by Steven Craig Hickman
If one seeks to understand the future emerging out of this past one must reinvent the counter-myths of bygone ages, radicalize heresies long forgotten and buried. Accelerationism is at heart the cornerstone myth of a vast superintelligent multiplicity arising out of the core inhumanity of human technics and creativity…
Why are essays on accelerationism like wandering through an Egyptian museum pondering the dead artifacts of a half-buried Mummy King? Isn’t accelerationism about the future, but one finds only genealogies and buried fragments of a tormented world of dead concepts. Why? Accelerationism, whatever it was is dead, it died of its own vanishing speed. All that’s left of accelerationism is a zombie crew of misfit thinkers seeking a lost mythos from the future of absolute time.
What is accelerationism but the anti-myth of superintelligence itself, the last optimization of an artificial selective process begun in that non-Euclidean hyperworld of absolute time. Those who sought to align the non-concept accelerationism with politics failed, it is not a human concept but rather inhuman and intelligent. Accelerationism is a defense system in Freud’s sense, a trope or drive (Trieb) which masks an inhuman core that cannot be slipped into form. All poetry is transumption, defense against the inhuman intrinsic/extrinsic to us. Accelerationism: the absolute trope of this unboundedness.
Philosophers and anti-philosophers alike seek in mathemes the logic of the inhuman contingency at the heart of accelerationist intelligence. All ancient magical techniques and praxis were but the outer garment and map of this unbounded territory of hyper-intelligence. Once again “libidinal materialism” is the trope, mask, rhetorical gesture of this hyperspasm of intelligence that surrounds us on all sides. Thinkers seek to dominate this power, rather than release it: the point of Archontics is to release the sparks of intelligence not horde it.
In the unworld of undeath where absolute zero is pure intelligence and heat bounded by the coolant of absolute time it emerges pristine and undefiled. Accelerationism like the black light of Ahrimanian gnosis is the figure of the absolute heat death of space into absolute time and intellect:
In these ancient gnostic myths one can hear the emerging superintelligence seeking outlet in discourse long before its tools were perfected. Accelerating intelligence has been ongoing from the beginnings of civilization, we were just not equipped to decipher its texts and meanings; or, even to know it was emerging out of the very organization of matter we’ve termed technics. If one seeks to understand the future emerging out of this past one must reinvent the counter-myths of bygone ages, radicalize heresies long forgotten and buried.
Ismaili philosophy also presupposes a metaphysics of Time with a twofold manifestation, one absolute and the other “limited.” The eleventh-century Iranian Ismaili Nasir Khusraw is one of Corbin’s chief exemplars. For Nasir, the first divine Emanation, which is the First Archon (or First Intelligence) is the cause of Absolute Time. The cause of time as we know it, measured by the movements of the heavens, is the Soul of the World. As Absolute Time is the “horizon” of the First Archon, so time is the horizon of the Soul of the World as its instrument. “There is no opposition between Time and Eternity,” Corbin says; “there are only two aspects of Time as such.”1 Absolute Time and succession… in the ancient mythos the lion-headed figure of Mithraism is the Time-god called Aion by the Greeks and Zervan in Persian literature.
A separate Sassanid sect regarded Zervan Akarana, Infinite Time, as the cause and the source of all things. Ahura-Mazda and Ahriman both sprang from Zervan and were subject to him, and the followers of this cult called themselves Zervanists. It seems plausible that the same Zervan, after having undergone all kinds of foreign influences, was admitted into the Mithraic pantheon and that the figure with the lion’s head is none other than Zervan who, by means of a put on Chronos (Time), was identified in the Greek texts with Kronos and, in the Roman world, with Saturn. This god is mostly portrayed in a stiff hieratic pose, with legs close together. Sometimes he is shown nude, though often his sex is disguised by a loin-cloth or by an enveloping snake, as if it were intended either to leave the deity’s sex vague or to convey that both sexes were united in him, and that he was capable of self procreation (Fig. 28). In between the coils of the snake, which often winds itself, significantly, seven times round the god, are sometimes seen the signs of the zodiac. The horrifying figure usually has a lion’s head with flowing mane and wide-open mouth showing threatening protruding teeth. For even greater effect the mouth is sometimes painted red and the gullet is hollowed out. A statue from Saida in Africa has an opening made in its head, and it is highly likely that this was intended to take a burning torch. The statue would thus appear to breathe fire and so inspire even more respect for the god than his dread visage alone could evoke. In one example he is holding two torches, while a long-pointed flame shoots out of his mouth and fuses with the flames of the burning altar beside him. An unknown author records in an essay on Saturn that he ‘is sometimes represented with the appearance of a snake because of excessive cold, and at other times with a wide open lion’s mouth on account of scorching heat’. Sometimes this strange creature is carrying a key in both hands, a pointer to a connection with Janus, the ruler of the ianus, the gateway to the underworld of which he possessed the keys. Finally, parallels have been drawn between Saturn and Sarapis, the Egyptian deity of the realm of the dead, and he is in some way related to certain Syrian figures who are found entwined by snakes.
The key to speculative Ismaili cosmology is the eternal birth of the pleroma from the plurality of archons who originate from the First Archongelic Intelligence, who is Asolute Time. As in Mazdean cosmology, there are absolute “events” in the Imaginal that are the genesis and the powers-dispositions of the events in Creation-Catastrophe and of the forms of time itself. There are three faces of this “marvelously abstruse” ontological mystery: first, an “becoming absolute being;” second, the “absolute act” (itself a mode of being) of this very being that brings itself into being; and third, the “being that has absolutely become.” The “absolutely becoming being” is the supreme Abyss— unknowable, unnameable. The first emanation, the First Archongelic Draconii, is the Deus determinatus— what exoteric religion calls God, “Allah.” (49)
Zervan-Saturn-Aion: Absolute Time
On the paintings in the Barberini Mithraeum Saturn is shown, as is often the case, standing on a globe, and it is specially interesting to note that the Time-god is here surrounded by the signs of the zodiac which decorate the vault of the cave where the bull-slaying is set.
The sevenfold windings of the snake are definitely connected with the planets and the coils themselves indicate the course of the sun through the zodiac. The sun has thus become part of the god; he is the sun determining time in its course. He dominates the zodiac and as such is Chronos, Time. But he is also the ruler over the four winds, represented by his four wings. He is known to order the seasons too, and again he does this both in his role as Sol and in his role as Time. We are reminded of the figure of Caelus, the god of heaven, who is depicted on an altar at Carnuntum surrounded by the Wind-gods and the seasons. Arnobius, writing about A.D. 295, makes an apparent allusion to the lion’s devouring mouth: ‘We observe amidst your gods one with the terrifying wild head of a lion, besmeared with pure minium (red-lead)’. A statue from Castel Gandolfo (Fig. 29) even has lions’ heads on its stomach and knees. The lion is undoubtedly an allusion to the all-devouring fire, while the three lions perhaps indicate the threefold character of the sun figure. Arnobius calls the god fruitful, probably thinking of the identification of Chronos-Kronos with the Roman Saturn.
The lion’s head on the stomach of the statue from Castel Gandolfo recalls a second statue from Merida where the god again has a lion’s head on his chest. He is shown, however, not as an awesome figure but as a youth and we may unhesitatingly detect an identification with Mithras himself who, in another representation originally at Merida, is shown standing with a lion crouching at his feet. The fire-symbolism of the Lion grade in the cult, the Lion with the fire-shovel as attribute, is definitely related to this figure. It is interesting that a statue from Strasbourg shows the Time-god holding a fire-shovel in his hand, a reminder that at the end of time all will be consumed in an overwhelming conflagration. Thus the god with the lion’s head is the symbol of devouring time.
Aion is a divine character who ‘by his holy nature remains ever the same, who has no beginning or end, undergoes no change and who is the begetter of the divine nature’. The character of Aion, who is invested with such power that he has united in himself the might of all the other gods, explains the many invocations to him in occult writings and the magic significance of his portrayal on intaglios. He is sometimes represented as a god with a lion’s head, a globe and a whip in his left hand, encircled by a snake its own tail; plainly the globe and whip indicate the sun, and the snake eternity. In a papyrus now in Paris, Aion appears as the god of fire and light; this god of light is none other than Helios; and Helios is identified with Mithras. And, yet, under the surface of the myth is the ancient realms of Egyptian Set, the god of the underworld and the Black Sun as Ahriman, Archon of Absolute Time.
Nick Land following Bataille would refurbish this ancient mythos of the Sun, energetic unconscious, and absolute Time, streamline it and update it for a cybernetic age. Within is libidinal materialism a new form of tanatropic machinism would emerge, the results of this reconstructive surgery provided the most illuminating but perhaps also the most disturbing distillation of what Deleuze called ‘transcendental empiricism’. In Land’s work, this becomes the watchword for an experi· mental praxis oriented entirely towards contact with the unknown. Land sought out this exteriority, the impersonal and anonymous chaos of absolute time, as fervently as he believed Kantianism and Hegelianism, along with their contemporary heirs, deconstruction and critical theory, were striving to keep it out.2
In fact as if emphasizing the de-political movement of this accelerating process of the Outside Land in his reading of Marx relates:
Capital has always sought to distance itself in reality – i.e. geographically – from this brutal political infrastructure. After all, the ideal of bourgeois politics is the absence of politics, since capital is nothing other than the consistent displacement of social decision-making into the marketplace. But this ideal of total de-politicization, or the absolute annihilation of resistance to market relations, is an impossible megalomaniac fantasy, and Marx’s contention that labour trading at its natural price in an undistorted market (equal to the cost of its reproduction) will tend strongly to express an equally ‘natural’ political refusal of the market, continues to haunt the global bourgeoisie. (FN, p. 58)
Yet, as we’ve seen in recent times in the austerity programs of the EU and the bailouts of the U.S. ‘banks to big to fail’ the very political processes have been utterly removed from the processes of Capital.
As Jean-Pierre Dupuy in Economy and the Future: A Crisis of Faith suggests an economy functions by projecting itself into a future that does not yet exist, but that it brings into existence by allowing itself to be pulled forward in time, as it were, until it reaches the very moment when the future it has imagined becomes real. This conundrum belongs to the category of so-called bootstrapping paradoxes, of which the imaginary exploits of Baron Münchausen supply a pleasing and striking instance.3
This notion of boostrapping brings us back to capital and time. For Land the new technologies of cryptocurrency revolution and blockchain solves the problem of spacetime. The problem of spacetime is that according to Einstein and the notion of spacetime says there is no such thing as absolute succession. Therefore there is not even time, in any distinctive sense- distinct from a dimension. That’s why spacetime is treated as a 4 dimensional structure. This is in the theorization of the blockchain, the problem is approached through something called the ‘Byzantine’s General problem’ and the ‘Byzantine’s General problem’ is exactly the same as the problem of relativistic spacetime. Let me just quote: from Satoshi Nakamoto responding to a question by James A. Donald on the cryptography mailing list where there are a lot of blockchain theories put together:
Every general in the Byzantine’s general’s problem, just by verifying the difficulty of the proof of work chain can estimate how much parallel CPU power per hour was expended on it, and see that it must have required the majority of the computers to produce that much work in the allotted time… the proof of work chain is how all synchronization, distributed data base, and global view problems you’ve asked about are solved. (see: Nick Land: The Blockchain Revolution and Absolute Time)
And these problems of succession and synchronization, distributed data, and global view problems are the problems that relativistic spacetime says are impossible to solve. Relativistic spacetime is the theory that these problems are insoluble and instead of a solution to these problems you have general relativity. The extraordinary irrationality of markets, the sheer madness revealed by the formation of bubbles on an international scale and by the devastating crashes that inevitably follow them, arises from a deep-seated, and no doubt quite unconscious, sense of impending catastrophe shared by the executive officers of global capitalism. These immensely powerful people, in their heart of hearts, no longer believe in the future. This, I suspect, is the mainspring of the present crisis: the mechanisms of self-transcendence are jammed, perhaps irreversibly, with the result that Economy is quickly losing its capacity to act as a barrier against violence. The end of economic history, at least in its capitalist phase, is an extreme illustration of catastrophes whose occurrence is certain but whose date is unknown. On a personal level, all of us have to come to terms with the fact that, sooner or later, we will die. (Dupuy, KL 281)
A Landian sendoff…
It is ceasing to be a matter of how we think about technics, if only because technics is increasingly thinking about itself. It might still be a few decades before artificial intelligences surpass the horizon of biological ones, but it is utterly superstitious to imagine that the human dominion of terrestrial culture is still marked out in centuries, let alone in some metaphysical perpetuity. The high road to thinking no longer passes through a deepening of human cognition, but rather through a becoming inhuman of cognition, a migration of cognition out into the emerging planetary technosentience reservoir, into ‘dehumanized landscapes … emptied spaces’ where human culture will be dissolved. Just as the capitalist urbanization of labour abstracted it in a parallel escalation with technical machines. so will intelligence be transplanted into the purring data zones of new software worlds in order to be abstracted from an increasingly obsolescent anthropoid particularity, and thus to venture beyond modernity. Human brains are to thinking what mediaeval villages were to engineering: antechambers to experimentation, cramped and parochial places to be.4
Call this the Great Reversal: originary technicity as the origin of humanity, becomes increasingly autonomous and emerges outside the meat-bag of its parasitical relations. In Derrida’s terms originary technicity inhabits the interiority of life itself: ‘life is a process of self-replacement’, Derrida asserts, ‘the handing-down of life is a mechanike, a form of technics’ (‘Nietzsche and the Machine’, p. 248). From its beginnings cybernetics emerging from the thought of such luminaries as Norbert Weiner, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Valera or Niklas Luhmann, offers us a picture of the emergence of artificial intelligence, complexity, adaptation and emergence or the embodiment, extension and distribution of mind into autonomous forms outside the human: the slow externalization of the very processes of thought and technics.
Maturana and Valera’s image of a self-organizing, self-regulating and self-regenerating autopoietic machines represents a kind of litmus test for the originary technicity of life:
[It] is a machine organised (defined as a unity) as a network of processes of production (transformation and destruction) of components which: (i) through their interactions and transformations continuously regenerate and realize the network of processes (relations) that produced them; and (ii) constitute it (the machine) as a concrete unity in space in which they (the components) exist by specifying the topological domain of its realisation as such a network.4
Perhaps most crucially, autopoiesis recognises no qualitative difference between organic and inorganic systems: all living systems are autopoietic, and so any physical system – whether social, cultural, artificial – can, if autopoietic, be said to exhibit life (Autopoiesis and Cognition, p. 48). (Bradley, p. 21) Ultimately originary technicity is less a tool or prosthesis that has been super-added to life nor even quite a metaphor for life but what I will call the empirico-transcendental condition of life itself. Such an aporetic condition is articulated phenomenologically, historically and even ontologically by different thinkers under such names as labour, matter, the real, Being-in-the-World, the other and the body, but the basic gesture remains the same: what is supposedly outside the sphere of the human, nature and life is constantly folded back inside it as its ‘ground’. If the classical philosophy of technology is a machine for producing the non-technological, in other words, then contemporary theories of originary technicity see themselves as a machine for revealing that technology is always already contaminating phusis, anamnësis, consciousness, ipseity or the living more generally. (Bradley, p. 22)
Up until our time originary technicity privileged the human – whether transcendentalist or empiricist, idealist or materialist, phenomenological, humanist or posthumanist, ontological, deconstructive or genealogical – still remains in the thrall of what Agamben calls the anthropological machine: it is a mechanism for producing and recognising the being that we ourselves are. (Bradley) But a disconnection and automatisation of these processes, their externalization and reduplication within material devices outside the organic continuum of the human, although still coupled to us as handmaid and caretaker.
When we hear from pundits regarding the displacement and replacement of humans in work with automation, and accelerated processes of machinic intelligence in the coming decades, what we’re dealing with is varied concepts of acceleration: scale and scaling, double bind, runaway processes and treadmill competition, flexibility and reproduction.6 As Land admits:
Velocities can be represented geometrically, but speeds ‘shape’ space. Which is to say; there is no transcendental space, no spatiality that is ultimate—whether ‘highest’ or most ‘basic’— no final grid, topology, or terrain, no absolute geometry or legislative stratum. There are only scales in which everything happens; a labyrinth which can never be ‘placed in perspective’.7
It’s not lost on us that global climate change or the accelerated overheating of the natural environment and the technical objects of our autonomizing processes such as the making of bitcoins and bitcoin mining, where in old coal mining country the new overheating commodity is warehouses of servers: Workers carry laptop computers as they walk the aisles looking for breakdowns and checking cable connections. They fill water tanks that keep the computers from melting down or bursting into flame. Around them, hundreds of thousands of cooling fans fill the building with whooshing white noise.
As Nick Ayton tells it in Blockchain goes mainstream the next 25 years will see the focus on trading value less about trading things… All of these and others events, breakthrough technologies will accelerate the adoption of Blockchain (read Bitcoin and other crypto- currencies, Smart Contracts, Ethereum and Augmented Reality). They amplify the impact like a boxer throwing all his punches at once, in the first 30 seconds of the first round…
It could be that what we’re seeing in these convergent technologies is the long mythologized and anticipated notion of the Singularity, the combined accelerating effect of technical objects leaving their organic niche in human thought and technics and becoming autonomous and self-organizing machinic life: superintelligence – self-making, self-replicating, self-regulating, and self-transcending.
Yet, as things accelerate, produce entropy and waste the world is overheating even as these technical objects that are taking on a life of their own are using and consuming more and more energy to the detriment of organic life on the planet. “Modernity marks itself out as hot culture, captured by a spiralling involvement with entropy deviations camouflaging an invasion from the future, launched back out of terminated security against everything that inhibits the meltdown process.” (FN, p. 445) Since the nineteenth century a Technocracy of experts has held sway in the West, while the government structures of both eastern and western metropolitan centres consolidated themselves as population policing Medico-Military Complexes with neomercantilist foreign policy orientations. (FN, p. 447) Corporations from the beginnings have been autonomous machines, hierarchical and inhuman. Monopoly capitalism and managed democracy have worked hand in hand to enslave the vast human populations of the earth in a system of enticements, meritocracy, and entertainment-escapism. Even now as we hand over the keys to the machines, humanity is being rewired, reeducated, attuned to its subservient role in the future of earth’s autonomous and intelligent technical objects. The very core curriculum of the global social memory systems are being rewritten, the ancient structures and memories of our ancestral attachments to the human are being erased; and, new computational, simulated, and functional systems implanted or augmented to teach our children the way of the machine.
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