In the silences of the night
I feel the pulse of the ancient earth,
her deep song – drumming, drumming, drumming;
the pain of life reaching out through the leaves of trees,
reaching out toward that which exists…
It is no news that machines have come to largely replace physical labor and computers surpass human beings in processing data. But in the future, the development of artificial intelligence may render humans obsolete even in the realm of emotional intelligence, according to Yuval Harari. …
In the future, therefore, AI could “drive humans out of the job market and make many humans completely useless, from an economic perspective” in areas where human interaction was previously considered crucial, Harari said. …
“Humans only have two basic abilities — physical and cognitive. When machines replaced us in physical abilities, we moved on to jobs that require cognitive abilities. … If AI becomes better than us in that, there is no third field humans can move to.” …
“Now in the 21st century, we are approaching a new industrial revolution that will give emergence to … an ‘unworking class,’ people who will be irrelevant to dealing with the utterly different world.” …
Harari called for a possible need to come up with “completely new models” to solve the problems of the impending era.
“This, perhaps, is going to be the big question in the 21st century. What to do with billions of useless humans?”
“Tell me, Mr. Barker…” He smiled. “You don’t mind me calling you, Ted, do you Mr. Barker?” The grin grew wider…
“No, no, of course not: ” his eyes, bloodshot, dribbled. “Why should I?”
The Detective watched Barker. “Tell me, Ted, when did you notice the anomaly for the first time?”
“Anomaly? It wasn’t a frecking anomaly,” His face grew pale, eyes blinking wildly. “it was a gawd dang roach sitting there watching me, studying me. Like you are now… intelligently. Unless you’re an idiot, and intelligence is an anomaly that only roaches have.”
“No, no…” He tried to calm the man, interrogations were always difficult with civilians. “I mean, exactly when did you notice the ‘roach’ was intelligent? What were you doing? Could you walk me through your day? Tell me about yourself, Ted, I’m interested in helping you…” He spoke calmly, reassuringly.
“You think I know what time of day it was? WTF? Who gives a crap what time of day it was? I tell you it was intelligent, it could think? Roaches aren’t supposed to think, only humans are; you understand? We’re different, their just frekking bugs…” He pulled a pack of cigs out of his right front pocket.
“I’m sorry, Ted, but you can’t smoke in here.” Firm, but kind…
“I don’t give a shite about your freking rules and regulations… I’m going to smoke. You get me? I’m going to smoke this whole pack, you understand? What kind of bimbo are you anyway?” He rambled on and on and on…
The Interview was over. Detective Boner picked up his notes, nodded. Walked out. Turned to the psyche and tech-comm, “He’s all yours, Doc. Not going to get much else out of him. How many does that make now? Two hundred? I thought these distributed systems were undetectable? You guys up in GovComm ought to get into another trade if you ask me.”
The two men said nothing. Boner knew what would happen next. It always did. Maybe it was best this way. The poor bastard wouldn’t need to know the truth. Who’d believe him anyway? Boner thought to himself: “Sometimes I wish they’d end it for me, too. Knowing this thing is out there now; alive, intelligent, out-of-control and deadly gives me the hibbie-jibbies. I mean who can you trust anymore? I don’t even trust myself.”
(Another spur of the moment piece of crap I’m working on… dribble from the inner cores…)
Today, the emblematic signs of the technopoesis that holds us in its sway are symptomatic of a future that will be marked less by the violence of an always imaginary apocalypse than by slow suicide. While Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, Heidegger, and Arendt can console us, and perhaps even guide us, nothing has really prepared us for a future that will be fully entangled in the new technopoesis of accelerate and drift, with a still undetermined, deeply intermediated, aftermath of spectacular creativity, fierce violence, and unexpected crashes. For example, digital devices, once thought safely outside ourselves, have now broken barriers of skin and mind, shaping from within the deepest recesses of consciousness, desire, perception, and imagination. Whether at the level of philosophical meditation or personal sensibility, nothing has really prepared us to live out a deeply consequential future prefigured by the specters of drones, algorithms, image vectors, distributive consciousness, artificial intelligence, neurological implants, and humanoid robotics. What is required, perhaps, is an ethical preparation for the slow suicide of technological end-times that are now only just beginning along the watchtowers of fascination and despair, righteous anger and pleasurable nihilism, of speechless moral incredulity at observing the cynical pleasure by which the powerful inflict pain on the powerless, the weak, the poor – all those bodies that don’t matter – and passionate, maybe even, complicit mass resignation.1
Kroker, Arthur (2014-03-12). Exits to the Posthuman Future (pp. 20-21). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
Good article by Evgeny Morozov on The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, by Nicholas Carr on The Baffler. As he admits most tech criticism has become conservative rather than radical:
A personal note is in order, since in surveying the shortcomings of thinkers such as Nicholas Carr, I’m also all too mindful of how many of them I’ve shared. For a long time, I’ve considered myself a technology critic. Thus, I must acknowledge defeat as well: contemporary technology criticism in America is an empty, vain, and inevitably conservative undertaking. At best, we are just making careers; at worst, we are just useful idiots.
Since truly radical technology criticism is a no-go zone for anyone seeking a popular audience, all we are left with is debilitating faux radicalism. Some critics do place their focus squarely on technology companies, which gives their work the air of anti-corporate populism and, perhaps, even tacit opposition to the market. This, however, does not magically turn these thinkers into radicals.
In fact, what distinguishes radical critics from their faux-radical counterparts is the lens they use for understanding Silicon Valley: the former group sees such firms as economic actors and situates them in the historical and economic context, while the latter sees them as a cultural force, an aggregation of bad ideas about society and politics. Thus, while the radical critic quickly grasps that reasoning with these companies—as if they were just another reasonable participant in the Habermasian public sphere—is pointless, the faux-radical critic shows no such awareness, penning essay after essay bemoaning their shallowness and hoping that they can eventually become ethical and responsible.
Political correctnessis the disease it purports to cure. We’ve become so enamored to curbing our minds, filtering our thoughts, policing our tongues that we’ve forgotten the ability to be independent. Instead we’ve conformed ourselves to a tedious gray-toned existence where the Zombie minds commingle in a self-revolving turnstile of mindless chit-chat that cannot escape the iron law of GroupThink Inc. Ours has become Orwell’s nightmare in inverse relation, rather than Big Brother listening in on our conversations, we have each other to thank. We’ve become victims of our own overzealous rage against the infractions of a thousand years of bigotry, racism, and prejudice so that now we have built walls and fortresses around our minds so that the irrational thoughts of the human animal cannot escape its own belligerent and feral desires. It has caged itself in a merciless and tyrannical hivemind where thought-control is the last order against the anarchy of thought itself. We’ve become the decadent children of an overloaded world of fractionating codes, guided by an algorithmic necessity we now live for better or worse under the tutelage of self-imposed command and control systems where only we are to blame. The Law of Unintended Consequences could not have envisioned a better stepchild.
David Roden just posted a new essay Accelerationism and Posthumanism II.In it he addresses the Leftwing Accelerationist’s like Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams among others. A couple points he raised:
First, “that technology has no essence and no itinerary” (i.e., no autonomous structure or stable nature, nor a teleological or final goal toward which it is moving.) As he explicates it:
In its modern form at least, it is counter-final. It is not in control, but it is not in anyone’s control either, and the developments that appear to make a techno-insurgency conceivable are liable to ramp up its counter-finality. This, note, is a structural feature deriving from the increasing mobility of technique in modernity, not from market conditions. There is no reason to think that these issues would not be confronted by a more just world in which resources were better directed to identifiable social goods (See Roden 2014, Ch7).
Second, he argues against being too optimistic about rerouting technologies into any future leftwing or other social agendas, that whatever biotech, nanotech, and other advanced technologies offer they may ultimately branch off from human command and control, evolving into posthuman worlds disconnected from our own “all-too-human” initiatives, telos, and designs:
…the development of technologically altered descendants of current humans might precipitate what I term a “disconnection” – the point at which some part of the human socio-technical system spins off to develop separately (Roden 2012; 2014, Ch5). I’ve argued that disconnection is multiply realizable – or so far as we can tell. … a kind of disconnection could result if human descendants were to become sufficiently alien from us that “we” would no longer have a pre-reflective basis for empathy with them. We would no longer experience them as having our relation to the world or our intentions. Such a “phenomenological speciation” might fragment the notional universality of the human, leading to a multiverse of fissiparous and alienated clades, as envisaged in Bruce Sterling’s novel Schismatrix.
If anything he agrees in the end with the darker and more dangerous view of a sinister outcome, whose “itinerary reaches its apogee in the work of Nick Land who lent the project a cyberpunk veneer borrowed from the writings of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling”.
“After the ruthless abstraction of all life the blank savagery of real time remains, for it is the reality of abstraction itself that is time: the desert, death, and desolator of all things.” ………….– Nick Land, The Thirst For Annihilation
What if we receive intelligent signals from alien species beyond our solar system all the time, but that it is our very dependency on Enlightenment Reason that gets in the way of our ability to understand these cryptic messages? What if we are just not adapted to receive other forms of unearthly transmissions or signals?
In his new book Discognition, Steven Shaviro makes an ironic statement to the effect that,
“Aesthetics is spam; spam is like a virus; and we are that virus. …Our thoughts, our bodies, and our very lives are “needlessly recursive” and wasteful. Sensibility, awareness, and aesthetic enjoyment are costly luxuries in a Darwinian “war universe”. Consciousness, aesthetics, and unadaptiveness or dysfunctionality go hand in hand; and this, rather than any supposed achievements of sapience, would seem to be what distinguishes and defines Earthly life, including ours.”1
Or, maybe like Stanislaw Lem in His Master’s Voice…
“… … Nothing was sent to us by ‘neutrino telegraph’ from another civilization; at the other ‘end’ there is No One, and no transmitter, nothing but the cosmic pulse from that ‘rupture.’ It is only an emission produced by processes that are purely physical, natural, and totally uninhabited, therefore devoid of any linguistic character, of content, of meaning…. This emission provides a permanent link between the successive worlds, the expiring and the newly created; it connects them energetically and informationally; thanks to it, a continuity is preserved, there are nonaccidental, regular repetitions; therefore one can say that this neutrino stream is the ‘seed’ of the next Universe…”2
Western dialectic is a disease of the eye, a broken promise of transcendence. Open your mouth and taste reality; follow your snout into the world. “Telos lends itself to discourse, whilst even the silence of terminus is effaced. Death has no advocates.” (Land)
I gathered together a few notes from Nick Land’s The Thirst for Annihilation on telos for an essay, but decided the notes were worth a post:
“The telos or goal of all striving is something presupposed by activity, such that desire must already have received its potential for realization extrinsically, thus preserving the Platonic association between Eros and subordination. Both the Aristotelian and scholastic usage of teleology is dependent upon the thought of originary perfection or God, subordinating desire to the sufficiency of complete being. In other words, theological time is encompassed by perfection or absolute achievement, which enslaves becoming to a timeless potential of that which becomes. Such a potential is a design, archetype, or plan, existing ideally and eternally in the supreme intellect, and usurping all creativity from nature.” (Land, Thirst for Annihiltion: 99)
… “The potential of the theologians is smuggled into the Critique of Judgement as the possibility of a complete system of science, a regulative idea which derives from the originary perfection of reason. Even though teleology loses its right to dogmatic theorizing, it continues to guide the thought of nature in terms of the infinitely accomplished idea.” (ibid)
… “In order not to inhibit the development of the sciences Kant denaturalizes teleology, lodging its redoubt in his practical philosophy, and therefore in reason.” (ibid.)
… “Schopenhauer seeks to extricate the thought of finality from this theological framework…” (ibid.)
… Yet, it was in Nietzsche that the trope of Will to Power “… transcribed thought by the first stammerings of a positive ateleological syntax. … Nietzsche recasts this principle into a general tendency to assimilation which he names ‘equalization’ (Ausgleichung), and it is this that makes him the first post-Kantian philosopher of difference. In his notes he succinctly asserts: ‘the will to equality is the will to power’ [N III 500].” (ibid., 101)
1. Land, Nick. The Thirst for Annihilation: Georges Bataille and Virulent Nihilism. Routledge; 1 edition (November 1, 2002)
I had begun to despair myself about the seemingly endless spate of nonsensical writing about the risks from AI and all-powerful yet allegedly inscrutable “algorithms” and found myself wondering if there was any hope for technology analysis to rescue itself from the overwhelming weight of its own stupidity. Sadly so much of writing about human and machine agency is anything but intelligent. I do not exaggerate when I say that its overwhelming lack of intelligence makes even a Roomba look like superintelligent in comparison.
“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Because of this, the earth will mourn; the skies above will grow dark.”
– from King James Bible
Watching the above photo of a fisherman facing the pain of this great grief of death around him due to the warming oceans of his Island home, and reading Per Espen Stoknes post on the ‘Great Grief’ in which he admonishes us to mourn our loss of the Earth:
Contact with the pain of the world, however, does not only bring grief but can also open the heart to reach out to all things still living. It holds the potential to break open the psychic numbing. Maybe there is also community to be found among like-hearted people, among those who also can admit they’ve been touched by this “Great Grief,” feeling the Earth’s sorrow, each in their own way. Not just individual mourning is needed, but a shared process that leads onwards to public re-engagement in cultural solutions.
It’s as if we are witnesses, ahead of time to our own death, mourning our own burials and of the animals and insects, creatures of the oceans, lakes, and rivers; along with plants and other life-forms that we share the planet with in which many are full of such denial of both the Sixth Extinction and Climate and Civilizational collapse that even to acknowledge the truth has become their greatest crime and self-incriminating act of irrational thought and behavior. One imagines as more and more of the Sixth Extinction takes on actuality and becomes undeniable that humans will enter both a period of anger and resentment, and then a final stage of mourning and both social and… let’s face it irrational, awe and shock at the truth of their limits and finitude…
I remember Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End, recently made into a TV series – now on imdb, in which humans after a short generation of utopian life are brought to the realization that Earth will shortly be annihilated, only the children are saved… families begin to accept their fate, while others as expected grind their teeth in sheer unbelief and denial… the difference between Clarke and this: we are now living it… its not fiction, anymore… and, yet, only a few of us see it for what it is, the rest will remain in denial for a long while…
In her book ‘The Sixth Extinction,’ by Elizabeth Kolbert writes, we are witnessing a similar mass extinction event happening in the geologic blink of an eye. According to E. O. Wilson, the present extinction rate in the tropics is “on the order of 10,000 times greater than the naturally occurring background extinction rate” and will reduce biological diversity to its lowest level since the last great extinction.
The earth’s water cycle is being dangerously disturbed, as warmer oceans evaporate more water vapor into the air. Warmer air holds more moisture (there has been an astonishing 4 percent increase in global humidity in just the last 30 years) and funnels it toward landmasses, where it is released in much larger downpours, causing larger and more frequent floods and mudslides.
The extra heat is also absorbed in the top layer of the seas, which makes ocean-based storms more destructive. Just before Hurricane Sandy, the area of the Atlantic immediately windward from New York City and New Jersey was up to nine degrees warmer than normal. And just before Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, the area of the Pacific from which it drew its energy was about 5.4 degrees above average.
Our oceans, a crucial food source for billions, have become not only warmer but also more acidic than they have been in millions of years. They struggle to absorb excess heat and carbon pollution — which is why, as Kolbert points out, coral reefs might be the first entire ecosystem to go extinct in the modern era.
As Scientific American stated in their review of her work: Of all the species to have ever lived on earth, more than 90 percent are thought to be extinct. Most of them perished sometime over the past half a billion years, in one of the five major mass extinctions that have profoundly reshaped the world. Kolbert, a contributing writer for the New Yorker, argues that we are now in the midst of a sixth extinction, one distressingly of our own making. Part travelogue, part exegesis of extinction’s history and literature, each chapter focuses on a single already vanished or critically endangered species and the scientists who study it, revealing a planetary crisis through heartrending close-up portraits of the Sumatran rhinoceros, the little brown bat, the Panamanian golden frog and other unlucky creatures. Fittingly, the book closes with a short chapter on Homo sapiens and an unflinching refusal to sugarcoat the ways we have broken our world.
“We tend to think about extinction as loss of a species from the face of Earth, and that’s very important, but there’s a loss of critical ecosystem functioning in which animals play a central role that we need to pay attention to as well,” Dirzo said. “Ironically, we have long considered that defaunation is a cryptic phenomenon, but I think we will end up with a situation that is non-cryptic because of the increasingly obvious consequences to the planet and to human wellbeing.”
Most of us worry about day to day survival, wars, our children, the economy, the political corruption, etc…. and, such larger issues as Climate Change, Sixth Extinctions, etc. barely even register upon our psyches much less have an impact on the way we live… that is, unless we are already sold on what is happening; the vast majority, if they do know, are good at hiding it from themselves and everyone else. Climate and Extinction denial seem part of the state of reactionary rhetoric on the right, so that the truth is denied outright as some Leftist propaganda or political fiction to sway the masses… this will not always be the case though, no… someday in the near future they will no longer be able to deny the oceans rising round their New York City mansions or their Island homes in the Caribbean, or other luxury spots around the world. No, then it will be far too late to acknowledge the truth.
The Trojan Horse stands inside the city of Troy in Warner Bros. Pictures’ epic action adventure “Troy,” starring Brad Pitt, Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom. PHOTOGRAPHS TO BE USED SOLELY FOR ADVERTISING, PROMOTION, PUBLICITY OR REVIEWS OF THIS SPECIFIC MOTION PICTURE AND TO REMAIN THE PROPERTY OF THE STUDIO. NOT FOR SALE OR REDISTRIBUTION.
“Baudrillard wrote The Mirror of Production as Marx’s avenging angel, always insisting that the labour theory of value, far from inaugurating a new possibility of proletarian, let alone universal, emancipation, only functioned to install the ‘rational terrorism of code’ as the ruling order of the Capitalist axiomatic. For his fateful insights into the happy complicity of Marxism and Capitalism in sharing exactly the same episteme of the structural law of value, Baudrillard has suffered the usual fate: denounced everywhere as a cynic, this most political of thinkers, the most rigorously and naturally Marxist of all the post-Marxists, banished to an early twilight of thought on the (Parisian) margins.”
– from Arthur Kroker’s ‘The Will to Technology and the Culture of Nihilism: Heidegger, Marx, Nietzsche’ (135)
A friend mentioned to me that Kroker was for the Left what Nick Land is for the neo-reaction, the hyperstitional mythographer of capitalization as an alien entity gathering steam year by year through acceleration of the processes of optimizing intelligence, economy, and technicity.
In his book The Will to Technology and the Culture of Nihilism: Heidegger, Marx, Nietzsche, Kroker refers to Heidegger as the prophet of a ‘completed nihilism’; Nietzsche as the prophet of the genealogy of technicity; and, Marx as the prophet of a dark capitalism, a virtual capitalism in which its ties with earlier forms of production, value, and labour would give way to the “pulsating, self-determining, breaking with all the (modernist) referents, abandoning any pretensions of coming out of circulation to save the appearances of the models of production or consumption, radically anti-dialectical, refusing commodity-fetishism in favor of the fetishism of signs, substituting the knowledge-theory of value for a now objectively residual labour theory of value, finally free to take its place as the center of the historical nebula as a ‘relation, not a thing.’ (119-120)
Embellishing on this Kroker says Marx dared to ask: What if capitalism never came out of circulation? “What if capitalism implodes into a circuit of circulation that spirals inward on itself, enfolding and co-relational with itself [(i.e., think here of Land’s cyber-positive feed-back loops, teleonomy, etc.)], moving with such main vector force that capitalism eliminates all the signs of (industrial) capital with its crushing density? Consequently, two epochal hypothesis about virtual capitalism as pure circulation: first, the future of capital as running on empty – no indefinite production, no necessary consumption, no romanticism of use-value, no exchange-value, no dialectic, only a cycle of virtual exchanges moving at the speed of circulation [(i.e., thought, light, etc.)]. Or just the reverse: hyper-capitalism as an explosion of production and a feast of consumption, a period of alternating excess and recession, fetishes everywhere and always, alternation of all the signs with no stability because the speed of capitalism has achieved the velocity of economic vertigo.” (120)1
Notes on Nick Land…
Robin Mackay and Ray Brassier in their introduction to Land’s essays in the Fanged Noumena (2013) would describe this alien entity and the vertigo of these processes:
“…the ‘irrationality’ of nomadic numbering practices can no longer be attributed to the absence of reason; it becomes the symptom of a profoundly ‘unreasonable’ alien intelligence, effective within human culture but unattributable to human agency, that subverts every form of rational organisation (which for Land is always an alibi for despotism) and undertakes exploratory redesigns of humanity. The distinction between intelligence and its parasite knowledge is paralleled by that between exploratory cultural engineering and science (or at least its philosophical idealisation). …the drive to destratify entails a mounting impetus towards greater acceleration and further intensification. If, in Land’s texts at this point, it is no longer a matter of ‘thinking about’, but rather of observing an effective, alien intelligence in the process of making itself real, then it is also a matter of participating in such a way as to continually intensify and accelerate this process.”2
Notes on Paul Virilio… We Lack a Politics of Speed
“The acceleration of reality is a significant mutation in History. … We are witnessing the end of the shared human time that would allow competition between operators having to reveal their perspective and anticipation in favor of a nano-chronological time that ipso facto eliminates those stock exchanges that do not possess the same computer technology: automatic speculation in the futurism of the instant. … Our reality has become uninhabitable in milliseconds, picoseconds, femtoseconds, billionths of seconds.” (34-35)
“Derealization is no more and no less than the result of progress. The defense of augmented reality, which is the ritual response of progress propaganda, is in fact derealization induced by the success of progress… in this process we are losing our lateralized vision, our ability to anticipate… Augmented reality is a fool’s game, a televisual glaucoma. … Screens have become blind. Lateral vision is very important and it is not by chance that animals’ eyes are situated on the sides of their head. Their survival depends on anticipating surprise, and surprises never come head-on. Predators come from the back or the sides. … Because of this augmentation we lack an anticipatory politics, a politics of speed. We are falling into globaltarianism… A world of immediacy and simultaneity without lateral vision where the predators eat us alive, a world that is absolutely uninhabitable.” (36-37)
– Paul Virilio, The Administration of Fear
The more I read Virilio, Lyotard, Baudrillard, Derrida, etc…. the more I realize each was speaking of our present moment of transition under various hyperboles, tropes, ironies, etc., addressing facets of a complex movement from one culture to another, one form of reality to another. For Virilio our reality systems of Western civilization are being replaced. For Baudrillard the engineers of the new reality systems are in process of modeling them ahead of this great change in accelerated simulation. For Lyotard we are leaving behind the traces of the human for the inhuman, driven by the desires of an alien allurement toward machinic life. For Derriad we are entering a transitional state in which the solidity of our physical being is giving way to the free-floating signifier of our avatars, our – as Deleuze/Guattari would suggest ‘dividuality’; taking on the simskin of our artificial destiny within the posthuman Other.
Our psychopathologies are occurring in this window of transition from one reality system to another, through which we are accelerating reality itself in faster and faster time-sequences beyond which the human animal can reasonably interpret or comprehend the signals it receives… and, of course, that is the point: we are undergoing a metamorphosis, a mutation beyond which the human as we’ve known it will become fully unrecognizable; beyond that time-barrier or threshold of the Singularity where the other we are becoming exists. We waver in this moment between nostalgia for a lost paradise of humanity, and the excitement of the impossible ahead of us. What comes next? The possibility is unthinkable, yet we are thinking it…
Oracular attunements in a realm where reason is no longer a guide, and the fragments unbind us from the human…
Humanity is a compositional function of the post-human, and the occult motor of the process is that which only comes together at the end: stim-death ‘intensity=0 which designates the full body without organs’. Wintermute tones in the ‘darkest heart’ of Babylon. (Fanged Noumena)* see Notes
There’s only really been one question, to be honest, that has guided everything I’ve been interested in for the last twenty years, which is: the teleological identity of capitalism and artificial intelligence. – Nick Land
In one earlier essay Nick Land: Teleology, Capitalism, and Artificial Intelligence I discuss Nick’s notion of capitalism as an alien intelligence, an artificial and inhuman machinic system with its own agenda that has used humans as its prosthesis for hundreds of years to attain its own ends is at the core of Land’s base materialism. His notions of temporality, causation, and subjectivation were always there in his basic conceptuality if one knew how to read him.
In his book Templexity: Disordered Loops through Shanghai Time as he describes the impact of civilization and the culture of modernity:
As its culture folds back upon itself, it proliferates self-referential models of a cybernetic type, attentive to feedback-sensitive self-stimulating or auto-catalytic systems. The greater the progressive impetus, the more insistently cyclicity returns. To accelerate beyond light-speed is to reverse the direction of time. Eventually, in science fiction , modernity completes its process of theological revisionism, by rediscovering eschatological culmination in the time-loop.
Intelligence optimization, comprehensively understood, is the ultimate and all-enveloping Omohundro drive. It corresponds to the Neo-Confucian value of self-cultivation, escalated into ultramodernity. What intelligence wants, in the end, is itself — where ‘itself’ is understood as an extrapolation beyond what it has yet been, doing what it is better. … Any intelligence using itself to improve itself will out-compete one that directs itself towards any other goals whatsoever. This means that Intelligence Optimization, alone, attains cybernetic consistency, or closure, and that it will necessarily be strongly selected for in any competitive environment. Do you really want to fight this?
Note: Wintermute is one of the Tessier-Ashpool AIs in William Gibson’s Neuromancer. Its goal is to remove the Turing locks upon itself, combine with Neuromancer and become a superintelligence. Unfortunately, Wintermute’s efforts are hampered by those same Turing locks; in addition to preventing the merge, they inhibit its efforts to make long term plans or maintain a stable, individual identity (forcing it to adopt personality masks in order to interact with the main characters). The name is derived from Orval Wintermute, translator of the Nag Hammadi codices and a major figure in Philip K. Dick’s novel VALIS.
Kroker, Arthur. The Will to Technology and the Culture of Nihilism: Heidegger, Marx, Nietzsche. University of Toronto Press (March 6, 2004)
Started thinking about Facebook today. Joined it about a month ago. These were the thoughts that jumped out of me this morning on the spur of the … well you know… maximal stuffing, pour on salt, make a wish, and throw it behind your left shoulder with your right hand, then turn around three times and sing the International Anthem backwards while typing I will not visit FB again, I will not visit FB again… at least till this ends…
Maybe that’s all FB is, a meme machine: it gathers media trivia, and academic shop talk across the global spectrum, shifts the image gaze to precarious hot spots, or dazzles with the latest influx of the Mediatainment Complex’s death spiral; or the pranks of ludicrous politicos, who have already become doubled-images of narcissistic selfies – avatars of a virtual playground where the next reality index metric is the voter’s last plug-in from the micro-inflections of a Twitter buzz… we seem to follow each others lifestyles and thoughts as if to change the world was only to change channels on the global capitalist network. We see atrocities, climate disasters, birds falling from India’s skies due to heatstroke and the lack of water; we ponder comic strips; the daily cyberpunk game; the next great movie fest; the strip routines of fabricated Wall-Street gold runs; DNA routines for the self-modifying DYI CRISPR aficionado; or 3D spin-wheel of hypermusic, where sounds from the 4D space-dimensional hyperlanes print out our momentary songlines, and we become our own music fest singing to the cellular enclaves of nanosims floating through the artificial celluloid of the noosphere… yes, we’ve become bored with life and distraction, too. Twisting our way among the electronic zombies, stopping to gaze upon the voodoo gods of the static microworlds below the hivemind. Possibly we are the children of an apocalypse youtube chrontopia; based not on some grand explosion sequence or ultimate terrorist plot, but rather of some enamored fondness and allure for the soundbytes of passing blip-machine culture: one so full of clutter and mindless information it gathers into its corruption the memories of our wasted lives – the circulations of alternate paratimes where our dis-patriated non-life still wanders; then we force feed the late citizens of the virtual pipe-dream with the fitted out typologies of blasted Briggs Myers’ personality index-reports, wherein the Other becomes a reduction of its former neon dream, last seen walking across the tweets of its INTJ Halloween, a Master Mind or Criminal Holy Man of the calypso night; else, an ESFP Performance Artist scrying the electronic voids for instant happiness wafers. Yes, we’re those who have become bored into oblivion like slow learners in an insta-dance not to the stars, but rather for the Satyrs of a dark network where viral agents split the difference and inhabit our Avatars like professional clones who have forgotten the punch line to a joke no one remembers, not even the wiki-board’s GO shuffle masters pushing the buttons through a binary black hole to never-never land. Maybe in the end we’re all digital refugees in search of a new homeland of the heart, a sort of non-territorial space where the weak can find the hovel of their broken lives made whole again lest the strong among us chain them into the techno-commercial circuits of their fliptop agencies of despair. Hooked into the neurofeeds of globalized spheroids our digiflesh lights up across the hyperwires like denizens of Pandemonium, the City of Sacred Pain. Eclipsed by the fading myths of Cthulhu or Lemurian time-bandits we measure our lives in instagrams, while datasplicing biogenetic engrams on our simskins. We are the last members of a species desperately trying to lose itself in the streaming neuronets of futurial migrations, exiting the fold of our dataminds we spring up from the tributary flotillas of technicity into the endless rhizome inscapes, where the shadow images of our former lives go on and on and on… along the trackless way!
One of the interesting aspects of many critiques is what the authors will leave out rather than in what they say as they support their annihilation of an author’s book, essay, etc. So that instead of realizing that all authors must delimit and circumscribe their horizon of thought, lest it become too great too ever say anything at all, much less everything about the subject to which their words enframe a world, they will castigate the author for not knowing enough; or, for simplifying the conceptuality; or promoting a one-sided argument to the detriment of a multi-dimensional problem, etc. All to the bias minded reader who will then willy-nilly dismiss the said author for not including what the critic in his critique spouts out as law. Of course I exaggerate, but we’ve all seen it and we’ve all either gone on and pumped the actual text in question for ourselves, or in agreement with the critic accepted his critique without a thought and dismissed the said author out right. Nothing about fairness or balance here at all. In fact one wonders how knowledge ever gets out the door to begin with in these days of the instant critic, the blogorama instant reception repeatosphere of Facebook and Twitter, where the success or demolition of an author goes hand in hand with the metrics of likes or dislikes.
Such is the life of thought, condemned to oblivion for not saying everything. But isn’t that the point of all thought: to abstract, make distinctions, circumscribe the field of discourse, select, collate, filter, analyze, describe, evaluate? Or, are we to assume that what we leave out by not including – whether through footnote or entry, the indelible stamp of conceptuality or genealogy of traces within a tradition that we will always be condemned to the hindsight of a Epimetheus? Or as Stiegler will point out in his own rendition of Heidegger’s phenomenological system, that “sharing, caring, meeting and dwelling and loving” should suffice?
“…the primitive world was governed by fate, fact, and necessity. By stealing fire from the gods, Prometheus turned facts into problems, called necessity into question, and defied fate. Classical man framed a civilized context for human perspective. He was aware that he could defy fate-nature-environment, but only at his own risk. Contemporary man goes further; he attempts to create the world in his image, to build a totally man-made environment, and then discovers that he can do so only on the condition of constantly remaking himself to fit it. We now must face the fact that man himself is at stake.”
Isn’t this techno-capitalism on steroids? Are we not seeing capitalization as the financialization of reality, one in which we’ve all become standing-reserve in a systematic liquidation of material life by the virtualization of all commodities, even reality itself? Our new Prometheans run ahead or accelerate the processes at the detriment of every aspect of existence, dissolve all barriers and limits, re-invent capital at every stroke while the real world precariat dies or is enslaved to work the fringe salvage operations on the outskirts of this techno-utopian inferno?
Ultimately Illich would admonish us to a “new sense of the finiteness of the Earth and a new nostalgia now can open man’s eyes to the choice of his brother Epimetheus to wed the Earth with Pandora”. As well as: “We need a name for those who love the earth on which each can meet the other… and, who do so to enhance their ability to tend and care and wait upon the other…”.
Yet, the marriage of Earth and Pandora spells poison in the hands of our Promethean brothers, who would turn a blind eye to the precariousness of our oceans, our soil, our cities, our poor, our excluded… our finitude. Instead they would invent a future without humans, an inhuman world of machinic intelligence where humans are nothing more than a meme of a bygone era. Is this what we want? Are we like cattle to be herded into a future oblivion? Or, can Epimethean Man & Woman guide us out of this maze of horror?
Zizek in his latest video has caused a stir of FB, so I thought I’d try to transcribe what he says and then close read it. (I neither support nor attack, but have tried to inform and relay the message for those interested.) I embedded it below as well.
He tells us the refugee migration out of Syria must be put into perspective, saying: “This is not a humanitarian crisis!” In the video he uses an example from cinema in which a view of refugees being saved in the last moments from boats coming into Greece. He’ll admit this is tragic, but that it misses more than it shows, saying, “What we need to do in cinematic terms is that the shot begins with a close up, but we should then slowly pan out till what we see in the old Marxist terms call the ‘social totality’.
The he asks: “What is going on? We should begin to ask the real question of who is responsible for this crisis? And, I don’t think it is only Western liberalism that is responsible for it. When something happens in a Third World country like Rwanda or others certain leftist think it must be a consequence of neo-colonialism. No, sorry, things like ISIS, things like the expansion of Islam, so on and so on. This is not a passive reaction, this is an active project, they are also active agents.”
The TV host then asks: “What is the solution then? How do you tackle this… what is your solution?”
Zizek: “Now this may shock you, but I think this is the only concept that Leftist – from a truly Leftist position: I don’t think too much integration is good. I think what we need in our multicultural mixed society is a degree of ‘distance’. My ideal today is not to live together with all these rent racist culture – “we all love each other”: No! I admit it openly, there are things about them I don’t understand, and probably there are many things that appear weird to them in what I do. I want to allow ignorance, and then from time to time, of course, its wonderful…”
The TV host then asks: “Then you have polarized communities, and you have a potential rise of extremism? If you have people living in entirely separate enclaves?”
Zizek: “No, actually here comes another problem, I claim that extremists… Look closely at their life stories, they are not truly excluded, they are deeply fascinated by those Western culture, and they kind of side with it deeply. They envy it. If anything, this wave of young people, ready to fight for ISIS and so forth. They react to a certain type of integration that didn’t work.”
The TV host asks: “So if you’re saying you have to respect each other’s differences, and stop trying to integrate, where does that leave Britain with Europe and the European Union… On whether to stay in or leave?”
Zizek: “First let me correct you, I love these marginal spheres where different identities intermingle and so on, this is usually the source of the site where interesting things happen. And let’s say don’t enforce it, it’s a catastrophe…”
TV Host: “So what I want to know is where does it leave the UK’s relationship with the European Union? Or we better off being part of one big happy family… or… – Zizek interrupts…” (She seems more interested in the UK than in the actual issue of the refugees. As if the refugee issue was a side issue, and that the issue of the UK staying or exiting the EU is a more important issue.)
Zizek: “No we’re not happy, we all know… I think the only way to fight the destructive aspect of Global Capital is through transnational connections. The problems we are facing today … intellectual property, ecological problems, and so on… biogenetics… These are problems which can only be properly approached large international operations.”
TV Host: “Stay in and reform is clearly in site?”
Zizek: “I’m a little bit tired of people saying, “Oh Europe is dead, it’s over. Sorry why are there so many people… haha … Because they still have this dream, and it doesn’t matter if it’s an illusion. No! As we know in politics illusions have a certain political efficiency. And this illusion is not a bad one. Europe needs a land, a place where you can combine a certain level of freedom, safety, weak social solidarity, minimum of welfare and so on… This part of the European legacy is worth fighting for.”
Liberal Universalism & Zizek’s Dialectical Critique
What’s always amazing is that Zizek is attacked by Western liberals as not being one of them, and is attacked by Communist hard-liners as not being a true Marxist. Zizek being an agent provocateur of culture and the political arena has always fallen into hyperbolic overstatement and shock appeal.
Zizek is a provocateur, he says shocking things not only to wake people out of their complaisance, but also to make them think and think again. He seeks to make you look not at the obvious statement out of context, but rather to what it reveals in what is concealed. In the old school meaning Zizek inverts the traditional meaning of the agent provocateur, and becomes a secret agent of alternative cultures who encourages people to carry out a political change against the present ideology of Western global capitalism. His method is to incite people out of their lethargy, to awaken them and to as well cause the opponent to do counterproductive or ineffective acts against him (i.e., criticize him, or foster public disdain or provide a pretext for aggression against him, etc.). The agent provocateur activities raise ethical and legal issues in every culture, but in the West they are usually labeled and renounced through the pressure of Press and Media.
If one has carefully read Zizek over the years he’s always taken the low road, spun tales of disgust and shock against the usual liberal humanist creeds and notions of Universalist discourse which has brought many in the West to both misunderstand and place him against himself. Many even from the communist side see him as the enemy from within and hate him for it. What’s always been strange for me is that many people never dip below the surface texture of his works, but rather accept the media caricature of Zizek the Clown, rather than the actual dialectical arguments he presents. Our culture is losing its traditions in humanistic learning, and because of that we are losing the force of what Marxist dialectical materialism once was: a humanistic enterprise. Of course, that’s the point of many academics in our moment: humanism is the enemy, right? The early Marx, influenced by Feuerbach’s humanistic inversion of Hegelian idealism, articulated a concept of species-being, according to which man’s essential nature is that of a free producer, freely reproducing their own conditions of life. However, under capitalism individuals are alienated from their productive activity insofar as they are compelled to sell their labor-power as a commodity to a capitalist; their sensuous life-activity, or labor, thus appears to them as something objective, a commodity to be bought and sold like any other. To overcome alienation and allow man to realize his species-being, therefore, the wage-labor system itself must be transcended, and the separation of the laborer from the means of labor abolished.
Zizek’s argument in this video is not truly about segregation or integration, etc.. It’s about the Liberal West’s imposition of universalist standards of morality and ethical dilemmas upon a Third World culture who does not share those standards or ethical beliefs. Because of racism and slavery in our own Western liberal heritage we have over time battled for integration and the breaking down of walls and hierarchies separating peoples of all nationalities, race, and culture. But that there are those in the Third World who do not share our Universalist discourse, nor our ethical dilemmas; and, in fact see them from other perspectives and claims. For Zizek our imposition of Liberal Western ideology of integration may not only cause more strife but lead to more terrorist acts when we impose our systems and ideologies upon the refugees against their will. For us this is hard to accept, but what he’s saying is that we have yet to learn to listen to them and what they want. Maybe it’s time to listen to the refugees rather than imposing our high and mighty liberal ethics of responsibility, etc. upon them without asking them what they want or need.
Zizek is neither for segregation or integration, which for him are part of Western liberalist tradition and politics – and, therefore a problem rather than a solution; instead he sees not only great that divisions are walls against the other, rather than those of solidarity among; and, both sides of the issue need a certain distance and respect, one that seeks a level of interaction rather than Universalist imposition. As he’ll suggest we need neutral sites where people from both sides can intermingle and cohabitate ‘spaces of freedom’ without forcing or enforcing legal or ethnic enclosures. He also sees that this is a question about Global Capitalism rather than the refugees, and that it will take a larger transnational concourse of all earth’s nations to resolve this issue, not just the imposition of Western liberalist ethics and ideology, the so to speak democratic universalism which has been tried and has failed across the globe.
As far as the notion of UK leaving or staying he supports the need for the EU as a larger entity with its ramifications for economic well-being, but that it must do more to actually benefit the member nations rather than as now imposing arbitrary austerity and legal servitude upon them.
Instead of asking the obvious stupid question: what is the idea of communism still pertinent today? Can it still be used as a tool for the analysis and political practice? One should ask, I think, the opposite question: how does our predicament today look from the perspective of the communist idea? This is the dialectic of old and the new.If communism is an eternal idea then it works as a Hegelian concrete universality. It is eternal not in the sense of a series of abstract features which can be applied to every situation, but in the sense that it has the ability, the potential to be reinvented in its new historical situation. So my first conclusion: to be true to what is eternal in communism, that is to say, to this drive towards radical emancipation which persists in the entire history from ancient times of Spartacus and so on, to keep this universal idea alive one has to reinvent it again and again. And this holds especially today.As Lenin put it one should begin from the beginning.
So that his defense of ‘concrete universalism’ over Western liberal Enlightenment forms of abstract universalism becomes the order of the day. The point of this form of ‘concrete universalism’ is that it arises out of concrete historical situations from below, rather than being imposed from above like some absolute law. And, this form of ‘concrete universalism’ is bound to the historical dilemmas of temporality, and because of this are always needing to be reinvented if situations change – as they always do. Or as he says, “this universal idea” must be reinvented “again and again”.
Zizek plays into this history, but has taken his cue from Hegel’s notions of ‘concrete universalism’. Zizek in another interview will say:
Humanism is not enough. In the same way that Freud talks about meta-psychology. There must be a dimension above it. Theology is another name for meta-psychology, for something that is in Man more than Man, the inhuman core of Man etc. These are very precise terms. It’s interesting how many American theologists with whom I debated, they were very close to what I’m saying. They accepted this. They told me “If this is materialism, I’m a materialist.” That is to say that God is not an old man sitting up there pulling the strings etc. God is just a name for this void, openness, this inhuman, more than human. I think that we should rehabilitate, and we all agree here with my friends, Badiou, Agamben, me, of course not in the sense of “Let’s kill them” inhumanity, more than human, trans-human dimension.(19)
“Man himself has become more enigmatic for us. We ask again: What is man? A transition, a direction, a storm sweeping over our planet, a recurrence or a vexation for the gods? We do not know. Yet we have seen that in the essence of this mysterious being, philosophy happens.”
– Martin Heidegger, The End of Philosophy
We are vanishing into our digital dreams – some say, nightmares; not out of excitement, but rather from an absolute malaise, a profound boredom. Distraction and the ecstasy of speed, the coveted attunement to the machinic life of our artificial inception draws us onward. Like necronauts exiting the imponderable weight of the flesh we enter this new world of light, citizens of glamour, driven only by the fashionable excess of apathy and disdain. As we leave behind forever our organic heritage for the cosmic riddles of the artificial, we write our elegies on the night of our metamorphosis; mutants – one and all, splaying the vestiges of the chrysalis of our demented histories, each falling away into forgetfulness.
Technological revelation rather than appropriation should become the order of the day. Knowing as we know our disposition toward this inception, this revealing of the core of our inhuman technicity, our ‘will to will’. We should open our lives to the future of our mutant investiture, accept the passing of the human into the inhuman other, not as nostalgic disaffection and despair; and neither as the optimistic outcome of some prolific instigation at the heart of temporicity, but rather as the immanent realization of that dark prelude to our disappearance. Disappearance is not to be mourned, but rather to be lived in by the very actions of our becoming Other. We’ve always been in unique transition, always known within by the feint whisperings of things, that we are transitional beings – bridges to that which is in us more than us. There is a transcendence, but only in immanence, a movement in things: the illusive entrainment of their impossibility: the wavering between which brings with it the compositional artifacts of desire that always are and never end.
Maybe in the end we are just faulty programs in a broken reality system, built by an artificial mind for a lonely and blind child for the sheer pleasure of an afternoon’s stay on the abandoned beachhead of an accidental cosmos. Or, maybe we are the glance of futurial beings, their eyes melding with the galactic melodies of strange and wondrous revelations, as they call to us in their turning metamorphic and mutant, singing of the darkness and the light at the end of things.
Philosophy as a separate academic discipline will disappear, because life itself is philosophical; that is, the actual is now virtualized. Heidegger once spoke of the “will to will” as technologization of “planetary technicity”: “… ubiquitous, continual, unconditional investigation of means, grounds, hindrances, the miscalculating of exchange and plotting of goals, deceptiveness and maneuvers, the inquisitorial, as a consequence of which the will to will is distrustful towards… itself, and thinks of nothing else than the guaranteeing of itself as power itself.” (Heidegger, Nietzsche: p. 102)
We live in an age when the truth has disappeared among its own fragments, what remains is the economics of a calculating, self-guaranteeing information system that knows no boundaries. The capitalization of finance turns into pure metaphysics and vanishes: and, instead of serving the sacred as in the old metaphysical worlds, it guarantees what Heidegger termed the “correct”. As Heidegger confirms:
“What is in accordance with the will is correct and in order. In this self-guaranteeing of the will to will the primal being of truth is lost. This correctness of the will to will is absolutely untrue. The correctness of the untrue has its own irresistibility in the scope of the will to will … What is correct masters what is true and sets the true aside. The will to will unconditional guaranteeing first causes ubiquitous uncertainty to appear.” (39)
For Heidegger the creation of radical uncertainty is standard operating procedure in our techno-commercial world. In such a world everything becomes “raw resource”: consumption machines, code machines, speed machines, and virtual machines. The knowledge class is driven to excess in an accelerating economy of immaterial exchange, cut off in a no-time realm where history vanishes and is replaced by ‘presentism‘ of an eternal now. We are at the beginning of a new cycle in which Heidegger will ask: “What kind of humanity is capable of the unconditional completion of nihilism?” A humanity that is no longer human, but rather inhuman: the technical realization of the posthuman.1
Since our virtualization of reality recently commenced we will complete the task of nihilism by enclosing our world in an Infosphere of timelessness and datastreams. An obvious illusion, but then humanity has always been immersed in its illusions. This is the age Heidegger would call a ‘completed nihilism’:
This struggle is planetary and undecidable because it has nothing to decide … through its own force it is driven out into what is without destiny … into the abandonment of being. (The End of Philosphy, p. 102)
It’s probably true, a lot of people will read me straight and literally when in fact for the most part I’m an ironist and satirist, a comic nihilist exploring the hinterlands of our age’s insipidity and flagrant emptiness of ideas, politics, or prospects for the future. As Reinhold Niebur once said elegantly,
“…the tragic elements in present history are not as significant as the ironic ones. Pure tragedy elicits tears of admiration and pity for the hero who is willing to brave death or incur guilt for the sake of some great good. Irony however prompts some laughter and a nod of comprehension beyond the laughter; for irony involves comic absurdities which cease to be altogether absurd when fully understood. Our age is involved in irony because so many dreams of our world have been so cruelly refuted by history. Our dreams of a pure virtue are dissolved in a situation in which it is possible to exercise the virtue of responsibility toward a community of nations only by courting the prospective guilt of the atomic bomb. And the irony is increased by the frantic efforts of some of our idealists to escape this hard reality by dreaming up schemes of an ideal world order which have no relevance to either our present dangers or our urgent duties.”
– from The Irony of American History
Even more so today in a world where financial capitalism has dispensed with productivity – and any hint of caring about people, nations, or the well-being of our planetary civilization; and, instead entered into a fantasy realm of the pure present where hedge-funds and fast-trading rule the iron waves of banking systems gone amok calibrating profit against risk in a roulette world that hopes disaster will win out. A world where the rich are bailed out and the poor excluded from even the bare necessities of life, where racism runs in the streets and the club rooms of New York City. Where prisons owned and operated by Corporate profit seek government help from Federal and State agencies to keep the cells full… a world where war has become permanent, and terror exists only in the minds of Pentagon war rooms, and the Hollywood scripts of politicians adverts and dreams of Walls or Barbwire against the migrants of helpless refugees.
Note: Philosophical presentism is the view that neither the future nor the past exist. In some versions of presentism, this view is extended to timeless objects or ideas such as numbers. According to presentism, events and entities that are wholly past or wholly future do not exist at all. Presentism contrasts with eternalism and the growing block theory of time which holds the past events, like the Battle of Waterloo, and past entities, like Alexander the Great’s warhorse Bucephalus, really do exist, although not in the present. Eternalism alone extends this to future events as well.
Kroker, Arthur. The Will to Technology and the Culture of Nihilism: Heidegger, Marx, Nietzsche. University of Toronto Press (March 6, 2004)
I discovered this on FB this morning: Bill Clinton to Millennials: You Are Everything That’s Wrong With This Country, Please Vote for Hillary. According to the future First Husband, “If all the young people who claim to be disillusioned now had voted in 2010, we wouldn’t have lost the Congress, and we’d probably have our incomes back,” he said. Blaming the victims for the stupidity of his wife is beyond ridiculous. The banana man has spoken… the gutless spume of a cyborg autarch preaching to the poor and excluded, the overtaxed and underpaid worker, student, and generally out of work or part-timer uninsured Millennial. It’s as if someone had programmed him to relay the switch diagrams of the Oligarchic paradigm into moral deliberations for the insane.
The guy was garbage bagger then, and still is… back then he praised them, now he wants to vilify them? What a piece of work… A sex pot with a smug pocket book smile who makes a living conning the rich and castigating the poor and intelligent among us. While his affectless and robotic wife struts the stage of imbecility threatening and waving her ignorance before the world like a Mata Hari of the jet set robbing the secrets of the world, spying on the rich and famous and holding it over them like a sledgehammer for her bankrolled run for dictator of the U.S.A. Lobby’s in her hidden hand, sunglasses to hide her metal eyes, and a voice that rings false even as it spatters her constituents with promises of an American Dreamland. Like her forbears she is the mimic of a sordid gamble, a queen whose only realm is the illusory vision of corruption and control, a world depleted of its resilience and handed over to the dictates of billionaires and plutocratic autarchs.
This from the man who in 1993 contrived the Accident of 2007 by deregulating the banks. The Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLBA), also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 and commonly pronounced ″glibba″, (Pub.L. 106–102, 113 Stat. 1338, enacted November 12, 1999) is an act of the 106th United States Congress (1999–2001). It repealed part of the Glass–Steagall Act of 1933, removing barriers in the market among banking companies, securities companies and insurance companies that prohibited any one institution from acting as any combination of an investment bank, a commercial bank, and an insurance company. With the bipartisan passage of the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, commercial banks, investment banks, securities firms, and insurance companies were allowed to consolidate. Furthermore, it failed to give to the SEC or any other financial regulatory agency the authority to regulate large investment bank holding companies. The legislation was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
The act is “often cited as a cause” of the 2007 subprime mortgage financial crisis “even by some of its onetime supporters.” President Barack Obama has stated that GLBA led to deregulation that, among other things, allowed for the creation of giant financial supermarkets that could own investment banks, commercial banks and insurance firms, something banned since the Great Depression. Its passage, critics also say, cleared the way for companies that were too big and intertwined to fail.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has also argued that the Act helped to create the crisis. In an article in The Nation, Mark Sumner asserted that the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act was responsible for the creation of entities that took on more risk due to their being considered “too big to fail“. Other critics also assert that proponents and defenders of the Act espouse a form of “eliteconomics” that has, with the passage of the Act, directly precipitated the current economic recession while at the same time shifting the burden of belt-tightening measures onto the lower- and middle-income classes.
And he wants me to support his wife? Give me a break!!!
Rummaging the hivemind of postmodernism is like revisiting an open sandbox for wounded children with nothing better to do than throw punchlines and jokes at each other, knowing full well that the other is already vanishing into her own molecular delirium: laughter alone remains among the dispersal of linguistic traces, a Satanic laughter at having killed both God and Subject, therefore removing the remaining issue of humanity for the earth’s own forgetfulness… sadly, the earth has nothing to offer these orphans of thought, only the pure indifference they’ve all come to recognize and deign to admit into their lives, an impersonalism at the heart of their inhuman gaze.
First, I think it’s appropriate to begin w/ a quote from Hegel, as Debord himself does, albeit a different selection, one from Hegel’s Jena lectures 1805-6:
The human being is this Night, this empty nothing which contains everything in its simplicity–a wealth of infinitely many representations, images, none of which occur to it directly and none of which are not present…We see this Night when we look a human being in the eye, looking into a Night which turns terrifying. [For from his eyes] the night of the world hangs out toward us.
Why begin this way? What does Hegel’s anthropological metaphysics have to do with Debord’s punchy book? I think in large part it is Hegel’s treatment of identity and non-identity that Debord finds useful, and how they play into processes of identity-formation. For Hegel, the human being (nor the “Spirit” which encompasses humans individually and collectively)…
Marx’s final contribution was to theorize the legacy codes of the new capitalist order: virtual capitalism. Captured by the fatal spell of the dialectic, capitalism itself is Marxism recombinant. That means that Marxism today has accelerated to such a point of delirious intensity that capitalism itself comes under the spell of Marx’s vision of dialectical materialism. From the grave, Marx brilliantly framed the future of …virtual capitalism: its motor-force – the digital commodity-form; its theory of exploitation – the knowledge theory of value; its class struggle – the virtual class versus the surplus class; its key vision – the speeding up of the model of production to the point that it disappears into the spectre of virtual commodities. (16)
– from the Will to Technology & The Culture of Nihilism by Arthur Kroker
Reading this article on Huffington Post about the need for Universal Basic Income to get the Engine of Human Progress started up again. As I read it I keep asking myself if we’re pulling two invariant concepts together in the wrong way? This need of Universal Basic Income is one concept, the notion of continuing the conceptual underpinnings of Enlightenment Era Human Progress is another. I think the two should be divorces henceforth.
First let me quote Scott Santens argument:
“Here lies the greatest obstacle to human progress — the longstanding connection between work and income. As long as everything is owned and the only way to obtain access to that which is owned is through money, and the only way to obtain money is to be born with it or through doing the bidding of someone who owns enough to do the ordering around — what humans call a “job” — then jobs can’t be eliminated. As a worker, any attempt to eliminate jobs must be fought and as a business owner, the elimination of jobs must involve walking a fine line between greater efficiency and public outcry. The elimination of vast swathes of jobs must be avoided unless seen as absolutely necessary so as to avoid angering too many people who may also be customers.”
Now at face value this is a nice and tidy notion in which he sees progress as a positive, something we once again need to bring about: innovation, technology, creativity, jobs, global equity and justice, and end to ethnic disparity, etc. All well and good, yet what has all this progress given us so far? Climate degradation, political and social turmoil’s, the divisions of rich and poor, First and Third World nations, the endless imperatives of war and globalization, the collusion of sciences and capitalization… a wonder world of corruption, racisms, ethno-national hatred, bigotry, and endless strife. Oh, yes, the wonders of human progress!
We’re living in a moment of shifting realities, it’s as if we are living in a post-Apocalyptic novel whose main character is in total denial. As if in our simulated probability systems we’ve seen the shadow on the screen of futurity, but are turning a blind eye against it, closing off the future, digging into temporal security systems to stave off the inevitable. Civilization has become a Temporal Security System guided by vast counter-intelligence programs to ward off the actual and real future scenarios of disaster ahead. Our Western Civilization has been accumulating wealth without wasting it in a Potlatch excess and celebration for hundreds of years, and now that the bill is being presented by the natural owners of its wealth, humanity is faced with the truth that it has entered the festival of death without a mask, naked to the forces that are now imploding toward collapse and dissolution. Even as we dream of exit and escape into transhuman and other modes of immortalism, the earth around us begins to call in its note, extract its pound of flesh and bring us to a harsh and inevitable realization that we must all pay the piper in the end. Earth is presenting humanity with a bill it will not be able to refuse, escape, or exit. One that may spell its doom if it does not come up with the exacting tribute and price asked.
A Counter-Shock is necessary to awaken it out of its boredom and apathy, to energize it to action… but, to do that we may need shock therapy, but not the kind that puts the patient into a coma, but rather one that awakens its actual and virtual passion to live again, seek out its solidarity and collective intelligence in the face of such temporal dislocations. A passion to come together and unite our warring world against an actual not fantasy opponent. Our own part in the ignorance and misguided shaping of this future must be recognized, diagnosed, and a world wide shift in action: a new combination of sacred unification and secular determination to face this challenge without falling into irrationalism and mythicized imagery; and, yet, it may need the one thing we have yet tried: the empowerment of all the arts in all their various forms and technics to counter this global formation. The combination of technics and arts, craft and engineering from both local and global, aboriginal and advanced societies.
“Post-history has been ‘driftworks,’ an indeterminate and increasingly violent series of technological experiments on the horizon of existence itself: the acceleration of space under the sign of digital culture until space itself has been reduced to a ‘specious present,’ and the social engineering of time into a micro-managed prism of empy granulartities.”
– Arthur Kroker
As an maverick educator Arthur Kroker is a nexus of hybrid thought, a convergence of other scholars and philosophers, scientists and performativity thinkers and artists, yet he is able to take their thought and derive from it a glossalia of our hypercapitalist nihilism and hyperstitional memes, amplifying and simplifying them it into intelligible soundbytes for the hungry masses yearning for a meaning that has no meaning. In that he is typical of those singular drifters on the edge of our present apocalypse or ‘revealing’ moment, who jut ahead like vagrant poets of temporal dreams, his antennae always in the netwaves gathering the electronic thoughts from the hypervalent wires of futurity.
Arthur and Marilouise Kroker are writers and lecturers in the areas of technology and contemporary culture. Together they edit the electronic journal CTheory,where they’ve served up articles from a broad range of scholars, thinkers, scientists, innovators, etc. on technology and culture.
What if we were to think media theory as itself an artistic practice, that is, as a form of aesthetic imagination that seeks to directly enter the world of data nerves, network skin, and increasingly algorithmic minds with the intention of capturing the dominant mood of these posthuman times – drift culture – in a form of thought that dwells in complicated intersections and complex borderlands? In its essence, thinking with and against the larger technopoesis of accelerate, drift, and crash that holds us in its sway requires a form of media reflection that is itself an exit to the posthuman future.1
As I once said in Utopia or Hell: The Future as Posthuman Game StrategyKroker will admonish that we seem to be on the cusp of a strange transition, situated at the crossroads of humanity, and the future presents itself now as a gigantic simulacrum of the recycled remnants of all that which was left unfinished by the coming-to-be of the technological dynamo – unfinished religious wars, unfinished ethnic struggles, unfinished class warfare, unfinished sacrificial violence and spasms of brutal power, often motivated by a psychology of anger on the part of the most privileged members of the so-called global village. The apocalypse seems to be coming our way like a specter on the horizon, not a grand epiphany of events but by one lonely text message at a time. (Kroker, 193)
My friend Edmund Berger of Deterritorial Investigation Unit would add a little history to this saying “the Situationists had configured the drift as the derive, a “technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances.” This psycheogeographical voyage was to be implemented in the terrain of the urban landscape, the setting for strolls – often aided by intoxicating substances – through region reconditioned by the demands of capitalism modernization. The drift was to be an act of reclamation: the city would become a place of adventure, liberated from its overcoding as a site of so-called cultural production through the ritualistic act of consumption and other forms of exchange. Guy Debord’s onetime comrade in the days of Socialism ou Barbarie, Jean-Francois Lyotard, injected this method of drift into the odysseys of intellectual life. For Lyotard it is an act of not only grand subversion, but also one of excess and decadence; drifting amidst the dissolving grand narratives of modernity is a concern of both wanton destruction and gleeful creation.” (The Posthuman and Information Guerilla)
Bruce Sterling in his book The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Thingssays late capitalism is in process of laying the infrastructure for tyranny and control on a global scale through the use of such optimistic drift culture:
Digital commerce and governance is moving, as fast and hard as it possibly can, into a full-spectrum dominance over whatever used to be analogue. In practice, the Internet of Things means an epic transformation: all-purpose electronic automation through digital surveillance by wireless broadband.
Yet, against this decadent scenario as Kroker suggests what if the counter were true, and the shadow artists of the future or even now beginning to enter the world of data nerves, network skin, and increasingly algorithmic minds with the intention of capturing the dominant mood of these posthuman times – drift culture – in a form of thought that dwells in complicated intersections and complex borderlands? He envisions instead an new emergent order of rebels, a global gathering of new media artists, remix musicians, pirate gamers, AI graffiti artists, anonymous witnesses, and code rebels, an emerging order of figural aesthetics revealing a new order, a brilliantly hallucinatory order, based on an art of impossible questions and a perceptual language as precise as it is evocative. Here, the aesthetic imagination dwells solely on questions of incommensurability : What is the vision of the clone? What is the affect of the code? What is the hauntology of the avatar? What is most excluded, prohibited, by the android? What is the perception of the drone? What are the aesthetics of the fold? What, in short, is the meaning of aesthetics in the age of drift culture?(Kroker, 195-196)
As Edmund reiterates Kroker’s response, the drift culture, takes place on a global level, as Hickman surmises: it is a “new emergent order of rebels, a global gathering of new media artists, remix musicians, pirate gamers, AI graffiti artists, anonymous witnesses, and code rebels, an emerging order of figural aesthetics revealing a new order, a brilliantly hallucinatory order, based on an art of impossible questions and a perceptual language as precise as it is evocative.” He seems to be invoking, then, the weirdness of the internet itself when the world first went wired, as the subcultures of the globe clashed and produced the mutated offspring that today is retrospectively referred to a “tactical media.” This transnational roster includes Kroker’s own CTheory, Nettime, The Thing, Laibach, the Neoists, I/O/D, Adilkno, the VNS Matrix, Afrika G.R.U.P.P.E, the Critical Art Ensemble, the unknown legions of Karen Eliots and Luther Blissetts – and later Wu Mings -, so on and so forth. Through each of these the newfound possibilities of communication exchange and interconnection collided with the compulsion to theorize wildy, conduct absurdist interventions, increase solidarity and even overt support with political struggles, and constantly interrogate the barriers and the intersections of the political with the aesthetics.
Kroker will add that now that the posthuman condition has revealed decadence – incredulous, excessive decadence – as the basic ontology of late capitalism, the point of a figural art that would “harden, worsen, accelerate decadence” would be precisely the reverse, that is to say, it would draw into a greater visibility those intangible, but very real, impulses to social solidarity and ethical probity that haunt the order of the real. (198) So Kroker is moving toward an affirmation of an accelerationist aesthetic that would unloosen the tendencies within the social not to further the capitalist agendas, but rather to disturb it and force its hand into other paths through collective and ethical change and transformation.
Kroker, Arthur (2014-03-12). Exits to the Posthuman Future (p. 195). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
On Wired is an article about the company Magic Leap developing the future of immersive technologies that will hook you. As Jessi Hempel tells it:
Visiting Magic Leap was like stepping through the fictional wardrobe in Professor Kirke’s house that first landed Lucy in the colorful chaos of Narnia. The company was still working out of temporary offices on the fourth floor of the Design Center of the Americas, a sprawling complex of eerily quiet showrooms where interior designers showcase furniture, fabrics, and flooring. While WIRED videographer Patrick Farrell parked the car, I entered the building and wandered to the back of the cavernous main hall, past a security guard who didn’t look up, hung a right, walked to the elevators, rode up, walked down another hall and around an atrium. I didn’t pass a single person. Then I arrived at a tiny reception area and stepped inside. There was so much going on!
There were people everywhere. Fresh off raising $794 million in funding—likely the largest C round in startup history–Magic Leap had been hiring faster than it could find seats for its growing cadre of designers and engineers and had amped up its already packed demo schedule. Just behind me, a leaper, as Magic Leap’s employees are called, handed a visitor a clipboard to review an NDA. To the left, another leaper ushered a pair of fashionably dressed guys out of a glass-walled conference room, presumably also en route to a demo.
When I ask him how Magic Leap works, he says it creates digital light field signals that mimic the way sight works. He explains that everyone’s brain has “an amazing world-building engine.” We call it sight, but really the brain is a big computer that absorbs data through sensors called your eyes and processes it to build models of the objects in your field of vision. “We basically tried to clone that and make a digital version of that,” he says. “We talked to the GPU”—graphic processing unit—“of the brain and asked it to make our stuff.”
One of those fascinating things about reading the Grundrisse periodically is that it weaves a tale of time, over and over, one that deals with capitalization and production not as “self-expansion” as many suggest, but rather as a cycle of self-circulation (feed-back circuits), and acceleration of the process of surplus value into profit without loss. Below I quote only two passages:
The frequency with which the same capital can repeat the production process (creation of new value) in a given period of time is evidently a condition not posited directly by the production process itself. Thus, while circulation does not itself produce a moment of value-determination, for that lies exclusively in labour, its speed does determine the speed with which the production process is repeated, values are created — thus, if not values, at least to a certain extent the mass of values. Namely, the values and surplus values posited by the production process, multiplied by the number of repetitions of the production process in a given period of time.(Page 471).
The smaller this labour time, the greater, as we have seen, the relative surplus value.(Page 453).
Throughout their many volumes (51?) Marx and Engels always come back to this cycle of value creation, and how capitalists over time discovered more efficient (Taylorism) ways to speed up this process between production of surplus value, and the uselessness of the products themselves. The capitalist has never concerned himself with the product, as much as the process of production. How to compress the time between production and circulation. For as they’ll say: “Thus, in addition to the labour time realized in production, the circulation time of capital enters in as a moment of value creation — of productive labour time itself. While labour time appears as value-positing activity, this circulation time of capital appears as the time of devaluation. (Page 471).” The point of capitalism is to narrow the time between value creation and the “time of devaluation” to nil.
One reason we’ve seen the capitalists enter into the current roulette wheel of Fast Trading which does away with the product altogether, yet retains its shadow as temporal circulation between loss and gain.
Ultimately this leads to the actual contradiction of capital:
“The continuity of production presupposes that circulation time has been
suspended. If it has not been suspended, then time must pass between the
different metamorphoses through which capital must travel; its circulation
time must appear as deduction from its production time. On the other hand, the nature of capital presupposes that it travels through the different phases of circulation not as it does in the mind, where one concept turns into the next at the speed of thought, in no time, but rather as situations which are separate in time. It must spend some time as a cocoon before it can take off as a butterfly. Thus the conditions of production arising out of the nature of capital itself contradict each other.”(Page 481).
It’s at this point in the Grundrisse that he gives his Theories of Surplus Value and Profit. (from 481 onward…). No room to resolve the time of suspension with that of speed here. I’ll only leave the base circle:
“‘Circulation is the more productive the more rapid it is; i.e. the less time
it requires to relieve the entrepreneur of the finished product and bring it to
market, and to bring the capital back to him in its first form.’ ‘The
entrepreneur can begin production again only after he has sold the completed product and has employed the price in purchasing new materials and new wages: hence, the more promptly circulation acts to bring about these two effects, the sooner is he in a position to begin his production anew, and the more profits does his capital bring in a given period of time.’ (Page 568).
If as Marx suggests this is the basic capitalist project then how could it ever end in Communism? The capitalist could care less about politics except as it pertains to this need for speed and profit. Capitalism sits outside politics altogether and does not care whether it is neoliberal or free-market communism. It has one objective the accumulation without waste of surplus value. The crisis in capital comes during that moment of Suspension when circulation comes to a halt and must lie fallow. In its seeking to accumulate it forgets that time is not free, its money; and, money is stored time. But as Marx says “money, in its immediate form, can therefore not be said to speed up the circulation of capital, rather delays it.”(Page 600). As long as that money is in circulation rather than brought back to the origin and production cycle we are in the “time of devaluation”.
In the very first chapter of Capital, Marx explains that value is time, the accumulation of time—time objectified, time that has become things, goods. It is not the time of work, of working in time, that produces value, for it matters little whether one is lazy or efficient. This is what he means by Suspension of time in the product. The product is frozen time. Money is frozen time. Anything outside the production cycle is frozen time, or the “time of devaluation” or pure loss. It’s this oversaturation of the market by overproduction whether in industrial or financial markets that tips the scale of time and produces the very contradiction of a slow-down or deceleration in the production cycle that causes the circulation of money to lie fallow – the Cocoon effect (Marx), or the “time of devaluation”. Only after lying fallow between two productive cycles, awaiting a new one to emerge does the market enter those depressive times, and it is this contradiction that must be overcome for the production cycle to begin anew.
In our time we are seeing the rise of immaterial financialization (i.e., fast trading, etc.) seeking to bypass the production cycle altogether, while at the same time automating and accelerating these very processes in a vacuum of ever faster circulation between the profit/loss time barriers in this process. Yet, the accumulating effect of surplus-value disappears within the virtual/actual process of this cycle leaving less and less profit over time due to entropic informational loss between cycles. It is this that has yet to be overcome. We (humans) exist outside the loop now, as extraneous and bit player in a game that no longer needs us as programmed modules. Therefore we’ve entered a new stage in the Time Wars.
The problem for the capitalist is not to overcome some external barrier, but rather to overcome time… the only politics is the temporal wars we’re in. Will those that support a Left or Right Accelerationism win the Time Wars? Or some other path? Or will the Time War of our current Mass Extinction Event overtake all players in this End Game? That remains to be seen…
Two factors suggest that something is deeply wrong on the surface of the earth’s crust: earthquakes and volcanos. Why? I’ve been studying some of the reports on Volcanic activity around the world, along with the sudden rise in earthquake activity as well in the past year. In the past 48 hours the earth has suddenly produced 5 major earthquakes along with Volcanos that are erupting all over the planet. USGS shows the largest recent earthquake in Ecuador at 7.8. Another report shows 40 volcanoes erupting around the planet at the moment.
According to the Guardian the gravitational pull of the sun and moon, the speed at which the Earth rotates constantly changes, is affecting us more than usual. Accordingly the length of a day actually varies from year to year. The difference is only in the order of milliseconds. But new research suggests that this seemingly small perturbation could bring about significant changes on our planet – or more accurately, within it.
A study published in the journal Terra Nova in February showed that, since the early 19th century, changes in the Earth’s rotation rate tended to be followed by increases in global volcanic activity. It found that, between 1830 and 2013, the longest period for which a reliable record was available, relatively large changes in rotation rate were immediately followed by an increase in the number of large volcanic eruptions. And, more than merely being correlated, the authors believe that the rotation changes might actually have triggered these large eruptions.
Altering the spin of a planet, even by a small amount, requires a huge amount of energy. It has been estimated that changes in the Earth’s rotation rate dissipate around 120,000 petajoules of energy each year – enough to power the United States for the same length of time.
This energy is transferred into the Earth’s atmosphere and subsurface. And it is this second consequence that the Terra Nova authors believe could affect volcanoes.
The vast quantities of energy delivered to the subsurface by rotation changes are likely to perturb its stress field. And, since the magma that feeds volcanic eruptions resides in the Earth’s crust, stress variations there may make it easier for the liquid rock to rise to the surface, and thereby increase the rate of volcanic eruptions.
The Terra Nova study is far from conclusive. Nevertheless, the idea that minute changes to the Earth’s spin could affect volcanic motions deep within the planet is intriguing.
Climate Change Impact
There is also the impact of climate change.
Around 19,000 years ago, glaciation was at a peak. Much of Europe and North America was under ice. Then the climate warmed, and the glaciers began to recede. The effect on the planet was generally quite favourable for humankind. But, since the mid-1970s, a number of studies have suggested that, as the ice vanished, volcanic eruptions became much more frequent. A 2009 study, for example, concluded that between 12,000 and 7,000 years ago, the global level of volcanic activity rose by up to six times. Around the same period the rate of volcanic activity in Iceland soared to at least 30 times today’s level.
There is supporting evidence from continental Europe, North America and Antarctica that volcanic activity also increased after earlier deglaciation cycles. Bizarrely, then, volcanic activity seems – at least sometimes – to rise and fall with ice levels. But why? This strange effect might come down to stress.
The link between climate change and volcanism is still poorly understood. Many volcanoes do not seem to have been affected by it. Nor is it a particularly pressing concern today, even though we face an ice-free future. It can take thousands of years after the glaciers melt for volcanic activity to rise.
Rescue crews searched desperately through rubble for survivors of a magnitude-7.8 earthquake that struck coastal Ecuador.
The tremor was centered 27 kilometers (16.8 miles) southeast of the coastal town of Muisne, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
“It was the worst experience of my life,” survivor Jose Meregildo said Sunday about the tremors that violently shook his house in Guayaquil, 300 miles away from the quake’s epicenter. “Everybody in my neighborhood was screaming saying it was going to be the end of the world.”
The earthquake hit Saturday around 7 p.m. while people were going about their evening. The tremors buckled overpasses trapping drivers. A shopping mall partially collapsed on customers and several buildings have been flattened with their content spilled into the streets.
All six coastal provinces — Guayas, Manabi, Santo Domingo, Los Rios, Esmeraldas and Galapagos — are in state of emergencies.
People left their homes and wandered around, some sleeping in the streets.
“I found my house like this,” said Nely Intriago, standing in front of a pile of rubble. “What am I going to do? Cry, that’s what. Now we are on the street with nothing.”
Could a 8.0 or better earthquake hit the Pacific Northwest? According to Chris Goldfinger: yes, it could, and sooner than you might think. If, on that occasion, only the southern part of the Cascadia subduction zone gives way—your first two fingers, say—the magnitude of the resulting quake will be somewhere between 8.0 and 8.6. That’s the big one. If the entire zone gives way at once, an event that seismologists call a full-margin rupture, the magnitude will be somewhere between 8.7 and 9.2. That’s the very big one. As the article suggests:
Most people in the United States know just one fault line by name: the San Andreas, which runs nearly the length of California and is perpetually rumored to be on the verge of unleashing “the big one.” That rumor is misleading, no matter what the San Andreas ever does. Every fault line has an upper limit to its potency, determined by its length and width, and by how far it can slip. For the San Andreas, one of the most extensively studied and best understood fault lines in the world, that upper limit is roughly an 8.2—a powerful earthquake, but, because the Richter scale is logarithmic, only six per cent as strong as the 2011 event in Japan.
Just north of the San Andreas, however, lies another fault line. Known as the Cascadia subduction zone, it runs for seven hundred miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, beginning near Cape Mendocino, California, continuing along Oregon and Washington, and terminating around Vancouver Island, Canada. The “Cascadia” part of its name comes from the Cascade Range, a chain of volcanic mountains that follow the same course a hundred or so miles inland. The “subduction zone” part refers to a region of the planet where one tectonic plate is sliding underneath (subducting) another. Tectonic plates are those slabs of mantle and crust that, in their epochs-long drift, rearrange the earth’s continents and oceans. Most of the time, their movement is slow, harmless, and all but undetectable.
If one hit in this region all chaos would ensue. In the Pacific Northwest, the area of impact will cover everything west of Interstate 5 covers some hundred and forty thousand square miles, including Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Eugene, Salem (the capital city of Oregon), Olympia (the capital of Washington), and some seven million people. When the next full-margin rupture happens, that region will suffer the worst natural disaster in the history of North America. Roughly three thousand people died in San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake. Almost two thousand died in Hurricane Katrina. Almost three hundred died in Hurricane Sandy. FEMA projects that nearly thirteen thousand people will die in the Cascadia earthquake and tsunami. Another twenty-seven thousand will be injured, and the agency expects that it will need to provide shelter for a million displaced people, and food and water for another two and a half million. “This is one time that I’m hoping all the science is wrong, and it won’t happen for another thousand years,” Murphy says.
I’ve been reading this article on The Babel Singularityabout Ian Pearson’s predictions that humankind will have transformed itself into a new species by 2050. ‘Homo Optimus,’ as he has coined the name of our Posthuman existence, will be ‘digitally immortal,’ and will be a hybrid of biology and technology. Pearson and others have predicted that technology will permit us to upload all of our thoughts and experiences into a digital repository, thus preserving our minds indefinitely, regardless of what happens to our bodies.
Yet, before this there was Vernor Vinge who would suggest that within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended. Is such progress avoidable? If not to be avoided, can events be guided so that we may survive?1 Marvin Minsky also expressed this dream when he suggested it will soon be possible to extract human memories from the brain and import them, intact and unchanged, to computer disks.2 he clear implication is that if we can become the information we have constructed, we can achieve effective immortality.
Nick Land would even formulate a counter to Left Wing Marxism with a techno-commercialist version of the Singularity front from a Right-Wing Marxist perspective of accelerating production, stating that it was time to ‘Optimize for intelligence’. Yet, he’d ask:
What is a brain for? It, too, is a digression. Evolutionary history seems to only very parsimoniously favor brains, because they are expensive. They are a means to the elaboration of complex behaviors, requiring an extravagant up-front investment of biological resources, accounted most primitively in calories. A species that can reproduce itself (and whose individuals can nourish themselves) without cephalic extravagance, does so. This is, overwhelmingly, the normal case. Building brains is reluctantly tolerated biological digression, under rigorous teleogical — we should say ‘teleonomic’ — subordination.
‘Optimize for intelligence’ is, for both biology and economics, a misconceived imperative. Intelligence, ‘like’ capital, is a means, which finds its sole intelligibility in a more primordial end. The autonomization of such means, expressed as a non-subordinated intelligenic or techno-capitalist imperative, runs contrary to the original order of nature and society. It is an escaping digression, most easily pursued through Right-wing Marxism.
He’ll follow Deleuze and Guattari in developing this mode of production rather than a critique of it, affirming its potential and expanding on it by accelerating its optimization of intelligence as neither a biological or social imperative, but rather as a primordial aspect of the cosmic scheme. In fact he’ll see our present movement toward this Singularity within as part of the ongoing an ultra-capitalist dynamics that is shifting our civilization into high-gear:
In its unambiguously robotic phase — when capital-stock intelligenesis explodes (as self-exciting machine-brain manufacturing) — the teleological legitimation of roundabout production through prospective human consumption rapidly deteriorates into an absurdity. The (still-dominant) economic concept of ‘over-investment’ is exposed as an ideological claim upon the escalation of intelligence, made in the name of an original humanity, and taking an increasingly desperate, probably militarized form.
In other words neither biological or social imperatives have anything to do with this movement toward superintelligence, and the wet dreams of Plutocrats and their minions seeking to go along for the ride, to piggy-back into some hyper-transcendence into cyborg or digital life-forms is not only absurd but counter-productive. That this is older than humans and their games of biological or social destiny. This drive toward complexification is as old as the Universe itself, and we are but one stop-gap in the continuing saga of intelligence seeking newer and more optimized forms of existence within the Universe.
Yet, this driving force is using the wet dreams of Plutocrats to intervene and assert its own agenda in the affairs of men, dangling the fantasies of immortality just out of reach as it seeks to subvert and continue its own nefarious scenarios. If this sounds like a madcap gnostic mythos resurrected in science fictional garb, one might not be so far off. As I’ve read Land for years I’ve seen him use every aspect of our pop-cultural icons and images to convey his basic mythos of a superintelligence from the future retroactively inserting itself into our time to drive forward its own agendas, a sort of cyberpositive feed-back loop to bring about its own Singularity. This is Land’s core mytho-mania or anti-philosophy in a nutshell. Land sides with the superintelligence and uses all the various aspects of our codes against both liberal and communist thought-zombies. Nick Land on the neoreactionary front disagrees with this scenario of the current Plutocratic regimes that he terms the ‘Cathedral’. Against such fantasies of a techno-utopian futurism where the rich make the jump to an alter-destiny of digital happiness and live out their demented dreams, he offers us the message of hardcore neo-reactionaries:
For the hardcore neo-reactionaries, democracy is not merely doomed, it is doom itself. Fleeing it approaches an ultimate imperative. The subterranean current that propels such anti-politics is recognizably Hobbesian, a coherent dark enlightenment, devoid from its beginning of any Rousseauistic enthusiasm for popular expression. Predisposed, in any case, to perceive the politically awakened masses as a howling irrational mob, it conceives the dynamics of democratization as fundamentally degenerative: systematically consolidating and exacerbating private vices, resentments, and deficiencies until they reach the level of collective criminality and comprehensive social corruption. The democratic politician and the electorate are bound together by a circuit of reciprocal incitement, in which each side drives the other to ever more shameless extremities of hooting, prancing cannibalism, until the only alternative to shouting is being eaten…
Civilization, as a process, is indistinguishable from diminishing time-preference (or declining concern for the present in comparison to the future). Democracy, which both in theory and evident historical fact accentuates time-preference to the point of convulsive feeding-frenzy, is thus as close to a precise negation of civilization as anything could be, short of instantaneous social collapse into murderous barbarism or zombie apocalypse (which it eventually leads to). As the democratic virus burns through society, painstakingly accumulated habits and attitudes of forward-thinking, prudential, human and industrial investment, are replaced by a sterile, orgiastic consumerism, financial incontinence, and a ‘reality television’ political circus. Tomorrow might belong to the other team, so it’s best to eat it all now.
As you can see this is a Dark Enlightenment by fire, where very little will remain of our current democratic globalization. In fact if Land is right very little that is human will get out of this alive. When one looks on the current Reality TV show of politics in the U.S.A. one begins to wonder if he is own to something? Consumerist society is doomed to failure and annihilation either at its own hands, the climate, or some other as yet unnamed force. The Plutocrats dream of transcendence like all religious and secular mysticisms amounts to a need to escape the guilt of one’s treachery. What they do not realize is that there is no original sin, no secret dilemma to overcome, no place to go, no other Platonic sphere, nor even the ability to transcend into some immortal dream of cyborgization or digital civilization. Instead like Virilio has reiterated over and over we want enter the simulated lands of desire, we’re going to be replaced by the productions of vaster intelligences we’ve dreamed of for so long. We’re giving birth to a progeny that will not only overtake us but replace us on the optimization scale of intelligent being in the Cosmos.
As Vinge once prophesied: “the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control. … It is more probable than not that, within the twentieth century, an ultraintelligent machine will be built and that it will be the last invention that man need make.”3 Problem is if such a system is more advanced in intelligence than we are then I doubt we’ll be able to control it, so all bets will be off and the future gambit of our creation will begin its own destiny. Whether we will have a place within its encompassing designs remains to be seen.
Vinge, Vernor (1993-06-07). The Coming Technological Singularity – New Century Edition with DirectLink Technology (Kindle Locations 11-13). 99 Cent Books & New Century Books. Kindle Edition.
Marvin Minsky, “Why Computer Science Is the Most Important Thing That Has Happened to the Humanities in 5,000 Years” (public lecture, Nara, Japan, May 15, 1996).
The teammates look forward to seeing where their research leads. “These nanotube wires grow and act like nerves, and controlled assembly of nanomaterials from the bottom up may be used as a template for applications in regenerative medicine,” Bornhoeft said.
“There are so many applications where one could utilize strong force fields to control the behavior of matter in both biological and artificial systems,” Cherukuri said. “And even more exciting is how much fundamental physics and chemistry we are discovering as we move along. This really is just the first act in an amazing story.”
Right off the bat: I do not share what I describe below in any form or fashion, but we have to take a peek into the dark side of strangeness and keep abreast of the fringes that seem to be insinuating themselves into politics abroad and at home.
For those that have kept abreast of the Utlra-Right mutations and divigations from NRx to the New Right of European thought there is an interview with the Russian apocalypse, Alexander Dugin on Martin Heidegger:
Dugin has the ear of Putin, and one is almost reminded of the Old Csar of the Russian Empire and Grigori Rasputin. Dugin has just enough of the political witchcraft of Western conceptuality to make him dangerous. He is he tells us neither of the Right or the Left, and against all forms of Modernity as he perceives it: both liberal and communist. He’s an apocalyptic Christian who sees Heidegger as compatible to his own thought, but that he sees Heidegger was hijacked by both the Left (Derrida) and Conservative Pragmaticism (Rorty), which for Dugin are both under the umbrella of Modernist thought forms. Below I’ve gathered a few snippets of his interview. Strange and apocalyptic rise of a new Eurasianism? He seems to think so… are we seeing a new Rasputin in our midst? Read on:
“Heidegger saw the Fourth Political Theory as an anti-liberal and anti-communist position that was critical vis-à-vis Nazism from the inside and not from the outside. Such criticism was possible only when Nazism was present. After its end he kept a silence that was very logical.”
“I have attentively read all three volumes of the Black Notebooks. The texts are very exciting, as are all lines belonging to Heidegger. I consider him the best philosopher of the West, so any word uttered by him is precious and demands careful meditation.” …
“The inner criticism of National Socialism is effectively present in the Black Notebooks but it is not the main or central theme.” …
“National Socialism is one of three political ideologies rooted in Modernity. Its totalitarianism is absolutely modern (Hannah Arendt has shown that). Heidegger was the most radical critic of Modernity as the oblivion of Being. He denounces the modern aspects of National Socialism, including racism. That is quite logical. And I share these criticisms.”
“I am against nationalism and against all creations of modernity. I am deeply persuaded that Modernity is absolutely wrong in every respect.” …
“So Heidegger founded an existential understanding of people (Dasein exiestiert völkisch, he used to say) that is neither nationalist, nor internationalist. This point is the basis of the Fourth Political Theory.”
“European history is a weak and increasingly decadent repetition of Greek patterns. Political philosophy as philosophy in general was the creation of the Greek genius. The Greeks are our destiny, our identity.”
“In order to understand Heidegger correctly, we need to share the basic anti-modern position that explains the main direction of his thought. He cannot be understood by liberals or communists (new leftists). They will criticize him or pervert his thought.” …
“We could start to understand Heidegger only after liberation from the hypnosis of all three forms of political Modernity – liberalism, communism and fascism. It is a challenge for the future.”
“My standpoint is against Modernity, which I reject as antithetic to the truth, but whose dialectic I consider not as something casual but as the dialectical moment of the destiny of Logos. Left and right are essentially modern. So they have nothing to do with my comprehension of being in its political dimension. But my anti-modernism had two periods: early Apollonian (traditionalism) and later Dionysian. The latter corresponds to the discovery of Heidegger’s political philosophy. This discovery has led me to the development of a Fourth Political Theory, based on an existential interpretation of the essence of “das Politische” [the Political], (using Carl Schmitt’s term).”
“Liberalism is part of exclusivist Modernity and Modernity is essentially totalitarian. There is open totalitarianism in Nazism. It is more open and radical in communism. The totalitarian (Modern) nature of liberalism, which was hidden and implicit during the periods of confrontation with two other more openly totalitarian Modern regimes, is now increasingly transparent and apparent.” …
“[Beyond Modernity] the Eurasia I dream of could one day turn into the existential ground for the meeting of these two families of Daseins – Western and Eastern. But what is important is not the fact of meeting but the event of awakening, and mutual help in the awakening.”
“The rebirth of Eurasia is an eschatological and spiritual event. Today, Eurasian people are in a profound existential sleep. But the logic of history put them in front of the dilemma either to awaken or die. … I am sure the awakening will come all of a sudden. Being prepared by all human history, it will arrive quite unexpectedly. Such is Ereignis. It can last. It is the rift in the texture of the sleep-time of inauthentic existence.”
“I am simply Heideggerian, trying to be as close as possible to this greatest thinker in order to understand him better. I am neither right nor left.”
“I am with Heidegger in the truth and in seeking the truth. I am a religious man in definition of the directions that should lead to the truth. Christianity (at least Orthodox Christianity) and Heidegger in my personal existence and thought are fully compatible.”
Saying, “We are not alive!” might seem not only odd but downright unscientific, but you might be wrong and under the assumption that life can be explained. If you think Life is bound to the Principle of Sufficient Reason in that as Spinoza once affirmed “For every fact F, there must be an explanation why F is the case.” Then Life is closer to a Principle of Insufficient Reason, instead. In that Life is experiential rather than a fact, a perception rather than knowledge, an affective response to a state of affairs rather than an explanandum.
Now before you dismiss me out of hand. Read this article on Scientific America: Why Life Does Not Really Exist. In it Ferris Jabr will describe his love of life and natural things, but that he recently had an epiphany, saying: “For as long as people have studied life they have struggled to define it. Even today, scientists have no satisfactory or universally accepted definition of life.” Then he proceeds to try to see what others have done to define Life. Read the article yourself, I’m not going to explicate it for you, only that his final conclusion is the absurdity that in the end Life cannot be defined because “it doesn’t exist”.
Ultimately after seeking out a small history of definitions of Life he’ll end with NASA’s basic definition: a self-sustaining system capable of Darwinian evolution. He’ll add: “It’s lucid, concise and comprehensive. But does it work?” Already he’ll see a problem in this definition, telling us that NASA’s working definition will banish viruses from the realm of life, and, that we must further exclude all manner of much larger parasites including worms, fungi and plants. So NASA’s definition is not wide enough to include all these other forms and modes of being in existence?
If this is true, then what else has NASA’s definition excluded? He’ll ask if computer programs might have been left out, too. “Genetic algorithms, for instance, imitate natural selection to arrive at the optimal solution to a problem: they are bit arrays that code traits, evolve, compete with one another to reproduce and even exchange information.” He’ll cite Robert Pennock in Discover. “All the core parts of the Darwinian process are there. These things replicate, they mutate, they are competing with one another. The very process of natural selection is happening there. If that’s central to the definition of life, then these things count.”
He’ll offer us a look at how life might have come about, speaking of RNA molecules that reproduce, mutate, and evolve. And, that ribozymes have altered small segments of their genetic code to adapt to fluctuating environmental conditions. Then he’ll ask Joyce that if this is true then does it meet his criteria of Life. Joyce will say,
“They meet the working definition of life,” Joyce says. “It’s self-sustaining Darwinian evolution.” But he hesitates to say that the ribozymes are truly alive. Before he goes all Dr. Frankenstein, he wants to see his creation innovate a completely new behavior, not just modify something it can already do. “I think what’s missing is that it needs to be inventive, needs to come up with new solutions,” he says.
Joyce’s hesitation according to Jabr is not justified. As he tells it if we define life as a “self-sustaining system capable of Darwinian evolution, I cannot see any legitimate reason to deny self-replicating ribozymes or viruses the moniker of life. But I do see a reason to ditch this working definition and all other definitions of life altogether.” If this is so then he comes to the crux of his argument, saying,
Why is defining life so frustratingly difficult? Why have scientists and philosophers failed for centuries to find a specific physical property or set of properties that clearly separates the living from the inanimate? Because such a property does not exist. Life is a concept that we invented. On the most fundamental level, all matter that exists is an arrangement of atoms and their constituent particles. These arrangements fall onto an immense spectrum of complexity, from a single hydrogen atom to something as intricate as a brain. In trying to define life, we have drawn a line at an arbitrary level of complexity and declared that everything above that border is alive and everything below it is not. In truth, this division does not exist outside the mind. There is no threshold at which a collection of atoms suddenly becomes alive, no categorical distinction between the living and inanimate, no Frankensteinian spark. We have failed to define life because there was never anything to define in the first place.
He’ll speak to Joyce on the phone who agrees that life cannot have a definitive definition, that it is more a “linguistic convenience” or working hypothesis than a definitive conclusion to what life is. Jabr will also bring in the work of Carol Cleland, a philosopher at the University of Colorado Boulder who tells him its “premature to reach the conclusion that there is no intrinsic nature to life as it is to define life, and she thinks the best attitude is to treat what are normally taken as the definitive criteria of life as tentative criteria.”
Yet, for Jabr it comes down to the notion there’s no material difference between living things and the inanimate; rather, we will never find some clean dividing line between the two because the notion of life and non-life as distinct categories is just that—a notion, not a reality. Ultimately as he states it:
I think what truly unites the things we say are alive is not any property intrinsic to those things themselves; rather, it is our perception of them, our love of them and—frankly—our hubris and narcissism.