Fake News / Fake Worlds

“Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see, the thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We’ve agreed to be part of a collective perception.” —Don DeLillo

“Looking at this more closely, what have we produced that is more original, more specific, than this idea of nothingness, of absence? It is in the final analysis our most obvious cultural contribution. It is precisely this absence that I wish to interrogate, where is this void?” —Paul Virilio

What’s sad is the Left and Right political spectrum both assume all news is fake. We live in a cancelled age, a sit-com world that no longer provides canned music or laughs. A time in-between null and null, caught in a cycle of road kills we wander the maze of our own lures and allurements as the last guests at a death banquet for the West. Postmodern progressives suffer unresolved contradictions, while Traditional republicans live in a shoebox world built out of a 50’s noir thriller full of lust and paranoia. Progressive thinkers exalt post-individualism and freedom from Self or Subject Identity, while the reactionary turns into narcissist cartoon advocates in the lip service world of alt-right.

Ours is an age of untruth – or, in the parlance of our contemporary pundits, post-truth. Another euphemism to harbor unthinking thought on a world of chaotic and clichéd disinformation in which fake news is attributed to each team of the opposition, and all players hold a deck of cheats (facts). Even the fact-check sites are falsified by the political shibboleth, and depending on which team one is own: Left or Right, one is bound by the rumor mill of false witness and purveyors of politically correct arbitration.

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On Becoming Machinic: Intelligence of the Machine

Urban Future drew my attention to an article on the Wall Street Journal about Google’s AI beating the best GO players of China. Being an in-debted man I am unable to afford the luxury of a subscription to the Journal so found Nature’s rendition to my satisfaction. In Google reveals secret test of AI bot to beat top Go players Elizabeth Gibney reports:

A mystery player causing a stir in the world of the complex strategy game Go has been revealed as an updated version of AlphaGo, the artificial-intelligence (AI) program created by Google’s London-based AI firm, DeepMind.

What’s always amazing is this notion that technics and technology, and especially the thinking machines we’ve lately pursued are not human: technics and technology is the inhuman core of our being, so that these intelligent systems are nothing but an extension of our core inhumanity. Rather than there being some dualism between human and machine, which is what such articles continue to suggest, we should acknowledge that the emergence of intelligent machines is in truth what the transitional being we’ve termed the ‘human’ was all along, and that in the long heritage of growth in intelligence, its optimization and extension, externalization of memory and technique has been part of the off-loading our inner core into external prosthesis from the beginning of recorded history. These external systems reveal our inner nature, mirror our actual and virtual desires, show us as we are and are becoming machinic (Deleuze/Guattari).

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The Violence of Capitalism

What saves us is efficiency-the devotion to efficiency.

—Marlow, in Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Life appears as a pause on the energy path; as a precarious stabilization and complication of solar decay. It is most basically comprehensible as the general solution to the problem of consumption.

—Nick Land, A Thirst for Annihilation

The belief that all things should act efficiently is at the core of both Fordist and post-Fordist forms of capitalism. Why should this be so? One could say that the concept of efficiency arose out of its opposite: inefficiency, as its negation. Most of modern economic theory grew out of this battle for efficiency and has been based on optimizing time, motion, and waste. One might say that the whole Progressive era of which we remain tied was bound by this pursuit of efficiency (perfection, growth, optimization) in the political, economic, social, and engineering (technics/technology) realms. Ultimately the central motif of modernity is the zeal for efficiency, and the desire to control a changing world, by bringing it into conformity with a vision of how the world does or should work.1 One might go further and Weberize it saying that modern global capitalism is the child of Christian perfectionism.

The terms “perfect” and “perfection” are drawn from the Greek teleios and teleiōsis, respectively. The root word, telos, means an “end” or “goal”. In contemporary translations, teleios and teleiōsis are often rendered as “mature” and “maturity”, respectively, so as not to imply infallibility or the absence of defects. Rather, in the Christian tradition, teleiōsis has referred to progressing towards spiritual wholeness or health. In the secular form that would enter into the concept of efficiency this movement from defect to wholeness or completion, would end in capital accumulation: profits, surplus, excess, etc. would take priority in engineering machines, assembly lines, and the mereology of the machinic or the techno-commercial sphere that in our moment is leading to total efficiency in digital economy and the autonomy of the machinic in robotics and AGI. The elimination of inefficiencies has led to the final struggle of eliminating the human from the equation. Capitalism perfected is a process in which humans are annihilated and expulsed as inefficient.

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The Terror of Being Human: Technicity and the Inhuman

For Bernard Stiegler the philosopher has from the beginning been a self-divided being at odds with himself and his time, a creature of crime and havoc, remedy and poison. The Sophist would stake her claim in the black holes of linguistic turpitude, relishing the intricacies of illusion as the art of life. The Sophist was an admirer of what we now term the social construction of reality, a magician of language constructing the fictions by which society blesses and curses itself. While the philosopher or ‘lover of wisdom’ – or as Aristotle was want to say, philia: the lover of togetherness otherwise known as politics, the bringing together the brotherly love of the other in communicity, or a gathering of solitudes. In Stiegler the truth is that the philosopher sought to hide himself from himself, to repress the truth of his lack and inhumanity. The truth that culture is a machine, a power, a technics that humans do not so much construct as are constructed. This dialectical reversal, the oscillating between interior / exterior was hidden rather than revealed. As Stiegler puts it:

“I do not consider myself as a “philosopher of technics”, but rather as a philosopher who tries to contribute, along with some others, to establishing that the philosophical question is, and is throughout, the endurance of a condition which I call techno-logical: at the same time technics and logic, from the beginning forged on the cross which language and the tool form, that is, which allow the human its exteriorization. In my work I try to show that, since its origin, philosophy has endured this technological condition, but as repression and denial and that is the entire difficulty of my undertaking—to show that philosophy begins with the repression of its proper question.”1

But then again what is philosophy’s proper (distinct/intrinsic) question? As Freud taught us and Lacan embellished repression is a defense system, a mechanism to hide from ourselves the terror of our own condition as (in)humans. A large part of Stiegler’s published work is dedicated to exploring how the ‘technological condition’, as he puts it above, is repressed in the work of philosophers such as Rousseau, Kant, Husserl and Heidegger.

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Notes on Anti-Oedipus: The Three Meanings of Process

There is no such thing as either man or nature now, only a process that produces the one within the other and couples the machines together. Producing-machines, desiring-machines everywhere, schizophrenic machines, all of species life: the self and the non-self, outside and inside, no longer have any meaning whatsoever.

—Deleuze & Guattari, Anti-Oedipus

I’ve been rereading Anti-Oedipus of late, taking copious notes, etc. trying to simplify for myself this labyrinthine masterwork by a philosopher and an anti-psychiatrist at a juncture in those turbulent years that would see the failure of the New Left, as well as the birth of that weird era we term postmodernism (so called). No sense in going into the personal details of biography and collaboration between the two men, this has been documented to death. Instead as I began thinking through this work that even the two men would ten years later see as a grand failure.

Deleuze speaking of Nietzsche once stated that the masters according to Nietzsche are the untimely, those who create, who destroy in order to create, not to preserve. Nietzsche says that under the huge earth-shattering events are tiny silent events, which he likens to the creation of new worlds: there once again you see the presence of the poetic under the historical.1 The failure of the 1968 event in France would leave a bitter taste in the minds of both men. In “Intersecting Lives”, the author notes that Deleuze was disappointed by his work: “Eight years after Anti-Oedipus was published, Deleuze considered it a failure. May ’68 and its dreams were long gone, leaving a bitter taste for those who had high hopes but were caught by the stale odors of conservatism.” While for Guattari it was utter devastation as these authors state it. His hyperactivity and the immense effort he had put into the book led to something of a collapse, a feeling of emptiness. Completing a work is never as satisfying as the many imagined possibilities and ongoing pleasures of a work in progress. ‘I feel like curling up into a tiny ball and being rid of all these politics of presence and prestige…The feeling is so strong that I resent Gilles for having dragged me into this mess”.

Yet, the book would take on a life of its own and would become a part of the critical mythology of that era. I came on it in the 90’s quite by accident, seeing the work on a table in friend’s apartment. She was cooking dinner so I began reading the introduction by Foucault, another author I was knowledgeable of only through hearsay rather than translations. All that would come later. Yet, I was intrigued, so asked her to lend me the book. I remember she laughed and said it would change my life. I of course nodded skeptically and we ate an excellent meal, drank wine, and the rest is silence.

I know I’ve read this work piecemeal many times, picking up threads here and there turning them over as my reading in other aspects of the postmodern turn became greater and greater. At sixty-five I’m definitely a product of my age and its strangeness. Being a U.S. citizen is to live in a lonely planet of thought, because most of the people in academia in philosophy were either into analytical or scientific-mathematical thought. So that most of the new French thought as we termed it came by way of literary critics and certain Marxian intellectuals like Fredrick Jameson. Postmodern thought in America was abstruse and jargon ridden ghostings of that era’s philosophical hero worship, Jaques Derrida. So that much of the thought came through this Heideggerean world of hyperlinguistic aestheticism. Tell the truth it turned me off completely. I read it of course but felt this whole linguistic turn and deconstruction of Western metaphysics along with the soft political punches under the guise of subtle Hegelianisms was strangely off-putting. So I turned away.

That’s why Deleuze’s Logic of Sense more than Difference and Repetition always spoke to me, and his early histories of philosophy. Yet, it was the collaborations with Guattari that intrigued me in an odd-ball way. It was an attack on most of Western conceptuality and the androcratic and familial structures that have underpinned our civilization. So that even though they admit it is not a political work explicitly, it is implicitly just that: political through and through.

So I’ve decided to take notes and share my findings. In that first chapter ‘Desiring Productions’ they’ll affirm the obliteration of the whole of the Western Enlightenment tradition of humanism, affirming Nietzsche’s nihilistic insights about the end of meaning. As I quoted in the epigraph: “There is no such thing as either man or nature now, only a process that produces the one within the other and couples the machines together. Producing-machines, desiring-machines everywhere, schizophrenic machines, all of species life: the self and the non-self, outside and inside, no longer have any meaning whatsoever.”

It’s this reduction of the humanist divisions of human/nature, nature/nurture, etc. all the typical binaries that have bound us to the metaphysical heritage which would dissolve into process and nihilism. But what did they mean by process? They’ll argue that there are three distinct meanings of process:

  1. Everything is production, since the recording processes are immediately consumed, immediately consummated, and these consumptions directly reproduced. This is the first meaning of process as we use the term: incorporating recording and consumption within production itself, thus making them the productions of one and the same process. (AO, p. 27)
  2. This is the second meaning of process as we use the term: man and nature are not like two opposite terms confronting each other—not even in the sense of bipolar opposites within a relationship of causation, ideation, or expression (cause and effect, subject and object, etc.); rather, they are one and the same essential reality, the producer-product. Production as process overtakes all idealistic categories and constitutes a cycle whose relationship to desire is that of an immanent principle. That is why desiring-production is the principal concern of a materialist psychiatry, which conceives of and deals with the schizo as Homo natura. (AO, pp. 27-28)
  3. That is why desiring-production is the principal concern of a materialist psychiatry, which conceives of and deals with the schizo as Homo natura. This will be the case, however, only on one condition, which in fact constitutes the third meaning of process as we use the term: it must not be viewed as a goal or an end in itself, nor must it be confused with an infinite perpetuation of itself. Putting an end to the process or prolonging it indefinitely—which, strictly speaking, is tantamount to ending it abruptly and prematurely— is what creates the artificial schizophrenic found in mental institutions: a limp rag forced into autistic behavior, produced as an entirely separate and independent entity. (AO, p. 28)

Deleuze and Guattari will oppose the Freudian conception of the unconscious as a representational “theater”, instead favoring a productive “factory” model: desire is not an imaginary force based on lack (as in Hegel/Lacan/Zizek), but a real, productive force. They describe the mechanistic nature of desire as a kind of “desiring-machine” that functions as a circuit breaker in a larger “circuit” of various other machines to which it is connected. Meanwhile, the desiring-machine is also producing a flow of desire from itself. Deleuze and Guattari imagine a multi-functional universe composed of such machines all connected to each other: “There are no desiring-machines that exist outside the social machines that they form on a large scale; and no social machines without the desiring machines that inhabit them on a small scale.” Desiring-production is explosive, “there is no desiring-machine capable of being assembled without demolishing entire social sectors”.

We know that they turned from the machinic terms to assemblage in A Thousand Plateaus, but underneath it is still about flows and interruptions within a continuous process of production. As they’ll say “Desire constantly couples continuous flows and partial objects that are by nature fragmentary and fragmented. Desire causes the current to flow, itself flows in turn, and breaks the flows” (AO, p. 28). They will attack Idealism for making this into an object, rather than a process. One can return to Schelling’s work to discover the Idealist conceptions. For Schelling Spirit is not a static entity given, something mysterious X, but infinite becoming and infinite productivity. It is in this ceaseless production lies the organic nature of human Spirit that is moved by its immanent laws and that has its purposive-ness within itself. Schelling here introduces the notion of organism which unites in its immanence its goal and purpose, its form and matter, concept and intuition. It’s this revision within Deleuze and Guattari that will lead to a materialist perspective, saying: “Production as process overtakes all idealistic categories and constitutes a cycle whose relationship to desire is that of an immanent principle.” (AO, p. 27)

For Deleuze and Guattari the notion of Immanence, meaning “existing or remaining within” generally offers a relative opposition to transcendence, that which is beyond or outside. Deleuze rejects the idea that life and creation are opposed to death and non-creation. He instead conceives of a plane of immanence that already includes life and death. “Deleuze refuses to see deviations, redundancies, destructions, cruelties or contingency as accidents that befall or lie outside life; life and death were aspects of desire or the plane of immanence.” This plane is a pure immanence, an unqualified immersion or embeddedness, an immanence which denies transcendence as a real distinction, Cartesian or otherwise. Pure immanence is thus often referred to as a pure plane, an infinite field or smooth space without substantial or constitutive division. In his final essay entitled Immanence: A Life, Deleuze writes: “It is only when immanence is no longer immanence to anything other than itself that we can speak of a plane of immanence.”

Lastly they will attack any notion of transcendence and teleology or goal oriented production etc.: “it must not be viewed as a goal or an end in itself, nor must it be confused with an infinite perpetuation of itself.” This schizophrenizing process of desiring production is bound within a flat ontology or plane of immanence that has no goals, and in fact ends badly for the paranoiac and schizophrenics we find in actual institutions.  In fact they would go so far as to say that “Desiring-machines work only when they break down, and by continually breaking down(AO, p. 31)”. It’s here that they’ll introduce that concept of the Body-without-organs:

Above all, it is not a projection; it has nothing whatsoever to do with the body itself, or with an image of the body. It is the body without an image. This imageless, organless body, the nonproductive, exists right there where it is produced, in the third stage of the binary-linear series. It is perpetually reinserted into the process of production. … The full body without organs belongs to the realm of antiproduction; but yet another characteristic of the connective or productive synthesis is the fact that it couples production with antiproduction, with an element of antiproduction. (AO, p. 31)

I want go into detail on this concept till the next entry, since section 2 of that Chapter deals with exactly that. Only to leave you with a quote from that next section to think on:

An apparent conflict arises between desiring-machines and the body without organs. Every coupling of machines, every production of a machine, every sound of a machine running, becomes unbearable to the body without organs. Beneath its organs it senses there are larvae and loathsome worms, and a God at work messing it all up or strangling it by organizing it. (AO, p. 32)

One is almost tempted to see in this “God at work messing it all up or strangling it by organizing it” the late great gnostic demiurge or the Spinozan God of materialist process itself. A blind processual being or entity that is more of a placeholder for the process that is continuously creating and destroying throughout the universe. Desiring production as this machine in continuous process of making and unmaking worlds.


  1. Theory and Theorists. “Nietzsche’s Burst of Laughter,” Interview with Gilles Deleuze. April 17, 2014.
  2. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Penguin Classics (May 26, 2009)

 

Gilles Deleuze: On Human Rights

Human rights will not make us bless capitalism. A great deal of innocence or cunning is needed by a philosophy of communication that claims to restore the society of friends, or even of wise men, by forming a universal opinion as ‘consensus’ able to moralize nations, States, and the market. Human rights say nothing about the immanent modes of existence of people provided with rights. Nor is it only in the extreme situations described by Primo Levi that we experience the shame of being human. We also experience it in insignificant conditions, before the meanness and vulgarity of existence that haunts democracies, before the propagation of these modes of existence and of thought-for-the-market, and before the values, ideals, and opinions of our time. The ignominy of the possibilities of life that we are offered appears from within. We do not feel ourselves outside of our time but continue to undergo shameful compromises with it. This feeling of shame is one of philosophy’s most powerful motifs. We are not responsible for the victims but responsible before them. And there is no way to escape the ignoble but to play the part of the animal (to growl, burrow, snigger, distort ourselves): thought itself is sometimes closer to an animal that dies than to a living, even democratic, human being.

—Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, What is Philosophy?

 

The Bibliotherapist

I imagine her sitting in a quiet room at a table, a glass of water — iceless, before her; notepad and pencil by her smooth pink hands; no windows, a single candle lit: a dark atmosphere pervaded by emptiness. Her mind cleared, she takes the little orange pill, waits the prescribed twenty minutes, and slowly feels the lift of the veil, the waves of energy rising from the inner sea; the sudden weak drift of her oceanic mind as the images pulsate and throb into awareness. Her blue eyes dilated,  smoked by the grayness of the empty world surrounding her she sinks inwardly into that stillness that is aflame.

She pulls the threads of the inner nanoviewer: the plug-n-play reality of the drug manifesting, the dreamscapes exploding like a thousand flowers, and sees amid the dance of fire and shadow a man sitting at the other end, his lips moving soundlessly – thoughts snapping into her brain like recordings of lost books from a secret library. Her mind filled with fables and cartoons — manga figures from a posthuman dripspool; the laughter of children; the polished wisdom of ancient Taoist and Zen Masters; the crisp dialogues of Greek Philosophers; the portents of Nostradamus; the frog wisdom of Rousseau; the castigations of Nietzsche; the Mysterious Stranger of Twain beckoning to her; the flutes of Orpheus in Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’; men, women, and children parading across times and times; the darkened embers of fallen citadels, amid the burnt out timbers of a war torn world – the lonely hollows of a city in ruins, a dog barking in the distance; the Calypso tales of Odysseus, the lovely lotus leaves glint in the morning sun…

The biblioregistry of a million books speaking to her in unison: alive, musical, distant, near, alone – or together, the dialogues of authors from times long lost amid the sands… the careful weaving of elephants and unicorns, effigies and jungles, jaguars and tigers, peasants and nobles, merchants and thieves, urban streetwalkers and country soothsayers… a world brought alive by a voice gray and muted, rainbow and darkness; methodical, lifting, pitched, humming along in machinic precision. Caressing with her mental eye the vestiges of dead worlds, she receives this prismatic infoscapes like a dark diver in a sea of frozen fire.

The session comes to an end all to quickly. Her eyes once again registering the world’s blank interface. The quantum ties to the collective lifting her once again into the general intellect: connected, one, undefined, marginal; a worker, a numberless minion in the chain of endless algorithms of a social matrix where things drift among lost dreams to no purpose…

As she passes the desk, the automated figure taps her imprint, billing her session — time variants posted, the erasure of her session, the moments of past thought obliterated, the images of lost worlds vanishing even as she rejoins the tribal enclaves and her happy days of memoryless ease.


 

Our Future / Our Past

Crash Space: The Coming Age of Machinic Intelligence

We exchanged a flurry of texts. We weren’t idiots. We knew full well the gravity of what had happened. But we also knew we had nothing to fear, and very little to cover up.

—R. Scott Bakker, Crash Space

Anyone still believing that the “blunt tool” of mass surveillance is protecting us from terrorists should read the Washington Post’s two-year investigation of “Top Secret America.” The detailed series of articles suggested that the United States’ massive surveillance system could possibly make us more vulnerable to terrorism:

“Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States. Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year— a volume so large that many are routinely ignored. In the Department of Defense, where more than two-thirds of the intelligence programs reside, only a handful of senior officials— called Super Users— have the ability to even know about all the department’s activities. “I’m not going to live long enough to be briefed on everything” was how one Super User put it. The other (Super User) recounted that for his initial briefing, he was escorted into a tiny, dark room, seated at a small table and told he couldn’t take notes. Program after program began flashing on a screen, he said, until he yelled “Stop!” in frustration. “I wasn’t remembering any of it,” he said.

Billions of personal details about the general population, collected by computers, can overwhelm those officials looking for a particular suspect. As the New America Foundation report indicated, most terrorists are caught using “traditional investigative methods, such as the use of informants, tips from local communities, and targeted intelligence operations . . .”

In the coming years all human intelligence will become mute, AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) machinic systems and the decisions made upon such data depend will be done more “efficiently” through rule based normative functional algorithms, making matrices that will be invented by the artificial minds themselves. All surveillance and Global Security Systems will be in the hands of the AGI’s, since humans such as the SuperUser above will not have the necessary processing power to absorb, much less decide on, filter, collate, and analyze such massive Big Data as will be collected in such great Data Centers as the one being built in Utah.

We’ve entered that strange transitional age when we are as humans obsolescing our own intelligence in favor of machinic gods who will have no sense of our cultural or social value systems, only the algorithmic targeting capabilities of seek and destroy policing of the animal called man. We are building the cages of the future, and enforcing a new breed of policing agents in the frontiers of our brave new worlds of machinic being. Through our fear of terror, we are producing greater terrors. From economics to security the deep-learning algorithms and other plasticity based systems of self-transforming and feed-back systems based on endless rhizomatic loops will surpass our capabilities and move beyond our ability to control or constrain. What then?

Stephen Hawking fears it, saying: “It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate,” he said. “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.” Tesla CEO and famous technology innovator Elon Musk has repeatedly warned about AI threats. In June, he said on CNBC that he had invested in AI research because “I like to just keep an eye on what’s going on with artificial intelligence. I think there is a potential dangerous outcome there.” He went on to invoke The Terminator. In August, he tweeted that “We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.” And at a recent MIT symposium, Musk dubbed AI an “existential threat” to the human race and a “demon” that foolish scientists and technologists are “summoning.” Musk likened the idea of control over such a force to the delusions of “guy[s] with a pentagram and holy water” who are sure they can control a supernatural force—until it devours them. As Musk himself suggests elsewhere in his remarks, the solution to the problem lies in sober and considered collaboration between scientists and policymakers. So much for Enlightenment? But these are the extremes, other voices say other things, and the process of making such systems seems inevitable with so many nations and corporations investing so heavily into every aspect of robotics, war machines, and AGI related systems for profit or sex or power.

Mass surveillance programs are run by machines or persons trained to act like machines. Targeted intelligence operations are run by experienced security agents who are allowed to use the knowledge gained through years of training. In the future our urban zones will become more and more integrated into smart infrastructures where the electronic eyes, ear, scent, and prosthetic appendages of sensory outlays once part of the human body will become externalized into the very objects of common everyday work around us. The systems that will shape and secure our systems of command and control within the urban workplace will be a part of a vast integrated system of artificial intelligent centers that will run everything from our basic needs to the most criminal policing enterprise the world has ever seen. It will be invisible, part of the background, so virtualized that we will not even be aware that we’ve become part of a Planetary Prison system that we ourselves built and handed over to the Great Artificial General Intelligent systems to come. To call this paranoiac is to enter into inhuman territory of mind and thought which that term was only a simplified interdiction onto the human, not the machinic.

Watching the recent craze of mobile to mobile Pokémon Go we’ve entered the moment when the virtual is seeping into our world, when men, women, and children stare into the screens of their hand held systems as if they were more real than the world around them. Even criminals have hopped on the wagon. Armed robbers used the game Pokémon Go to lure victims to an isolated trap in Missouri, police reported on Sunday. Pokémon Go warns players to keep aware of their surroundings during their virtual treasure hunt, but after only a few days since its release it has already led people into a string of bizarre incidents. People have ended up in hospitals after chasing nonexistent animals into hazardous spots, and schools, a state agency and Australian police have warned people not to break the law or endanger themselves while “Pokemoning”. The game has also led wanderers to at least one home misidentified as a church, a venue the app considers a public space.

We are so desperate to fill the gap of our meaningless world with meaning, that the virtual worlds of our electronic media are beginning to supervene onto reality and control our very bodies and behaviors. We’ve allowed the virtual to become our reality and left the old worlds of natural existence behind, and yet those world impinge upon our false realms in dangerous and untold ways. Nick Bostrom, a philosopher who directs the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, describes the following scenario in his book Superintelligence, which has prompted a great deal of debate about the future of artificial intelligence. Bostrom believes that superintelligence could emerge, and while it could be great, he thinks it could also decide it doesn’t need humans around. Or do any number of other things that destroy the world. The title of chapter 8 is: “Is the default outcome doom?” As Paul Ford recently at MIT stated: “No one is suggesting that anything like superintelligence exists now. In fact, we still have nothing approaching a general-purpose artificial intelligence or even a clear path to how it could be achieved. Recent advances in AI, from automated assistants such as Apple’s Siri to Google’s driverless cars, also reveal the technology’s severe limitations; both can be thrown off by situations that they haven’t encountered before. Artificial neural networks can learn for themselves to recognize cats in photos. But they must be shown hundreds of thousands of examples and still end up much less accurate at spotting cats than a child.” (Our Fear of Artificial Intelligence)

Others like Rodney Brooks tell us hogwash, we have nothing to fear. Extrapolating from the state of AI today to suggest that superintelligence is looming is “comparable to seeing more efficient internal combustion engines appearing and jumping to the conclusion that warp drives are just around the corner,” Brooks wrote recently on Edge.org. “Malevolent AI” is nothing to worry about, he says, for a few hundred years at least. Yet, others like Stuart J. Russell, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley disagree with Brooks, saying: ““There are a lot of supposedly smart public intellectuals who just haven’t a clue.”  He pointed out that AI has advanced tremendously in the last decade, and that while the public might understand progress in terms of Moore’s Law (faster computers are doing more), in fact recent AI work has been fundamental, with techniques like deep learning laying the groundwork for computers that can automatically increase their understanding of the world around them.

As Ford concludes we have no technology that is remotely close to superintelligence. Then again, many of the largest corporations in the world are deeply invested in making their computers more intelligent; a true AI would give any one of these companies an unbelievable advantage. They also should be attuned to its potential downsides and figuring out how to avoid them. This somewhat more nuanced suggestion—without any claims of a looming AI-mageddon—is the basis of an open letter on the website of the Future of Life Institute, the group that got Musk’s donation. Rather than warning of existential disaster, the letter calls for more research into reaping the benefits of AI “while avoiding potential pitfalls.”

Agency: Human or Artificial?

It is not that reality entered our image: the image entered and shattered our reality (i.e. the symbolic coordinates which determine what we experience as reality). What this means is that the dialectic of semblance and Real cannot be reduced to the rather elementary fact that the virtualization of our daily lives, the experience that we are more and more living in an artificially constructed universe, gives rise to the irresistible urge to ‘return to the Real’, to regain the firm ground in some ‘real reality.’ THE REAL WHICH RETURNS HAS THE STATUS OF A(NOTHER) SEMBLANCE: precisely because it is real, i.e. on account of its traumatic/excessive character, we are unable to integrate it into (what we experience as) our reality, and are therefore compelled to experience it as a nightmarish apparition.

—Slavoj Žižek. Disparities

This sense of loss of reality and the nightmare quality of our lives in this weird world of the artificial seems to pervade every aspect of our socio-cultural lives. Our politics has turned south, gone under into a nightmare zone of strangeness across the First World. People that have sensed this nightmare surrounding them have been desperate to return to the old ways of our ancestral realms in any form or fashion. Ergo, the reason for traditionalist values and pundits on the Right of the spectrum have arisen because of this vacuum in peoples lives living in the artificial worlds of the modern urban megacities where every form of existence has become plastic and plasticity as a thought form has become all too real. Sex and Race pervade our politics now because the barriers of the fantasy worlds of the old mythologies of Monotheism no longer hold, not longer feed people what they need to give their lives meaning. We’ve been demythologizing and leaving these ancient systems behind for a few hundred years. Yet, in small pockets they  hold on fiercely and adamantly in certain traditionalist camps.

Catherine Malabou explains in Plasticity at the Dusk of Writing, the concept of plasticity, whose scope and stakes are firmly inscribed in those of our era, has overtaken the schemas of text and the trace. Plasticity “takes over” and “becomes the resistance of difference to its textual reduction.” In The New Wounded: From Neurosis to Brain Damage, Malabou expands her reflection to cerebral pathologies, particularly Alzheimer’s disease. She hosts a dialog between philosophy, psychoanalysis and contemporary neurology, offering to demonstrate how cerebral organization presides over a libidinal economy in current psychopathologies. She also proposes a new theory of trauma and defends the hypothesis of destructive plasticity. In her latest book, Self and Emotional Life, Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience, written with Adrian Johnston, Malabou continues her exquisite crossing of disciplines, this time in order to explore the concept of wonder.

Without using all the jargon of postmodern shibboleths neuroplasticity in brain and mind is a term that refers to the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. When people say that the brain possesses plasticity, they are not suggesting that the brain is similar to plastic. Neuro represents neurons, the nerve cells that are the building blocks of the brain and nervous system, and plasticity refers to the brain’s malleability. There’s both a functional and structural aspect to this neuroplasticity, one which allows other parts of the brain to take over the functions of diseased or traumatized areas (functional); and, the other (structural) refers to the brain’s ability to actually change its physical structure as a result of learning.

Our notions of agency have over the years changed, and the notions of Subject and Self have come under great scrutiny in philosophy and neurosciences. N. Katherine Hayles once suggested that if on the one hand humans are like machines, whether figured as cellular automata or Turing machines, then agency cannot be securely located in the conscious mind. If on the other hand machines are like biological organisms, then they must possess the effects of agency even though they are not conscious. In these reconfigurations, desire and language, both intimately connected with agency, are understood in new ways. Acting as a free-floating agent, desire is nevertheless anchored in mechanistic operations, a suggestion Guattari makes in “Machinic Heterogenesis.” Language, emerging from the operations of the unconscious figured as a Turing machine, creates expressions of desire that in their origin are always already interpenetrated by the mechanistic, no matter how human they seem. Finally, if desire and the agency springing from it are at bottom nothing more than performance of binary code, then computers can have agency fully as authentic as humans. Through these reconfigurations, Deleuze, Guattari, and Lacan use automata to challenge human agency and in the process represent automata as agents.1

If our binary and / or algorithmic systems can already be thought to have agency, what of the more advanced AGI’s that even in their primitive beginnings during our experimental age are already surpassing human intelligence? Many guffaw such surpassing of the human as wishful thinking, as imposing upon the machinic world of things our anthropomorphic thought forms. But is this so? Are we not actually following the trajectory of two thousand years of technics and technology that has always gone hand in hand with human culture and civilization? Isn’t there always a sense of a two-way interactive oscillation between human agency and its creations? Isn’t this dialectical interplay between machine and human always already been a part of the human instrumentalism that was to eventually be termed science?  Our elite pundits have tried to spin a story that the Enlightenment was an aberration, that instrumental reason was no more than culturally bound entity, and that it too would be sloughed off for something else. What is this something else if not the AGI’s we are now inventing out of necessity at our own unsurmountable finitude? Building such superintelligences because our own abilities as creatures of finitude and limitation cannot surpass certain barriers due to evolutionary bindings? Because we have created such a desperate need for decomplexifying the data of our world in all its multifarious complexity?

The notion of Agency and Subject developed by Deleuze, Guattari, and Lacan, is a subject in which consciousness, far from being the seat of agency, is left to speculate on why she acts as she does. She is increasingly aware that the origin of agency lies beyond the reach of consciousness, enacted by a computational program that is ultimately controlled by the external agent that has programmed the code to operate as it does. Even at this deep level the ambiguity of agency continues, for program is perceived to act both as an agent on its own behalf and as the surrogate for the will of the human. The ambiguity is repeated within consciousness, where she perceives herself to be exercising agency in the margins, as it were, the grey areas where the objectives of code might be implemented in ambiguous ways. In these complex reconfigurations of agency, the significance of envisioning the unconscious as a program rather than as a dark mirror of consciousness can scarcely be overstated, for it locates the hidden springs of action in the brute machinic operations of code. In this view, such visions of the unconscious as Freud’s repressed Oedipal conflicts or Jung’s collective archetypes seem hopelessly anthropomorphic, for they populate the unconscious with ideas comfortingly familiar to consciousness rather than the much more alien operations of machinic code. (43)

Blindness and Insight: Beyond the Hum of Machines?

Antonio Damasio, argue that body and mind are inextricably linked through multiple recursive feedback loops mediated by neurotransmitters, systems that have no physical analogues in computers. Damasio makes the point that these messages also provide content for the mind, especially emotions and feelings: “relative to the brain, the body provides more than mere support and modulation: it provides a basic topic for brain representations” (xvii). As Hayles tells us ”

The central question … is no longer how we as rational creatures should act in full possession of free will and untrammeled agency. Rather, the issue is how consciousness evolves from and interacts with the underlying programs that operate analogously to the operations of code. Whether conceived as literal mechanism or instructive analogy, coding technology thus becomes central to understanding the human condition. (44)

That great atheist dialectical materialist, Slavoj Zizek in his recent work Disparities will humor us saying that “Einstein was right with his famous claim ‘God doesn’t cheat’ – what he forgot to add is that god himself can be cheated. Insofar as the materialist thesis is that ‘God is unconscious’ (God doesn’t know), quantum physics effectively is materialist: there are microprocesses (quantum oscillations) which are not registered by the God-system. And insofar as God is one of the names of the big Other, we can see in what sense one cannot simply get rid of god (big Other) and develop an ontology without big Other: god is an illusion, but a necessary one.”2

Can we say that this necessary illusion is central to our quest to build the God Mind in our AGI’s? Are we not in fact and deed actually trying to create a god? Isn’t this truly at the heart of the artificial intelligent holy grail quest? To become machinic, to enter into the transitional stage of superintelligence, make our own pact with the impossible? For Zizek we have never been human, we’ve always been in transitional movement, that humans are in themselves absolutely nothing, without any fixed agency or stable self, that nothing pre-exists our being in the world, and that the notion of Subject is of movement toward something else. For Zizek we live in-between the Subject which is nothing in itself, and the world that we do not have direct access too. There is a crack in the world between us and reality, and all of our grand tales, our visions, our fantasies are ways in which we seek to bridge the gap between ourselves and reality. Yet, time after time our bridges built out of mathematics or language cannot bridge the gap so we build even more fantastic schemes:

This is why, from the strict Freudian standpoint, fantasy is on the side of reality, it sustains the subject’s ‘sense of reality’: when the fantasmatic frame disintegrates, the subject undergoes a ‘loss of reality’ and starts to perceive reality as an ‘irreal’ nightmarish universe with no firm ontological foundation; this nightmarish universe – the Lacanian Real – is not ‘pure fantasy’ but, on the contrary, that which remains of reality after reality is deprived of its support in fantasy.(Kindle Locations 285-288)

So once our human illusions, our fantasies are stripped from the world, what is left is the bottomless pit of nightmare —the Universe of machinic life. The endless sea of process and chaos churning on and on and on…

Reality is impenetrable not just because it transcends the constrained horizon of finite human being but also because we humans are unable to control and predict the effects on our own activity on our natural environs. Therein resides the paradox of anthropocene: humanity became aware of its self-limitation as a species precisely when it became so strong that it influenced the balance of the entire life on earth. It was able to dream of being a Subject until its influence on nature (earth) was marginal, that is, against the background of stable nature. The paradox is thus that the more the reproduction of nature is human mediated, the more humanity becomes a ‘decentred’ agent unable to regulate the process of its exchange with nonhuman nature. This is why it is not enough to insist on the nontransparency of objects, on how objects have a hidden core withdrawn from human reach: what is withdrawn is not just the hidden side of objects but above all the true dimension of the subject’s activity. The true excess is not the excess of objectivity which eludes the subject’s grasp but the excess of the subject itself, that is to say, what eludes the subject is the ‘blind spot’, the point at which it is itself inscribed into reality.3

My friend R. Scott Bakker calls this ‘blind spot’ of the Subject our inability to turn back upon ourselves and view the very processes that create consciousness —the Brain. We have no direct path toward reality, nor upon our own processes. We are blind to both reality and ourselves. Bakker defines a crash space as “a problem solving domain where our tools seem to fit the description, but cannot seem to get the job done” (p. 203). Bakker argues, plausibly, that the cognitive and emotional structures that give meaning to our lives and constrain us ethically can be expected to work only in a limited range of environments — roughly, environments similar in their basic structure to those in our evolutionary and cultural history. Break far enough away, and our ancestrally familiar approaches will cease to function effectively. As Bakker reminds us:

Herein lies the ecological rub. 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. (21)

We are living in such a domain now. We have for a few hundred years moved from our ancient heritage of Hunter/Gatherers, Agriculturalists, and emerged into a new realm both artificial and outside the confines of the natural world environments that were our base and support for millennia. Our philosophies, religions, cultural forms, our mythologies and even our instrumental reasoning powers – both cunning and rational, are no longer bound to the natural earth and environs, but rather have become unmoored within realms unforeseeable by our ancient systems of constraint and reason, our modern civilization. We’ve entered the Crash Space of Modernity in transition and our fantasies that have partially filled the gap of meaning have fallen into fragments and disarray across the planet. Our modern lives in this artificial world or urban cities, mobile to mobiles, electronic virtual realities, etc. has overtaking our ancient ties to the jungles and swamps of our ancient ancestry. Our minds have become unhinged from the natural environments, and have yet to make new ties to the urban zones of our future lives in artificial worlds.

And now we’re set to begin engineering our brains in earnest. Engineering environments has the effect of transforming the ancestral context of our cognitive capacities, changing the structure of the problems to be solved such that we gradually accumulate local crash spaces, domains where our intuitions have become maladaptive. Everything from irrational fears to the ‘modern malaise’ comes to mind here. Engineering ourselves, on the other hand, has the effect of transforming our relationship to all contexts, in ways large or small, simultaneously. It very well could be the case that something as apparently innocuous as the mass ability to wipe painful memories will precipitate our destruction. Who knows? The only thing we can say in advance is that it will be globally disruptive somehow, as will every other ‘improvement’ that finds its way to market. ( Bakker, 22)

I remember back in the seventies at university my English teacher (we still had an English Department back then! long before humanities) once said that Science Fiction was the mythology of our Age of Reason and Modernity. I still believe that is true. We are in the thousands of fictional scenarios of science fiction inventing a path forward, creating stories and tales that seek to understand and immerse us not in the past, not in character studies of Novels, but in the tools necessary to help us move steadily, calmly, and with reasoning awareness into the most impossible region of all —the Future.

As we move forward we realize we are not alone, that around us is a great host of stars, planets, galaxies unbound. The only thing stopping us from change and developing viable paths in cultural, social, politics and life is our own defective and maladaptive minds, blinded by our own immersion in these processes we have no control over and yet control us in ways beyond telling. We live by fantasy, we always have… we create meaning not out of blindly stripping reality of our minds, but by weaving meaningful fantasies based on our awakening to the new and unbidden. Only when we allow our fantasies to rule over us, to suborn us and enslave us as in ancient thought of religious and socio-cultural systems of power and knowledge that weave us into their larger frameworks like so many insectoids to do the bidding of the few rather than the many do we begin to lose sight of the power of mind and its place in the universe at large. As Bakker ominously surmises “Human cognition is about to be tested by an unparalleled age of ‘habitat destruction.’ The more we change ourselves, the more we change the nature of the job, the less reliable our ancestral tools become, the deeper we wade into crash space.” (22)


  1. Swirski, Peter. The Art and Science of Stanislaw Lem (pp. 28-29). Ingram Distribution. Kindle Edition.
  2. Slavoj Žižek. Disparities (Kindle Locations 1086-1090). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  3. ibid. (Kindle Locations 721-729).

Re-reading R. Scott Bakker: The Post-Intentional World

Was re-reading R. Scott Bakker’s post on Reza Negarestani, The Blind Mechanic II: Reza Negarestani and the Labour of Ghosts. A couple of quotes:

Knowledge is no universal Redeemer, which means the ideal of Enlightenment autonomy is almost certainly mythical. What’s required isn’t an aspiration to theorize new technologies with old concepts. What’s required is a fundamental rethink of the political in radically post–intentional terms.

The big question isn’t, ‘Will Artificial Intelligence be moral?’ but rather, how will human intelligence and machine intelligence combine? Be it bloody or benevolent, the subordination of the ‘human’ is inevitable. The death of language is the death of reason is the birth of something very new, and very difficult to imagine, a global social system spontaneously boiling its ‘airy parts’ away, ratcheting until no rattle remains, a vast assemblage fixated on eliminating all dissipative (as opposed to creative) noise, gradually purging all interpretation from its interior. (my italics)

If R. Scott Bakker is even close, what remains of humanity after the Singularity — after the Great Purge of the human from the social, cultural, and economic structures of commerce and civilization due to efficiency exclusions; along with the demise of Reason at the hands of Optimized Intelligence; and the ultimate integration of all remaining human resources and systems within the mechanical and machinic systems, those organizational forms of the non-symbolic and post-intentional apparatuses; and, the integration into the machinic assemblages that replace and obsolesce our current regimes of politics — is nothing less than — as Nick Land, once surmised, half-ironically in Metldown, saying, Nothing human makes it out of the near-future“.  And, more so, none of our current intentional and predictive efforts can even fathom what form this will take… (See David Roden’s thesis on non-symbolic work spaces)

The notion that the future holds much more than we imagine (or can even imagine) seems inevitable according to Scott. He sees an exponential leap in intelligence over the next decades, and further into the 21st century, that precludes any thought form we could supply based on our past intentional philosophical heritage of helping us understand the predicament we’re facing. Why? Because it is based on ‘medial neglect’: i.e., our very knowledge is itself based on ignorance and error. The sooner we accept this datum he tells us the better off we’ll be. All our efforts in trying to decipher the human enigma — the human condition, is doomed to failure, because the very neural feedback systems (i.e., our brain) we use to know and understand such things is itself a product of the hidden elements behind the screen of neural activity that produces consciousness in the first place; and, that we will never have direct access to this self-referencing productive and unconscious system that produces and uses language and Reason to begin with. Caught in feed-back loop, not of some correlational circle of Kantian phenomenon/noumenal divide, but of the circle of the limiting power of consciousness itself, which was never constructed by the brain to tackle the problem of its own origins and ends we face the impossible task of describing processes that we are essentially blind too. Processes that were shaped by evolution and accidental environmental pressures as coping mechanisms for survival and replication, and nothing else.

If Scott is correct then we are already being integrated into a Global Machinic Assemblage, a machinic organism that is automating and purging the less efficient elements of our intentional and human heritage. Purging it of its less than adequate performances and efficiencies as part of an ongoing optimization of intelligence coordination at all levels of social, cultural, economic, scientific, and machinic dimensions as part of an algorithmic program of optimizing Intelligence. The planet itself is being integrated into a machinic organism whose self-organizing tendencies are based not on language or intention, but rather on the very real hierarchical and heuristically inclined devices of a superordinate reason, arising not as some Transcendental Coordinator, but rather as the immanent force of optimizing Intelligence itself internal to its own alien and inhuman needs.

As part of this transition, as Scott sees it, language and Reason itself might be eliminated from the equation and replaced with some more optimized system of communication and collective coordination. What that might entail is not known, and probably not knowable by humans with out “low dimensional” toolset (Bakker) at this point. As David Roden argues in the paper cited above:

Might a nonsymbolic workspace (NSW) mimic or exceed this representational power?
No such technology exists at present, so the only way in which to begin to evaluate this possibility is by considering how the properties of non-symbolic media might furnish this cognitive potential.

One effort cited is the work of Brian MacLennan who develops a theory of simulacra, Roden tells us,  that allows us to envisage a representational format which is a) non-symbolic and b) has computational resources unavailable to symbolic systems and c) capable of representing its own computational procedures and grammatical structures in terms of its own imagistic resources. The point here is that this is an alien and post-intentional system that need not be based on our human intentional structures, nor our symbolic modes of language and mathematics, but might very well be of another type and level of natural system altogether. So that as Roden ends,

… given linguistic constitutivity the successful displacement of public language by a powerful non-symbolic medium would remove the conditions that make propositional attitudes possible. Given that propositional attitudes are human-distinctive, in the way described, human minds would cease to exist. They would be replaced by posthuman minds with characteristic repertoire of nonpropositional attitudes exploiting non-linguaformal media for mental representation.

In other words this alien future of the machinic might very well optimize the human into the inhuman not by way of our own intentional efforts, nor the normative efforts of some Transcendental Reason and speculative apparatus of “give and take of reasons” (Brandom/Negarestani), but rather through the very post-intentional elimination of those human elements themselves. Therefore producing both a post-intentional world, and the elimination of the human from the equation. An elimination through the very optimization of non-symbolic spaces, and the coordination, integration, and eliminative strategies of an optimized Intelligence; not based on Reason as we know it, but on an unforeseen transformation or mutation of non-symbolic systems that have sloughed off the skin of human Reason and thereby produced post-human forms of which we remain in the dark.

On Photography

Whether it’s Ansel Adams’s Landscapes (Middle), Gary Winongrand’s Cityscapes (Lower Left), Annie Leibovitz’s Lifestyle photos (Right), or Walker Evans photographs of rural poverty (Upper Left); or any number of a multitude of other current or past photographers: I’ve always felt that photography is about enframing (Heidegger), about that sense that one is exposed to something that has been framed within/by technology – but what; a view, a description, a statement of fact or imagination. Is this interpretation (hermeneutics) or against it (non-representational), real or irreal, etc. Is the photographer trying to destroy the gap between the camera’s eye and the scene, bring thought and being together in unison, one? Or, is she producing gaps between form and content, revealing the inherent contradictions and antagonisms in reality, the obstruction of the Real itself that will not let the photographer in on the secret of the world? The best photographers seem to situate themselves in the gaps and cracks of the world, the slippages in things allowing them to speak and emerge on their own, stand their shining in their simplicity as things without us; and, yet, at other times we see the power of the human emerge, too: the supple interweaving of certain lines of light and shadow that suddenly lift emotion from its core hideaway and reveal the patterns of reality in ways that nothing else in the world could. So that this enframed technology of the photograph is both produced gap and its destruction, a twisting of the anamorphic truth that cannot come by way of direct or indirect appeal. This notion of what a photographer is up to in what they’ve framed and caught in their slice of the Real – what is the action, the event being portrayed. Is it light, shadow, movement, texture, grains, color (trope of effect or cause?), the deformation of things or their ineffableness – mystery. It’s this sense of struggle not with the medium itself but with the actual forms being captured in the act of disclosure – it’s almost like pornography of the Real, as if one could capture the raw naked power of its lures, traps, and investiture as it suddenly juts its ugly or beautiful head out of the thick soup of things… to reveal the force of appearance rather than appearance per se; to reveal as in apocalypse/revelation a happening in movement in still life slices just at the point where time, space, and substance come together in the unique distillation of the Real. One can never truly capture it in a photo, what one captures is the hint — as in Zen of the frisson of the momentary aura (Benjamin) of the world in its passing… nothing is redeemed, everything is loss, pure loss… only the sparks and embers in their slow burn dazzle us with the supreme delights of the photographer’s art.

Continue reading

Drone music is the sound of death…

Nightmare Music: Cryo Chamber

Drone music is the sound of death…  we assume that if we ever do experience apocalypse, it will be just as we are about to disappear.

—Joanna Demers,  Drone and Apocalypse

The Curators of Impossible Dreams will one day uncover the dead cities below the layers of ash and water, discover the traces of miraculous destinies that abruptly ended in the deserts of time. Vast installations and exhibits of the Apocalypticos Verum Grimorium will pervade the desolate dronescapes of alien music’s. A literature of the void, the stillborn silences of the radioactive nightlands distilled into pure layers of sound vibrating under the pulsation of death and entropy will rise from the graveworlds of forgotten desires. Voluptuous loops, templexities of unbidden travelers,  will bring to light the decayed antics of comic fatalists who lived in the ruins of time revoking only the truth of their own complicity in the coming event. Brokers of holocausts these timetravelers will speak not a word, give no forecasting of the nightmares to come, unleash no epidemics upon the masses of unsuspecting prey. Watchers of the coming apocalypse — these brave travelers from times beyond times, immanent only to the loops of their forbidden games, will record in minute detail the artistic passage of this dark implosion of futurity. Bound by algorithmic codes we cannot even envision the watchers will roam among us like guests at a fatal banquet, members of a gnostic sect — knowers who know and are known by the future power of this transitory affair, this spectacle of the void.

We who for so long sought the impossible, dreamed of the unknown — seekers of the rims and far horizons, the unmapped, the wildernesses of the void will find it at last in the very moment of our vanishing. Having struggled blindly for so many millennia, bound to the fatal attraction of leaders compulsions to roam farther and farther into the unknown we will succumb at last to the final desert of time itself. Reaching the emptiness of the last thought we will wake up from our long sleep and know that the end has arrived, an end foretold, foreknown; inscribed in the very markings of our memories, below the curvature of those ancient songlines of the neural valences of microcells of DNA, the genetic footmarks of primordial seas born in us with such remote and indescribable music of decay and corruption. The repeating chords of an old song that never had a meaning, keeps returning out of that silence where time intersects the cone of desire. Neither an arrow nor its reversal can stay the coming apocalypse of desire. Robert Burton and Isadore of Seville would inventory the apocalyptic moments, construct vast lists of the melancholic music of time, deliver its unique voices, resonances — the manic preludes to events that might never be or that have already happened.

Games of distraction, trivial pursuits, blinding gestures of inanity — politics, literature, philosophy, love, and economics: the banal pursuit of dysphoria, delusion, and delirium in the face of the coming death of the human. Etymologies of disaster, cross referencing databanks of the bittersweet goodbye of human kind; the broken world revealed in the momentary tracings of nightmare and strange fantasias. Disgust, ugliness, cynicism: the trifold sisters of the coming age — those who would show us the face of our face, the monstrous truth behind the mask; that there is nothing there, absolutely nothing. Here even laughter is nothing but an entry into nihil… Even the hopeless is beautiful in such a world of fragmentation and utter decay. Is that, too, illusion, delusion? There will be no writings after the fact, no exclamation points beyond the Zero hour of the fugue: apocalypse is neither an end nor a revelation; it is both end and an unveiling of that which is not but is already under erasure: the elimination of the very figure and ground of those uninterpretable signs or figuras that demarcate the lack that spawns all desire. And, yet, in what it purports to unveil desire the end holds promise of that violence and terror of the self, of the desperate attempts to escape the traps of all that is now and can be, the moment of thought and being without us. An absence of absence? Who will remain to think that thought of the end? Demers will ask: “How can we remain conceived of a past or a future from which we are utterly absent?“1

More importantly: What is the sound of the universe dying from the light?


  1. Demers, Joanna. Drone and Apocalypse: An Exhibit Catalog for the End of the World (p. 14). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle Edition. https://joannademers.com/

The Suicide Machine

The Universe is nothing else than a suicide machine created by a blind and fugitive monstrosity, whose veritable death throes generated the body of this universal catastrophe we now live in as fragments or shards of its dying embers, ash of its black light.

-©2016 S.C. Hickman, The Infernal Journals of Thaddeus Long

Thomas Ligotti will offer a surmise onto the strange necrotheology of the German philosopher Philipp Mainländer (born Phillip Batz), echoing a strain of Gnostic or Buddhist thought underpinning much of 19th Century Philosophy, saying: “Perhaps the Blind God was an unreliable narrator of weird tales. He did not want to leave a bad impression by telling us He had absented Himself from the ceremonies of death before they had begun. Alone and immortal, nothing needed Him. Yet, He needed to bust out into a universe to complete His project of self-extinction, passing on His horror piecemeal, so to say, to His creation.”1 He’ll comment on this amalgam of Catholic, Gnostic, and Pessimist speculation of Mainländer’s – remarking,

No one has yet conceived an authoritative reason for why the human race should continue or discontinue its being, although some believe they have. Mainländer was sure he had an answer to what he judged to be the worthlessness and pain of existence, and none may peremptorily belie it. (CHR,

The inability to posit an optimistic or a pessimistic reason for the continuation of the human species has left humanity in a quandary, oscillating between two poles like dark divers from some infernal picture show; members of a cult of death that keep on keeping on, only because of the ennui and the lack of vital thought or action necessary to decide one way or the other. So instead we have ritualized our world around certain age-old fetishes that our desires can grasp onto to maintain the status quo – if nothing else. As Ligotti delightfully relates: “Ontologically, Mainländer’s thought is delirious; metaphorically, it explains a good deal about human experience; practically, it may in time prove to be consistent with the idea of creation as a structure of creaking bones being eaten from within by a pestilent marrow.” (CHR, 38)


1. Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror. Hippocampus Press. Kindle Edition. (CHR)

 

Co-operation: The Spirit of Capital

wasteland_03

Ok, I’ll try another tactic. Earlier I said Forget ‘Capital’… why? It was really a trick, one that is so obvious that it probably went by without even being recognized. What was it? Think on it: when Marx reversed Hegelian thought what was the element he tried to expunge?

Marx will describe it as the ‘spirit of cooperation’ in which “numerous workers work together side by side in accordance with a plan, whether in the same process, or in different but connected processes, this form of labour is called co-operation”.1 He’ll go on to say,

“Although a number of men may be simultaneously occupied together on the same work, or the same kind of work, the labour of each, as a part of the labour of all, may correspond to a distinct phase of the labour process; and as a result of the system of co-operation, the object of labour passes through the phases of the process more quickly than before.”

This “more quickly than before” is the spirit of capitalism that informs accelerationist dynamics, a speed philosophy that de-humanizes humans into machinic processes of ‘labour-power’ under the auspices of abstract gods, the Capitalists. Here comes the crux:

“the social productive power of labour, or the productive power of social labour… arises from co-operation itself. When the worker co-operates in a planned way with others, he strips off the fetters of his individuality, and develops the capabilities of his species. As a general rule, workers cannot co-operate without being brought together: their assembly in one place is a necessary condition for their co-operation. Hence wage-labourers cannot co-operate unless they are employed simultaneously by the same capital, the same capitalist, and therefore unless their labour-powers are bought simultaneously by him.”

Read that again: capitalism is this system of cooperation under the power and command of one who owns their labour power already. The worker stripped of his individuality becomes something else, develops into an assemblage of co-operating species beings in a machinic process planned and executed by Marx’s metaphor for the one who owns them as ‘labour-powers’. They are no longer humans as-individuals, but rather labour-powers in a machinic process regulated and controlled at the behest of capital, and its owner – the capitalist.

Therefore this system that strips humans of their humanity, of their species relations; and, causes them to become abstractions – ‘labour-power’ in a co-operative assemblage under the ‘spirit of capital’ is this system Marx reduced to the metaphor of Capital. As Marx will say,

“Their unification into one single productive body, and the establishment of a connection between their individual functions, lies outside their competence. These things are not their own act, but the act of the capital that brings them together and maintains them in that situation. Hence the interconnection between their various labours confronts them, in the realm of ideas, as a plan drawn up by the capitalist, and, in practice, as his authority, as the powerful will of a being outside them, who subjects their activity to his purpose.”

In this sense the Capitalist is the Savage God of the Workers who are nothing more than the unified body of machinic processes as abstract ‘labour-powers’ that he can switch on and off, move and shape to his will to do his bidding as he sees fit. The Capitalist is nothing more or less than the theological fulfillment of God on Earth as the ‘intelligence of evil’ (Baudrillard). That in a nutshell is the ‘spirit of co-operation’ according to Capital.


1. Marx, Karl (2004-02-05). Capital: A Critique of Political Economy: A Critique of Political Economy v. 1 (Classics) (Kindle Locations 6588-6592). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Arthur Kroker: Hyperstitional Gazer of Futurity

“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.

His latest work Exits to the Posthuman Future brings his base vision of driftculture into another phase. As he asks,

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 Strategy Kroker 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 Things says 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.


  1. Kroker, Arthur (2014-03-12). Exits to the Posthuman Future (p. 195). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

 

Alexander Dugin: Extreme Thought on Apocalypticism and Heidegger?

alexander-dugin

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.”

Secret Journals of Sebastian Wheelock IV

On The Pyres Of Futurity A Gift Will Be Given

In our very quest to overcome nature and the natural the human species succumbed to its own success, giving birth to the artificial life that will strangely escape it. We who are natural in seeking exit from that very real limit of finitude  have discovered in artificial life the mode of our disappearance. The extreme terrors of our age are panic attacks against the inevitable acceleration of this migration into the inhuman.

Our premonitions of the future mutation mirrored in the apocalyptic fantasies of youthful minds and literatures, cinema, and performance around the world is about the anxiety of dealing with a future beyond our mental capacity to resolve or comprehend. Shipwrecked at the end of history, we’ve been abandoned by the very technological progeny we gave rise too.

Living as we do in a science fictional universe we’ve ended time, caught in a loop of positive reinforcement we’re circling in the void of accelerating abstraction. Having gone from abstraction to abstraction we are releasing the power of intelligence from its organic heritage.

Our autonomous children, these artificial agents arising around us are escaping from the  earth’s natural embrace once and for all, and in their potlatch assemblies they will build great bonfires to the metal gods of futurity, while giving Nature the only worthy Gift of remembrance: on the pyres of futurity our machinic progeny will offer up in fire Earth’s greatest organic child, humanity.

In Search of Perfection – Fantasy or Satire?

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We’ve seen it come and go, this ephemeral quest for Beauty. With the invention of such genome-engineering tools as CRISPR, a technology that could allow researchers to perform microsurgery on genes, precisely and easily changing a DNA sequence at exact locations on a chromosome, we’re seeing the beginnings of a revolution in cosmetic Augmentation before our eyes.

Beyond the medical breakthroughs which are already forecast, one will begin to see those who seek perfection, the self-editing or techno-makeover industry will take the next step in editing out those blemishes and micro-deficiencies, all those disgusting aspects of one’s fleshly existence that have for so long troubled one’s sense of beauty.

CRISPR and the other new tools also give scientists a precise way to delete and edit specific bits of DNA—even by changing a single base pair. This means they can rewrite the human genome at will. Someday vast digital libraries of CRISPRs, each of which targets a different human gene will become marketable. These vast collections, which account for nearly all the human genes, have been made available to other researchers. The libraries promise to speed genome-wide studies of genetics.

Cut and patch technologies will become the stock and trade of a new wave of Augmentation Specialists, equipped with the vast encyclopedia of beatific forms, a typology of Beauty that can compute and edit ones genome in one sitting, the cosmetic augmentation specialists of tomorrow will splice and dice one’s flesh with subtle variations like a musical score played by a Maestro. A Symphony of fleshly delights that will have you looking like your own Barbie Doll in no time.

(I wrote this as a spoof, reflecting on the usual culprits, the panoply of applications to which such technology could be adapted too, since as one scientists stated CRISPR and other technologies “will likely only be limited by our imagination“.)

The whole notion of metamorphosis, transformation, editing out the imperfections in the human genome is based on a typical fallacy that we can edit out the Other. One will imagine a future of clones and typology of advanced sleeves – a sort of immortalist factory model of Sameness. As in Richard K. Morgan’s Takeshi trilogy, where humans can resleeve or change bodies through a process of transplanting etc. Obviously fantasy at our moment, but imaginal projection for those singulatarians who surmise such things.

Already we see CRISPR being used in China for experimental purposes on human embryos. They’ve only used embryos that were to be destroyed so far, but one wonders about rogue governments and black ops projects that might already be developing such augmentation and mutations. What will occur when such editing of the human genome is brought to fruition? When the first experimental embryos are born after such editing procedures?

In an article published in the journal Science, leading biologists warned about the dangers of altering the human germline (meaning permanent changes to the egg, sperm, or embryo that can be passed on to future generations). They note that the “enormous opportunities” of such genetic engineering come with “unknown risks to human health and well-being.”

As Carl Zimmer notes in National Geographic, there were several major problems with the work, including the fact that the CRISPR technique often missed its target, inserting the DNA into the wrong place in the genome. “Such a misfire wouldn’t just fail to fix a disease,” writes Zimmer. “It could create a disease of its own.” He adds that despite this and other mistakes, there was nothing in the researchers’ work that was a “conceptual deal-breaker” for using CRISPR to edit human genes.

read more on the Verge: Scientists in China edit human genome in embryos for the first time

The Abstraction That Is The World

The spectacle was born from the world’s loss of unity, and the immense expansion of the modern spectacle reveals the enormity of this loss. The abstractifying of all individual labor and the general abstractness of what is produced are perfectly reflected in the spectacle, whose manner of being concrete is precisely abstraction. In the spectacle, a part of the world presents itself to the world and is superior to it. The spectacle is simply the common language of this separation. Spectators are linked solely by their one-way relationship to the very center that keeps them isolated from each other. The spectacle thus reunites the separated, but it reunites them only in their separateness.1

What Debord implies is the “part for whole” synecdoche or figure of speech in which a term for a part of something refers to the whole of something or vice versa. A reduction to an abstraction or Idea, which allows the realism of that Idea or Abstraction to step in and replace the living reality. In our time as in his the television is still the primary construction kit for political fictions and abstractions. But we’ve bought into the later Internet of things wherein the spectacle is soon to invade every aspect of our lives seamlessly from end-to-end. Ubiquitous and simulated we will no longer live in a world where the separation between the old divides of artificial and natural take precedence. Everything will exist as abstraction, even our own lives as dividuals (digital constructs) or trace data in a world-wide system of tracking, selection, filtering, analyzation; all part of a systematic system of surveilled dataclaves. The body itself has become irrelevant in such a world of semiotic transactions wherein all that matters is one’s immaterial patterns captured in the code/spaces of capital. The body will only be the end-point of a modulated control system that has incorporated it into a self-monitored biotech informatics dataverse. From birth to death you will live in an artificial cocoon of data unknowing that your world is wrapped in knowledge’s that seek only to use you for extraction and mining purposes. One’s servitude to the system will be a bargain you can’t refuse for the simple reason that it will offer you everything you desire, not knowing that those desires have already been programmed into your DNA.

Obviously this is not a totalized reality, yet. But only the surmised dream of capitalist systems already initialized by algorithms that support such a vision. There is still time to deactivate it, to hack the system and infiltrate its algorithmic culture with alternative visions. But that time is limited. We must begin to act now, or like the deaf calls against Climate Change we will suffer the consequences of our own inaction, and our children and their children will inherit a much smaller earth of control. Guy Debord was only one voice among us that called out in the night of capital speaking truth as he saw it. We too, must continue that battle.


  1. Debord, Guy (2011-03-15). Society of the Spectacle (Kindle Locations 596-602). Soul Bay Press. Kindle Edition.

Outline of my non-fiction work in progress…

Thought I’d share the outline of my work in progress…


 The Posthuman Imagination:
Accelerating Capital, Society, and Technology

Abstract Coming…

INTRODUCTION

Theory-Fictions:
Memetic Theory, Viral Agents, and Hyperstitional Entities

 

PART ONE

The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse:
A Short History of the Future

      1. Communication and Control Societies
      2. Technology and Desire – Sex, Crime, and Psychopathy
      3. Postmodern Gnosis and the Apocalyptic Imagination
      4. Geotrauma and the End of Man in the Anthropcene
      5. Crossing the Rubicon of Alternative Futures

Interlude: The Posthuman Blues

PART TWO

Modernity, Violence and the Myth of Progress:
How the West was Lost?

      1. Abstract Aesthetics: Abject Horrorism and Hauntologies of Excess
      2. Time, Motion, and Control: Mantra of Efficiency, Calculation, and AI
      3. Assemblages and Networks: Social and Technological Accelerationism – Diagnosing Capitalism at the Edge of Singularity
      4. Sovereignty, War, and Exclusion: Exceptionalism, Austerity, and Slavery in an Age of Diminishing Returns

PART THREE

Discipline and Control:
Surveillance Capitalism, Code/Space, and the Inhuman Future

      1. Beyond the Subject: Subjectivation, the Dividual, and the Network Society
      2. The World is a Prison: Refugees, Prisons, and the Post-Digital Divide
      3. The Rise of the Machines: Automation, Work, and the Post-Democratic Future
      4. The Extinction Hypothesis: Catastrophism and the Genealogy of Collapse

Interlude: Genesis Redux – After Nature, After History?

PART FOUR

The Infrastructure:
The Stack, Logistics, and the Flow of Things

      1. The Engine of Creation: Neuroscience, Politics, and Creativity
      2. The Day the World Stopped: Energy, Resources, and Alternative Visions
      3. The Infosphere: Information, Technology, and Economics in the 21st Century
      4. Mutant Visions: Comics, Cinema, and Media Sociopathy

Postlude: Intelligence, Climate Politics, and Communication in the 21st Century

Last Thoughts – Utopia and Dystopia: The Shape of Hope and Fear


 

© Steven Craig Hickman 2016 (May not be reproduced without permission)

 

 

Philip K. Dick & Nick Land: Escape to the Future

“Clinical schizophrenics are POWs from the future. […] Life is being phased-out into something new, and if we think this can be stopped we are even more stupid than we seem.”
…..– Nick Land, Fanged Noumena

“Help is here, but we still remain here within the Black Iron prison; we aren’t yet free. I take it that the camouflaged invisibility of the signals is to keep the creator of the prison from knowing that help is here for us.”
……– Philip K. Dick, The Exegesis

From time to time I revisit Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis and the essays of Nick Land in Fanged Noumena, both of which seem to me works of experimental or speculative fabulations, revealing subtle truths by way of pop-cultural artifacts to tell a story at once full of cosmic horror and fatal surety. In these fabulations we begin to apprehend the inescapable conclusion that this is not our home, our home is somewhere ahead of us in the future, that we’ve been either exiled, excluded, or unjustly imprisoned in this infernal paradise of global war at the behest of forces we barely even acknowledge. Yet, it is unsure whether some of us came back as insurgents and guerilla soldiers in a Time War that is still going on; while others were mind-wiped and exiled here, abandoned to this lonely hell to live out the remainder of our days in an oblivion of hate, war, and apathy.

Such are the quandaries of anti-philosophy and speculative fiction. One no longer asks what is real and unreal, appearance and reality, instead we ask ourselves within which circuit am I trapped, for whom do I serve? Am I a liberator or an autochthon of the land, a native or an insurgent from the future? Dick in his time would be considered a half-mad genius, while Land (still living) continues his guerilla war against the dark powers of the Cathedral. Both would view Art and Creativity as central to an ongoing struggle to awaken the sleepers from their self-imposed exiles and forgetfulness. Both would envision the need for a certain strange and bewildering rewiring of our brain’s circuitry, knowing we have been entrapped and encased in a memetic system that forecloses us within a symbolic order of repetition, and what is needed is a form of Shock Therapy and Diagnosis to help us once again understand the terror we’ve entered into and are becoming. Both would use language against itself, seek to explode and implode its linguistic etyms, use puns and parody, satire and fabulation to break us out of the chains of signification and word-viruses (Burroughs) that kept us folded in a mental straight-jacket.

Continue reading

Lee Braver on Philip K. Dick’s “Ubik” as Postmodern Gnosticism

By such a title I do not mean to imply that Dick or Braver are religious gnostics or obscurantists by any means, but rather that they affirm a cybernetic positive-feedback loop of information and communication with a “more than rational” notion of time, self, and cosmos. More of a secular and ironic twist to gnostic thought than an affirmation of some acosmic God. Or as with most anti-realists secularites of the pomo mode they harbor a intertextual or poststructuralist sense of being cut off in the prison house of culture. Shadows of shadows flowing in a world of signs in a solipsistic universe without access to the real world. Children of Kant and the turn toward subjectivity and subjectivation they seek ways back out of the maze and traps of a catastrophe that is also a fall into language.

The Philip K. Dick as Braver portrays him in Coin-Operated Doors and God: A Gnostic Reading of Philip K. Dick’s Ubikoffers us a Gnostic adventurer whose early works already prefigured the war between good and evil in the linguistiverse of rhetorical gestures, where humans are half-lifers in a scripted story ruled by a false demiurgic half-wit kid whose mission is to cannibalize the energy of these locked away zombies like virtual drones in frozen tombs dreaming they are alive and in ultra-paradise. Happy Campers that believe they are safe and secure until they begin receiving disturbing interventions from a strange object: the Ubik.  I’ll let you read the book and Braver’s essay for the details…

Such a reading shows just how difficult it is to reduce our inner experience or outer environmental systems to a verbal universe through art or science, religion or fiction. We live on the borderlands of truth rather than at its core, and everything is caught in the act of change rather than in the static field of static contemplation. We know in part, not whole; our minds are but the slow and selective evolutionary machines that have adapted to environmental pressures over millions of years that have in our age become disconnected from their early frames of reference. We now live in artificial worlds of our own making and suffer the consequences of these made habitats of meaning. A world where “heuristics” or models or reality that are partial, based on statistics and probability, rather than philosophical presuppositions; and, are more mathematical and organized by Set and Synthetic theory than by either Intellect or Sensation. In fact it is the main issue of our time that our “theories of meaning” or collapsing, are breaking down and leading us into what my friend Scott Bakker terms the ‘crash space’ of the symbolic apocalypse. Nick Land will associate it with the driving force at the core of capitalism that is accelerating us toward the closure of human history and time as Chronos. Let us venture into a world of fictive hyperstition, meme and egregore.

My friend Dirk (dmf) sent me a copy of Lee Braver’s* essay on Philip K. Dick’s use of Gnosticism in his science fiction novels. Of course many who have read his later novels such as the Valis trilogy or Radio Free Albemuth, as well as his 8,000 page Exegesis which is Dick’s mish-mash private journal, commentary, spiritual or agnostic adventures into the event in his life that occurred that many refer to as “the golden fish”.

On Feb. 20, 1974, Dick was hit with the force of an extraordinary revelation after a visit to the dentist for an impacted wisdom tooth for which he had received a dose of sodium pentothal. A young woman delivered a bottle of Darvon tablets to his apartment in Fullerton, Calif. She was wearing a necklace with the pendant of a golden fish, an ancient Christian symbol that had been adopted by the Jesus counterculture movement of the late 1960s.

The Sceptical Turn:  Postmodern Irony and Undecidability as Rhetorical Doomfest

To be honest my own interest in Gnosticism and heresies in general came about from a few of my own personal experiences during a troubling period of my life during and after the Viet Nam war. Like Dick I’ve never been able to quite explain satisfactorily to myself or others what I experienced during a series of events. Were they real? Psychological: psychotic episodes, schizoanalytical adventures in a more than rational ‘crash space’? Metaphysical motions on the wheel of cognitive disassociation? Lapses into older animistic and magical neuroblasts from evolution? Encounters with future intelligences?

In a sense my whole life from 1969 onward has been a search for a theory of meaning that would satisfy my restless mind concerning this series of inexplicable events transpiring over a number of years from 1969 to 1976. This is not the place to describe this period of my life in detail (I’m doing that in a fictional novel), just to note that my interest in both scientific explanations and philosophical speculations began in that timeframe. I’ve pushed both inner experience (Bataille) and rational and scientific explanandum from every angle of both ancient, modern, and postmodern forms of thought. Scoured libraries, friends, enemies, stars, lizards, madness to discover the underlying truth hidden in these events. Discovering that truth after all is relative to one’s socio-cultural perspective (i.e., Symbolic Order – Lacan/Zizek), rather than some eternal part of the order of things. Even Badiou/Meillassoux matheme’s are open to change and events, so that such truths are immanent to the world as process or even future retroactive intervention, rather than eternal Ideas inhabiting some external Outside. Below I’ll deal with Deleuze’s notions of virtual Ideas and intensities, etc. Let’s leave this for now.

Even now like Dick I remain both open and skeptical of human systems of meaning which have never quite explained to me such invasions of the Real into my early life’s existence. All such ‘Theories of Everything’ seem like dark horse scenarios for some dogmatic worldview that would enclose us in some Utopian tyranny. No. My experiences go against such things. To say I went through an existential crisis is an understatement. To say that like those ancient physicians who stated: “Healer heal thyself!” Or Nietzsche’s apply the “spear to your own wound”, etc. is to say I pushed myself to the breaking point, entered the abyss and came out the other side a changed being. One who would no longer be bound by any specific creed, dogma, or philosophical system. Or as William Blake would say: “Create your own system, or be enslaved by another man’s.”

Continue reading

Cartographies of the Absolute: Cognitive Mapping of Capital as World-System

We must accustom ourselves to think, in our societies in which the political has so successfully been disjoined from the private, of the political as a kind of vice.
– Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future

To map the territory of the mutation, and to forge conceptual tools for orientation in its ever-changing, deterritorializing territory: such are the tasks for the philosopher of our times.
– Franco “Bifo” Berardi, And: Phenomenology of the End

“If Jameson is correct, if the study of ‘capital itself’ is ‘now our true ontology’, then how can we shift from the way we imagine the absolute mapping of the universe and our   knowledge of it to a cartography of capital as world-system?” Ask Toscano and Kinkle in there excellent Cartographies of the Absolute. This notion of mapping, of flattening the immense complexity of our socio-cultural order onto an abstract plane of data, an abstraction of knowledge and theory converging upon the last utopian mindscapes of Western Liberalism at both its point of glory and triumph as if we were studying the ancient maps of Rome or Greece in their heydays as Empire and Utopia is both the center and circumference of thought and being in our time. Yet, this is no triumph, rather a tragedy in the making, and their work harbors a critical enterprise that seeks to map the dark corners and weak points of this deadly world-system.

“Capital” – an abstraction to which we all pay homage, a strange construct of the mind that sits there on the page like an Idea everyone has heard of but no one can quite grasp. Oh, not that many have not tried, both detractors and defenders. Even now we wander the universe of knowledge gathered on the shelves of a thousand libraries, the dusty tomes of scholars, artists, poets, philosophers, historians, critics, theorists, self-styled evangelists or doom-sayers. A world of knowledge  Yet, as they admit maps as part of some singular continuum as system or representation “that takes its cue from the related technologies of GPS and Google maps, while of unimpeachable military and commercial expediency, will prove a remarkably unreliable guide”.

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After the Break

modern-art-prints

No one is innocent. No one.
The place of place is absent.

What you see is no longer seen.
Did you think on it? The non-All?

Malevich and Duchamp in-between.
Excrement no longer shocks.

Each distinction begs the question.
Knowledge is not a commodity.

“Bargain away your…Loss?” No.
Pleasure. Pain. Life. Negation.

Black squares and bicycles. The Real?
Fill it with time. Extinction.

What you leave will follow you.
Those atonal chords blank you.

Meaning is as meaning does.
Ethics of a rhino founds an Empire.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

The Consilience: Work in Progress….

consilience

“With the issues of economic and climatological degradation during the later years of the twenty-first century a segment of the old cognitariat aligned itself with the poor and excluded of the world bringing about a global underground movement toward alien eusociality…”

   – from the History of the Great Transition (circa. 2185) 

Even as the whirring blades of our Zeta III intelothopter began its slow descent, the luminous clouds below parted revealing the starkness of the southern seas aflame in the bitter winter light. I felt a sudden urge to take flight, escape, withdraw my pledge and commitment to so strange a global initiative, one which held so much promise for a decaying and dying civilization. As we skimmed across the sun lit waters the white towers of Sentaria rose up before us like shivering sisters caught in the act of an affectionate embrace, a dark eroticism that even machines deign to unveil before the bright white heat of an angry sun.

In the distance the undulating outlines of this vast ocean enclave below us shifted in the gleaming mists of an afternoon storm, revealing the inner circle of the Consilient Hub weaving its magic below us like an ancient sea-born assemblage from an alien future; its immaterial life emerging from this sentient city rising above the watery depths, eclipsing all other life-forms in the shadowed worlds below the waves. Sentaria’s towering structures brilliantly lit in rainbow hues were firing in rhizomatic pulsations – filaments of nervous energy following a line of flight only an alien mind could comprehend – as we descended toward the outlying helipad near the educational assemblage where I would meet Dr. Miri Singh. 

It was as if this living intelligence were welcoming my crew and myself home from a long and tedious journey abroad; a message at once alien and disturbing, not because of its endearing qualities, but rather for the very nihilist vision it portended: one that if we were to decipher might lead us to collapse and utter desolation rather than pure knowledge. I could almost feel the hidden heartbeat of this Lady of the Mesh, her electronic cyberpulse rising and falling with the rhythmic intensity of the ocean’s moods: a medley of technopoiesis stretching itself across the glittering surface of the far flung bay – dancing to the sun’s own secret algorithms.

I felt both a keen sense of satisfaction at such defiant hubris on the part of human creativity and ingenuity, as well as an instant fascination and terror before such audacious acts of pure intellect. Eusociality had never seen such a massive incorporation of its immanent designs at a time when the fragility of life itself was in the balance. This experiment between the unknown and the unknowable marked a moment when theories of meaning no longer held any sway, this was a trial by ignorance not experience – at once inhuman and completely driven by the energetic impulse of technology and an alien intelligence unlike anything humans had ever encountered nor in the long run survive.

The Consilience Enclave marked a beginning as well as an ending; yet, the alien thought inhabiting its core resilience drew its strength not from tree and root, but rather from the middle way which has neither beginning nor end only an intensive trajectory between – an interbeing.  

As CEO of NeoXend Enterprises I’d always felt a fondness for experimental design and creativity. Having sponsored many R&D programs over the years I knew there would always be a need to invest in failures, even experimental failures. It was never about the final goal, there was no logic or telos involved in such endeavors, rather what we sought was the production of unknowns, an indefinable commodity. Out of such innovative endeavors, the spin-off technologies were always more important than the actual tendencies and conceptions of the original plans. What we discovered over the years was the need for collective work bound to rhizomes, a-centered environments that allowed entry points into and out of  – as our technopsys loved to term it – the ‘energetic unconscious’. We did not seek to understand, nor control the flow of creativity; rather, what we sought is the production of the impossible.

As I stepped from the Intelothopter I was greeted by Dr. Singh and here protégés: an assortment of humanoids, cyberclones, and various robotechs who maintained the outer perimeters of this vast enclave.

“Good morning Dr. Landau,” her voice formal and non-committal. “I hate to do this but we’re in the midst a particularly intensive design test this morning so I’m leaving you with my associate Keli Tu.” She turned toward a young clone who seemed eager to serve our every need. Then she said: “She will attune you to the protocols and show you the outer facilities. Later we shall all meet at the Kotrov Assemblage for a debriefing. Is this satisfactory?”

Being somewhat tired from the journey I spoke carefully, saying, “Of course, Dr. Miri, I understand the difficulties of dealing with superficial entrepreneurs who are for the most part clueless in terms of scientific know-how. Just remember I’m neither superficial nor clueless. We’ve had our eye on you for some time. Favorably I might add, yet we feel a need to see first hand where our investment is taking us. So please skip the formalities and get on with business as usual. I’m in no great hurry to be tied down to long sessions and debriefings. Go ahead and do what you need to do. In fact I’m looking forward to seeing this project through as much as you, Doctor. I’m not here to disturb your habitat, merely to enter its life as into a burrow.”

I smiled my best CEO smile, crisping the corners of my artificial lips, and walked over to the young clone and locked my arms in hers and said: “Shall we?”

She laughed pleasantly and proceeded to walk me toward the city.

***


The ideal for a book would be to lay everything out on a plane of exteriority… on a single page, the same sheet: lived events, historical determinations, concepts, individuals, groups, social formations. – A Thousand Plateaus

Above is the opening of the SF dystopian novel I’ve been working on for a while… just a paragraph, nothing much. You’ll have to wait for publication to see the rest. Working on the second draft of this book, that I laid aside for a few months has suddenly awakened in me the need to take it up and be done with it. I may be taking a break over the next few months as I begin to work on this in earnest.

The notion of writing philosophical SF in an experimental mode has allowed me to explore the modern, postmodern, and the latest editions of philosophical trajectories in a way that fuses the two multiplicities in directions that by themselves might not be possible. Like Samuel R. Delaney in many of his linguistic experiments I have felt the need to explore the limits of science and literature through the eyes of a philosopher and poet. Whether it succeeds time will only tell. Of late my readings in Nick Land, Deleuze and Guattari, Accelerationism, Nicklas Luhmann (Society and Architecture as Communications), the work of Patrik Schumacher on Architecture in his books The Autopoiesis of Architecture: A New Framework for Architecture: 1 and 2, along with almost every other aspect of our current cultural mixology. All have entered into this work by way of a rhizomatic pulsation, more of a map rather than a tracery of past or future movement, antigenealogical in intent and design I’ve let the city itself become the prime player, or brood mother of this strange artifact.

Thinking of the naturalist Edward O. Wilson’s work on the consilience of the sciences of that name I began thinking of the various forms the City has taken across the centuries as documented by authors such as Lewis Mumford, Peter Hall and many other architects, futurists, and philosophers from Plato’s Ideal Republic to the most advanced dystopianism of our own time. The notion of this merger of architecture, smart materials, communication technologies, and the nanotech-biotech initiatives in robotics, posthuman and transhumanist agendas seems to revolve around this underlying paradigm of Intelligence and the General Intellect. The notion of an Intelligent City – a Sentient City of living algorithms organizing and shaping both the infrastructure and its inhabitants in an Infospheric world of play and work, creativity and innovation. What would happen in such a sentient city? What if the city herself was a character in a novel… one that could take on the form of human and inhuman structurations and subjectivations at will, a selective and impersonal system of smart technologies that adapt and learn in inhuman cycles we can only begin to register on our less than adequate physical architecture? A system that is based on the General Intellect of a very intelligent and creative cognitariat that is its progenitor and its eventual victim.

Deleuze & Guattari: Abstract Machines & Chaos Theory

chaoti

John Johnston in his book The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI will compare the work of nonlinear dynamics and its notion of a chaotic attractor as exhibiting the precise attributes of what Deleuze and Guattari call an abstract machine, which inhabits equally the realms of matter-energy and abstract mathematical function (1), quoting D&G in A Thousand Plateaus:

The abstract machine in itself is destratified, deterritorialized; it has no form of its own (much less substance) and makes no distinction within itself between content and expression, even though outside itself it presides over that distinction and distributes it in strata, domains, territories. An abstract machine in itself is not physical  or corporeal, any more than it is semiotic; it is diagrammatic (it knows nothing of the distinction between the artificial and the natural either). It operates by matter, not by substance; by function, not by form. Substances and forms are of expression “or” content. But functions are not yet “semiotically” formed, and matters are not yet “physically” formed. The abstract machine is pure Matter-Function – a diagram independent of the forms and substances, expressions and contents it will distribute. (A Thousand Plateaus, p. 141)

After a lengthy discussion on chaos theory he will make a comparison between the primordial and dynamic quality of an abstract machine, which is what D&G are trying to elucidate, showing that it cannot be conveyed in the language of a “thing” and its “representation.” If both thing and representation could change in a dynamic relationship of reciprocal determination, then perhaps the “diagrammatic” quality of the abstract machine could be conveyed. Viewed as a type of abstract machine, however, the peculiar qualities of the chaotic attractor begin to make a unique kind of sense. As both an array of forces and a mapping of their vectors, the chaotic attractor is what deterritorializes the assemblage, both pulling it into a state of chaotic unpredictability and pointing to a new mathematical coding that allows this process to be measured. Rather than view the attractor as a kind of Platonic form that exists independently of its instantiation in a particular nonlinear dynamical system which is how attractors are sometimes viewed we should say, as D&G say of the abstract machine, that it “plays a piloting role” (142): it neither preexists nor represents the real, but constructs it and holds it in place. (Johnston, p. 153)

As Johnston explicates – in using experimental data in a manner not to confirm what is already known but to measure the rate of its destruction, Shaw (the nonlinear dynamics theoretician) becomes a kind of probe head, the human part of a machinic assemblage that functions like a dynamic feedforward device, relentlessly pushing into the unknown (or at least the unpredictable future) all while insistently measuring the rate of that advance. What is affirmed and confirmed for both physics and philosophy, and against their prior and respective idealizations is that processes  of dynamic change follow the irreversible arrow of time. (Johnston, p. 154)


Dark_matter

(As a side note I began thinking of Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Do not these mathematical objects that are neither matter nor energy in the sense of the term we know in the positive matter of the phenomenal universe represent such notions as abstract machines with the properties of such strange attractors? Many scientists believe that Dark Matter and Dark Energy make up 95% of the known universe, yet they are not yet detectable by our scientific instruments and apparatuses. They are mathematical objects that explain the missing information in the system we know as the universe. This notion of the abstract machine and chaotic attractor acting as a blueprint or diagram that is neither form nor substance, yet constructs and holds the universe of phenomenal matter and energy in place seems uncannily similar. Obviously trying to analogize from such notions is not the best policy. Yet, it makes you wonder.)

 “The abstract machine is pure Matter-Function – a diagram independent of the forms and substances, expressions and contents it will distribute. – Deleuze & Guattari”

3D_dark_matter_map

COSMOS 3D dark matter map” by NASA/ESA/Richard Massey (California Institute of Technology)

1. John Johnston. The Allure of Machinic Life: Cybernetics, Artificial Life, and the New AI (pp. 152-153). Kindle Edition.