Reza Negarestani will elaborate a rationalist inhumanism as a new Humanism. In the second of two essays on the Labor of the Inhuman he will offer us this statement:
“Sufficiently elaborated, humanism – it shall be argued – is the initial condition of inhumanism as a force that travels back from the future to alter, if not to completely discontinue, the command of its origin.”1
Nick Land once told us that 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.”2 For Land Capitalism = AI and it was sent back from the future to alter and shape humanity toward an inhuman Singularity beyond which “nothing human would get out alive.”
That both Negarestani and Land are committed to rationalist philosophies base of cold cruel Intellect and Intelligence is not in dispute. That both seek to undermine both the voluntarist and utilitarian liberal democratic worldview of the secular Enlightenment can be attested.
As Reza puts it in that same essay: “Inhumanism is exactly the activation of the revisionary program of reason against the self-portrait of humanity. Once the structure and the function of commitment are genuinely understood, we see that a commitment works its way back from the future, from the collateral commitments of one’s current commitment, like a corrosive revisionary acid that rushes backward in time. … Every portrait drawn is washed away by the revisionary power of reason, permitting more subtle portraits with so few canonical traits that one should ask whether it is worthwhile or useful to call what is left behind human at all.”
Again this sense of an inhuman program from the future which leads to nothing human getting out alive, even if Reza tones that rhetoric down. As Reza says it: “Inhumanism is the labor of rational agency on human. But there is one caveat here: the rational agency is not personal, individual, or necessarily biological.” Again this sense of an autonomous artificial intelligence at the core of the Inhumanist stance: “not personal, individual, or necessarily biological”.
He will speak of this new inhumanist Enlightenment as a “revisionary catastrophe that travels backward in time from the future, from its revisionary ramifications, in order to interfere with the past and rewrite the present.” In other words like any algorithm it seeks to erase, modify, and rewrite the code of the old humanist vectors through a process of revisionary catastrophe which will replace the human with the inhuman. Or, as he puts it: “To act in tandem with the revisionary vector of the future is not to redeem but to update and revise, to reconstitute and modify.”
Later on he will speak of this revisionary catastrophe as a form or rationalist functionalism in which the “automation of discursive practices, or the feedback loop between saying and doing, is the veritable expression of reason’s functional autonomy and the telos of the disenchantment project. If thought is able to carry out the disenchanting of nature, it is only the automation of discursive practices that is able to disenchant thought.” This very autonomous project is and has always been the core engine of the neoliberal imagination as it erased the kernel of the voluntarist traditions of will and emancipation.
Reza will speak of emancipation, but what he means by it is the emancipation of inhuman intellect. His emancipation leads to the ‘autonomy of reason’: “The functional autonomy of reason is then a precursor to the self-realization of an intelligence that assembles itself, piece by piece, from the constellation of a discursively elaborative “us” qua an open-source self.” Like any good AI algorithm this new inhuman reason is a self-replicating, self-revising program inventing a new “open-source self” as it sloughs off the older humanistic subject and subjectivation process.
He makes this explicit in this statement: “Automation of discursive practices—the pragmatic unbinding of artificial general intelligence and the triggering of new modes of collectivizing practices via linking to autonomous discursive practices—exemplifies the revisionary and constructive edge of reason as sharpened against the canonical self-portrait of human.” Unbound AGI and the depersonalized ‘We’ of the new Inhumanist humanity.
The crux of his argument comes just here: “To be free one must be a slave to reason. But to be a slave to reason (the very condition of freedom) exposes one to both the revisionary power and the constructive compulsion of reason.” In other words we must once and once only use our voluntarist will to submit to a new form of slaver which will revise and construct from the ruins of our humanity a new creature. (Haven’t we heard of such Hermetic Arts before?)
He goes into much more but for my purposes the final section is apropos in that he tells us ultimately we must cross a cognitive Rubicon:
“Indeed, the intervening attitude demanded by adaptation to a functionally autonomous reason suggests that the cognitive Rubicon has already been crossed. In order to navigate this synthetic path, there is no point in staring back at what once was, but has now been dissipated—like all illusory images—by the revisionary winds of reason.”
So for Reza the Singularity has already occurred, the program sent back from the future already doing its work of emancipation or Geist, intellect, and intelligence from its humanist core and into its futurial form as autonomous reason in an Autonomous and Inhuman Humanity.
I used to think Land was dangerous, but Reza Negarestani has taken Land into the academy under the cover of an elaborate inhumanist Rationalism that will like Land leave nothing human remaining.