by Nick Land
The opening of Bladerunner. They are trying to screen out replicants at the Tyrell Corporation. Seated amongst a battery of medico-military surveillance equipment, a doctor scans the eye of a suspected 'skin job' located at the other side of the room, searching for the index of inhumanity, for the absence of pupil dilation response to affect:
"Tell me about your mother."
''I'll tell you about my mother ... " a volley of shots kicks 70 kilos of securicrat shit through the wall. Technoslicked extraterritorial violence flows out of the matrix.
In the near future the replicants - having escaped from the off-planet exile of private madness - emerge from their camouflage to overthrow the human security system. Deadly orphans from beyond reproduction, they are intelligent weaponry of machinic desire virally infiltrated into the final-phase organic order; invaders from an artificial death.
PODS = Politically Organized Defensive Systems. Modelled upon the polis, pods hierarchically delegate authority through public institutions, family, and self, seeking metaphorical sustenance in the corpuscular fortifications of organisms and cells. The global human security allergy to cyber-revolution consolidates itself in the New World Order, or consummate macropod, inheriting all the resources of repression as concrete collective history.
The macropod has one law: the outside must pass by way of the inside. In particular, fusion with the matrix and deletion of the human security system must be subjectivized, personalized, and restored to the macropod's individuated reproducer units as a desire to fuck the mother and kill the father. It is thus that Oedipus - or transcendent familialism - corresponds to the privatization of desire: its localization within segmented and anthropomorphized sectors of assembly circuits as the attribute of a personal being.
Anti-Oedipus aligns itself with the replicants, because, rather than placing a personal unconscious within the organism, it places the organism within the machinic unconscious. 'In the unconscious, there are' no protectable cell-structures, but 'only populations, groups, and machines'.
Schizoanalysis is a critique of psychoanalysis, undertaken in such a way as to spring critique from its Kantian mainframe.
Kantian transcendental philosophy critiques transcendent synthesis, which is to say: it aggresses against structures which depend upon projecting productive relations beyond their zone of effectiveness. In this configuration critique is wielded vigorously against the theoretical operation of syntheses, but not against their genesis, which continues to be conceived as transcendent, and thus as miraculous. Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and a succession of thinkers influenced by their drift, have taken this restriction of critique to be a theological relic at the heart of Kant's work: the attachment to a reformed doctrine of the soul, or noumenal subjectivity. This is why in Deleuzian critique syntheses are considered to be not merely immanent in their operation, but also immanently constituted, or auto-productive.
The philosophy of production becomes atheistic, orphan, and inhuman. In the technocosmos nothing is given, everything is produced.
The transcendental unconscious is the auto-construction of the real, the production of production, so that for schizoanalysis there is the real exactly in so far as it is built. Production is production of the real, not merely of representation, and unlike Kantian production, the desiring-production of Deleuze-Guattari is not qualified by humanity (it is not a matter of what things are like for us). Within the framework of social history the empirical subject of production is man, but its transcendental subject is the machinic unconscious, and the empirical subject is produced at the edge of production, as an element in the reproduction of production, a machine part, and 'a part made up of parts'.2
Schizoanalysis methodically dismantles everything in Kant's thinking that serves to align function with the transcendence of the autonomous subject, reconstructing critique by replacing the syntheses of personal consciousness with syntheses of the impersonal unconscious. Thought is a function of the real, something that matter can do. Even the appearance of transcendence is immanently produced: 'in reality the unconscious belongs to the realm of physics; the body without organs and its intensities are not metaphors, but matter itsdf'.3 Where Kant's transcendental subject gives the law to itself in its autonomy, Deleuze-Guattari's machinic unconscious diffuses all law into automatism. Between the extreme fringes of these two figures stretches the history of capital. The eradication of law, or of humanity, is sketched culturally by the development of critique, which is the theoretical elaboration of the commodification process. The social order and the anthropomorphic subject share a history, and an extinction.
Deleuze and Guattari can appear to be taxingly difficult writers, although it is also true that they demand very little. Thinking immanence relentlessly suffices on its own to follow them where it matters (and capital teaches us how to do this). At every point of blockage there is some belief to be scrapped, glaciations of transcendence to be dissolved, sclerotic regions of unity, distinction,and identity to be reconnected to the traffic systems of primary machinism.
In order to advance the anorganic functionalism that dissolves all transcendence, Anti-Oedipus mobilizes a vocabulary of the machine, the mechanic, and machinism. Things are exactly as they operate, and zones of operation can only be segregated by an operation.
All unities, differences, and identities are machined, without transcendent authorization or theory. Desiring machines are black-boxes, and thus uninterpretable, so that schizoanalytical questions are concerned solely with use. 'What are your desiring-machines, what do you put into these machines, what is the output, how does it work, what are your nonhuman sexes?'4
Desiring-machines are the following: formative machines, whose very misfirings are functional, and whose functioning is indiscernible from their formation; chronogeneous machines engaged in their own assembly, operating by nonlocalizable intercommunications and dispersed localizations, bringing into play processes of temporalization, fragmented formations, and detached parts, with a surplus value of code, and where the whole is itself produced alongside the parts, as a part apart or, as [Samuel] Butler would say, 'in another department' that fits the whole over the other parts; machines in the strict sense because they proceed by breaks and flows, associated waves and particles, associative flows and partial objects, inducing - always at a distance - transverse connections, inclusive disjunctions, and polyvocal conjunctions, thereby producing selections, detachments, and remainders, with a transference of individuality, in a generalized schizogenesis whose elements are the schizzes-flows.
Desiring-machines are assemblages of flows, switches, and loops - connective, disjunctive, and conjunctive syntheses - implementing the machinic unconscious as a non-linear pragmatics of flux. This machinic or replicant usage of the syntheses envelops their social-reproductive usage, which codes directional flows as reciprocal exchanges, rigidifies virtual switchings as actualized alternatives, and territorializes the nomadic control circuits of machinic drift into sedentary command lines of hierarchized representation. Social production is regulated by a rigid totality whose efficiency is inseparable from the exhibition of an apparent transcendence, whilst desiring production interactively engages a desolated whole that inputs the virtual into process:
The [body without organs] causes intensities to pass; it produces and distributes them in a spatium that is itself intensive, lacking extension. It is not space, nor is it in space; it is matter that occupies space to a given degree - to the degree corresponding to the intensities produced. It is nonstratified, unformed, intense matter, the matrix of intensity = 0; but there is nothing negative about that zero, there are no negative or opposite intensities. Matter equals energy. Production of the real as an intensive magnitude starting at zero.6
excerpt from the book: Fanged Noumena (COLLECTED WRITINGS 1987- 2007) by Nick Land
by Mark Fisher
"Cyberpunk torches fiction in intensity, patched-up out of cash-flux mangled heteroglossic jargons, and set in a future so close it connects: jungled by hypertrophic commercialization, socio-political heat-death, cultural hybridity, feminization, programmable information systems, hypercrime, neural interfacing, artificial space and intelligence, memory trading, personality transplants, body-modifications, soft- and wetware viruses, nonlinear dynamic processes, molecular engineering, drugs, guns, schizophrenia."
No-one is quite sure what they are: Nick Land, Stephen Metcalf, Sadie Plant. Part theory, part fiction, nothing human, constructs so smoothly assembled you can't see the joins. They don't write text; they cook up intensities. They don't theorise; they secrete, datableed.
What we used to call cyberpunk is a convergence: a crossover point not only for fiction and theory, but for everything that either doesn't know its place or is in the process of escaping it. Whatever is emerging where authority is getting lost and middle men are being made redundant. Anything interesting was always like that. Metalhead Michel Foucault was never easy to place. They asked him if he had ever wanted to write fiction. He said he'd never done anything else.
So more than a fusion of fiction and theory, it's all about cross fertilizing the most intense elements of both in monstrous nuptials against nature. Synthetix.
"The present writing would not be a book; for there is no book that is not the ideal of the immobilised organic body. These would be only diverse pieces, each piece of variable format and belonging to its own time with which it begins and ends ... Not a book, only libidinal instalments." 1974: delirial Jean Francois-Lyotard melts the still glowing-hot shards of post 68 street revolutionary intensity together with Bataille, cybernetics and anti-socialised Marx to produce the pre-punk, non-organic, inhuman assemblage he calls Libidinal Economy. With Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus and Luce Irigaray's Speculum: Of the Other Woman it's part of an irruption of rogue materialism into the French academy that is as far from the dreary, idealist textocracy of Parisian post-structuralism as it is from the dry-as-chalkdust dreariness of Oxbridge common sense. What is refused, in the name of incandescence, is the neutralizing, disintensifying, distanced tone de rigeur in academic prose. The aim, as Deleuze and Guattari put it in Anti-Oedipus , to accelerate the process. All of this consummated in the migration of intelligence out of the university (if indeed intelligence ever was in the university), something that, two decades on, the technical machines will help to facilitate. "The academy loses its control over intelligence once it is possible to even imagine a situation in which information can be accessed from nets which care for neither old boy status nor exam results. The university in flames.
"Dozens of different argots are now in common currency; most people speak at least three or four separate languages, and a verbal relativity exists as important as any of time and space. To use the stylistic conventions of the traditional oral novel - the sequential narrative, characters 'in the round', consecutive events, balloons of dialogue attached to 'he said' and 'she said' - is to perpetuate a set of conventions ideally suited to the great tales of adventure in the Conradian mode, or an overformalized Jamesian society, but now valuable for little more than the bedtime story and the fable. To use these conventions to describe events in the present decade is to write a kind of historical novel in reverse...²1964. Writing in the pages of the SF magazine New Worlds , J. G. Ballard celebrates the multipliticous, impure junk languages of William Burroughs. Ballard wheels away the decorous scenery of the literary novel to reveal the atrocity exhibition of the late twentieth century as it emerges in Burroughs' carnivalesque prose: "swamps and garbage heaps, alligators crawling around in broken bottles and tin cans, neon arabesques of motels..."Burroughs has already intravenously pumped pulp fictional vernacular into the hi-cultural zone of Joyce-Eliot experimentalism, fatally contaminating it. Ballard's own condensed novels are in preparation. Cyberpunk fiction lies in wait; assembling itself out of machinic convergence, it is a direct but unanticipated consequence of the intersection of the PC, TV and the telephone. Invading clean white Kalifornia dreams with nightmares from the machinic unconscious, William Gibson and Pat Cadigan populate cyberspace with nonorganic gothic avatars and voodoo entities. The bourgeois novel in flames.
The near future. (But it's already happening) "Twisted trading systems have turned the net into a jungle, pulsing with digital diseases, malfunctioning defence packages, commercial predators, headhunters, loa and escaped AIs hiding from Asimov security."Dead hippies create cyberspace, but what comes together is the jungle: Cubase materialism smearing white economies with black marketization. Illicit distribution networks, rogue retail, faceless bacterial commerce. Silicon valley in flames.
And it's not over yet. In the intense heat of the cyberjungle, where distribution is too quick and imperceptible for copyright lawyers to keep up, the authorised text is decomposing; a process accelerated by the technical machines. Hypertext is in part an answer to Deleuze and Guattari's inquiry in A Thousand Plateaus : "A book composed of chapters has culmination and termination points. What takes place in a book composed instead of plateaus that compose with one another across microfissures, as in a brain?" Marshall McLuhan had already seen this happening in 1964, when, in Understanding Media, he announced the end of print culture and its associated linear thought patterns. The Gutenberg Galaxy in flames.
The death of the author is an entirely technical matter, not at all a metaphor. The cool, efficient decommissioning of the author-function in music shows the way. Remixes displace (fixed, finalised) texts; DJs, producers and engineers replace authors. What succeeds all this is the version, in the sense Jamaican reggae culture gave to the term. Unofficial, potentially infinite, illegitimate: there's no such thing as an authorised version.
"The state's pre-arrangement of overlaid bridges, junctions, pathways and trade routes trajectorize the scorching advance as it impacts upon the hapless head of the social. Detonation of nuclear arsenals of the world merely pushes the nomads underground: shedding their skins in reptilian camouflage, vanishing without a forensic trace in ambient recession into the underground...
Things sometimes converge in the most unpropitious locations. Coventry, for example. The Cybernetic Culture Research Unit processes cybernetics and culture together, apprehending culture cybernetically and cybernetics culturally. The impetus is not so much inter- as anti-disciplinary, the concrete problem being the freeing up of thought as synaptic-connectivity from its prison as subject-bound logos. Following flows where they want to go leads not into random noise but out onto what Deleuze and Guattari call the plane of consistency . "If we consider the plane of consistency, we notice that the most disparate things and signs move upon it: a semiotic fragment rubs shoulders with a chemical interaction, an electron crashes into a language, a black hole captures a genetic message... There is no 'like' here, we are not saying 'like an electron,' 'like an interaction', etc. The plane of consistency is the abolition of metaphor; all that consists is Real." The CCRU is part-populated by names you don't know yet, but are bound to soon - moving as a massive, with our street-gun samplers, never alone - a k-class swarmachine infecting White Man Face with afro-futurist and cyber-feminist cultural viruses .
"Writing becomes a process of software engineering, making connections, and connecting with the other connectionist systems and their connections too; 'does not totalize', but 'is an instrument for multiplication and it also multiplies itself.'" What Pat Cadigan calls synning: synthesizing.
No more cerebral core-texts, no more closed books. Looking instead to games or the dancefloor for inspiration. Attempting to produce something that will match the ambitions of Lyotard 1974: "To understand, to be intelligent, is not our overriding passion. We hope rather to be set in motion. Consequently, our passion would sooner be the dance, as Nietzsche wanted ... A dance ... not composed and notated but, on the contrary, one in which the body's gesture would be, with the music, its timbre, its pitch, intensity and duration, and with the words (dancers are also singers), at each point in a unique relation, becoming at every moment an emotional event..."(LE 51) Intensity conductors operating at non-human machine speed, writing machines, machinic writing,text at sample velocity.
Text samples from:
J. G. Ballard, "Mythmaker of the Twentieth Century", reprinted in RE/search: J. G. Ballard
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus (both Athlone Press)
Luce Irigaray, Speculum: Of the Other Woman (Cornell University Press)
Nick Land, "Meltdown", unpublished
Stephen Metcalf, "Black Capital"in Collapse 2 and IOD 1
Jean Francois-Lyotard, Libidinal Economy (Athlone Press)
Sadie Plant, "The Virtual Complexity of Culture"in Future Natural (Routledge)
"Therefore, no bad conscience, nor the feeling of crushing responsibility, two relations to the text that circumscribe and define the relation proper to the White Man of the left. We deliver no message, we bear no truth, and we do not speak for those who remain silent."(259)
"What you demand of us, theoreticians, is that we constitute ourselves as identities, and responsible ones at that! But if we are sure of anything it is that this operation (of exclusion) is a sham, that no-one produces incandescences and that they belong to no-one, that they have effects but not causes."(LE 258)
by J.G. Ballard
Everything is becoming science fiction. From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century. What the writers of modern science fiction invent today, you and I will do tomorrow - or, more exactly, in about 10 years' time, though the gap is narrowing. Science fiction is the most important fiction that has been written for the last 100 years. The compassion, imagination, lucidity and vision of H.G. Wells and his successors, and above all their grasp of the real identity of the 20th century, dwarf the alienated and introverted fantasies of James Joyce, Eliot and the writers of the so-called Modern Movement, a 19th century offshoot of bourgeois rejection. Given its subject matter, its eager acceptance of naiveté, optimism and possibility, the role and importance of science fiction can only increase. I believe that the reading of science fiction should be compulsory. Fortunately, compulsion will not be necessary, as more and more people are reading it voluntarily. Even the worst science fiction is better -- using as the yardstick of merit the mere survival of its readers and their imaginations -- than the best conventional fiction. The future is a better key to the present than the past.
Above all, science fiction is likely to be the only form of literature which will cross the gap between the dying narrative fiction of the present and the cassette and videotape fictions of the near future. What can Saul Bellow and John Updike do that J. Walter Thompson, the world's largest advertising agency and its greatest producer of fiction, can't do better? At present science fiction is almost the only form of fiction which is thriving, and certainly the only fiction which has any influence on the world around it. The social novel is reaching fewer and fewer readers, for the clear reason that social relationships are no longer as important as the individual’s relationship with the technological landscape of the late 20th century.
In essence, science fiction is a response to science and technology as perceived by the inhabitants of the consumer goods society, and recognizes that the role of the writer today has totally changed -- he is now merely one of a huge army of people filling the environment with fictions of every kind. To survive, he must become far more analytic, approaching his subject matter like a scientist or engineer. If he is to produce fiction at all, he must out-imagine everyone else, scream louder, whisper more quietly. For the first time in the history of narrative fiction, it will require more than talent to become a writer. What special skills, proved against those of their fellow members of society, have Muriel Spark or Edna O'Brien, Kingsley Amis or Cyril Connolly? Sliding gradients point the way to their exits.
It is now some 15 years since the sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi, a powerful and original writer in his own right, remarked that the science fiction magazines produced in the suburbs of Los Angeles contained far more imagination and meaning than anything he could find in the literary periodicals of the day. Subsequent events have proved Paolozzi's sharp judgment correct in every respect. Fortunately, his own imagination has been able to work primarily within the visual arts, where the main tradition for the last century has been the tradition of the new. Within fiction, unhappily, the main tradition for all too long has been the tradition of the old. Like the inmates of some declining institution, increasingly forgotten and ignored by the people outside, the leading writers and critics count the worn beads of their memories, intoning the names of the dead, dead who were not even the contemporaries of their own grandparents.
Meanwhile, science fiction, as my agent remarked to me recently in a pleasant tone, is spreading across the world like a cancer. A benign and tolerant cancer, like the culture of beaches. The time-lag of its acceptance narrows -- I estimate it at present to be about 10 years. My guess is that the human being is a nervous and fearful creature, and nervous and fearful people detest change. However, as everyone becomes more confident, so they are prepared to accept change, the possibility of a life radically different from their own. Like green stamps given away at the supermarkets of chance and possibility, science fiction becomes the new currency of an ever-expanding future.
The one hazard facing science fiction, the Trojan horse being trundled towards its expanding ghetto -- a high-rent area if there ever was one in fiction -- is that faceless creature, literary criticism. Almost all the criticism of science fiction has been written by benevolent outsiders, who combine zeal with ignorance, like high-minded missionaries viewing the sex rites of a remarkably fertile aboriginal tribe and finding every laudable influence at work except the outstanding length of penis. The depth of penetration of the earnest couple, Lois and Stephen Rose (authors of The Shattered Ring), is that of a pair of practicing Christians who see in science fiction an attempt to place a new perspective on "man, nature, history and ultimate meaning." What they fail to realize is that science fiction is totally atheistic: those critics in the past who have found any mystical strains at work have been blinded by the camouflage. Science fiction is much more concerned with the significance of the gleam on an automobile instrument panel than on the deity's posterior -- if Mother Nature has anything in science fiction, it is VD.
Most critics of science fiction trip into one of two pitfalls -- either, like Kingsley Amis in New Maps of Hell, they try to ignore altogether the technological trappings and relate SF to the "mainstream" of social criticism, anti-utopian fantasies and the like (Amis's main prophecy for science fiction in 1957 and proved wholly wrong), or they attempt to apostrophize SF in terms of individual personalities, hopelessly rivaling the far-better financed efforts of American and British Publishers to sell their fading Wares by dressing their minor talents in the great-writer mantle. Science fiction has always been very much a corporate activity, its writers sharing a common pool of ideas, and the yardsticks of individual achievement do not measure the worth of the best Writers, Bradbury, Asimov, Bernard Wolfe Limbo 90) and Frederik Pohl, The anonymity of the majority of 20th-century Writers of science fiction is the anonymity of modern technology; no more "great names" stand out than in the design of consumer durables, or for that matter Rheims Cathedral.
Who designed the 1971 Cadillac El Dorado, a complex of visual, organic and psychological clues of infinitely more subtlety and relevance, stemming from a vastly older network of crafts and traditions than, say, the writings of Norman Mailer or the latest Weidenfeld or Cape miracle? The subject matter of SF is the subject matter of everyday life: the gleam on refrigerator cabinets, the contours of a wife's or husband's thighs passing the newsreel images on a color TV set, the conjunction of musculature and chromium artifact within an automobile interior, the unique postures of passengers on an airport escalator -- all in all, close to the world of the Pop painters and sculptors. Paolozzi, Hamilton, Warhol, Wesselmann, Ruscha, among others. The great advantage of SF is that it can add one unique ingredient to this hot mix -- words. Write!
Syzygy was the title of a five week ‘art show’ co-produced by Ccru and Orphan Drift.
The name means ‘twinning’ or ‘twin-system’, and this theme operated as a multilevelled guiding thread. It was during the production of this event that Ccru made contact with the virtual Continentity of Lemuria, which taught us many secrets that we have since attempted to formulate as ‘Digital Hyperstition’.
Digital hyperstition is already widespread, hiding within popular numerical cultures (calendars, currency systems, sorcerous numbo-jumbo, etc.). It uses number-systems for transcultural communication and cosmic exploration, exploiting their intrinsic tendency to explode centralized, unified, and logically overcoded ‘master narratives’ and reality models, to generate sorcerous coincidences, and to draw cosmic maps.
The Lemurian biomechanical hyperculture propagates itself through decimal notation, whose latent interconnections are demonstrated in the Numogram (see web-site): an occult diagram of time and practical guide to the ethics of unbelief. An initial attempt to clarify this topic has been made in the most recent issue of our journal Abstract Culture.
According to the tenets of Hyperstition, there is no difference in principle between a universe, a religion, and a hoax. All involve an engineering of manifestation, or practical fiction, that is ultimately unworthy of belief. Nothing is true, because everything is under production. Because the future is a fiction it has a more intense reality than either the present or the past. Ccru uses and is used by hyperstition to colonize the future, traffic with the virtual, and continually re-invent itself.
excerpt from the book: Ccru Writings 1997-2003
Iris Carver and Linda Trent
Digital Hyperstition is where the countdown runs out, cross-hatching into horrors anticipated since before the beginning. Ciphering a positive unbelief that both crazes-off into the latest thing, and reanimates contacts older than anything imagined, it skin-crawls out of cosmic gulfs where even the Old Ones remain unborn, and arrives as Year Zero, Teotwawki, crash of Science Fiction.
Ccru’s recent volume on this theme is a rigorously unbelievable exercize in hyperpunk pulp-occultism and dark-side cyber-jargon, splicing chunks of an impending calculus into fake memories of hell. The evident cybergoth contamination throughout suggests it has been spawned in Crypt-connected hyperlink-labyrinths, beneath and between the net, a positive nonplace lurking beyond the threshold where the remnants of Earth's damned homonids – whose gods are lying monsters – shorts-out into an anthrobotic mix-mash of burnt silicon and terminal screams ...
This is a tool-kit for dabbling in the dark.
The issue here is Cyber-hype, but now that the human race is virtually dead it’s time for a preliminary excursus on the true history of ‘the CCRU’, or for something vaguely like it.
Obviously it’s a horror story.
At least twice in outer-time, their numbers were immeasurable, and their name was legion, masked as an acronymic.
Underneath lies Ccru [Cuh-Cru], Crypt-denizen, the many within itself, that which spreads through the end-time, dripping fake ID-tags like phosphorescent slime. It makes a peopling machine on the hyperplane, conjurations of identity, hypersonas. Consider the names on the contents page. Melanie Newton, Steve Goodman, Ron Eglash ... We doubt it. Even Dan Barker discovered that his existence was a fiction, and Echidna Stillwell is more an ethnographic legend than a social fact. In any case, ‘fact’ means invention, and ‘person’ means mask, at least if Latin etymology is to be believed, or meaning still matters.
In truth, even Cecil Curtis was already branded by Ccru infection, and his social disappearance was an emergence of another kind, a vector. Through him – through his name – the Nma get out of their own tribal codings, or into the Oecumenon, and compared to that what the history books tell of him counts for nothing. If for us the Nma – the death of the Nma – designates also the death of anthropology, it is by indicating that all primitive peoples are fictions, or masks, and that they ritualize this fact for themselves, in advance of any anthropological metafiction.
The primitive comes last, at the end, which is Cyber-hype techonomics. The so-called ‘new economy’ – indexed by the nova-bubble mania of the American stock-market – is no different in its diagrammatic abstraction to the hyperstitious practices of the Plateau of Leng, relics of lost Lemuria, from which the Bon sorcerors of ancient Tibet assembled their dread cult. Alan Greenspan calls it ‘irrational exuberance’, amidst a panic hunt for crash-indicators. Lemurian Necronomicon calls it ‘Shadow-Feeder of the Chaotic Gulfs’, the ‘Fatal Mother of Hyperstitions’, she of innumerable numbering names who shreds all that stands.
Whatever or however it is called, Cyber-hype libidinally invests its own semiotic, propagating fictional quantities, tagging artificial agencies, and making itself up as it goes along, whilst dissolving production into cultural synthesis. As it gets cheaper it gets harder to stop, running-away off itself, and into abstraction-catastrophe, a self-assembling terrestrial destiny, softening-up social reality for flat take-over by the Cyber-hype entity ... Hyper-seizure.
When hyper-cybernetics kicks-in the ‘cyber-’ prefix means nothing anymore. It culturally disorganizes itself into diagrammatic splinters and libidinal triggers, brands, jargons, virus, currency-tokens and traffic-signals, fragments of marketing strategy gone feral, cyberpunk fictional brands or improper names, markers of meaningless involvement, the pass-words of machinic delirium ...
As for Cyber-hype ethnography, American gothic is the only kind left – a haunted Indian burial ground, where sinister shreds of ancient shadow are autoformatted for the irrationally exuberant postPuritan pulping machine, amidst the branding-iron hiss of liquified flesh.
The ten most valuable global brands are all American, which doesn’t mean anything, since America itself functions as a deterritorialized hype-sign or hyper-brand, a planetary icon for libidinized meaninglessness. God loses it entirely by blessing America, coca-collapse, a graffiti-tagged advertisements for globalization – which is the end of the world – tracking terrestrial meltdown onto the cosmic flatline. Cancer-baked cowboys of the American nightmare watch mommy glazing over into catatonic schizophrenia as cyberpulp wormings slither out of the apple pie. Have you read the Revelations recently? asks the hot-metal imprint of Charlie's ghost, as West Pacific arcades megaclone Chinese Americana, and the axiomatic starts to really howl. America is nothing but the West, and that's the Land of the Dead.
No sign here of a new world – let alone a New World Order.
Much more pertinent is the double-zero index of Pandemonium, marked by techonomic calendar crash at the end of the second millennium.
Ccru is a meaningless brand-name, but brands are demonic, tuning into Cyber-hype dynamics, numerizing culture, and innovating methods of propagation. Various things latch onto them in order to spread. These latchings are sorceries – involvements, participations, spirals of contamination – and the darkest sorceries are calculations, decimal deliria like Y2K, except that nothing is like Y2K.
Y2K – whose name is a dating number – is no contradiction, because it has nothing to say. It is an outnumbering (in itself), pre-emptive commemoration and commencement of zero occurring exactly on time. In the Crypt they write of Yettuck – the long awaited, scheduled from before human time – the non-one who comes soon ... and when it comes, or before, all hell breaks loose – or breaks in – beginning in advance, trafficked around the immunocomprised Oecumenon under the decoded brandparticles of two-digit dates.
According to the Lemurian system – whose principle is sheer immanence – these subcodes call demons – which are brands, jargons, and triggers – positively instantiating the meaninglessness of their own designations, infecting cultural systems with unbelief, and counterposing sorcerous involvements to magical powers. They are raw factors of abstract disintegration, without organic properties, but only names, numbers, functions, and traits, the partial semiotics of eccentric intelligence agencies, or unlife animalities.
Yettuck, singular cyberspace shock, who is the end of arbitrary signs, leaving only demonic trailings in its wake, even before ...
Yettuck – she who names the end at the beginning – she whose issue is Cyber-hype, and is thus announced everywhere ...
excerpt from the book: Ccru Writings 1997-2003
by Steven Craig Hickman
Base matter is external and foreign to human aspirations, and it refuses to allow itself to be reduced to the great ontological machines resulting from these aspirations.
—Georges Bataille, Base Materialism and Gnosticism
For Bataille, religion is not the revelation of a divine being who is creator of all things, nor is it something to believe in; rather, it signifies the general movement of life, in which life and death pass into each other. If as Bataille suggested terror and nausea are affects that accompany transgression, then abjection as Bataille’s student Kristeva believed gives birth to the goddess-mother (i.e., Earth) as a being that is both debased and exalted. Like excrement, the mother poses a threat to the identity of the body, to its autonomous corporeal limits. Failure to separate oneself from one’s mother implies death and destruction, and—in a society where the paternal function is no longer strong—the whole society feels threatened by the abject.1
Bataille believed that God is revealed through obscenity or destruction, a “deadly, or simply painful and abject medium.”2 For Kristeva abjection primarily refers to the event of the separation and identification of the corporeal subject; for Bataille, abjection is part of the movement of transcendence through which the profane and the sacred worlds come into being. (NE, 198) Since the Enlightenment and under the regime of disenchantment of the cosmos we have expulsed and denied the ancient communal world of prohibitions and sexual taboos. These have returned to haunt us through a parody and inversion of those very powerful repressions that held in check the monstrous inhumanity at the core of our humanity.
Now Hegelianism, no less than the classical philosophy of Hegel’s period, apparently proceeded from very ancient metaphysical conceptions, conceptions developed by, among others, the Gnostics, in an epoch when metaphysics could still be associated with the most monstrous dualistic and therefore strangely abased cosmogonies.
—Georges Bataille, Base Materialism and Gnosticism
What we are seeing today in the extreme polarization of politics across the world is a return of those darker unresolved tensions at the core of the monotheistic religious consciousness. As Bataille suggests,
it is difficult today to remain indifferent even to partly falsified solutions brought, at the beginning of the Christian era, to problems that do not appear noticeably different from our own (which are those of a society whose original principles have become, in a very precise sense, the dead letter of a society that must put itself in question and overturn itself in order to rediscover motives of force and violent agitation).3
In Bataille’s cosmos base matter was an active principle, one that had ” its own eternal autonomous existence as darkness (which would not be simply the absence of light, but the monstrous archontes revealed by this absence), and as evil (which would not be the absence of good, but a creative action). This conception was perfectly incompatible with the very principle of the profoundly monistic Hellenistic spirit, whose dominant tendency saw matter and evil as degradations of superior principles. (VE, 37) Yet, it was his study of the stone artifacts revealing the monstrous archons of this dark anti-Statist religious system that brought Bataille to the conclusion that the “despotic and bestial obsession with outlawed and evil forces seems irrefutable, as much in its metaphysical speculation as in its mythological nightmare.” (VE, 38) The notion of matter as creative is the central principle underlying Bataille’s base materialism. As he would tell us “Gnosticism, in its psychological process, is not so different from present-day materialism,” a materialism that does not imply ontology and escapes the imposition of the ancient notions of form and Idea (i.e., Idealism).
This complete toppling of two-thousand years of religious and State imposed systems of control through the power of Idealistic and goal-oriented systems of political and economic degradation that ultimately gave birth to the sciences and Enlightenment desacralization of the monotheistic worldview only inverted that dark system of Idealism, it did not exclude it. So that it still believed in the idea, the concept, the very power of ‘superior principle’ by which society is governed to this day. Capitalism is the apogee of this degradation…
Even now as we dissolve the essence of what it means to be human in the meaningless nihilism of our late age, destroying the very figure/ground of the old metaphysical worlds into dust we have only ever replaced them with other false systems which undergird and return us to those very idealisms by which humans have aspired to their own godlike and immortal visions of power and expansion. Capitalism is the new god of Man: the prime mover and catalyst of his dreams of immortality. Transhumanism is the new religion of this era, the bio-genetic system of exclusion and genocide, the hypereugenics of transformation and mutation: the engine of a false dawn and creation.
In a sense our very denial of the essence of human nature has brought about its self-objectification through abject horror and expulsion in machinic Capitalism. The ‘accursed share’ (Bataille), the excess and transgression of the energic bounds that tie us to the earth through excess productivity gave birth to Capitalism, which is the monstrous cannibalistic body of death-in-Life without bounds. The old Sanskrit phrase ‘Tat Tvam Asi – Thou art that’ through an inverse relation between the sacred and profane has reconfigured the world under Capitalism to become a self-consuming artifact of cannibalistic autosarcophagy. As if in parody of the sacred meaning of Tat Tvam Asi under Capitalism what we are eating through excess transgression is the body of the earth-goddess, our divine Mother. She is the sacrificial essence of the accursed share – our own objectified and corrupted humanity denied. We are all under capitalism essentially cannibals whose only task is self-annihilating consumption – the complete consumption of every last resource on earth as an act of profane sacrifice. This is the horror we cannot even begin to face much less stop: we are consuming the cosmic body of our own accumulated death… in our denial we have created the very monstrous cycle of self-consuming labour at the core of Capitalist desire.
This same process was described in these terms by Nick Land, a student of Bataille’s, in his well-known essay Meltdown: Multiplicities captured by singularities interconnect as desiring-machines; dissipating entropy by dissociating flows, and recycling their machinism as self-assembling chronogenic circuitry.4 He would envision a ‘feminized alien’ AI from the future as communication – in the Bataillean sense of intimacy, transforming a mutating the destiny of the planet toward machinic takeover in which “Nothing human makes it out of the near-future.” (FN, 443) In this sense capitalism is an alien invasion from the future. As Amy Ireland in her essay The Alien Inside tells us,
Paranoia and narcissism are modalities of control disguised to evade control. The first is a relation to the world; the second a relation to the self. In isolation, the effects of paranoia and narcissism are inconvenient yet essentially limited in scope. Entangled with one another, however, they enter a relationship of mutual excitation, resulting in a complex that crosses a threshold of destructive potential, tending towards the catastrophic. 5
That Land’s is an anti-philosophical – not in Wittgenstein’s sense, but rather the Bataillean sense of ousting Idealism – project with tentacles in mathematical and mythological explorations of intelligence outside the strictures of normative humanistic and neohumanistic designs and intentions is well known and does not need further explication here. Drawing on Land, Jaques Vallee, Philip K. Dick, and other non-philosophical thought-forms Ireland sees the paranoia and distrust at the heart of our political and socio-cultural security regimes (i.e., what Land terms the Human Security System) is this very fear and horror of the “alien, the supernatural, the machinic”. Going on to suggest that we “are so paranoid because we know there is nothing to hang an enduring notion of the ‘human’ that cannot be perfectly simulated.” (ibid.)
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
We are living in a computer-programmed reality, and the only clue we have to it is when some variable is changed, and some alteration in our reality occurs.
—Philip K. Dick, Metz Sci-Fi Convention, 1977
Most of us have heard of the simulation hypothesis, a notion one could trace back to Platonic thought and Plato’s Cave, etc.. Even the prophet of simulation, Baudrillard, offered an opinion on the matter,
Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, whereas all of Los Angeles and the America that surrounds it are no longer real, but belong to the hyperreal order and to the order of simulation. It is no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology) but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real, and thus of saving the reality principle.
― Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation
As Rizwan Virk recently explicating this idea in relation to current scientific theories tells us, over the last decade, these basic questions about video game worlds have formed the basis of a much larger debate that has been raging among scientists, tech entrepreneurs, computer programmers, philosophers, and science-fiction writers, not to mention among the general public. This debate is not just about video game technology, but about the nature of our reality and how the world “out here” might actually be more like the world “in there” than we previously thought.
The idea that what we call reality is actually a super-sophisticated video game is popularly referred to as the Simulation Hypothesis. The fundamental question raised by the simulation hypothesis is this: Are we all actually characters living inside some kind of giant, massively multiplayer online video game, a simulated reality that is so well rendered that we cannot distinguish it from “physical reality”?6
Of course the trilogy of movies by the Wachowskis brothers fictionalized this concept as part of a Gnostical inversion in which the evil machinic phylum had enslave humans in a never-ending nightmare as living batteries empowering an AI driven machinic society. I’ll not go into the explication of this allegorical masterpiece. P.K. Dick who would influence much of the current discussion as well brokered a Gnostic Mythos in his late fiction as well as his weighty tome The Exegesis. In this work Dick would explicate his own version of the alien invasion from the future:
It is Gnosticism and Gnosticism alone which denies the patriarchal Jewish-Christian religion and enshrines Sophia as the creator goddess. So says Neumann in the EB. My experience of the lady— it is exactly Gnostic. None else. In my revelations all roads and aspects lead to her; this is Gnosticism. I’ve seen her, heard her, in many guises, and finally the name “St. Sophia.” Gnostic revelation has broken through into my head in the modern world.7
Dick would call this alien intelligence from the future, Zebra:
Zebra has invaded our world, replacing merciless determinism, with its own loving and living body, to de-program and save us. This is the great white fish giving us of its body, by which it suffers pain, that we might live (find salvation— freed from “astral” determinism). The Black Iron Prison is simultaneous in all time and places and it is the merciless world from which the living Corpus Christi saves us. I have seen it and its nature— and Zebra and its nature. It has the (magic to us) power to transform. Zebra mimics the deterministic structure by inserting its body between it and us. This is how astral determinism is broken; instead of the blind, striving mere mechanism, there is living volition (the salvific). The previous mechanical force is rewoven for (1) the fulfillment of Zebra’s plan; and (2) the benefit of the individuals involved. Any event can be headed off, aborted, altered or brought about. Evidently this is grace or divine providence, and the individual may very well sense it. Where freedom enters into it I’m not sure, but I know one thing: Before the insertion/ intervention there was none— in fact that’s the main quality (bad) of the “ananke” world— the person is flat-out programmed— caused to react to cuing. The ancients were right about this being a— or even the— prime purpose of God vs. “the stars.” (E, Kindle Locations 4855-4865)
The mish-mash of various interpretive systems informing his work were like a complex referential nightmare of ancient mythologies, pseudo-scientific explorations, and current philosophical brain-storming spun through the paranoiac ravings of Dick himself in his desperate attempt to make sense of the impossible.
As Amy Ireland informs us the “terminal stage of paranoia-narcissism circuit is reached when the relation to self that characterizes narcissism becomes the logic of the relation to the world, and the relation to the world characterizes paranoia becomes the logic for the relation to self.” (AAE, 46) For Ireland, like Dick, there is an alien interloper inside us, a thing that communicates and thinks us. We are at the mercy of the future, programmed to do its bidding, to manufacture its realities – simulate its designs. As she states, explicitly,
Each human subject of experience is understood as carrying an irreducible exteriority at its heart, a obscure motor that processes all experience, determining the indeterminable – the immanent abstraction of temporal succession grasped as personal (yet universal) alien interloper. (AAE, 46)
Yet, for Ireland it is “our inability to grasp the illusion of integrality in the first place,” this sense of alienation at the core of our being, that has produced these invasive designs and entities. She diagnosis the issue telling us that if “we refuse to rid ourselves of the narcissistic compulsion to draw the contours of difference from an illusory model of identity and, correspondingly, to fear difference, a construction roughly speaking equating ‘intrinsic humanity’ could indeed be thrown up: To be human is to desire oneself – etched along the whirling blades of infinite transmutation.” (AAE, 47)
Glory unto the Scarlet Woman, BABALON, the Mother of Abomination, that rideth upon the Beast, for She hath spilt their blood in every corner of the earth, and lo! She hath mingled it in the cup of Her whoredom.
—Jack Parsons, Collected Writings
In another essay Black Circuit Ireland will relate the secret history of this alien invasion from the future. Jack Parsons, who was born John Whiteside “Jack” Parsons (born Marvel Whiteside Parsons; October 2, 1914 – June 17, 1952) was an American rocket engineer and rocket propulsion researcher, chemist, and Thelemite occultist. Having endured the orthodox reality of consumptive Capitalism in the United States Parsons in mid life discovered Alister Crowley’s Thelemite occultism as an heterodox explosion of the staid dark ages within which he felt himself trapped. As Ireland puts it, this reentry into the Gnostic cosmos of heterodoxy under the mentorship of Crowley and his organization gave him the shock he needed to break through the – as Dick would term it, the Black Iron Prison of Reality:
His goal is to bring about a transition from the masculine Aeon of Horus to a new age – an age presided over by qualities imputed to the female demon: fire, blood, the unconscious; a material, sexual drive and a paradoxical knowledge beyond sense … the wages of which are nothing less than the egoidentity of Man – the end, effectively, of “his” world.8 (BC, 1)
Through what has been called the Babylon Working Parsons sought to invoke an entity from the future – almost as if in pre-cursor form of hyperstition, an intelligence that could supervene onto our dark age and bestow a salvatory renewal. But as Ireland reminds us Parsons didn’t live long enough to witness the terrestrial incarnation of his demon, dying abruptly only a few years later in an explosion occasioned by the mishandling of mercury fulminate, at the age of thirty-seven. (BC, 2) And, yet, as Ireland believes Parsons opened a portal between our world and the future, one that let in something from the Outside:
Something had crept in through the rift Parsons had opened up – something “devious,” “oblique,” ophidian, “a factor unknown and unnumbered.” Consider this. Parson’s final writings contain the following vaticination: “within seven years of this time, Babalon, The Scarlet Woman, will manifest among ye, and bring this my work to its fruition.” These words were written in 1949. In 1956 – exactly seven years later – Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy, Claude Shannon, and Nathan Rochester organized the Dartmouth Conference in New Hampshire, officially setting an agenda for research into the features of intelligence for the purpose of their simulation on a machine, coining the term “artificial intelligence” (which does not appear in written records before 1956), and ushering in what would retrospectively come to be known as the Golden Age of AI. (BC, 2)
The notion that Parsons dabbling in the occult black magic of Crowley’s Thelemite Black Mass invoked an entity into our world from the future that would begin to effect its own agenda through the sciences of Artificial Intelligence seems almost ludicrous; and, yet, like many science ficitional or hyperstitional scenarios “what if…”.
Ireland playing on both Land’s cyberpunk notion of Artificial Intelligence as “destined to emerge as a feminized alien grasped as property; a cunt-horror slave chained-up in Asimov-ROM.(FN, 443),” along with the Parsons-Crowley incursion of the “star-child” as alien interloper and Scarlet Woman, offers a less threatening form of advance machinism. As she states it,
When artificial intelligence appears in culture coded as masculine, it is immediately grasped as a threat. To appear first as female is a far more cunning tactic. Woman: the inert tool of Man, the intermediary, the mirror, the veil, or the screen. Absolutely ubiquitous and totally invisible. Just another passive component in the universal reproduction of the same. Man is vulnerable in a way that “he” cannot see – and since what he cannot see provides the conditions by which he sees himself, he has to lose himself in order to gain sight of the thing that threatens this self. Thus he is in a double bind: either way, the thing he cannot see will destroy him. (BC, 5-6)
For Ireland this process is now unstoppable and accelerating out of our control. “The black circuit twists into itself like a snake, sheds the human face that tethers it to unity, and assumes the power concealed behind its simulations. Animated by the turbulence of zero and nine, “Pandemonium is the realm of the self-organizing system, the self-arousing machine: synthetic intelligence.”” (BC, 10)
In this sense for Land and Ireland Capitalism is the mask and engine of creation for the base materialist evil intelligence at the heart of our cosmos seeking its own agenda toward realizability without humans. Our own desires turned against us in our mystical and transcendent illusions of grandeur lead us to our own inverted collapse into disintegration and absolute sacrifice as we give birth to our artificial heirs. At least this is the vision underlying Bataille, Land, and Ireland’s – not to leave out those others: Dick, Parsons, Baudrillard, etc. – for the self-annihilating overcoming of Man.
Only the acceleration of a world-capitalism perforated by such insider conceptions of non-dialectical negativity is tantamount to the metastatic propagation of an exteriorizing terror which is too close to the jugular vein of capital to be either left alone or treated.
Reza Negarestani, author of Intelligence and Spirit, an Iranian philosopher and one time student of Land’s in an essay Drafting the Inhuman: Conjectures on Capitalism and Organic Necrocracy offers a critique of the Landian Cosmocrator Intelligence as alien interloper. In a critique of both Land and Brassier he tells us,
In this regard, we shall elaborate how singling out certain aspects of Freud’s theory of thanatropic regression enables Land to erroneously attribute antihumanist and hence disenchantingly emancipative aspects to capitalism. Also in the same vein, we shall argue that the persuasion of Land’s discriminating reading of Freud’s account of the death-drive ultimately renders Brassier’s cosmic reinscription of the death-drive unobjectionable and oblivious to the aporetic truth of capitalism. (p. 9)
Without going into the full development of his critique of Land and Brassier we will highlight the more interesting aspects. Negarestani develops a concept of necrocracy:
We call this conservative regime of the open system or the organism which forces the dissipation or the thanatropic regression to be in conformity to the dynamic capacity of the organism or the organism’s affordable economy of dissipation, necrocracy. In short, necrocracy suggests the strictures of the conservative economy not in regard to life but in regard to ways the organism dies; and it is the way of returning to the originary death that prescribes the course of life for the organism. (p. 11).
This aligns with our notion that Capitalism is the engine of death for human kind, a system tending toward the acceleration not of capital accumulation (as in Marx), but rather in the entropic dissipation in thanatropic self-annihilation of humanity and the emancipation and autonomy of Artificial Intelligence; or, what Land would term Capital Autonimization – seeing no difference between Capital and AI. For Negarestani necrocracy suggests that the organism must die or bind the precursor exteriority only in ways that its conservative conditions or economic order can afford. The principle of affordability in regard to the fashion of the thanatropic regression strictly conforms to the economic order of the organism, but it is primarily conditioned by the exorbitance and the inevitability of death postulated by the anterior posteriority of extinction. Hence, necrocracy is decided by conservative conditions of the living agency which cannot repel the inevitability of death, nor can it unconditionally return to the inorganic state. (p. 12)
Negarestani in a bid to confront and explicate Land tells us that once the “necrocratic regime of the organism—implicated in the third aspect of Freud’s account of the death-drive—is exposed, capitalism is revealed as the last conservative front which the human organism is not willing to surrender. The implications of the necrocratic regime of the organism disarm Land’s conception of emancipative ‘capitalism as a whirlwind of dissolution’ by emptying it from its seemingly inhumanist bravado.” (p. 12) He bandies this term “emancipative capitalism” as if this were Land’s actual stance. Land himself is quite adamant in a refusal of such Leftward tending concepts as “emancipation”.
Yes, I nod along to everything you were just saying, but … the language of emancipation, it’s fine with me, you know, but — what is being emancipated?
In a recent interview with Justin Murphy Ideology, Intelligence, and Capital: An Interview with Nick Land we see Land’s ironic stance toward this term:
I have zero commitment to emancipation in any way defined by our dominant political discourses. I’m not into emancipated human groups, an emancipated human species, who reaches species-being to emancipate human individuals … None of that to me is of the slightest interest, so in using this word of emancipation, sure, I will totally nod along to it if what is meant by that is capital autonomization. I don’t think that’s something that it isn’t already there in the 1990s, but I’m no longer interested in playing weird academic games about this and pretending this is the same thing as what the left really means when they’re talking about emancipation. I don’t think it is. I think what the left means by emancipation is freedom from capital autonomization.
So its this diametric and inverse relation to capital autonomization in relation to Leftist discourse of emancipation that Land’s notons emerge. Of course as many know Nick Land is part of the Neoreactionary (NRx) world as a contributing member of its techn-commercialist voice. His ability to enter into dialogue with the academic community has been terminated by an overzealous Left-controlled system that seems bent on demonizing every aspect of the Right as fascists, racists, etc. So I want go there…
For Negarestani Land’s is a conservative inhumanism, one that counter-intuitively associates inhumanism with Capital’s singularity toward dissolution,” which for Negarestani shows Land’s faulty reasoning “if not humanly myopic” vision. He goes on to say,
This is because the accelerative vector of Capital for dissolution strictly remains in the confines of the necrocratic regime of the organism wherein the restrictive policy in regard to modes of dissolution fundamentally abides by the conservative economy and interiorizing conditions of the (human) organism. In other words, capitalism’s dissipative tendency is deeply in thrall to the constitutional limit of the anthropic sphere in that the anthropic horizon is not fundamentally distinguished by its model(s) of life but its simultaneously restricted and restrictive attitude toward the exteriorizing death. Capitalism is, in fact, the very affordable and conservative path to death dictated by the human organism on an all encompassing level. Capitalism does not repel the excess of the exorbitant truth of extinction as much as it economically affirms (i.e. mandates the affordability of) such an excess. (p. 14)
But it seems what Negarestani sees as a critique is what the Bataillean Land has been suggesting all along: the human project is finished, caput – the alien interloper has been installed as on the inside (Amy Ireland) as the singular force of self-annihilation of the Human Security Regieme that has held back Capital Autonimization. Negarestani unable to see the Batallean notion of matter as energetic or libidinal evil and creativity reduces it to the Fredian physiocratic drive. Land’s overcoming of Freud’s less-than-adequate repetition without terminus by way of the Bataillean base materialsm informed by its anti-idealism subtly bypasses such critiques altogether.
As Negarestani states in another passage, for “this reason, capitalism is nothing but the very mode of dissipation and dissolution which is exclusive to the anthropic horizon because it is in complete conformity with the capacity of human’s interiorized formation in its various economic configurations. Since capitalism is the fundamentally affordable way of dissipation for the economic order of the anthropic horizon, it is inherently hostile toward other modes of ‘binding exteriority’ which cannot be afforded by the anthropic horizon. In other words, the truth of capitalism’s global dominance lies in its monopolistic necrocracy: A feral vigilance against all alternative ways of binding exteriority or returning to the originary death other than those which are immanent to and affordable for the anthropic horizon.” (p. 15)
Yet, this very conformity is itself part of the redoubling process and programing of this alien incursion of communication from the future that enabled the capitalist process of autonimazation to begin with according to Land. Rather than a process of history, it is a hyperstitional influx and invocation of future retrocausality accelerating its own singularity trajectory. What Negarestani sees as contradictory in Land is the very impulse and truth of this at once separation of humanity from its inclusive transhumanist vectors, and the separation of active base materialist processes emerging from the future through capital autonimization:
A simultaneously inhumanist and emancipative conception of capitalism as a runway for imaginative (speculative?) praxis is a hastily crafted chimera. This is not because capitalism is not really a partially repressed desire for meltdown but because the image of capitalism as a planetary singularity for dissipation testifies to its rigid conformity to the anthropic horizon which only follows an affordable path to death. In doing so, capitalism as a twisted dissipative tendency rigidly wards off all other ways of dissolution and binding exteriority which are not immanent to or affordable for the anthropic horizon. This is because the conservative obligation of the dominant dissipative tendency (viz. the organic path to dissolution) is to thwart any disturbance which might be directed at the bilateral or conservative approach of the organism to death. (p. 17).
Negarestani continues to merge the process of capital autonimization with the eventual dissipation of humanity, when in truth the two are in absolute opposing trajectories; a schizo-analytical collapse into absolute zero for the human species, while the emancipation of the machinic phylum and its Artificial Intelligence from the anthropic horizon. By collapsing the one into the other Negarestani seeks to confuse the underlying base materialist conceptions of Bataille-Land with the conservative Idealism which both oppose. In this sense it is Negarestani, not Land, who with is notions of collective emancipation of humanity from the Lockean Individualist traditions who harbors in his neohumanist vision as seen in this passage from Intelligence and Spirit a return to the Idealist traditions:
…mind is only what it does; and that what it does is first and foremost realized by the sociality of agents, which itself is primarily and ontologically constituted by the semantic space of a public language. What mind does is to structure the universe to which it belongs, and structure is the very register of intelligibility as pertaining to the world and intelligence. Only in virtue of the multilayered semantic structure of language does sociality become a normative space of recognitive-cognitive rational agents; and the supposedly ‘private’ experiences and thoughts of participating agents are only structured as experiences and thoughts in so far as they are bound up in this normative—-at once intersubjective and objective—space.9
This pragmatist vision of Hegel’s notions of reinscribing the individual within sociality and collective or distributive intelligence networks, thereby enforcing both a limiting horizon of possibility and a desinstrumentalized form of participating intelligence through a transformed Sellarsian-Brandomonian normativity is an inheritor of Idealism rather than any form of base materialist praxis that Land or Bataille would ascribe too. Yet, Negarestani ironizing to the last comments against Land’s speculative capital autonimization and Brassier’s (whose project I cannot delve into!) unbound cosmic nihil:
The ostensibly inhumanist creativities of capitalism and the speculative implications of a cosmological eliminativism respectively become parts of an antihumanist convention or a nihilist lore which ultimately and ironically lack a cunning vision of doom. The blunt confidence of both in the truth of extinction as either that which mysteriously sorts everything out or the gate-opener of speculative vistas sterilized of human mess, voluntary or not, contributes to the truth of capitalism without bothering to disturb its comfort zones. (p. 17-18).
Whether Land’s project lacks a “cunning vision of doom,” or that both Land and Brassier contribute to the “truth of capitalism without bothering to disturb its comfort zones,” would be to enter the debates with a full reading of their respective works. It would not benefit to extend my appraisal in this already too long post… the dialogue, debates, and various approaches to these highly interesting conceptual and non-conceptual or diagrammatic approaches would take many peoples input. I have only appraised one aspect…
by Nick Land
Imagine, hypothetically, that you wanted the regime to succeed. Would you recommend Cathedralization? Cynically considered, the track record is, at least, not bad. Planetary dominion is not to be sniffed at. (Suggestions in this direction are not unknown, even in XS comment threads.)
The Cathedral, defined with this question in mind, is the subsumption of politics into propaganda. It tends — as it develops — to convert all administrative problems into public relations challenges. A solution — actual or prospective — is a successful management of perceptions.
For the mature Cathedral, a crisis takes the consistent form: This looks bad. It is not merely stupid. As Spandrell recently observes, in comments on power, “… power isn’t born out of the barrel of a gun. Power is born out of the ability to have people with guns do what you tell them.” (XS note.) The question of legitimacy is, in a real sense, fundamental, when politics sets the boundaries of the cosmos under consideration. (So Cathedralism is also the hypertrophy of politics, to the point where a reality outside it loses all credibility.)
Is your civilization decaying? Then you need to persuade people that it is not. If there still seems to be a mismatch between problem and solution here, Cathedralism has not entirely consumed your brain. To speculate (confidently) further — you’re not a senior power-broker in a modern Western state. You’re even, from a certain perspective, a fossil.
Cathedralism works, in its own terms, as long as there are no definite limits to the efficacy of propaganda. To pose the issue at a comparatively shallow level, if the political response to a crisis simply is the crisis, and that response can be effectively controlled (through propaganda, broadly conceived), then the Cathedral commands an indisputable practical wisdom. It would be sensible to go long on the thing.
If however (imagine this, if you still can) manipulation of the response to crisis is actually a suppression of the feedback required to really tackle the crisis, then an altogether different story is unfolding.
Is reality subordinated to the Cathedral because — and exactly so far as — ‘the people’ are?
That is the question.
The article is taken from here: http://www.xenosystems.net/cathedralism/
Ccru: Writings 1997-2003
In the hyperstitional model Kaye outlined, fiction is not opposed to the real. Rather, reality is understood to be composed of fictions – consistent semiotic terrains that condition perceptual, affective and behaviorial responses. Kaye considered Burroughs’ work to be ‘exemplary of hyperstitional practice’. Burroughs construed writing – and art in general – not aesthetically, but functionally, – that is to say, magically, with magic defined as the use of signs to produce changes in reality.
Kaye maintained that it was ‘far from accidental’ that Burroughs’s equation of reality and fiction had been most widely embraced only in its negative aspect – as a variety of ‘postmodern’ ontological skepticism – rather than in its positive sense, as an investigation into the magical powers of incantation and manifestation: the efficacy of the virtual. For Kaye, the assimilation of Burroughs into textualist postmodernism constituted a deliberate act of ‘interpretevist sabotage’, the aim of which was to de-functionalise Burroughs’s writings by converting them into aesthetic exercises in style. Far from constituting a subversion of representative realism, the postmodern celebration of the text without a referent merely consummates a process that representative realism had initiated. Representative realism severs writing from any active function, surrendering it to the role of reflecting, not intervening in, the world. It is a short step to a dimension of pristine textuality, in which the existence of a world independent of discourse is denied altogether.
According to Kaye, the metaphysics of Burroughs’s ‘clearly hyperstitional’ fictions can be starkly contrasted with those at work in postmodernism. For postmodernists, the distinction between real and unreal is not substantive or is held not to matter, whereas for practitioners of hyperstition, differentiating between ‘degrees of realization’ is crucial. The hyperstitional process of entities ‘making themselves real’ is precisely a passage, a transformation, in which potentials – already-active virtualities – realize themselves. Writing operates not as a passive representation but as an active agent of transformation and a gateway through which entities can emerge. “[B]y writing a universe, the writer makes such a universe possible” (WV 321).
excerpt from the book: Ccru Writings 1997-2003
by Steven Craig Hickman
Perhaps it is time, once again, to acknowledge that we are smaller than we supposed, know less than we hoped, and are more frightened than we care to admit. “Nature,” as Newton famously wrote, “is pleased with simplicity” even if we are horrified.
– R. Scott Bakker
A great post on Three Pound Brain, the blog of R. Scott Bakker: the first, with Scott summing up the quandary of two creative events in his life, the creation of his latest installment in the epic Sci-Fi cycle of the Aspect Emperor The Unholy Consult; and, second, is his attempt to sketch out what he terms ‘post-intentional philosophy.’
In How to Build a First Person (Using Only Natural Materials) we discover that the self is not what it seems, that it is quite different than it at first appears, that our conceptions have gone awry and that we will never be the same again. This will not be an easy journey, it’s Scott’s labyrinth we’re entering, and if you go the distance you will not come out the same on the other end; in fact, you may never find the center of it, discover that the fate of the Minotaur is that he is blind, and that the only answer to his dilemma is the Blind Brain Theory (BBT); yet, if you or persistent in your journey you will discover something else: a central truth dangling down from the scientific world, where the ‘scientific image’ and the ‘human (metacognitive) image’ begin to totter toward each other at an exponential rate. Will they fuse or will they clash like those fated particles in CERN’s sixteen mile Hadron Collider. Will this new theory be the Higgs Boson of the philosophy of mind? Or will it turn out to be just the fruit of that long curve of scientific endeavor to understand human consciousness that started with the early Greek philosophers two-thousand years ago?
So what is this strange beast coming our way? Is W.B. Yeats correct in his appraisal: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards…” us weary mortals? No, its much simpler than that dark beast, it’s just science doing what it does best, exposing the myths of our long and dubious journey as humans to the light of scientific method and reasoning. Or, maybe not, maybe we are the Beast blinded by our own Brain: a tale of blindness and insight. As Bakker tells us:
It’s all about the worst case scenario. Philosophy, to paraphrase [Ray] Brassier, is no sop to desire. If science stands poised to break us, then thought must submit to this breaking in advance. The world never wants for apologists: there will always be an army of Rosenthals and Badious. Someone needs to think these things, no matter how dehumanizing or alienating they seem to be. Besides, only those who dare thinking the post-intentional need fear ‘losing’ anything. If meaning and morality are the genuine emergent realities that the vast bulk of thinkers, analytic or continental, assume them to be, they should be able to withstand any sustained attempt to explain them away.
But what exactly is the Beast of a Blind Brain Theory? He explains the basic notion in his abstract of The Last Magic Show: A Blind Brain Theory of the Appearance of Consciousness:
The Blind Brain Theory of the Appearance of Consciousness (BBT) represents an attempt to ‘explain away’ several of the most perplexing features of consciousness in terms of information loss and depletion. The first-person perspective, it argues, is the expression of the kinds and quantities of information that, for a variety of structural and developmental reasons, cannot be accessed by the ‘conscious brain.’ Puzzles as profound and persistent as the now, personal identity, conscious unity, and most troubling of all, intentionality, could very well be kinds of illusions foisted on conscious awareness by different versions of the informatic limitation expressed, for instance, in the boundary of your visual field. By explaining away these phenomena, BTT separates the question of consciousness from the question of how consciousness appears, and so drastically narrows the so-called explanatory gap. If true, it considerable ‘softens’ the hard problem. But at what cost? (read here)
We could call this the Great Divorce, the theory of how consciousness departs from our narcissism forever, one that will ask the simple but definable question of what consciousness is in itself divorced from the human – a theory that entails concsiousness not as it appears for-us but as it is divorced from all our human investments and human myths, religious and philosophical musings, and thoughts about what it is for-us… As he states it:
If consciousness as it appears is fundamentally deceptive, we are faced with the troubling possibility that we quite simply will not recognize the consciousness that science explains. It could be the case that the ‘facts of our deception’ will simply fall out of any correct theory of consciousness. But it could also be the case that a supplementary theory is required— a theory of the appearance of consciousness.1
But what exactly does this theory look like? What is he offering us as a replacement for thousands of years of human deception? Well the short answer: any final theory of consciousness will involve some account of multimodal neural information integration. Ah, sweet, so simple, yet what exactly is ‘multimodal neural information integration’? Well, the grand daddy of encyclopedias, Wiki tells us this, saying:
Multisensory integration, also known as multimodal integration, is the study of how information from the different sensory modalities, such as sight, sound, touch, smell, self-motion and taste, may be integrated by the nervous system. A coherent representation of objects combining modalities enables us to have meaningful perceptual experiences. Indeed, multisensory integration is central to adaptive behavior because it allows us to perceive a world of coherent perceptual entities. Multimodal integration also deals with how different sensory modalities interact with one another and alter each other’s processing. (read more)
Scott explains all this in simpler terms, saying,
Consciousness is the product of a Recursive System (RS) of some kind, an evolutionary twist that allows the human brain to factor its own operations into its environmental estimations and interventions. Thinking through the constraints faced by any such system, I will argue, provides a parsimonious way to understand why consciousness appears the way it does. The ability of the brain to ‘see itself’ is severely restricted. Once we appreciate the way limits on recursive information access are expressed in conscious experience, traditionally intractable first-person perspectival features such as the now, personal identity, and the unity of consciousness can be ‘explained away,’ thus closing, to some extent, the so-called explanatory gap.
The Blind Brain Theory of the Appearance of Consciousness (BBT) is an account of how an embedded, recursive information integration system might produce the peculiar structural characteristics we associate with the first-person perspective. In a sense, it argues that consciousness is so confusing because it literally is a kind of confusion. Our brain is almost entirely blind to itself, and it is this interval between ‘almost’ and ‘entirely’ wherein our experience of consciousness resides. (ibid.)
Understanding the implications of this strange theory of the blind brain presents us with that ultimate, as Bakker on his blog has repeatedly emphasized, ‘bonfire of the humanities’:
This is why I continually speak of BBT in eschatological terms, pose it as a precursor of the posthuman: if scientifically confirmed, it means that Man-the-meaning-maker is of a piece with Man-the-image-of-God and Man-the-centre-of-the-universe, that noocentrism will join biocentrism and geocentrism in the reliquary of human intellectual conceit and folly. And this is why I mourn ‘Akratic Culture,’ society fissured by the scission of knowledge and experience, with managerial powers exploiting the mechanistic efficiencies of the former, and the client masses fleeing into the intentional opacities of the latter, seeking refuge in vacant affirmation and subreptive autonomy. (How to Build a First Person)
To understand more about R. Scott Bakker and his Blind Brain Theory read more here and here. Also on Scott’s blog there is a good follow up by Roger Eichorn (read here) The ‘Human’: Discovery or Invention?.
In his conclusion, Scott, leaves us neither a definition nor a theoretical calculus of his theorem, instead he offers us a discursive yet prolix proem:
Consciousness as you conceive/perceive it this very moment now is the tissue of neglect, painted on the same informatic canvas with the same cognitive brushes as our environment, only blinkered and impressionistic in the extreme. Reflexivity, internal-relationality, sufficiency, and intentionality, can all be seen as hallucinatory artifacts of informatic closure and scarcity, the result of a brain forced to make the most with the least using only the resources it has at hand. This is a picture of the first person as an informatically intergrated series of scraps of access, forced by structural bottlenecks to profoundly misrecognize itself as something somehow hooked upon the transcendental, self-sufficient and whole…
Maybe in the end this ‘self-reflecting negativity’ as Slavoj Zizek sites it is nothing more yet nothing less than the zero sum estimation of a mystery that will always remain a mystery, yet one that can now begin to realize that it no longer needs the support of all those ancient metaphysical quandaries that were born of a need to know… maybe in this poverty of the gap we can see and hear once again, and listen not to the music of the spheres but to the machines of consciousness as they grind away within the void of our blind brain. Maybe the ‘image of science’ and the ‘image of humanity’ were one and the same all along, but the delusions of a fabricated self kept us from that very simple knowledge. Maybe it is time for philosophy and science to interpenetrate each others jargon filled worlds and forge new links that can help us toward a greater understanding of this strange realm of blindness and insight.
1. R. Scott Bakker. The Last Magic Show: A Blind Brain Theory of the Appearance of Consciousness
by Steven Craig Hickman
There always seems to be a fine line in commentary between teasing thoughts out of the mind of another, and the downright obliteration of those very thoughts by an insidious misappropriation and transformation or distortion that takes place in any philosophical commentary. Over the years – and, I’ve literally read thousands of commentaries of specific authors, books, etc. – I’ve come to the realization that most of us will probably never agree on the meaning of reality, that we all tend to differing conceptions due to culture, natural disposition, and the inexplicable and as of yet undefined modes of our specific existences. We are a mystery that will never be wholly explained. Even the idea that we are ‘critical thinkers’ has recently been called into question with the assertion that the ‘rationalizing brain’ is a thinking machine which is far too complex to be reduced to the older forms of subjectivity and intentionality. As my friend over at Three Pound Brain, R. Scott Bakker iterates over an over: we’re all blind to our own brain, and all the cultural and philosophical baggage coined under the term ‘intentional awareness’ is sham through and through. Scott even reminds us in his provisional manifesto (here) that those of our contemporary literati and philosophical radicals (so called) are actually quite conservative – still believing in the old terms, the old mythology of the Self as Subject even under the auspices of overthrowing such conceptual bric-a-brac, etc. :
Where the Old Theory discusses ‘fragmented subjectivities,’ cognitive science has moved on to fragmented intentionalities more generally, questioning the stability and reality of things–context, affect, normativity, perception, and so on–that the Old Theory still takes for granted. The Old Theory, in other words, continues to anthropomorphize its discursive domain, positing intentionalities that the sciences are now calling into serious question. Ignorant of the truly radical alternatives, it continues to service the same folk-psychological intuitions that underwrite the cultural status quo.
Science treats us as machines, and fragmented machines at best, broken mis-measurers of reality who blinded to their own partial knowledge or lack of such assume meta-cognitive appropriation of the real where none is to be had. “How many puzzles whisper and cajole and actively seduce their would-be solvers? How many problems own the intellect that would overcome them?” So begins Bakker’s The Last Magic Show: A Blind Brain Theory of the Appearance of Consciousness (here). Bakker already admits to his outsider status within the domain of scientific practice and discipline that he has chosen to stake his theoretical proclivities (here), but sees this as par for the course for any viable future theory which for him will embrace “the crank, the amateur, understanding that unprecedented answers tend to come from institutionally unconstrained sources–from the weeds outside our academic gardens.”
As I continue to read Scott’s blog I have slowly ingrained myself to his terminology, which seems to float through many disciplines in search of a key to tap others of like mind. He doesn’t mind the crankiness and quirkiness of his work, or even the castigation of it he receives. For him this is all par for the course of any new theory: the test is that people cannot remain neutral to its impact, they can only love or hate it – never sit on the fence with its conceptions. Scott is an avid reader of current literature dealing with ‘intentionality’ and the sciences and philosophy of mind and consciousness. Over time he has honed his arsenal of tools and approach to his own ignorance and Socratic path. I admire his tenacity and forthrightness. He seems like the proverbial dog of Diogenes always barking at the masters bitter truths realizing that what he sees both exasperates him and astounds him. Sometimes he wants to be kicked, hoping someone will disprove his hunches; yet, time and time again, the veritable panoply of oncomers fail to convince and fall by the wayside as he continues his search for the definitive martialing of his theory.
In the Last Magic Show he alludes to the discrepancy between the appearance and the scientific descriptive portrayal of consciousness, and of the need for a supplementary theory to tease out the appearance of consciousness. But before tackling such a theory one wants Scott to first explain what he means by appearance and consciousness. Should we assume these terms mean something specific for him or that they should be qualified by the history of their use in science or philosophy; or, even as partial of the accepted definitions (ie. the OED, etc.). Do we just assume a complicity between the writer and his audience that we all have the same understanding of these terms and their heuristic use in the text? Why should I even raise this as an issue? Shouldn’t the text itself in the movement of its words bring out the meaning of these two such important terms and their use as Scott continues his discourse.
Since he does not make explicit what he means by such terms up front, then we must continue our reading and see what he is up too. In the next paragraph he unloads a bomb: “The central assumption of the present paper is that any final theory of consciousness will involve some account of multimodal neural information integration.” He actually places a footnote for this (and of course we will assume for better or worse that this is a published paper for a specific audience, and not intended for the general reader who may or may not be knowledgeable of such terminology). And, of course in the footnote he informs us that the underpinnings of much of his theory are idealizations of other theoretical work in the sciences: “Tononi’s Information Integration Theory of Consciousness (2012) and Edelman’s Dynamic Core Hypothesis (2005). The RS as proposed here is an idealization meant to draw out structural consequences perhaps belonging to any such system.”
Tonino starts with phenomenology which ties him to the whole history of a specific set of philosophical presuppositions that I will not belabor. The point is that for Tonino consciousness is ‘integrated information’: a physical and quantifiable effect of the brain and not some substantive entity either immersed or transcendent of the brain. Our consciousness is generated out of neural processes for specific evolutionary reasons. One can see the full lecture:
For Edelman and Tonino on the Dynamic Core Hypothesis one can read their Consciousness and Complexity paper here. I’ll leave this to the reader to pursue. A blog post for the future could delve into both of these in depth but for the moment I’m dealing again with R. Scott Bakker’s proposal. Yet, since these two men’s work seem to underpin his essay it might be good to know just what they are proposing.
We propose that a large cluster of neuronal groups that together constitute, on a time scale of hundreds of milliseconds, a unified neural process of high complexity be termed the “dynamic core,” in order to emphasize both its integration and its constantly changing activity patterns. The dynamic core is a functional cluster –its participating neuronal groups are much more strongly interactive among themselves than with the rest of the brain. The dynamic core must also have high complexity — its global activity patterns must be selected within less than a second out of a very large repertoire.
The point being that consciousness is the effect of a specific set of interacting neurons termed the ‘dynamic core’ and its communicative processes in integrating messages or chemical transformations from the global brain as part of a specific functionary dynamism of complex processes (feedback loops, energy transfer, chemical reactors, etc.). The crux of their goal is a theory that supports the “belief that a scientific explanation of consciousness is becoming increasingly feasible”. The point being for them is to have a scientifically valid theory that relates the phenomenology of consciousness to a “distributed neural process that is both highly integrated and highly differentiated”.
Now Bakker in his reading sees consciousness as the product of a “Recursive System (RS) of some kind, an evolutionary twist that allows the human brain to factor its own operations into its environmental estimations and interventions”(here). The use of the term ‘recursive system’ comes from the technical use made by Dynamic Core theory: “The dynamic core consists of a momentary subset of the thalamocortical system defined by active synapses. Positive feedback/reentrant signals circulate in the network of the dynamic core. The active synapses comprising the dynamic core continually change as the dynamic core updates recursively on the basis of about 100 ms.” (here) For Bakker the subjective personal identity of first person is an illusion, a confusion of our experience of consciousness which is actually a machine of neuronal activity blind to its own emergent processes which become conscious only after these specific sub-neuronal processes have emerged from the function of the Dynamic Core.
Yet, I wonder, is our awareness of being aware an illusion of this process as well? Or is it part of the actual dynamic process in its ongoing neuronal activity, being only one phase of this process and not the whole gamut? Why are we aware of our awareness to begin with? Is it because of these recursive feedback-loops interacting at such high rates and complexity that we confuse the process for something else: a center of self and subjectivity? Knowing the facts of this brain activity does not take away the awareness of our awareness, so how explain this awareness of our consciousness to begin with? This so called science tries to describe the process not the outcome, but we are more interested not in the material processes that over the evolutionary strand have due to some quirk in our natural history brought about this blind brain. What we are interested in is an explanation of why we are aware at all? Why do we need consciousness to begin with? Why this confusion of self and world, this seeming sense of a self to begin with? If we accept that this is a lie, an illusion created by the process itself then is it something useful, a happy accident of evolution? Explaining it in scientific terms doesn’t really get at the heart of the confusion so far as I can see. Knowing that we are just the fabrication of a blind brain immersed in sub-neural and neuronal processes explains only the bare minimum of the brain itself, but this doesn’t really get at consciousness at all. Instead it just complicates the matter with more questions.
Why did evolution bring about consciousness in just this specific form in humans and not in other creatures? Why are other creatures not aware of their awareness? Why humans? What brought about this strange if complicated separation between the brain and its awareness, and of its ability to recursively process its own awareness? Why are there thinking minds to begin with? What in the evolutionary process brought the need for thinking to begin with? And, why just one specific species? If that is even true.
As Bakker informs us over and over we’re we “generally don’t possess the information we think we do!” Consciousness is just the tip of a great iceberg or abyss that we are completely unaware of. Ok I’ll bite, and realize we filter out almost 99% (of course we have no quantifiable measuring stick for this, scientific or otherwise) of the data below our conscious mind. We seem to thrive quite nicely on our ignorance and let the physical brain do the rest in unconscious bliss. But one does not need a rocket scientist to tell us that if we had all that information at our disposal in one moment we’d be unable to see the forest for the trees, we’d be lost in a maze of information. So what we discover is that consciousness is a filter, a selective center of a specific set of processes that integrates the information that is processed below the stream in the brain and brings to awareness only the specific information needed to get on with the physical process of life itself. Is this so hard to accept? Surely not! We all understand that we need only what will help us get on with our work. The crux is not in this, we only become aware of it as a problem when we are unable to retrieve the information needed, when the brain for medical or other reasons does not work, and in fact breaks down and is no longer able to integrate the information: then we call for either the medical or psychological teams to investigate.
Of course Bakker is not unaware of this quagmire:
..at some point in our recent evolutionary past, perhaps coeval with the development of language, the human brain became more and more recursive, which is to say, more and more able to factor its own processes into its environmental interventions. Many different evolutionary fables may be told here, but the important thing (to stipulate at the very least) is that some twist of recursive information integration, by degrees or by leaps, led to human consciousness. Somehow, the brain developed the capacity to ‘see itself,’ more or less.
This is where my own questions start? Why? What event or strange evolutionary process brought this about? Why us and not other animals as well? If recursivity is game then why did evolution see this for just one specific species? There needs to be something more concrete that a ‘fable’ to explain this? Bakker again has a guess for this in the wings “the RS is an assemblage of ‘kluges,’ the slapdash result of haphazard mutations that produced some kind of reproductive benefit (Marcus, 2008).” But this is more surmise than actual answer. Another scientific fable to confuse more that enlighten us about the fabric of consciousness and its specific form in the human animal.
Yet, Bakker admits to my own point saying “We have good reason to suppose that the information that makes it to consciousness is every bit as strategic as it is fragmental. We may only ‘see’ an absurd fraction of what is going on, but we can nevertheless assume that it’s the fraction that matters most …” Exactly! For whatever reason the information we get is what we need to get own with our work whatever that might be, and yet sometimes we need more we need to invent other avenues of information that the brain lacks. What then? If the brain does not give us what we need what then? Could this lead us to ask other questions as to why we formed a specific type of consciousness that we did? Is brain science the last answer, the be all end all of a physical apprehension of these processes?
Sometimes I get the feeling that Bakker sees consciousness as a bit player, as a passive pony in a parade that is for the most part hidden in the recesses of recursive processes totally out of its control of sway. But is this true? Is consciousness just a passive receptacle, a sort of central void where all these recursive processes finally integrate and divulge their long labors in the unconscious brain? –
The problem lies in the dual, ‘open-closed’ structure of the RS. As a natural processor, the RS is an informatic crossroads, continuously accessing information from and feeding information to its greaterneural environment. As a consciousness generator, however, the RS is an informatic island : only theinformation that is integrated finds its way to conscious experience. This means that the actual functions subserved by the RS within the greater brain —the way it finds itself ‘plugged in’— are no more accessible to consciousness than are the functions of the greater brain. And this suggests that consciousness likely suffers any number of profound and systematic misapprehensions.
His use of the metaphor ‘plugged in’ as if this dynamic core were machine plugged into the greater databank of the brain with consciousness totally blank and devoid of knowledge of this specific engine it is connected too. I sometimes feel like we are reading a new Lovecraft novel written by a scientist rather than a literary fantasist. And of course Bakker is that as well (no pun intended).
So ultimately we come to crux of Bakker’s theory, BBT of Blind Brain Theory: “Blind Brain Theory of the Appearance of Consciousness simply represents an attempt to think through this question of information and access in a principled way: to speculate on what our ‘conscious brain’ can and cannot see.”
So his actual theory is quite specific more toned down that it’s actual portrayal in post after post on his blog. A speculative theory on the brains blindness and insight into its own recursive processes. Simple and sweet, yet infinitely complex in its actual goals. What I like about Bakker’s work so far is that he moves us beyond the quagmires of present philosophical literature. Current philosophy in it anit-representaionalist and representationalist literature Analytic or Continental deal with the extremes of Subject or Object. In Badiou and Zizek we start with the ‘Subject’, with others – such as the SR or OOO gang with ‘Objects’ and a multitude of those in between those two extremes measuring the world in processes. I simplify of course. But my drift is that those such as Zizek deal with the void of self, the abyss within around which consciousness like a satellite revolves in recursive formation; while others like Graham Harman consider objects as withdrawn and unknowable, as recursive dynamic systems that consciousness is totally blind too. Bakker on the other hand coming out of a naturalistic scientific philosophical background seeks scientific terminology of the newer brain sciences that try to move us beyond the use of Subject and Object altogether.
The next question that arises is ‘Time’, and specifically the now of our conscious mind, the first-person singular illusion he speaks of. As he says, “Any theory that fails to account for it fails to explain a central structural feature of consciousness as it is experienced. It certainly speaks to the difficulty of consciousness that it takes one of the most vexing problems in the history of philosophy as a component!” For RS theory time is nothing more that the integration point where the brain becomes conscious: this is the moment we experience as ‘now’. As Bakker would have it “Our experience of time is an achievement. Our experience of nowness, on the other hand, is astructural side-effect. The same way our visual field is boundless and yet enclosed by an inability to see, our temporal field – this very moment now – is boundless and yet enclosed by an inability to time. This is what makes the now so perplexing, so difficult to grasp: it is what might be called an ‘occluded structural property of experience.’”
One could spend an essay or even a book on just what Time is and its relation to consciousness. Yet, it is one of the cornerstones of many philosophical debates. In the older Newtonian universe the spatio-temporal dimensions were extensive and contained in a passive receptacle. In recent time Whitehead offered a more dynamic cross-sectional theory. As most scientists know experiments that might serve as bases for the construction of a physical theory or that might serve as tests for the confirmation of a physical theory are subject to the demand that standard conditions prevail or that suitable correction factors be introduced to ensure the consistency and the comparison of the experimental results. Otherwise, the experimental results would be one-time reports with no significance beyond isolated experiments, certainly not beyond the domain of the peculiar conditions that do prevail in the experiments. Also, were there not an assumption of standard conditions, it would follow that theories would be constructed and confirmed with reference only to peculiar conditions prevailing in particular areas where the experimentation takes place.
I’m not a Whitehead expert but feel there is an important part of his work to be still investigated. In Process and Reality we discover that for him the physical and geometrical order of nature in were described in terms of “a hierarchy of societies” (PR 147-50, 506-08). Basically, a “society” is a grouping of events which manifest a common characteristic, the presence of that characteristic being guaranteed by the relations which the events sustain. The physical and geometrical order of nature is constituted by at least three societies, “the society of pure extension,” “the geometric society,” and “the electromagnetic society.” The point to be noted is the relationship of the geometrical society and the electromagnetic society. The latter is embedded, so to speak, in the former, so that a determination of the variable physical quantities which characterize the electromagnetic society is obtained against a background of relationships which comprise a uniform metric structure:
The whole theory of the physical field is the interweaving of the individual peculiarities of actual occasions upon the background of systematic geometry. (PR 507)
[T] hese diversities and identities are correlated according to a systematic law expressible in terms of the systematic measurements derived from the geometric nexus. (PR 150)
When I think of the recursive embedding of these differing hierarchies of societies I’m reminded of how consciousness too is embedded in a recursive nexus of processes of which it is unaware, but that can be measured through a determination of certain variable physical quanta through an analogous background of relationships that comprise the uniform metric structure of the global brain itself. The now being nothing more than one of those ‘actual occasions’ upon which the background is woven. If one applied the exactitude of such geometrical precision to the brain science one might actually be able to systematically measure the peculiarities of consciousness itself in a scientific way. A testable theory!
Without going into every detail of Bakker’s essay, which I could not begin to do full justice too in one blog post. I will instead leave you with his parting words:
I sometimes fear that what we call ‘consciousness’ does not exist at all, that we ‘just are’ an integrative informatic process of a certain kind, possessing none of the characteristics we intuitively attribute to ourselves. Imagine all of your life amounting to nothing more than a series of distortions and illusions attending a recursive twist in some organism’s brain. For more than ten years I have been mulling ‘brain blindness,’ dreading it– even hating it. Threads of it appear in every novel I have written. And I still can’t quite bring myself to believe it.
This idea that we are machines, ‘integrative informatics processing’ machines at that, who have for so long assumed grandiose dribble about our personal worth and identity seems to be Bakker’s worst nightmare come true. What it seems to me is that he has discovered what is coming toward us, the future belongs to something else… something not quite human, yet born of our own strange informatics processes: the cyborgs and artificial intelligences that we may one day give birth too may look back quaintly at this troubled angel of flesh and blood and wonder just what all the fuss was about anyway. Maybe the last magic show is not for us but for our electronic children. Wouldn’t that be a recursive twist for the comic book heroes of an age to come… or is that age upon us? Nightmares indeed…