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 Invisible Committee came back again about 7 days ago, with a brilliantly original and unapologetic essay on the naïvete of the many, many celebrations of the “new technologies” of Web 2.0 (Google, Facebook, etc.) as potentially emancipatory or revolutionary. “There are no “Facebook revolutions”, but there is a new science of government, cybernetics.” The new tract of the Invisible Committee, available both in writing (download the PDF file below) and audio, lays bare the roots of current communication technologies mired in the post-WWII military construction of “Cybernetics” as a scientific discipline. Cybernetics, however, cannot be farther from a branch of the sciences; Simondon’s description of cybernetics as the “second schema of intelligibility” after the Cartesian “method” is much more accurate, although even this does not capture the deeply political nature of cybernetics. By drawing attention to the latter as a pervasive albeit barely noticeable form of government(ality), the Committee joins the relatively thin ranks of the thinkers that recognize and announce the shifting of the forms of government, control, and even human-being/species-being away from the rational and grounded towards the cybernetic, the real-time, the empire of data. The essay is unbelievably refreshing, a development of original ideas without following any big philosophers. Its descriptions of the new human beings produced by the cybernetic organon (although the latter is my term) is a clear critique of Deleuze and “Deleuzian” thinkers.
The rational Western subject, aspiring to master the world and governable thereby, gives way to the cybernetic conception of a being without an interiority, of a selfless self, an emergent, climatic being, constituted by its exteriority, by its relations. A being which, armed with its Apple Watch, comes to understand itself entirely on the basis of external data, the statistics that each of its behaviors generates.
As I am attempting to demonstrate in a work in progress, Deleuze’s once radical or revolutionary theories, especially his pursuit of immanence have now become the ideologies of the diffused, absolute, singularized cybernetic control;they read like prophecies that came true not by the revolutionaries, but by the reactionary State. The authors’ clear and uncompromising declaration of the end of the era of rationality (the end of the rule of the principle of sufficient reason) and its correlate-subjects.
Political economy reigned over beings by leaving them free to pursue their interest; cybernetics controls them by leaving them free to communicate.
The essay’s treatment of data-mining as the more recent part/procedure of the cybernetic organon together with the cult of self-sharing amounts to lucid statements that show why the celebration of all things “social” is not such a great idea. Their emphasis on the cybernetic procedures as bypassing the universal-individual plane echoes my own conclusions to the same effect (see earlier posts, or one of my recent essays).
The great refrigerated storehouses of data are the pantry of current government. In its rummaging through the databases produced and continuously updated by the everyday life of connected humans, it looks for the correlations it can use to establish not universal laws nor even “whys,” but rather “whens” and “whats,” one-time, situated predictions, not to say oracles.
Please read the article in its PDF version I have placed below, or hear the presentation given by one of the Tarnac 9 here.
I recently came upon an interesting book. The book Strategy without Design is a only another example of the emerging, increasingly visible, logic that is the Cybernetic Organon: it essentially argues that self-organized, unintentional, collaborative work towards a goal is more efficient than intentionally designed strategy: leave it in God’s hands, god being that which controls the things I don’t understand. There is a sort of new faith at work, only this time, the God in question is much more occult and yet much more mundane: it is the god of cybernetic prosthesis. Cyber-capitalism is now long on its way to become the Cartesian God revived in the image of the circuit-breaker: Malebranche might have been wrong in the 17th century, but he completely in the right in the era of connective-capitalism. Occasionalism is vindicated: the revived God makes possible, establishes and breaks, all the connections in the planetary network that life now becomes; it lies between every two node, a protocol, through which all flows must pass. A decentered God, the God of Descartes.