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.

exitocracy anotated

Axel just published the 4th chapter of his ongoing Neocameral Future. In what can be described as the textual version of a YouTube reaction video, I’ve made commentary on his main propositions and thesis. Hopefully this will promote debate and thus strengthen his upcoming book.

* * *

On materialism vs idealism (ideology/religion)

  1. Much as I agree with that “Humans are MEAT ROBOTS. Free will in an illusion“, it’s important to keep in mind that the reductions of social processes to biology are not simple and that we don’t know how to do most of them (just as we don’t know how to reduce a great many biological processes to physical processes). It’s important to restate that insofar as you keep receiving true feedback from reality (empiricism) it’s perfectly fine to postulate social mechanisms that explain certain events. Social constructivism, to the extent that it doesn’t deny other empirical findings and conform to its own facts, is also materialistic.
  2. It is only when it is corrupted with cultish notions that it becomes evil” is a good assessment of reality, indeed. But religious (ideal/ideological) thought is a natural companion of abstract investigation (and hence intelligence). You can’t make it go away by mere wish (and if you do, you are being ideological yourself). Ideological/religious thinking has to be institutionalized and driven into producing realistic feedback. Empiricism didn’t arise from mere physicalist atheists, but physicalist atheists who believed it was possible to understand reality through abstract concepts. I.e., smart (rather than communist) physicalist atheists.

On stability

  1. Stability is not actually a good argument for a political system” Indeed, if you understand “stability” to mean “remaining the same forever, no matter what”. A good argument is adaptability and it is hard to not see adaptability as stability, once you grasp the basic underlying cybernetics.

On objections to unified power

  1. Demotism is Conserved.” Nope. Although mass communication (and, more to the point, the ever greater dissipation of mass lethal power) is an ongoing fact since the dawn of modernity, and one that is unlikely to go away (short of Peak Oil or something), there is ever less a need to control the mob’s minds. The trend set in motion with the internet is much more of cultural, social and (therefore) political fragmentation than of mass maneuver of opinion. The very costs of attempting something like that are ever greater.

    So, from what I grasp of the political trends in the 21st century, demotism has its days numbered, T minus the time necessary to build safe exit options. Bit-nations contracting with luxury gated cities for free pass, and ever more nomadic elites wandering around the world. No need for mob control, except insofar as “heavier walls” is mob control.

  2. Secure Power is an Illusion.” I’ve written three pieces on that. Spandrell probably gets most of the things. No disagreement here.
  3. Monarchy is Lazy Design.” Laziest of the lazy. But also very natural to civilized humans. It builds (and wrecks down) naturally from male hierarchy, hence its commonality. Of course, it is never secure, nor absolutist (absolutism in fact is a rather characteristically French rationalist lunacy born in the early 18th century).

    A further criticism is that monarchy depends on deep ties of loyalty and a stable male hierarchy, both profoundly disturbed by the uprooting and individualism needed to run a market economy. Given market economy’s clear superiority to traditional economy in output, it should be obvious no monarchy can survive under global market conditions (except as a rather romantic honorific to a cryptographically secure CEO – which is probably how Moldbug meant it).

  4. Nukes are an Issue.” And so is its spread and ever further miniaturization. Of course, it makes it easier for city-states (and hence the Patchwork) to emerge. Which means it makes secession easier by providing leverage against centralized governments. Which in turn makes the collapse of The Cathedral inevitable rather than unrealistic. Accelerationism is simply the research program for pocket nukes.
  5. NRx will be Made Obsolete.” Possibly one the most important points in the chapter. Puts the movement in perspective. 10 years ago Moldbug was creating an account on Blogspot and Nick Land was… Gnon knows what. Ten years from now the whole thing will probably have unfolded in crazier ways than expected.

    That point made, the Cathedral – unless very unpredictable turns are taken – will die out fighting against gene editing, even if it’s for “good purposes”. Eugenics was extirpated from Progressivism 90 years ago, and it’s unlikely to get back on track before Progressivism goes away. Many progressives, on the other hand, may indeed make great use of genetic science for their purposes, while making Progress great again. It’s not hard to imagine lesbian couples producing high IQ design babies in HK in 20 years. But not in NY, that’s for sure.

  6. It is Not a Single Monolithic Thing.” Good point. But the whole point of coining “demotism” was probably to pin down one specific kind of democracy: 1848-like universal-suffrage democracy. Decentralization is not a problem (rather it is the purported solution), bureaucratic institutions are not a problem (probably it what kept the boat from sinking so far), and even very limited voice (as in corporative boards) is fine, as long as it’s accompanied by the correlative costs. The problem is simply: universal, unqualified, “free” voice – literally mass tyranny. This is as monolithic a thing as it gets, and has been described over and over in political philosophy ever since Aristotle as a degeneration of the greatest idea: constitutions. De-enfranchise people and whatever else is left of democracy is probably OK.
  7. Reforming the cathedral is not impossible” I would phrase it as “Making the Cathedral go away without much noise is not impossible”. But I’ll be back to this when I finish the other chapters.

On the causes of Cathedral

  1. The actual cause of the Cathedral is compromise in an unsecure power structure, not the nature of unsecure power itself. COMPROMISE, not imperium in imperio, is the actual cause of left-wing power.” Another very central point of the chapter. The refusal of dialectics – living humiliated under the rule of the enemy – is not likely to be widely accepted as a central tenet of right-wing thought. Much of the reactionaries around are damn certain they don’t just want to flee to better lands, but to purge their enemies, enslave them, chain them or, at least, make them live under the “right” government. The average type on both blue and red tribes just want to vanquish the other, kill their men, rape their women and enslave their children. Monkey business at its prime.
  2. On matters of division of power – imperium in imperio – I guess I made my points on the neocameralism and constitutions series (1, 2, 3). In sum: stable (adaptive) systems are those with nodes no more controlling than controlled. Much on that to come in the next months, but what is essential to the argument under consideration here is that the Cathedral thrived (at least partially) because, and not in spite, of divided powers. It was when such division was abandoned that the degenerative ratchet finally got a grip on history. Odysseus could tie himself, but only for so long. Getting him sober from siren vocal poison and making him tie himself again and better is probably the aim of any proposed new kind of republicanism. ” It is true that unsecure power tends to breed compromise as a result of a majoritarian system” is the main hint of what exactly went wrong with the US Constitution.

On Multi-Part Elections

  1. Formalism ends violence by making the outcome of a dispute known. Another way of saying this is that a process is formalized when violence is eliminated through a rule based mechanism that turns it into a game or contract of sorts.” It’s important to keep in mind that one needs an unambiguous unbreakable rule for this to work – enforcement matters. I’m saying this to make clear that the criteria for Multi-Part Elections to work is that it provides not only unambiguous rules for conflicts, but also an enforcement mechanism.
  2. People will separate themselves based on ideological lines. The separation will reinforce itself. It is precisely this separation that actually leads to stability.” Until it grows far too much. Not to get all Marxist about a market of little governments, but some will definitely get more guns than others, and once that is in play, the talk must shift to military technology systems and what they imply in terms of political organization. We didn’t get to the nation state model arbitrarily, and we won’t get out of it arbitrarily. The question is: how do you effectively defend something, without breaking the whole system? Which leads us to…
  3. Power creates ideology.” This is unconvincing, if only because ideology is itself a source of power. You seem to admit it straight away: “any different system will seem immoral to you, because you, having been indoctrinated by the current system, share its morals“. To distinguish between power and the idea of power will demand something more than mere affirmation.

    The following discussion, based on this distinction, is not so wrong as it reverses the true complication: “The ideology becomes whatever is necessary to justify the power system. In the System of systems, aka, the exitocracy, a form of “live and let live” becomes the standard. The federal government is forced to take a culturally relativist position in order to maintain military control over its territory.” Can the federal government maintain that position and have military control? What does the military believe? What is the ideology of those with military capability? Power is this ideology, what will make them pull the trigger.

  4. “[T]he federal government which does ONLY military, intelligence, and security matters.” Only? If the federal government holds sway of sovereign (primary) property, what about the outside? If it’s Fnargl, what will make it turn from Cathedral usual business to “a box for every monkey”?

Maybe I’m jumping ahead right here, but these are the main questions – that remain so far largely unanswered within NRx. The whole mechanics (the rules of the system) seems very neat, but the enforcement mechanism is still vague, at best. If the counties default to Fedgov’s authority for solving their (inevitable) quibbles, what makes the Fedgov accept this whole scheme in the first place? And what about what is outside of it (because internal trade barriers will certainly hamper the Federation’s industrial ability, as the Federalist Papers already had in mind)?

neocameralism and constitutions

so, recently I noticed a whole lotta hate for Land’s constitutionalism (surging after this came from the vast abrupt). reactionary future is not pleased with “liberal neoreaction”. anomaly UK is still not convinced either.

their contention, from what I grasped, is “sovereignty cannot be effectively divided, only distributed (exponentially)”. constitutions are bullshit, men take decisions, not algorithms (ultimately). trying to do so only generates disorder (anarchy) and parasitism. [there’s also some babbling on the “anthropological error” of individualism, but I’ll deal with that elsewhere]

obviously, not wasting their time reading such left liberal bullshit of cybernetics and spontaneous order (damn hippies!), they were interested in the morally superior works of Thomas Carlyle and DeJouvenal. only dirty leftists such as me and Mr. werewolf Land could suggest a man’s Will is not sovereign, per se.

all the arcane bullshit about the functioning of the universe and horrorism that accompanies XS’s writing are not mere musings (I mean, seriously). mythology helps us think (as this elderly French says).

The real — free or fated — thing wears a face, as an allotted role within the world“.  remove the faces and you see the underlying processes that actually run things. Henry VI, Henry VII, Louis XV, etc are avatars, interfaces, symptoms, not causes, of material (efficient) processes. we are gene machines. computers are bit machines. machines connected to machines. machines interrupting the flows of other machines. the mouth machine and the milk machine. anus and shit.

this alone is already enough to show the whole “sovereignty conserves” thing is either misguided or misused. it’s not possible, ever, to have a man making decisions on his own, unchecked by anyone or anything else. there are faceless things hiding in reality, and they are already  machinic, algorithmic, automatic. the men involved are rather instruments in the hands (claws) of such fanged noumena than sovereign willing persons.

in such a machinic reality, power is an idea, and ideas are primordially checked by their effects. power is selected to check itself, because of its inherent economic quality: to survive, increase and improve, power needs to identify its reality with the outside. it needs to calculate its odds of survival, needs to develop an algorithm of the workings of the wolves of Gnon, before they find where it hides. intelligence optimization demands a will-to-think.

think of this as the “fundamental problem of loyalty”: “will the generals obey? will the soldiers shoot?“. from the (surely little) i know of Moldbug, neocameralism seeks to replace the old cameralist trust-demanding “loyalty to the king” with the trustless capitalist joint-stock corporation. why? because corporations work better. it survives longer, it grows and it improves on itself. it reaches cybernetic closure: no nodes more controlled than controlling. stockholders choose CEOs, thus checking them. CEOs choose marketing, checking consumers. consumers choose products, checking stockholders. corporations work because they’re checked, not in spite of it. without such checks and balances, there’s no alignment of companies and clients interests.

constitutionalism is merely a recognition of this reality. RF tells us Moldbug is obviously against constitutions:

“In reality, no sovereign can be subject to law. This is a political perpetual motion machine. Law is not law unless it is judged and enforced. And by whom? For example, if you think a supreme court with judicial review can make government subject to law, you are obviously unfamiliar with the sordid history of American constitutional jurisprudence. All your design has achieved is to make your supreme court sovereign. Indeed if the court had only one justice, a proper title for that justice would be “King.” Sorry, kid, you haven’t violated the conservation of anything.”

well, if it is so, why have stockholders at all? isn’t it “imperium in imperio”? here‘s Moldbug stating right away that sovcorps should have division of power:

“A responsible, effective government has three basic parts. One is the front end: all the people who report to Steve. Two is the middle: Steve himself. Three is the back end: the people Steve is responsible to. (…)

Call the back end the controllers. The controllers have one job: deciding whether or not Steve is managing responsibly. If not, they need to fire Steve and hire a new Steve. (Marc Andreesen, perhaps.)

This design requires a substantial number of reasonably cogent controllers, whose collective opinion is likely to be trustworthy, and who share a single concept of responsibility. (…)”

power divided not only between two, but three bodies. and not few, but a “substantial number” of controllers. so much for imperium.

why, oh why? because Moldbug is a realist. he knows that a power that does not check itself, dies:

“The CEO and the monarch owe their positions to a law which all can obey, and those who choose to obey the law are naturally a winning coalition against those who choose to break it. The dictator’s position is the result of his primacy in a pyramid of criminals. This structure is naturally unstable.”

men cannot choose at will. there is the unwritten constitution of that which functions better, and if he fails to acknowledge it, he dies an ugly death. patches in the patchwork are checked by natural selection: those that thrive, survive. power is primordially checked, by reality.

in fact, the history of the modern downfall of monarchism can be seen in this light, as a failure of absolutist kings to understand the economic nature of their power. Alexis de Tcqueville’s main thesis in his works is that the French Revolution stemmed first and foremost from the increasing centralization of power undertaken by the french monarchy. the failure to recognize and bring the power of the estates together in a balanced system is at the core of the demotic nightmare that followed.

similar points can be made about pretty much all other modern revolutions: the Glorious Revolution happened to protect the (aristocratic) parliament from being dissolved, the American Revolution happened to stop the king from not recognizing the factual economic sovereignty of the colonies, the Russian Revolution happened to show the czar that he can’t just put his brother as general without verifying if there is loyalty in the lower echelons of the army. the reverse is also true, Japanese quasi-mythical single royal lineage has always been a sham of “absolutism”, lasting mostly because of its ability to be checked. even the much heralded Chinese monarchy lasted only when the emperors were checked by palace checks that made them fulfill their duties. responsibility is difficult.

the conflation of democracy insurgence and division of power apparently happened because the kings chose to make sure the only way to check them was beheading them. a Schelling point arose in which both popular sovereignty and division of power could both be believed.  (Anomaly UK points out that the kings believed liberal demotic discourse. if only had they had someone to tell them to quit it.)

it’s important to remember as well that the Cathedral won. it consistently won over all absolutist regimes. it survived. that it is failing as of now is more a signal of its abandonment of its (very successful) doctrine of checks-and-balances than the contrary. if anyone wants to topple it, it takes – realistically – more division of power.

reality rules. and if reality selects constitutions, if they are more efficient than other options, well then, Kings are to go. let’s test it, shall we?