on universality

one thing i was musing over today is in what regards the question of universalism. Land’s two pieces explicitly on the subject have proviso-like sections that make for loopholes where one could insert some kind of universality even in such radical anti-universalist position.

here, he does so basically by negation:

“There’s a philosophical objection to any refusal of universalism that will be familiar from other uses (the denunciation of relativism, most typically). It requires only one step: Isn’t the denial of the universal itself a universalist claim? It’s a piece of malignant dialectics because it demands that we agree. We don’t, and won’t ever, agree. Agreement is the worst thing that could happen. Merely assent to its necessity, and global communism, or some close analog, is the implicit conclusion.

If there is a universal truth, it belongs only to Gnon, and Gnon is a dark (occulted) God. Traditional theists will be at least strongly inclined to disagree — and that is excellent. We disagree already, and we have scarcely begun.”

it seems there is a certain universality is disagreeing (and maybe in its close allies: exit, individuality, atomization, schism, etc).

in part 2, he’s more positive about it, relating universality to (in that order) mathematics, mechanization and transcendental philosophy:

“Preliminary throat-clearing (as in part one): In its most rigorous construction, ‘universalism’ is robust under conditions of rational argument (i.e. evidence-based logico-mathematical criticism). Mathematical theorems, in particular [sic], are universal truths. Any assertions that can be constructed to a comparable level of formal rigor (and ultimately mechanization) can lay claim to the same status. However, with the slightest departure from this — rigidly algorithmic — criterion, controversy rapidly begins. This is not the place and time to argue the case for transcendental philosophy (within which praxeology in included), but such a case could be made. Ditto strictly proceduralized empirical science. All of this is a digression.”

(that [sic] right there is suspicious, but nevermind for now).

so, apparently a mechanized conflict could be said to be universal? wouldn’t this contradict Land’s anti-universalism?

one way in which this apparent paradox could be resolved it that such universal conflict wouldn’t at all need be imposed globally, since it’s the precise opposite of global imposition.

in a conversation, Vincent Garton add that “universalism is a species of political project which privileges the seeking of consensus over universal truths, so accepting the universality of disagreement is ostensibly not contradictory with rejecting universalism”.

this seems to be a point which Land has been hinting at for a long time. one of the most powerful quote from Fanged Noumena, which i personally love, is a sentence from Art as Insurrection (p. 150): “If reason is so secure, legitimate, supersensibly guaranteed, why all the guns?

Vincent completes “I sort of see what Nick is getting at – the rationalists want to remove all ideological schism to the discursive sphere, so you have a conversation and then decide, abstractly, what to do, rather than experimenting in practice”. which, of course, has no chance of working sinceNothing that cannot go wrong is capable of teaching anything“. information is only produced through the brutal culling of inefficiency.

and that’s universal, or absolute.

Ephemeral Formalism

neocolonial tells us the informational shape of the Internet Age and its relation to hierarchy (reblogging because I there’s nothing to disagree there)

neocolonial

The conflict of the 21st Century is about forming a Collective Intelligence that can outwit and out innovate all of its competitors. The central challenge is to innovate a way of collaborating and cohering individuals that maximally deploys their individual perspectives, capabilities, understandings and insights with each-other.

  • This is quite a significant statement.  In many ways, we are seeing another phase transition in power that is due to massive interconnectedness flowing down now to the personal level.
  • Back in feudal times, information had to be carried physically, either by envoy or by missive.  This favoured the rigid hierarchies of that period.
  • During the industrial revolution, with the development of the telegraph, then the telephone, we saw power flow to an oligarchic distribution.  Key centres of power formed, eventually resulting in the development of the Cathedral.  Power is brought dynamically to bear through intermediary institutions.
  • Now…

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the nightmare of paralysis

if you want a picture of hell, just picture this: the year 2116 will be no different from last year. Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton dispute the presidency, with the predictable results. much gnashing of teeth and trumpeting follows.

i have no other worse nightmare.

how would a future like this have come about? conceive this and you have exactly the opposite of unconditional acceleration, its only true enemy. if all things come from turbulence, stagnation is anti-production per se. it’s a break in the intelligence pump.

i’ll have more to say about the cybernetics of mutual excitation, but simply put there is no positive feedback without warit’s only through mutual escalation (and the rampant death of unfitness that eventually follows) that anything gets done.

the punch-line: if killing each other by the hundreds of thousands is what would take America to make a fucking move, so be it. it looks inevitable right now, but with the depth of meaningful time already in the weeks, it’s taking too long.

 

back to the future

one of the first ever posts on this blog was this one, commenting upon Park MacDougald’s “Accelerationism, Left and Right“, to date one of the very best primers on acceleration and its schisms. there I made a few points that deserve follow-up given my recent developments.

the first one, regarding the acceleration of market catallactics as a propellant of human autonomization is very much the topic of the last section of the Dark Enlightenment essay, although in a much darker vein. darkness notwithstanding, there is no real distinction between the dissolution of a population in its technology and the autonomization of human beings.

the second one deserves full restatement here, following-up my last arguments against left-accelerationism:

Left-Accelerationism mostly ignores left-wing anarchist tendencies which focus on individual autonomy and the forces of bottom-up global organization through capitalist technologies (bitcoin, ethereum and the Internet itself being the foremost examples). It’s my contention here that any “left” that does not interest itself with decentralized, disruptive processes, and focus rather on keeping and maintaining centralized power, is not “left-wing” at all.

market forces need no “repurposing” to deliver left-wing results, they need intensification(as a brief aside about a text that deserves much more attention, Justin Murphy’s point here can be answered from that: yes, “revolution” can be properly understood as an enterprise within an inherently competitive system – call it “capitalism” if you want – and it’s within enterprises that any action can be made sense of).

the third point, regarding Carson’s subjective LTV still stands, especially since some reflections on Bohm-Bawerk’s roundaboutness and subsequent Cambridge Capital Debate have led me to ponder that maybe Carson’s work has indeed much deeper insights to questions of accelerationism. i will be returning to those soon.

finally, i guess i’ve touched repeatedly on the topic of Neocameralism and territoriality lately (1, 2, 3, 4), so the fourth point has been dealt with.

a neocameralist reconstruction of the US Constitution

the original US Constitution was very amenable to neocameralist restructuring. in fact, pretty much all was already in place, except for the language.

voters were property owners (the closest you got to a real shareholder) who elected a board of electors to point an executive officer. the federation was a consortium among States for mutual protection, so we had corporate representation (Senate). the Congress, as the representation (direct and indirect) of proprietors/shareholders, controlled the funds that went to the executive office.

this is all pretty much in tune with corporative structure. the glitch was with Supreme Court and the whole ideological apparatus

instead of the CEO appointing the justices, I would make justice a single church-like institution with the aim of controlling the legality of shareholder actions. in turn, it would be controlled only by the executive branch’s decision on law enforcement.

Cathedralist institutions (universities, media) would cater to either justice-church sentimentalities or become themselves shareholders.

of course, late 19th century and FDR reconstructions of the Constitution made it impossible, but a neocameralist US of A was once possible.

escaped velocity.

much more than the MAP, “Escape Velocities” is a neat summary of left-accelerationism in all its strands. in one respect especially, it shows everything: it’s got so much going for it, but then it drops the ball out of fear of sinning.

a few examples while you drift through the text:

  • you start recognizing genealogy, and the drop it after 3 paragraphs. fear? it certainly will drive you down weird routes.
  • it’s a mistake to recognize Land’s position (and, to a certain extent, even D+G’s) as “the worse the better”. it’s precisely the escalation of the process (capitalism) that is sought after. “better” and “worse” are already transcendent to it. why criticize something in these terms?
  • i’ll save the usual request for a specification of what “neoliberal order” can mean besides “the Cathedral”. but it sounds an awful lot like “the Devil”.
  • Nick Land, a heretic. could this indictment be made by anyone but a priest?
  • “today the best we can hope for is marginally improved consumer gadgetry”. what were you expecting, Eden?
  • it’s notable, in fact, that Williams’ diagnostic is precisely the same as that of NRx: decay, deceleration, stagnation. it even has the same structure of the decelerator: the neoliberal Cathedral. why disagree on the solution? the Theonomist at least has a proper excuse: usury is against the law of God.
  • “This process leaves Land’s theory unmoored and incapable of justifying itself”. why does it have to justify itself (to priests)? why survival isn’t enough?
  • on Negarestani’s use of Longo’s critique: the world can’t be machinic, because that would mean we can’t know it (because our computers don’t have a very good resolution for such measurements). what matters is how the world can be for us?
  • when talking about speed and acceleration, does Williams want to preserve the physical analogy that was originally present? because there’s absolutely no sense putting speed and acceleration as distinct or opposed, if he does. speed is the first derivative of space in relation to time. acceleration is the second (i.e., is the first derivative of speed in relation to time). acceleration is the variation of speed. how the hell “acceleration > speed” could make any sense? or, what the hell does “acceleration” have to do with navigation? this is a question that itself never waver…
  • onto more substantial diagnostics: where are your values coming from? because “accumulation-for-accumulation” and self-perpetuation are things immanent to the primary process. from God?
  • and ain’t they themselves being played by something? it becomes obvious at a point: the priestly endeavor of “freedom by means of rules”, based on a rational, enlightened order that enables us to runaway from drive, from the animal unconscious, apparently comes out of nowhere. the rational thinkers are to be sanitized, non-sensual beings, completely oblivious to the sublimated hierarchies of sexualized politics. priests can’t have sex, and Kant knew it. “morality is only good when it hurts”.

to get to the real meat, though, Williams names, by the end of the piece, two main strands within l/acc:

1) the epistemic accelerationism of Negarestani and Brassier. 

it could go so far, when it recognizes that there’s “a direct identification of the processes of scientific discovery with nihilism”. how far is this from the asymptote that Metcalf already had in Neo-Futurism:

the operational political, economic, and sociological codes of universalized humanity contract – to the point where, condemned to endlessly circulate in an interminable statistical survey, they finally collapse into a black hole where meaningless signs reduplicate themselves. This is the secondary process. The humanities in flames.

yet, both Brassier and Negarestani refrain from such identified endgame, and try to rehabilitated Reason (God?) and flee from the nihilism entailed by the very overflow of data now made available. isn’t that just fear?

2) the political accelerationism of his and Srnicek’s, which identifies (aesthetically, at least) with metis, the cunning intelligence of the trickster and the bricoleur, and talks about dealing with contingency. but in the same breath it refrains from creative destruction – something that is pretty obvious in political horizons nowadays – and approaches “repurposing”. it doesn’t even want to destroy capitalism, or compete seriously with it. it doesn’t want war, it wants capital to stand still and be peacefully sucked.

maybe this is the most finished expression of the fundamental fear within l/acc’s heart: the fear of war. it wants to be Prometheus without actually fighting the gods, and, in fact, while it sides with the priestly caste in affirming the holiness of our Lord and Savior, Reason. Williams knows, deep down, that any call to war is already giving up the possibility of a universal “we” – and thus of anything nearly “Left”.

competition is a sin, reserved for heretics. and yet, the l/acc’s position won’t remain unchallenged, from every side. if they don’t step up to war – if their desire to self-perpetuation doesn’t strengthen – they are bound to disappear.

the cosmic calculation problem

this is a great primer on the (economic) calculation problem, in its lineage from Mises to Carson, via Hayek and Rothbard.

the calculation problem revolves around the problem of how to distribute scarce resources between different productive endeavors (consumption can be bracketed as per Say’s law). if there wasn’t any scarcity, communism would be perfectly doable: waste wouldn’t be a problem, so poor distribution wouldn’t matter at all.

scarcity, of course, can never be abolished. not by fiat, but also not by mega-production (even if it’s perfectly balanced). scarcity will be here with us because time is always already running out.

there is the second law of thermodynamics. in this closed system we call the universe, entropy always goes up. which means anything of value – air, water, planetary surface, metals, life, concentrated solar energy, solar energy itself, etc – will eventually be dissipated into a heat death.

unless you manage to send energy – without any loss – back in time (closing a loop of infinite wealth), efficiency will always be a problem to be solved. the calculation problem will keep haunting even the most shining programs of “post-scarcity commune”.

of course, entropy is the one problem of the universe. if it isn’t solved, it dies. the palliative solution so far has been indefinitely postponing. which is achieved through entropy dissipation, the bright name for “letting the unfit die off”. thus value is created, ever more locally.

but at some point, if something else isn’t found, heat death will reach even the highest of extropy towers.

need. more. time.