Mutant Culture: Metamorphosis and the Dividual

My experience is what I agree to attend to.

—William James, Pragmatist and Philosopher

Algorithmic governmentality, by its perfect ‘real time’ adaptation, its ‘virality’ and its plasticity, makes the very notion of ‘failure’ meaningless…

—Desrosières, The Politics of Large Numbers

There is no biosphere or noosphere, but everywhere the same Mechanosphere.

—Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

With the advent of the Digital Age time has been out of joint, “the symptoms of a sort of dissonance and of temporal unbalance are multiplying in the sphere of aesthetic sensibility”.1 The rhythm of life is haunted by a sense of acceleration that fragments living experience and sensory perception itself. Time is out of joint—disjointed. As more and more humans in the past twenty years have become netizens, joining with hundreds of millions of others across the planet in the virtual environments of our networks the power of the mind, the cognitive activity coupled to the linguistic machines (i.e., interfaces, computers, mobile devices, etc.) has brought about a disjunction between our natural and artificial environments, allowing us to mutate and metamorphically decouple ourselves from our animal heritage and reliance of age old mental categories that over tens of thousands of years naturalized the mind. Whereas we for thousands of years developed mimetic techniques of memory to internalize information for recall, we now rely more and more on external devices and artificial intelligence to do our memory work, gather our information, search and index the world of knowledge that our ancestors used to do at the pace of attention.

Attention is the key.

“My experience is what I agree to attend to,” as my epigraph from William James suggests, attention serves as a gatekeeper for consciousness. It determines what one is conscious of. Our brains only ever give us what it needs to survive or reproduce the organism within which it is housed. So that most of what we term reality is blurred, excluded, and ill-defined for us. We come upon reality by way of accidents, stumbling upon aspects of this unruly world and cosmos as it acts upon us. And, yet, we do not know it, it is not an aspect of our attention, our awareness, our visible knowledge, our memories or experience stored or datafied. Reality is the excess that escapes our tools, our lives, our minds. All we have is the reflections grafted from this cosmic stream that our brain has forged for us over eons of evolutionary trial and error: our sex and survival depended on it, our natural environment as a hostile force that put pressure on us to block out everything but what was essential. Reality became essentialized, reduced to the bare minimum of sex and survival. Later the early philosophers would codify this process without every fully understanding the underlying mechanisms, nor realizing that what we think we know and the wider spectrum of the unknown within which we are encompassed is something of which we are blind.

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