The catatonic knight, the “passional” knight, stands in the field of snow staring at the red blood amidst the white expanse; he has forgotten where he is or who he is or why he came to be there. Only one subjectivity at a time; only a super-plastic, re-adjustable, “adaptive” set of behaviors in each given situation. Deleuze’s Perceval is a cybernetic machine: he is taken out of the quest-milieu and into that of romance, a catatonia waiting for further assignments of action-milieus. He is capable of forgetting, completely, even his own name, and what is much more important, even his low-level bodily habits, and so becomes the emptiest subject, container, de-calibrated even of former habits to allow for maximum potentiality of becoming: if you become nothing, you can become everything. This is why it is only Perceval, the…
We are all Antigones now, effective desubjectification have become vulnerabilities, points where the core of the human-as-behavioral-bundle can be hacked into. In Cybernetic Capitalism affect is the most political aspect of human life as it provides a direct, fast, streamlined tool to bypassing the calcified habits that make up the mostly-bodily core of each person’s identity. In a world where subjectivity and has become an extremely fluid commodity, externalized and marketed, non-conscious habits and bodily memories become the root of continuity and the sole means of identification. The cultural obsession with images of the amnesiac and those fleeing old lives to start new selves is a clear symptom of the evaluation of the human in terms of the machine’s ability to radically alter and adapt itself again and again (Cronenberg’s History of Violence comes to mind, where the identity of the protagonist is revealed in/by his body’s fast reactions in a violent situation).
I have always tried to provide a concrete and fact-based analysis of the technologies that lie at the base of Cybernetic Capitalism and in this paper I am going to show how the Cybernetic Organon (Rahebi 2015) redefines efficiency, intelligence, and creativity in machinic terms, thus creating an impossible demand on the proletarized humans to meet cybernetic standards and forms of creativity and fluidity. The Cybernetic Oragnism (e.g. deep learning neural networks like Google’s DeepMind/AlphaGo), is a fluid, re-programmable, self-organizing, and autonomous intelligence that can just as easily adapt and specialize as it can reset and re-initialize its patterns for a new round of training and calibration in a new milieu or for a new task. It is this form of forgetting that, though desired and even demanded by Cybernetic Capitalism, cannot be achieved by a biological entity whose habit-forming is hardly reversible and in whom creativity in its machinic sense of radical fluidity meets the meaty, biological barrier of germinating habits set in cellular permanence.
This cybernetic fluidity (as opposed to biological-neural plasticity) short-circuits the entire process of individuation (between the universal and the individual) and renders it obsolete as the cybernetic organ shifts between fully specialized singularity (complete adaptation to the milieu) and the blank potentiality of the fully generic. This is what underlies Stiegler’s conceptions of desublimation and the short-circuits of dis-individuation and it shows why the proletarization of the spirit must be framed in terms of plasticity, habits, and cybernetic intelligence.
I will show how the biological organism, including the human individual, is incapable of the fluidity and Thanatotic creativity that is the hallmark of the Cybernetic Organism due to the irreversibility of habit-formation and learning as a form of subjectification and identification and that despite the claims of Deleuze and Deleuzians, radical becomings and Burroughs-like BwOs are biologically invalid and only serve to further the “immanent ideologies” of Cybernetic Capitalism.
At the end, I will come to the issue of affect and affective vulnerability: coming up against this biological barrier of “inefficiency”, Cybernetic Capitalism tries to improve its control-and-consumption mechanisms through the manipulation of affects as forms of desubjectification. From conditioning soldiers to incentivizing consumers, it relies on the de-rationalizing, evacuating power of affects to bypass the built-in defenses of the habituated biological organism.
*The illustration, “Well Connected” is by Ebrahim Zargari-Marandi as part of his New Monstrosities Project.
The Neurotics of Yore: Cyber-Schizos vs Germinal Neuroses
“There are no neurotics anymore; and not just according to the DSM-IV and V. When Deleuze and Guattari were writing Anti-Oedipus, their call for schizophrenia the emancipation of desire-flows seemed most revolutionary, even idealistic or utopian sometimes. When Nick Land wrote his controversial texts in the 1990s, things had changed and Land was perhaps one of the first to see how deeply the Deleuzian concepts of Schizophrenia, of Becoming and the Body without Organs, were connected to Cybernetic Capitalism.
In this chapter I will argue that the Schizo, the emancipatory model of non-subjective (non-individuated) singularity, is already here, living next door, ordering a customized bicycle online. The Schizo has been here for a while now, to the detriment of all things neurotic-normal.
If neurosis is indeed a form of behavioral learning mechanism, a habit-contraction mechanism at the lowest levels of the psyche, a subjectifying, individuating process of response-limitation, then we must realize that Cybernetic Capitalism, the “prosumer” culture, has no use for the neurotic just as it has no room for such outdated processes as individuation. All the similarity between Deleuzian literature and the self-help books now available are not really random; the call to creativity and self-curation goes beyond a nice figure of speech. The market cannot afford a neurotic, stuck in a rut, her consumption choices as limited as her capacity to adapt to change. While the neurotics of yore came up with the New Deal and lifetime jobs, the schizophrenics (a statistical norm today) have come up with precarious labor, and millennials that conceive of jobs as short-term stints. The obsession with the apocalypse in the entertainment sector is the most recent manifestation of the majority view of machinic humanity. The message in all those high budget films is clear enough: if all changes in an instant, will you adapt (be cybernetic, schizophrenic) or will you perish in your old ways.
I will argue that neurosis qua limit case of habit-formation and behavioral subjectification is still at play as a force or an “attractor” among others, but that it has succumbed to other forces, to the schizophrenic-consumerist attractors, limited to very basic levels of individuation. We do not yearn nostalgically for the neurotic times to be back, nor are we comfortable with the remnants of neurotic formations in philosophy (the linguistic turn, for example). What we have to do is to examine the somatic levels of habit-formation for indications of the emergence of new ideas or modes of being.”
P.S. The Neurotic Turn has added two other great philosophers to its contributors, Benjamin Noys and Patricia Reeds will also be included in the book, alongside Graham Harman, Nick Land, Sean McGrath, C. W. Johns, Katerina Kolozova, John Russon, Alex Nevil, and a host of other distinguished scholars.
Originally written as an abstract for a conference in May 2015.
There is a deep affinity between the dead and the machinic when it comes to creativity, the creation of novelty; an affinity that is not reducible to their shared character of non-life. If creativity is the creation of an alterity, an act of spontaneity and a whim through which an other “without genealogy” (Malabou 2012, p. 3) comes to be, and if an organ(ism) creates itself into something new through an instant of self-determination, then by necessity that acts is a near-death experience; there is something of death in every spontaneous (self)creation. Spinoza mentions the zombie-poet Góngora, in his illustration of a death that is not actually dying but the emergence of new structures, new “ratios of motion and rest” (Spinoza and Parkinson 2000) between the parts, of novelty in a body that can no longer be the same. The amnesiac is a popular and necessary figure in the anthropology of creativity, yet one which pales against the cybernetic machine.