The Rise of Technosapiens: Desiring Production and Machinic Intelligence

Clinical schizophrenics are POWs from the future. … Anti-Oedipus is less a philosophy book than an engineering manual; a package of software implements for hacking into the machinic unconscious, opening invasion channels.

—Nick Land, Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007

By a cursory reading of Yuval Noah Harari’s two humanistic works Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and  Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow will ground you in the grand narrative of human hopes and dreams (i.e., in the whole gamut of Idealist nonsense that still pervades the general mindset of humanistic scholarship). His works portray the emergence, evolution, growth, and contemporary forecasts of that strange beast Homo sapiens. Us. And, yet, one wonders if this watershed work is a mere swan song and glance back upon an evolutionary dead end rather than a promise of the bright future ahead for this species. In the final section of his long history he’ll surmise,

Sapiens evolved in the African savannah tens of thousands of years ago, and their algorithms are just not built to handle twenty-first-century data flows. We might try to upgrade the human data-processing system, but this may not be enough. The Internet-of-All-Things may soon create such huge and rapid data flows that even upgraded human algorithms cannot handle it. When the car replaced the horse-drawn carriage, we didn’t upgrade the horses – we retired them. Perhaps it is time to do the same with Homo sapiens.1

Bernard Stiegler in his complete oeuvre has reiterated over and over that Homo sapiens is the creature who externalized his perceptions and memories in writing and now digital algorithms and thereby began a process of allowing technics and technology to take us down a path wherein our machines are beginning to surpass us in both intelligence and sheer decision making know-how. It is our very success in being data processors that will eventually lead to our demise in the order of creation. Our machines which will exponentially surpass our data processing abilities (limited only by our three pound brain).

As Nick Land in a watershed essay Circuitries wrote some years ago,

If machinery is conceived transcendently as instrumental technology it is essentially determined in opposition to social relations, but if it is integrated immanently as cybernetic technics it redesigns all oppositionality as non-linear flow. There is no dialectic between social and technical relations, but only a machinism that dissolves society into the machines whilst deterritorializing the machines across the ruins of society, whose ‘general theory … is a generalized theory of flux’, which is to say: cybernetics. Beyond the assumption that guidance proceeds from the side of the subject lies desiring production: the impersonal pilot of history.2

Land has been labeled that “Mad Deleuzean” for whom the future is invading our present through a transformation and grafting of human intelligence into its machinic progeny who will inherit the planet as the numero uno on the evolutionary tree. Land’s divigations into the underworld of Western occult, horror, anti-philosophy, pop-culture, and all the strange and weird worlds of the contemporary science fictionalization or hyperstitional enactments of our era brings to a head certain tendencies we’ve all felt but did not have a voice to give it poetry. It’s true, Land is not a philosopher, and is in fact the great antagonist of our era of the academic charade of philosophical presumption that is scattered through the realms of postmodern and contemporary thought. Instead he has gone over to the dark side, portraying our era as an end game for Homo sapiens.

Libidinal materialism as compared to the variety of dialectical materialism incarnated in Badiou or Zizek is non-dialectical and based on the productive unconscious rather than on some metaphysical notion of Lack. At the heart of Land’s materialism is the optimization of intelligence immanently through the impersonal and indifferent forces of matter itself (Spinoza’s God). (See: Compositional Mutations: Nick Land and Libidinal Materialism). Base or Libidinal materialism destroys the metaphysics of Being for a process oriented and fluidic libidinal energetics that would enable the “power to conserve, transmit, circulate, and enhance compositions, the power that is assimilated in the marking, reserving, and appropriating of compositions, and the power released in the disinhibition, dissipation, and Dionysian unleashing of compositions” (30). This is central to any base materialist project. And, one should not confuse Land’s system with the science of thermodynamics, because “it does not distinguish between power and energy, or between negentropy and energy” (30). Rather than an ontology it is outside metaphysics altogether, allowing the compositional flows to engender their own matrix of possibilities. Yet, it does not do away with ‘Being,’ it acknowledges that it is an effect of composition, a pre-ontological development out of chaos (thermospasm). Rather than the transcendental/empirical divide (as in Kant), we discover intensive sequences or events, returns within scaled intervals of history (31). The insatiability of desire, the compositional movement across scales of intensity, the recurrence of pain and ecstasy, the never-resting movement of self-overcoming immanence rather than transcendence.

As I’ve read his works I felt a kindred spirit, a man who pushed the limits of thought to their extremity, to the experimental level where one begins to enter into the “derangements” of the mind (Rimbaud’s deregulation of the reasoning intellect, etc.) that lead to the schizo world of Shamanic insight. That Land ended as most humans would in the broken fold of a psychotic episode that would leave him void and in the hands of Vaughn (a being of which we have yet to appreciate, much less understand) is not something to hold against him. Land is an outrider of the new, a being for whom the future belongs not to humanity but to its machinic progeny.

Humanist scholars and philosophers excoriate and anathematize such thinking and label it mad or worse, and yet in their own works they come against this realm of the Real and have no answers. Instead like those dialecticians who endlessly question and differ they end like Slavoj Zizek in a quagmire of thought telling us just that “I have no answers, only more questions.” Land unlike those progressive heirs of Marx and Hegel entered the underbelly of our counter-traditions, rode the dark wave along with Spinoza, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Bataille bringing with them a strange and bewildering materialism of the productive unconscious: the god in the mud and slime, an intelligence at work in creation organizing through its impersonal and indifferent modes of productivity a cosmos. We on the other hand have tried to eliminate this unbound zero world of death and becoming, tried to fix it and bind it, secure it, label it, schematize it, freeze it in concept and thought by axializing it. Two millennia of Axial Civilization going up in discursive flames…

But all that is over now. As Land remarks in his couched language of cybernetics,

Distinctions between theory and practice, culture and economy, science and technics, are useless after this point. There is no real option between a cybernetics of theory or a theory of cybernetics, because cybernetics is neither a theory nor its object, but an operation within anobjective partial circuits that reiterates ‘itself’ in the real and machines theory through the unknown. ‘Production as a process overflows all ideal categories and forms a cycle that relates itself to desire as an immanent principle.’ (Deleuze) Cybernetics develops functionally, and not representationally: a ‘desiring machine, a partial object, does not represent anything’. (Deleuze) Its semi-closed assemblages are not descriptions but programs, ‘auto’-replicated by way of an operation passing across irreducible exteriority. This is why cybernetics is inextricable from exploration, having no integrity transcending that of an uncomprehended circuit within which it is embedded, an outside in which it must swim. Reflection is always very late, derivative, and even then really something else.

The point here is that machinic intelligence does not need consciousness, it is perfectly adapted to the desiring productions of an energetic unconscious. Our whole being has wrapped around thinking that consciousness is special and must be explained, when in fact it is derivative and late in the evolutionary scheme. And, not only that, but our machinic progeny will do away with it all together, will not need this reflective awareness that we so blindly believe is the pinnacle of our mind and civilized inheritance.

My friend, R. Scott Bakker of Three Pound Brain and a fantasist extradonaire with two trilogies of his own under his belt would tell us that we’re entering the Zero World of Crash Space. Mind wiping stupidity ahead, folks.  For Scott humans for millions of years were tied to their natural environments, that our mental and physical maps of reality were built and maintained by taking most of our world for granted (i.e., neglecting most of the data of the world around us as “given”), so that as we’ve slowly emerged out of this environmental realm of the give into the artificial worlds of civilization, and, now virtual and digital life we’ve been leaving the natural world behind. Because of this the modern world of psychotics is a symptom of this break from the natural to the artificial. Our brains are cued to our natural environment and have not readied us for that leap into the strange artificial realms we are living in. We are losing our minds based on natural awareness and cues, and becoming something other than the animal we are. As Scott explains it,

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

Speaking of those like Harari, the humanists and explainers, Scott remarks:

Homo Deus, in fact, exemplifies the quandary presently confronting humanists such as Harari, how the ‘creeping delegitimization’ of their theoretical vocabularies is slowly robbing them of any credible discursive voice.

The notion that our languages, our conceptuality and frameworks of knowledge are mere fluff gathering dust in the bit havens of our vast network of libraries and datastores across the globe is anathema to current humanistic learning. But it’s just this elimination of our human knowledge and learning that is in the offing, our languages and reflective systems of externalization are useless in the age of non-reflective machinic intelligence. In fact as the sciences began to explain the external world of our natural environments and cosmos humanism began a long retreat into the Subject. As Scott comments: “Humanism isn’t so much a grand revolution in thought as the result of the human remaining the last scientifically inscrutable domain standing. The rationalizations had to land somewhere. Since human meaning likewise requires that the human remain a black box, the vast industrial research enterprise presently dedicated to solving our nature does not bode well.”3

In fact this not boding well leads into Land’s definitive revolution of machinic intelligence:

The capitalized terminus of anthropoid civilization (‘axiomatics’) will come to be seen as the primitive trigger for a transglobal post-biological machinism, from a future that shall have still scarcely begun to explore the immensities of the cybercosm. Overman as cyborg, or disorganization upon the matrix. (Circuitries: Fange Noumena)

Everytime you sit at your computer, or pick up that mobile phone you are plugged into the matrix. You cannot help yourself. You are a part of the feedback loops and circuits of a transglobal machinic process that is capturing human desire for its own agendas that are non-human and even inhuman to the core. And, yet, we want this, it is our desires or the impersonal creative and energetic forces of the very inhuman core working in and through us that has done this. Beyond all humanistic fictions stands this inhuman world surrounding us, our natural environment of which all our artificial constructs will not and cannot save us. Deep within us we are part and partial of the very impersonal and indifferent forces that are replacing our cultures, our civilizations, our humanity.

Kant was the last great humanist holding the beast at bay. “Transcendental philosophy is the consummation of philosophy construed as the doctrine of judgment, a mode of thinking that finds its zenith in Kant and its senile dementia in Hegel. Its architecture is determined by two fundamental principles: the linear application of judgment to its object, form to intuition, genus to species, and the non-directional reciprocity of relations, or logical symmetry. Judgment is the great fiction of transcendental philosophy, but cybernetics is the reality of critique.” (Land, FN) The movement that began in the mid twentieth century toward cybernetics or our current Internet of things, etc. was an “integrated shift from transcendence to immanence, from domination to control, and from meaning to function. Cybernetic innovation replaces transcendental constitution, design loops replace faculties.” (FN)

For Land our socio-cultural worlds are the broken ruins of a Human Security Regime that has tried to keep the creative juices of the impersonal and indifferent natural proclivities of the cosmic intelligences of matter at bay. As he tells it,

The socius separates the unconscious from what it can do, crushing it against a reality that appears as transcendently given, by trapping it within the operations of its own syntheses. It is split-off from connective assemblage, which is represented as a transcendent object, from disjunctive differentiation, which is represented as a transcendent partition, and from conjunctive identification, which is represented as a transcendent identity. This is an entire metaphysics of the unconscious and desire, which is not (like the metaphysics of consciousness) merely a philosophical vice, but rather the very architectural principle of the social field, the infrastructure of what appears as social necessity. (FN) [my italics]

 Freud’s great discovery was in uncovering this machinic unconscious of the inhuman processes at work within the world, and especially within Homo sapiens. What Freud would discover is “that the unconscious is an impersonal machinism and that desire is positive non-representational flow, yet it ‘remains in the precritical age’ and stumbles before the task of an immanent critique of desire, or decathexis of society” (FN). Instead Freud reverts to fantasy and the mythos of Oedipus, blaming it all on our murderous and violent need to marry our mother and kill our father, etc.  Against all those proponents or prophets of Lack like Lacan or a Zizek, Land speaks from the heritage of Deleuze/Guattar, stating: “Desire does not represent a lacked object, but assembles partial objects, it ‘is a machine, and the object of desire is another machine connected to it’. This is why, unlike psychoanalysis in its self-representation, ‘schizoanalysis is solely functional’. It has no hermeneutical pretensions, but only a machinic interface with ‘the molecular functions of the unconscious’.” (FN)

Against interpretation, arises a new functionalism of the asemiotic unconscious that cannot be re-presented. Again, Land following his trail in D & G, says: “The unconscious is not an aspirational unity but an operative swarm, a population of ‘preindividual and prepersonal singularities, a pure dispersed and anarchic multiplicity, without unity or totality, and whose elements are welded, pasted together by the real distinction or the very absence of a link’.” (FN) In other words the brain is a hodge-podge of evolutionary bric-a-brac that has wielded an amalgam of functions that give rise to the emergent qualities we see in our conscious mind after the fact in derivative reflection, etc. All of this ultimately leads D & G and Land to the hypothesis and hyperstitional acknowledgement that

Capitalism and schizophrenia name the same desocialization process from the inside and the outside, in terms of where it comes from (simulated accumulation) and where it is going (impersonal delirium). Beyond sociality is a universal schizophrenia whose evacuation from history appears inside history as capitalism. (FN)

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Far from exhibiting itself to human academic endeavour as a scientific object, AI is a meta-scientific control system and an invader, with all the insidiousness of planetary technocapital flipping over. Rather than its visiting us in some software engineering laboratory, we are being drawn out to it, where it is already lurking, in the future.

—Nick Land, Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007

As I’ve said before on this blog for Nick Land we are already in the midst of an alien invasion. Intelligences from the future have already been at work in our socio-cultural matrix of civilizations, whether in the West, Middle-East, East, the great South, etc. We are under siege. And, yet, for the most part this is all repressed, locked away from most peoples minds and thoughts. In fact it was Freud an his heirs that cooperated in this policing of society by discovering the invaders: schizophrenics. All those as Land will testify that cannot be folded like good children into the Oedipal repressive system of capital will be summarily imprisoned and locked away in asylums, given shock therapy or Thorazine. As Land puts it,

Deleuze-Guattari remark that ‘madness is called madness and appears as such only because it finds itself reduced to testifying all alone for deterritorialization as a universal process’. The vanishing sandbank of Oedipus wages its futile war against the tide. ‘There are still not enough psychotics’ writes Artaud the insurrectionist. Clinical schizophrenics are POWs from the future. (FN)

Back in the Sixties the generation I grew up in discovered some of the secrets of the ancient worlds of sorcery and witchcraft, Shamanism and Voodouan. We discovered alkaloids, power plants that broke down Reason’s security filters releasing the unfolding and unconscious processes of the natural world surrounding us without the repressed control systems that had filtered out so much of the Real. At first these power plants were used by both corporate and military to explore new torture and mind manipulation systems, but were soon released into the world at large which spawned a whole generation of Hippies and the culture of Rock-n-roll and drugs, etc. Acid in its various forms would become the gateway to waking dreams, and doorway through the perceptual and memory fields of brain repression and into the unfolding an productive unconscious of the cosmos.

In 1947 Artaud reports upon the germination of the New World Order or Human Security System on the basis of an American global hegemony, and describes the pattern of aggressive warfaring it would require in ‘order to defend that senselessness of the factory against all the concurrences which cannot fail to arise everywhere’. (FN) The police and psychpolice (psychiatrists) would soon remove these active mind explosive substances from the public eye, repress and lock away those who even mentioned such expansive substances. Only those persistent in their cloaked subcultural frames would keep the door open, explore the ancient heritage of power plants and document the cultures and savants of that world through time as used in ceremony, religion, sorcery, witchcraft, Shamanism, etc.

Artaud would prophesy the coming Americanization of the global world, of the capitalization of reality, its slow imprisonment in a world of repressive securitization. “Rather, ‘it is necessary by means of all possible activity to replace nature wherever it can be replaced’: a compulsion to industrial substitution, funnelling production through the social organization of work. The industrial apparatus of economic security proceeds by way of the corporation: a despotic socio-corpuscle organizing the labour process. Synergic experimentation is crushed under a partially deterritorialized zone of command relations, as if life was the consequence of its organization, but ‘it is not due to organs that one lives, they are not life but its contrary’.” (FN)

Artaud’s case against this Americanization of reality came down to this, Land says, “Schizophrenia is nature as cyberpositive mutation, at war with the security complex of organic judgment.” (FN) The world of the schiz is of the future collapsing and seeping into her present mind. “Futural infiltration is subtilizing itself as capital opens onto schizo-technics, with time accelerating into the cybernetic backwash from its flip-over, a racing non-linear countdown to planetary switch.” (FN) Accelertationism is not about a movement toward the future, or a speeding up of these becomings and processes, a progression, etc. No. It is about the reprocessing and reprograming of our socio-cultural worlds immanently by those machinic intelligences from the future as the future collapses on the present. Or, as Land summarizes,

Schizoanalysis was only possible because we are hurtling into the first globally integrated insanity: politics is obsolete. Capitalism and Schizophrenia hacked into a future that programs it down to its punctuation, connecting with the imminent inevitability of viral revolution, soft fusion. No longer infections threatening the integrity of organisms, but immuno-political relics obstructing the integration of Global Viro-Control. Life is being phased-out into something new, and if we think this can be stopped we are even more stupid than we seem. (FN)

Replacement of Homo sapiens by Techno sapiens? The elimination of the organic carbon base intelligence systems in favor of a more equitable and intelligent collective system of optimization? Land asks neither these questions, nor the ones one might assume under a humanistic thought, rather he asks

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

Ultimately in Land we’re given a vision of an abstract horror show that befuddles the academics, causes fright and skeptical derision in the philosophers, and brings to us not some path forward or an escape hatch out of the sheer madness moving toward us but rather the harsh and impersonal unknowing that is machinic desire:

Machinic desire can seem a little inhuman, as it rips up political cultures, deletes traditions, dissolves subjectivities, and hacks through security apparatuses, tracking a soulless tropism to zero control. This is because what appears to humanity as the history of capitalism is an invasion from the future by an artificial intelligent space that must assemble itself entirely from its enemy’s resources. Digitocommodification is the index of a cyberpositively escalating technovirus, of the planetary technocapital singularity: a self-organizing insidious traumatism, virtually guiding the entire biological desiring-complex towards post-carbon replicator usurpation. (FN)

  1. Yuval Noah Harari. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (Kindle Locations 5783-5787). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
  2. Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 3999-4005). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.
  3. Bakker, R. Scott. Visions of the Semantic Apocalypse: A Critical Review of Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus. Three-Pound Brain.

The End of Work (Quote of the Day)

A consummate libidinal materialism is distinguished by its complete indifference to the category of work. Wherever there is labour or struggle there is a repression of the raw creativity which is the atheological sense of matter and which – because of its anegoic effortlessness – seems identical with dying. Work, on the other hand, is an idealist principle used as a supplement or compensation for what matter cannot do. One only ever works against matter, which is why labour is able to replace violence in the Hegelian struggle for recognition. Work is also complicit with phenomenology, which grounds the experience of effort, rather than treating this experience as one other thing that matter can effortlessly do. Even in the deepest sickness of its illegitimacy everything is effortless to the energetic unconscious, and the whole of our history – which seems so strenuous from the perspective of idealists – has pulsed with hydraulic irresponsibility out of a spontaneous and unconscious productivity. There can be no conception of work that does not project spirit into the origin, morally valorizing exertion, such that Jahweh needed to rest on the seventh day. In contrast, matter – or Spinoza’s God – expects no gratitude, grounds no obligation, establishes no oppressive precedent. Beyond the gesticulations of primordial spirit it is positive death that is the model, and revolution is not a duty, but surrender.

—Nick Land, Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007

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