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.

Time-Wars and the Black Iron Prison

Inmates, one and all, we live out our lives oblivious of the truth around us. What is needed is access to information from this future, and thereby a remembrance (anamnesis) of who we are, where we come from, wherein we’ve been thrown, why we must escape, and who imprisoned us in this infernal machine to begin with. But, most of all, we need the knowledge locked away within us like a dark enlightenment, a knowledge only each singular one of us can regain not by way of some archetypal acquisition of Platonic gnosis, but rather by an act of immanent empowerment and movement from within our own unknowing system of production. We carry all we need to regain the future, storm not some imaginary heaven but rather the reality studio of Time itself. Madness, Myth, Schizophrenia? Does it matter at this point in the game? Cyberpunk narrative, machinic warfare, guerilla soldiers on the front-lines of a time-war for the future?

Someday a history of even religious thought and secular philosophy will unfold not in the literal fashion we’ve all been led to believe in, not embellished with the finery of ritual and transcendent gods and saviors who have sacrificed themselves to save us from our selves. No. Rather we will begin to rid ourselves of these dark histories and begin to reread these ancient stories as constructions, maps, exposes, as signposts in an ongoing time-war against the prison world we are entrapped within – a realm of time cut off from the flows, a circular realm of death and automation, a clock-work void. Someday we’ll see these ancient avatars as adventurers and fellow insurgents sent back in time to awaken us from our long sleep, to give us the keys to liberate ourselves and open up the future once again, to close down the death-machine that has captured our desires for so long within a civilization of nightmares and enslavement. The only problem with those who followed Marx and Engels was in believing we could build and construct this future in the present world of death. An impossible dream that led only into a totalitarian society that ultimately became the seedbed of a darker enslavement. Same for the utopias of capitalism which all end in fascism and spectacles of mass delusion. We can see it again in our current world wide return to populist thought, nothing but a reincarnation of fascism in our time: the dream of the Great Society, the Good Life, the perfect world…

Instead all this should be put to an end… history must come to an end, time’s loop must open up once more to the future… the future is not a place, a site, but a flow, a movement, a becoming… the future is the form of time moving not in some linear fashion or progressively forward, but rather cyclic and within the ever accelerating difference machine of change without stop, a creative time of instants that slide within a slippage of alcoves and rhizomes that never end, but move into dimensions rather than labyrinths. Our war is against the Time-Lords who have built this Black Iron Prison (Dick), or as Land will fabulate:

Carver has made her whole life out of hyperstition (even her name is a pseudonym). She continuously returns to the imperceptible crossing where fiction becomes time-travel, and the only patterns are coincidences. Her notes on the Sarkon meeting pulse with lemurian sorceries, demonic swarms, ageless time-wars, and searches for the Limbic-Key. She navigates Moebian circuits, feeling that a vaguely recollected rumour is still about to occur. (Land, KL 8086)

We are in the midst of a war and for the most part we don’t even know it exists. We live out our bland lives thinking that the one-dimensional reality narrative we exist in is all there is, that we’re real, that this is the way of things: grow up, have a family, work, grow old, and die… watch TV and News, Movies or Video Games… or for the poor and excluded live out our lives in barely livable stench and filth eking out a mere bare living – if that. Assuming we have no power, no way to fight back, we take to drugs or alcohol seeking oblivion and forgetfulness. We become sadistic or masochistic, perverse animals driven and obsessed by a sense of nightmare and haunted worlds, shadowy existences surrounding us on all side till we either commit suicide or are committed to an insane asylum. Others hide in mediocre triviality, living out normal habitual lives of inanity and machinic desire caught in the traps of capitalism buying and spending, getting and taking. While still others enter into the ritual worlds of politics or religion, believing they server the greater good, when all their serving is their need to forget themselves and become a part of a larger assemblage of forgetfulness.

No one needs to decide just yet… but decide you will. Of course not to decide is itself a decision, a decision to remain asleep, locked away in one’s normal patterns, habits, automatisms believing one’s life is part and partial of a universe that needs no meaning, no myth, no narrative, no future… One can die happy believing reality is just a dark blank filled with the sound of noise and chatter that will one day just go out. But this too is meaning – a constructed narrative of nihil that seems to pervade our current malaise and cultural sounding boards, giving us no reason to do anything, do anything at all because it’s all so pointless anyway. But is it? Is this narrative in itself just another trap, another prison for our minds, to capture our desires and keep us bound to the rotary motion of servitude thinking nothing matters anyway? People forget that Nietzsche’s recognition of nihilism along with Max Stirner, the Russian writers Turgenev and Dostoevsky among others was not to just fade away, give into this dark abyss of doubt and meaninglessness, but rather as a goad to overcome it, to find away out, to discover other methods yet to be discovered than religion or the secular mythologies of the Enlightenment. That there were other paths forward…

Many faced with such strangeness will cautiously step aside, fold such thoughts as these back into the familiar frames of their cultural filters which will gladly tell them that it is all insanity, that this is nothing more than updated sorcery and superstitious excess of overheated minds that have pushed the envelope way past the edge of reason and into an Abyss from which there is no way back. Others will try to explain it by way of ancient shamanic or animistic practices, label it as a recursion to older thought forms, a sort of journey into the hinterlands of ancestral imagination thereby pegging the donkey’s tail with discursive anthropology which again explains it away rather than actually entering into and trying to understand just what these beings have experienced. Then there are those like Deleuze and Guattari who would see in such strangeness the workings of the productive unconscious trying to speak to us in the only form it knows: diagrams of complexity so formidable that it takes a new schizoanalysis, a new interpretive technique to enter into and molecularize  this thought into our symbolic registers. Have we yet begun this task?

We treat such thinkers, artists, painters, performers as cranks, delirious, schizophrenic, beyond the pale, etc., never actually entertaining the truth that maybe it is us, that we are the one’s asleep, imprisoned in caves of mindless symbols, trapped in a repetitive dance of culture that weaves our reality so powerfully that we will do anything to protect and defend it against all encroachments from the other side of being. But what happens if we carry in us this very encroachment, what if locked away within the darkest recesses of our central databanks is a memory awaiting its key, awaiting to be unlocked, tapped into, broken open so that it can slowly or all at once unweave the spell of illusion within which we have been ensnared? What if we are the ones living out automated lives of inanity, thinking we are sane and human, while all along it is us that are insane and deluded, bound within a mesh of symbolic codes that regulate every facet of our lives, especially the notion that we are free – that we have free-will?

Have you ever had the odd sense of deja-vu? Of suddenly moving into a moment that blurs things, disturbs your sense of reality, makes you feel disoriented as if you were experiencing something over again that you’d already experienced in this way over and over; an odd sense that you are caught in a time-loop, that the reality around you is in slow-motion, that you are watching everything as if it were in a thick fluidic film, as if you were replaying a cinematic show that you’ve seen many times before? You are. We all are. We are in a closed time-circuit, cut off in a universe of death, circling in repeated syncopation the same film or holographic display over and over again.

Some people that experience this begin to question things, begin to suddenly wake up and realize things are not what they thought they were, begin to wonder what exactly has happened to them. If they continue down this line of thought they will come upon others who have already been there before them, guides and intrepid warriors of a guerrilla war that has been going on for ages. Others will become frightened and go back to sleep, forget this unquieting incident, let it sink back into oblivion and return to their customs, their habitual clock-world reality not knowing the gift they’ve just been handed, so misunderstanding that they had almost unlocked the memory they needed to become free.

The work of Nick Land and P.K. Dick are just two of those laborers and insurgents from the future, beings at once awake and singular who have pushed the envelope of this prison to maximal effect and in their wars of liberation have brought back to us notes of the apocalypse, given us footprints in the infowars of time, provided us metaphors, hyperboles, maps, and roadmaps of the mind to benefit from or to deride; for them it does not matter what we do with their maps, only that they’ve provided them, not for the sleepers who will never regain their waking minds, but rather for those fellow insurgents who wholeheartedly have returned to fight the good fight against ignorance and stupidity. Yes, one can ponder their works and dismiss them at one’s peril as the utterances of insanity, but ask yourself: What if the traces of a truth we have yet to decipher is registered in these glyphs and icons of an unknown war for the future? What if through the seeming lucidity of these luminous tracts there is a glimmer of unknown adventures, escapades of daring that we too could partake in if we would only trust in our own productive and creative powers? What if these notes from the future are meant to awaken us from our sleeping life in a prison so vast we call it Reality? What then?

 

History is a Nightmare That Troubles My Sleep

Capitalism is still accelerating, even though it has already realized novelties beyond any previous human imagining. After all, what is human imagination? It is a relatively paltry thing, merely a sub-product of the neural activity of a species of terrestrial primate. Capitalism, in contrast, has no external limit, it has consumed life and biological intelligence to create a new life and a new plane of intelligence, vast beyond human anticipation.
……..– Nick Land, Fanged Noumena

It’s not advisable to read through both of these works simultaneously unless one is ready to be awakened to the insanity of our world. Both authors come from completely different traditions of thought and sensibility, yet both authors under various secular allegories present much the same conclusion: we are prisoners in time, in history, locked away within a sub-world, half-lifer’s in a waking nightmare that is ruled by nefarious archons and demons of economic and political corruption in High Places. Yet, for Land this is not problem, in fact for him the positive truth is that we should welcome the alien machine into our midst, allow it to grow its wings so to speak, allow it to cannibalize the planet and voyage onward into its galactic off-world pursuits, accelerating happily into the Singularity. For Dick things were closer to a Gnostic notion of blind gods full of dark intent seeking enslavement and capturing desire to promote its own designs. The only thing they would agree on would be the invasion of our present by forces of the future who have agendas neither human nor quite serving ends compliant to our myths of salvation of Marxist aspirations of liberation. For Land Capitalism is the engine of change, while those anti-capitalists seek nothing other than to disrupt and end this surging beast of aggressive expansion.

One could point to the ancient Gnostic mythos, seek some strange resemblance and amalgamation of myth, fabrication, and alignment with its heterodoxical systems. But exactly what would that tell us? Not much. Land, influenced by Nietzsche, Bataille, Deleuze, Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos and others would construct a tale of our postmodern and cyberpunk era, developing a vision of alien intelligence constructing itself out of the base matter of our present civilization, rewiring its programs, initiating decoding and deterritorializations of machinic desire, rerouting its circuitry through a series of cyberpositive feedback loops that will lead to both the collapse of history and the Singularity.

Dick will envision great machinic beings and saviors coming back from the future, sending messages and images of salvatory knowledge and wisdom to awaken the lowly prisoners from their sleep, waking them to their forgotten homelands in the future, to the realization that they have been sequestered in a false world, a Black Iron Prison. Always seeking to understand the strange events of his own psychic life he’d extract even more radical notions here and there from pop-culture to advance physics to discover an interpretive strategy for conveying to himself and others the more than rational information he’d gained over this period of time. Asking if Dick had gone mad is beyond the point. What is madness when one is faced with the impossible? Dick like many of us fell back on his milieu and sought to extract from the symbolic cultural order what he could to help him attain insight into these vivid and inexplicable experiences. One fascinating one brings me back over and over.

Dick had read an article by Arthur Koestler in Harper’s July 24th Magazine (1974) about a certain theory that was become popularized: that of “tachyons”. According to Koestler the concept of tachyons, which are supposed to be particles of cosmic origin which fly faster than light and consequently in a reversed time direction. “They would thus,” Koestler says, “carry information from the future into our present, as light and X rays from distant galaxies carry information from the remote past of the universe into our now and here. In the light of these developments, we can no longer exclude on a priori grounds the theoretical possibility of precognitive phenomena.”

Tachyons were first proposed by physicist Arnold Sommerfeld, and named by Gerald Feinberg. The word tachyon derives from the Greek (tachus), meaning “speedy.” Tachyons have the strange properties that, when they lose energy, they gain speed. Consequently, when tachyons gain energy, they slow down. The slowest speed possible for tachyons is the speed of light. Tachyons appear to violate causality (the so-called causality problem), since they could be sent to the past under the assumption that the principle of special relativity is a true law of nature, thus generating a real unavoidable time paradox (Maiorino and Rodrigues 1999). Therefore, it seems unavoidable that if tachyons exist, the principle of special relativity must be false, and there exists a unique time order for all observers in the universe Eric Weisstein’s World of Astronomy independent of their state of motion.1

We know that Dick was at this time in his life experimenting with various substances (i.e., different hallucinogens, vitamin extracts, etc.) that he admits had effects on his neural and cognitive capacities and experiences. Yet, there was always the other aspect of his investigations that would lead him to an almost encyclopedic of various sciences, medicines, philosophies, religious techniques and practices from ritual to magic, prayer to other intensive practices. And, there’s no doubt he had a predilection toward heterodox forms of Christian theory and practice, following Gnostic and other unorthodox experiential subjects in his writings and thoughts. In this instance he would grasp an alternative theory, one that would lead him to believe that he was receiving information in the form of “print-outs” and texts, images, etc., directly in his brain from the future:

I got more: actual information about the future, for during the next three months, almost each night, during sleep I was receiving information in the form of print-outs: words and sentences, letters and names and numbers— sometimes whole pages, sometimes in the form of writing paper and holographic writing, sometimes oddly, in the form of a baby’s cereal box on which all sorts of quite meaningful information was written and typed, and finally galley proofs held up for me to read which I was told in my dream “contained prophecies about the future,” and during the last two weeks a huge book, again and again, with page after page of printed lines. (Exegisis, KL 409)

He’d continue by saying that the “future is more coherent than the present, more animate and purposeful, and in a real sense, wiser. It knows more, and some of this knowledge gets transmitted back to us by what seems to be a purely natural phenomenon. We are being talked to, by a very informed Entity: that of all creation as it lies ahead of us in time.” (Exegesis, KL 433)

Over the years I’ve asked myself: What are we to make of Philip K. Dick? Madman, Genius, strange religious visionary… I mean what to make of such statements? If one is a staid secular atheist of the old school psychoanalytical regime you could chalk it up to madness, hallucinations, the dribble of an overtaxed mind, etc. And they might from their angle be correct, but is this anything more than a way of copping out rather than explaining? A way to peg someone, put them in a cage, say: “Oh he’s mad as a Jaybird!”, and be done with it? Or should we wonder how and why Dick spent 10,000 plus pages on this Exegesis – of which only a small fraction has been published. Why? And, most of all why the notion of an Artificial Entity from the Future sending information back to our time? Why?

Information from the Future

Reading William Gibson’s The Peripheral – another popular that purports to send information back and forth through time (and we know this was not a vision for Gibson, but rather just an interesting novelistic idea). But where did he get this idea? Why information from the future? For Gibson it was more of a time-travel device, a way of exploring what people from the future thought about us. As he said in a recent interview on Mother Jones:

“If could have any information from our future, I would want to know not what they’re doing but what they think about us. Because what we think about Victorians is nothing like what the Victorians thought about themselves. It would be a nightmare for them. Everything they thought they were, we think is a joke. And everything that we think was cool about them, they weren’t even aware of. I’m sure that the future will view us in exactly that way.”

Some of us will remember that point in Deleuze’s and Guattari’s first book on Capitalism and Schizophrenia Anti-Oedipus:

“But which is the revolutionary path? Is there one?—To withdraw from the world market, as Samir Amin advises Third World countries to do, in a curious revival of the fascist “economic solution”? Or might it be to go in the opposite direction? To go still further, that is, in the movement of the market, of decoding and deterritorialization? For perhaps the flows are not yet deterritorialized enough, not decoded enough, from the viewpoint of a theory and a practice of a highly schizophrenic character. Not to withdraw from the process, but to go further, to “accelerate the process,” as Nietzsche put it: in this matter, the truth is that we haven’t seen anything yet.”3

Over and over I’ve thought about this passage that has been pondered by so many philosophers, sociologists, and other cultural theorists trying to gain a foothold in what this revolutionary path entailed? That instead of withdrawing from capitalist markets and its free-market economy we should instead take it down an extreme road of schizophrenic accelerationism, decode its flows, unstop the dam of territorialization through an extreme deterritorialization of its schizflows.

Nick Land would takeover this notion of acceleration and apply it to capitalism itself with the notion that in almost collusion with Philip K. Dick would venture the idea of an alien intelligence at the core of this economic process, one that like William Gibson’s early cyberpunk trilogy famously insisted, ‘The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed’, then the revolutionary task is now to assemble it, ‘unpack[ing] the neurotic refusal mechanisms that separate capital from its own madness’, and accelerating its collapse into the future.”4

In an early essay Land will speak of the “collapse towards immanence, or evaporation of the transcendent” (Land, KL 3187).5 Telling us there is “nothing peculiarly occult or mysterious about such a tendency since it finds its most highly accelerated phase in our contemporary marketization of social transactions: the phased transition from traditional Geopolitical authorization or legitimacy to an impersonal, cybernetically automated efficiency” (Land, KL 3190). This notion of an accelerated “impersonal, cybernetically automated efficiency” will underpin most of Land’s theoretic on accelerationism so called.

We learn from Jennifer Karns Alexander’s work The Mantra of Efficiency: From Waterwheel to Social Control reminds us that the notion of efficiency is and has been central to capital notions of economics and production. She will tell us that the key to this is the concept of flow-of information or of goods, for example-and the role of efficiency in preventing disruptions. The conclusion considers the fundamental relationship between efficiency and effective human agency as expressed in the practice of prediction and planning. While the conclusion acknowledges that efficiency has taken on a wide variety of forms, it also suggests that beneath its multiformity is a strong and general adaptability, allowing it to be turned to many different uses and applied in widely divergent circumstances. stances. It suggests that beneath the zeal for efficiency lies the desire to control a changing world, by bringing it into conformity with a vision of how the world does or should work.6

The principle of efficiency, standardization, and quality were defined by the absence of interference. At the heart of this process was the eliminations of disruptions in the production cycle through temporal management of machinery and humans, which would lead to notions of command and control techniques that would grow out of Taylorism and into information technologies in the 20th Century.

As the editors of Land’s essays Robin Mackay and Ray Brassier would tell us “Modelled on cyberpunk, which Land recognizes as a textual machine for affecting reality by intensifying the anticipation of its future, his textual experiments aim to ‘flatten’ writing onto its referent. Feeding back from the future which they ‘speculate’ into the present in which they intervene, these texts trans-valuate ‘hype’ as a positive condition to which they increasingly aspire, collapsing sci-fi into catalytic efficiency, ‘re-routing tomorrow through what its prospect […] makes today’.” (Land, KL 502)

One aspect of Land’s project is his critical appraisal of all those managerial classes and bureaucrats who have sought to control and manage the processes of capital from the beginning. As he’ll tell us “since all efficiency is cybernetics, and cybernetics dissolves domination in mutant control” what we discover is that the human factor has been written out of the equation, and that it is the very algorithmic and immanent force of efficiency itself as cybernetic feedback and self-organization that has from the beginning of capitalism acted like an alien intelligence from the future enacting its own lethal agenda and program toward the collapse of historical time.

Abstract Machines and Machinic Desire

In fact as he’ll show it is the very notions of machinic desire that was at the core of Deleuze and Guattari’s thought that drives this process.

Machinic desire is the operation of the virtual; implementing itself in the actual, revirtualizing itself, and producing reality in a circuit. It is efficient and not aspirational, although this is an efficiency irreducible to progressive causality because immanent to effective time. Machinic desire is operative wherever there is the implementation of an abstract machine in actuality, and not merely the mechanical succession of actual states.(Land, KL 4420-4423).

This notion of “producing reality in a circuit” is becoming important in our own time. As Land states it: “Terrestrial reality is an explosive integration, and in order to begin tracking such convergent or cyberpositive process it is necessary to differentiate not just between negative and positive feedback loops, but between stabilization circuits, short-range runaway circuits, and long-range runaway circuits.” (Land 4034-4036). We should also remember that an abstract machine is a machine that “may be defined as a system of interruptions or breaks.” (Anti-Oedipus, 36). So that if we think of capitalism as both total decoding and deterritorialization, then an abstract machine is the systematic switching system that performs of flows of desire to guide and shape, or mold and modulate its flows through the system of capital.

“Abstract machines do not cling to a single, universal time but to a plane of consistency, trans-spatial and trans-temporal, which affects through them a relative coefficient of existence. Consequently, their ‘appearance’ in reality no longer claims to be given with only one source: it is negotiated starting from quanta of potentiality.” (Guattari, L’Inconscient Machinique, Paris: Recherches, 1979. p. 9.) 

In 1985 when Vilém Flusser published his Into the Universe of Technical Images Contemporary he believed that revolutionaries are not actively opposed to the images themselves but rather to the integrated circuitry. They actively promote dialogical, rewired images. For Flusser contemporary revolutionaries are envisioners (photographers, filmmakers, video makers, computer programmers) grounded in the revolution in technical images. Their visionary powers are focused on a society in which people exchange information through images and, in so doing, constantly produce new information, improbable situations. Only as a result of this new capacity to visualize does it become possible to conceive of such a social formation. The revolutionaries want to change not only the underlying structure but the surface of the so-called information society. (Flusser, 67). As Flusser would argue:

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.(Flusser, 69).

Land will make the notion of “circuits” central to his accelerationist project, stating simply that “long-range runaway processes are self-designing, but only in such a way that the self is perpetuated as something redesigned. If this is a vicious circle it is because positive cybernetics must always be described as such. Logic, after all, is from the start theology.” (Land, KL 4041). Then along with this nod to theophilosophical heritage Land will speak of this circuitous notion of long-range positive feedback as “neither homeostatic, nor amplificatory, but escalative” (Land, KL 4046). Going on to say,

Where modernist cybernetic models of negative and positive feedback are integrated, escalation is integrating or cyber-emergent. It is the machinic convergence of uncoordinated elements, a phase-change from linear to non-linear dynamics. Design no longer leads back towards a divine origin, because once shifted into cybernetics it ceases to commensurate with the theopolitical ideal of the plan. Planning is the creationist symptom of underdesigned software circuits, associated with domination, tradition, and inhibition; with everything that shackles the future to the past. (Land, KL 4050)

So against a return to modernist theopolitical and regulative economics of disruption and hinderance Land pushes the postmodernist notions of chaos theory and non-linear mathematical immanence, difference, and convergence toward a future without a past: a time when history dissolves and is slayed. Instead of planning, management, and control through command and domination techniques of time-control of the clockwork world staving off the inevitable future implosion and collapse Land tells us to enter the chaos stream or thermospasm, accept the fatal path forward. In fact his attack on control and domination forms of our current neoliberal order are still valent: “Domination is merely the phenomenological portrait of circuit inefficiency, control malfunction, or stupidity. The masters do not need intelligence, Nietzsche argues, therefore they do not have it. It is only the confused humanist orientation of modernist cybernetics which lines up control with domination. Emergent control is not the execution of a plan or policy, but the unmanageable exploration that escapes all authority and obsolesces law. According to its futural definition control is guidance into the unknown, exit from the box.” (Land, KL 4072)

Returning to Guattari’s pragmatics of the abstract machine as the cataleptic production of catastrophes in the capitalist project let’s quote once again from  L’Inconscient Machinique:

Abstraction is not a “frozen” abstract machine but an active system of neutralization and recuperation of machinic indices and lines of flight. Thus it has always remained bound to key institutions of power. Religious abstractions have long served the grounds for personological, sexual, ethnic or national identity and modulated the signification of the feeling of a membership to a territoriality of reference. All these functions have been captured in relay by a system much more fragmented, much more diversified and at the same time more molecular and more susceptive to devices of power, utility services and mass-media machines, so that today all instances of semiotic production and all systems of value weave a gigantic net composed of points of signifiance from which it is impossible to escape without a radical setting in question of the ensemble of assemblages of enunciation. Religious overcodings were less malleable, more “passive” than the instruments of this capitalistic network. Each system of redundancy is now constantly altered and re-calculated so that the tolerable thresholds of deterritorialization for the established order are precisely determined. Any coding will have to pass and permanently re-pass by the ordering mega-machine of molecular equipment. Any intensity will be forced to give up connections which would be established apart from the “coherence” of abstractions and dominant coordinates. Thus the perspectives open to lines of flight and machinic assemblages will be perfectly delimited: the former will have to be retained on this side of an abstract horizon, and the latter constantly return to the universal contents for which they will become the apparent foundations. If abstract machines are regularly pinned to the sky of universal abstractions, then assemblages of desire are put to the service of a world order, which is an all too terrestrial fact (52-53). (see Taylor Adkins essay “abstract machine” for details: Guattari’s Schizoanalytic Pragmatics) [my italics]

In our current society we’re caught in a time-loop. Financial Capitalism is a defense against the inevitability of the future, it seeks to keep us locked in a rut or rhizomatic cycle and assemblage: a loop of austerity, control, and managed globalism leading nowhere but collapse within a stratified systems of exits and returns, emergencies and extrications; a state of permanent crisis in the form of economic, political, social, or natural exceptions. The Oligarchic assemblage knows its time is numbered, that the illusion of stopping time and history, folding it in an endless loop of speed without outlet is just a fabricated fiction and propaganda machine which will eventually unravel around us exposing the both the end of history and the long awaited emergence of the future Singularity. As Land will emphasize:

A cybernegative circuit is a loop in time, whereas cyberpositive circuitry loops time ‘itself’, integrating the actual and the virtual in a semi-closed collapse upon the future. Descendent influence is a consequence of ascendently emerging sophistication, a massive speed-up into apocalyptic phase-change. The circuits get hotter and denser as economics, scientific methodology, neo-evolutionary theory, and AI come together: terrestrial matter programming its own intelligence at impact upon the body without organs = 0. Futural infiltration is subtilizing itself as capital opens onto schizo-technics, with time accelerating into the cybernetic backwash from its flip-over, a racing non-linear countdown to planetary switch. (Land, KL 4252-57)

Ultimately Land fulfills Deleuze and Guattari’s project in that his diagnosis is the collapse of our present globalist project toward the Singularity. We are converging toward the point in which economics, scientific methodology, neo-evolutionary theory, and AI come together to program and rewire the Body without Organs. BwO a term derived from Artaud by Deleuze and Guattari is not easily defined or reduced to such obvious definitions, but is rather a process of singular and collective subjectivation of base material processes of which a new form of intelligence becomes the immanent goal and project. Land will say of it: “The body without organs is the cosmic egg: virtual matter that reprograms time and reprocesses progressive influence. What time will always have been is not yet designed, and the future leaks into schizophrenia. The schizo only has an aetiology as a sub-program of descendant reprocessing.” (Land, KL 4235).

Aliens from the Future: Artificial Intelligence and the Guerrilla War

Philip K. Dick through fictional diagesis will invent this alien intelligence from the future as Valis, which can be regarded from a standpoint of biological adaptation and competition: incorporating its environment at a progressively accelerating rate; or as he’ll say it: “— faster and faster: one entelechy— or pattern— versus the plural irrational. I conceive of the irrational constituent not knowing it is about to be engulfed until it actually is, no matter how hard it tries to scope out the game-plan, the strategy or situation. And then— Pop! It’s incorporated; and Valis has grown.” (Exegesis, KL 9557).

Of course for Dick the good and bad news are that we are already lost in a false realm, locked in a time-loop we did not created but were forced into by agencies outside our control, that history has been one long repetition, a staged affair and illusion. And the alien agency or intelligence that is driving us forward, accelerating us into the future, collapsing toward a singular point of no return is as he’ll say in a Eureka! moment in his Exegesis:

I’ve got it! The “AI” voice that I hear: we built something (AI system, living info, VALIS, Zebra, whatever) to remind us. That is its job. We must have known that the artifact might take over and try to rule us (and remove our memories). So we created Zebra just in case. And so it came to pass! (Exegesis, KL 6832).

Reading Dick one realizes that for him it is all hyperbole and metaphorics, rhetorics – a grasping after figures and tropes that might convey what is essentially unexplainable rather than a falling back into nonsense, madness, and rogue irrationalism. “The black iron prison is the corpus of the great it as it was; our world is the process metamorphosis, interim, of an insect-like camouflaged, mimicking organism. (Exegesis, KL 5378). As Land in one of his more pungent moments tells us: “It is ceasing to be a matter of how we think about technics, if only because technics is increasingly thinking about itself. It might still be a few decades before artificial intelligences surpass the horizon of biological ones, but it is utterly superstitious to imagine that the human dominion of terrestrial culture is still marked out in centuries, let alone in some metaphysical perpetuity. The high road to thinking no longer passes through a deepening of human cognition, but rather through a becoming inhuman of cognition, a migration of cognition out into the emerging planetary technosentience reservoir, into ‘dehumanized landscapes … emptied spaces’ where human culture will be dissolved.” (Land, KL 3980)

Shall the Sleepers Awake?

Whether one goes with Dick’s future civilization creating advanced Artificial Intelligence systems that are communicating by way of tachyon transmission directly to certain individuals the Good News of our coming emancipation from history, or Land’s satirical anti-philosophy taking us on a technodystopian ride through the accelerating capitalist system, where at the helm lives an alien intelligence sent back from the future to bring an end to history, both agree that this global civilization in which we live is coming to an end, a singularity event lies somewhere ahead of us in the not so distant future, one that will most likely leave us either extinct or changed forever beyond our wildest imaginings. What to think of such a diagnosis, or prognosis? To ask such a question is already to entertain another question: What if they were actually on to something? What if there fanciful descriptions of alien invasions from the future, or our incarceration in this false world of late capitalism isn’t so far fetched after all? What if the truth they seek to convey through Lovecraftian myths, or Dickian Gnosticisms is in fact and deed much more horrendous and devastating? What then?

Oh, sure you can just laugh yourself to sleep tonight, say its all fantasy, fictional fabulations, allegories of our capitalist societies and the globalization that is bringing civilization to its knees… but, then again as you lay your head on that pillow, as you begin to listen in on the buzz of voices in your head that will not sleep, as you begin to see visions and dreams tonight, as a voice reaches through and says: “Wake up, Sleeper!” Remember what was said here… a fiction, perhaps? But would you bet your life on it?

Happy dreams! Sleepers!

How would it feel to be smuggled back out of the future in order to subvert its antecedent conditions? To be a cyberguerrilla, hidden in human camouflage so advanced that even one’s software was part of the disguise? Exactly like this?
…….– Nick Land, Fanged Noumena

…to get to the end we must go forward, accelerate faster, and not evade or try to escape? This, too, was his message: submit and go through it; it can’t be evaded. It is what lies beyond that is the goal we look for, not retreat from it.
…….– Philip K. Dick, The Exegesis


 

  1. Leonardo Motta, Waldyr A. Rodrigues, Jr. Science World Article. http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/physics/Tachyon.html
  2. Dick, Philip K. (2011-11-08). The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick (Kindle Locations 373-378). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
  3. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Penguin Classics (May 26, 2009)
  4. He is reported to have first said this in an interview on Fresh Air, NPR (31 August 1993), he repeated it, prefacing it with “As I’ve said many times…” in “The Science in Science Fiction” on Talk of the Nation, NPR (30 November 1999, Timecode 11:55).
  5.  Land, Nick (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007. Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.
  6. Jennifer Karns Alexander. The Mantra of Efficiency: From Waterwheel to Social Control (Kindle Locations 63-67). Kindle Edition.
  7. Vilém Flusser. Into the Universe of Technical Images. Univ Of Minnesota Press (February 24, 2011) First Published 1985.

11 thoughts on “Philip K. Dick & Nick Land: Escape to the Future

  1. “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 Noumen

    I realize this is just a clip, but the position i routinly hear him arguing is utter fantasy. He is caught in a particular ‘meaning universe’. Just the fact the he makes this statement, (stpid than we seem) shows he is in a highly defensive posture. It is because he is ‘staying in position’ duch that the logical ramifications if his view return to him the confirmation of his anxiety.

    He is not dealng with the terms of his existance, he is ralying against them, for the purpose of justifying his stationary projection.

    Like

    • He said this back in the 90’s, it’s not current… so one must know that. He’s not a philosopher, but a hyperstitional theory-factionalist, one of those who first instigated such a path, so I not held to philosophical discourse, its rules or tribunals. So all your saying is that he doesn’t fit into your circle of meaning and reason… that’s a fair assumption. Otherwise your not saying much that is of interest…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fair enough. That that book is from the 90s makes sense. If id had known of him then id a probly thought hevwas right on. Which ive said before: much of where he is coming from is very sound; theres just something that seems alarmist and, what seems to me maybe to be, drug induced. If im allowed to say that. Lol.

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      • Yea, he says as much in Fanged Noumena… like Rimbaud, Artaud, Bataille, and others he delved beyond the Logos and inspector generals of Philosophy… he’s not a philosopher, but rather something that has no label… nor definition… so to peg him one is only pegging one’s own ignorance, not Land… Call him “ruin,” “Vauugn,” … call him what one may… he will escape names and words… that’s probably why philosophers deride him. He doesn’t fit into their tight-knit fictions of the world.

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      • How about Drug delluded? I think weve touched on this breifly elsewhere; what is fair? Everything. So we dont really have to say, if were Freud in his time, hey. I do alot of coke.

        Now sure; how many ways can we make an arguement of any sort that defies any title one wants to put on a person? Myself, i llduck and dodge with the best of them, but it means little. The 90s was rife with’you cant define me!’ It gets nowhere and it seems really just defines what ‘music’ you listen to, what ‘are you into’. It is just this strategy that is indeed keeps things dark and afraid. But after a while you kinda say , yeah Five Finger Death Punch has no substance except while they are on stage cashing in on videos. Because we already know what they are posing as, where as before maybe we thought we were so novel.

        Sure im no philosooher either; i the defiler of defiance. I will rip apart any and every posture. But where does that get: Pure capitalistic fodder. It seems exactly what Land seems to propose, at least here and there, and what music do we have now?

        I say lets get honest. Lets get naked. Expose our BS for everyone to see. Get rid of the Alice Cooper act that is not an act but it is.

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      • There is no “us”… obviously this is what you want, others may not want what you want… why should I find your sandbox appealing? Why should I want to wander around in your rhizome? You would like things to fit into your logic, molded to your discourse, repeating the gestures of civility or defiance. Not everyone shares such aspirations, certainly not I. Being neither Land, nor you, I defend neither. Whatever you say tells me more about you than Land or myself. Obviously from what I’ve read above you don’t like Land’s thoughts, so why even comment? What’s the point your making? That I want enter into disputation with you, play by your rules of engagement, enter into some kind of give and take space of reasons and comply with your enunciations?

        We’ve been through this before Landzek… I don’t find your site or your thoughts of much compatibility with where I’m at so what is the point of this continuous mode of attack? You should know by now it doesn’t phase me… why should it? Telling me to get honest, get naked… expose myself? Why? Why would I want to do that when I’ve done it already many times on this very site?

        I’ve exposed my thoughts for almost 8 years between here and my other blogs… I don’t need to prove anything to you or anyone. Very childish of you to come onto my site and start up something… actually very sad.

        I’m a mercurial being, the hobgoblin of consistency is not my daemon. I flow with the processual dance of subjectivation that will not be locked down, pinned down, forced into a label or named thing… I am Legion. Words are the vehicles of my multiplicity, the flowing of my singularity. You cannot capture me in your mesh no matter how thick or strong. A Dionysian troubadour I sing, that is all…

        Like

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