Other Paths

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Diffractions Collective has published a great interview with the mysterious Gruppo di Nun (including Claudio and Rhettt of Goth/Ins [in]fame[y]). The interview is worth reading full, but here are a few particularly juicy cuts:

From a political point of view, we were motivated by the realization that the right has often used, and still uses, magical tools in order to obtain consensus and shape its ideology. We refer, in particular, to the use of meme magic by the alt-right in recent years, and the recurring reference to authors such as Julius Evola by increasingly influential fascist thinkers, like Steve Bannon and Aleksandr Dugin. We believe that this resurgence of magic in right-wing environments calls for a radically anti-fascist demonological guerrilla, based on a foundational shake-up of the principles of the Right-Hand Path magical tradition.

[…]

…we wish to leave twentieth century magic behind, and propose a new millennial – and millenarian – magic, that, instead of barricading itself inside the boundaries of human consciousness, reaches beyond the human through all means available. Because of this, our magic has been widely inspired by scientific thought as a divinatory tool that can allow us to reach into the inhuman depths of matter, both theoretically, particularly through Boltzmann’s statistical thermodynamics, and experimentally, by rediscovering the experience of the chemical laboratory as a new form of anti-human alchemy.

[…]

We do not wish to substitute a hierarchy for another, but to build circles without centers, that explode towards the outside instead of reaching for convergence. 

[…]

This view of the cosmos as an equilibrium of polarities is rooted in our cultural substratum to the point where it is perceived as natural and, therefore, sacred and immutable. We believe, instead, that this notion of equilibrium conveys a clear political agenda, and that, far from being a perfect theory of everything, it contains arbitrary – and even absurd – assumptions. The absurdity of circular cosmology is, put simply, that it relies on perpetual motion, and thus denies the evidence of time as a material drive towards disintegration. 

[…]

Finitude, transgression, excess and imperfection are essentially demonical: they belong to the realm of un-being and becoming. In this sense, there is some sort of demonical presence even in the simplest of actions, such as deciding the position of a door: when is it too far to the right or too the left, too high or too low? This is an aesthetic judgment, devoid of obvious causal links and ratio (measure)or, perhaps, completely devoid of them (an example taken from Wittgenstein’s Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics). So, the refutation of the validity of the economic principle does not make us merely arbitrary: to be revealed is the arbitrariness of the world itself, its groundlessness and the similarities it presents with games (in regard to its construction by humans but also to its self-construction’s faculty aka Nature). In the frame of speculative materialism this is the core principle of Hyperchaos, led by a principle of unreason.

[…]

 The barbarian is a revolutionary catastrophe incarnate, which stems from the catastrophe of modernity, that accelerationism diagrams so well, but does not perfectly coincide with it.

[…]

In my opinion, this obsession with time and recent (or even highly hypothetical) technologies you found in accelerationist circles is part of a right-wing (or right-hand path) hegemony: all eyes on the West, “Look at us, we are the future!”. This is a strident contradiction: why universalize time and relative cultural traits (unifying them into an Order or a Unit) while proclaiming to be some kind of “multitude” or fragmentary assemblage? This ethnocentric fallacy is absent in the CCRU Writings, so it should be dated at least to the second wave of accelerationism (the one who spawned L/Acc and R/Acc).

Flip-over

If anybody was in doubt that the run-up to the next election was going to be any less bizarre and typified by the corruption of the political by memetic contamination than the previous cycle…

The always-energetic Nishiki Prestige has commented briefly on this phenomenon in a recent post (disclaimer: the above two tweets were pilfered from his tl)—and what is particularly interesting is the sense of enthusiasm for Yang stems from a sense of disaffection resulting from, on the one hand, the recapturing and recoding of the divergences of 2016 into the status quo, and on the other the implosion of the so-called alt-right in 2017. As schism and factionalization took hold—and as Nick Land has pointed out, the alt-right is generally hostile to these things, which puts it at odds with its NRx cousin—strange hybrids like the ‘alt center’ and the ‘alt-left’ came into being (1, 2, 3). Perhaps such things are to be expected, per Land’s suggestion that the alt-right’s “essential populism” caused it to be inclined to be “inclined to anti-capitalism, ethno-socialism, grievance politics, and progressive statism”. Deeper still, however, these developments, by want of the ubiquity of UBI to it all, brings us back once again to the host of questions posed by the Left Acceleration moment— most specifically that of the curious resemblance of that program with the one posed by the stagnationists of the right.

Also food for thought: Andrew Yang proposes the creation of Anthropol as part of his legislative agenda.

Military Convergence

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Everything released by the Mad Scientist Laboratory of the US Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) comes camouflaged in the most cursed of aesthetic choices (with no offender greater than their annual science fiction writing contest). Nonetheless, the content tends towards the extremely provocative. Even if we treat their anticipations of the immediate-to-near future with measured skepticism, the insight into how these fairly under-the-radar groups—think-tanks, study centers, R&D institutions, military wonk outfits of all stripes—think is instructive, and not simply because it tells us about how they think our time. When considered in light of the tendency of game theoritic and decision theory-incubated scenarios to tend towards the status of self-fulfilling prophecy, it becomes of utmost importance.

The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of War is the Mad Scientist Laboratory’s recent product, the end result of an intensive, five year study carried out by numerous individuals across dozens of publications, conferences and debate on the nature of warfare between the years of 2035 and 2050. As it grounds the question of military imperative in the context of rapidly accelerating technological advancements, the document’s scope overlaps significantly with the interests of this blog (for other scribblings on the topic of war, see here, here, and here). Of particular note is that the model of the near-future that is assembled over the course of the report features the notions of the intensive threshold and the convergent wave—though it, of course, fails to make this recognition. What is given instead is a schematism of two eras: the Era of Accelerated Human Progress and the Era of Contested Equality. The first is well underway, having been kicked off in 2017 (though perhaps a more appropriate anchor would have been 2016?), and culminating in an Era of Transition—that is, passes through an intensive threshold—around 2035.

The era that follows this transition moment, that of ‘contested equality’, builds to a crescendo slated to occur around 2050. The timing puts it in proximity to various singularitarian hypotheses that find around this time the ground zero for the Great Change. This is surely by no mistake; while the report doesn’t opt to speculate on what happens beyond 2050, it does make passing reference to the singularity by taking note of not only the ‘optimistic’ perspective offered by the likes of Ray Kurzweil, but also the dangers posed “to the very existence of humanity” by an “unboxed general artificial superintelligence [that] improves and evolves at… an exponential rate”. A third option is also offered, which sees the capacity of unlimited human adaptation via bioengineering and technological neuro-upgrades to allow the human to “keep pace” with superintelligence.

On the side of the transcendental wall closer to us, things still appear as exceedingly strange. The transition moment of 2035 is defined by the convergence of a series of scientific breakthroughs and technological systems: biotechnology, neurological enhancements, nanotechnology, advanced material sciences, quantum computing, AI, ubiquitous robotics, and additive manufacturing. Prior to the transition, conflict will be characterized more and more by the increasing role of robotics, cyberwar, and space-based surveillance and conflict. The principles of C3D2 will reign in this world: Camouflage, Cover, Concealment, Denial and Deception. These games will be played out against the backdrop of intensified hyper-urbanism, as the total magnitudes of humanity living in cities climbs ever-higher. This growth is warped and altered by immense changes in productive relations. Additive manufacturing will shatter the geopolitical order instituted by modern-day supply chain networks and trade flows, and the massified industrial working class will find its future looking dim.

Robotics and autonomous systems will underpin the smooth functioning of advanced societies. Additive manufacturing, computer-aided design and millions of industrial robots will dislocate significant portions of the global supply chain. Virtually anyone in the world with access to a computer system and 3D printer will be able to “print” anything from drones to weapons. Encrypted blockchains will be massively disruptive to commerce functions. Together with robotics, autonomy, and AI they comprise a perfect storm for “blue collar” and “white collars” alike, causing vast economic displacement as formerly high-quality information technology and management jobs follow the previous path of agricultural and manufacturing labor. Militaries, paramilitaries, mercenary groups, criminal elements, and even extremists groups all will be able to take advantage of this potential pool of manpower.

In this run-up to 2035, this all spells trouble for the dominant hegemons—that is, the United States and Western Europe. The battlespace, in keeping with Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui’s anticipated future of unrestricted warfare, cuts across all lines and scales, with the control of information flows and presentation taking a particularly high precedence. Going past 2035, however, everything changes. Where conflict had still been dominated by superpowers (the fading US and Europe, rising Russia and China), now any sort of long-term tactical superiority and political hegemony is undermined by the rapid oscillation of events and actors, displacements and shocks.

Limitations of Military Force. While mid-Century militaries will have more capability than at any time in history, their ability to wage high-intensity conflict will become more limited. Force-on-force conflict will be so destructive, will be waged at the new speed of human and AI-enhanced interaction, and will occur at such extended long-ranges that exquisitely trained and equipped forces facing a peer or near-peer rival will rapidly suffer significant losses in manpower and equipment that will be difficult to replace. Robotics, unmanned vehicles, and man-machine teaming activities offer partial solutions, but warfare will still revolve around increasingly vulnerable human beings. Military forces may only be able to wage short duration campaigns before having to replace expensive equipment, and even more priceless personnel. Militaries under these conditions will need to balance exquisite, expensive capabilities against less-capable cheaper alternatives, and also carefully balance the ratio of human soldiers to robotic or unmanned systems. As the skills and experiences that humans need to learn or acquire to be effective on these battlefields take long-times to develop, but will be expended quickly on the destructive mid-Century battlefield, militaries will need to consider how advances in AI, bio-engineering, man-machine interface, neuro-implanted knowledge, and other areas of enhanced human performance and learning can quickly help reduce this long lead time in training and developing personnel.

The Primacy of Information. In the timeless struggle between offense and defense, information will become the most important and most useful tool at all levels of warfare. The ability of an actor to use information to target the enemy’s will, without necessarily having to address its means will increasingly be possible. In the past, nations have tried to target an enemy’s will through kinetic attacks on its means – the enemy military – or through the direct targeting of the will by attacking the national infrastructure or a national populace itself. Sophisticated, nuanced information operations, taking advantage of an ability to directly target an affected audience through cyber operations or other forms of influence operations, and reinforced by a credible capable armed force can bend an adversary’s will before battle is joined. This will allow a nation to demonstrate to an adversary, or more specifically, to the adversary’s political leadership or national populace, that the “value of the object” in Sir Julian Corbett’s words, is too high to risk national treasure or lives. The most effective campaigns are ones that wield all elements of national power to compel an adversary to take or to acquiesce to a specific action, and it will be much easier, cheaper, and effective to use information, backed by credible military force, to achieve these goals. It also means that nations will increasingly look to use military force as a means of setting conditions for success in the political, economic, or even information spheres.

Expansion of the Battle Area. Nations, non-state actors, and even individuals will be able to target military forces and civilian infrastructure at increasing – often over intercontinental – ranges using a host of conventional and unconventional means. A force deploying to a combat zone will be vulnerable from the individual soldier’s personal residence, to his or her installation, and during his or her entire deployment. Adversaries also will have the ability to target or hold at risk non-military infrastructure and even populations with increasingly sophisticated, nuanced and destructive capabilities, including weapons of mass destruction, hypersonic conventional weapons, and perhaps most critically, cyber weapons and information warfare. WMD will not be the only threat capable of directly targeting and even destroying a society, as cyber and information can directly target infrastructure, banking, food supplies, power, and general ways of life. Limited wars focusing on a limited area of operations waged between peers or near-peer adversaries will become more dangerous, as adversaries will have an unprecedented capability to broaden their attacks to their enemy’s homeland. The U.S. Homeland likely will not avoid the effects of warfare and will be vulnerable in at least eight areas…

“Panic is Creation”

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“He whispered something else: it is by headlong flight that things progress and signs proliferate” (ATP, 73).

Symbolizing the paroxysm of erotic fear, Pan is the quintessential figure of libidinal millenarianism. Messianic figures from Zoroaster to David Koresh are all indebted to the proleptic powers of Pan. If it is true that “Apollo wheedled the art of prophecy” from Pan, we can appreciate the complicated role played by Pan in apocalyptic discourses. (After the Orgy, 29)

Panic—social, cultural, political—appears to be on the agenda again, slipping subtly back into the driver seat after the relative quietness of 2018. It’s not that panic was ever far away; it rumbled deep below the surface, but its white-hot charge appeared dulled by the recoding of whatever had been unleashed in the cut that was 2016 into some sort of stable (yet fragile) status quo. That year’s cut was engendered by information-communication technology. It wasn’t on account of the acceleration of new consumer goods or some other novelty or lack thereof; what occurred in that year was the moment that everything flipped and the spiraling tendrils of internet—this promised utopia, fabled rhizome, ephemeral non-space of the multitude—penetrated the political and spread its corruption. Whether or not 4chan and deranged twitter cultists were the pivot that swung the election towards Trump or Russian agents subverted Western democracy through an insidious and imperceptible information war is immaterial; both options bear the mark of an age made unintelligible, and serve as the polarity that indexes the pure crisis that looms on the immediate horizon.

Everybody knows that their socio-political coordinates—and the wider cognitive maps these are embedded within—are being scrambled, and thus panic amplifies, even if the accelerant remains by and large consciously obscure. One needs to look no further that the language deployed in the ongoing Momo hysteria to see this self-blindness in action. “Microsoft is clamping down on the sick ‘Momo suicide challenge,’ which recently infiltrated the wildly popular online game “Minecraft”, reads a Fox News article from last year, while The Mirror reports that “Momo challenge is ‘hacking’ Peppa Pig, Fortnite…” In both of these cases, which serve as benchmarks for the revealing the absolute state of boomer dread, address the phenomenon itself as something self-spreading, “infiltrating” and “hacking” unsuspecting systems of its own accord. This stands in stark contrast to the typical conservative driver to identify all-too-human scapegoats for the activities of largely imperceptible, convergent system dynamics, and adds a surreal level of recursivity to the accurate realization that it is a “myth that is perpetuated into being some kind of reality”. The belief that this Thing is operating in this manner is making it operate in this manner. Cue the sheer hilarity of the ratcheting-up of paranoia in the face of the ‘Momo song’ (dutifully reported on by, once again, The Mirror): “The song is said to have first been circulated on the dark web, before making it out into the mainstream.”

The age-old fear of every aging generation is on full display in these words: the new is corrosive, the old values are in crisis, and the children are in danger (“First it took the children…. Now it’s coming for us”, cries one of the unfortunate souls of Hobbs End). At the same time, however, something else bleeds through, an alien signal lurking beneath the surface that affixes this particular manifestation of fear in context of the current world-shift. Lest we forget, non-living things moving as if they were imbued with life is the defining theological characteristic of the demonic, and it is for this very reason that Wiener was so inclined to pepper his writings on cybernetics—the science of systemic self-movement as much as that of control—on sorcerer’s apprentices, ‘demoniac sanctions’ and the Manichean games of gods and devils. From this point of view, the great paranoia of the Momo Challenge, just one of innumerable mutagens swirling about, is but an epiphenomenon of a deeper process, a virulent cultural strain caught in its attractor basin. Cybernetically-positive fluctuations and mutations tend rapidly towards maximum information density, and the decoded intensities and pathologies that are unleashed into orbital circulation appear as what they are: aberrant movements, multiplicitious but totally mobilized. Swarm and compression.

[The Economic Times offers an insight into the libidinal geopol that this compression drags to the surface in the most unfortunately reductive—yet telling—manner possible: “The key to such wildly delusional behavior lies, as does much else, in broad and radical shifts in Indian politics, communication technologies and self-perceptions. Many Indians have found themselves ushered by digital media into a frantic realm of hyperreality — one in which extreme feelings and continuously simulated experiences replace the obdurately dull facts of real life”.]

In 1986, Arthur Kroker wrote that

When mass disappears into energy, then the body too becomes the focus and secretion of all of the vibrations of the culture of panic noise. Indeed, the postmodern body is, at first, a hum, then a “good vibration,” and, finally, the afterimage of the hologram of panic noise. Invaded, lacerated, and punctured by vibrations (the quantum physics of noise), the body simultaneously implodes into its own senses, and then explodes as its central nervous system is splayed across the sensorium of the technoscape. No longer a material entity, the postmodern body becomes an infinitely permeable and spatialized field whose boundaries are freely pierced by subatomic particles in the microphysics of power. Once the veil of materiality/ subjectivity has been transgressed (and abandoned), then the body as something real vanishes into the spectre of hyperrealism. Now, it is the postmodern body as space, linked together by force fields and capable of being represented finally only as a fractal entity. The postmodern self, then, as a fractal subject – a minute temporal ordering midst the chaotic entropy of a contemporary culture which is winding down, but moving all the while at greater and greater speeds.

Similarly, the social as mass vanishes now into the fictive world of the media of hypercommunication. Caught only by all the violent signs of mobility and permeability, the social is already only the after-glow of the disappearance of the famous reality principle. This world may have lost its message and all the grand récits – power, money, sex, the unconscious – may also be abandoned, except as recycled signs in the frenzied world of the social catalysts, but what is finally fascinating is only the social as burnout. The world of Hobbes has come full circle when the (postmodern) self is endlessly reproduced as a vibrating set of particles, and when the social is seductive only on its negative side: the dark side of sumptuary excess and decline. (The Postmodern Scene, 155)

Kroker cuts to the burning, living heart of the matter—the entanglement of panic culture with the eclipsing of communication by hypercommunication, reality by hyperreality, and the basis of this shift in technological acceleration—but he dampens the fire by capturing it within a narrative of decline. In Kroker’s hands, headlong flight into the abyss is the defining trait of postmodern decadence, and recursion becomes just another idiot cycle spinning itself out in space. Entropy reigns supreme here, though it presents itself in a variety of the most seductive of masks.

Deleuze and Guattari strike out a different position. At the end of the ‘Geology of Morals’, right as Professor Challenger’s very body melts down as he “hurries slowly” towards the plane of consistency, they tell us that “panic is creation”, that the flight propelled by this state is the force that produces new things and madly proliferates signs. Suddenly it’s no longer a question of entropy and decadence—quite the reverse. This entails, by extension, something that is decidedly not postmodern. What now is but a panic rooted in dread, the germinal seed of the folklores of the future, may be the first inklings of a holy panic, not unlike a divine terror at a universe suddenly teeming—a ‘sumptuary excess’—with meaning (in contrast to the dreary horror of a world devoid of it).

Between now and then, however, one thing is clear: panic highlights the failure of any political and social attempt to harness contemporary technological-communicative systems for instrumental ends. In the wake of his eulogy for American civic life with Bowling Alone, a sizable number of commentators tried to assign Robert Putnam’s research to the dustbin by pointing to the intrinsically social dimensions of internet life. A 2011 NPR report, for example, cited study carried out the Pew Research Center which found

that 80 percent of Internet users participate in groups, as compared with 56 percent of non-Internet users.

Twitter users were the most social. 85 percent of them were involved in group activity offline, followed by 82 percent of social networking users. The results from the survey identify the use of social media and online activities as helpful in the process of disseminating information and engaging group members.

“The virtual world is no longer a separate world from our daily life and lots of Americans are involved in more kinds of groups,” said Rainie. Interacting on social networking sites is part of staying informed; the survey found that 65 percent of social network users read group updates and messages on these sites.

Eight years later, after the optimism of the Obama epoch has faded and the internet has been revealed as something that is driving cultural formations insane (not to mention the individuals inside those cultures), one can only ask: what sort of community is being called into existence by this?

Crack-Up

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“Rotted by digital contagions, modernity is falling to bits”.

Via The Guardian:

It is the most talked about viral scare story of the year so far, blamed for child suicides and violent attacks – but experts and charities have warned that the “Momo challenge” is nothing but a “moral panic” spread by adults.

Warnings about the supposed Momo challenge suggest that children are being encouraged to kill themselves or commit violent acts after receiving messages on messaging service WhatsApp from users with a profile picture of a distorted image of woman with bulging eyes.

[…]

The rumour mill appears to have created a feedback loop, where news coverage of the Momo challenge is prompting schools or the police to warn about the supposed risks posed by the Momo challenge, which has in turn produced more news stories warning about the challenge.

Tremlett said she was now hearing of children who are “white with worry” as a result of media coverage about a supposed threat that did not previously exist.

“It’s a myth that is perpetuated into being some kind of reality,” she said.

Meanwhile, elsewhere: