancer researcher Stephen Friend, its chief executive, remembers long discussions about “a library of Alexandria for brain data.” He set up a meeting for Allen with James Watson, who won the Nobel Prize for codiscovering the structure of DNA.

What seems to have fascinated Allen was the Data aspect of this vast undertaking. As Allen says: “It appealed to me because it was something that hadn’t been done, something that could be scaled, something that created a database that could be accessible worldwide and would lift all boats in the area of neuroscience,” he says. As Allen discovered after several projects the data-driven approach led to “800 new ideas about how the brain may work that scientists can now test, leading to hope that computational methods can help decipher the computer in our heads”. Yet, he knows there is a great difference between computing and the brain itself, saying, “Moore’s Law-based technology is so much easier than neuroscience. The brain works in such a different way from the way a computer does. The computer is a very regular structure. It’s very uniform. It’s got a bunch of memory, and it’s got a little element that computes bits of memory and combines them with each other and puts them back somewhere. It’s a very simple thing.”

But the brain is nothing like a computer: “It’s hideously complex,” Allen says. And it’s going to take “decades and decades” of more research to understand. “We are talking about dozens and dozens of Nobel Prizes,” he says, “that have yet to be won to understand how the brain works.”

Asked if he thinks anything will come of it in his lifetime. Herper recounts:

“The proof will come a few years up the road, when we see the results of these new initiatives on which we are embarking now,” he says. His $300 million investment was made with a five-year time horizon, but Allen and his team don’t talk in five-year or even ten-year time–they’re looking ahead decades. Allen, who says he feels great and is cancer free, says he will contribute indefinitely as his scientists continue to deliver–and has even made plans to fund the institute after his death. “A big part of my own financial legacy,” he says, “is allocated to this kind of work for the future.”

Yet, Paul Allen is skeptical of such Singularity thesis as presented by Ray Kurzweil. Paul Allen points out that as we gain deeper knowledge of natural systems like human intelligence, our theories become increasingly complex. Moore’s Law notwithstanding, the Law of Accelerating Returns thus runs up against this “complexity brake.” Since the concept of artificial intelligence is central to The Singularity, the complexity brake may delay it, if not make it forever unobtainable.2

Allen may be thinking of Robin Hansen’s essay The Great Filter which implies that the fact that our universe seems basically dead suggests that it is very hard for advanced explosive lasting life to arise. That as we look out upon the universe and see so far that no greater civilization seems to register upon our SETI instruments among other things that this strongly suggests that no civilization in our past universe has reached such an “explosive” point, to become the source of a light speed expansion of thorough colonization. No alien civilizations have substantially colonized our solar system or systems nearby. Thus among the billion trillion stars in our past universe, none has reached the level of technology and growth that we may soon reach. This one data point implies that a Great Filter stands between ordinary dead matter and advanced exploding lasting life. And the big question is: How far along this filter are we?

Nick Land commenting of the Fermi Paradox implied by the notion of the Great Filter will in his usual black humor say, “The Great Filter does not merely hunt and harm, it exterminates. It is an absolute threat. The technical civilizations which it aborts, or later slays, are not badly wounded, but eradicated, or at least crippled so fundamentally that they are never heard of again. Whatever this utter ruin is, it happens every single time. The mute scream from the stars says that nothing has ever escaped it. Its kill performance is flawless. Tech-Civilization death sentence with probability.”

Maybe The Singularity is this Great Filter that will be applied to our species or our planet, a sort of malformed ancient curse that will wipe all intelligent life out on earth because of its hubris to overreach its natural bounds. But this would imply a sense of tragedy rather than farce. Maybe we should go back and take a look at the old legend of Daedalus and his son Icarus who flew too close to the Sun with his artificial wings and fell because of his hubris. Are we about to be scorched by our own hubris in seeking to become or create immortal machines?


  1. Gareth Cook on March 20, 2012. Scientific America. He edits Mind Matters, an online commentary blog at
  2. Sirius, R.U., Cornell, Ray. Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity. Disinformation Books (January 1, 2015)

The Last Poem of a Dead Poet


Most of us live out life as if it were a dream, nonchalantly. Loved ones. Smiles. Tears. The usual fragments of an undigested existence. We seek in those memories something we can call our own, and find none. What are the chances we ever existed? There are those who want to live forever, extend their little egos into some indefinite future. They seek in medicine or some other scientific fantasy a miracle of longevity as if they were materialists of the Spirit. Instead of transcending into some supernal heaven they’d live their lives out in the technoutopia of some cloned existence of synthetic flesh or the folds of some metalloid monstrosity. Yet, I wonder what would remain within that electronic void? Christians believed in a soul, a sort of hypothetical construct that would voyage off into some Platonic paradise or hell after sloughing the bitter fruit of dirt and water they knew as home in this life. We all have our dreams… some more interesting than others; and fantasies, too. Me? I dream only of a final oblivion, a break with all the words of longing, desire. All I seek is the face of the one I loved so long ago, her smile, her touch… a last kiss. The taste of her tongue on mine, the scent of her flesh against mine, a night without memories…


© Steven Craig Hickman 2016 (May not be reproduced without permission)


Deleuze & Guattari: Human Rights Are Not Universal

A friend was not happy with Deleuze and Guattari’s statement:

“Human rights say nothing about the immanent modes of existence of people provided with rights.”

He would say: “There are some passages by D&G that ping my bullshit detectors, and this is one. Human rights say nothing about immanent modes of anything because they are protections.”

When if you’ve read enough of their work one should ironize; in other words their saying the opposite of what they mean: human rights say nothing about the people because of the fact that these rights cover over those external others of the political that “provided” those rights in the first place. Which means what they provide masks the power behind such rights, rights that are a mere formality and mask of power as such: rights that provide nothing to the people as immanent modes of existence, but rather as codes of a cultural hierarchy that has nothing at all to do with the “human” or “rights”. This is the irony of “human rights” that it exposes power in the very empty place where the human should have been, therefore uncovering as you said a layer of protections that are always external to the subjectivation process rather than immanent to it as its mode of existence. The point being human rights are a farce, not an answer to the dilemmas of the political truth of subjectivation. Therefore covering over the very shame culture that hides itself in the shadows of such masking’s… Human Rights provide neither protection nor escape, but rather provide the powers that be the legalisms to protect themselves from any stain of shame for having not acted on the part of those very victims.

(Such as the Genocide happening in the Middle-East under ISIS… remember the reluctance of John Kerry and the Obama Administration to admit genocide, and only under a restricted purview which entails no action on American’s part, but rather just one more legalism to protect it from having to act. This is the truth of Human Rights: it is to protect the powers from acting on behalf of victims, rather than a protection of the victims from power.).

Deleuze’s criticisms have to do with a quite specific historical phenomenon, namely the manner in which human rights are represented as ‘eternal values’, ‘new forms of transcendence, new universals’ and so on. Nothing in what he says implies rejection of human rights, the rule of law or democratic government as such. The argument attributed to Deleuze in fact confuses the representation of human rights with human rights themselves and supposes that, just because he refuses the representation of human rights in these terms, Deleuze is opposed to rights in any form. It is true that existing forms of constitutional state and incipient forms of constitutional world order increasingly rely upon the concept of human rights as the basis for legal rights. Deleuze is critical of the uses made of rights talk in the contemporary world: ‘Human rights will not make us bless capitalism’ (107).1 However, this does not make him an opponent of rights or even of the idea that some rights should be universal. He is wary of attempts to ground human rights in features of human nature such as human freedom, rationality or the capacity to communicate. Understood in these terms, human rights presuppose a universal and abstract subject of rights, irreducible to any singular, existent figures. They are eternal, abstract and transcendent rights belonging to everyone and no one in particular. Human rights understood in this manner ‘say nothing about the immanent modes of existence of people provided with rights’ (107).

Deleuze elaborates on the emptiness of human rights in the abstract in his Abécédaire interviews with Claire Parnet, with reference to the situation of an Armenian population subjected to a massacre by Turks and then to a subsequent earthquake. He objects, firstly, that when people make declarations about human rights in such situations, ‘these declarations are never made as a function of the people who are directly concerned’. In this case, he suggests, the Armenian people concerned have specific needs in the context of a specific and local situation: ‘their problem is not “the rights of man”‘. Secondly, he argues that all such situations must be considered as cases to be decided rather than simply subsumed under existing laws. He further develops this idea of a jurisprudence proceeding case by case with reference to French legal decisions relating to the banning of smoking in taxis. A first decision refused to allow such a ban on the grounds that the occupant was considered to be in the position of a tenant renting an apartment. A subsequent decision upheld the ban on the grounds that a taxi was considered to be a public service and the occupant in a public rather than a private space. In other words, the judicial response to such cases is properly creative and not simply the rote application of existing categories.2

  1. Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1994) What is Philosophy? (trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell). New York: Columbia University Press.
  2. Patton, Paul. Deleuze and Democracy. Contemporary Political Theory (2005) 4, 400–413. doi:10.1057/palgrave.cpt.9300236

HyperCapitalism in the Fun House!

It’s almost strange to realize that advanced hypercapitalism of the new Smart or Intelligent City that is hyped to supplant and replace our current global cities will return us to our jungles. I mean this new technoutopian vision is animistic in design and purpose, building environments that will predict and preempt our lives through tracking and anticipation. The environment will be alive, will have eyes and ears – a sensorsium of millions of sensors; all coordinated to anticipate our every need, as well as punish our every offense. We will live in a surround of externalized surveillance 24/7. And with the addition of nanomachines installed in our systems we will also be monitored from within by cellular daemons for good of ill. Deleuze and Foucault were both right, our world will become an absolute Panopticon, but will be modulated by the production of dividuality as well. Control immanent and transcendent will monitor from within and without guiding, tracing, sorting, selecting, analyzing, and computing every aspect of our lives. We will continuously produce code that can be brought to bare within a totalitarian system of consumerist inclusion, while for those whose status within the system is extraneous will have every aspect of their lives controlled and excluded. Access comes with a price, there will be no free lunches in the future consumer paradise.

Seems our corporatocracy has thought of everything, designed a world where at the touch of a button you too can be reprogrammed to meet some agenda not your own, work at the beck and call of a free market society in which securitization is promoted as pure freedom. Most of this will come about gradually as the older generations who feared the digital are buried, and their children grow up within the digital empire to total surveillance capitalism. Where your life is mapped to the coded data scripts of corporate developers, your neuralcircuits rammed with the lively conversations of a million engines of creation, and your love life snapped into place by hormonal injections of just-in-time machinations. Surrounded by the InfoSphere you’ll never know you’re inside an artificial box, just another algorithmic citizen living joyously in a clockwork world without clocks. Time will disappear because you will have become process and nothing else.

Orwell has nothing on us now…

Paul Virilio: The Third Bomb – Eugenics/Genetics


Was reading several interviews by Paul Virilio today, and in one of them he is asked,

What do you think of Ray Kurzweil’s thesis about the singularity? He says that in 2050, humans will be more technical than organic.
The new age. It raises the question of the third bomb, as formulated by Einstein. He said that there were three bombs. The atomic bomb, the information bomb, and the demographic bomb. But I think that today, the third bomb will be genetic. Soon, the question of human selection will be raised. We risk the birth of real racism. There will be natural men, those born of blood and sperm—disgusting!—and the others, born by genetic engineering. (Virilio)

It sounds like a science-fiction movie. Gattaca, for instance.
Absolutely. The genetic bomb, if it explodes, will divide the human race in two. The natural pre-humans and the artificial but superior post-humans. Remember the replicants in that movie… (Virilio)

Blade Runner?
Yes. There’s that great scene: Harrison Ford is about to fall from the tower, and the replicant is holding him. Harrison thinks he’s going to let him go. And the replicant, he picks him up and drags him to safety. The dialogue that follows is monstrous, but marvelous at the same time. (Virilio)

Anyone who has followed the history of genetics as a science should by now know that it began in that nexus of racist corruption, eugenics. As Daniel J. Kevles will tell us in his superb history of Eugenics,  In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity:

The large majority of American colleges and universities— including Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Berkeley— offered well-attended courses in eugenics, or genetics courses that incorporated eugenic material.  Geneticists warmed easily to their priestly role. The new industrial order had elevated practitioners of the physical sciences to positions of power and public service. Physicists and chemists found themselves in demand by innovative firms like Western Electric, Du Pont, and Standard Oil of New Jersey, which were opening research laboratories; and the requirements of public policy formation in such areas as food and drugs, communications, and aeronautics were bringing physical scientists into the orbit of government. Geneticists experienced no comparable demand.

As we discover in Lily E. Kay’s The Molecular Vision of Life: Caltech, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Rise of the New Biology the conjunction of cognitive and social goals had a strong historical connection to eugenics, to its promise and perils. By 1930 the Rockefeller Foundation had supported a number of eugenically directed projects. By the time of the inauguration ration of the “new science of man,” however, the goal of social control through selective breeding had suffered severe setbacks. As an intellectual program, eugenics guided by the crude principles of Charles B. Davenport had lost much of its force; and as a social movement it carried the stigma of racial prejudice and political propaganda. Eugenics as such became a scientific liability. The quest for rationalized human reproduction, however, never quite lost its intuitive appeal (even when it was later modified by the Nazi experience). For the architects and champions of a science-based technological utopianism, human engineering through controlled breeding remained a compelling social vision.2

As far back as 1950’s Linus Pauling received nearly $1 million in grants from the Ford Foundation for biochemical chemical studies of mental deficiency. As a member of the Hixon Fund committee at Caltech, his interest in the biological basis of human behavior dated back to the 1940s, but by the late 1950s these involvements had acquired a sharper focus through the concept of molecular disease and the cascade of discoveries related to the mechanisms of DNA replication, transcription, translation, and the genetic code. Like other leading practitioners of molecular biology at that time, Pauling’s intrigue with the triangle of heredity, intelligence, and social planning assumed more precise technocratic meanings.” (ibid.)

In it 1958 television broadcast entitled “The Next Hundred Years,” Pauling described his vision of scientific utopia. attained through detailed knowledge of the molecular structure of humans.” The study of sickle cell anemia, he stated, set a precedent for that kind of approach. Recounting the biochemical and genetic aspects of the discovery of that first molecular disease, “discovered in our laboratory,” Pauling postulated that there were “thousands, tens of thousands of molecular diseases.” Like other physiological abnormalities, Pauling believed that mental deficiencies were genetically determined molecular abnormalities. His vision of the nearing Golden Age was a move away from mere palliative action: biology turning molecular, medicine maturing into an exact science, and social planning becoming rational. Like some of his peers, Pauling saw the deterioration of the human race as the most compelling challenge for the new biology. “It will not he enough just to develop ways of treating the hereditary defects,” he said. “We shall have to find some way to purify the pool of human germ plasm so that there will not he so many seriously defective children horn. … We are going to have to institute birth control, population control.”” Pauling’s interventionist concepts of social control, which had previously resonated with those of the Rockefeller Foundation, now buttressed the Ford Foundation’s program he had helped shape. (Kay, KL 4461).

Although the name eugenics expunged during the 1950’s because of its associations and politics, its heritage lives on under the guise of biogenetics sciences and the human enhancement movement and would become one of the mainstays of our socio-cultural heritage. Ray Kurzweil in an essay “The new era of health and medicine as an information technology is broader than individual genes” remarks that there is the entire new field of synthetic biology which is based on synthetic genomes. A major enabling breakthrough was recently announced by Craig Venter’s company in which an organism with a synthetic genome (which previously existed only as a computer file) was created. This field is based on entire genomes not just individual genes and it is certainly part of the broad field of gene science and technology. The goal is to create organisms that can do useful work such as produce vaccines and other medicines, biofuels and other valuable industrial substances.

Kurzweil and his team are seeking to reverse-engineer biology telling us we need to examine phenomena at different levels, especially looking at the role that proteins (which are coded for in the genome) play in biological processes. In understanding the brain, for example, there is indeed exponential progress being made in simulating neurons, neural clusters, and entire regions. This work includes understanding the “wiring” of the brain (which incidentally includes massive redundancy) and how the modules in the brain (which involve multiple neuron types) process information. Then we can link these processes to biochemical pathways, which ultimately links back to genetic information. (ibid.)

In fact Kurzweil and his team are treating our body and biochemical systems as informational systems: “If we consider the science and technology of genes and information processing in biology in its proper broad context, there are many exciting developments that have current or near term clinical implications, and enormous promise going forward.” (ibid.) Going on to say we “have a new technology that can turn genes off, and that has emerged since the completion of the human genome project”. And, “are also new methods of adding genes”. Use of stem-cells: ” the whole area of regenerative medicine from stem cells. Some of this is now being done from adult autologous stem cells”.  He sees a future where we’ll see nanobots, blood-cell-sized devices that can go inside the body and brain to perform therapeutic functions. But what happens when we have billions of nanobots inside the capillaries of our brains, non-invasively, widely distributed, expanding human intelligence, or providing full-immersion virtual reality?

All of this will be part of our Information Society: “…information technology is increasingly encompassing everything of value. It’s not just computers, it’s not just electronic gadgets. It now includes the field of biology. We’re beginning to understand how life processes, disease, aging, are manifested as information processes and gaining the tools to actually manipulate those processes. It’s true of all of our creations of intellectual and cultural endeavors, our music, movies are all facilitated by information technology, and are distributed, and represented as information.”

His technoutopian vision assays that by 2029, we will have completed reverse engineering of the brain, we will understand how human intelligence works, and that will give us new insight into ourselves. Non-biological intelligence will combine the suppleness and subtlety of our pattern-recognition capabilities with ways computers have already demonstrated their superiority. Every time you use Google you can see the power of non-biological intelligence. Machines can remember things very accurately. They can share their knowledge instantly. We can share our knowledge, too, but at the slow bandwidth of language.

In another interview Virilio would remind us of the difference between his vision and his friend Jean Baudrillard:

I disagree with my friend Baudrillard on the subject of simulation. To the word simulation, I prefer the one substitution. This is a real glass, this is no simulation. When I hold a virtual glass with a data glove, this is no simulation, but substitution. Here lies the big difference between Baudrillard and myself: I don’t believe in simulationism, I believe that the word is already old-fashioned. As I see it, new technologies are substituting a virtual reality for an actual reality. And this is more than a phase: it’s a definite change. We are entering a world where there won’t be one but two realities, just like we have two eyes or hear bass and treble tones, just like we now have stereoscopy and stereophony: there will be two realities: the actual, and the virtual. Thus there is no simulation, but substitution. Reality has become symmetrical. The splitting of reality in two parts is a considerable event which goes far beyond simulation.

Like Deleuze’s splitting of virtual/actual within a transcendental empiricism, Virilio sees this Infospheric vision arising and replacing the naturalist vision of the old Culture/Nature divide. Now comes the virtual human or dividual, next will come the elision of the body and the human altogether as the inhuman other is what we become. In that sense maybe he is correct, for the prophets of posthuman religion of transhumanism and technoutopian immortalizatists like Ray Kurzweil seek to substitute the human with the enhanced human, or the reprogramed and reengineered clone and cyborg of the coming Singularity. They no longer seek to simulate this process, but rather to enact it and substitute the present reality with its actual genetic split by way of a species transformation that seems to harken back to the Nietzschean  Übermensch:

We could have billions of nanobots inside the capillaries of our brains, non-invasively, widely distributed, expanding human intelligence, or providing full immersion virtual reality encompassing all of the senses from within the nervous system. Right now we have a hundred trillion connections. Although there’s a certain amount of plasticity, biological intelligence is essentially fixed. Non-biological intelligence is growing exponentially; the crossover point will be in the 2020s. When we get to the 2030s and 2040s, it will be the non-biological portion of our civilization that will be predominant. But it will still be an expression of human civilization. (Ray Kurzweil)

Is it too late to ask: Is this the future we want? And, Will we even be able to choose it? Or, Is it already being chosen for us by all those megamachinic corporations funding such entities as Google and Ray Kurzweil? Our children are already growing up in these artificial worlds connected to gadgets, connected 24/7 to the Cloud, to their friends, to the interface world of the virtual, where attention spans drip in speedlanes our forbears would have gone bonkos in… we’ve all become schizflows in a Real of flows without end, circuits of a strange realm of interconnected rhizomes that would’ve made Deleuze and Guattari wish they’d never studied such things as rhizomes. For better or worse we are past the stage of no return, lost in a cosmic pile-up vision of accelerated technocapitalist utopianism that seems to spin its ever-present adgrams in our algorithmic heads like dreams of a delusional consumer whose only link to a former reality is the tentative connection of his real neurobodily phase shift from life to death. A roller-coaster that is plunging into the void like a forgotten thought of paradise…


  1. Kevles, Daniel J. (2013-05-08). In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity (Kindle Locations 4319-4325). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
  2. Lily E. Kay. The Molecular Vision of Life: Caltech, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Rise of the New Biology (Monographs on the History & Philosophy of Biology) (Kindle Locations 148-152). Kindle Edition.

Work in progress…


Accelerating Capital

Society, Speed, and Catastrophe in the Age of the Anthropocene

Abstract Coming…


Memetic Theory, Viral Agents, and Hyperstitional Entities



The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse:
A Short History of the Future

      1. Communication and Control Societies
      2. Technology and Desire – Sex, Crime, and Psychopathy
      3. Transhuman Gnosis and the Apocalyptic Imagination
      4. Geotrauma and the End of Man in the Anthropcene
      5. Crossing the Rubicon of Alternative Futures

Interlude: The Posthuman Blues


Modernity, Violence and the Myth of Progress:
How the West was Lost?

      1. Abstract Aesthetics: Abject Horrorism and Hauntologies of Excess
      2. Time, Motion, and Control: Mantra of Efficiency, Calculation, and AI
      3. Assemblages and Networks: Social and Technological Accelerationism – Diagnosing Capitalism at the Edge of Singularity
      4. Sovereignty, War, and Exclusion: Exceptionalism, Austerity, and Slavery in an Age of Diminishing Returns


Discipline and Control:
Surveillance Capitalism, Code/Space, and the Inhuman Future

      1. Beyond the Subject: Subjectivation, the Dividual, and the Network Society
      2. The World is a Prison: Refugees, Prisons, and the Post-Digital Divide
      3. The Rise of the Machines: Automation, Work, and the Post-Democratic Future
      4. The Extinction Hypothesis: Catastrophism and the Genealogy of Collapse

Interlude: Genesis Redux – After Nature, After History?


The Infrastructure:
The Stack, Logistics, and the Flow of Things

      1. The Engine of Creation: Neuroscience, Politics, and Creativity
      2. The Day the World Stopped: Energy, Resources, and Alternative Visions
      3. The Infosphere: Information, Technology, and Economics in the 21st Century
      4. Mutant Visions: Comics, Cinema, and Media Sociopathy

Postlude: Intelligence, Climate Politics, and Communication in the 21st Century

Last Thoughts – Utopia or Dystopia: The Shape of Hope and Fear


© Steven Craig Hickman 2016 (May not be reproduced without permission)



Morning Wake Up Call: Bill Burroughs


One day Little Boy Blue starts to slip, and what crawls out would make an ambulance attendant puke. The Rube flips in the end, running through empty automats and subway stations, screaming: `Come back, kid!! Come back!!’ and follows his boy right into the East River, down through condoms and orange peels, mosaic of floating newspapers, down into the silent black ooze with gangsters in concrete, and pistols pounded flat to avoid the probing finger of prurient ballistic experts.”

– William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch

Kurt Gödel, Number Theory, Nick Land and our Programmatic Future

Read an interesting experiment in programing using Kurt Gödel’s number theories: (Norman H. Cohen. Gödel numbers: A new approach to structured programming. SIGPLAN Notices 15, No. 4 (April 1980), pp. 70-74; download pdf at bottom part of page):

Screen Shot 03-13-16 at 12.55 PM

My reason for researching this had to do with another investigation into Nick Land’s use of Gödel. As Mackay and Brassier note,

One of the tasks of schizoanalysis has now become the decrypting of the ‘tics’ bequeathed to the human frame by the geotraumatic catastrophe, and ‘KataςoniX’ treats vestigial semantic content as a mere vehicle for code ‘from the outside’: the ‘tic’ symptoms of geotraumatism manifested in the shape of sub-linguistic clickings and hissings. Already disintegrated into the number-names of a hyperpagan pantheon, syncretically drawing on the occult, nursery rhyme, anthropology, SF and Lovecraft, among other sources, the ‘subterranean current of impressions, correspondences, and analogies’(Artaud) beneath language is now allowed uninhibited (but rigorously-prepared) development, in an effort to corporeally de-engineer the organicity of logos.

The element of these explorations remains the transformed conception of space vividly exhibited in Gibsonian cyberpunk and which is a crucial component in Land’s writings, a powerful bulwark against Kant’s architectonic ambition to subsume all space under unity. Coding and sequencing mechanisms alone now construct intensive space, and this lies at the core of Land’s typology of number, since dimensionality is a consequence of stratification. Naming and numbering converge in counting, understood as immanent fusion of nomination and sequencing. No longer an index of measure, number becomes diagrammatic rather than metric. From the perspective of Land’s ‘transcendental arithmetic’, the Occidental mathematisation of number is denounced as a repressive mega-machine of knowledge – an excrescent outgrowth of the numbering practices native to exploratory intelligence – and the great discoveries of mathematics are interpreted as misconstrued discoveries about the planomenon (or plane of consistency), as exemplified by Gödel’s ‘arithmetical counterattack against axiomatisation’.Land eschews the orthodox philosophical reception of Gödel as the mathematician who put an end to Hilbert’s dream of absolute formal consistency, thus opening up a space for meta-mathematical speculation. More important, for Land, are the implications of Gödel’s ‘decoded’ approach to number, which builds on the Richard Paradox, generated by the insight that numbers are, at once, indices and data. [my italics]

The Gödel episode also gives Land occasion to expand upon the theme of the ‘stratification’ of number: according to the model of stratification, as the ‘lower strata’ of numbers become ever more consolidated and metrically rigidified, their problematic component reappears at a ‘higher’ strata in the form of ‘angelic’ mathematical entities as-yet resistant to rigorous coding. A sort of apotheosis is reached in this tendency with Gödel’s flattening of arithmetic through the cryptographic employment of prime numbers as numerical ‘particles’, and Cantor’s discovery of ‘absolute cardinality’ in the sequence of transfinites.

Thus for Land the interest of Gödel’s achievement is not primarily ‘mathematical’ but rather belongs to a lineage of the operationalisation of number in coding systems that will pass through Turing and into the technological mega-complex of contemporary techno-capital.

By using arithmetic to code meta-mathematical statements and hypothesising an arithmetical relation between the statements – an essentially qabbalistic procedure – Gödel also indicates the ‘reciprocity between the logicisation of number and the numerical decoding of language’, highlighting a possible revolutionary role for other non-mathematical numerical practices. As well as reappraising numerology in the light of such ‘lexicographic’ insights, the mapping of stratographic space opens up new avenues of investigation – limned in texts such as ‘Introduction to Qwernomics’ – into the effective, empirical effects of culture – chapters of a ‘universal history of contingency’ radicalising Nietzsche’s insight that ‘our writing equipment contributes its part to our thinking’. The varieties of ‘abstract culture’ present in games, rhythms, calendrical systems, etc., become the subject of an attempt at deliberate, micro-cultural insurrection through number, exemplified in the CCRU’s ‘hyperstitional’ spirals and the ‘qwertypological’ diagrams that in the end merge with the qabbalistic tracking of pure coding ‘coincidences’. Ultimately, it is not just a question of conceiving, but of practicing new ways of thinking the naming and numbering of things. Importantly, this allows Land to diagnose the ills of ‘postmodernism’ – the inflation of hermeneutics into a generalised historicist relativism – in a manner that differs from his contemporaries’ predominantly semantic interpretations of the phenomenon, and to propose a rigorous intellectual alternative that does not involve reverting to dogmatic modernism.1

Against Badiou and his followers of Platonic materialist measure, Land’s insight is to follow Deleuze and Guattari: “No longer an index of measure, number becomes diagrammatic rather than metric. From the perspective of Land’s ‘transcendental arithmetic’, the Occidental mathematisation of number is denounced as a repressive mega-machine of knowledge – an excrescent outgrowth of the numbering practices native to exploratory intelligence – and the great discoveries of mathematics are interpreted as misconstrued discoveries about the planomenon (or plane of consistency), as exemplified by Gödel’s ‘arithmetical counterattack against axiomatisation’.


This leads to a notion of a-signifying systems as opposed to signifying, which brings us back to Land’s “No longer an index of measure, number becomes diagrammatic rather than metric.” We learn from Deleuze’s and Guattari’s Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature that the minor writer engages ‘a machine of expression capable of disorganizing its own forms, and of disorganizing the forms of content, in order to liberate pure contents which mingle with expression in a single intense matter’ (K 51).

Exactly how this revolutionary practice works is not clearly delineated in Kafka, for Deleuze and Guattari offer no satisfactory examples of the process of transformation which leads from deterritorialized sound to a dissolution and reconstruction of content. Some clarification of this process may be gained, however, from a consideration of Deleuze’s analysis of Francis Bacon’s approach to painting in Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (1981). Deleuze notes that for modern artists, the blank canvas is not a tabula rasa, but the space of unconscious visual preconceptions and received conventions of representation, which the artist brings to the canvas and which he struggles against and tries to vanquish, escape, or subvert. For Francis Bacon, the moment of subversion comes during the process of painting when a chance stroke of the brush introduces a small locus of chaos, a limited catastrophe that Bacon calls a ‘diagram’.

‘The diagram’, says Deleuze, ‘is indeed a chaos, a catastrophe, but also a seed of order or of rhythm’ (FB 67). Bacon follows the suggested form, colour or line of this diagram and uses it as a generative device for constructing an intensive set of relations within the painting itself, which simultaneously deform the figure he started to paint and form a new figure of that deformed figure. Deleuze contrasts Bacon’s practice with that of abstract formalists, such as Mondrian and Kandinsky, and abstract expressionists, such as Pollock. The danger of abstract formalism is that the constraints of representation may simply be replaced with those of an abstract code, in which case the diagrammatic possibilities of chaos or catastrophe are banished from the canvas. The danger of abstract expressionism is that the diagram may cover the whole canvas and result in nothing but an undifferentiated mess. Bacon’s strategy is to paint portraits and studies of human figures, and hence to remain in a certain sense within the confines of representation, but to allow the diagram in each painting to deterritorialize the human subject, to introduce ‘a zone of Sahara into the head’, to split ‘the head into two parts with an ocean’ (FB 65), to make a leg melt into a puddle of purple or a body start to turn into a piece of meat. One finds resemblances between the configurations of paint and human figures, deserts, oceans, puddles, and rolled roasts, yet such resemblances are no longer productive, but simply produced. A resemblance may be said to be produced rather than productive ‘when it appears suddenly as the result of entirely different relations than those which it is charged with representing: resemblance then surges forth as the brutal product of non-resembling means’ (FB 75).1

An abstract machine is characterized by its matter – its hecceities, or relations of speeds and affects – but also by its function. The abstract machine of panopticism, for example, consists of a ‘pure matter’, a human multiplicity, and a ‘pure function’, that of seeing without being seen. What is important to note is that this function is neither semiotic nor physical, neither expression nor content, but an abstract function that informs both the expression-form of the discourse on delinquency and the content-form of the prison. Such an abstract function, characteristic of every abstract machine, Deleuze and Guattari call a ‘diagram’. Semioticians generally classify diagrams as simplified images, or icons, of things. But as Guattari points out, the image represents both more and less than a diagram; the image reproduces numerous aspects which a diagram does not retain in its representation, whereas the diagram brings together the functional articulations of a system with much greater exactitude and efficacy than the image. (Bogue, p. 135)

Visual graphs and charts are diagrams, but so are mathematical formulae, musical scores, and models in particle physics; and the more abstract the diagram is, the less it represents any particular thing, and the less it can be conceived of in terms of expression and content.  Mathematical equations articulate a self-referential system of relations which may be embodied in diverse contexts. Musical scores, although heavily ‘coded’ in traditional music (specific designations of instruments, tempi, and so on), in much electronic music function as abstract diagrams of differential speeds and intensities which a synthesizer embodies in various sounds. Models in particle physics fuse mathematical theories and experimental particles (theories isolating particles and particles generating theories) to such an extent that one may speak no longer of particles or signs, but of ‘particle-signs’, units in a self-referential experimental-theoretical complex. The function of an abstract machine is a diagram of this sort, a function ‘which has only “traits”, of content and expression, whose connection it assumes: one can no longer even say whether a trait is a particle or a sign’ (MP 176). Thus, in an abstract machine, content and expression yield to ‘a content-matter which presents only degrees of intensity, resistance, conductibility, heatability, stretchability, speed or slowness; an expression-function which presents only “tensors”, as in a mathematical or musical notation’ (MP 176-7). (Bogue, p. 135)

Indices and Data

So in the above when Bogue speaks of deterritorializeingthe human subject we should thinkg ‘decoding’ which is at the heart of Landian non-dialectical materialism. Land eschews the orthodox philosophical reception of Gödel as the mathematician who put an end to Hilbert’s dream of absolute formal consistency, thus opening up a space for meta-mathematical speculation. More important, for Land, are the implications of Gödel’s ‘decoded’ approach to number, which builds on the Richard Paradox, generated by the insight that numbers are, at once, indices and data. (Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007, ed. Robin Mackay and Ray Brassier).

This notion of numbers as ‘indices and data’ underlies the diagrammatic a-signifying theories of information of our digital age, and go to the heart of Deleuze’s conceptions of Societies of Control that modulate both individual and dividual by way of both the older form of discipline (Foucault) and newer forms of control (Deleuze). Such works as Ronald E. Day’s ‘Indexing It All: The Subject in the Age of Documentation, Information, and Data’ and others support as shift in the production of subjectivity showing the transition as indexes went from being explicit professional structures that mediated users and documents to being implicit infrastructural devices used in everyday information and communication acts. Doing so, he also traces three epistemic eras in the representation of individuals and groups, first in the forms of documents, then information, then data. Day investigates five cases from the modern tradition of documentation. He considers the socio-technical instrumentalism of Paul Otlet, “the father of European documentation” (contrasting it to the hermeneutic perspective of Martin Heidegger); the shift from documentation to information science and the accompanying transformation of persons and texts into users and information; social media’s use of algorithms, further subsuming persons and texts; attempts to build android robots — to embody human agency within an information system that resembles a human being; and social “big data” as a technique of neoliberal governance that employs indexing and analytics for purposes of surveillance. Finally, Day considers the status of critique and judgment at a time when people and their rights of judgment are increasingly mediated, displaced, and replaced by modern documentary techniques.

  1. Bogue, Ronald (2008-03-07). Deleuze and Guattari (Critics of the Twentieth Century) (p. 120-122). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.


  1. Land, Nick (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 620-627). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.

Biotech Governance: Reengineering the Human Animal for Happiness?


If the human species is re-engineered it will not be the result of humanity assuming godlike control of its destiny. It will be another twist in man’s fate.
…….– John Gray, The Straw Dogs

Last night I was watching one of Kurzweil’s video talks – Immortality by 2045, on longevity, nanotech, 3-D printers, cloning, biotech etc. where a young girl whose esophagus was collapsing, and they developed a method of computer designing an esophagus from internal photos of her throat, then transferring this to a 3-D printer, producing a copy that was used much like bronze casting in which it served as a mold upon which stem-cells were allowed to grow and produce a synthetic and biologically DNA duplicate of her esophagus which was transplanted and now she is whole and has lived for two years without incident… he speaks of growing other organs too. With his notion of the law of accelerating returns, much like Moore’s law he believes will be able to program our body with nano-computers within 30 years or less… the notion of treating the body as a software platform, and the bio-machines as programs that go bad and need reprogramming, etc.

The Business of Immortality: Cryonics Inc.

Of course Kurzweil isn’t alone in such thinking, it seems these days that hundreds of billions of dollars are being invested into various projects surrounding transhumanism, Human 2.0, and human enhancement, along with various ventures in pharmaceutical companies among others. Cryonics is big business and Alcor is its mainstay.  “It’s an insurance policy,” American Idol and The X Factor kingpin Simon Cowell told GQ in 2011. “If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. If it does work, I’ll be happy. If it’s possible, and I think it will be, why not have a second crack? I have a feeling that if I don’t do it now,” he said of the procedure, “I could regret this in 300 years’ time.”

Continue reading

Capital Behaviors: The Subtle Art of Tyranny

John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney in Surveillance Capitalism: Monopoly-Finance Capital, the Military-Industrial Complex, and the Digital Age offer us a view onto the world of monopoly capitalism. The rise of neoliberal Western economies that began after WWII came about according to them through the consolidation of surveillance technologies in three domains: (1) militarism/imperialism/security; (2) corporate-based marketing and the media systems; and (3) the world of financialization.

It was President Dwight D. Eisenhower who first observed the dark horizon of  the socio-technological convergence of the Military Industrial Complex after the war, realizing that an enormous expansion of the national security system, bringing civilian scientists, industry, and contractors within its expanding and secretive arms of government and corporate affairs had come about due to the needs of defense and securitization of Economy and State after the war. Bringing together the academy, sciences, and industry a nexus was formed that could be aligned to both military and peacetime agendas, institutionalized and controlled by both military and governmental agencies in cooperation to assure a mutual plan for effective research, development, and implementation in times of peace and war. It would be during this era that the rise of Think Tanks, NGO’s, and many other well funded agencies both governmental and corporate would take on a wider bureaucratic presence as Empire became a global agenda under the guise of spreading democracy.

Next the Council of Economic Advisors and the National Security Council were to construct the foundation of the U.S. warfare state. Truman formed the ultra-shadowy National Security Agency (NSA) in 1952 as an arm of the military charged with conducting clandestine electronic monitoring of potential foreign (and domestic) subversive activities. Following Keynesian “guns and butter” principles they began a huge rearmament program which included a Cold War strategy at its core with the beginnings of a propaganda program to ensure that the populace would foot the bill. They quote  Harry Magdoff who ironically noted at the end of his Age of Imperialism in 1969: “Just as the fight against Communism helps the search for profits, so the search for profits helps the fight against Communism. What more perfect harmony of interests could be imagined?”

In their classic work Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy’s, Monopoly Capital, published in 1966, saw militarism and imperialism as motivated first and foremost by the needs of the U.S. empire, and secondly by its role (along with the sales effort) as one of the two main absorbers—beyond capitalist consumption and investment—of the rising economic surplus generated by the economy.

During the Viet Nam era with massive protests against the draft and war both within the military and civilian population strategists within the military-industrial complex realized they’d need to discover better methods of command and control if they were to implement their economic and global push toward Empire. As Foster and McChesney relate it any attempts to police a world empire were two requirements: First, a widespread propaganda campaign to make empire appear benevolent, necessary, essentially democratic, inherently “American,” and therefore unquestionable in legitimate debate. For an empire, the flip side of propaganda is popular ignorance. Second,  there is the stick to go with the propaganda carrot—a heavy reliance on covert intervention in the periphery and domestic surveillance and oppression.

I could spend a full essay on just the history of propaganda, the rise of public relations, marketing and consumer preemptive strategies, sales and behavioral economics, etc. But for the moment it became apparent in the 1950’s that the populace would need to be shaped and converted to this new consumer culture. So that as they say marketing evolved quickly into a highly organized system of customer surveillance, targeting propaganda, and psychological manipulation of populations. After the invention of the TV it would become central to the new consumer economy as the mediatainment device par excellence for ad campaigns introducing and enticing customers to buy new products, services, travel, life-styles, etc. As they’ll tell us “the government readily handed over the airwaves for free to corporations, while maintaining only the most minimal regulatory structure aimed primarily at protecting rather than restraining commercial privileges”.

The essay on the Monthly Review site is worth a read, and I’m not going to go over every detail of its historical account. They speak of the rise of the Internet out of ARPANET and how Eisenhower saw within this early version of the internet the corruption of government at the hands of private capital, arguing that government should “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influenceby the military industrial complex,” and to warn that society could become “captive of a scientific technological elite” under circumstances where “the power of money is ever present.”

Foster and McChesney will the explore the rise of surveillance society and domestic forms in particular that came about during the Viet Nam war era with the various internal strife and anti-war protest movements. How the first computers and data systems were brought online to gather intel on domestic targets by the NSA and other organizations. How both Johnson and then Nixon developed  Project MINARET, in which the NSA tapped the electronic communications of leading U.S. critics of the war, including over 1,600 U.S. citizens who were put on the NSA watch list. How Project ECHELON, conducted jointly with Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (collectively known as the Five Eyes), aimed at the interception of civilian telecommunications conveyed by means of communication satellites. Along with the abuse of the NSA and other agencies: Aside from collecting national security information, the NSA has been involved in commercial espionage on behalf of corporations, including stealing technology. In 1994 the NSA and the CIA turned over data that caused the European Airbus Industries to lose lucrative international contracts to their U.S. counterparts.

Foster and McChesney also provide a short history of the financialization of the American Economy and the rise of Globalization. With the convergence of the internet, economy, and destruction of regulatory controls over the financial sphere they describe this Behemoth superstructure’s domination as the result of a seemingly permanent financial-bubble prone economy. Such an economy was unstable and parasitic to the extreme, with constant fears of financial meltdown, and hence a growing role of central bankers as lenders of last resort, intervening periodically to prop up an increasingly fragile financial system.

As the internet became a fixture in the global arena for the new surveillance society initiatives by global capitalists Foster and McChesney will tell us “surveillance capitalism went far deeper, like advertising and national security, it had an insatiable need for data. Its profitable expansion relied heavily on the securitization of household mortgages; a vast extension of credit-card usage; and the growth of health insurance and pension funds, student loans, and other elements of personal finance. Every aspect of household income, spending, and credit was incorporated into massive data banks and evaluated in terms of markets and risk.”

In fact it has become so pervasive that the largest data broker in the United States today, the marketing giant Acxiom has 23,000 computer servers processing in excess of 50 trillion data transactions annually. It keeps on average some 1,500 data points on more than 200 million Americans, in the form of “digital dossiers” on each individual, attaching to each person a thirteen-digit code that allows them to be followed wherever they go, combining online and offline data on individuals. (Foster and McChesney )

Financialization—or the long-term growth of speculation on financial assets relative to GDP—meant the intrusion of finance into all aspects of life, requiring new extensions of surveillance and information control as forms of financial risk management. As the economy became more financialized, it became increasingly vulnerable to financial meltdowns, increasing risk perceptions on the part of investors and the perceived need for risk management, encryption of data, and security. (Foster and McChesney )

The digitalization of surveillance has radically changed the nature of advertising. The old system of advertisers purchasing ad space or time in media with the hope of getting the media user to notice the advertisement while she sought out news or entertainment is becoming passé. Advertisers no longer need to subsidize journalism or media content production to reach their target audiences. Instead, they can pinpoint their desired audience to a person and locate them wherever they are online (and often where they are in physical space) due to ubiquitous surveillance. The premise of the system is that there is no effective privacy. (Foster and McChesney )

These monopolistic corporate entities readily cooperate with the repressive arm of the state in the form of its military, intelligence, and police functions. The result is to enhance enormously the secret national security state, relative to the government as a whole. (Foster and McChesney )

In 2014 Google announced that it was buying Titan Aerospace, a U.S.-based start-up company for building drones which cruise at the very edge of the atmosphere. Facebook meanwhile bought the UK corporation, Ascenta, which specializes in making high-altitude solar drones. Such drones would allow the spread of the Internet to new areas. The goal was to capitalize on a new military technology and create larger global Internet monopolies, while expanding the military-digital complex.  (Foster and McChesney )

The crossover between military and industrial-digital and other old school corporations has brought a convergence of telematics and tyrannical monopolies. As they tell it a “kind of linguistic convergence mirrored the centralized structure of monopoly-finance capital in the age of digital surveillance with “securitization” increasingly standing simultaneously for a world dominated by: (1) financial derivatives trading, (2) a network of public and private surveillance, (3) the militarization of security-control systems, and (4) the removal of judicial processes from effective civilian control.” (Foster and McChesney )

For Foster and McChesney there are signs of decay and threat within the Empire. With the rise of weak AI, Cyberwar, Hacking, malware, breakdown in circuits and nodes of the infrastructure the Empire is vulnerable. As they’ll tell it from a left diagnosis: “Its very economic exploitation of the world population, as well as its own, has left the U.S. imperial system open to attack, producing ever greater attempts at control. These are signs of a dying empire.”

Yet, I wonder if they underestimate the beast? As Shoshana Zuboff in The Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism will suggest Big Data is taking over not going under, and data can be used for dynamic real-time driver behavior modification triggering punishments  (real-time rate hikes, financial penalties, curfews, engine lock-downs) or rewards (rate discounts, coupons, gold stars to redeem for future benefits).

The notion of Behavioral Economics has been around for a while now, but combining it with the internet to change behavior, or implementing it in sensors, appliances, or what we now term the “Internet of things” is become a part of the new global strategy to capture consumer desires and direct their behaviors. As the CEO of Allstate Insurance wants to be like Google. He says, “There are lots of people who are monetizing data today. You get on Google, and it seems like it’s free. It’s not free. You’re giving them information; they sell your information.  Could we, should we, sell this information we get from people driving around to various people and capture some additional profit source…? It’s a long-term game.” (see Zuboff)

As Zuboff will remark the “game is no longer about sending you a mail order catalogue or even about targeting online advertising. The game is selling access to the real-time flow of your daily life –your reality—in order to directly influence and modify your behavior for profit. This is the gateway to a new universe of monetization opportunities: restaurants who want to be your destination. Service vendors who want to fix your brake pads. Shops who will lure you like the fabled Sirens. The “various people” are anyone, and everyone who wants a piece of your behavior for profit. Small wonder, then, that Google recently announced that its maps will not only provide the route you search but will also suggest a destination.”

She’ll argue that we’ve entered virgin territory here. The assault on behavioral data is so sweeping that it can no longer be circumscribed by the concept of privacy and its contests.  This is a different kind of challenge now, one that threatens the existential and political canon of the modern liberal order defined by principles of self-determination that have been centuries, even millennia, in the making. I am thinking of matters that include, but are not limited to, the sanctity of the individual and the ideals of social equality; the development of identity, autonomy, and moral reasoning; the integrity of contract, the freedom that accrues to the making and fulfilling of promises; norms and rules of collective agreement; the functions of market democracy; the political integrity of societies; and the future of democratic sovereignty.  (see Zuboff)

Further notes…. not pertinent to the above. (Interrelated issues…)

For people like Google’s Ray Kurzweil we’re entering a period when we will merge with machines, through biotech, nanotech and other technologies we will begin to see the body and mind as software/hardware in which failing organs, cells, etc. can bee reprogrammed like bits of information in a computer. The true promise of nanotechnology, says Ray Kurzweil, is that “we’ll be able to create just about anything we need in the physical world from information files with very inexpensive input materials.” 3-D and 4-D Printers will be able to print organs, design special components, etc. all from attached emails easily downloaded from our computers into personal printers that will in the coming decades become cheaper and cheaper. For Kurzweil medical breakthroughs will solve aging issues, along with VR technology that will become part of our brains software through upgrades of nanotech, all producing a society wherein people are connected 24/7 to a wireless automated system of extended information and intelligence by way of Cloud Computing that will become the Global Brain. This techno-capitalist vision is part of the new consumer propaganda system to absorb the population into the advanced surveillance society of the coming decades, by way of incentives, enticements, like longevity, health and medical plans, etc. all bound to agreements and business contracts for work, education, travel, security.

One can find this happening in products, software, and every aspect of life from education to health, sports to entertainment. B.J. Fogg in Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do will ask: Can computers change what you think and do? Can they motivate you to stop smoking, persuade you to buy insurance, or convince you to join the Army? And, answer, saying, “Yes, they can,” says Dr. B.J. Fogg, director of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University. Fogg has coined the phrase “Captology”(an acronym for computers as persuasive technologies) to capture the domain of research, design, and applications of persuasive computers. In a book, based on nine years of research in captology, Dr. Fogg argues how Web sites, software applications, and mobile devices can be used to change people’s attitudes and behavior. As the blurb states it: “Technology designers, marketers, researchers, consumers—anyone who wants to leverage or simply understand the persuasive power of interactive technology—will appreciate the compelling insights and illuminating examples found inside.”

Nir Eyal in Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products what he terms the Hook Model—a four-step process embedded into the products of many successful companies to subtly encourage customer behavior. Through consecutive “hook cycles,” these products reach their ultimate goal of bringing users back again and again without depending on costly advertising or aggressive messaging. (from the Blurb)

Others like Johah Berger in Contagious: Why Things Catch On will popularize the notion of why people don’t listen to advertisements, but will listen to their peers. And try to answer: Why do people talk about certain products and ideas more than others? Why are some stories and rumors more infectious? And what makes online content go viral?

Susan Blackmore in The Meme Machine will follow Richard Dawkins, who coined the term “meme” for a unit of culture that is transmitted via imitation and naturally “selected” by popularity or longevity. Dawkins used memes to show that the theory known as Universal Darwinism, according to which “all life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities,” applies to more than just genes. Now, building on his ideas, psychologist Blackmore contends that memes can account for many forms of human behavior that do not obviously serve the “selfish gene.” For example, a possible gene-meme co-evolution among early humans could have selected for true altruism among humans: people who help others (whether or not they are related) can influence them and thus spread their memes. Meme transmission would also explain some thorny problems in sociobiology.

In The Watchman’s Rattle Rebecca Costa sociobiologist who offers an evolutionary explanation for current events and emerging trends argues that conditions are evolving faster than our brains, so we are unable, with our limited gray matter, to solve the problems of an incredibly complex world. She gives us a history lesson in how the Mayan, Roman, and Khmer empires crashed because as each society grew in complexity, the fallible human beings that ran the show were unable to adapt. Instead of basing their solutions on knowledge and fact, they substituted theological and other irrational belief systems that masked their sense of fear and impotence, giving false hope and leading to catastrophe. Costa observes that humans still don’t take the time to distinguish facts from beliefs.

Applying this notion of information overload, Big Data, memes, complexity, our human limits or conditions of adaptability along with all the competing forces from government, corporate, military, industrial systems it is no wonder in our world that we are at the point of collapse, or depression, panic, schizophrenic implosion. More and more external systems of control are beginning to invasively take over our physical and mental systems, capture our desires, shape and modulate our lives through incentives and punishments. J.G. Ballard once spoke of how people in our postmodern complex societies were becoming numb, apathetic, distant, withdrawn, more voyeuristic and media driven like automatons passively watching on as reality happens to other people.

Yet, others disconnect from the machine, enter into more primitive relations, inhabiting sub-cultures and time-periods of existence that fuse tribal, ethnic, and sado-masochistic approaches of viral impact and violence to remember what it is to feel, to be alive. Others commit suicide or act violently against the world at large, condemning the world for what they’ve become. The so-called acts of madness and rage of young people on mass killing sprees, etc.

To see how we are being absorbed into a vast impersonal machine and network society where every last ounce of our consumer bred lives will be datafied, bled of its information, accosted by behavioral modifications and led like sheep to the slaughter is to realize one is a trapped animal becoming a machine.

Philip K. Dick & Nick Land: Escape to the Future

“Clinical schizophrenics are POWs from the future. […] Life is being phased-out into something new, and if we think this can be stopped we are even more stupid than we seem.”
…..– Nick Land, Fanged Noumena

“Help is here, but we still remain here within the Black Iron prison; we aren’t yet free. I take it that the camouflaged invisibility of the signals is to keep the creator of the prison from knowing that help is here for us.”
……– Philip K. Dick, The Exegesis

From time to time I revisit Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis and the essays of Nick Land in Fanged Noumena, both of which seem to me works of experimental or speculative fabulations, revealing subtle truths by way of pop-cultural artifacts to tell a story at once full of cosmic horror and fatal surety. In these fabulations we begin to apprehend the inescapable conclusion that this is not our home, our home is somewhere ahead of us in the future, that we’ve been either exiled, excluded, or unjustly imprisoned in this infernal paradise of global war at the behest of forces we barely even acknowledge. Yet, it is unsure whether some of us came back as insurgents and guerilla soldiers in a Time War that is still going on; while others were mind-wiped and exiled here, abandoned to this lonely hell to live out the remainder of our days in an oblivion of hate, war, and apathy.

Such are the quandaries of anti-philosophy and speculative fiction. One no longer asks what is real and unreal, appearance and reality, instead we ask ourselves within which circuit am I trapped, for whom do I serve? Am I a liberator or an autochthon of the land, a native or an insurgent from the future? Dick in his time would be considered a half-mad genius, while Land (still living) continues his guerilla war against the dark powers of the Cathedral. Both would view Art and Creativity as central to an ongoing struggle to awaken the sleepers from their self-imposed exiles and forgetfulness. Both would envision the need for a certain strange and bewildering rewiring of our brain’s circuitry, knowing we have been entrapped and encased in a memetic system that forecloses us within a symbolic order of repetition, and what is needed is a form of Shock Therapy and Diagnosis to help us once again understand the terror we’ve entered into and are becoming. Both would use language against itself, seek to explode and implode its linguistic etyms, use puns and parody, satire and fabulation to break us out of the chains of signification and word-viruses (Burroughs) that kept us folded in a mental straight-jacket.

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Vilém Flusser’s “Unio Mystica” or, Telematic Universe as Technotopian Catastrophe

Hermann Hesse’s ironic novel Magister Ludi, or The Glass Bead Game is about the secular sequestration of monkish scholars who’ve pursued the art of the Game across the millennium since Plato first imagined it as the contemplative life in his Allegory of the Cave. Hannah Arendt would divide the Fable between the vita activa and the vita contemplativa since the active life requires a constant immersion into practical affairs whereas the contemplative life is one best characterized by Plato’s Allegory. In the story, the philosopher is pulled from the shackles of opinion, those that dwell within doxa are the mass of individual incapable of retreating inward into the mind for contemplation. The unshackled philosopher is brought out of the cave pulled upward to see the world for what it truly is, its pure essence or eidos – the so called Ideas behind appearances. From then on, the philosopher knows that the common ordinary understanding of the appearing world where politics occurs is not how the world truly is. Instead the real world of which ours is an illusion and a shadow is of these pure unadulterated Ideas.

Hermann Hesse was to define this in his novel as “the unio mystica of all separate members of the Universitas Litterarum” and that he bodied out symbolically in the form of an elaborate Game performed according to the strictest rules and with supreme virtuosity by the mandarins of his spiritual province. This is really all that we need to know. The Glass Bead Game is an act of mental synthesis through which the spiritual values of all ages are perceived as simultaneously present and vitally alive. It was with full artistic consciousness that Hesse described the Game in such a way as to make it seem vividly real within the novel and yet to defy any specific imitation in reality. The humorless readers who complained to Hesse that they had invented the Game before he put it into his novel— Hesse actually received letters asserting this!— completely missed the point. For the Game is of course purely a symbol of the human imagination and emphatically not a patentable “Monopoly” of the mind.1

I came on the work of Vilém Flusser recently and read his book Into the Universe of Technical Images. I think what fascinated me was how prescient he was of where technology was heading in the early eighties of the last century, as well as how wrong in some ways he was, too. As I read through this work I began to see how much of a techno-utopian Flusser was, how he saw like Norman O. Brown (Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History, Love’s Body), and Ernest Becker (The Denial of Death, Esape From Evil) the tendency within capitalist culture toward a literal immortality project:

From this standpoint, telematics can be regarded as a technology that permits all fabricated information to be stored in permanent memory. In telematic dialogues, human and artificial memories exchange information to synthesize new information and to store it artificially. In this way, not only the new information but also the human memories that produced it are protected from oblivion. The real intention of telematics is to become immortal. (107). […] Only then will information be not only safe but also constantly productive of new information. And so strategic, dialogical play with pure information will at last be set in opposition to nature’s blind play of chance, making us immortal. (110).

For Flusser “telematics” is the art of immortality: “I won’t speak here of death. For this whole essay, which appears to be about the emerging universe of technical images, is, in fact, an effort to become immortal through images. Memory, the opposite of death, is the theme (and the motive) of this effort (i.e., of this essay as well as of telematics). (144)”. He envisioned a future when humans would merge with their machinic tendencies, when the separation between thought and being would be overcome and we would enter into an infosphere of pure creativity guided by both collective intelligence and artificial intelligence in dialogical conversation as producers of knowledge.

Like Foucault and others he saw humans entering a time when we would be captured and modulated by a network society. In the universe of technical, telematic images, there is no place for authors or authorities. Both have become superfluous through the automation of production, reproduction, distribution, and judgment. In this universe, images will govern the experience, behavior, desire, and perceptions of individuals and society, which raises the question, what does govern mean when no decisions need to be made and where administration is automatic? In a telematic society, does it still make sense to speak of government, of power and the powerful? (Flusser, 123). In this since we were shaped by the algorithms of an immersive systems of images which acted as the surround of our environment. The natural world would still be there, but for us it would be completely mediated by the telematic system of perceptions through which we saw the world rather than by way of our natural animal and cunning reason. Through implants, nanotech and biotech microsystems embedded in our physical substratum, or by way of our permanent merger with the telematic systems of robotics and augmented reality systems we would be bound by the circuitries of a world that had become artificial. The artificial would be our natural domain from then on.

There would come a time when we would not even remember our animal heritage, nor our natural ways of knowing and being. Much like Deleuze and Guattari who would see a process of subjectivation taking over from our older notions of a stable self-identity, Flusser would imagine a time when children would enter into this telematic sphere of play as a permanent revolution of processual revisioning, a continuous process of becoming other and metamorphic play in the chaotic realms of informational dialogic. “The person of the future, playing at the keyboard, will be ecstatic about the creation of durable information that is nevertheless constantly available for a new synthesis. We can see this ecstasy in its embryonic form in children who sit at terminals. The person of the future will be absorbed in the creative process to the point of self-forgetfulness. He will rise up to play with others by means of the apparatuses. It is therefore wrong to see this forgetting of self in play as a loss of self. On the contrary, the future being will find himself, substantiate himself, through play.” (Flusser, 104)

Sadly he also envisioned two tendencies within this telematic society, one toward fascism and total control, and the other toward more democratic processes – the latter never guaranteed, while the former was central to the designs of the capitalist system of globalism. “The society, spread apart by the magnetic fascination of technical images, is indeed structured, and an analysis of the media can bring this structure to light. Media form bundles that radiate from the centers, the senders. Bundlesin Latin is fasces. The structure of a society governed by technical images is therefore fascist, not for any ideological reason but for technical reasons. As technical images presently function, they lead on their own to a fascistic society.” (Flusser, 61).

We can see this in our current stage of network society. How the Internet of the 90’s with its wild unkempt character of creative freedom has given way to a more and more commercialized and structured system of control, filters, disinformation, and dataglut overload where one is typically shaped by the programs and circuitry of the appearance of freedom rather than freedom itself. Such applications ad Twitter or Facebook that offer users the freedom of communication become burdened by repetitions, redundancy, misinformation, banal chatter and gossip, doxa and stupidity rather than lively active and participatory conversations. When offered TeamSpeak or Ventrillo lounges to actually talk with people around the globe, one soon finds the conversations turn to childish trolling, sex, perversion, or any of a number of other trivial pursuit games. Instead of creativity we’ve become a monocular culture in denial. Even when the politics of events does come to the fore one is bound by peer pressure and anathema if one steps outside the prescribed limits of acceptability and political correctness. PC has become our Macarthyism, the policing of the net by well-meaning individuals has turned into a system of command, control, and verbal abuse and torture for others. Freedom of expression once taken for granted, even the most outrageous type is no longer tolerated, and the netwaves are searched for any racial, ethnic, political, religious, or other form of infraction and the perpetrator ostracized and for the most part virtually tar and feathered and run out of the netstream into oblivion for her/his infractions.

Ours is a fascistic society, centrally controlled by senders, in which traditional social structures have fallen apart and human beings constitute an amorphous, scattered mass. The images contribute to this fragmentation. (Flusser, 171) In fact Flusser will ask: “Is it possible to reorganize the images’ fascistic, totalitarian circuitry? Yes, telematics could make it possible. It is a technology of dialogue, and if the images circulated dialogically, totalitarianism would give way to a democratic structure.” (Flusser, 171) In other words if people would truly form technologies that allowed for dialogue rather than platforms for narcissistic display we might actually begin talking again, speaking to each other rather than blipping our opinions and sharing vids, images, cartoons, etc. What is needed is a new global platform not much different from your Facebooks, but one in which people could come together in pairs or groups or larger for actual conversations. Platforms like Reddit tend to cliques, same for blogs, and every other form of interactive system I’ve seen of the years. Why? Why do we seem to navigate to small ingrown cliques, identify with some ideological group, attack those unlike us or gang up on those critical of our ideas, etc. I find myself trying to explain and defend positions, until one realizes that for better or worse the net is anonymous to a point, and because of this trolling has increased over the years to the point that negative bashing has taken route and one is constantly appraising the legitimate from illegitimate conversations.

Flusser hoped for a global communication systems (telematic) that would be a “cybernetically controlled net in which the concrete elements would no longer consist of knots (single individuals) but of threads (interpersonal relationships). Along with this dissolution of the “I” into the “we” would come the dissolution of space and time into global simultaneity. It would be a society of simultaneous consensual decisions, a kind of global brain.” (Flusser, 172) What he envisioned was almost a Glass Bead Game of creativity, a realm of chamber music made of image and sounds in continuous creation: “What kind of life would such a celebratory one be? It would be like a consciously self-produced dream, a consciously envisioned life; an artificial life in art, life as play with pictures and sounds; a fabulous life that means the whole essay ends in a fable, albeit one that has now become technically feasible.” (Flusser, 173).

Sadly the net we’ve come to know is more of a smorgasbord of commercialization and trivial pursuit rather than cultural and collective participation and creativity. Still bound to command and control, notions of copyright, ownership, and property the net has become a capitalist project that is capturing the desires of the globe within a fascist system of surplus knowledge production that offers the people nothing and the top tier more and more economic power, while enticing the mass mind to electronic distraction, games of repetition, and solitary confinement in a realm of light that has little to offer other than the nightmares of late capitalism.

We remember from Hesse’s description that the Glass Bead Game had arisen slowly, evolved over centuries: “Here and there a scholar broke through the barriers of his specialty and tried to advance into the terrain of universality. Some dreamed of a new alphabet, a new language of symbols through which they could formulate and exchange their new intellectual experiences.” (Hesse, 36) Yet, something had been missing:

For all that the Glass Bead Game had grown infinitely in technique and range since its beginnings, for all the intellectual demands it made upon its players, and for all that it had become a sublime art and science, in the days of Joculator Basiliensis it still was lacking in an essential element. Up to that time every game had been a serial arrangement, an ordering, grouping, and confronting of concentrated concepts from many fields of thought and aesthetics, a rapid recollection of eternal values and forms, a brief, virtuoso flight through the realms of the mind. Only after some time did there enter into the Game, from the intellectual stock of the educational system and especially from the habits and customs of the Journeyers to the East, the idea of contemplation.

This new element arose out of an observed evil. Mnemonists, people with freakish memories and no other virtues, were capable of playing dazzling games, dismaying and confusing the other participants by their rapid muster of countless ideas. In the course of time such displays of virtuosity fell more and more under a strict ban, and contemplation became a highly important component of the Game. Ultimately, for the audiences at each Game it became the main thing. This was the necessary turning toward the religious spirit. What had formerly mattered was following the sequences of ideas and the whole intellectual mosaic of a Game with rapid attentiveness, practiced memory, and full understanding. But there now arose the demand for a deeper and more spiritual approach. After each symbol conjured up by the director of a Game, each player was required to perform silent, formal meditation on the content, origin, and meaning of this symbol, to call to mind intensively and organically its full purport. The members of the Order and of the Game associations brought the technique and practice of contemplation with them from their elite schools, where the art of contemplation and meditation was nurtured with the greatest care. In this way the hieroglyphs of the Game were kept from degenerating into mere empty signs.

Experts and Masters of the Game freely wove the initial themes into unlimited combinations. For a long time one school of players favored the technique of stating side by side, developing in counterpoint, and finally harmoniously combining two hostile themes or ideas, such as law and freedom, individual and community. In such a Game the goal was to develop both themes or theses with complete equality and impartiality, to evolve out of thesis and antithesis the purest possible synthesis. In general, aside from certain brilliant exceptions, Games with discordant, negative, or skeptical conclusions were unpopular and at times actually forbidden. This followed directly from the meaning the Game had acquired at its height for the players. It represented an elite, symbolic form of seeking for perfection, a sublime alchemy, an approach to that Mind which beyond all images and multiplicities is one within itself— in other words, to God. Pious thinkers of earlier times had represented the life of creatures, say, as a mode of motion toward God, and had considered that the variety of the phenomenal world reached perfection and ultimate cognition only in the divine Unity. Similarly, the symbols and formulas of the Glass Bead Game combined structurally, musically, and philosophically within the framework of a universal language, were nourished by all the sciences and arts, and strove in play to achieve perfection, pure being, the fullness of reality. Thus, “realizing” was a favorite expression among the players. They considered their Games a path from Becoming to Being, from potentiality to reality. (Hesse, 38-40)

This Yet, as Hesse would ironize, it is this very pursuit of perfection, and the ‘unio mystica’ which is its core program of contemplation that leads to totalitarianism and political and social control. The members of this Order are presented by Hesse as effete non-political secular monks:

The majority of the inhabitants of Castalia lived in a state of political innocence and naïveté such as had been quite common among the professors of earlier ages; they had no political rights and duties, scarcely ever saw a newspaper. Such was the habit of the average Castalian, such his attitude. Repugnance for current events, politics, newspapers, was even greater among the Glass Bead Game players who liked to think of themselves as the real elite, the cream of the Province, and went to some lengths not to let anything cloud the rarefied atmosphere of their scholarly and artistic existences. (Hesse, 193)

Whereas Hesse ironizes this monkish secular order of effete members who play their empty games of symbolic logic, Flusser will actually idolize it as the coming Telematic Society, saying, “something like the following can be predicted about the economic infrastructure of the coming society: action and trade will be largely automated and will not be interesting. The objects produced and consumed there will not impinge on a consciousness absorbed in images. People will neither work nor make works, and in this sense, society will approach a Platonic utopia. All will become kings, all will live in school (leisure) and will become philosophers.” (Flusser, 148)

There is also that theme of immortality and perfection: “an elite, symbolic form of seeking for perfection, a sublime alchemy, an approach to that Mind which beyond all images and multiplicities is one within itself”. A theme that pops up in our current Transhumanist, H++, and other pseudo-scientific pursuits of perfection and immortal dreams of escaping the entropic effect of dissolution and decay of entropy and disinformation. One could cite a 1001 books on such dreams of escaping the limitations of the organic into merging of mind to machinic life, or the cloning and replacement of body parts ad infinitum. Our elite dream of becoming long lasting narcissists, while excluding most of the masses from such costly and economically ineffable adventures in longevity.

He’s right about the automation of society, of how the rich and powerful corporations seek to displace humans from every last segment of the productive cycle in favor of faster and more reliable machines, but his vision of free time and a Platonic utopia is looking more like a realm of waste, expulsion, and masses of people left outside the Utopian enclaves of the super-rich .01% oligarchs and plutocrats. While at the same time extracting from the masses the remaining carbon taxes and living wages left of their serfdom amid the wreckage and ruins of earth as the climate warms and the seas rise living less and less agricultural and other resources for the starving, sick, and depleted humans of our dying earth.

Flusser will admit that “true catastrophes cannot be foreseen. They are emergencies. (160)”. He continues, saying:

I have proposed that human engagement consists in bringing about surprising adventures, catastrophes, and that telematics realizes this engagement, theoretically and technically. Telematic society is, then, a structure for realizing catastrophes. Therefore any attempt to predict it, as I have done here, is contradictory and self-referential—Ouroboros, the snake that swallows its own tail. (160)

Maybe that’s as good an image of our network society as we might have, a “contradictory and self-referential—Ouroboros, the snake that swallows its own tail”. In the end we’ve become locked in the circuits of a serpentine system of capital accumulation, that is sucking us dry of every last piece of information and knowledge of surplus value it can get from us. When it can gain no more from us it unplugs us, leaves us in our depleted vegetative state of apathy and mindlessness to our own devices without recourse or redress, nor any avenue of creative or political resistance left. Is it becoming too late to change things? Are we becoming so enamored of our Reality TV Celeb Presidential candidates that we’ve allowed the farce of a farce to takeover our lives without even a fight?


  1. Hesse, Hermann (2002-12-06). The Glass Bead Game: (Magister Ludi) A Novel . Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.
  2. Vilém Flusser. Into the Universe of Technical Images. Univ Of Minnesota Press (February 24, 2011) First Published 1985.

Moving Pictures of Awe, Spectacle, and Doom

Thanks to his brother Bryan and Jason Deem, R. Scott Bakker has a short video previewing his upcoming release of the third installment in his Second Apocalypse Series

Three Pound Brain


For more than ten years now, I’ve been eking out a living writing The Second Apocalypse, determined–determined–to stay true to the vision, and convinced that it possessed real cultural reach, despite the sex, violence, and philosophy. Along the way, I’ve benefitted immensely from the guidance and support of those who have come to share that dark vision. My brother Bryan, who has a video production company called Bizbio Creative, has been urging me to take charge of the marketing side of my writing career for years now, and finally, after realizing the dimensions of my ineptitude, he contacted Jason Deem intent on creating a trailer from the gobsmacking Second Apocalypse artwork Jason has created over the years. The way my brother sees it, fans want to share their passion, and if you’re so preposterously lucky to have readers like I do, all you need do is give them something to share. I gotta tell you, it’s…

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Vilém Flusser: Not Images, but Circuitry Entraps Us

Technical images are currently connected so that their senders are at the center of society, places from which the images are broadcast to scatter and disperse the society. They are precarious places. When you approach them, whether to take part (to join in the broadcasting) or to criticize (to remodel the circuitry), they present themselves as illusions. They are like the proverbial onion: layer after layer comes away, but when everything has been understood, explained, there’s nothing left. It appears that no one and nothing lies at the center of contemporary society: senders are nothing but those dimensionless points from which the media bundles stream.

For cultural criticism, this is an unpleasant discovery. When you’re criticizing culture to change it, you want to be fighting something solid (e.g., dark men behind the scenes or gray eminences with evil intentions that can be exposed). If you start to expose contemporary society, however, you realize that there is nothing and no one to fight. One is not so much tilting at windmills as storming Kafka’s castle. For one is fighting a how rather than a what. Not people and things, but contents. Not images and the human interests that stand behind them, but circuitry. Therefore it is not surprising that many cultural critics yield to these new demands and, all evidence to the contrary, go on looking for manipulators and power brokers among the senders.

from Into the Universe of Technical Images by Vilém Flusser

Genesis Redux

…..For a long while now you’ve heard the rumors, heard the voices of the image mongers among us; those who would make you believe we are living in a lie, that the world we exist in is nothing more than a vast illusion produced by the madness of the Envisioneers.
…..Let me tell you, it’s true… the world is crumbling around us, the machines have gone off-line and the truth stands revealed; and, believe me, it’s not pretty…
…..– The Last Broadcast of Barnabas J. Horn (RadioFree Alamut)

Sidroc-99 watched on as the last star blinked out. Darkness. Blindness. Night. They all huddled in the great darkness. Nothing of light remained. Each in his own way had turned toward another – touching, feeling, licking, remembering… The engines of creation were now silent, their image making production lines stilled and lifeless. Nothing of reality remained, nothing but this dark world filled with fear.

“What will we do now?” echoed a voice.

“Nothing.” a voice returned.

“But we must do something,” said a third voice, somewhere in the distance.

Sidroc-99 fidgeted. Like the others he had never known darkness before. His world had always been filled with light, with sounds, with signs – a world of images ceaselessly reproducing their semiovital forms, giving him and others a reason to be happy. Now that was all gone, all those things, objects for his eyes to feast on, a sensual realm of color and vibrancy. Gone! But where? Why? How could such a thing happen? Who or what was behind it?

He worked deep down in the hive where the fires churned. But one day they’d closed the doors, dispersed the hive-workers, saying it was too dangerous, too unstable, that we’d have to discover other sources of power, energy. But no one had found any. Did it exist? No one seemed to understand? Even the thinking machines that gave them their daily orders had no answer. Thoughts that had come so easily to his mind seemed dimmed and forgotten, as if the implants were no longer working, as if the connections to the vast oceanic Intelligence had vanished, left its post, disappeared into a void and left them alone with their doubts and non-knowledge.

He remembered tales of learning as a child, rumors that people had actually thought for themselves at one time. Solved problems, acted for themselves instead of relying on the Mind. But that was all rumor, and his Level IV Adapters had told him it was a myth, a legend for children. Nothing more. People had never thought for themselves. Thinking was something the machines did, not people.

His friend Sidroc-47 showed him a trick one day. He liked tricks. It showed him how to disconnect from the Mind. He liked that, made him feel strange; alone. Yet, it frightened him, too. What if he couldn’t ever reconnect, what would happen then? His friend smiled, “Don’t worry silly, there’s no way to disconnect forever?” It showed him the failsafe algorithm that would eventually reroute the nanoneurals and open the bi-valve connectors thinking it was a mere malfunction. “See, it will always reconnect you to the Hive.” Yet, he was not convinced. But he liked being alone, being free of the endless chatter of the hive. Made him feel different, and he’d never felt different before. It was a strange sensation. Made him feel special, as if he were the only one in the world who was alone with his own thoughts. But then he wondered if his thoughts were his own… and, it frightened him to the point that he never performed the trick again.

Now that everything was dark he knew it would only be a matter of time when everyone else would be alone, too. The hive would lose its connection to the Mind. What will happen to us then? – he thought.

He did not know… would anyone know?

– 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.

… a fragment of a story I’m working on….

Jean Baudrillard as Religious Atheist

Many never truly realize how religious a man Jean Baudrillard was, how his atheism empowered him to take art seriously; not serious as in some philosophical way, but in the sense of that true ironic play over the bridge of the Abyss. As he’d remark in his short essay ‘The Conspiracy of Art’:

“Nullity, however, is a secret quality that cannot be claimed by just anyone. Insignificance – real insignificance, the victorious challenge to meaning, the shedding of sense, the art of the disappearance of meaning – is the rare quality of a few exceptional works that never strive for it. There is an initiatory form of Nothingness, or an initiatory form of Evil. … When Nothing surfaces in signs, when Nothingness emerges at the very heart of the sign system, that is the fundamental event of art. The poetic operation is to make Nothingness rise from the power of signs – not banality or indifference toward reality but radical illusion.”

In this he remained true to Nietzsche… one of the sacred tribe of Dionysian’s!

What a wonderful…

It’s always funny how people speak as if things never change, when they’ve always been changing. Do we still live in the Victorian Age? Are our ethics the same as theirs? When Marx was inverting Hegelian dialectics and speaking of alienation, the objectivation of the human being determined and enslaved to the machines he was building – What would he say now of our enslavement to gadgets: iPhones, tablets, home surveillance systems, Selfies, the endless reproduction of our images into that false infinity of mirroed narcissism? In some ways we’ve only refined the work ethic of our Puritan forbears… now we work 24/7 in an oncall Onlife world without stop… the network society as Utopian realm that Mcluhan and Flusser both dreamed of has become our all pervading and ubiquitous truth. Here’s Velim Flusser dreaming of the network society well before it arose:

“Many aspects of this fabulous new social and life structure are already visible in our environment and in us. We live in a utopia that is appearing, pushing its way up into our surroundings and into our pores. What is happening around us and in us is fantastic, and all previous utopias, whether they were positive or negative, pale in comparison to it. Utopia means groundlessness, the absence of a point of reference. We face the immediate future directly, unequivocally, except inasmuch as we cling to those structures generated by utopia itself.”

Into the Universe of Techical Images Velim Flusser

Back then there was a sense of giddeness, a techno-fetishistic exuberance that would give rise to both Cyberian utopianism and the Cyberpunk dystopian visions. Now we’ve passed through the mirror it all seems so bland, so comfortable, so just blasé and indifferent. We’re there, so what? A sort of futility mixed with ennui. Yet, under the hood in the dark net activists still roam with criminals, pirates, porn jerks, economic doomsters, etc. A sort of libertarian nightland of death on hyperwheels. But here in the hinterlands things go on as usual. We just wander our morning links, pick up the newsfeeds, the bleeds of mediatainment, the reality studio seen from either the corporate hives or the so to speak Left or Right extreme blogospheres. We measure our moments not in teaspoons (Wilde), but rather in blipscreen flick-backs from our mobile search agents organized digest – a sort of off-line report on the fantasy life of global capitalism.

So maybe in the end the great thing that was supposed to change us, this image machine that was to mythicise and temporalize us as agents of the cyclic return, a release from the prison of arrowed progress and duration, and the linear movement of geometric time, is after all just a short-circuit enslavement to another kingdom of desire captured by the superficial dream of our Selfie Status Images: each staring back at us out of the twilight apparatus of the Eye that sees everything which has replaced the empty place of God – a Void become god that surveys the inscapes of a mindless tribe of inhuman dust at the edge of idiocy. No, we’re no longer in the Prison House of Language as the Postmoderns once thought we were, now we’ve become the dividual rendition of a factory image multiplied to infinity; the false infinity of an image floating around a non-time vacuum of vacuous light, accelerating non-stop through a rhizomatic network going nowhere but along a last scramble of a lost labyrinthine circle seeking a violence inhuman to desire;  where a selfie of a selfie stretches itself out ad infinitum reducing itself to the flow-image of a drifting narrative, delirious to the world becoming –  an empty series of false images engulfed in the void of a frozen mind snapping the self-same selfie repeatedly toward its insane eye.

I can poke you, like you, add you, feed you, find you… create an event with you… smile, frown, get angry… all in the flick of a mouse click. I don’t even have to know you, see you, feel you, watch your eyes, your nose, your mouth… no more chewing gum pops, loud farts… amazing I can just blip you with an ‘On this day…’ and tune you out with a nice sound recording feed… I can friend you, unfriend you… it’s like a bloodless insurrection, I can even dis you all in a flash of the wrist… what a wonderful world we live in…

I can be your friend without being your friend… amazing…