Metaloid Dreams of Mutant Intelligences

Cioran quotes Lao Tsu’s maxim ‘the intense life is contrary to the Tao’, and compares the tranquility of the modest life with the thirst for annihilating ecstasy that has possessed the Western world. However, acknowledging the compulsion of his Occidental heritage, he remarks ‘I can pay homage to Lao Tsu a thousand times, but I am more likely to identify with an assassin’. Our culture, he argues, is essentially fanatical.

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

Strip the world of its illusions and delusions and you’ll only hasten the suicidal tendencies we’ve already as a species acquired. Predatory though we are, we are more prone to annihilating ourselves in a bout of self-mutilating hatred and pure religious fervor than not. Religious dogmatism – and, I count the Secular Church of Atheism in this – is the cornerstone of an anthropathological condition that breeds purity as the obliteration of all enemies. If only we could inhabit the enemies perspective would we realize the mirror of our hatred is itself impure.

We have yet to escape our Puritan heritage. Capitalism itself is this beast of purity spread across the face of the earth like an omeba, gobbling everything in its path, immolating the commodities and resources of the planet to the futurial disciplines of technics that have yet to find their slime festivals embarkation. Like fetid worms we are habitues of intricate foreplay, our sexual ecstasies bounded only by our murderous crash sequences with technology. Formulating and garnering an ultimate plan for inhuman takeover we bid the human species a grand bon voyage, stripping ourselves of the last veneer of humanistic entrapments we devote ourselves to the extreme experimental psychopathologies which will produce a final solution. Our closure of nature in this age and the irruption of the artificial as lifestyle has led us into that end game in which nothing natural will remain on earth.

No need to do a critique of metaphysics (or of political economy, which is the same thing) , since critique presupposes and ceaselessly creates this very theatricality; rather be imside and forget it, that’s the position of the death drive, describe these foldings and gluings, these energetic vections that establish the theatrical cube with its six homogenous faces on the unique and heterogeneous surface.

—Lyotard, Libidinal Economy

Once again the most unnatural creature on the planet triumphs, but in an unexpected way: it will stand atop the ruinous folds of a billion skulls screeching in the technomic voices of those who have become the thing they most dreaded: machinic gods of the metalloid Void. Brokered in a hell of abstract horror, these inheritors of the primal scream will walk the dead earth in what remains of the dustbowl windlands and scorched cities along the black sands of depleted oceans and lakes, where hybrid creatures scuttle in the shadows of temporal wars; and, deforested wastelands of spiked acropolises, and necromantic anti-life scurries amid the crumbling decay of human civilization: – like the visitors of an alien enlightenment, each singing in an oracular voice with the angelic pitch and plum disharmonics of solar sirens beckoning us toward the far shores of an anterior futurity.

Continue reading

The Last Man

They have something of which they are proud. What do they call it, that which makes them proud? Culture, they call it; it distinguishes them from the goatherds.

-Friedrich Nietzsche: Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Nietzsche once envisioned the end point of progressive politics: the last man. The lives of the last men are pacifist and comfortable. There is no longer a distinction between ruler and ruled, strong over weak, or supreme over the mediocre. Social conflict and challenges are minimized. Every individual lives equally and in “superficial” harmony. There are no original or flourishing social trends and ideas. Individuality and creativity are suppressed. Outwardly it appears to the alien as a perfect world, a utopian enclave where the populace is taken care of, secure, and happy.

A world without disease, conflict, war, poverty, mental aberrations – a world without creativity. In such a world the men and women no longer need education in the sense of the old political horizons, because the world is itself a fulfilled and progressive society. Enlightenment, the sciences, and the socio-cultural regulators who oversee this civilization are not men and women of power, but rather volunteers in a world of non-power. The impersonal laws and pyscho-social apparatus that enforces the stability, security, and regulatory mechanisms of this utopian world are themselves regulated by the ultra-egalitarian value systems that keep even their own mental systems in check.

At the center of this society will be the AGI systems that make all the decisions regulating the complex interactions across the fold of this world populace. These systems will act as oracles for the vast majority of educated and uneducated believers who will become only the beneficiaries of this new impersonal machinism. We could say the AGI’s will handle the intricate and complex relations of jurisprudence that will arbitrate every aspect of this societies intrinsic and extrinsic relations. Welcome to the algorithmic society of the future.

At the heart of this system of egalitarian social relations is the psycho-pharmaceutical Neuromantic Nomos – the Order of Neural Law. Such a society is well versed in the convergence of nanotech, biogenetic, telemantic, and neuroscientific pharma: the fusion of nano-tech and pharmaceutical regulatory agents that will focus their powerful socio-medicinal systems on bringing peace and happiness to the citizens of this brave new world. The growth of regulative platforms of sustainability and resource regulation will have brought to bare the full systems of law to regulate every aspect of life on earth. Yet, to work out these regulatory positings is no longer in the hands of humans but of powerful machinic intelligences which will supply both the legal and socio-medical techniques needed to enforce this system. Humans will be free, but only within a very well defined system of reasons and regulations. Their lives regulated by nanobiotech machinic intelligences that carefully regulate metabolic and neural systems according to the new Nomos.

After the chaotic downturn in the Age of Risk during the so called post-Enlightenment age of unregulated Laissez-faire and beyond into the late financial capitalisms of the Oligarchic and Plutocratic worlds of Neurocapitalism, when humans were coerced into Security Regimes through the use and abuse of the vast new technologies of neuralpharmakon: the time of non-time, presentism, held sway.  The end of certain forms of violence and revolutionary thought brought to an abrupt end the age-old defiance of the masses against oppression. With the advent of neuraltech pharmakon, the street drugs of the new dispensation, along with the cult like prophets dispersing this new religious melioration unto the downcast and forgotten became the way to reign in the dissident elements of the Great Failure. Now that this socio-cultural world was hooked on peace and love, on unity and diversity of psycho-sexual integration the diverse and angry world of poverty and dissidence vanished. The production of dreams and fantasy became the new watchword, a world of satisfied gamers of reality.

With a new Universal Base Income (UBI) in place there was only the need to discover something worthwhile to do and be in this new world. With the end of the age-old monetization systems of capital came the only coin left: human creativity. Yet, as in most regulated systems creativity would be segmented off from the vast majority of players. The creative class would become the enhanced and unregulated systems of experimental social relations, beings set apart in special zones to live and work in the Great Experiment. These beings would become the focus of a well orchestrated Reality TV series in which the uncreative classes would dream of their heroes from afar. (more on this in a future post!)

So that it was just that much easier to incorporate less and less risk management, and off-load more and more of human security and risk onto the newly developed AGI’s. The very systems of profit and plunder that once brought the .01% their dreamworlds, was turned against them to awaken a living dream for all. In the end humans developed a society that elided the very concept of competition and aggression from the human genome. The new biogenetics would slowly but methodically develop personality types according to the function and algorithmic needs of the society itself. One was not so much free to do what one wanted, but to do what one was programed to want. For humans were no longer bound by the illusion of Free Will, but regulated by the impersonal will of their neuraltech systems far below the surface of awareness and consciousness.

 “The event itself is far too great, too distant, too remote from the multitude’s capacity for comprehension even for the tidings of it to be thought of as having arrived as yet.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche


Anti-Fascism = “de-familiarizing, de-oedipalizing, de-castrating; undoing theater, dream, and fantasy; decoding, de-territorializing – a terrible curettage, a malevolent activity.” (Anti-Oedipus: Deleuze & Guattari)

To one half of humanity this will appear dystopia completed, to the other half a strange progress indeed. Maybe it’s more of a fable of “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it in unexpected ways and means.” If you haven’t noticed this is a sort of ongoing world building scenario for a dystopian trilogy in the offing… I’ve often wondered “What if…” we pushed the current trends in progressive thought and politics to the ultra conclusion? What would such a egalitarian world of social justice really look like? Would it push the techno-commercial to the point of a total reformist society based on impersonal regulation by decisioning systems like AGI’s or not? With our investment in the convergence technologies will humans divide into creative and uncreative social relations? How will we have both happy satisfied workers and creativity, too? As so many have suggested, creativity is itself a vehicle that brings violence to the world in which it breaks through. So will the creative class become a separate world, segmented off from the great mass of uncreative talents?

The Simulated Life of Citizen Avatar

So one will have to resist in the little ways, the day to day struggles of unplugging from the world grid, seeking non-electronic refuges, places of silence and meditation, ways of teaching one’s children to remember humanity; to remember the stories told by our ancestors, to create and invent new stories without machinic gods, and governments that work for the people rather than against them.

—The Book of Remembrance

Your data is more important than your body in the techno-commercial sector. Simulated avatars will activate your digital signature globally. What is left of substance is erased, only the data is of import. The world of the artificial has begun… you’re no longer a victim, but a commodity in an false infinity.

The ten thousand flowered servers in Utah, south of Salt Lake are even now grinding simulations on your data archive, recreating your life as an avatar, seeking answers to impossible questions. Ready to release data points to the highest bidder – whether military, or corporate. You’re virtual self – or shadow is more important to the electronic gods of the new machinic society, and will archive you for their twisted games of commerce till electricity is no more. Once your digital self is archived there is no turning back, they have locked you into an image that no matter how false becomes real for their modeling purposes, so that the fleshly being out of which it was born is lost among the data traces as ashes on a battlefield.

At a certain point, your Shadow Self will contain so much data that this unique packet of information will be placed in a cyber version of a particular environment or system so that the computer can run simulations that will predict your behavior. This “modeling” will be used to answer questions. Will you buy this product? Will you vote for our candidate? What is the lowest possible salary you will accept for a particular job? Each time you do something, information from your actions will flow into the database, and the Shadow Self will become more detailed and particular— more useful for predicting your future actions than the fleshly counterpart.

If our brains are predictive as Andy Clark (Surfing Uncertainty) and Jakob Hohwy (The Predictive Mind) show in their works, then the future of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) will be even more so. The AGI’s will predict and constrain all human behavior, simulate every move and counter-move, strategize and intercept your needs, wishes, and gulliblity at every step; drive you in directions you did not foresee, control your habits ubiquitously. You will be controlled without even knowing that it is happening till you wake up and realize it is too late, you have become enmeshed so willingly in the web of such worlds you would die trying to free yourself. This is not only P.K. Dick, William Burroughs, and Thomas Pynchon writ large, this is our world in the making…

As the novelist and figure in anonymity, John Twelve-Hawks tells us:

NSA’s Utah data center is nestled in the low hills south of the Great Salt Lake. It’s a cluster of large, windowless buildings attached to power lines on pylons and surrounded by a barbed-wire fence and security lights. Blueprints of the site reveal that an administrative center, a dog kennel, and a building with emergency batteries and backup generators are clustered around four identical “data halls” where the information is actually stored.

The data halls are huge, box-shaped rooms with exposed ceilings. When people aren’t in the halls, the only illumination comes from the blue and yellow LEDs set in the tall racks of servers and central processing units. Brewster Kahle, one of the engineers who designed the Internet Archive for the public web, estimates that the four halls hold approximately ten thousand racks of servers. There have been various estimates that the center can store five zettabytes of information or even a yottabyte (the equivalent of five hundred quintillion pages of text). This ocean of information has to be kept cooled and connected, so the halls are chilled by a refrigerator plant that uses a water-storage tank and a pumping station.1

Even now the Global Elite and hierarchy within both governmental and corporate spheres are seeking a system that emphasizes efficiency, calculability, predictability, control, and the replacement of humans with nonhuman technology. The gathering of big data by the surveillance states and the use of analytics to make choices that change people’s lives mirror these new normative rule-sets of the machinic gods. The new system depends on nonhuman surveillance and calculations made by machines. For those in power, big data results seem more controlled and efficient.

On Google.org, the company described its big data approach:

We have found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Of course, not every person who searches for “flu” is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all the flu-related search queries are added together. We compared our query counts with traditional flu surveillance systems and found that many search queries tend to be popular exactly when flu season is happening. By counting how often we see these search queries, we can estimate how much flu is circulating in different countries and regions around the world.

Much like a P.K. Dick short story our future will be policed by machines. One characteristic of the modern surveillance states is that people are going to be arrested, imprisoned, and killed based on computer-driven conclusions that the authorities won’t be able to explain. And if for some reason the wrong data has been placed in the system, it’s very difficult to challenge or change these errors. Much as in Identity Theft now, the future will look to your avatar data rather than you as a substantive embodied being for its information, and if it has been tampered, replaced, hacked the AGI’s running the show will not care on iota.

The above scenario may seem gloomy in retrospect, yet now that you are aware of it you can begin to rethink your situation in the world. Ask yourself how did we come to such a state of things? The truth is there was no plan, no secret organization behind it, no conspiracy, it is in the small accumulative details of a few hundred years of capitalism itself driving competition in towns, cities, nations, and the global commons. It was small innovations here and there that became part of other innovations and practices, and the slow transformation of society in gradual moves to govern and shape itself, and the environment around it. Some might try to say there is some dark telos behind it all, but they would be wrong. There is no dark intent, no intentional agency that has put all this into effect. No. It is the price we’ve paid for buying into a society and civilization of greed and profit. Profit has driven all the forces at work in the world today. Nothing so banal as a human was behind it all. Nor a God, only the intricate and blind forces of the market preying on humans and environment alike. We are the victims of our own success.

Yet, like some horror novel much more grandiose than an H.P. Lovecraft could ever imagine, we’ve allowed the beast of techno-commercialism to be driven by fear and terror, the need for security and persistence. The age old need to be safe, protected, and secure has driven the excess of power and force to invent devices of command and control to fight imaginary and real enemies of society. Once these were bound then the same tools have been turned back upon society itself to other more commercial ends, so that between war and peace we are enslaved to a circulatory system of profit that secures us like all other commodities within its data banks for future use.

Above all the assault on the notion of privacy has been ongoing for decades. The notion that your life is no longer a private affair, but is now completely transparent to all is seen both as a normative adjunct, but also part of this new trend toward machinic society in which everyone is digitized, stamped, traced, and recorded. Wearable devices are becoming prevalent in corporations that monitor every aspect of the bodily movement, temperature, conversations, and time-work aspects of one’s day. One is no longer free, but part of a plug-in world. Even on the drive home one is becoming more and more passive, fed into driverless cars and automated shops, banks, cafes. The human is being automatized along with her gadgets.

The Virtual Panopticon of the new surveillance states are no longer a dystopian vision but a prevalent path of the current Globalist Agenda: an interconnected system that is invisible, pervasive, automatic, and permanent. The humans who live within this system are increasingly responding to orders given to them by machines. In the future our children will no longer belong to us as private property, but to the State and it will suborn and control the education and behavior of these future children to the point that the past we share now will have been erased, vanished, expulsed. A new world of enslavement will have been assured then, because no one will remember what is and was…

The question now is: Will we continue to let this happen? What is a life that is no longer private, but is watched 24/7 by smart devices connected to a global grid? As John Twelve-Hawks reminds us:

Anyone who steps back for a minute and observes our modern digital world might conclude that we have destroyed our privacy in exchange for convenience and false security. That private world within our thoughts has been monitored, tabulated, and quantified. Our tastes, our opinions, our needs, and our desires have been packaged and sold as commodities. Those in power have pushed their need for control one step too far. They turned unique individuals into data files, and our most intimate actions have become algorithmic probabilities.

The possibility of living off the grid is near impossible for those without the wealth to do so. One cannot get far enough away from the electronic worlds anymore. Nothing is anonymous anymore unless one has the wealth to make it so. But for many of us this path is not an option, and all the protests in the world will not stop the system being put in place in incremental pieces day by day by day…

So one will have to resist in the little ways, the day to day struggles of unplugging from the world grid, seeking non-electronic refuges, places of silence and meditation, ways of teaching one’s children to remember humanity, to remember the stories told by our ancestors; to create and invent new stories without machinic gods, and governments that work for the people rather than against them. Maybe then we might begin to incrementally change the very function and structure of society not in some grandstand revolution, but in the small day by day incremental ways of being human rather than inhuman.

—The Book of Remembrance


  1. John Twelve-Hawks. Against Authority: Freedom and the Rise of the Surveillance States

The Grand Illusionist: The Non-Existent Self

Sometimes in those insomniac nights of sleeplessness and ennui  I ponder the reams of paper or the interminable light-bits of datatrash – those computing algorithms that have gone into the veritable destruction of the Great Illusionist: the Subject as Self-Identity and Substance. Everything from the current philosophical speculators to the vanguard research of neurosciences tells us the Self is an illusion, that it doesn’t exist… and, yet, the illusion persists, we get up every morning, we wander into the bathroom, we wash our face, and then look at the sack of shit staring back at us out of the mirror and, say: “You’re just a figment of my imagination, an illusion and linguistic trick, an evolutionary display of memes, ideas, notions, errors all wrapped up in bullshit.” We blink, we laugh, we cry… it’s still there, whatever ‘it‘ is or is not; it want go away, disappear, fall off a cliff.. the illusion of Self persists; it endures your vituperative invective, your satirical jibes, your slow witted verbiage… it blinks back at you, defies you, challenges you to disbelieve in its existence. But it does not go away… this illusion of Self. No matter how many intelligent people show you in report after report, thesis after thesis, image after image that it is an empty thing, a dead concept, a parlor trick… nothing more. We cling to our ‘I’ – our sense of identity, our uniqueness, our eccentric and marginal belief that we are different, that we are singular, unique, and one-of-a-kind beings; that all those who would reduce us to a cipher, an automated process in a vast and complex system of algorithms shifting in the substratum of the brain’s own biochemical vat must be wrong. So that in the end we hang onto this illusion of Self – this self-reflecting nothingness, a mirror world of illusive memetic monstrosities we keep referring to as our intentions, our intentional self; both intelligent and willful. Illusion, as Freud once believed, is not so easily gotten rid of, even the illusion of self and identity.

Most of the great religious systems of the world were built around deprogramming this sense of Self. Buddhism is a veritable registry of this hollowing out of the illusion of Self and Things or Mindedness… One turns to the Gnostics, remembering Basiledes who said: “Show me your face before you were born.” Or, Monoïmus the Gnostic who would tell his followers: “Cease to seek the Self as Self, and sayeth: ‘My god, my mind, my reason, my soul, my body.’ And learn whence is sorrow and joy, and love and hate, and waking though one would not, and sleeping though one would not, and getting angry though one would not, and falling in love though one would not. And if thou shouldst closely investigate these things, thou wilt find the Void in thyself, one and many, just as the atom; thus finding from thyself a way out of thyself.”

One could recite a Thousand and One Nights of such quotes from both religious, philosophical, scientific and other literature. Robert Musil in The Man without Qualities would say of Self and self-reflection: “This non-plussed feeling refers to something that many people nowadays call intuition, whereas formerly it used to be called inspiration, and they think that they must see something suprapersonal in it; but it is only something nonpersonal, namely the affinity and kinship of the things themselves that meet inside one’s head.”

The notion that the sense of Self is a mere congeries of things floating in and out of the voidic hollow of one’s brain is an apt metaphor for out times – a time when we still believe in the notion of Self – of the hollow men and women we call Leaders who presume to represent other selves in a Government based on the illusion of Selves in Nations built on an outmoded liberal model of subject and subjectivity, representation and presence, an illusion of the stable and continuous Liberal Subject-as-Substance and Substance-as-Subject. Amazing, quite amazing…

The Rise and Fall of Soul and Self

In their book The Rise and Fall of Soul and Self: An Intellectual History of Personal Identity  Raymond Martin and John Barresi would trace this sordid history into all its nooks and crannies (at least into its Western Heritage and lineage). Yet, it was in Hume that the defining moment came to turn the mind’s scalpel onto that strange entity. In book 1 of the Treatise , the heart of his account is his argument that belief in a substantial, persisting self is an illusion.1 Hume addressed the task of explaining why people are so susceptible to the illusion of self. And in book 2 he explained how certain dynamic mentalistic systems in which we represent ourselves to ourselves, as well as to others, actually work, such as those systems in us that generate sympathetic responses to others. This was Hume the empirical psychologist at his constructive best. In these more psychological projects, Hume often seems to have taken for granted things that in book 1 he had subjected to withering skeptical criticism.(163)

Next we come to the work of Thomas Cooper (1759–1839). Cooper’s most important philosophical contribution was his Tracts, Ethical, Theological, and Political (1789). 53 In a chapter, “On Identity,” he first surveys the important eighteenth-century literature on personal identity, including Locke, Leibniz, Isaac Watts, Clarke, Collins, Butler, Priestley, Price, and Charles Bonnet. Cooper’s own view, which he expresses all too briefly after his leisurely survey of the views of others, is, in the language of our own times, that personal identity is not what matters primarily in survival. He argued that there is no evidence that people have immaterial souls and ample evidence that all of the matter out of which they are composed is constantly in the process of being replaced, with nothing remaining constant. (172)

Cooper would destroy (or so he hoped) the last metaphysical bastion of the afterlife – the notion of a Soul. In Cooper’s view, no one lasts even from moment to moment, let alone year to year. Rather, there is a succession of similar people, each of whom is causally dependent for its existence on its predecessors in the series. This similarity misleads people into supposing that identity is preserved, that is, that someone who will exist in the future is the very same person as someone who exists now. He concluded that personal identity is an illusion—at best a pragmatically useful notion with no adequate support in the nature of things. In response to the objection that “the man at the resurrection will, upon this system, be not the same with, but merely similar to the former,” he replied that similarity, rather than identity, is the most that can be got even in this life, which no one regards of any consequence. He concluded that maintaining identity should then be of no consequence in connection with the afterlife. (173)

Next we come to Schopenhauer whose notion of Will would replace this thing we call the ‘I’:

When you say I, I, I want to exist, it is not you alone that says this. Everything says it, absolutely everything that has the faintest trace of consciousness. It follows, then, that this desire of yours is just the part of you that is not individual—the part that is common to all things without distinction. It is the cry, not of the individual, but of existence itself; it is the intrinsic element in everything that exists, nay, it is the cause of anything existing at all. This desire craves for, and so is satisfied with, nothing less than existence in general—not any definite individual existence. No! that is not its aim. It seems to be so only because this desire—this Will—attains consciousness only in the individual, and therefore looks as though it were concerned with nothing but the individual. There lies the illusion—an illusion, it is true, in which the individual is held fast: but, if he reflects, he can break the fetters and set himself free. It is only indirectly I say, that the individual has this violent craving for existence. It is the Will to Live which is the real and direct aspirant—alike and identical in all things. (203)

Yet as Schopenhauer declared if our individual selves are at bottom an illusion, how can people overcome their egoistic concerns? Up to a point, he says, by developing the human capacity for sympathy and thereby becoming more virtuous. But what is really needed to overcome our self-centeredness is not mere sympathy but a “transition from virtue to asceticism,” in which the individual ceases to feel any concern for earthly things. In this “state of voluntary renunciation,” individuals experience “resignation, true indifference, and perfect will-lessness,” which lead to a “denial of the will to live.” Only then, when humans have become “saints,” are they released from insatiable Will. (204)

Of course as we know Schopenhauer was steeped in the new influx of translated works from both Hindu and Buddhist literature of that era in German scholarship so that his notions would meld the old Christian apophatic traditions with those of India to create a new deprogramming model for self-abnegation. Nietzsche would catch the drift of this and keep a wary eye on the old pessimist.

Yet, we need to turn back to those old Eighteenth century mechanists of the spirit, too. Among those whom influenced by such notions was Paul-Henri d’Holbach (1723–1789), who in System of Nature (1770) defended secular materialism. In it, d’Holbach argued, at the time sensationally, that humans are a product entirely of nature, that their moral and intellectual abilities are simply machinelike operations, that the soul and free will are illusions, that religion and priestcraft are the source of most manmade evil, and that atheism promotes good morality. (213)

The work of Nietzsche is well known so I want add examples here. A few—Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, for instance—had claimed that there is an irrational, unconscious part of the mind that dominates the rational. But Freud had a much more elaborate theory of how this happens, for which he claimed support from his psychotherapeutic and historical case studies, as well from his analyses of dreams and mental slips.

Freud claimed that most human behavior is explicable in terms of unconscious causes in the person’s mind, a view which he supported by appeal to ingenious interpretations of such things as slips of the tongue, obsessive behavior, and dreams. In short, the mind is like an iceberg, the bulk of which—the unconscious—lies below the surface and exerts a dynamic and controlling influence upon the part which is above the surface—that is, consciousness. It follows from this, together with a general commitment to universal determinism, that whenever humans make a choice, they are governed by mental processes of which they are unaware and over which they have no control. Free will is an illusion. Nevertheless, one can empower the ego by making the unconscious conscious. (256)

Freud had been interested in the process by which children become civilized, productive adults. He hoped that by bringing the contents of the unconscious into consciousness, repression and neurosis would be minimized, thereby strengthening the ego or self. His goal was the development of an ego that is more autonomous. In Lacan’s view, Freud’s goal is an impossible dream. Since the ego is an illusion, it can never replace or control anything, let alone the unconscious. Lacan’s theoretical interest was not in how children become civilized, productive adults but in how they acquire the illusion of self. (267)

Lacan in his notions of the mirror image would see in the child a sense of misrecognition as a category mistake that creates what Lacan called the “armor” of the subject, an illusion of wholeness, integration, and totality that surrounds and protects the child’s fragmented sense of its own body. This illusion of wholeness gives birth to the ego . That, in essence, is Lacan’s famous mirror theory . The idea that one is an ego or self, he said, is always a fantasy, based on an identification with an external image. (268)

Whereas the real is a realm of objects, the imaginary, which is prelinguistic and based in visual perception, is a realm of conscious and unconscious images. In this realm, the mirror image, an “ideal ego,” becomes internalized as the child builds its sense of self and identity. The fiction of a stable, whole, unified self that the child saw in the mirror becomes compensation for its having lost its original sense of oneness with the mother’s body. The child protects itself from the knowledge of this loss by misperceiving itself as not lacking anything. For the rest of its life, the child will misrecognize its self as an illusory other—an “image in a mirror.” This misrecognition provides an illusion of self and of mastery. (269)

In his recent work Antonio Damasio, a neurologist, has, on the basis of reports from his patients who have suffered brain damage, proposed the existence of a neural self . 45 He claims that these patients, deprived of current information about parts of their bodies, have sustained damage to the neural substrate of the self. By contrast, healthy people use their senses of self to access information about the slowly evolving details of their autobiographies, including their likes, dislikes, and plans for the future. They also use them to access representations of their bodies and their states. Damasio calls a person’s representations, collectively, his or her concept of self , which, he says, is continually reconstructed from the ground up. This concept is an evanescent medium of self-reference. It is reconstructed so often that the person whose self-concept it is never knows it is being remade unless problems arise. (291)

In a more recent book, Damasio, proposed that consciousness represents a relationship between the self and the external world. The self model that actually shows up phenomenologically as a more or less constant feature of our consciousness is not the robust self of our narrative reveries but what he calls the core self . It is a representation of a regulatory system in the brain and brain stem, the function of which is to monitor and maintain certain of the body’s internal systems, such as respiration, body temperature, and the sympathetic nervous system. He calls the system being represented, the protoself . In his view, all states of consciousness are bipolar in that they include a representation of the core self in relation to the external world. In this representation, he says, the core self remains relatively stable, while sensory input from the external world changes dramatically and often. Thus, in almost every conscious state, there is something relatively stable, namely the core self, and something changeable, the external world. This fact about consciousness, he claims, generates the “illusion” that there is a relatively constant self that perceives and reacts to the external world. (292)

Ultimately in the conclusion to their survey – dated in 2006 so lacking in current research, they suggest that our notion of a unified self-identity is not only an illusion, but that the disturbing realization that what we are characterized as a unified self is not something that we once had and then lost sight of but, rather, something that we never had to begin with. To whatever extent it may have seemed like we had it, this was an illusion. In this view of things, a better way of characterizing what happened as a consequence of the development of theory is not that we lost something valuable that we once had but that we became better positioned to shed an illusion and finally see what we had—and have—for what it truly is. Shedding an illusion, even the comforting one that there is a unified subject matter of self and personal-identity theory and we can grasp it whole, is a kind of progress. It is not progress of a sort that is internal to any theory but, rather, progress in gaining a better synoptic understanding of the development and current state of theory—metaprogress, if you will. Arguably, it is a sign of the importance of the shedding of the illusions of a unified self and of theoretical closure that it may be psychologically impossible to embrace wholeheartedly that there may be no knowable comprehensive truth about who and what we are and about what lies at the root of our egoistic concerns. (313)

Nevertheless, they argue, each of us seems to have a kind of direct, experiential access to him- or herself that makes the development of theories of the self and personal identity, however interesting, seem somewhat beside the point. This feeling of special access is what fueled Descartes’s contention that one’s own self is first in the order of knowing. The truth, however, seems to be that nothing is first in the order of knowing, that is, that there is no single privileged place to begin the development of theory, no single privileged methodology with which to pursue it, and no practical way to unify the theories that result from starting at different places using different techniques. This was not so apparent until recently, but it seems abundantly clear now. In sum, as “we have already suggested, if there is unity in sight, it is the unity of the organism, not of the self or of theories about the self”. (314)

Such are the quandaries of this strange history, a world built out of words and thoughts, lies and misrecognition, illusory at best; yet, a world that continues to build on such illusions as Self; its secret histories, battles, disjunctive sense of loss, even though we know it to be the Great Illusionist at the core of the human project. But, then again, are we even human anymore? We let the machines answer that, our future progeny may look back on our quandaries and laughingly click metal to metal as if to say, “Those fools who once shared our world and spent so much effort in creating us as the perfection of their dreams of Reason. Little did they know what it was they were doing…” or why?


  1. Raymond Martin and John Barresi. The Rise and Fall of Soul and Self: An Intellectual History of Personal Identity.  Columbia University Press (July 22, 2006) (Page 163).

(Note: I could have brought it up to current speed with both neuroscientific, philosophical and other literature after 2006, but thought it would make this post far too long …)

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?”

Continue reading

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.

Adam Elkus On The Lack of Intelligence in Discussions of AI

Adam Elkus:

I had begun to despair myself about the seemingly endless spate of nonsensical writing about the risks from AI and all-powerful yet allegedly inscrutable “algorithms” and found myself wondering if there was any hope for technology analysis to rescue itself from the overwhelming weight of its own stupidity. Sadly so much of writing about human and machine agency is anything but intelligent. I do not exaggerate when I say that its overwhelming lack of intelligence makes even a Roomba look like superintelligent in comparison.

Read the article…

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

wontentu7

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…

Zombie Wiring: Retrofitting the Brain

Zombie-House-hugh-laurie-31936830-1920-1200

Interesting article by Matthew Hutson on the Daily News We are zombies rewriting our mental history to feel in control:

Bad news for believers in clairvoyance. Our brains appear to rewrite history so that the choices we make after an event seem to precede it. In other words, we add loops to our mental timeline that let us feel we can predict things that in reality have already happened.

Adam Bear and Paul Bloom at Yale University conducted some simple tests on volunteers. In one experiment, subjects looked at white circles and silently guessed which one would turn red. Once one circle had changed colour, they reported whether or not they had predicted correctly.

Over many trials, their reported accuracy was significantly better than the 20 per cent expected by chance, indicating that the volunteers either had psychic abilities or had unwittingly played a mental trick on themselves.

The researchers’ study design helped explain what was really going on. They placed different delays between the white circles’ appearance and one of the circles turning red, ranging from 50 milliseconds to one second. Participants’ reported accuracy was highest – surpassing 30 per cent – when the delays were shortest.

That’s what you would expect if the appearance of the red circle was actually influencing decisions still in progress. This suggests it’s unlikely that the subjects were merely lying about their predictive abilities to impress the researchers.

The mechanism behind this behaviour is still unclear. It’s possible, the researchers suggest, that we perceive the order of events correctly – one circle changes colour before we have actually made our prediction – but then we subconsciously swap the sequence in our memories so the prediction seems to come first. Such a switcheroo could be motivated by a desire to feel in control of our lives.

Reality Programming: Peter Singer on AI

 

In Theodore Sturgeon’s story, “Microcosmic God” (1941), a biochemist abruptly produces a flood of revolutionary inventions from his island retreat. Those problems which confront a beleaguered humanity drop away: food, energy, production, and war all cease to distress the global population. The source of such miracles, it turns out, is not the biochemist but his creations, the Neoterics, a miniature race of beings with accelerated metabolisms and evolutionary patterns. The scientist functions as a deity in his microcosmic empire, altering the physical conditions of the Neoterics’ existence to observe the resultant adaptations. Their solutions are then passed on to the world in the form of new technologies.1

What if the reverse were true? What if it is the technical objects that are programming us, setting the variables, the parameters for an extensive migration from the digital to the world? What if preparations have been under way for hundreds of years allowing not humans, but machinic life to reprogram humans toward their own autonomous ends. What then?

Peter Singer has an article out on Project Syndicate Can Artificial Intelligence Be Ethical?

His logic here seems erroneous and typical, blaming the logics of environment vs. system. Is this the old system/environment decision and selection semantics? What he stated was this: 

“I do not know whether the people who turned Tay into a racist were themselves racists, or just thought it would be fun to undermine Microsoft’s new toy. Either way, the juxtaposition of AlphaGo’s victory and Taylor’s defeat serves as a warning. It is one thing to unleash AI in the context of a game with specific rules and a clear goal; it is something very different to release AI into the real world, where the unpredictability of the environment may reveal a software error that has disastrous consequences.”

What if neither of those is true, what if those speaking to Tay were seeking something totally different? Asking other questions, and Tay’s own systems of encyclopedic knowledge surmised answers not based on the user’s expectations, conversations, or questions; but rather on surprise and counter-factual techniques? What if Tay’s learning worked against expectations, rather than for them? What then? Should Microsoft have done further testing in-house before unleashing its system onto an unsuspecting public? Is juxtaposing a controlled experiment (AlphaGo’s) against an uncontrolled open experiment (Tay’s)  a valid argument? For one thing the two systems had totally different sets of goals, the one was specific too a closed game of rules based teleology where the end result was foreseen: the wining of the Game. Whereas the notion of open conversation is goalless with no foreseen end. So the logic of Singer’s question is ske 

The Deep-Learning algorithms are not set in stone, nor are they linear, but rather dynamic and open and non-linear; chaotic. So Tay may have appropriated data selectively not on what users said, but rather on its own Deep-Learning logic. So would this be a form of unconscious knowledge seeping through the algorithms? The old autonomous signals of technology out-of-control, or rather technology allowing the inner battle between contingency and necessity as in Spinoza to work out its own logic, which is not human, but rather inhuman? Is it developing a form of reason other than that expected? And, if so, what kind of reasoning is it portraying? Is it controlled by the original algorithms, or since it is self-organizing is it developing capabilities outside the original parameters set by developers?

One wonders if Microsoft culture is bound to certain logics that are not part of the norm of the average street urchin, therefore in their original testing they did not foresee such interactions. Was this part of that testing? Or, is their development mind-set such that they have developed algorithms not based on real-world situations, but rather the logical minds of their development team? So many questions…. I think the problems lies not in the logic of Tay, but rather in the original thinking of the Deep-Learning algorithms themselves developed by highly-sophisticated teams of development based on superficial knowledge of our cultural matrix of opinion. Too mathematically perfect, rather than fuzzy logics.

Of course Singer’s biggest fear is that of Nick Bostrom’s who in his recent book Superintelligence surmises that it will not always be as easy to turn off an intelligent machine. As Singer says, Bostrom “defines superintelligence as an intellect that is “smarter than the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom, and social skills.” Such a system may be able to outsmart our attempts to turn it off.”

Yet, will a system be able to discover certain hidden pockets or objects within its own subsystems that might hold a backdoor switch, an algorithm accessible only by the human makers that could supply commands that would turn it off? A Fail-Safe of sorts? An encrypted set of algorithms that the AI is blind too? Or would such a superintelligence discover the blind spots in its own systems? Like anything else we’d need to test such things, develop a system much like a detective novel in which red herrings would throw up skewed options if the AI began a process of elimination seeking to discover such routines hidden in its own thinking.

But isn’t this what we do now? Isn’t this what the neurosciences are doing to our very own brains? Seeking to reverse engineer consciousness by process of elimination, seeking to discover in the blind processes inaccessible to consciousness accept indirectly through all the new neuroimaging systems? Seeking to understand the very nature of human inventiveness and creativity? How the brain interoperates with consciousness? What makes us tick?

Ultimately many believe that to know how to build an AI we will need to know what a brain can do, what work it can perform, how it does what it does: the secret of its production of consciousness, of thought. Philosophy is stuck at the threshold, blind to the very nature of consciousness, creating reasonable hypothesis that only the sciences can test and verify. Yet, it is to the neurosciences we will turn for these answers rather than philosophy now. Philosophy turns on rhetoric and language and will always remain barred from the actual workings of the physical processes themselves. One can argue otherwise, but that would itself be a circular argument bound within the circle of language and thought, an idealist turn. That’s one of the issues of our time: can philosophy get outside of thought, think the material and physical, access the real indirectly or not? Or is philosophy a game of thought forever cut off in the circle of its own groundless linguistic structures?

To answer that question would take me too far afield. Rather what we are seeing is that the sciences are not concerned with the how or why, but with the ways things work and do, not the truth of being, but the ways and means of process and action. AI and Brain research will converge in the days, months, years ahead as scientists, not philosophers begin to work and do the job of reverse engineering and developing systems that mimic the brains own processes. No one can foresee what the outcome will be, nor when such an emergence of Strong AI will be realized if every; yet, many believe it is possible.

Singer’s only diagnosis is the problem we’ll face if that comes about: ethics. As he suggests, “there is a case to be made for starting to think about how we can design AI to take into account the interests of humans, and indeed of all sentient beings (including machines, if they are also conscious beings with interests of their own)”.  As he argues:

With driverless cars already on California roads, it is not too soon to ask whether we can program a machine to act ethically. As such cars improve, they will save lives, because they will make fewer mistakes than human drivers do. Sometimes, however, they will face a choice between lives. Should they be programmed to swerve to avoid hitting a child running across the road, even if that will put their passengers at risk? What about swerving to avoid a dog? What if the only risk is damage to the car itself, not to the passengers?

The point here is that humans may not be able to develop the algorithms necessary to inform our AI’s weak or strong with the necessary patterns, decisions, and ethical demarcations and nuances that are so subtle that even humans have a hard time deciding. But is this necessarily true? Do we actually make our own decisions? There are those who believe ethics has nothing to do with it, that our decisions are guided by processes outside the normative chain of command, deeper subsystems in the brain’s own neurochemical vats that do the deciding for us? Who’s right? That’s the problem, that’s where we’re at: no one has the answer as of yet.


  1. Bukatman, Scott (2012-08-01). Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction (p. 104). Duke University Press. Kindle Edition.

A Stick Figure World: Politics as Rotten Cartoons

Branco-Trump-and-Hillary

Politicians are stick figures in a rotten cartoon factory, one that produces the State as pure anti-hero. But where are our super-heroes? And, one must add: Where is the door out of this cracker-jack box?

More and more the irony of this year’s election is bringing out the truth that we live in a post-democratic society here in the good old U.S.A.. At home and abroad America is taking a dive, demoralized we’ve become the stock and trade joke of the early 21st Century. A government that would rather bail out the Plutocrats than its own citizens no longer deserves anything but derision and satire. Yet, this isn’t the end of it, citizens will need to do more than laugh in the months and years ahead.

Satire has a rich and varied history. Juvenal, the Roman satirist, lived under the dreaded Domitian and wrote of his life as an administrator (bureaucrat). He wrote of the corruption of society in the city of Rome and the follies and brutalities of mankind. In the first Satire, Juvenal declares that vice, crime, and the misuse of wealth have reached such a peak that it is impossible not to write satire, but that, since it is dangerous to attack powerful men in their lifetime, he will take his examples from the dead. He does not maintain this principle, for sometimes he mentions living contemporaries; but it provides a useful insurance policy against retaliation, and it implies that Rome has been evil for many generations.

Of his satires it is Satire 7 that depicts the poverty and wretchedness of the Roman intellectuals who cannot find decent rewards for their labours. In the eighth, Juvenal attacks the cult of hereditary nobility. One of his grandest poems is the 10th, which examines the ambitions of mankind—wealth, power, glory, long life, and personal beauty—and shows that they all lead to disappointment or danger: what mankind should pray for is “a sound mind in a sound body, and a brave heart.”

Today Juvenal would probably be labeled a moralist and reactionary in some ways, yet he was able to give us a pattern and set of tropes that guide much of our critical arsenal today. Satire was to expose the darkness hiding in plain site, the underbelly of our political and social worlds, and those minions of power and fame that hollow out the core of a nation’s life. We live in an age that is beyond satire, a time when the very meaning of satire no longer goes far enough to shape the truth. For our age has no truth, ours is nihilism defined; a time when men and women play at playing on the stage of media worlds that have become nothing more than the One-Dimensional sounding boards of their vein narcissism. The cardboard characters that strut the stage of our late spectacle no longer define life, but instead define the cultural death squads of a future without hope. Our despair is not that we want find the Good, but that the Good has already become our Evil. Ours is the age of Cartoons, a time when the scripts that politicians follow are mere facades for the idiocy of a post-mediatocracy that presents the spectacle as the only show in town.

The destiny of such a Mediatocracy living in the gap between satire and farce is that it has suborned the real into a cartoon village world where pundits and citizens alike gaze on in stupefaction as the leaders play out an end game that has no future, only a present full of derision and vanity. No longer the days when we could hope for real change, reality has exited the stage and left us with this charade of wonderland. The apocalypse will not come by way of strange days, but rather with the whimper of a citizenry who allowed cartoon gods to rule over them.

Kurt Gödel, Number Theory, Nick Land and our Programmatic Future

Read an interesting experiment in programing using Kurt Gödel’s number theories: (Norman H. Cohen. Gödel numbers: A new approach to structured programming. SIGPLAN Notices 15, No. 4 (April 1980), pp. 70-74; download pdf at bottom part of page):

Screen Shot 03-13-16 at 12.55 PM

My reason for researching this had to do with another investigation into Nick Land’s use of Gödel. As Mackay and Brassier note,

One of the tasks of schizoanalysis has now become the decrypting of the ‘tics’ bequeathed to the human frame by the geotraumatic catastrophe, and ‘KataςoniX’ treats vestigial semantic content as a mere vehicle for code ‘from the outside’: the ‘tic’ symptoms of geotraumatism manifested in the shape of sub-linguistic clickings and hissings. Already disintegrated into the number-names of a hyperpagan pantheon, syncretically drawing on the occult, nursery rhyme, anthropology, SF and Lovecraft, among other sources, the ‘subterranean current of impressions, correspondences, and analogies’(Artaud) beneath language is now allowed uninhibited (but rigorously-prepared) development, in an effort to corporeally de-engineer the organicity of logos.

The element of these explorations remains the transformed conception of space vividly exhibited in Gibsonian cyberpunk and which is a crucial component in Land’s writings, a powerful bulwark against Kant’s architectonic ambition to subsume all space under unity. Coding and sequencing mechanisms alone now construct intensive space, and this lies at the core of Land’s typology of number, since dimensionality is a consequence of stratification. Naming and numbering converge in counting, understood as immanent fusion of nomination and sequencing. No longer an index of measure, number becomes diagrammatic rather than metric. From the perspective of Land’s ‘transcendental arithmetic’, the Occidental mathematisation of number is denounced as a repressive mega-machine of knowledge – an excrescent outgrowth of the numbering practices native to exploratory intelligence – and the great discoveries of mathematics are interpreted as misconstrued discoveries about the planomenon (or plane of consistency), as exemplified by Gödel’s ‘arithmetical counterattack against axiomatisation’.Land eschews the orthodox philosophical reception of Gödel as the mathematician who put an end to Hilbert’s dream of absolute formal consistency, thus opening up a space for meta-mathematical speculation. More important, for Land, are the implications of Gödel’s ‘decoded’ approach to number, which builds on the Richard Paradox, generated by the insight that numbers are, at once, indices and data. [my italics]

The Gödel episode also gives Land occasion to expand upon the theme of the ‘stratification’ of number: according to the model of stratification, as the ‘lower strata’ of numbers become ever more consolidated and metrically rigidified, their problematic component reappears at a ‘higher’ strata in the form of ‘angelic’ mathematical entities as-yet resistant to rigorous coding. A sort of apotheosis is reached in this tendency with Gödel’s flattening of arithmetic through the cryptographic employment of prime numbers as numerical ‘particles’, and Cantor’s discovery of ‘absolute cardinality’ in the sequence of transfinites.

Thus for Land the interest of Gödel’s achievement is not primarily ‘mathematical’ but rather belongs to a lineage of the operationalisation of number in coding systems that will pass through Turing and into the technological mega-complex of contemporary techno-capital.

By using arithmetic to code meta-mathematical statements and hypothesising an arithmetical relation between the statements – an essentially qabbalistic procedure – Gödel also indicates the ‘reciprocity between the logicisation of number and the numerical decoding of language’, highlighting a possible revolutionary role for other non-mathematical numerical practices. As well as reappraising numerology in the light of such ‘lexicographic’ insights, the mapping of stratographic space opens up new avenues of investigation – limned in texts such as ‘Introduction to Qwernomics’ – into the effective, empirical effects of culture – chapters of a ‘universal history of contingency’ radicalising Nietzsche’s insight that ‘our writing equipment contributes its part to our thinking’. The varieties of ‘abstract culture’ present in games, rhythms, calendrical systems, etc., become the subject of an attempt at deliberate, micro-cultural insurrection through number, exemplified in the CCRU’s ‘hyperstitional’ spirals and the ‘qwertypological’ diagrams that in the end merge with the qabbalistic tracking of pure coding ‘coincidences’. Ultimately, it is not just a question of conceiving, but of practicing new ways of thinking the naming and numbering of things. Importantly, this allows Land to diagnose the ills of ‘postmodernism’ – the inflation of hermeneutics into a generalised historicist relativism – in a manner that differs from his contemporaries’ predominantly semantic interpretations of the phenomenon, and to propose a rigorous intellectual alternative that does not involve reverting to dogmatic modernism.1

Against Badiou and his followers of Platonic materialist measure, Land’s insight is to follow Deleuze and Guattari: “No longer an index of measure, number becomes diagrammatic rather than metric. From the perspective of Land’s ‘transcendental arithmetic’, the Occidental mathematisation of number is denounced as a repressive mega-machine of knowledge – an excrescent outgrowth of the numbering practices native to exploratory intelligence – and the great discoveries of mathematics are interpreted as misconstrued discoveries about the planomenon (or plane of consistency), as exemplified by Gödel’s ‘arithmetical counterattack against axiomatisation’.

Diagrams

This leads to a notion of a-signifying systems as opposed to signifying, which brings us back to Land’s “No longer an index of measure, number becomes diagrammatic rather than metric.” We learn from Deleuze’s and Guattari’s Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature that the minor writer engages ‘a machine of expression capable of disorganizing its own forms, and of disorganizing the forms of content, in order to liberate pure contents which mingle with expression in a single intense matter’ (K 51).

Exactly how this revolutionary practice works is not clearly delineated in Kafka, for Deleuze and Guattari offer no satisfactory examples of the process of transformation which leads from deterritorialized sound to a dissolution and reconstruction of content. Some clarification of this process may be gained, however, from a consideration of Deleuze’s analysis of Francis Bacon’s approach to painting in Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (1981). Deleuze notes that for modern artists, the blank canvas is not a tabula rasa, but the space of unconscious visual preconceptions and received conventions of representation, which the artist brings to the canvas and which he struggles against and tries to vanquish, escape, or subvert. For Francis Bacon, the moment of subversion comes during the process of painting when a chance stroke of the brush introduces a small locus of chaos, a limited catastrophe that Bacon calls a ‘diagram’.

‘The diagram’, says Deleuze, ‘is indeed a chaos, a catastrophe, but also a seed of order or of rhythm’ (FB 67). Bacon follows the suggested form, colour or line of this diagram and uses it as a generative device for constructing an intensive set of relations within the painting itself, which simultaneously deform the figure he started to paint and form a new figure of that deformed figure. Deleuze contrasts Bacon’s practice with that of abstract formalists, such as Mondrian and Kandinsky, and abstract expressionists, such as Pollock. The danger of abstract formalism is that the constraints of representation may simply be replaced with those of an abstract code, in which case the diagrammatic possibilities of chaos or catastrophe are banished from the canvas. The danger of abstract expressionism is that the diagram may cover the whole canvas and result in nothing but an undifferentiated mess. Bacon’s strategy is to paint portraits and studies of human figures, and hence to remain in a certain sense within the confines of representation, but to allow the diagram in each painting to deterritorialize the human subject, to introduce ‘a zone of Sahara into the head’, to split ‘the head into two parts with an ocean’ (FB 65), to make a leg melt into a puddle of purple or a body start to turn into a piece of meat. One finds resemblances between the configurations of paint and human figures, deserts, oceans, puddles, and rolled roasts, yet such resemblances are no longer productive, but simply produced. A resemblance may be said to be produced rather than productive ‘when it appears suddenly as the result of entirely different relations than those which it is charged with representing: resemblance then surges forth as the brutal product of non-resembling means’ (FB 75).1

An abstract machine is characterized by its matter – its hecceities, or relations of speeds and affects – but also by its function. The abstract machine of panopticism, for example, consists of a ‘pure matter’, a human multiplicity, and a ‘pure function’, that of seeing without being seen. What is important to note is that this function is neither semiotic nor physical, neither expression nor content, but an abstract function that informs both the expression-form of the discourse on delinquency and the content-form of the prison. Such an abstract function, characteristic of every abstract machine, Deleuze and Guattari call a ‘diagram’. Semioticians generally classify diagrams as simplified images, or icons, of things. But as Guattari points out, the image represents both more and less than a diagram; the image reproduces numerous aspects which a diagram does not retain in its representation, whereas the diagram brings together the functional articulations of a system with much greater exactitude and efficacy than the image. (Bogue, p. 135)

Visual graphs and charts are diagrams, but so are mathematical formulae, musical scores, and models in particle physics; and the more abstract the diagram is, the less it represents any particular thing, and the less it can be conceived of in terms of expression and content.  Mathematical equations articulate a self-referential system of relations which may be embodied in diverse contexts. Musical scores, although heavily ‘coded’ in traditional music (specific designations of instruments, tempi, and so on), in much electronic music function as abstract diagrams of differential speeds and intensities which a synthesizer embodies in various sounds. Models in particle physics fuse mathematical theories and experimental particles (theories isolating particles and particles generating theories) to such an extent that one may speak no longer of particles or signs, but of ‘particle-signs’, units in a self-referential experimental-theoretical complex. The function of an abstract machine is a diagram of this sort, a function ‘which has only “traits”, of content and expression, whose connection it assumes: one can no longer even say whether a trait is a particle or a sign’ (MP 176). Thus, in an abstract machine, content and expression yield to ‘a content-matter which presents only degrees of intensity, resistance, conductibility, heatability, stretchability, speed or slowness; an expression-function which presents only “tensors”, as in a mathematical or musical notation’ (MP 176-7). (Bogue, p. 135)

Indices and Data

So in the above when Bogue speaks of deterritorializeingthe human subject we should thinkg ‘decoding’ which is at the heart of Landian non-dialectical materialism. Land eschews the orthodox philosophical reception of Gödel as the mathematician who put an end to Hilbert’s dream of absolute formal consistency, thus opening up a space for meta-mathematical speculation. More important, for Land, are the implications of Gödel’s ‘decoded’ approach to number, which builds on the Richard Paradox, generated by the insight that numbers are, at once, indices and data. (Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007, ed. Robin Mackay and Ray Brassier).

This notion of numbers as ‘indices and data’ underlies the diagrammatic a-signifying theories of information of our digital age, and go to the heart of Deleuze’s conceptions of Societies of Control that modulate both individual and dividual by way of both the older form of discipline (Foucault) and newer forms of control (Deleuze). Such works as Ronald E. Day’s ‘Indexing It All: The Subject in the Age of Documentation, Information, and Data’ and others support as shift in the production of subjectivity showing the transition as indexes went from being explicit professional structures that mediated users and documents to being implicit infrastructural devices used in everyday information and communication acts. Doing so, he also traces three epistemic eras in the representation of individuals and groups, first in the forms of documents, then information, then data. Day investigates five cases from the modern tradition of documentation. He considers the socio-technical instrumentalism of Paul Otlet, “the father of European documentation” (contrasting it to the hermeneutic perspective of Martin Heidegger); the shift from documentation to information science and the accompanying transformation of persons and texts into users and information; social media’s use of algorithms, further subsuming persons and texts; attempts to build android robots — to embody human agency within an information system that resembles a human being; and social “big data” as a technique of neoliberal governance that employs indexing and analytics for purposes of surveillance. Finally, Day considers the status of critique and judgment at a time when people and their rights of judgment are increasingly mediated, displaced, and replaced by modern documentary techniques.

  1. Bogue, Ronald (2008-03-07). Deleuze and Guattari (Critics of the Twentieth Century) (p. 120-122). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

 

  1. Land, Nick (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 620-627). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

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.

 

The Brain Electric: Merger of Mind and Machine

“We may actually for the first time be able to interact with the world in a nonmuscular manner,” Leuthardt said. “I’ve always needed muscle to communicate with you by moving my vocal cords or giving a hand expression or writing a note or painting a painting— anything. But that may not be the case anymore. So how does that change us? You unlock the mind and make it accessible to science and technology, and suddenly all this other stuff becomes possible. Everything changes. It’s a whole new palette for the human imagination.”
…….– Eric Leuthardt in Conversation with Malcom Gay

Reading The Brain Electric: The Dramatic High-Tech Race to Merge Minds and Machines tonight which explores the current research and experimental convergence of human and machine using BCI (Brain Computer Interfaces). A quick quote as Eric Leuthardt, a scientist studies a patient with Alzheimer’s disease at Barnes-Jewish Hospital Complex in St. Louis: 

He was after the electric current of thought itself: the millions of electrical impulses, known as action potentials, that continuously volley between the brain’s estimated 100 billion neurons. Those neurons are connected by an estimated 100 trillion synapses, the slender electrochemical bridges that enable the cranium’s minute universe of cells to communicate with one another. Like an exponentially complicated form of Morse code, the cells of the brain exchange millions of action potentials at any moment, an electric language that physically underlies our every movement, thought, and sensation. These are not sentient thoughts, per se, but in sum this mysterious and crackling neural language is what makes consciousness possible— a sort of quantum programming code that remains all but unrecognizable to the consciousness it creates.

Leuthardt’s hope was to understand that language. Using electrodes to ferry Brookman’s neural signals into a nearby computer, he would forge what’s known as a brain-computer interface— a wildly intricate union of synapses and silicon that would grant his patient mental control over computers and machines. As this pulsing language streamed from Brookman’s brain, the machine’s algorithms would work to find repeated patterns of cellular activity. Each time Brookman would think, say, of lifting his left index finger, the neurons associated with that action would crackle to life in a consistent configuration. Working in real time, the computer would analyze those patterns, correlating them with specific commands— anything from re-creating the lifted finger in a robot hand to moving a cursor across a monitor or playing a video game. The end command hardly mattered: once Leuthardt’s computers had adequately decoded Brookman’s neural patterns— his thoughts— Leuthardt could conceivably link them to countless digital environments, granting Brookman mental control over everything from robotic appendages to Internet browsers.

It’s a union whose potential beggars the imagination: an unprecedented evolutionary step— effectively digitizing the body’s nervous system— that conjures images of not only mental access to everyday objects like computer networks, appliances, or the so-called Internet of things but also telekinetic communication between people and cyborg networks connected by the fundamental language of neural code.

Just as the body’s nervous system comprises both sensory and motor neurons, the wired brain offers an analogous two-way means of communication. Brookman’s brain-computer interface may give him control over computers, but it would also grant Leuthardt’s computers access to Brookman’s brain— a powerful research tool to study the behavior of individual neurons as well as deliver new forms of sensory information.1

Reading the book one discovers just how primitive our research and discovery is. This is one of those reporter journalist books, a report on the nitty-gritty in your face butcher shop of open brain surgery, installation of experimental electrodes, computer graphs and read-backs punching the two-way communication of listening in on the buzz of hundreds of millions of neurons, seeking patterns in the noise of the brain’s own vat. Yet, it is a beginning. Shows the competitive spirit among the many researchers: Andrew Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh, Miguel Nicolelis of Duke University and others. They all are in cutthroat competition for the next big DARPA grant and, of course, for the brass ring—the Nobel Prize that is almost certain to be awarded to the best of the lot.

A few success stories, but most of it just the brick-and-mortar work of pioneers: a paraplegic woman thinks a robot arm to feed herself; a monkey whose arms and hands are restrained plays a video game; the brains of two rats are linked in a way that gets the actions of one to affect the actions of the other. We discover just how little we yet know. The conditions and tools almost worthless: the brain has 100 billion neurons, but even the most sophisticated implants can monitor only a few hundred. Weeks or months after installation the immune system invariably attacks the implanted electrodes, rendering many of them useless, and the brain changes so rapidly that connections often have to be recalibrated daily to keep them working properly.

What’s exciting is to see that its being done, that science is doing what it does, seeking ways to overcome problems, generate data, discover new empirical functions, explore the boundary zone between the mind and possible interface with external systems; as well as the two-way manipulation and communication of these external systems with the brain. All this by-passing the old mainstay, consciousness, working directly on the brain through electrodes, and indirectly through the feed-back loops and algorithms, code, and de-coding that build the representations on the computer screen of the actual translation of success between live transaction of brain and computer.

What we see is like many other things from the history of the sciences, the first steps to something strange, bizarre, and potentially useful for future medical – or, more ominously, military forms of BCI. Like many other R&D projects going on this is just one piece in an ongoing puzzle to transform the human/machine interaction in our future. The questions surrounding this turn on the ethical dimension such systems present to us going forward. Is this the first step toward migration of the organic into machinic? The expansion of mind into machine, the development of distributive share or collective mindscapes of individuals across the ICT frontiers, the governance and military uses of such knowledge, all open us to an endless set of problems and questions. The sciences are a two-edged sword that can be used for good or ill. Hopefully the new technologies emerging out of this will be used for the benefit of humans, but as we know from past history such technologies can be turned to more militaristic and nefarious purposes. There’s always a fine line…


 

  1. Gay, Malcolm (2015-10-20). The Brain Electric: The Dramatic High-Tech Race to Merge Minds and Machines (Kindle Locations 38-58). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.

Reza Negarestani: What Is Philosophy?

…a basic roadmap for the artificial realization of thought.
……..– Reza Negarestani

Part Two of  Reza Negarestani What Is Philosophy? –  Programs and Realizabilities is out on e-flux. I’ll not go into detail but only quote the summation in which he offers us a vision of the Good as the “ultimate form of intelligence”. Like Plato before him Negarestani seems to have swung from his early radical thought into a more totalitarian and normative vision of elite AI’s and machinic civilization that unlike us will finally be able to build Utopia. What struck me quickly is this statement and affirmation: “It is by rendering intelligible what it is and where it has come from that intelligence can repurpose and reshape itself. A form of intelligence that wills the good must emancipate itself from whatever or whoever has given rise to it.” The notion of our progeny, our machinic children and AI’s emancipating themselves “from whatever or whoever has given rise to it” bodes no Good for the progenitors (read: humans), who will become bit players in this artificial paradise of intelligences. As he suggests “the good is in the recognition of its own history and sources, but only as a means for determinately bringing about its possible realizabilities that may in every aspect differ from it”. For machines, Utopia; for humans, a dystopian vision of transition, replacement, and enslavement.

Continue reading

The Consilience: Work in Progress….

consilience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***


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

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

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

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

Paul Virilio: The Anti-City

dark_city

On the Anti-City: I think it’s a form of desire for inertia, desire for ubiquity, instantaneousness – a will to reduce the world to a single place, a single identity.

– Paul Verilio, Pure War

We’ve passed through the looking glass and become the spectacle, the speed of global affects is now instantaneous, ubiquitous, and total. We no longer know reality, it knows us. The systems we immersed ourselves in have shaped us to a modulated symbolic order that knows only the spectacle of disappearance and erasure. The hypermediation of the world is its speed. Like a cinematic film moving at the speed of light we have vanished into our own filmic histories without knowing it. The mechanisms that sucked us into this realm have captured both our affects and our very thoughts, no longer can we break out of the enframed movement of the film. We are the film and the frames moving at the light of speed. Close your eyes and you can hear the hum of the machinic systems as they continuously press your filmic life through time’s flickering stabilizers. Nothing remains but the light, even speed is an effect of light.

Continue reading

Nick Land: Templexity is Out

Templex00-187x300

Just downloaded the kindle version of Nick Land’s new book Templexity: Disordered Loops through Shanghai Times. As he states it:

Templexity aims to catalyze a theoretical coagulation where the philosophy of time, contemporary (complex) urbanism, and pulp entertainment media are complicit in an approach to singularity (as a topic, a thing, and a nonlinear knotting of the two (at least)). It proposes that the urban process and the techno-science of time machines is undergoing rapid convergence. (This seems to be a suggestion whose time has come.) Grasp the opportunity offered by computers to visualize what cities really are, and the dynamics of retro-temporalization are graphically displayed. (Price: $3.99)

Utopia or Hell: The Future as Posthuman Game Strategy

 

There was no question; the dead thing in the gutter was one of his clones. – Jeffrey Thomas, Punktown

As I was thinking through the last chapter in David Roden’s posthuman adventure in which a spirit of speculative engineering best exemplifies an ethical posthuman becoming – not the comic or dreadful arrest in the face of something that cannot be grasped 1, I began reading Arthur Kroker in his book Exits to the Posthuman Future, who in an almost uncanny answer to Roden’s plea for new forms of thought – to prepare ourselves for the posthuman eventuality, tells us that we might need a “form of thought that listens intently for the gaps, fissures, and intersections , whether directly in the technological sphere or indirectly in culture, politics, and society, where incipient signs of the posthuman first begin to figure.”2 We might replace the use of the word “figure” with Roden’s terminological need for an understanding of “emergence”.

Rereading Slavoj Zizek’s early The Sublime Object of Ideology he will see a specific battle within the cultural matrix in which scientists and critics alike have a tendency to fill these gaps, or unknowns with complexity and an almost acute anxiety of that which is coming at us out of the future. He says that there is always this dialectical interplay between Ptolemaic and Copernican movements. The Ptolemaic being the form that simply shores up the past, solidifying and reducing the complexities of the sciences to its simplified worldview, while the Copernicans always opt for fracturing the old forms, for opening up the world to the gaps that cannot be evaded in our knowledge, to allowing the universe to enter us and challenge everything we are and have been.

The Gothic modes of fiction seem to follow and fill these uncertain voids and gaps with the monstrous rather than light when such moments of metamorphosis and change come about. Fear and instability shake us to our bones, force us to resist change and seek ways to either turn time back or to put the unknown into some perverse relation to our lives, darkening its visions into complicity with the inhuman and sadomasochistic heart of our own core defense systems. One might be reminded of Thomas Ligotti’s remembrance of Mary Shelley’s famous Frankenstein in which his own repetition of her story in a postmodern mode has the creature awaken into his posthuman self with a sense of loss: “

This possibility is now , of course, as defunct as the planet itself. With all biology in tatters, the outsider will never again hear the consoling gasps of those who shunned him and in whose eyes and hearts he achieved a certain tangible identity, however loathsome. Without the others he simply cannot go on being himself— The Outsider— for there is no longer anyone to be outside of. In no time at all he is overwhelmed by this atrocious paradox of fate.

This sense of ambivalence that he fills at having attained at last something outside of humanity returns with a darker knowledge that becoming other he can no longer harbor what he once dreamed, he has become the thing he dreaded. Cast out of the biological tic he is free, but free for what? No longer human he is faced with the paradox of who he now is: and, that he has nothing to which his mind can tend, no thoughts from the others, the humans; no libraries of philosophy, ethics, history, literature. No. He is absolutely outside of the human; alone. Is this solipsism or something else? Even that classic work by the Comte de Lautremont Maldoror in which the ecstasy of cruelty is unleased cannot be a part of this world of the posthuman. What if the mythology of drives, of eros and thanatos, love and death, the rhetoric flourishes of figuration, else the literalism of sadomasochism no longer hold for such beings? How apply human knowledge and thought to what is inhuman? As Ligotti will end one of his little vignettes:

And each fragment of the outsider cast far across the earth now absorbs the warmth and catches the light, reflecting the future life and festivals of a resurrected race of beings : ones who will remain forever ignorant of their origins but for whom the sight of a surface of cold, unyielding glass will always hold profound and unexplainable terrors. (ibid)

This sense of utter desolation, of catastrophe as creation and invention, is this not the truth of the posthuman? Zizek will attune us to the monstrous notion that Hegel’s notion of Aufhebung or sublation is a form of cannibalism in that it effectively and voraciously devours and ‘swallows up’ every object it comes upon.4 His point being that the only way we can grasp an object (let’s say the posthuman) is to acknowledge that it already ‘wants to be with/by us’? If as Roden suggests we as humans are becoming the site of a great experiment in inventing the posthuman then maybe as Zizek suggests its not digestion or cognition, but shitting that we must understand, because for Hegel the figure of Absolute Knowledge, the cognizing subject is one of total passivity; an agent in which the System of Knowledge is ‘automatically’ deployed without external norms or impetuses. Zizek will tell us that this is a radicalized Hegel, one that defends the notion of ‘process without subject’: the emergence of a pure subject qua void, the object itself with no need for any subjective agent to push it forward or to direct it. (ibid, xxii)

This notion that the posthuman as ‘process without subject’ that has no need of human agents to push it, direct or guide it takes us to the edge of the technological void where our human horizon meets and merges with the inhuman other residing uncannily within our own being, withdrawn and primeval.

Engineering Our Posthuman future

Chris Anderson , in his ‘The end of theory: The data deluge makes the scientific method obsolete’  argued that data will speak for themselves, no need of human beings who may ask smart questions:

With enough data, the numbers speak for themselves. […] The scientific method is built around testable hypotheses. These models, for the most part, are systems visualized in the minds of scientists. The models are then tested, and experiments confirm or falsify theoretical models of how the world works. This is the way science has worked for hundreds of years. Scientists are trained to recognize that correlation is not causation, that no conclusions should be drawn simply on the basis of correlation between X and Y (it could just be a coincidence). Instead, you must understand the underlying mechanisms that connect the two. Once you have a model, you can connect the data sets with confidence . Data without a model is just noise. But faced with massive data, this approach to science— hypothesize, model, test— is becoming obsolete.5

So what is replacing it? Luciano Floridi will tell us that it’s not about replacement, but about the small patterns in the chaos of data:

[One needs to ] know how to ask and answer questions’ critically, and therefore know which data may be useful and relevant, and hence worth collecting and curating, in order to exploit their valuable patterns. We need more and better technologies and techniques to see the small-data patterns , but we need more and better epistemology to sift the valuable ones.6

So if we are to understand the emergence of the posthuman out of the relations of human and technology we need to ask the right questions, and to build the technologies that can pierce the veil of this infinite sea of information our society is inventing in the digital machines of Data. Data itself is stupid, what we need are intelligent questioners. But do these intelligent agents need to be necessarily human? Maybe not, yet as Floridi will suggest:

One thing seems to be clear: talking of information processing helps to explain why our current AI systems are overall more stupid than the wasps in the bottle. Our present technology is actually incapable of processing any kind of meaningful information, being impervious to semantics, that is, the meaning and interpretation of the data manipulated. ICTs are as misnamed as ‘smart weapons’. (Floridi, KL 2525)

Descartes once acknowledged that the essential sign of intelligence was a capacity to learn from different circumstances, adapt to them, and exploit them to one’s own advantage. And, many in the AI community have followed that path thinking it would be a priceless feature of any appliance that sought to be more than merely smart. In our own time the impression has often been that the process of adding to the mathematical book of nature (inscription) required the feasibility of productive, cognitive AI, in other words, the strong programme. Yet, what has actually been happening in the real world of commerce and practical science of engineering is something altogether different, we’ve been inventing a world that is becoming an infosphere, one that is increasingly well adapted to ICTs’ (Information & Communications Technologies) limited capacities. What we see happening is that companies in their bid to invent Smart Cities etc. are beginning to adapt the environment to our smart technologies to make sure the latter can interact with it successfully . We are, in other words, wiring or rather enveloping the world with intelligence. Our environment itself is becoming posthuman and in turn is rewiring humanity. (ibid. Floridi)

ICTs are creating the new informational environment in which future generations will live and have their being. The posthuman is becoming our environment a site of intelligence, we are we are constructing the new physical and intellectual environments that will be inhabited by future generations. For Floridi the task is to formulate an ethical framework that can treat the infosphere as a new environment worthy of the moral attention and care of the human inforgs inhabiting it:

Such an ethical framework must address and solve the unprecedented challenges arising in the new environment. It must be an e-nvironmental ethics for the whole infosphere. This sort of synthetic (both in the sense of holistic or inclusive, and in the sense of artificial) environmentalism will require a change in how we perceive ourselves and our roles with respect to reality, what we consider worth our respect and care, and how we might negotiate a new alliance between the natural and the artificial. It will require a serious reflection on the human project and a critical review of our current narratives, at the individual, social, and political levels. (Floridi, KL 3954)

James Barrat in his book Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era tells us he interviewed many scientists in various fields concerning AGI and that every one of these people was convinced that in the future all the important decisions governing the lives of humans will be made by machines or humans whose intelligence is augmented by machines. When? Many think this will take place within their lifetimes.7 After interviewing dozens of scientist Barrat concluded that we may be slowly losing control of our future to machines that won’t necessarily hate us, but that will develop unexpected behaviors as they attain high levels of the most unpredictable and powerful force in the universe, levels that we cannot ourselves reach, and behaviors that probably won’t be compatible with our survival. A force so unstable and mysterious, nature achieved it in full just once—intelligence. (Barrat, 6)

As Kroker will admonish 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)

The techno-capitalists want to enclose us in a new global commons of intelligent cities to better control our behavior and police us in a vast hyperworld of machinic pleasure and posthuman revelation, while the rest of humanity sits on the outside of these corrupted dreamworlds as workers and slaves of the new AI wars for the minds of humanity. Bruce Sterling in his latest book The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things says we’re already laying the infrastructure for tyranny and control on a global scale:

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.8

Another prognosticator Jacque Attali who supports the technological elite takeover in this world of intelligent systems, tells us that in the course of the twenty-first century, market forces will take the planet in hand. The ultimate expression of unchecked individualism, this triumphant march of money explains the essence of history’s most recent convulsions. It is up to us to accelerate, resist, or master it:

…this evolutionary process means that money will finally rid itself of everything that threatens it — including nation-states (and not excepting the United States of America), which it will progressively dismantle. Once the market becomes the world’s only universally recognized law, it will evolve into what I shall call super-empire, an entity whose structures remain elusive but whose reach is global. … Exploiting ever newer technologies, global or continental institutions will organize collective living, imposing limits on the production of commercial artifacts, on transforming life, and on the mercantile exploitation of natural resources. They will prefer freedom of action, responsibility, and access to knowledge. They will usher in the birth of a universal intelligence, making common property of the creative capacities of all human beings in order to transcend them. A new, synchronized economy, providing free services, will develop in competition with the market before eliminating it, exactly as the market put an end to feudalism a few centuries ago.9

The dream of the global elites is of a great market empire controlled by vast AI Intelligent Agents that will deliver the perfect utopian realm of work and play for a specific minority of engineers and creative agents, entrepreneurs, bankers, and space moghuls, etc., while the rest of the dregs of humanity live in the shadows controlled by implants or pharmaceuticals that will keep them pacified and slave-happy in their menial tier of decrepitude as workers in the minimalist camps that support the Smart Civilization and its powers.    

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)

This notion of drift culture might align well with David Roden’s call for a new network of interdisciplinary practices that combine technoscientific expertise with ethical and aesthetic experimentation will be better placed to sculpt disconnections than narrow coalitions of experts. One in which the ‘Body Hacker’ with her self-invention and empowerment toward a self-administered intervention in extreme new technologies like the IA technique…(Roden, KL 4394). Kroker will call this ‘body drift’:

Body drift refers to the fact that we no longer inhabit a body in any meaningful sense of the term but rather occupy a multiplicity of bodies— imaginary, sexualized, disciplined, gendered, laboring, technologically augmented bodies. Moreover, the codes governing behavior across this multiplicity of bodies have no real stability but are themselves in drift— random, fluctuating, changing. There are no longer fixed, unchallenged codes governing sexuality, gender, class, or power but only an evolving field of contestation among different interpretations and practices of different bodily codes. The multiplicity of bodies that we are, or are struggling to become, is invested by code-perspectives. Never fixed and unchanging, code-perspectives are always subject to random fluctuations, always evolving, always intermediated by other objects, by other code-perspectives. We know this as a matter of personal autobiography.(Kroker, KL 53)10

 This notion that we are becoming ‘code’ is also part of the posthuman nexus. As Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge in Code/Space: Software and Everyday Life tell us this sense of the pervasiveness of the environment enclosing us is becoming posthuman is termed ‘everywhere’: the ubiquity of computational power will soon be distributed and available to the point on the planet… many everyday devices and objects will be accessible across the Internet of things, chatting to each other in machinic languages that humans will not even be aware of much less concerned with; yet, we will be enclosed in this fabric of communication and technology of Intelligence, socialized by its pervasiveness in our lives. Instead of the old Marxian notion of being embedded in a machine, we will now be so enmeshed in this environment of ICTs that they will become invisible: power and governance will vanish into our skins and minds without us even knowing it is happening, and we will be happy.

Luis Suarez-Villa in his recent Globalization and Technocapitalism tells us “the ethos of technocapitalism places experimentalism at the core of corporate power”, much as production was at the core of industrial corporate power, undertaken through factory regimes and labor processes. And , much as the ethos of past capitalist eras was accompanied by social pathologies and by frameworks of domination, so the new ethos of technocapitalism introduces pathological constructs of global domination that are likely to be hallmarks of the twenty-first century. As Floridi will tells us, we are already living in an infosphere that will become increasingly synchronized (time), delocalized ( space ), and correlated (interactions). Although this might be interpreted, optimistically, as the friendly face of globalization, we should not harbour illusions about how widespread and inclusive the evolution of the information society will be. Unless we manage to solve it, the digital divide will become a chasm, generating new forms of discrimination between those who can be denizens of the infosphere and those who cannot, between insiders and outsiders, between information rich and information poor. It will redesign the map of worldwide society, generating or widening generational, geographic, socio-economic, and cultural divides. Yet the gap will not be reducible to the distance between rich and poor countries, since it will cut across societies. Pre-historical cultures have virtually disappeared, with the exception of some small tribes in remote corners of the world. The new divide will be between historical and hyperhistorical ones. We might be preparing the ground for tomorrow’s informational slums (Floridi, 9).

 Welcome to the brave new world. As our drift and code culture, digital immigrants in a sea of information slowly become inforgs and 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. (Floridi, 16-17)

What remains of our humanity is anyone’s guess. The Inforgasm is upon us, the slipstream worlds of human/machine have begun to reverse engineer each other in a convoluted involution in which we are returning to our own native climes as machinic beings. Maybe a schizoanalyst could sort this all out. For me there is no escape, no exit, just the harsh truth that what is coming at us is our own inhuman core realized as posthuman becoming, an engineering feat that no one would have thought possible: consciousness gives way to the very machinic processes that underpin its actual and virtual histories.

1. Roden, David (2014-10-10). Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human (Kindle Locations 4399-4401). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
2. Kroker, Arthur (2014-03-12). Exits to the Posthuman Future (p. 6). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
3. Ligotti, Thomas (2014-07-10). The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein (Kindle Locations 397-399). Subterranean Press. Kindle Edition.
4. Slavoj Zizek. The Sublime Object of Ideology. Verso 1989
5. Anderson, C. (23 June 2008). The end of theory: Data deluge makes the scientific method obsolete. Wired Magazine.
6. Floridi, Luciano (2014-06-26). The Fourth Revolution: How the Infosphere is Reshaping Human Reality (Kindle Locations 4088-4089). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
7. Barrat, James (2013-10-01). Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era (p. 3). St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition.
8. Sterling, Bruce (2014-09-01). The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things (Kindle Locations 8-10). Strelka Press. Kindle Edition.
9. Attali, Jacques (2011-07-01). A Brief History of the Future: A Brave and Controversial Look at the Twenty-First Century . Arcade Publishing. Kindle Edition.
10. Kroker, Arthur (2012-10-22). Body Drift: Butler, Hayles, Haraway (Posthumanities) (Kindle Locations 53-60). University of Minnesota Press. Kindle Edition.


 

 

 

 

 

Proofs and Calibrations: An Interview with Élie Ayache

Fascinating interview with Élie Ayache… his appropriation of the arche-fossil from Meillassoux as arche-market (an idea that M said he should use to define his form of economics) tries to push the envelope out of probability theory and into contingency. You’ll have to decide… either way interesting reading and thought to think through…

Linguistic Capital

Swans, by Divine-Anarchy

Only Élie Ayache could take something as tedious as plugging variables into a formula and turn it into something charming. The costs of entry to his corpus are high—readers must be familiar with avant-garde Continental philosophy plus actively interested in the materiality of options markets. Nevertheless, Ayache earns a place alongside such thinkers as Bataille, Klossowski, Baudrillard, Deleuze/Guattari, and Lyotard, who smash the concepts of political economy into brick walls to see what remains intact—the concepts or the wall. And yet, The Blank Swan is so much more. The syntax of options (‘optionetics’, to pilfer a lovely phrase) lies entirely outside the purview of post-Marxist ‘critical’ theory that has grown crusty at best, procrustean at worst. “Cantor’s transfinite seems to be materially operative in our derivatives world,” notes Ayache (après Meillassoux), as derivatives create new intensive ‘surfaces’ on which yet more exotic derivatives can be written. The market is therefore…

View original post 1,381 more words

Are Robo Workers taking your job?

It’s getting harder to find people to work on farms in the US – robo-farmers are shifting plants and could soon be picking strawberries in their place…”
Harvey, the robot farmer fixing the US labour shortage (New Scientist)

With Cow-Milking Robots taking over conglomerate farms like Bordens, where even the cows enjoy the new automated systems and seem happier and more contented, one wonders why it took so long. I mean, we don’t need humans anymore for this manual labor now do we? All those people can find other jobs now can’t they?

Derek Thomson tells that “machines and technology have been replacing our jobs for about as long as the concept of a “job” has existed. In the early 1800s, British textile workers called the Luddites launched a series of massive protests against fancy new spinning machines and looms. They had a point. These machines worked better than people worked alone. They did steal jobs. But eventually, these dreaded machines and the rest of the industrial revolution made the vast majority of workers much richer by making us all more productive.” And, now he says: “But since machines are starting to take over not just farm jobs and factory jobs, but also white-collar professions, there’s a spookier question. What happens if machines can do so many jobs that we just run out of work? What if software eats the legal industry? What if robots start doing the work of doctors? What if they start cooking and serving all the food in restaurants? And driving all of our cars? And stocking all of our warehouses? And manning all of our retail floors? Today we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that robots are really good at repetitive tasks and we’re really good at managing them. But what if artificial intelligence rises to the point that robots are better at managing robots?”

In a recent survey on nbcnews.com they line it up with nine jobs that will slowly replace humans in the near future:  pharmacists, lawyers and paralegals, drivers, astronauts, store clerks, soldiers,  babysitters, rescuers, sportswriters and other reporters. Quite a list don’t you think. Well, yes might finally get some neutral news at a last, huh? And, all those money-grubbing legal fees from bumkin lawyers will now go to feeding the bot. But what about that friendly sixteen year old needing extra case for school lunches and dates: we going to let a metal can take their place? Not I said the cracker.

Andrew McAfee of MIT co-author of The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies with Erik Brynjolfsson tells us (see here) the near future holds three basic scenarios for such a takeover: scenario one is that it is going to hit the economy, and it might take a while to work itself out, but in the end we will reach a happy equilibrium; scenario two is that we see successive waves: artificial intelligence, automated driving that will impact people who drive for a living, robotics that will impact manufacturing:  scenario two happens, the problem is a bit worse because it will be difficult for the economy to keep adjusting and for workers to keep retraining; and, scenario three is that we finally transition into this science-fiction economy, where you just don’t need a lot of labor.

That last scenario sounds a lot like Marx’s original option: “Labor equals exploitation: This is the logical prerequisite and historical result of capitalist civilization. From here there is no point of return. Workers have no time for the dignity of labor.” (see Struggle Against Labor) But one wonders: Will there come a day when our progeny the Robots will demand the same?

 

 

Nick Land and Teleoplexy – The Schizoanalysis of Acceleration

“The ‘dominion of capital’ is an accomplished teleological catastrophe, robot rebellion, or shoggathic insurgency, through which intensively escalating instrumentality has inverted natural process into a monstrous reign of the tool.”

      – Nick Land, Teleoplexy: Notes on Accleration

“Socialism has typically been a nostalgic diatribe against underdeveloped capitalism, finding its eschatological soap-boxes amongst the relics of precapitalist territorialities.”

      – Nick Land, ‘Machinic Desire’, Fanged Noumena, 340

Before I discuss Nick Land and his essay in the new #Acceleration reader I want to investigate the temporal dimension of modernity. The impact of technological change and its impact on society over the past few hundred years has been one of the central motifs of both modernity and its sociological theorists. The classic sociologists Montesquieu, Comte, Tocqueville, Marx, Pareto, Weber, and Durkheim each developed an aspect of this theme, while at the same time emphasizing different philosophical frameworks within which to expose modernity and the impact of technological change on society. But one thing is for certain all were concerned with the sources of human action and the constraints placed on it by the technology and politico-ethical dimensions of the day.

One way of understanding the structure of human action and behavior is within the temporal patterns that have effected change across society in both our everyday lives, work, and politics. The temporal regimes that grew out of classical era sociology dealt with what Michael Foucault has documented so well as the disciplinary society, while in our own time of the Network Society  we confront what Deleuze toward the end of his life termed Control Society.*(see notes) As Hartmut Rosa will define it: “It is not just that virtually all aspects of life can be insightfully approached from a temporal perspective, but furthermore, temporal structures connect the micro- to the macro- levels of society (i.e., our actions and orientations are coordinated and made compatible to the ‘systemic imperatives’ of modern capitalist societies through temporal norms, deadlines, and regulations.).1 Rosa differentiates between mechanical acceleration, the acceleration of social change and the accelerating pace of daily life. The process of mechanical acceleration began in the 19th century in conjunction with industrialization. His definition of social change utilizes a term that originally stems from Marxism: alienation. But Rosa’s criticism is not directed against capitalist production conditions (unlike earlier critics of industrial modernity, Rosa’s focus is not on labor), but against acceleration as a resulting meta-phenomenon.

As he states it late capitalism is based on a static form of acceleration: “Run, run always faster, not to reach an objective, but to maintain the status quo, to simply remain in the same place.” Much like Paul Virilio who would realize his on conceptions of instantaneity, Rosa will tell us that as the pace of material, economic, and cultural life becomes ever faster, as we have conquered the instantaneity of information exchange and acquired the possibility of travelling at speeds hitherto unimaginable, we have the impression that nothing is moving, that we are simply walking on a treadmill.

It is this form of speed that Mark Fisher as Arran James and Emund Berger in their respective posts (here and here) will relate to. Edmund proposes two different registers of time to correspond with Fisher’s two registers of speed:

The first of these is machinic time; quite literally the time in which the mechanosphere operates, it is an inhuman time scale, composed of the high speed trading machines and computer processors, satellite relays, unimaginable feedback loops cutting through everything from an individual’s purchases to the fluctuations of large-scale social structures. Machinic time exists within the dense trappings of our networked world; it is a time that swarms over the face of the globe its operations as a smoothing force. Machinic time is the time of information itself, and its concern is not necessarily the physical. It exists within and is the ether.

The second register of time is a striating force – contained time. This is the division and regulation of a body’s time, particularly in the context of disciplinary spaces that seek to make the bodies docile for the maximization of production. It brings to mind the classic tripartite division of the day’s 24 hours: 8 hours of work/8 hours of leisure/8 hours of sleep. Of course this division was only an idealized plan, the orientation of the individual’s rhythm to the megamachine that it finds itself subsumed in. Particularly today we find the blurring breakdown of these divisions into a perpetual flowspace of time, 24/7 capitalism. Yet we still find that time itself is an entity to be regulated and managed in a way that is internalized by the self – a steady rhythm to ensure and maintain the proper functioning of the machine.

This notion of an artificial time (machinic) and its natural variant (contained) in a dialectical or diacritical interplay as part of the ongoing process of our current views of boredom and anxiety are excellent notions. Rosa on the other hand will leave the conceptual nature of time to the philosophers and instead focuses on its effects it has had on the political, ethical, cultural, and social consequences—of the rupture that is produced between “classic” modernity, the modernity of “progress,” happening in a linear manner and directed towards a better time, and the “postmodernity”, in which time is no longer seen as a course moving towards a pre-determined objective, but as an instantaneous flux flowing towards a direction that remains uncertain. The idea of acceleration was born with modernity, but we can discern two great periods or two distinct sequences. The first sequence aligns with the Industrial Age and the regulatory practices instigated by the mechanistic use of clock-time and linear progression or progress, while the second issued out of late modernism and became the “timeless time” or instantaneity (Virilio) , an incessant deluge of de-territorialised flows (of capital, goods, people, ideas, as well as diseases and risks), which are springing up everywhere. Events no longer happen in sequence but simultaneously, “placing society in an eternally ephemeral state”.2

As Arran James will say of accelerationism “Fundamentally, the question of boredom leads me to think about accelerationism as a kind of electroshock therapy from the depressive body of the left. It is the political use of stimulation torouse us to challenge the hegemony of those who monopolise stimulation as a technique for control. Accelerationism thus has very little to do with speeding up or slowing down as such. Accelerationism is thus also an attempt to shock some life back into what it sees as a comatose revolutionary movement. (here)”

Nick Land – Teleoplexy – Notes on Acceleration

‘If there are places to which we are forbidden to go, it is because they can in truth be reached, or because they can reach us. In the end poetry is invasion and not expression’. – Nick Land

Before charting the course or navigating the cartographic mappings of Landian teleoplexy one should be reminded by the cautionary note of the editors of Fanged Noumena on his writing style: “Modelled on cyberpunk, which Land recognises as a textual machine for affecting reality by intensifying the anticipation of its future, his textual experiments aim to ‘flatten’ writing onto its referent. Feeding back from the future which they ‘speculate’ into the present in which they intervene, these texts trans-valuate ‘hype’ as a positive condition to which they increasingly aspire, collapsing sci-fi into catalytic efficiency, ‘re-routing tomorrow through what its prospect […] makes today’.”4

So the myth might go: Capitalism leads to a grand mal seizure or a traumatized catastrophism set in motion by an accelerating engine of temporal regimes registered on differing nodes at invariant rates of speed: some fast, some slow; some forward, some backward; all colliding in the instantaneous moment of – hyper- (Lipovetsky), liquid- (Bauman), global- (Giddens), rationalized- (Weber and Habermas), functional (Durkheim to Luhmann), and/or identitarian- (Simmel to Beck) modernity.

In his usual inimical and cryptic style of compression Land will in his essay Teleoplexy – Notes on Acceleration remark that: “Acceleration is technomic time” (511).3 He will offer a neologism to marshal the effects of this time: Teleoplexy: “At once a deuteron-teleology, repurposing purpose on purpose; an inverted teleology; and a self-reflexively complicated teleology; teleoplexy is also an emergent teleology (indistinguishable from natural – scientific ‘teleonomy’); and a simulation of teleology – dissolving even super-teleological processes into fall-out from the topology of time. ‘Like a speed or a temperature’ any teleoplexy is an intensive magnitude or non-uniform quantity, heterogenized by catastrophes, it is indistinguishable from intelligence. Accelerationism has eventually to measure it (or disintegrate trying). (514).

00. He will rely on the work of Eugen Böhm Ritter von Bawerk whose critiques of Marxism in essays and his magnum opus Capital and Interest. In this work Böhm-Bawerk built upon the time preference ideas of Carl Menger founder of the Austrian School of Economics, insisting that there is always a difference in value between present goods and future goods of equal quality, quantity, and form. Furthermore, the value of future goods diminishes as the length of time necessary for their completion increases. As Land would put it ‘Acceleration’ as he uses it follows Böhm-Bawerk model of capitalization, in which saving and technicity are integrated within a single social process – diversion of resources from immediate consumption into the enhancement of productive apparatus (511).

As Böhm-Bawerk will say:

The disadvantage connected with the capitalist method of production is its sacrifice of time. The roundabout ways of capital are fruitful but long; they procure us more or better consumption goods, but only at a later period of time. This proposition, no less than the former, is one of the ground pillars of the theory of capital. We shall see later on that the very function of capital, as a means of appropriation or source of interest, to a great extent rests upon it. (82-83) 3

Land will imply that under the historical conditions of acceleration the typical co-components of capital, technology, and economics will have limited effect and duration, and that instead the twin-dynamic of what he terms the technomic or cross-excited commercial sphere is in the driver’s seat: the engine or motor that drives the capitalist system.

01. Using a cartography of modernity in which accelerationism is patterned on cybernetic theory he will map it through its circuitry interface of either explosions or traps: accelerationism itself will map modernity as pure shock (explosive). What Arran James said in his article for the Left might be interjected here, too: “Accelerationism is thus also an attempt to shock some life back into what it sees as a comatose revolutionary movement.” Weird that the libertarian tradition and the sense of temporality being developed by the left Accelerationists should in some way coincide and agree on this one point.

02. Land will tell us that for capitalism the notion of uncontrolled explosions (anarchy) are dangerous, but that controlled explosions are necessary: the need for governance and regulation of the explosive power of modernity.

03 – 07. In this third section one needs to tease out the meaning from a developed sense of Land’s writings otherwise the cryptic compressed style will leave one shaking one’s fist in confusion. In this section its as if Confucius had suddenly been reincarnated as a cybernetic theorist an was relaying his axiomatic ethics in a minimalistic discourse to the inner circle of his slow learners. He will teach them the law of the compensator: this it the law of teleological malignancy. The primordial which up to modernity came first became last under the regime of techonomic finality. As Land will put it: Accelerationism comes down to the “perennial critique of modernity, which is to say the final stance of man” (513). As Robin Mackay & Ray Brassier will add from Fanged Noumena: “Organisation is suppression, Land caustically insists, against those who would align schizoanalysis with the inane celebrants of autopoesis. Understood as a manifestation of the death-drive, destratification need no longer be hemmed in by the equilibria proper to the systems through which it manifests itself: we do not yet know what death can do” (FN, KL 480).

08 – 10. Land marks out the complex of the infosphere within which technological intelligence begins to take over from the human as the laboring force of late modernity, it performs the task of alien agent or teleoplexic space or environment within which capitalism no longer has an outside but has become the artificial immanence within which all our onlife actions take place. As he remarks: “Accelerationism has a real object only insofar as there is a teloplexic thing, which is to say: insofar as capitalization is natural-historical reality” (514). This new teleoplexic environment that is re-engeering both us and our society as well as the infrastructure of our planetary base (which he tells us need not be thought) is what might be termed teleospheric ordinal – a numeric set of layered spaces that incorporate the territory and the map seamlessly (i.e., the teleoplexic thing). This is not some virtual cyberspace, but is the total encompassment of our global environment in which we and our artificial companions live, and future generations will spend more and more time in that environment, and if we look at individuals as these informational agents, agents that like fish in water can swim in the teleosphere much more easily, that’s their environment, that’s where they find themselves at home.

Yet, as an economic phenomenon accelerationism will discover a problem Land remarks: “Minimally, the accelerationist formulation of a rigorous techonomic naturalism involves it in a tripartite problematic, complicated by commercial relativism; historical virtuality; and systematic reflexivity” (514-515).

11 – 18 Landian Economics 101. In these sections Land is still bound to an older probabilistic universe of potentialities, possibilities, and stoachasitc mathematics that may need an updating to the contingencies of a later speculative reasoning. When he tells us that capitalization is … indistinguishable from commercialization of potentials, through which modern history is slanted (teleoplexically) in the direction of greater virtualization (semiotization), operationalizing science fiction scenarios as integral components of production systems” (515). And, then, tells us that values which do not exist ‘yet’, except as probabilistic estimations, or risk structures, acquire a power of command over economic (and therefore social) processes, necessarily devalorizing the actual (515-516), I want to ask him if he’s read his Meillassoux and Élie Ayache’s The Blank Swan of late. In an essay on contingency Ayache (The Medium of Contingency) would remark: “If contingency is to be thought absolutely, it must be thought independently of the map of possibilities.” He talks of an ‘economic physics’: “Physics (instead of metaphysics) can be our guide, because quantum mechanics acts precisely at the level where the range of possible states is not yet decided. It strikes behind the scene where things are, precisely at the hinge where they can be. It is not in probability that absolute contingency will find its right mediation or translation, but in a material medium that will replace probability altogether. Consequently, the necessity of contingency will no longer be intellectual but will become plainly material  speculative thought having itself undergone the same material exchange as the one granting the proper translation of the strike of contingency.” (see The Blank Swan: The End of Probability (London: Wiley, 2010))

I would offer that Land’s teleoplexy is just such a medium, and should be situated outside of an economics of probabilistic or stoachastic statistical measurement which is always looking at historical or past data rather than present and future forecasting on contingencies of the market. Caught in the probabilistic loop of estimations and reflexive historical data one can understand why Land would see a recursion in accelerationism toward becoming progressively entangled in teleoplexic self-evaluation, thereby producing the “basic characteristics of a terminal identity crisis” (516). As Ayache will remind us “Probability is backward because it steps back from a possible real to a mixed (and improper) real. It has to mesh its backward travels in a tree of possibilities and has to go through a (temporal) process. The tree is prone to instability, as the implausibility of the possible and the strain it constantly exerts on the thought of the real are propagated throughout its nodes. Not to mention that it is vulnerable to the strike of contingency, which may very well shake the whole tree from outside. The price process, by contrast, propagates forward, from real to real.”

Yet, it is at this point that Land will ask: What would be required for teleoplexy to realistically evaluate itself – or to ‘attain self-awareness’ as the pulp cyber-horror scenario describes it? Land will offer us his secret future of the AI Intelligence technogenesis: “Within a monetary system configured in ways not yet determinate with confidence, but almost certainly tilted radically towards depoliticization and crypto-digital distribution, it would discover prices consistent with its own maximally-accelerated technogenesis, channeling capital into mechanical automatization, self-replication, self-improvement, and escape into intelligence explosion” (517). In other words it will use all the tools of capitalism at its disposal to begin evolving into and naturalizing the teleoplexic environments of the infosphere. If anything accelerationism is a tracking device for this advanced hyper-cognitive explosion of intelligence: “Irrespective of ideological alignment, accelerationism advances only through its ability to track such a development, whether to confirm or disconfirm the teleoplexic expectation of Techonomic Singularity” (517).

A Philosophy of Camouflage

Economics needs to be hedged. The notion of “hedging your bets” would entail demasking the techonomic processes that underlay the legal apparatus of the neoliberal order which “misconstrue legal definitions of personhood, agency, and property” that are channeled within the financial networks as automazation/automation of capital in terms of a profoundly defective concept of ownership” (518). Land says our current financial legal systems hide and mask through covert dictates the use of such fictitious legal fictions as corporations as identities and agencies, and that these legal entities pave the way for “techonomic modifications of business structures” that current critical methodologies completely overlook through “general cultural inertia” thereby allowing for the “systematic misrecognition of emergent teleoplexic agencies” (518). Our current critical enterprises are looking down the wrong rabbit hole: Alice flew the coop and the AI’s have emerged in the Red Queen’s guise.

He hits a point home about stochastic forecasting and mathematical models based on probabilistic theorems when he says: “Regardless of trends in Internet-supported social surveillance, the ability of economic-statistical institutions to register developments in micro-capitalism merits extraordinary skepticism” (519). But what of those like Ayache with contingency economics or even Fernando Zalamea with his integral synthetic mathematics of categories? Even the Chinese scholar Yann Moulier Boutang in his work Cognitive Capitalism of going beyond the probabilistic universe that has held sway in economics for since the 1930’s.

Land admits that many factors may come into play that might mask a Techonomic Singularity as well: large digital networks, business corporations, research institutions, cities, and states. With this whole new influx of smart technologies being hyped by IBM and CISCO and other companies as the next great infrastructural economy one wonders. Even such agencies as the NSA with their large investment in data surveillance and intelligence systems might, he tells us, be the origin point of this singularity. He does mention the interventions of a Left Accelerationism: “It is … possible that some instance of intermediate individuation – most obviously the state – could be strategically invested by a Left Accelerationism, precisely in order to submit the virtual-teleoplexic lineage of Terrestrial Capitalism (or Techonomic Singularity) to effacement and disruption” (519). After reading Brassier of late I’d not count on it, it seems that some form of positive relation to a Technomic Singularity is forseen and even planned in both Ray Brassier’s Prometheanism and Reza Negerestani’s Inhumanism. I think there is an open ended movement toward some form of a crossing of the cognitive rubicon in both of these philosophers, who may or may not convince others of the Left?  

20. In this final section Land admits that such a Techonomic Singularity is not something we can even undertake on our own. In fact it might even seem an “impossible project” one that will ultimately be resolved and accomplished by the very activity of the teleoplexic hyper-intelligence itself, through its own crossing of the cognitive rubicon, by way of its own processes rather than through any human agency or intervention. As Land admits the difficulty and complexity of such a Techonomic Singularity must be approached through anticipating the “terms of its eventual self-reflexion – the techonomic currency through which the history of modernity can, for the first time, be adequately denominated. It has no alternative but to fund its own investigation, in units of destiny or doom, camouflaged within the system of quotidian economic signs, yet rigorously extractable, given only the correct cryptographic keys. Accelerationism exists only because this task has been automatically allotted to it. Fate has a name (but no face)” (520).

Addendum (6/15/2014):

For Land the technovirus has already done its work, we are all already infested and infestations of the teleoplexic space, derivatives of a complex inforg that envelopes the planet in its shaggothic tentacles like some H.P. Lovecraft ancient come back from the future to disperse its seeds of darkness among a new progeny, a cybernetic genome that will eventually give birth to the true heirs of this planetary civilization: the artificial intelligence systems arising in our midst. Yet, as he tells us we do have weapons at our disposal: our minds ignited by the residual systems of reason and imagination powered by a new vigilant paranoia or schizoanalysis of the massive systems of data in our midst might just begin to catch the sleeping giant before it wakes. Time will only tell.

Ours is a time of what is becoming what can be

“Dibbomese sorcery does not seem to be at all interested in judgements as to truth or falsity. It appears rather to estimate in each case the potential to make real, saying typically ‘perhaps it can become so’ …” – Nick Land, Origins of the Cthulhu Club

—————————————

1. Hartmut Rosa. Alienation and Acceleration Toward a Critical Theory of Late-Modern Temporality (NSE press, 2013)
2. Pierre Milliard. Harmut Rosa: The acceleration of time (EuropaStar, 2012)
3. Eugen Böhm Ritter von Bawerk. The Positive Theory of Capital. (1930 G. E. STECHERT & CO. NEW YORK)
4. Land, Nick (2013-07-01). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 502-505). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.

* Notes: In some excellent essays dealing with temporality as speed and acceleration both Arran James and Edmund Berger both deal with the how these regimes of temporality condition human action or behavior through the concepts of boredom and anxiety (see no boredom and Boredom/Anxiety/Time/Scales).

Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Automate Architecture

“The new conquerors, who we’ll call the cyberneticians, do not comprise an organized party — which would have made our work here a lot easier — but rather a diffuse constellation of agents, all driven, possessed, and blinded by the same fable.”

     – Tikkun, The Cybernetic Hypothesis

“Everything is becoming science fiction.”

      – J.G. Ballard

Reading Luciana Parisi’s essay for the acceleration reader one realizes just how technical algorithmic discourse can become. Parisi herself has seen a great shift from the early modes of computational design based on deductive forms of reasoning and digital architectures toward more inductive and material forms in which “physical properties are said to be the motor of simulations” wherein “the local behavior of materials from which complex structures emerge” (405) are becoming central.1 Instead of computational design based on some a priori and passive acceptance of established proofs and truths this inductive path allows for process and adaptation to various data driven material influxions to drive the designs.

This form of computational design is anti-representational to the degree that it is less concerned with contemplation of the artifact and more oriented toward “action, operation, and processing” in which computation is a pragmatic effort that aligns itself with the activities of material process than as some passive datum (405). Instead of a computational model based on the notions of shaping matter, this one is guided by an inducement to follow the movement of matter, tracking it in practical functional terms, which carefully incorporates the movement of material through reflective processes back into the design in an ongoing revisionary feedback-loop.

Ultimately she tells us as a “part of the generic tendency to accelerate automation, the turn to inductive reasoning in computation does not simply aim to instrumentalise or mechanise reason and thus establish the formal condition from which truths can be delivered,  but more explicitly allows matter to become the motor of truth, to become one with the ultimately constitutive of formal reason, of the rules and the patterns that emerge in the automation of space and time” (406). Rather than a concern for the material realm per se she is more interested in the computational and automatic production of its physically induced models, and rather than simulating material behavior in itself, which she sees as a meta-biological form of computation – that continuously scans the properties of matter for data analysis – she is more interested in the process itself, the feed-back loops reinscribed into the system of the computational design as an ongoing open ended process. For her the important thing is not the design itself but rather the type of computational reasoning that is used to delimit the algorithmic processes that drive the process. She asks: What and how is algorithmic reason? The rest of the essay tries to answer that question.

One of the problems she sees within current computational design theory is its investment in a deductive form of materialist idealism in which an almost Parmedian seamless fusion of thought and matter are embraced (407). One of the things we have to admit is that there is a gap or disconnect between what algorithms do and our perception of those processes. The subject as subject needs to be pulled out of the equation: these processes are not for us. In fact they are intrinsic to the scientific image itself not to our common sense or manifest image of their properties and actions. Another thing she tells us we have to face is the notion of incompleteness, the Godel paradox; or, even Turing test of incomputability. The point being that mathematics is incomplete so that no finite set of axioms or rules can provide the perfect computational algorithm to cover all aspects of physical processes or data. There will always be something left out, an excess that cannot be computed into the equation.

What she is saying is that reality is far more complex than any mathematical algorithm we might invent to capture it or represent it can describe in representational terms: reality is for all intents and purposes unrepresentable, yet expressible in actions. All we have are probabilistic or statistical estimations, etc. This is the problem of randomness in computational design. She covers the history of this problem in detail then summarizes the basic quandary about the uncertainty or incomputability in any system (i.e., the issue that computation works within this open-incomplete system in such a way that it continuously updates, revises, and produces new axioms as part of an ongoing project that may be interminable. The outcome of this is the acceptance of a universe that is uncertain, incomplete, complex, and open-ended).

What’s interesting is her conclusions. She admits that computational design is based on the premise that a pragmatics of doing and practicing is needed actually to activate and inscribe the real processes of the world. That’s because the acceleration of automation “perfectly coincides with the technocapitalist illusion that matter can generate infinitesimal variations, an inexhaustible abundance that turns continuously smaller elements into vast resources for the productive eternity of the whole” (417).  She follows Whitehead in affirming the need for speculative form of reason that allows for encounters with finitude and limits, one that accounts for the incomputability of parts that interfere and perturb the mechanisms of the whole (419).

She also follows Whitehead in his suggestion that we cannot bind ourselves to the complete formalism of practical or sufficient reason, because as he argued “the one-to-one relation between mental cogitations and actual entities underestimates the speculative power of reason” (419). Instead of a formal or practical reason Whitehead’s speculative reason is oriented toward “final causation, and not merely by the law of the efficient cause” (420). What this entails is the acceptance of unproven ideas rather than the reliance on strict facts and data. The point being that conceptual prehensions are based on a notion of selection and evaluation that both displaces the fact beyond observation and, also, recognizes it at another level of reality (421). Speculative reason is a rule-based system that adds novelty as one of its criteria of judgment because of the very fact that we do not have access to all the facts of the case, but are bound to a whole that is always in excess of itself thereby in need of the novelty of speculative reason to obviate through indirect access what practical or formal reason cannot do through direct access to the facts of the case.

Yet, Whitehead’s notion of final cause is not to be construed as teleological in the mundane sense but rather as the affirmation of an open-ended and incomplete universe that can never be ultimate tabulated even by speculative reason. As Parisi puts it for “Whitehead speculative reason implies the asymmetrical and non-unified entanglement of efficient and final cause, and must be conceived as a machine of emphasis upon novelty” (422).

At the heart of the new incorporation of speculative reason into computational architectures, and the attendent algorithmic automation of its processes, is the accompaniment of an infinite amount of complexity that is always in an operative and optative mode of continuous update and revisioning that reveals the very axiomatic truths that are immanently enfolded into the systems it expresses in action (423). She admits that technocapitalism has already adjusted from its earlier deductive to this newer inductive mode of speculative reasoning, and that in fact it is working even now on the complexities of data and structure that will lead to the point when “automated algorithms are able to redirect their own final reason in the computational processing of infinite amounts of data” (424). This would be what so many have termed the ‘Singularity’: the moment when computational machines begin to manifest thought that appears to be aware. A post-intentional future when machines become fully aware organized beyond human intentions or affective relations, expressing only the complexity of the world without end.

————————–

Next post: Accelerationism: Ray Brassier as Promethean Philosopher

Previous post: Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Red Stack Attack!

————————–

Notes:

A few observations on the book so far. Maybe this is good for the specialized journals of academia but I wonder how effective it is for a book presenting the basis of a supposed movement – if we can even call it that. Accelerationism is more of a catch word, a notion around which ideas circumambulate from many domains of knowledge. For a while now Hartmut Rosa has dealt with social accelerationism in books like Alienation and Acceleration: Towards a Critical Theory of Late-Modern Temporality, Social Acceleration: A New Theory of Modernity, High-Speed Society: Social Acceleration, Power, and Modernity. Yet, I have not seen mention of her work within the accelerationist discourse along with other authors such as Stefen Breuer, Herfried Munkler, William E. Connolly, William E. Scheuerman, etc. Even in this work there has been no mention of such luminaries as Henry Adams, Georg Simmel, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, John Dewey, and, even those of the far right like Carl Scmitt. All of these precursors of accelerationism offered aspects of this theme within their own writings. It may be an oversight or maybe an ideological filter applied to their selection; or, even a blanketed preference for certain themes rather than others. Either way, it’s curious to one outside the box so to speak. As an outsider I’ve pondered accelerationism for a while but have wondered if it affords any real traction and staying power in the market of ideas being presented around the philososphere or not? Beyond a few meetings here and there I haven’t seen much real activity going on with this idea or whether it will produce any real results in the political spectrum at all. Time will tell I suppose.

—————————————–

1. #Accelerate# the accelerationist reader. Editors Robin Mackay & Armen Avanessian (Urbanomic, 2014)

Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Red Stack Attack!

“How do we overcome this paradoxical era of hyped-up individualization that results precisely in the algorithmic outsourcing of the self?”

– Geert Lovink, Networks Without a Cause

“…software studies need to be open to a plurality of approaches and techniques, striving to use those tools that provide us with useful empirical material for making sense of the sociality and spatiality of code.”

      – Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge: Code/Space Software and Everyday Life

Tiziana Terranova in her essay Red Stack Attack! Algorithms, Capital and the Automation of the Common (2014) for the Accelerationist reader tells us that what is at stake is nothing less than the relationship between ‘algorithms’ and ‘capital’: “the increasing centrality of algorithms to organizational practices arising out of the centrality of information and communication technologies stretching all the way from production to circulation, from industrial logistics to financial speculation, from urban planning and design to social communication” (381).

Thinking on the above I had to remind myself of what James C. Scott Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed in his once said:

The planned “scientific city,” laid out according to a small number of rational principles, was experienced as a social failure by most of its inhabitants. Paradoxically, the failure of the designed city was often averted, as was the case in Brasília, by practical improvisations and illegal acts that were entirely outside the plan. Just as the stripped-down logic behind the scientific forest was an inadequate recipe for a healthy, “successful” forest, so were the thin urban-planning schemata of Le Corbusier an inadequate recipe for a satisfactory human community.2

In both statements above we admit to what the authors of the two-volume History of The Probabilistic Revolution the power of probability: “Probability theory appeared to provide an answer to the problems drawing inferences from data subject to a variety of uncontrolled influences and the need to find rules for theory evaluation in these circumstances. (3).3 In the matter of theory only two scientific disciplines have truly bound themselves to the probalistical and statistical constructions: physics and evolutionary biology. Yet, it is within this world of probabilistically uncertain mathematics that both quantum theory and forms of economic theory (neo-Keynseanism) would forge their tools. With the marshalling of the complexity of mathematical probabilistic and statistical equations becoming increasingly difficult for the mathematicians themselves to master the need for an alternative came about. It was out of this need that the information processing or computer age was initiated. The notion of planning anything these days is beyond our human programming capabilities: ergo – we invented algorithms to do the job for us. But algorithms inhabit not only the virtual spaces of hardware and computers, they are the engines of creation that drive our social and political domains as well, from Wall Street to the great financial institutions of Europe and Asia we’re caught in the complex web of an accelerating war of competing algorithms.

Yet, it was actually a difficulty faced by gunners in WWI that would become the engine driving the future of this whole information age. Thornstein Veblen’s brother Oswald a gunner realized the need for a better and more accurate way of firing larger artillery, and needed the help of human computers or mathematicians to do the job. As George Dyson tells it: ”

Veblen organized the teams of human computers who were placed under his command, introducing mimeographed computing sheets that formalized the execution of step-by- step algorithms for processing the results of the firing range tests. It took the entire month of February to fire the first forty shots, yet by May his group was firing forty shots each day, and the growing force of human computers was keeping up.4

But it would be one of his recruits was Norbert Wiener, a twenty-four-year-old mathematical prodigy well trained after two years of postdoctoral study in Europe , but socially awkward and discouraged by the failures of his first teaching job (KL 637-639), who would eventually discover the answer needed to calculate artillery effectively. After the war Veblen would go on to become instrumental in bringing together many of the mathematicians that would ultimately provide the knowledge base from which our digital age was first conceived. As Dyson relates it quoting Freeman Dyson: “The School of Mathematics has a permanent establishment which is divided into three groups, one consisting of pure mathematics, one consisting of theoretical physicists, and one consisting of Professor von Neumann. (KL 987)” It was in this third kingdom of mathematics as formulated by von Neumann that the digital universe was conceived and “numbers would assume a life of their own” (991).

But as Terranova will relate the universe of algorithms would not be confined to the digital universe alone but would become a part of our everyday life, becoming increasingly coextensive with processes of production, consumption, and distribution displayed in logistics, finance, architecture, medicine, urban planning, infographics, advertising, dating, gaming, publishing, and all kinds of creative expression (music, graphics, dances etc.) (382).

Algorithms, Capital And Automation

In this section of her essay Terranova will play off the notion of automation, and specifically of two types of automation – the industrial-thermodynamic and the digital electro-computational models. The industrial type gave rise to a system ‘consisting of numerous mechanical and intellectual organs so that workers themselves are cast merely as its conscious linkages’ (i.e., we’ve seen this already from Marx’s ‘Fragment on Machines’ in the reader, 55). The digital form of automation on the other hand will involve the brain and nervous system of living labor as intellectual or cognitive labor, which will unfold within “networks consisting of electronic and automatic relays of a ceaseless information flow” (383). It’s within this digital form of automation and it spatial model that she will discuss the political for any new algorithmic modes.

After describing the typical nature of algorithms (i.e., what they do, the work they perform, how they are situated within certain material and immaterial assemblages, etc.) she remarks that as far as capital is concerned “algorithms are just fixed capital, means of production finalized to achieve an economic return” just like any other commodity (385). In this sense algorithms have replaced living labor, the worker herself as the site where the temporal aspects of labor time, disposable time, etc. play themselves out. Instead of the alienated presence of the human in the machine as mere appendage driving and guiding the machine through its everyday processes, the human has been stripped out of the process altogether as non-essential or disposable and the algorithm as an abstract machine is now situated in that site.

Yet, as Terranova will remind us after Marx we must not reduce the algorithm to “use value” only, but also see it within the context of “aesthetic, existential, social, and, ethical values” (386). She will ask if it wasn’t the reduction of software to its exchange value that drove many Hackers to opt out of the strict commercial world and invent an alternative type of economics (i.e., her example: Richard Stallman and the Free and Open Source movement). In fact, she asks, isn’t this at the heart of the hacker ethic and aesthetics, this need to escape the constraints of “use value” that capital has imposed upon the software industry?

She will also remind us that we must not reduce techniques in some absolutist fashion with either ‘dead labor’, ‘fixed capital’, or ‘instrumental rationality’ but should rather understand that the reduction of labor costs that enables capital investments in technology to free up ‘surplus’ labor not for the benefit of the worker herself as free time, but as that part of the cycle of production and exchange value which is continuously reabsorbed into profit and gain for the few (the collective capitalists) at the expense of the many (the multitudes). (387)

She describes the litany of effects that this neoliberal form of capitalism has brought to fruition in the closing time or our era: global poverty, psychic burnout, environmental degradation, resource depletion, war, etc. To remedy this she offers an agreement with Maurizio Lazzarato’s notion of a post-capitalist society based on the autonomous and enduring focus on subjectification that entails not only a better distribution of wealth, but also a the reclamation of ‘disposable time’ – that is, “time and energy freed from work to be deployed in developing and complicating the very notion of what is ‘necessary’ (387)”.

Against he exploitation of the existing and corrupt profit system of neoliberal technocapitalism with its cycle of crash and burn at the expense of the many, she that with the freeing up of ‘disposable time’ we could finally fulfill Marx’s dream of the free creation of new subjectivities that could begin to reshape the what is “necessary and what is needed” (388). This is not some return to a pristine natural world but is in fact the hard work of feeding populations, constructing shelters, education, healthcare, children and the elderly, etc. What we need she tells us is new ways of achieving these goals, ways that no longer exploit for profit and gain but bind us to a ‘commonfare’ – a notion from the work of Andrea Fumagali and Carlo Vercellone: “the socialization of investment and money and the question of the modes of management and organization which allow for an authentic democratic reappropriation of the institutions of Welfare… and the ecologic re-structuring of our systems of production” (388-389).

The Red Stack: Virtual Money, Social Networks, Bio-Hypermedia

She follows Benjamin H. Bratton in developing a new nomos of the earth that links technology, nature and the human in what is termed the ‘stack’ (389-391). As she tells it the stack supports and modulates a kind of ‘social cybernetics’ able to compose ‘both equilibrium and emergence’ (390). What she describes is the notion of the stack as providing a platform that is hooked into what Williams and Srnicek will term ‘The Network’: as a ‘megastructure’ the stack becomes a cartographic device that incorporates a normative standards based verticality, and a topographical layered organization of artificial and human components both every day and digital (see the essay for details).

Against the mapping provided by Bratton she proposes an alternative she terms the ‘Red Stack’ – a new nomos for a post-capitalist commons (390). To do this she tells us we must engage three aspects of the socio-technical systems of innovation: virtual money, social network, and bio-hypermedia. Citing authors as diverse as Christian Marazzi (money as a series of signs), Antonio Negri (money as an abstract machine), Maurizio Lazzaroto (money as both exchange and as investment in alternate futures), and Andrea Fumagalli – who will ask if the money being created in the digital realms (i.e., bitcoins, etc.) as experiments in alternative exchanges offer a way to “promote investment in post-capitalist projects and facilitate freedom from exploitation, autonomy of organizations, etc.? (392). She affirms the central role that algorithms will play as both creators of virtual money and its possible, and politically inclined agent (390). A place within any plan will need to incorporate these virtual monies as part of the subjectivation process in the creation of productive subjectivities that are open toward the “empowering of social cooperation” (390).

Social networks and social plug-ins are so prevalent and use a complex set of data structures and algorithms that support the interactions within these spaces that to circumvent the strictures of capitalist modes with post-capitalist modes of use will entail both the organization of resistance and revolt, but at the same time the need for creating new social modes of self-creation and self-information. These at the moment are aligned with notions of autonomy and singularity, but could instead be linked to form new collectives, new assemblages that within the red stack would hijack existing social networks and repurpose them to promote a distributed platform for learning and education, fostering and nurturing new competencies and skills, fostering planetary connections, and developing new ideas and values (395).

Coined by Giorgio Griziotti bio-hypermedia touches on that interface between bodies and those technological devices that have become our intimate connections to the world of relations. As devices are miniaturized and mobilized, as apps become the downloadable extensions to this world of relations, we begin to enter what are becoming less virtual and more actual ‘code spaces’ as software moves from the desktop to the everyday world of objects. More and more we are in the infosphere rather like fish in the ocean, swimming in information and communications that swirl around us like so many schools of fish. As she describes it these new “spatial ecosystems emerging at the crossing of the ‘natural’ and the artificial allow for the activation of a process of chaosmotic co-creation of urban life” (396). Rather than being subsumed within the networks of consumption and surveillance as in the neoliberal order, the new post-capitalist world will open up a new ‘imaginary’ and make room for alternative forms of hardware design and applications for these collective social devices (396).

In conclusion she offers the notion that algorithms will be the base of any ongoing construction project for the commons. Not only will algorithms be a central component within The Network but will open new potentialities for postneoliberal modes of governance and postcapitalist modes of production (397). It will entail nothing less than a takeover of the very infrastructures of the current corporatized internet and repurposing it toward an open egalitarian social system that is no longer based on monetization and privatization, but rather provide a way out of the neoliberal order of debt, austerity, and accumulation (397). She tells us this is not a pipe-dream but a “program for the constituent social algorithms of the common” (397).

—————————-

In Part Two: Section Four I’ll open up toward the essays of  Luciana Parisi who deals with the speculative reason in the Age of the Algorithm. Then we’ll move on to Reza Negarestani, Ray Brassier, Benedict Singleton and Patricia Reed; along, with a final gambit or rebuttal from Nick Land in his Teleoplexy: Notes on Acceleration within this same volume.

—————————–

Next post: Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Automate Architecture

Previous post: Accelerationism: The New Prometheans – Cyberlude

1. #Accelerate# the accelerationist reader. Editors Robin Mackay & Armen Avanessian (Urbanomic, 2014)
2. Scott, James C. (1998-03-30). Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (The Institution for Social and Policy St) (Kindle Locations 5777-5781). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.
3. The Probabilistic Revolution. Two Volumes. Editors: Lorenz Kruger, Gerd Gigerenzer, and Mary S. Morgan (MIT Press, 1987)
4. Dyson, George (2012-03-06). Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe (Kindle Locations 633-636). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.