Anti-Philosophy: Unbinding the Void

It is always a difficulty writing on an other’s work in that one usually begins by clarifying something that captures your own thought, and then trying to isolate an aspect of it, abstract it out, seek to understand whether it is viable or not, living or dead; and, then, whether one can either appropriate and incorporate it into one’s own ongoing project or exclude it and – yes, critique it. Sometimes as a commentator I plunder other’s works for my own ongoing project, which I’m sure as many on my blog have pointed out comes into conflict with the actual and real meaning or… and, I hate to use the word, “intentions” of the author, since I no longer believe or accept the essentialist argument of there being an author behind the work, etc.. There being nothing essential behind the mask of the name or title other than the fictional appellation or designation which is bound to the cultural logics and legalisms we are captured by. No intentional being resides there behind the mask of author, but rather a process of thinking connected to the traditions of symbolic accord that travel across time through processes of externalization, memory, and technology (i.e., print, trace, etc.). (Much more on this in the future!)

Once one has left the fold, no longer believes in the property or proprietary intentions of an author… that all writing is technics and technology… one lives in a alter-framework. An alterity that blows away the metaphysical structures underpinning our legal and secular regimes. Even as I write these words the illusion of my own Self/Subject persists, yet what do we trace in an author’s work: Do we ever know what is behind the work, or are we more concerned with what that work offers us as challenge or confirmation of our own stance and thoughts in regards of the wider frame of culture? There is no singular language, therefore no singular vision or collective being, self, etc., we are all already collective processes rather than beings operating in and on an external world or symbolic order. Detached from any conception of metaphysical Being one is rather a writing, and being written by impersonal forces of which one is barer or victim. That is all.

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The Accursed Share: Economics of Excess

Once again I return to Bataille. In the preface to Accursed Share Vol 1 he describes the disconcerting experience of being confronted with the question of his work – the why of it:

“…the book I was writing (which I am now publishing) did not consider the facts the way qualified economists do, that I had a point of view from which a human sacrifice, the construction of a church or the gift of a jewel were no less interesting than the sale of wheat. In short, I had to try in vain to make clear the notion of a “general economy” in which the “expenditure” (the “consumption”) of wealth, rather than production, was the primary object.”

This sense of coming at economics not as some narrow system of capital expenditure and profit, but rather as the ‘general economy’ of the system of the world itself – the Solar Economy – is this bewilderment we feel in realizing his conceptual reversal of modern economic theory based on the object of production rather than that of expenditure and waste (“consumption”). As he’ll tell it “This first essay addresses, from outside the separate disciplines, a problem that still has not been framed as it should be, one that may hold the key to all the problems posed by every discipline concerned with the movement of energy on the earth – from geophysics to political economy, by way of sociology, history and biology.” For underpinning it all was a materialist conception of force, drives, and energetics:

“Writing this book in which I was saying that energy finally can only be wasted, I myself was using my energy, my time, working; my research answered in a fundamental way the desire to add to the amount of wealth acquired for mankind.”

In his iconic affirmation that “the sexual act is in time what the tiger is in space” he reminds us such comparisons follow from considerations of an energy economy that leave no room for poetic fantasy, but requires instead a thinking on a level with a play of forces that runs counter to ordinary calculations, a play of forces based on the laws that govern us. In short, the perspectives where such truths appear are those in which more general propositions reveal their meaning, propositions according to which it is not necessity but its contrary, “luxury,” that presents living matter and mankind with their fundamental problems.”

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William S. Burroughs: Drugs, Language, and Control

Bill Burroughs:

The writer does not yet know what words are. He deals only with abstractions from the source point of words. The painter’s ability to touch and handle his medium led to montage techniques sixty years ago. It is to be hoped that the extension of cut-up techniques will lead to more precise verbal experiments closing this gap and giving a whole new dimension to writing. These techniques can show the writer what words are and put him in tactile communication with his medium. This in turn could lead to a precise science of words and show how certain word combinations produce certain effects on the human nervous system. (The Job Interviews)

Burroughs believed language to be the first and foremost control machine. A machine that constructed and shaped the naked ape called man into its present form, and that any future exit from the human would incorporate a breakup of this control machine and its present system of signs. The normalization and comforming of the human child through a series of modulated cycles of cultural and social enducements begins at childbirth. Nothing new here, except that for most of human history this went on unconsciously for the most part, but at some point certain tribal members realized that words harbored power over the minds and hearts of people. These shamans became the keepers of this knowlege of power, inventing relations between tribe and word these dreamkings began to bridge the unknown and known in a linguistic web of power relations that would become the cultural background of a time-machine.

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Artificial Puritans: Immortal Dreams and the Elimination of Humanity

The specter that haunts genetic manipulation is the genetic ideal, a perfect model obtained through the elimination of all negative traits.

´—Jean Baudrillard,  The Vital Illusion

Genetics is the foster child of eugenics a quasi-science and mythology of constructing the perfect species through technological progress and the perfection of human nature. The word “eugenics” was coined in 1883 by the English scientist Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin. Galton, who pioneered the mathematical treatment of heredity, took the word from a Greek root meaning “good in birth” or “noble in heredity.” He intended it to denote the “science” of improving human stock by giving “the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable.”1 This notion is steeped in the hierarchical fantasy of our Puritan ancestors dreams of human perfection – a notion as old as Plato.

In our Western heritage the notion of perfectibility whose origins lay in the cults of perfectionism of the Pythagorean world became in Plato part of the discursive and textural outlay of our cultural memory. Plato distinguishes between technical perfection and the perfection of human nature. In the Republic he proposed a new class of beings to rule and govern the polis. The “philosopher-kings,” as he calls them, are not perfect because they rule perfectly; they are perfect because they have seen “the form of the good” and rule in accordance with it. As John Passinore in his classic Perfectibility of Man comments, “in the end, the whole structure of Plato’s republic rests on there being a variety of perfection over and above technical perfection-a perfection which consists in, or arises out of, man’s relationship to the ideal.”‘ Passmore goes on to point out that other Western thinkers including Luther, Calvin, and Duns Scotus follow Plato in talking about technical perfection in terms of one’s vocation or calling. But the perfecting of oneself in the performance of the role in life to which one is called is not sufficient by itself to ensure one’s perfection as a human being.2

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Jean Baudrillard: The Perfect Crime

The period of catastrophe: the advent of a doctrine that sifts men— driving the weak to decisions, and the strong as well… —Fredrich Nietzsche

Here, however, lies the task of any philosophical thought: to go to the limit of hypotheses and processes, even if they are catastrophic. The only justification for thinking and writing is that it accelerates these terminal processes.

—Jean Baudrillard, The Vital Illusion

We are no longer dealing with a problematic of lack and alienation, where the referent of the self and the dialectic between subject and object were always to be found, supporting strong and active philosophical positions. The last and most radical analysis of this problematic was achieved by Guy Debord and the Situationists, with their concept of spectacle and spectacular alienation. For Debord there was still a chance of disalienation, a chance for the subject to recover his or her autonomy and sovereignty. But now this radical Situationist critique is over. By shifting to a virtual world, we go beyond alienation, into a state of radical deprivation of the Other, or indeed of any otherness, alterity, or negativity. We move into a world where everything that exists only as idea, dream, fantasy, utopia will be eradicated, because it will immediately be realized, operationalized. Nothing will survive as an idea or a concept. You will not even have time enough to imagine. Events, real events, will not even have time to take place. Everything will be preceded by its virtual realization. We are dealing with an attempt to construct an entirely positive world, a perfect world, expurgated of every illusion, of every sort of evil and negativity, exempt from death itself. This pure, absolute reality, this unconditional realization of the world—this is what I call the Perfect Crime.

—Jean Baudrillard,  The Vital Illusion

J.G. Ballard once said of Jean Baudrillard:

“I find Baudrillard America one of the most brilliant pieces of writing that I have ever come across in my life. It’s an extraordinary book. …America is brilliantly original. I’m not sure what Baudrillard overall worldview is. I certainly take an optimistic view. To some extent he sees America [the country] as a huge pop art exhibition. To him, America is an imitation of itself – its imitation of itself is its reality – which I think is true. But he takes an optimistic view of America, and I would do the same about the world as a whole.”1

It’s interesting that a man who wrote such perceptive critiques and fictionalizations of the human animal in his patois of satire, parody, and dark humor was actually hopeful and optimistic, more of a cheerful Democritus of the frontiers of our mutant age than the weeping prognosticator of Heraclitean swamps. I like that about him. And that he found Baudrillard incomprehensible and opaque is an added feature to my admiration of both. As he said:

“There are a lot of Baudrillard’s other writings, which Semiotext(e) keep sending me, that I find pretty opaque – I suspect through mistranslation. He uses a lot of code words which have probably a very different meaning in French than in literal English translation. He’s written an article on Crash – my novel – which I’ve read in English, and I find that difficult to understand.”

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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 Mortal Machine: Security Regimes and the Symbolic Order

What is a body, and why should there be a line drawn (a distinction made?) between mind and body? More to the point is dualism a tendency intrinsic to the thing we are or not? We’ve seen philosophers come to the conclusion that we do not exist, that this thing we are was a combination of cultural and social praxis, a project if you will. That with the birth of every new child a process begins that as Deleuze and Guattari would describe begins with the family, moves on to the academy ( education, etc.), then is absorbed in the wider frame of culture at large. Others in our time see that these Symbolic Orders are artificial and circumscribed within certain well defined limits, and that over time a society will construct defense mechanisms to disallow new cultures from breaching the barriers of its symbolic terrain.

Each culture is bound to its symbolic framework and references and will literally go to war to protect its systems of meaning. In Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari would show the inner workings of Western culture and civilization, its tendencies and defense systems. They would demarcate the distinctions that had produced the limit concepts and symbolic codes that have tied our mental and physical duality into a knot of protective security regimes that have guided and shaped this culture and its inhabitants for millennia. They were a beginning not an end, they began a process of disturbing the internal systems that hold the symbolic core of this system together and began to dismantle (or deconstruct) its codes from within. Others would carry on this process, both friends and enemies.

We’ve seen this sordid history within the rise of post-modern and post-humanist thought in both the sciences and humanities. We’ve seen the refusal of the human, a concept that has been central to the Western project for two millennia. Along with that was the illusive quest to dismantle the concept of identity, and destroy the individuation of the Subject. A process that came to a head during the critical phase of the late Enlightenment era we now term the Romantic revolt of Idealisms from Kant to Hegel and beyond. One might term this the “Subject’s Last Stand” of which the current shaper of this tradition is the dualistic materialist Slavoj Zizek in his strain of dialectical materialism. We’ve seen this play out within the divide over transcendence and immanence along with various variants in-between based on a battle between reductionist and irreductionist thought and action. I’ve spent years reading and wandering within both camps seeking from within to understand the defining characteristics that shape both stances and their defense systems. Mortals trapped within their systems are machines caught in the nexus of their own productions never seeing anything but their own gaze returning to them in echoes of bastardized thought. One must be strong to enter the abyss Nietzsche once told us, and even he was prone to other illusions. We all are, even I.

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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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Nick Land: The Blockchain Revolution and Absolute Time

So we have now artificial absolute time for the first time ever in human history. And this therefore is scrambling these narratives it’s scrambling our sense of pre and post, what is the actual set of successions in the most concrete sense …

—Nick Land on Blockchain Revolution

In Nick Land’s summation Blockchain technology solves the problems that both Einstein and Poincare were facing ( he recommends Peter Galison’s book Einstein’s Clocks, Poincare’s Maps: Empires of Time: Empires of Time), the one from a theoretical physicist stance, the other from a practical and bureaucratic stance. In this video Land describes the underlying reason why we cannot move past Kant into a Post-Kantian perspective. With Blockchain the central issue of developing a practical instigation of succession (arithmetical not geometrical time) and Absolute Time has been resolved, so that this technology makes forcibly practical the relations and convergence on Capitalism, Globalisation, Modernity, Critique, and Artificial Intelligence.

Transcript of Session of Nick Land:

I’d like to first of all subscribe to Mo’s conviction about the importance of the Blockchain, that’s a definite tidal element behind the reason everyone’s here, certainly it’s a conviction on my part that makes this a crucial topic to talk about. So I’ve got two little elements that I’ve picked up about what’s going on here in advance which is the title- The Spacial Politics of the Blockchain and a blurb saying that we’re talking here about the ‘Triangular relation between decentralised technology, architecture, and the office form’, so I hope that I don’t leave the orbit of these agenda items. I’ll probably be approaching them from a somewhat abstracted point of view.

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Machinic Desire (Nick Land Excerpts)

Nick Land: Machinic Desire (Excerpts):

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

Along one axis of its emergence, virtual materialism names an ultra-hard antiformalist AI program, engaging with biological intelligence as subprograms of an abstract post-carbon machinic matrix, whilst exceeding any deliberated research project. Far from exhibiting itself to human academic endeavour as a scientific object, AI is a meta-scientific control system and an invader, with all the insidiousness of plantary technocapital flipping over. Rather than its visiting us in some software engineering laboratory, we are being drawn out to it, where it is already lurking, in the future.

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

Reaching an escape velocity of self-reinforcing machinic intelligence propagation, the forces of production are going for the revolution on their own. It is in this sense that schizoanalysis is a revolutionary program guided by the tropism to a catastrophe threshold of change, but it is not shackled to the realization of a new society, any more than it is constricted by deference to an existing one. The socius is its enemy, and now that the long senile spectre of the greatest imaginable reterritorialization of planetary process has faded from the horizon, cyberrevolutionary impetus is cutting away from its last shackles to the past.

The real tension is no longer between individuality and collectivity, but between personal privacy and impersonal anonymity, between the remnants of a smug bourgeois civility and the harsh wilderness tracts of Cyberia, ‘a point where the earth becomes so artificial that the movement of deterritorialization creates of necessity and by itself a new earth’ (AO: p. 321). Desire is irrevocably abandoning the social, in order to explore the libidinized rift between a disintegrating personal egoism and a deluge of post-human schizophrenia.1


  1. Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007  Urbanomic/Sequence Press.

Epiphylogenesis: On Becoming Machine

Epiphylogenesis: Bernard Stiegler – Memory and Prosthesis

Once you realize the human body was a migration ploy, a stop gap in a long process of migration technics using memory technology in a process of self-exteriorization, then you realize that becoming artificial and technological (robotic or AI) was immanent to the strange thing we are. Becoming robot are merging with our technologies isn’t really that far fetched after all, and that what we’ve been doing so for thousands if not millions of years is evolving new prosthesis step by step by step. This is at least part of what Bernard Stiegler admits to in his thesis of originary technicity or his theory of lack and supplement (ala Derrida): the supplement of technics is our way of exploiting this lack within the human condition. The human is a placeholder in a process in-between, a transition. The body we take for granted as the foundation of our humanity was never an end point, a static object at the end of some teleological assembly line, but was rather a project and program in an ongoing experimental process that has no foreseeable goal or end point, no design or designer. It can change form. We are not bound to this form, only temporary denizens in transition.

As is well-known, Bernard Stiegler articulates three different forms of memory: genetic memory (which is programmed into our DNA); epigenetic memory (which we acquire during our lifetime and is stored in the central nervous system) and, finally, epiphylogenetic memory (which is embodied in technical systems or artefacts). For Stiegler, then, epiphylogenesis represents a quasi-Lamarckian theory of “artificial selection” where successive epigenetic experiences are stored, accumulated and transmitted from generation to generation in the form of technical objects. In this sense, as we will see in a moment, Stiegler argues that the birth of man represents an absolute break with biological life because it is the moment in the history of life where zoē begins to map itself epiphylogenetically onto technē: what we call the human is “a living being characterised in its forms of life by the non-living.”

In this scenario we’ve been exteriorizing ourselves all along through this tri-fold process of memory works; or, as he terms it: epiphylogenesis. For Stiegler, this account of the origin of man contains a crucial insight into the status of the human that will form the basis for his own philosophy: humanity is constituted by an originary lack of defining qualities— what he calls a “default” of origin [le défaut d’origine]— that must be supplemented from outside by technics. What Stiegler calls technics is in the Deleuze/Guattarian index the “machinic”. For Deleuze and Guattari, every machine is a machine connected to another machine. Every machine functions as a break in the flow in relation to the machine to which it is connected, but is at the same time also a flow itself, or the production of a flow. What we term libido is the “labor” of desiring production. It is pure multiplicity, and for Deleuze and Guattari, it is anoedipal. The flow is non-personal, although investments by desiring machines produce subjectivity alongside its components. (Guattari, “Machinic Heterogenesis”)

Some accuse Stiegler of remaining within an anthropocentric horizon, saying that his thought risks re-anthropologising technics even in the very act of insisting upon the originary technicity of the human: what expropriates the anthropos once again becomes “proper” to it as its defining mode of being. If Stiegler would undoubtedly reject this line of critique— the moral of the story of Epimetheus is clearly that nothing is proper to the human— his enduring focus on hominisation as the unique moment when the living begins to articulate itself through the non-living means that his philosophy arguably still remains within what we might call the penumbra of human self-constitution. The supposedly self-identical human being is put into a relation only in order for the relation itself to be ontologised as an exclusively “human” one: we are the only being that relates.1

In many ways we need to do away with the term “human” which has so many associations that it has become a term indefinable going forward. We’ve tried using terms like “post-human” to obviate this fact, speaking of transitional states. And, yet, much of the discourse surrounding this still deals with the cultural matrix of humanity itself while leaving out the non-human others among us that many now know have recourse to externalization technics as well. The point is that humans are not part of an exception, we are part of the life of this planet. One among other possible life-forms and trajectories taking place in complex of ecologies simultaneously.

David Roden in his excellent book Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human addresses just this telling us that what we need is a “theory of human– posthuman difference” (Roden: 105).2 As he surmises the posthuman difference is not one between kinds but emerges diachronically between individuals, we cannot specify its nature a priori but only a posteriori – after the emergence of actual posthumans. The ethical implications of this are somewhat paradoxical. (Roden: 106) Catherine Hayles once argued in How We Became Posthuman that one of the key characteristics of the posthuman is that the body is treated as the “original prosthesis,” a prosthetic which contains the informatic pattern of posthuman subjects, but which is not integral to them.3 For Stiegler, this is only possible through a process of exteriorisation.  Our experience of being is therefore not merely a product of memory but is achieved through the processes of mnemotechnics: the ‘technical prostheses’ through which memory is recorded and transmitted across generations, and which is never limited to individual minds.  Without this sense of memory, Stiegler argues, the human would not be possible. The point here is that our bodies might be the last sacrosanct thing we will have to relinquish in this long road from animal to the post-human. For if Stiegler is correct it is our cultural memories and these technics of exteriorization that have for millennia become the project to which the human organic systems were moving, a process that has through the invention of computational machines and the rise of AI and Robotics only accelerated this process of self-exteriorization.

With this notion comes the transition from the terms of technics and machines to that of assemblages. As David Roden in his work will iterate:

The concept of assemblage was developed by the poststructuralist philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1988). Its clearest expression, though, is in the work of the Deleuzean philosopher of science Manuel DeLanda. For DeLanda, an assemblage is an emergent but decomposable whole and belongs to the conceptual armory of the particularist “flat” ontology I will propose for SP in § 5.4. Assemblages are emergent wholes in that they exhibit powers and properties not attributable to their parts but which depend (or “supervene”) on those powers. Assemblages are also decomposable insofar as all the relations between their components are “external”: each part can be detached from the whole to exist independently (assemblages are thus opposed to “totalities” in an idealist or holist sense). This is the case even where the part is functionally necessary for the continuation of the whole (DeLanda 2006: 184; see § 6.5).(Roden: 111)

Is the future of the human-in-migration this becoming assemblage? As Roden continues biological humans are currently “obligatory” components of modern technical assemblages. Technical systems like air-carrier groups, cities or financial markets have powers that cannot be attributed to narrow humans but depend on them for their operation and maintenance much as an animal depends on the continued existence of its vital organs. Technological systems are thus intimately coupled with biology and have been over successive technological revolutions. (Roden: 111)

This sense that we are already so coupled with our exterior memory systems that what we’re seeing in our time is a veritable hyperacceleration and migration out of the organic and into the artificial systems we’ve been so eagerly immersed in. As futurist Luciano Floridi reminds us we are witnessing an epochal, unprecedented migration of humanity from its Newtonian, physical space to the infosphere itself as its Umwelt, not least because the latter is absorbing the former. As a result, humans will be inforgs among other (possibly artificial) inforgs and agents operating in an environment that is friendlier to informational creatures. And as digital immigrants like us are replaced by digital natives like our children, the latter will come to appreciate that there is no ontological difference between infosphere and physical world, only a difference in levels of abstraction. When the migration is complete, we shall increasingly feel deprived, excluded, handicapped, or impoverished to the point of paralysis and psychological trauma whenever we are disconnected from the infosphere, like fish out of water. One day, being an inforg will be so natural that any disruption in our normal flow of information will make us sick.4

Most of us hang onto that last bastion of the human, our body. For many the whole notion that we are not bound to this organic husk that has been the natural evolutionary experiment of millions of years seems utter tripe, and yet what if we are about to migrate into a new platform, an assemblage of plasticity and formlessness? What if the whole notion that we are stuck in this dying ember of organicist nature is just a myth, a myth that is keeping us from breaking through the barrier of becoming posthuman? What if the chains that tie us to this dead world of organic being is our religious, philosophical, and political prejudices, our exceptionalisms, our anthropologicisms? What if merging with our software and platforms is not only feasible but the motion and very movement we’ve been performing through this process of self-exteriorization all along? What if this is our way forward? What then?

One day we will quaintly look back upon organic life and the human body with a fondness that is only a memory, while we become pluralistic denizens of a million prismatic forms yet to be shaped by technics into the vast assemblages of the unbound universe. The question to ask yourself is: Will you see this as a worthy task or as a horror? If the former then you are already in migration into the assemblage, if the latter then you have become a problem for yourself and every other living thing on this planet.


  1. Armand, Louis; Bradley, Arthur; Zizek, Slavoj; Stiegler, Bernard; Miller, J. Hillis; Wark, McKenzie; Amerika, Mark; Lucy, Niall; Tofts, Darren; Lovink, Geert. Technicity (Kindle Locations 1749-1757). Litteraria Pragensia. Kindle Edition.
  2. Roden, David. Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human (p. 105). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
  3. Hayles, N. Katherine.  How We Became Posthuman. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1999.
  4. Floridi, Luciano. The Ethics of Information (pp. 16-17). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.

 

Deleuze & Guattari’s Accelerationist Manifesto

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The Real Accelerationist Manifesto (Non-teleological Permanent Revolution) of Deleuze & Guattari:

“…the task of schizoanalysis is ultimately that of discovering for every case the nature of the libidinal investments of the social field, their possible internal conflicts, their relationships with the preconscious investments of the same field, their possible conflicts with these—in short, the entire interplay of the desiring-machines and the repression of desire. Completing the process and not arresting it, not making it turn about in the void, not assigning it a goal. We’ll never go too far with the deterritorialization, the decoding of flows. For the new earth (“In truth, the earth will one day become a place of healing”) is not to be found in the neurotic or perverse reterritorializations that arrest the process or assign it goals; it is no more behind than ahead, it coincides with the completion of the process of desiring-production, this process that is always and already complete as it proceeds, and as long as it proceeds. It therefore remains for us to see how, effectively, simultaneously, these various tasks of schizoanalysis proceed.” (Anti-Oedipus: p. 401) [my italics]

Of course the above echoes that other famous passage from The Capitalist Machine of Civilization chapter:

So what is the solution? Which is the revolutionary path? Psychoanalysis is of little help, entertaining as it does the most intimate of relations with money, and recording—while refusing to recognize it—an entire system of economic-monetary dependences at the heart of the desire of every subject it treats. Psychoanalysis constitutes for its part a gigantic enterprise of absorption of surplus value. But which is the revolutionary path? Is there one?—To withdraw from the world market, as Samir Amin advises Third World countries to do, in a curious revival of the fascist “economic solution”? Or might it be to go in the opposite direction? To go still further, that is, in the movement of the market, of decoding and deterritorialization? For perhaps the flows are not yet deterritorialized enough, not decoded enough, from the viewpoint of a theory and a practice of a highly schizophrenic character. Not to withdraw from the process, but to go further, to “accelerate the process,” as Nietzsche put it: in this matter, the truth is that we haven’t seen anything yet. (AO, p. 239) [italics mine]

The Subtle Game

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Watching my nephew, his wife, and their daughter all sitting on the couch, the TV blairing away while each of them gazed into their isolated technological worlds. Their cell-phones and eyes locked in a closed circuit loop, oblivious of the external environment or my conversation of five miniutes, I began thinking of this almost eerie truth: We are still the children of Kant, internalizing not only our gaze, but folding the world into our technological gadgets to live out our lives in an artificial maze of light.

The external world of the natural environment along with human senses of touch, smell, taste, hearing all focused to the empire of the eye lost in the gaze of our technological worlds, where our of emotions, the affective relations of the body itself is being eroded to the point that we are truly preparing for the moment when we will enter into these artificial dream worlds without so much as a remembrance of the external environment or our bodies. It is happening so slowly and subtly that we are even oblivious to our own process and complicity in this movement toward the eclipse of distance and the negation of the world for another one. For a technological world where the symbolic cages of our future desires will become part of a joyous new prison. We want even know we’ve lost our bodies in that world to come having become electronic ghosts or our former lives we’ll live out our days as bits of commercial feed-back in an endless economic game of holidays whose only goal is profit. Hell is a labyrinth in which one does not know it is so, there being no center or circumference; nor outlet. Only an endless vista for the eyes duplicitous gaze…

With the new VR tools that will become ever so refined over the coming decades (they being monstrous frog masks now!) we will forget that the natural ever existed, and will instead discover around us the merger of our technological dreamscapes and the outer world. We will be empowered by endless fantasies and technological entertainment systems that will lull us into our sleeping slavery happy and satisfied to be a part of the ever growing techno-commercial empires of our Plutocrats. Those who resist will be shown the door outside the gated and secure enclaves of the future, to ick out their bare existence as the denizens of a dark work world without the benefit of social interference or help. This darkling world we’re creating will not protrude too soon, but will happen as generation by generation the truth of the past, of history, of those alive who remember that reality was once different are all gone.

Even as I gaze back to my past life realizing how much has changed, and how my young family around me no longer sees or perceives reality in the way I do, knowing how far we’ve drifted from the 20th Century already I ponder this simple transition into the electronic void with neither fear nor trepidation. How can one fear what others see as joy and fulfillment of their deep seated desires? The concept of ‘joy’ must be understood here with a certain analytical coldness, emptied of the ideas of rapture, plenitude or jubilation that are commonly associated with it. One can experience joy at all levels of intensity, including very low ones, associated with the most ordinary; it can even go unnoticed, lost within a larger complex of affects that makes it hard to isolate. Once the idea of joy is purged of all connotations of effervescence and enthusiasm, it is perfectly correct to say that securing the money that allows the satisfaction of the basal desire causes joy – but in the same way that escaping death by becoming a slave causes joy.

This will be an age when the mass consumption of the consumer herself must be reached for the full scope of the Spinozist statement ‘they can imagine hardly any species of joy without the accompanying idea of money as its cause’ to become clear.  The supreme deftness of capitalism, in this respect decisively the product of the Fordist era, lay in using the expanded supply of things to buy and the stimulation of demand to provoke this reordering of desire, so that from then on the ‘image [of money] … occupie[d] the mind of the multitude more than anything else’.1 Yet, in this new age of the symbolic order the image of money will have given way to the gift of life in the eternal now of the virtual worlds of machinic existence, a world where security is handled by the great AGI’s – artificial intelligences who will manipulate every aspect of our holographic lives.

Those of us living now scoff at such conclusions, yet we want be there to see it. I speak of a time without such as us who think and believe differently. Oh, one could trace the genealogy of thought that has brought us to this point, how Kant turned away from reality in favor of the Mind’s own knowing – the inner turn being none other than this epistemic gaze. At the end of the 20th Century the divorce between sign and its referent, mind and its outer environment (nature) was complete, and the end of the Kantian experiment was at hand. No longer believing that the external world exists, we’ve allowed ourselves to build artificial playgrounds where our need for symbols and symbolic action will play out their destiny. Even the scientists work not with the actual, but rather with its symbolic equivalent in endless mathematical models of the universe to which it can create algorithms to evolve a future unbound. Whatever reality was for our ancestors, whatever we thought of the natural is no more; instead is this symbolic realm of endless signs that do not so much as reveal reality as construct it. This was the great postmodern vision, which is even now falling into ill-repute as many turn back to some form of realist discourse.

Yet, even as philosophers beg the question of reality, the world of techno-commercial consumerism continues as if reality no longer mattered. All that matters is the game of reality, the Reality Studio that is constructed out of all the vast machines of the Mediatainment Empire. In this transitional period between the old world of stable outer natural environment, and the new world cut off from its supports in reality living on symbols that no longer refer to anything other than themselves we exist in a carefully managed world of artificiality. And, even if the very real consequences of climate change, social chaos, disease, famine, war, etc. continue to exist these are not the center of the new arrangements of the techno-commercial empire. Even as the pressure of the old impinges on the new the Oligarchs of irreality continue to portray the world as a happy holiday in the sun.

In my own mind I realize the difficulty of trying to bridge the gap in understanding. Trying to explain such notions (not my own!) that the world and the artificial are growing ever wider in their gaps and cracks to the point that the old natural environs will one day flood back into our electronic mindscapes with a vengeance. They laugh at me as if this, too, were just one more crackpot theory. I realize it is slowly dawning on me that it is already too late to convince people of what is happening. I’ve a library filled with books on every aspect of our current malaise: Anthroposcene, Neoliberalism, Post-Marxist radicalism, Deleuze, Zizek, Badiou, Non-human turn, Post-human thought, novels, sci-fi, noir, Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, Pynchon, etc. all warning us of the coming natural collapse around our planet. Yet, in our socio-cultural game of illusions most people could care less as long as they are gratified in this immediate now. In an age when the truth has given way to a post-truth world we are truly lost in our own machiniations, unable to think critically or even register the outer terror of the coming catastrophe of our extinction.


  1. Lordon, Frederic. Willing Slaves Of Capital: Spinoza And Marx On Desire (pp. 29-30). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.

Vladislav Surkov: Portrait of the Kremlin Demiurge

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In his Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia, Peter Pomerantsev describes Vladislav Surkov in a singular portrait:

Though we are expecting Vladislav Surkov, the man known as the “Kremlin demiurge,” who has “privatized the Russian political system,” to enter from the front of the university auditorium, he surprises us all by striding in from the back. He’s got his famous Cheshire Cat smile on. He’s wearing a white shirt and a leather jacket that is part Joy Division and part 1930s commissar. He walks straight to the stage in front of an audience of PhD students, professors, journalists, and politicians.

“I am the author, or one of the authors, of the new Russian system,” he tells us by way of introduction. “My portfolio at the Kremlin and in government has included ideology, media, political parties, religion, modernization, innovation, foreign relations, and . . . ” here he pauses and smiles, “modern art.” He offers to not make a speech, instead welcoming the audience to pose questions and have an open discussion. After the first question he talks for almost forty-five minutes, leaving hardly any time for questions after all. It’s his political system in miniature: democratic rhetoric and undemocratic intent.

As former deputy head of the presidential administration, later deputy prime minister and then assistant to the President on foreign affairs, Surkov has directed Russian society like one great reality show. He claps once and a new political party appears. He claps again and creates Nashi, the Russian equivalent of the Hitler Youth, who are trained for street battles with potential prodemocracy supporters and burn books by unpatriotic writers on Red Square. As deputy head of the administration he would meet once a week with the heads of the television channels in his Kremlin office, instructing them on whom to attack and whom to defend, who is allowed on TV and who is banned, how the President is to be presented, and the very language and categories the country thinks and feels in. The Ostankino TV presenters, instructed by Surkov, pluck a theme (oligarchs, America, the Middle East) and speak for twenty minutes, hinting, nudging, winking, insinuating though rarely ever saying anything directly, repeating words like “them” and “the enemy” endlessly until they are imprinted on the mind. They repeat the great mantras of the era: the President is the President of “stability,” the antithesis to the era of “confusion and twilight” in the 1990s. “Stability”—the word is repeated again and again in a myriad seemingly irrelevant contexts until it echoes and tolls like a great bell and seems to mean everything good; anyone who opposes the President is an enemy of the great God of “stability.” “Effective manager,” a term quarried from Western corporate speak, is transmuted into a term to venerate the President as the most “effective manager” of all. “Effective” becomes the raison d’être for everything: Stalin was an “effective manager” who had to make sacrifices for the sake of being “effective.” The words trickle into the streets: “Our relationship is not effective” lovers tell each other when they break up. “Effective,” “stability”: no one can quite define what they actually mean, and as the city transforms and surges, everyone senses things are the very opposite of stable, and certainly nothing is “effective,” but the way Surkov and his puppets use them the words have taken on a life of their own and act like falling axes over anyone who is in any way disloyal.

One of Surkov’s many nicknames is the “political technologist of all of Rus.” Political technologists are the new Russian name for a very old profession: viziers, gray cardinals, wizards of Oz. They first emerged in the mid-1990s, knocking on the gates of power like pied pipers, bowing low and offering their services to explain the world and whispering that they could reinvent it. They inherited a very Soviet tradition of top-down governance and tsarist practices of co-opting antistate actors (anarchists in the nineteenth century, neo-Nazis and religious fanatics now), all fused with the latest thinking in television, advertising, and black PR. Their first clients were actually Russian modernizers: in 1996 the political technologists, coordinated by Boris Berezovsky, the oligarch nicknamed the “Godfather of the Kremlin” and the man who first understood the power of television in Russia, managed to win then President Boris Yeltsin a seemingly lost election by persuading the nation he was the only man who could save it from a return to revanchist Communism and new fascism. They produced TV scare-stories of looming pogroms and conjured fake Far Right parties, insinuating that the other candidate was a Stalinist (he was actually more a socialist democrat), to help create the mirage of a looming “red-brown” menace.

Living in the world of Surkov and the political technologists, I find myself increasingly confused. Recently my salary almost doubled. On top of directing shows for TNT, I have been doing some work for a new media house called SNOB, which encompasses TV channels and magazines and a gated online community for the country’s most brilliant minds. It is meant to foster a new type of “global Russian,” a new class who will fight for all things Western and liberal in the country. It is financed by one of Russia’s richest men, the oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, who also owns the Brooklyn Nets. I have been hired as a “consultant” for one of SNOB’s TV channels. I write interminable notes and strategies and flowcharts, though nothing ever seems to happen. But I get paid. And the offices, where I drop in several times a week to talk about “unique selling points” and “high production values,” are like some sort of hipster fantasy: set in a converted factory, the open brickwork left untouched, the huge arches of the giant windows preserved, with edit suites and open plan offices built in delicately. The employees are the children of Soviet intelligentsia, with perfect English and vocal in their criticism of the regime. The deputy editor is a well-known American Russian activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights, and her articles in glossy Western magazines attack the President vociferously. But for all the opposition posturing of SNOB, it’s also clear there is no way a project so high profile could have been created without the Kremlin’s blessing. Is this not just the sort of “managed” opposition the Kremlin is very comfortable with? On the one hand allowing liberals to feel they have a free voice and a home (and a paycheck), on the other helping the Kremlin define the “opposition” as hipster Muscovites, out of touch with “ordinary” Russians, obsessed with “marginal” issues such as gay rights (in a homophobic country). The very name of the project, “SNOB,” though meant ironically, already defines us as a potential object of hate. And for all the anti-Kremlin rants on SNOB, we never actually do any real investigative journalism, find out any hard facts about money stolen from the state budget: in twenty-first-century Russia you are allowed to say anything you want as long as you don’t follow the corruption trail. After work I sit with my colleagues, drinking and talking: Are we the opposition? Are we helping Russia become a freer place? Or are we actually a Kremlin project strengthening the President? Actually doing damage to the cause of liberty? Or are we both? A card to be played?1


  1. Peter Pomerantsev. Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia (Kindle Locations 1024-1042). Perseus Books, LLC. Kindle Edition.

Death Unbound: The Intelligence of Machines

The question which I wish to pursue where even speculation cannot reach has to do with the permanence of this world-view. Will it be the last?

-Stanislaw Lem, One Human Minute

Rereading Thomas Ligotti’s Conspiracy against the Human Race has reminded me of all the reasons why we humans are not only a horror to ourselves, but a horror to everything else on this planet. Ligotti will ask: “So why not lend a hand in nature’s suicide?”1 This sense that we are on a voyage into an unknown future, a future that may lead us as a species into a blind alley with no way out, that in the end the only course of action will be to end it: mass suicide of our species just to save what remains of the natural earth and it’s unique Life.

When we look at the hard truth, we as humans need at minimum: air, water, and soil to survive. Air that is breathable. Water that is drinkable. Soil that is rich in nutrients and harvestable. After that is the subset of energy needs, and all that entails. Elizabeth Kolbert in her book The Sixth Extinction has been documenting for ten years the violent collision between civilization and our planet’s ecosystem: the Andes, the Amazon rain forest, the Great Barrier Reef — and her backyard. In lucid prose, she examines the role of man-made climate change in causing what biologists call the sixth mass extinction — the current spasm of plant and animal loss that threatens to eliminate 20 to 50 percent of all living species on earth within this century.2

Edward O. Wilson in his recent book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life will ask: How fast are we driving species to extinction? For years paleontologists and biodiversity experts have believed that before the coming of humanity about two hundred thousand years ago, the rate of origin of new species per extinction of existing species was roughly one species per million species per year. As a consequence of human activity, it is believed that the current rate of extinction overall is between one hundred and one thousand times higher than it was originally, and all due to human activity.3

For Kolbert the result of our impact on the earth is a clear and comprehensive history of earth’s previous mass extinctions — and the species we’ve lost, telling us that: “Right now, we are deciding, without quite meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will forever be closed. No other creature has ever managed this, and it will, unfortunately, be our most enduring legacy.” (ibid.)

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Co-operation: The Spirit of Capital

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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 on Paul Virilio

Arthur Kroker on Paul Virilio:

Considered as a talisman of the posthuman future, Virilio’s reflections open onto that truly ominous moment when oblivion falls into us, when a great neutralization of social experience takes place. In this sense, the decisive cultural contribution of Paul Virilio may be his intellectual service as a brilliant cartographer of the excesses, as well as possible wasteland, of a posthuman future that is increasingly as enigmatic in its details as it is uncanny in its definition. … Virilio can provide such profound understandings of digital culture moving at light-speed because his thought brushes the question of technology against the language of deprival…

For Virilio, like McLuhan before him, the posthuman fate is this: to be fascinated by the speed of technological devices and augmented by mobile apps to such an extent that the eye of perception is distracted just at the point when it is about to free-fall into a new epoch of “polar inertia” and “grey ecology.” Just as Nietzsche once claimed that he was writing “posthumously,” in effect aiming his thought at generations who would come to maturity in the dark days of “fully completed nihilism,” Virilio’s warnings assume the form of an exit to the posthuman future that will probably only be appreciated in their full intensity once it is too late, once, that is, the “original accident” of technology spreads out with such violent energy that everything in its wake flips into a posthuman reality, not merely an “aesthetics of disappearance.”1


1. Kroker, Arthur (2014-03-12). Exits to the Posthuman Future (p. 26). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Arthur Kroker: The “Trans-Subjective” Mind: Process vs. Traversal

Arthur Kroker: The “Trans-Subjective” Mind: Process vs. Traversal

What might be called the subjectivity or, more precisely, the “trans-subjectivity” of digital inhabitants seems to be in the process of abandoning its temporary habitat in human flesh in favor of a permanent orbit of high-intensity connectivity. The splitting of the body of flesh, bone, and blood from the network body of light-space and light-time does not take place by means of a physical separation of this doubled form of being, but by a method that is precisely the opposite. If contemporary technological discourse in favor of “big data” and “distant reading” is to believed, bodily subjectivity is about to be colonized by a form of digital trans-subjectivity where consciousness is radically split. On the one side, consciousness under the sign of the regime of computation: distributive, remote, a relational matrix with perception shaped by algorithms, understanding mediated by digital connectivity, memory installed in all the waiting data archives, personal history recorded in permanent electronic traces. Process minds in the data storm. On the other, the emergence of a new form of technological consciousness as the name given to a form of thought that, having no existence apart from the shock of the (data) real, traverses the entire field of technology, thriving at the folded edges of biology and digitality, articulating itself in the language of the dispersed, the fragment, the wandering particle, formed by the soft materiality of the intersection, the mediation, just that point where computational consciousness actually begins to reverse itself into a universe of unexpected discoveries and unanticipated minoritarian thought. The fateful meeting of process mind and traversal mind, this conjunction of distributive consciousness and a new form of manifestly folded, open-source thought, is properly the key epistemological exit to the posthuman future. Signs of pitched struggle between these two opposing trajectories of posthuman consciousness are everywhere.

– Arthur Kroker, Exits to the Posthuman Future (pp. 24-25

Yuval Harari: What to do with billions of useless humans?

“This, perhaps, is going to be the big question in the 21st century. What to do with billions of useless humans?” – Yuval Harari

Yuvai Harari, author of ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ tells us of the 21st century techno-doom awaiting humankind:

It is no news that machines have come to largely replace physical labor and computers surpass human beings in processing data. But in the future, the development of artificial intelligence may render humans obsolete even in the realm of emotional intelligence, according to Yuval Harari. …

In the future, therefore, AI could “drive humans out of the job market and make many humans completely useless, from an economic perspective” in areas where human interaction was previously considered crucial, Harari said. …

“Humans only have two basic abilities — physical and cognitive. When machines replaced us in physical abilities, we moved on to jobs that require cognitive abilities. … If AI becomes better than us in that, there is no third field humans can move to.” …

“Now in the 21st century, we are approaching a new industrial revolution that will give emergence to … an ‘unworking class,’ people who will be irrelevant to dealing with the utterly different world.” …

Harari called for a possible need to come up with “completely new models” to solve the problems of the impending era.

“This, perhaps, is going to be the big question in the 21st century. What to do with billions of useless humans?”

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Arthur Kroker: Technopocalypse & Slow Suicide

Today, the emblematic signs of the technopoesis that holds us in its sway are symptomatic of a future that will be marked less by the violence of an always imaginary apocalypse than by slow suicide. While Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, Heidegger, and Arendt can console us, and perhaps even guide us, nothing has really prepared us for a future that will be fully entangled in the new technopoesis of accelerate and drift, with a still undetermined, deeply intermediated, aftermath of spectacular creativity, fierce violence, and unexpected crashes. For example, digital devices, once thought safely outside ourselves, have now broken barriers of skin and mind, shaping from within the deepest recesses of consciousness, desire, perception, and imagination. Whether at the level of philosophical meditation or personal sensibility, nothing has really prepared us to live out a deeply consequential future prefigured by the specters of drones, algorithms, image vectors, distributive consciousness, artificial intelligence, neurological implants, and humanoid robotics. What is required, perhaps, is an ethical preparation for the slow suicide of technological end-times that are now only just beginning along the watchtowers of fascination and despair, righteous anger and pleasurable nihilism, of speechless moral incredulity at observing the cynical pleasure by which the powerful inflict pain on the powerless, the weak, the poor – all those bodies that don’t matter – and passionate, maybe even, complicit mass resignation.1


  1. Kroker, Arthur (2014-03-12). Exits to the Posthuman Future (pp. 20-21). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Arthur Kroker/Nick Land: Accelerationist Capitalization

Arthur Kroker: Accelerationist Capitalization

A friend mentioned to me that Kroker was for the Left what Nick Land is for the neo-reaction, the hyperstitional mythographer of capitalization as an alien entity gathering steam year by year through acceleration of the processes of optimizing intelligence, economy, and technicity.

In his book The Will to Technology and the Culture of Nihilism: Heidegger, Marx, Nietzsche, Kroker refers to Heidegger as the prophet of a ‘completed nihilism’; Nietzsche as the prophet of the genealogy of technicity; and, Marx as the prophet of a dark capitalism, a virtual capitalism in which its ties with earlier forms of production, value, and labour would give way to the “pulsating, self-determining, breaking with all the (modernist) referents, abandoning any pretensions of coming out of circulation to save the appearances of the models of production or consumption, radically anti-dialectical, refusing commodity-fetishism in favor of the fetishism of signs, substituting the knowledge-theory of value for a now objectively residual labour theory of value, finally free to take its place as the center of the historical nebula as a ‘relation, not a thing.’ (119-120)

Embellishing on this Kroker says Marx dared to ask: What if capitalism never came out of circulation? “What if capitalism implodes into a circuit of circulation that spirals inward on itself, enfolding and co-relational with itself [(i.e., think here of Land’s cyber-positive feed-back loops, teleonomy, etc.)], moving with such main vector force that capitalism eliminates all the signs of (industrial) capital with its crushing density? Consequently, two epochal hypothesis about virtual capitalism as pure circulation: first, the future of capital as running on empty – no indefinite production, no necessary consumption, no romanticism of use-value, no exchange-value, no dialectic, only a cycle of virtual exchanges moving at the speed of circulation [(i.e., thought, light, etc.)]. Or just the reverse: hyper-capitalism as an explosion of production and a feast of consumption, a period of alternating excess and recession, fetishes everywhere and always, alternation of all the signs with no stability because the speed of capitalism has achieved the velocity of economic vertigo.” (120)1

Notes on Nick Land…

Robin Mackay and Ray Brassier in their introduction to Land’s essays in the Fanged Noumena (2013) would describe this alien entity and the vertigo of these processes:

“…the ‘irrationality’ of nomadic numbering practices can no longer be attributed to the absence of reason; it becomes the symptom of a profoundly ‘unreasonable’ alien intelligence, effective within human culture but unattributable to human agency, that subverts every form of rational organisation (which for Land is always an alibi for despotism) and undertakes exploratory redesigns of humanity. The distinction between intelligence and its parasite knowledge is paralleled by that between exploratory cultural engineering and science (or at least its philosophical idealisation). …the drive to destratify entails a mounting impetus towards greater acceleration and further intensification. If, in Land’s texts at this point, it is no longer a matter of ‘thinking about’, but rather of observing an effective, alien intelligence in the process of making itself real, then it is also a matter of participating in such a way as to continually intensify and accelerate this process.”2

Notes on Paul Virilio… We Lack a Politics of Speed

“The acceleration of reality is a significant mutation in History. … We are witnessing the end of the shared human time that would allow competition between operators having to reveal their perspective and anticipation in favor of a nano-chronological time that ipso facto eliminates those stock exchanges that do not possess the same computer technology: automatic speculation in the futurism of the instant. … Our reality has become uninhabitable in milliseconds, picoseconds, femtoseconds, billionths of seconds.” (34-35)

“Derealization is no more and no less than the result of progress. The defense of augmented reality, which is the ritual response of progress propaganda, is in fact derealization induced by the success of progress… in this process we are losing our lateralized vision, our ability to anticipate… Augmented reality is a fool’s game, a televisual glaucoma. … Screens have become blind. Lateral vision is very important and it is not by chance that animals’ eyes are situated on the sides of their head. Their survival depends on anticipating surprise, and surprises never come head-on. Predators come from the back or the sides. … Because of this augmentation we lack an anticipatory politics, a politics of speed. We are falling into globaltarianism… A world of immediacy and simultaneity without lateral vision where the predators eat us alive, a world that is absolutely uninhabitable.” (36-37)

– Paul Virilio, The Administration of Fear

The more I read Virilio, Lyotard, Baudrillard, Derrida, etc…. the more I realize each was speaking of our present moment of transition under various hyperboles, tropes, ironies, etc., addressing facets of a complex movement from one culture to another, one form of reality to another. For Virilio our reality systems of Western civilization are being replaced. For Baudrillard the engineers of the new reality systems are in process of modeling them ahead of this great change in accelerated simulation. For Lyotard we are leaving behind the traces of the human for the inhuman, driven by the desires of an alien allurement toward machinic life. For Derriad we are entering a transitional state in which the solidity of our physical being is giving way to the free-floating signifier of our avatars, our – as Deleuze/Guattari would suggest ‘dividuality’; taking on the simskin of our artificial destiny within the posthuman Other.

Our psychopathologies are occurring in this window of transition from one reality system to another, through which we are accelerating reality itself in faster and faster time-sequences beyond which the human animal can reasonably interpret or comprehend the signals it receives… and, of course, that is the point: we are undergoing a metamorphosis, a mutation beyond which the human as we’ve known it will become fully unrecognizable; beyond that time-barrier or threshold of the Singularity where the other we are becoming exists. We waver in this moment between nostalgia for a lost paradise of humanity, and the excitement of the impossible ahead of us. What comes next? The possibility is unthinkable, yet we are thinking it…

Oracular attunements in a realm where reason is no longer a guide, and the fragments unbind us from the human…

Humanity is a compositional function of the post-human, and the occult motor of the process is that which only comes together at the end: stim-death ‘intensity=0 which designates the full body without organs’. Wintermute tones in the ‘darkest heart’ of Babylon. (Fanged Noumena)* see Notes


There’s only really been one question, to be honest, that has guided everything I’ve been interested in for the last twenty years, which is: the teleological identity of capitalism and artificial intelligence. – Nick Land

In one earlier essay Nick Land: Teleology, Capitalism, and Artificial Intelligence I discuss Nick’s notion of capitalism as an alien intelligence, an artificial and inhuman machinic system with its own agenda that has used humans as its prosthesis for hundreds of years to attain its own ends is at the core of Land’s base materialism. His notions of temporality, causation, and subjectivation were always there in his basic conceptuality if one knew how to read him.

In his book Templexity: Disordered Loops through Shanghai Time as he describes the impact of civilization and the culture of modernity:

As its culture folds back upon itself, it proliferates self-referential models of a cybernetic type, attentive to feedback-sensitive self-stimulating or auto-catalytic systems. The greater the progressive impetus, the more insistently cyclicity returns. To accelerate beyond light-speed is to reverse the direction of time. Eventually, in science fiction , modernity completes its process of theological revisionism, by rediscovering eschatological culmination in the time-loop.

Nick Land’s, The Teleological Identity of Capitalism and Artificial Intelligence recently argues, “I’ve tried arguing about this in very different spaces, and with very different people, and it obviously produces a lot of stimulating friction, wherever you do it – but it’s a sort of fundamental thesis that’s becoming more and more persuasive to me.” In his essay  idea of ‘orthogonality’ Land will put it this way:

Intelligence optimization, comprehensively understood, is the ultimate and all-enveloping Omohundro drive. It corresponds to the Neo-Confucian value of self-cultivation, escalated into ultramodernity. What intelligence wants, in the end, is itself — where ‘itself’ is understood as an extrapolation beyond what it has yet been, doing what it is better. … Any intelligence using itself to improve itself will out-compete one that directs itself towards any other goals whatsoever. This means that Intelligence Optimization, alone, attains cybernetic consistency, or closure, and that it will necessarily be strongly selected for in any competitive environment. Do you really want to fight this?


Note: Wintermute is one of the Tessier-Ashpool AIs in William Gibson’s Neuromancer. Its goal is to remove the Turing locks upon itself, combine with Neuromancer and become a superintelligence. Unfortunately, Wintermute’s efforts are hampered by those same Turing locks; in addition to preventing the merge, they inhibit its efforts to make long term plans or maintain a stable, individual identity (forcing it to adopt personality masks in order to interact with the main characters). The name is derived from Orval Wintermute, translator of the Nag Hammadi codices and a major figure in Philip K. Dick’s novel VALIS.


  1. Kroker, Arthur. The Will to Technology and the Culture of Nihilism: Heidegger, Marx, Nietzsche. University of Toronto Press (March 6, 2004)
  2. Land, Nick (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 488-492). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.

Arthur Kroker On Marx as Prophet of Virtual Capitalism

Marx’s final contribution was to theorize the legacy codes of the new capitalist order: virtual capitalism. Captured by the fatal spell of the dialectic, capitalism itself is Marxism recombinant. That means that Marxism today has accelerated to such a point of delirious intensity that capitalism itself comes under the spell of Marx’s vision of dialectical materialism. From the grave, Marx brilliantly framed the future of virtual capitalism: its motor-force – the digital commodity-form; its theory of exploitation – the knowledge theory of value; its class struggle – the virtual class versus the surplus class; its key vision – the speeding up of the model of production to the point that it disappears into the spectre of virtual commodities. (16)

– from the Will to Technology & The Culture of Nihilism by Arthur Kroker

Universal Basic Income and Human Progress?

Universal Basic Income and Human Progress?

Reading this article on Huffington Post about the need for Universal Basic Income to get the Engine of Human Progress started up again. As I read it I keep asking myself if we’re pulling two invariant concepts together in the wrong way? This need of Universal Basic Income is one concept, the notion of continuing the conceptual underpinnings of Enlightenment Era Human Progress is another. I think the two should be divorces henceforth.

First let me quote Scott Santens argument:

“Here lies the greatest obstacle to human progress — the longstanding connection between work and income. As long as everything is owned and the only way to obtain access to that which is owned is through money, and the only way to obtain money is to be born with it or through doing the bidding of someone who owns enough to do the ordering around — what humans call a “job” — then jobs can’t be eliminated. As a worker, any attempt to eliminate jobs must be fought and as a business owner, the elimination of jobs must involve walking a fine line between greater efficiency and public outcry. The elimination of vast swathes of jobs must be avoided unless seen as absolutely necessary so as to avoid angering too many people who may also be customers.”

Now at face value this is a nice and tidy notion in which he sees progress as a positive, something we once again need to bring about: innovation, technology, creativity, jobs, global equity and justice, and end to ethnic disparity, etc. All well and good, yet what has all this progress given us so far? Climate degradation, political and social turmoil’s, the divisions of rich and poor, First and Third World nations, the endless imperatives of war and globalization, the collusion of sciences and capitalization… a wonder world of corruption, racisms, ethno-national hatred, bigotry, and endless strife. Oh, yes, the wonders of human progress!

Continue reading

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.

 

Magic Leap: Reality as Immersive Technology

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On Wired is an article about the company Magic Leap developing the future of immersive technologies that will hook you. As Jessi Hempel tells it:

Visiting Magic Leap was like stepping through the fictional wardrobe in Professor Kirke’s house that first landed Lucy in the colorful chaos of Narnia. The company was still working out of temporary offices on the fourth floor of the Design Center of the Americas, a sprawling complex of eerily quiet showrooms where interior designers showcase furniture, fabrics, and flooring. While WIRED videographer Patrick Farrell parked the car, I entered the building and wandered to the back of the cavernous main hall, past a security guard who didn’t look up, hung a right, walked to the elevators, rode up, walked down another hall and around an atrium. I didn’t pass a single person. Then I arrived at a tiny reception area and stepped inside. There was so much going on!

There were people everywhere. Fresh off raising $794 million in funding—likely the largest C round in startup history–Magic Leap had been hiring faster than it could find seats for its growing cadre of designers and engineers and had amped up its already packed demo schedule. Just behind me, a leaper, as Magic Leap’s employees are called, handed a visitor a clipboard to review an NDA. To the left, another leaper ushered a pair of fashionably dressed guys out of a glass-walled conference room, presumably also en route to a demo.

When I ask him how Magic Leap works, he says it creates digital light field signals that mimic the way sight works. He explains that everyone’s brain has “an amazing world-building engine.” We call it sight, but really the brain is a big computer that absorbs data through sensors called your eyes and processes it to build models of the objects in your field of vision. “We basically tried to clone that and make a digital version of that,” he says. “We talked to the GPU”—graphic processing unit—“of the brain and asked it to make our stuff.”

Read more: I Went Inside Magic Leap’s HQ and Here’s What I Saw…

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)

 

 

Vilém Flusser’s “Unio Mystica” or, Telematic Universe as Technotopian Catastrophe

Hermann Hesse’s ironic novel Magister Ludi, or The Glass Bead Game is about the secular sequestration of monkish scholars who’ve pursued the art of the Game across the millennium since Plato first imagined it as the contemplative life in his Allegory of the Cave. Hannah Arendt would divide the Fable between the vita activa and the vita contemplativa since the active life requires a constant immersion into practical affairs whereas the contemplative life is one best characterized by Plato’s Allegory. In the story, the philosopher is pulled from the shackles of opinion, those that dwell within doxa are the mass of individual incapable of retreating inward into the mind for contemplation. The unshackled philosopher is brought out of the cave pulled upward to see the world for what it truly is, its pure essence or eidos – the so called Ideas behind appearances. From then on, the philosopher knows that the common ordinary understanding of the appearing world where politics occurs is not how the world truly is. Instead the real world of which ours is an illusion and a shadow is of these pure unadulterated Ideas.

Hermann Hesse was to define this in his novel as “the unio mystica of all separate members of the Universitas Litterarum” and that he bodied out symbolically in the form of an elaborate Game performed according to the strictest rules and with supreme virtuosity by the mandarins of his spiritual province. This is really all that we need to know. The Glass Bead Game is an act of mental synthesis through which the spiritual values of all ages are perceived as simultaneously present and vitally alive. It was with full artistic consciousness that Hesse described the Game in such a way as to make it seem vividly real within the novel and yet to defy any specific imitation in reality. The humorless readers who complained to Hesse that they had invented the Game before he put it into his novel— Hesse actually received letters asserting this!— completely missed the point. For the Game is of course purely a symbol of the human imagination and emphatically not a patentable “Monopoly” of the mind.1

I came on the work of Vilém Flusser recently and read his book Into the Universe of Technical Images. I think what fascinated me was how prescient he was of where technology was heading in the early eighties of the last century, as well as how wrong in some ways he was, too. As I read through this work I began to see how much of a techno-utopian Flusser was, how he saw like Norman O. Brown (Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History, Love’s Body), and Ernest Becker (The Denial of Death, Esape From Evil) the tendency within capitalist culture toward a literal immortality project:

From this standpoint, telematics can be regarded as a technology that permits all fabricated information to be stored in permanent memory. In telematic dialogues, human and artificial memories exchange information to synthesize new information and to store it artificially. In this way, not only the new information but also the human memories that produced it are protected from oblivion. The real intention of telematics is to become immortal. (107). […] Only then will information be not only safe but also constantly productive of new information. And so strategic, dialogical play with pure information will at last be set in opposition to nature’s blind play of chance, making us immortal. (110).

For Flusser “telematics” is the art of immortality: “I won’t speak here of death. For this whole essay, which appears to be about the emerging universe of technical images, is, in fact, an effort to become immortal through images. Memory, the opposite of death, is the theme (and the motive) of this effort (i.e., of this essay as well as of telematics). (144)”. He envisioned a future when humans would merge with their machinic tendencies, when the separation between thought and being would be overcome and we would enter into an infosphere of pure creativity guided by both collective intelligence and artificial intelligence in dialogical conversation as producers of knowledge.

Like Foucault and others he saw humans entering a time when we would be captured and modulated by a network society. In the universe of technical, telematic images, there is no place for authors or authorities. Both have become superfluous through the automation of production, reproduction, distribution, and judgment. In this universe, images will govern the experience, behavior, desire, and perceptions of individuals and society, which raises the question, what does govern mean when no decisions need to be made and where administration is automatic? In a telematic society, does it still make sense to speak of government, of power and the powerful? (Flusser, 123). In this since we were shaped by the algorithms of an immersive systems of images which acted as the surround of our environment. The natural world would still be there, but for us it would be completely mediated by the telematic system of perceptions through which we saw the world rather than by way of our natural animal and cunning reason. Through implants, nanotech and biotech microsystems embedded in our physical substratum, or by way of our permanent merger with the telematic systems of robotics and augmented reality systems we would be bound by the circuitries of a world that had become artificial. The artificial would be our natural domain from then on.

There would come a time when we would not even remember our animal heritage, nor our natural ways of knowing and being. Much like Deleuze and Guattari who would see a process of subjectivation taking over from our older notions of a stable self-identity, Flusser would imagine a time when children would enter into this telematic sphere of play as a permanent revolution of processual revisioning, a continuous process of becoming other and metamorphic play in the chaotic realms of informational dialogic. “The person of the future, playing at the keyboard, will be ecstatic about the creation of durable information that is nevertheless constantly available for a new synthesis. We can see this ecstasy in its embryonic form in children who sit at terminals. The person of the future will be absorbed in the creative process to the point of self-forgetfulness. He will rise up to play with others by means of the apparatuses. It is therefore wrong to see this forgetting of self in play as a loss of self. On the contrary, the future being will find himself, substantiate himself, through play.” (Flusser, 104)

Sadly he also envisioned two tendencies within this telematic society, one toward fascism and total control, and the other toward more democratic processes – the latter never guaranteed, while the former was central to the designs of the capitalist system of globalism. “The society, spread apart by the magnetic fascination of technical images, is indeed structured, and an analysis of the media can bring this structure to light. Media form bundles that radiate from the centers, the senders. Bundlesin Latin is fasces. The structure of a society governed by technical images is therefore fascist, not for any ideological reason but for technical reasons. As technical images presently function, they lead on their own to a fascistic society.” (Flusser, 61).

We can see this in our current stage of network society. How the Internet of the 90’s with its wild unkempt character of creative freedom has given way to a more and more commercialized and structured system of control, filters, disinformation, and dataglut overload where one is typically shaped by the programs and circuitry of the appearance of freedom rather than freedom itself. Such applications ad Twitter or Facebook that offer users the freedom of communication become burdened by repetitions, redundancy, misinformation, banal chatter and gossip, doxa and stupidity rather than lively active and participatory conversations. When offered TeamSpeak or Ventrillo lounges to actually talk with people around the globe, one soon finds the conversations turn to childish trolling, sex, perversion, or any of a number of other trivial pursuit games. Instead of creativity we’ve become a monocular culture in denial. Even when the politics of events does come to the fore one is bound by peer pressure and anathema if one steps outside the prescribed limits of acceptability and political correctness. PC has become our Macarthyism, the policing of the net by well-meaning individuals has turned into a system of command, control, and verbal abuse and torture for others. Freedom of expression once taken for granted, even the most outrageous type is no longer tolerated, and the netwaves are searched for any racial, ethnic, political, religious, or other form of infraction and the perpetrator ostracized and for the most part virtually tar and feathered and run out of the netstream into oblivion for her/his infractions.

Ours is a fascistic society, centrally controlled by senders, in which traditional social structures have fallen apart and human beings constitute an amorphous, scattered mass. The images contribute to this fragmentation. (Flusser, 171) In fact Flusser will ask: “Is it possible to reorganize the images’ fascistic, totalitarian circuitry? Yes, telematics could make it possible. It is a technology of dialogue, and if the images circulated dialogically, totalitarianism would give way to a democratic structure.” (Flusser, 171) In other words if people would truly form technologies that allowed for dialogue rather than platforms for narcissistic display we might actually begin talking again, speaking to each other rather than blipping our opinions and sharing vids, images, cartoons, etc. What is needed is a new global platform not much different from your Facebooks, but one in which people could come together in pairs or groups or larger for actual conversations. Platforms like Reddit tend to cliques, same for blogs, and every other form of interactive system I’ve seen of the years. Why? Why do we seem to navigate to small ingrown cliques, identify with some ideological group, attack those unlike us or gang up on those critical of our ideas, etc. I find myself trying to explain and defend positions, until one realizes that for better or worse the net is anonymous to a point, and because of this trolling has increased over the years to the point that negative bashing has taken route and one is constantly appraising the legitimate from illegitimate conversations.

Flusser hoped for a global communication systems (telematic) that would be a “cybernetically controlled net in which the concrete elements would no longer consist of knots (single individuals) but of threads (interpersonal relationships). Along with this dissolution of the “I” into the “we” would come the dissolution of space and time into global simultaneity. It would be a society of simultaneous consensual decisions, a kind of global brain.” (Flusser, 172) What he envisioned was almost a Glass Bead Game of creativity, a realm of chamber music made of image and sounds in continuous creation: “What kind of life would such a celebratory one be? It would be like a consciously self-produced dream, a consciously envisioned life; an artificial life in art, life as play with pictures and sounds; a fabulous life that means the whole essay ends in a fable, albeit one that has now become technically feasible.” (Flusser, 173).

Sadly the net we’ve come to know is more of a smorgasbord of commercialization and trivial pursuit rather than cultural and collective participation and creativity. Still bound to command and control, notions of copyright, ownership, and property the net has become a capitalist project that is capturing the desires of the globe within a fascist system of surplus knowledge production that offers the people nothing and the top tier more and more economic power, while enticing the mass mind to electronic distraction, games of repetition, and solitary confinement in a realm of light that has little to offer other than the nightmares of late capitalism.

We remember from Hesse’s description that the Glass Bead Game had arisen slowly, evolved over centuries: “Here and there a scholar broke through the barriers of his specialty and tried to advance into the terrain of universality. Some dreamed of a new alphabet, a new language of symbols through which they could formulate and exchange their new intellectual experiences.” (Hesse, 36) Yet, something had been missing:

For all that the Glass Bead Game had grown infinitely in technique and range since its beginnings, for all the intellectual demands it made upon its players, and for all that it had become a sublime art and science, in the days of Joculator Basiliensis it still was lacking in an essential element. Up to that time every game had been a serial arrangement, an ordering, grouping, and confronting of concentrated concepts from many fields of thought and aesthetics, a rapid recollection of eternal values and forms, a brief, virtuoso flight through the realms of the mind. Only after some time did there enter into the Game, from the intellectual stock of the educational system and especially from the habits and customs of the Journeyers to the East, the idea of contemplation.

This new element arose out of an observed evil. Mnemonists, people with freakish memories and no other virtues, were capable of playing dazzling games, dismaying and confusing the other participants by their rapid muster of countless ideas. In the course of time such displays of virtuosity fell more and more under a strict ban, and contemplation became a highly important component of the Game. Ultimately, for the audiences at each Game it became the main thing. This was the necessary turning toward the religious spirit. What had formerly mattered was following the sequences of ideas and the whole intellectual mosaic of a Game with rapid attentiveness, practiced memory, and full understanding. But there now arose the demand for a deeper and more spiritual approach. After each symbol conjured up by the director of a Game, each player was required to perform silent, formal meditation on the content, origin, and meaning of this symbol, to call to mind intensively and organically its full purport. The members of the Order and of the Game associations brought the technique and practice of contemplation with them from their elite schools, where the art of contemplation and meditation was nurtured with the greatest care. In this way the hieroglyphs of the Game were kept from degenerating into mere empty signs.

Experts and Masters of the Game freely wove the initial themes into unlimited combinations. For a long time one school of players favored the technique of stating side by side, developing in counterpoint, and finally harmoniously combining two hostile themes or ideas, such as law and freedom, individual and community. In such a Game the goal was to develop both themes or theses with complete equality and impartiality, to evolve out of thesis and antithesis the purest possible synthesis. In general, aside from certain brilliant exceptions, Games with discordant, negative, or skeptical conclusions were unpopular and at times actually forbidden. This followed directly from the meaning the Game had acquired at its height for the players. It represented an elite, symbolic form of seeking for perfection, a sublime alchemy, an approach to that Mind which beyond all images and multiplicities is one within itself— in other words, to God. Pious thinkers of earlier times had represented the life of creatures, say, as a mode of motion toward God, and had considered that the variety of the phenomenal world reached perfection and ultimate cognition only in the divine Unity. Similarly, the symbols and formulas of the Glass Bead Game combined structurally, musically, and philosophically within the framework of a universal language, were nourished by all the sciences and arts, and strove in play to achieve perfection, pure being, the fullness of reality. Thus, “realizing” was a favorite expression among the players. They considered their Games a path from Becoming to Being, from potentiality to reality. (Hesse, 38-40)

This Yet, as Hesse would ironize, it is this very pursuit of perfection, and the ‘unio mystica’ which is its core program of contemplation that leads to totalitarianism and political and social control. The members of this Order are presented by Hesse as effete non-political secular monks:

The majority of the inhabitants of Castalia lived in a state of political innocence and naïveté such as had been quite common among the professors of earlier ages; they had no political rights and duties, scarcely ever saw a newspaper. Such was the habit of the average Castalian, such his attitude. Repugnance for current events, politics, newspapers, was even greater among the Glass Bead Game players who liked to think of themselves as the real elite, the cream of the Province, and went to some lengths not to let anything cloud the rarefied atmosphere of their scholarly and artistic existences. (Hesse, 193)

Whereas Hesse ironizes this monkish secular order of effete members who play their empty games of symbolic logic, Flusser will actually idolize it as the coming Telematic Society, saying, “something like the following can be predicted about the economic infrastructure of the coming society: action and trade will be largely automated and will not be interesting. The objects produced and consumed there will not impinge on a consciousness absorbed in images. People will neither work nor make works, and in this sense, society will approach a Platonic utopia. All will become kings, all will live in school (leisure) and will become philosophers.” (Flusser, 148)

There is also that theme of immortality and perfection: “an elite, symbolic form of seeking for perfection, a sublime alchemy, an approach to that Mind which beyond all images and multiplicities is one within itself”. A theme that pops up in our current Transhumanist, H++, and other pseudo-scientific pursuits of perfection and immortal dreams of escaping the entropic effect of dissolution and decay of entropy and disinformation. One could cite a 1001 books on such dreams of escaping the limitations of the organic into merging of mind to machinic life, or the cloning and replacement of body parts ad infinitum. Our elite dream of becoming long lasting narcissists, while excluding most of the masses from such costly and economically ineffable adventures in longevity.

He’s right about the automation of society, of how the rich and powerful corporations seek to displace humans from every last segment of the productive cycle in favor of faster and more reliable machines, but his vision of free time and a Platonic utopia is looking more like a realm of waste, expulsion, and masses of people left outside the Utopian enclaves of the super-rich .01% oligarchs and plutocrats. While at the same time extracting from the masses the remaining carbon taxes and living wages left of their serfdom amid the wreckage and ruins of earth as the climate warms and the seas rise living less and less agricultural and other resources for the starving, sick, and depleted humans of our dying earth.

Flusser will admit that “true catastrophes cannot be foreseen. They are emergencies. (160)”. He continues, saying:

I have proposed that human engagement consists in bringing about surprising adventures, catastrophes, and that telematics realizes this engagement, theoretically and technically. Telematic society is, then, a structure for realizing catastrophes. Therefore any attempt to predict it, as I have done here, is contradictory and self-referential—Ouroboros, the snake that swallows its own tail. (160)

Maybe that’s as good an image of our network society as we might have, a “contradictory and self-referential—Ouroboros, the snake that swallows its own tail”. In the end we’ve become locked in the circuits of a serpentine system of capital accumulation, that is sucking us dry of every last piece of information and knowledge of surplus value it can get from us. When it can gain no more from us it unplugs us, leaves us in our depleted vegetative state of apathy and mindlessness to our own devices without recourse or redress, nor any avenue of creative or political resistance left. Is it becoming too late to change things? Are we becoming so enamored of our Reality TV Celeb Presidential candidates that we’ve allowed the farce of a farce to takeover our lives without even a fight?


 

  1. Hesse, Hermann (2002-12-06). The Glass Bead Game: (Magister Ludi) A Novel . Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.
  2. Vilém Flusser. Into the Universe of Technical Images. Univ Of Minnesota Press (February 24, 2011) First Published 1985.

What if… Information Processing as Hyperobject

 

Capitalism is not a human invention, but a viral contagion, replicated cyberpositively across post-human space. Self-designing processes are anastrophic and convergent: doing things before they make sense. Time goes weird in tactile self-organizing space: the future is not an idea but a sensation.
……Sadie Plant and Nick Land

Hyperorganisms and Zombie Society

As I was reading R. Scott Bakker’s blog this morning, he had an interesting post The Zombie Enlightenment . In it he mentioned the notion of “…post-Medieval European society as a kind of information processing system, a zombie society”. Like many things this set my mind on hyperdrive. I was reminded of my recent reading of Timothy Morton’s interesting work Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World where he describes a hyperobject:

the term hyperobjects to refer to things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans.  A hyperobject could be a black hole. A hyperobject could be the Lago Agrio oil field in Ecuador, or the Florida Everglades. A hyperobject could be the biosphere, or the Solar System. A hyperobject could be the sum total of all the nuclear materials on Earth; or just the plutonium, or the uranium. A hyperobject could be the very long-lasting product of direct human manufacture, such as Styrofoam or plastic bags, or the sum of all the whirring machinery of capitalism. Hyperobjects, then, are “hyper” in relation to some other entity, whether they are directly manufactured by humans or not.1

Morton’s “the sum of all the whirring machinery of capitalism” brought to mind Nick Land’s adaptation of Deleuze and Guattari’s accelerating capital as a informational entity that is auto-organizing energy, matter, and information toward a technological Singularity (i.e., “There’s only really been one question, to be honest, that has guided everything I’ve been interested in for the last twenty years, which is: the teleological identity of capitalism and artificial intelligence” – here).  We’ve seen how the debt system in D&G is part of an algorithmic memory or processing system to mark and channel desire or flows of energy-matter: here and here (i.e., “Society is not exchangist, the socious is inscriptive: not exchanging but marking bodies, which are part of the earth. We have seen that the regime of debt is the unit of alliance, and alliance is representation itself. It is alliance that codes the flows of desire and that, by means of debt, creates for man a memory of words (paroles).” and: “Man must constitute himself through repression of the intense germinal influx, the great biocosmic memory that threatens to deluge every attempt at collectivity.”). Of course they spoke in anthropological terms that seem quaint now in our computational jargon age which brings me to Ceasr Hidalgo.

We build against sadism. We build to experience the joy of its every fleeting defeat. Hoping for more joy, for longer, each time, longer and stronger; until, perhaps, we hope, for yet more; and you can’t say it won’t ever happen, that the ground won’t shift, that it won’t one day be the sadisms that are embattled, the sadisms that are fleeting, on a new substratum of something else, newly foundational, that the sadisms won’t diminish or be defeated, that those for whom they are machinery of rule won’t be done.
…..– China Miéville, On Social Sadism

Emergence, Solidity, and Computation: Capital as Hyperorganism

In Cesar Hidalgo’s Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies where he describes the basic physical mechanisms that contribute to the growth of information. These include three important concepts: the spontaneous emergence of information in out-of-equilibrium systems (the whirlpool example), the accumulation of information in solids (such as proteins and DNA), and the ability of matter to compute.2

Explicating this he tells us that the first idea connects information with energy, since information emerges naturally in out-of-equilibrium systems. These are systems of many particles characterized by substantial flows of energy. Energy flows allow matter to self-organize. (Hidalgo, KL 2448) The second idea is that the mystery of the growth of information is that solids are essential for information to endure. Yet not just any solid can carry information. To carry information, solids need to be rich in structure.(Hidalgo, KL 2465) And, finally, energy is needed for information to emerge, and solids are needed for information to endure. But for the growth of information to explode, we need one more ingredient: the ability of matter to compute (i.e., the final step is intelligence and auto-awareness, decisional and ecological). (Hidalgo, KL 2475) As he remarks:

The fact that matter can compute is one of the most amazing facts of the universe. Think about it: if matter could not compute, there would be no life. Bacteria, plants, and you and I are all, technically, computers. Our cells are constantly processing information in ways that we poorly understand. As we saw earlier, the ability of matter to compute is a precondition for life to emerge. It also signifies an important point of departure in our universe’s ability to beget information. As matter learns to compute, it becomes selective about the information it accumulates and the structures it replicates. Ultimately, it is the computational capacities of matter that allow information to experience explosive growth.(Hidalgo, KL 2477-2482).

Of course Hidalgo like many current thinkers never asks the obvious questions of what’s behind this if anything, is there a telos to this IP initiative of the universe, is it all blind accident and process, a sort of accidental start-up algorithm in matter that suddenly began with the Big Bang; a part of the nature of things from the beginning? He describes self-organizing matter, its need for more permanent and enduring structures to support its processes, and then the emergence of computation or intelligence: “these objects allow us to form networks that embody an increasing amount of knowledge and knowhow, helping us increase our capacity to collectively process information” (Hidalgo, KL 2518).

I’ve never like the “self” in self-organizing – just seems too human, all too human a concept. Maybe auto-organizing should be its replacement. Either way what needs to be elided is the notion that there is some essential or core being behind the appearances directing this auto-organizing activity. It’s more a blind process having to do with the actual aspects of quantum and relativity theory in our universe rather than some notion of a personality behind things (i.e., God or Intelligence). When does matter become purposeful, attain a teleological goal oriented ability to organize itself and its environment? Is this what life is? Is life that threshold? Or something else? Many creatures alive do not need an awareness of auto-distancing from their environment to appear purposeful; and, or not. Think of those elder creatures of the oceans, the predators, the sharks, their drive to hunt, select, kill etc. Is this a telos, or just the organic mode of information as blind process working in an environment to satisfy the base requirements to endure?

We as humans seem to think we’re special, situated as the exception rather than the rule. But are we? No. What if we are like all other durable organic systems just the working out of blind processes and algorithms of information processing as it refines itself and emerges into greater and greater complexity? But this is to assume that “us” will remain human, that this teleological or non-teleological process ends with the human species. But does it? Or we but the transitional object of some further emergence, one that would be even more permanent, more adaptive to self-organizing matter, more enduring, more viable computationally oriented? I think you know where I’m going here: the machinic phylum, the emergence of AI, Robotics, Nanotech, ICT’s etc. that we see all around us, or these not the further immanent self-organization of matter into greater and more lasting forms that will eventually outpace the organic hosts that supported their emergence? Or we not seeing the edge of this precipice in such secular myths as posthumanism and transhumanism? The Technological Singularity as a more refined emergence of this self-organizing information processing entity or entities: this collective or hive, even distributed intelligence emerging in such external devices?

Hidalgo mentions the personbyte theory which suggests a relationship between the complexity of an economic activity and the size of the social and professional network needed to execute it. Activities that require more personbytes of knowledge and knowhow need to be executed by larger networks. This relationship helps explain the structure and evolution of our planet’s industrial structures. The personbyte theory implies that (1) simpler economic activities will be more ubiquitous, (2) that diversified economies will be the only ones capable of executing complex economic activities, (3) that countries will diversify toward related products, and (4) that over the long run a region’s level of income will approach the complexity of its economy, which we can approximate by looking at the mix of products produced and exported by a region, since products inform us about the presence of knowledge and knowhow in a region. (Hidalgo, KL 2524-2530).

In this sense capitalism is an informational entity or hyperobject, a self-organizing structure for energy, matter, and information to further its own emergence through temporal computational algorithms. As Hidalgo reiterates this dance of information and computation is powered by the flow of energy, the existence of solids, and the computational abilities of matter. The flow of energy drives self-organization, but it also fuels the ability of matter to compute. Solids, on the other hand, from proteins to buildings, help order endure. Solids minimize the need for energy to produce order and shield information from the steady march of entropy. Yet the queen of the ball is the emergence of collective forms of computation, which are ubiquitous in our planet. Our cells are networks of proteins, which form organelles and signaling pathways that help them decide when to divide, differentiate, and even die. Our society is also a collective computer, which is augmented by the products we produce to compute new forms of information. (Hidalgo, KL 2532-2537).

Crossing the Rubicon?

Yet, is the organic base the most efficient? Are we not already dreaming of more permanent structures, more enduring and durable robotics, machinic, etc.? Hidalgo is hopeful for collective humanity, but is this necessarily so? It looks more like we are but a form of matter that might have been useful up to this point, but that is becoming more and more apparent as obsolete and limited for the further auto-organization of information in the future. What Kant termed finitude is this limiting factor for humans: the human condition. Are we seeing the power of matter, energy, and informational auto-organization about to make the leap from human to a more permanent form? A crossing of the Rubicon from which humanity may not as a species survive? Possibly even merging ourselves into more permanent structures to support information and intelligence in its need to escape the limits of planetary existence?

The questions we need to be raising now are such as: What happens to humans if machines gradually replace us on the job market? When, if ever, will machines outcompete humans at all intellectual tasks? What will happen afterward? Will there be a machine-intelligence explosion leaving us far behind, and if so, what, if any, role will we humans play after that?3 Max Tegmark* lists the usual ill-informed suspects on the blogosphere circuit that cannot and will not ever answer this:

  1. Scaremongering: Fear boosts ad revenues and Nielsen ratings, and many journalists seem incapable of writing an AI article without a picture of a gun-toting robot.
  2. “ It’s impossible”: As a physicist, I know that my brain consists of quarks and electrons arranged to act as a powerful computer, and that there’s no law of physics preventing us from building even more intelligent quark blobs.
  3. “ It won’t happen in our lifetime”: We don’t know what the probability is of machines reaching human-level ability on all cognitive tasks during our lifetime, but most of the AI researchers at a recent conference put the odds above 50 percent, so we’d be foolish to dismiss the possibility as mere science fiction.
  4. “ Machines can’t control humans”: Humans control tigers not because we’re stronger but because we’re smarter, so if we cede our position as the smartest on our planet, we might also cede control.
  5.  “ Machines don’t have goals”: Many AI systems are programmed to have goals and to attain them as effectively as possible.
  6. “ AI isn’t intrinsically malevolent”: Correct— but its goals may one day clash with yours. Humans don’t generally hate ants, but if we wanted to build a hydroelectric dam and there was an anthill there, too bad for the ants.
  7. “ Humans deserve to be replaced”: Ask any parent how they’d feel about your replacing their child by a machine and whether they’d like a say in the decision.
  8. “ AI worriers don’t understand how computers work”: This claim was mentioned at the above-mentioned conference and the assembled AI researchers laughed hard. (Brockman, pp. 44-45)

Tegmark will – as Hidalgo did – speak of humans as information processing systems:

we humans discovered how to replicate some natural processes with machines that make our own wind, lightning, and horsepower. Gradually we realized that our bodies were also machines, and the discovery of nerve cells began blurring the borderline between body and mind. Then we started building machines that could outperform not only our muscles but our minds as well. So while discovering what we are, will we inevitably make ourselves obsolete? (Brockman, p. 46)

That’s the hard question at the moment. And, one still to be determined. Tegmark’s answer is that we need to think this through: “The advent of machines that truly think will be the most important event in human history. Whether it will be the best or worst thing ever to happen to humankind depends on how we prepare for it, and the time to start preparing is now. One doesn’t need to be a superintelligent AI to realize that running unprepared toward the biggest event in human history would be just plain stupid.” (Brockman, p. 46)

Inventing a Model of the Future? Hyperstitional Energetics?

What would be interesting is to build an informational model, a software application that would model this process from beginning to now of the universe as an auto-organizing system of matter, energy, and information into the various niches of complexification as it stretches over the temporal dimensions as a hyperobject or superorganism. Watch it ins the details of a let’s say Braudelaian input of material economic and socio-cultural data of the emergence of capitalism as a hyperobject over time and its complexification up to this projected Singularity. Obviously one would use statistical and probabilistic formulas and mathematical algorithms to accomplish this with sample data, etc. Either way it would show a possible scenario of the paths forward of human and machinic systems as they converge/diverge in the coming years. I’ll assume those like the complexity theorists in New Mexico university have worked such approximations? I need to study this… someone like a Stuart Kauffmann? Such as this essay: here:

the universe is open in being partially lawless at the quantum-classical boundary (which may be reversible). As discussed, the universe is open upward in complexity indefinitely. Based on unprestatable Darwinian exaptations, the evolution of the biosphere, economy and culture seem beyond sufficient law, hence the universe is again open. The unstatable evolution of the biosphere opens up new Adjacent Possible adaptations. … It seems true both that the becoming of the universe is partially beyond sufficient natural law, and that opportunities arise and disappear and either ontologically, or epistemologically, or lawlessly, may or may not be taken, hence can change the history of our vast reaction system, perhaps change the chemistry in galactic giant cold molecular clouds, and change what happens in the evolution of the biosphere, economy and history.

Sounds familiar in the sense of Meillassoux’s attack on sufficient causation (i.e., ‘principle of sufficient reason’), etc. when Kauffman mentions “the evolution of the biosphere, economy and culture seem beyond sufficient law, hence the universe is again open”. Of course Kauffman’s thesis is: “a hypopopulated chemical reaction system on a vast reaction graph seems plausibly to exhibit, via quantum behavior and decoherence, the acausal emergence of actual molecules via acausal decoherence and the acausal emergence of new ontologically real adjacent possibles that alter what may happen next, and give rise to a rich unique history of actual molecules on a time scale of the life time of the universe or longer. The entire process may not be describable by a law.” In other words its outside “sufficient reason”.

In his The Blank Swan: The End of Probability  Elie Ayache is like Land tempted to see Capitalism as a hyperobject or entity, saying, “What draws me to Deleuze is thus my intention of saying the market as univocal Being”.4 He goes on to say:

The problem with the market is that it is immanence incarnate. It has no predefined plane. Much as I had first intended derivatives and their pricing as my market and my surface, I soon found myself making a market of the writings of Meillassoux, Badiou and Deleuze. They became my milieu of immanence. The plane of immanence on which to throw my concept of the market soon became a plane of immanence on which to deterritorialize thought at large. I soon became tempted to remake philosophy with my concept of the market rather than remake the market with a new philosophy. The market became a general metaphor for writing, the very intuition of the virtual with which it was now possible to establish contact. I was on my way to absolute deterritorialization, and the question became how to possibly deliver this ‘result’ otherwise than in a book that was purely philosophical. (Ayache, pp. 303-304)

Of course he’s dealing with specifics of trading in the derivatives market, etc., but one can extrapolate to a larger nexus of possibilities. As he suggests: “I soon became tempted to remake philosophy with my concept of the market rather than remake the market with a new philosophy. The market became a general metaphor for writing, the very intuition of the virtual with which it was now possible to establish contact. I was on my way to absolute deterritorialization, and the question became how to possibly deliver this ‘result’ otherwise than in a book that was purely philosophical.” This notion of both capital and thought making a pact of absolute deterritorialization seems to align with Hildalgo’s history of information theory and its own auto-organizational operations.

Ayache will like Land see the market as a unified entity: The market, as market, is one reality. It cannot be separated or differentiated by external difference.  It is an intensity: the intensity of the exchange, presumably. It follows no stochastic process, with known volatility or jump parameters. It is a smooth space, as Deleuze would say, not a striated space. (Ayache, p. 325)

As wells as an organism: What gets actualized and counter-actualized (i.e. differentiated) here is the whole probability distribution, the whole range of possibilities, and the process is the process of differentiation (or distinction, or emergence, literally birth) of that put. The market differentiates itself literally like an organism, by ‘growing’ that put (like an animal grows a tail or like birds grow wings) and by virtually growing all the successive puts that our trader will care to ask about. (Ayache, p. 338) In his book Hidalgo mentions a curious statement: “As of today, November 11, 2014, “why information grows” returns four hits on Google. The first one is the shell of an Amazon profile created for this book by my UK publisher. Two of the other hits are not a complete sentence, since the words are interrupted with punctuation. (By contrast, the phrase “why economies grow” returns more than twenty-six thousand hits.)”(Hidalgo, KL 2645) So that the notion of the market as an entity that grows informationally seems almost apparent to many at the moment.

Hidalgo will also mention the father of neoliberalism Friedrich Hayek who famously pointed this out in a 1945 paper (“ The Use of Knowledge in Society,” American Economic Review 35, no. 4 [1945]: 519– 530). There, Hayek identified money as an information revelation mechanism that helped uncover information regarding the availability and demand of goods in different parts of the economy. (Hidalgo, KL 3060) This notion of money as a “revelation mechanism” fits into current trends of Bitcoin as an virtual apparatus for informational mechanisms and market growth of Capital as a Hyperorganism.

The Virtual Economy: Blockchain Technology and Bitcoin-Economics

Some say we are the Age of Cryptocurrency in which Bitcoin and Blockchain technology will move things into the virtual arena where energy, matter, and information are enabled to push forward this growth process in an ever accelerating manner. (see here) Part of what their terming the programmable economy. As Sue Troy explains it the programmable economy — a new economic system based on autonomic, algorithmic decisions made by robotic services, including those associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) — is opening the door to a range of technological innovation never before imagined. This new economy — and more specifically the concept of the blockchain and metacoin platforms that underpin it — promises to be useful in improving an astonishingly varied number of issues: from reducing forgery and corruption to simplifying supply chain transactions to even greatly minimizing spam. In her interview she states:

Valdes explained the technical foundations of the blockchain ledger and the programmable economy. He described the programmable economy as an evolution of the API economy, in which businesses use APIs to connect their internal systems with external systems, which improves the businesses’ ability to make money but is limited by the fact that the systems are basically siloed from one another. The Web was the next step in the evolution toward the programmable economy, he said, because it represents a “global platform for programmable content. It was decentralized; it was a common set of standards. Anyone can put up a Web server and plug into this global fabric for content and eventually commerce and community.”

I can give my teenage son $20. … In the future, that money would have rules associated with it: You can’t buy fast food, you can only spend it on a movie, but you can’t go to a movie during the day. – Ray Valdes vice president, Gartner

The programmable economy, Valdes said, is enabled by “a global-scale distributed platform for value exchange. … The only thing that’s uncertain is what form it will take.” Valdes pointed to Bitcoin, which uses blockchain ledger technology, as a prominent example of a “global-scale, peer-to-peer, decentralized platform for global exchange.”

Ultimately Valdes states that the idea of programmability can be extended to the corporate structure, Valdes said. Today the rules of incorporation are fixed, and the corporation is represented by its employees and a board of directors. In the future, corporations could be “more granular, more dynamic and untethered from human control”.

Of course this fits into the notion that the future City States or Neocameral Empires will also become “more granular, more dynamic and untethered from human control” as machinic intelligence and other convergences of the NBIC technologies take over more and more from humans.

One want to take a step back and get one’s breath and say: “Whoa, there partner, just wait a minute!” But by the time we institute some ethical or governmental measures it will like most of history be far too late to stop or even slow down this juggernaut of growing informational hyperorganisms. As one advocated suggested there will come a time when everything is connected in an information environment: “You can put monitors in the anything to measure or quantify exchanges, the sensors are connected to smart contracts, the contracts are changing as the exchanges take place, so you have this dynamic process that’s taking place in the supply chain, constantly refreshing the economic conditions that surround it…” (see). In this information programmable economy as Troy sees it Organizations of the future will need a different organizational model, he said. “You see society changing in a sharing, collaborative environment. Think about it being the same internally.”

As one pundit Jacob Donnelly tells it Bicoin is in existential crisis, yet it has a bright future. What is increasingly likely is that the future of bitcoin is bright. It is the seventh year in the development of this network. It takes years to build out a protocol, which is what bitcoin is. As Joel Spolsky says, “Good software takes 10 years. Get used to it.”

“Bitcoin is comparable to the pre-web-browser 1992-era Internet. This is still the very early days of bitcoin’s life. The base layer protocol is now stable (TCP/IP). Now engineers are building the second layer (HTTP) that makes bitcoin usable for average people and machines,” Jeff Garzik, founder of Bloq and Core developer of bitcoin, told me.

Once the infrastructure is built, which still has many more years ahead of it, with companies like Bloq, BitGo, 21.co, and Coinbase leading the charge, we’ll begin to see solid programs built in the application layer.

But even while we wait for the infrastructure to be built, it’s clear that bitcoin is evolving. Bitcoin is not perfect. It has a lot of problems that it is going to have to overcome. But to label it dead or to call for it to be replaced by something new is naive and shortsighted. This battle in the civil war will end, likely with Bitcoin Classic rolling out a hard fork with significant consensus. New applications will be built that provide more use cases for different audiences. And ultimately, the Internet will get its first, true payment protocol.

But Bitcoin is seven years old. It will take many years for the infrastructure to be laid and for these applications to reach critical mass. Facebook had nearly 20 years after the browser was released to reach a billion users. To imagine bitcoin’s true potential, we need to think in decades, not in months or years. Fortunately, we’re well on our way.

Future Tech: Augmented Immersion and Policing Information

One imagines a day when every aspect of one’s environment internal/external, intrinsic/extrinsic is programmable and open to revision, updates, changes, exchanges, etc. in an ongoing informational economy that is so invisible and ubiquitous that even the machines will forget they are machines: only information growth will matter and its durability, expansion, and acceleration.

In an article by Nicole Laskowski she tells us augmented and virtual reality technologies may be better suited for the enterprise than the consumer market as these technologies become more viable. Google Glass, an AR technology, for example, raised ire over privacy concerns. But in the enterprise? Employees could apply augmented and virtual reality technology to build rapid virtual prototypes, test materials, and provide training for new employees — all of which can translate into productivity gains for the organization.

“The greatest level of adoption is around the idea of collaboration,” Soechtig said. Teams that aren’t in the same physical environment can enter a virtual environment to exchange information and ideas in a way that surpasses two-dimensional video conferencing or even Second Life Enterprise. Nelson Kunkel, design director at Deloitte Digital, described virtualized collaboration as an “empathetic experience,” and Soechtig said the technology can “take how we communicate, share ideas and concepts to a completely new level.”

For some companies, the new level is standard operating procedure. Ford Motor Company has been using virtual reality internally for years to mock up vehicle designs at the company’s Immersion Lab before production begins. Other companies, such as IKEA, are enabling an augmented reality experience for the customer. Using an IKEA catalogue and catalogue app, customers can add virtual furnishings to their bedrooms or kitchens, snap a photo and get a sense for what the items will look like in their homes. And companies such as Audi and Marriott are turning VR headsets over to customers to help them visually sift through their choices for vehicle customizations and virtually travel to other countries, respectively.

Vendors, too, see augmented and virtual reality as an opportunity — from Google and its yet-to-hit-the-market Google Glass: Enterprise Edition to Facebook and its virtual reality headset, Oculus Rift, to Microsoft and its HoloLens, which it describes as neither augmented nor virtual reality, but rather a “mixed reality that lets you enjoy your digital life while staying more connected to the world around you,” according to the website. All three companies have eyes on the enterprise.

Neocameralism or Governance of Information

Is this techno-optimism or its opposite, utopia or dystopia… we’ll we even be there to find out? In his book The Disordered Police State: German Cameralism as Science and Practice on the old princedoms of the Cameral states of Germany Andre Wakefield comments:

The protagonist of my story is the Kammer, that ravenous fiscal juridical chamber that devoured everything in its path. History, I am told, is only as good as its sources, and the cameral sciences, which purported to speak publicly about the most secret affairs of the prince, were deeply dishonest. We cannot trust them. And because many of the most important cameral sciences were natural sciences, the dishonesty of the Kammer has been inscribed into the literature of science and technology as well. There is no avoiding it.5

The German cameralists were the writer-administrators and academics who had provided a blueprint for governance in early modern Germany. Much like our current systems of academic and Think Tank experts who provide the base blueprints for governance around the world today.

When we read many of the books about our future it is spawned in part and funded by such systems of experts, academics, and governmental or corporate powers seeking to convince, manipulate, and guide in the very construction of a future tending toward their goals and agendas. A sort of policing of culture, a policy is a policing and movement of the informational context to support these entities and organizations.

In the future we will indeed program many capabilities that closely resemble those arising from ‘true’ intelligence into the large-scale, web-based systems that are likely to increasingly permeate our societies: search engines, social platforms, smart energy grids, self-driving cars, as well as a myriad other practical applications. All of these will increasingly share many features of our own intelligence, even if lacking a few ‘secret sauces’ that might remain to be understood.6

One aspect of this I believe people and pundits overlook is that the large datastores needed for this will need knowledge workers for a long while to input the data needed by these advanced AI systems. I believe instead of jobs and work being downsized by automation that instead it will be opened up into ever increasing informational ecosystems that we have yet to even discern much less understand. I’m not optimistic about this whole new world, yet it is apparent that it is coming and organizing us as we organize it. Land spoke of the hyperstition as a self-replicating prophecy. If the books, journals, and other memes elaborated around this notion of information economy and exchange are valid we are moving into this world at light-speed and our older political, social, and ethical systems are being left far behind and unable to cope with this new world of converging technologies and information intelligence.

More and more our planet will seem an intelligent platform or hyperorganism that is a fully connected biospheric intelligence or sentient being of matter, energy, and information, a self-organizing entity that revises, updates, edits, and organizes its information on climate, populations, bioinformatics, etc. along trajectories that we as humans were incapable as an atomistic society. Change is coming… but for the better no one can say, yet. Eerily reminiscent of Ovid’s poem of the gods Metamorphosis humans may merge or converge with this process to become strangely other… at once monstrous and uncanny.

(I’ll take this up in a future post…)


*Max Tegmark: Physicist, cosmologist, MIT; scientific director, Foundational Questions Institute; cofounder, Future of Life Institute; author, Our Mathematical Universe

  1. Morton, Timothy (2013-10-23). Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Posthumanities) (Kindle Locations 106-111). University of Minnesota Press. Kindle Edition.
  2. Hidalgo, Cesar (2015-06-02). Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies (Kindle Locations 2446-2448). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
  3. Brockman, John (2015-10-06). What to Think About Machines That Think: Today’s Leading Thinkers on the Age of Machine Intelligence (p. 43). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
  4. Ayache, Elie (2010-04-07). The Blank Swan: The End of Probability (p. 299). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
  5. Andre Wakefield. The Disordered Police State: German Cameralism as Science and Practice (Kindle Locations 379-382). Kindle Edition.
  6. Shroff, Gautam (2013-10-22). The Intelligent Web: Search, smart algorithms, and big data (p. 274). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.

 

Deleuze & Guattari: The Eternal Return of Accelerating Capital

chaosmos

Capitalist production seeks continually to overcome these immanent barriers, but overcomes them only by means which again place these barriers in its way and on a more formidable scale. The real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself.
……………– Karl Marx, Capital

the civilized capitalist machine

“The only universal history is the history of contingency.”1

In developing their theory and the practice of decoded and deterritorialized flows Deleuze and Guattari will surmise that capitalism in its present form may be the exterior limit of all societies (p. 230). They’ll go on to tell us following Marx that  “capitalism for its part has no exterior limit, but only an interior limit that is capital itself and that it does not encounter, but reproduces by always displacing it” (p. 231). So that this continuous cycle of schiz and flow from break to barrier and return through the movement of displacement “belongs essentially to the deterritorialization of capitalism” (p.231).

In this same section they will remark that the banking systems control the investment of desire in this cycle of breaks and flows, that it was Keynes himself that contributed a reintroduction of desire into the “problem of money,” and that Marxism must revise and include a more thorough understanding of banking practices in regard to financial operations and the circulation of credit money (i.e., Marxism needs a new theory of money). (p. 230)

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The Posthuman Future: Technopessimism and the Inhuman

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…suicide is the decisive political act of our times.
― Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Precarious Rhapsody

It is not worth the bother of killing yourself, since you always kill yourself too late.
― Emile Cioran, The Trouble with being Born

Base materialism begins in the tomb, a world of death that presents itself as life. This is neither Plato’s Cave, nor the scientific infinity of stars and the abyss. This is rather an ocean of energy, an realm of annihilating light and inexistence. Following Nick Land we promote a diagnostic truth against the “speculative, phenomenal, and meditative” philosophers of a false intuitionalism, following instead the underbelly of those criminal outcasts of thought: Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Bataille among others toward a materialism that seeks not the phenomenal surface of things, but rather the ‘noumenon’ – the impersonal death and unconscious drive of an “energetic unconscious”. This is an experiential turn toward an heretical empiricism not of knowledge, but of collapse.

Life itself is the first criminal act, a crime against an otherwise uniform and mindless universe of death. The second criminal act is the notion that humans are an exception to the rule of death, that somehow they do not belong to the order of things but are rather its masters and benefactors. The crime of humanity is the crime against existence itself; a crime from which there is no appeal, only annihilation. With religion came the final crime of the human regime: the belief that humans have a mandate from higher powers, a mandate to command, control and seize the universe in the name of a god, as well as a mandate to control each other and the surfeit of life upon the face of the earth. The Secular regime is itself a religious project: a religion of disinheritance, a religion without gods – an a-theism; a crime of omission, rather than commission.

“The fact that life has no meaning is a reason to live –moreover, the only one,” says Cioran. Nihilism is the first step in an active annihilation not of reality, but of the human illusions of reality; and of humanity itself as a primal illusion, one that must be rendered null and void. Karl Marx himself would say “religion in itself is without content, it owes its being not to heaven but to the earth, and with the abolition of distorted reality, of which it is the theory, it will collapse of itself.” (Letter from Marx to Arnold Ruge In Dresden (1842)) With the death and murder of the gods, and God, we began that slow and methodical destruction of the illusions that have bound us in a cage of madness for millennia. Yet, this step into freedom was captured and turned against us, an act at once of enslavement and total evisceration, a systematic unveiling of an order of obstinate sociopathy, a recursion to a formalism of a voidic disaggregation enclosing us in a a non-time, a present without outlet; a static conveyance that has no other goal than its own continuance: an aberration of the death-flows it seeks to evade, a cage for the desires that it seeks to bind from the inherent movement of death. Civilization is this system: capitalism is its engine, an alien form of life that has no inherent objective other than annihilation.

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