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Tuesday, November 24
by Rich on November 24, 2009 01:02PM (PST)
Canada's Margret Atwood -who should be a candidate for the Nobel at some point- recent work has dealt with various dystopian themes of future societies ravaged by technological blowback and religious fundamentalism. I recently picked up her latest work, The Year of the Flood that continues where her previously acclaimed novel Oryx and Crate left off. This is a review by renown cultural historian Fredric Jameson, whose book on Utopias: Archaeologies of the Future, has been a subject of discussion on SCIY
Who will recount the pleasures of dystopia? The pity and fear of tragedy – pity for the other, fear for myself – does not seem very appropriate to a form which is collective, and in which spectator and tragic protagonist are in some sense one and the same. For the most part, dystopia has been a vehicle for political statements of some kind: sermons against overpopulation, big corporations, totalitarianism, consumerism, patriarchy, not to speak of money itself. Not coincidentally, it has also been the one science-fictional sub-genre in which more purely ‘literary’ writers have felt free to indulge: Huxley, Orwell, even the Margaret Atwood of The Handmaid’s Tale. And not unpredictably, the results of these efforts have been as amateurish as analogous experiments in the realm of the detective or crime story (from Dostoevsky to Nabokov, if you like), but including a message or thesis.[*] So-called mass cultural genres, in other words, have rules and standards as rigorous and professional as the more noble forms. more »
Saturday, November 21
by Rich on November 21, 2009 03:10PM (PST)
Synthetic form, possesses some but not all of the properties of living systems, are not alive and can be regarded as 'Living Technology'. This particular species (designed by the author -- unpublished) is able to construct magnetite tubes that resemble 'worm casts'.
Biology is the study of the laws of the natural world. Nature may be regarded as the endogenous system underpinning the genesis of living organisms and their environment. In human terms, the organization of the natural world is reflected in the issues arising from the science of reproduction, heritability and the creation of life. Since these processes biologically occur within the intimate spaces of the female body, feminism has sought to represent the interests of women in the control and regulation of human reproduction in modern Western culture. To date the dominant political and social paradigms of Western society are patriarchal and invoke a dualistic worldview based on the dichotomy of male and female with an associated division of these roles in the creation of life.
This dualistic ordering of reality is also hierarchical: the principle of male over female, mind over body, culture over nature, and so on. Male, mind and culture are exercising hierarchical control over female, body, nature. more »
Sunday, August 9
by Rich on August 9, 2009 03:24PM (PDT)
Riffing off the concept of evolutionary science known as "genetic drift" the Krokers use "code drift" to describe the evolution of the global genome and the technological destining of our species. In the scenario they theorize "code drift" is the evolutionary driver of the post-human body that is tethered to its digital mobility..
In this lecture they conclude with consideration of McLuhan and Teilhard whose prophetic vision of the exteriorizion of consciousness forewarned of a planetary bio-electric nervous system, that functions now as the cultural epigenesis of our post-human bodies . The Krokers claims the originating Nietzschean event of the eclipse of one human species form and the emergence of its networked successor has already occurred.
"Code drift is the spectral destiny of the story of technology. No necessary message, no final meaning, no definite goal: only a digital culture drifting in complex streams of social networking technologies filtered here and there with sudden changes in code frequencies, moving at the speed of random fluctuations, always seeking to make of the question of identity a sampling error, to connect with the broken energy flows of ruptures, conjurations, unintelligibility, bifurcations. When the Book of Genesis gives way to the Book of (Information) Genetics, we are suddenly exited into a culture of epigenesis with code drifts as its primary impulse, all the human anxiety of being tethered to mobility its primary affect, and the novel historical experience of literally being skinned by technology as the body is increasingly wrapped in the new nervous system that is the global data genome" more »
Thursday, July 23
by Debashish on July 23, 2009 04:26PM (PDT)
Bruno Latour (1947-) is Professor and vice-president for research at the Institut d'études Politiques de Paris. Latour is a leading and very influential anthropologist of Modernity whose major contribution may be called holistic politcal epistemology. This, for Latour, is not a form of idealism, but what, following William James, he calls "radical empiricism." Latour is (in)famous for his pronouncement "We have never been modern." By this he means that the overarching hubris of modernity for human autonomy and mastery is a sub-narrative in a larger embeddedness in holistic properties which is only beginning to make its imperative critical demands on human attention. This emergence depends on the recognition of a change of telos and and a political epistemology of interdisciplinarity which takes humanity beyond itself into the fullness of global embodiment. In this essay, he reflects on environmentalism, society, technology and theology. - db more »
Sunday, May 3
by Rich on May 3, 2009 06:25AM (PDT)
In listening to Codrescu he seems to believe the species bifurcation is on the horizon and dada is an appropriate response... Highly recommended rc
Dada: An absurdist art movement declaring itself against rationality, tradition, and—above all—Dada. Catholic mystic Hugo Ball and poet/impresario Tristan Tzara launched it in Zurich as World War I blazed all around.
Posthuman: A sci-fi term that came of age in the mid-1980s through texts like Donna Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto. It's what we homo sapiens supposedly become when technological enhancements allow us to transcend our biology.
The Posthuman Dada Guide: A hard-edged, rapier-like volume, perfect for sliding into a back pocket of skinny hipster pants or stabbing into the complacent underbelly of bourgeois (or bourgeois-bohemian) society. Authored by NPR commentator and essayist Andrei Codrescu, it offers a headier-than-usual tour of the early-1900s avant-garde, sprinkled with sex appeal for the would-be MySpace-age revolutionary. Jacket blurbs from the likes of Josephine Baker and Aleister Crowley affirm the Guide's period credentials. Meanwhile, the whole thing is a kind of hypertext, composed of cross-referenced "database" entries—so you can't doubt its cyberpunk legitimacy.... more »
Friday, April 24
by Rich on April 24, 2009 02:08PM (PDT)
Reference: 100 Years of Sri Aurobindo on Evolution
This is the first part of a longer meditation on the future bodies. I have entitled this section “Goodbye To All That” which is the title of Robert Graves autobiography in which he recounts his experiences in the trenches in WWI. What he is saying goodbye to is the passing of an era: of the naive, carefree, class based culture of Edwardian England, which did not survive the war. Sri Aurobindo wrote the passages referenced here at about the time the Edwardian era ended and the great war began. Because our views and valorization of nature are cultural constructions, to appreciate why Sri Aurobindo extrapolates a certain form of naturalism into the future body we must first excavate his conceptions of “what is natural.”
The context of his writing referenced here on evolution and the future body seems to flow naturally out of a post-romantic protestant view of Nature he must have been exposed to growing up in England which lived on well into the Edwardian era. To the British upper classes it was a view of nature as pristine, which they enjoyed in well manicured English country gardens, not yet smeared with the blood of the trenches. Above all nature was clearly distinct from the machinery given to us by culture.
In forming his view of nature Sri Aurobindo took account of Ruskin's, Carlyle's, and Arnold's critique of industrialism. This view of nature was certainly valuable for sacramentalizing nature at a time when the Industrial Revolution was rapidly desecrating it. Today however, the interpenetration of nature by information technologies and genetic engineering has added enough complexity to what it means to be natural/human that we can no longer escape environments which are increasingly mediated by technology. Electricity undergirds much of our phenomenological experience of the world, bio-technology sustains our physical presence in it. In such a brave new world the continuity of the already developed evolutionary form with all its biological naturalism seems to be a reality to which we have already said goodbye
But, what is important for us in Sri Aurobindo's vision of the future body .... more »
Thursday, March 12
by Rich on March 12, 2009 08:40PM (PDT)
I understand "human" and "posthuman" to be historically specific constructions that emerge from different configurations of embodiment, technology, and culture. A convenient point of reference for the human is the picture constructed by nineteenth-century U.S. and British anthropologists of "man" as a tool-user.(15) Using tools may shape the body (some anthropologists made this argument), but the tool nevertheless is envisioned as an object, apart from the body, that can be picked up and put down at will. When the claim could not be sustained that man's unique nature was defined by tool use (because other animals were shown also to use tools), the focus shifted during the early twentieth century to man the tool-maker. Typical is Kenneth P. Oakley's 1949 Man the Tool-Maker, a magisterial work with the authority of the British Museum behind it.(16) Oakley, in charge of the Anthropological Section of the museum's Natural History division, wrote in his introduction, "Employment of tools appears to be [man's] chief biological characteristic, for considered functionally they are detachable extensions of the forelimb" [p. 1]. The kind of tool he envisioned was mechanical rather than informational; it goes with the hand, not on the head. Significantly, he imagined the tool to be at once "detachable" and an "extension," separate from yet partaking of the hand. If the placement and kind of tool marks his affinity with the epoch of the human, its construction as a prosthesis points forward to the posthuman. Similar ambiguities informed the Macy Conference discussions taking place during the same period (1946-53), as participants wavered between a vision of man as a homeostatic self-regulating mechanism whose boundaries were clearly delineated from the environment,(17) and a more threatening, reflexive vision of a man spliced into an informational circuit that could change him in unpredictable ways.
By the 1960s, the consensus within cybernetics had shifted dramatically toward reflexivity. By the 1980s, the inertial pull of homeostasis as a constitutive concept had largely given way to theories of self-organization that implied radical changes were possible within certain kinds of complex systems.(18) Through these discussions, the "posthuman" future of "humanity" began increasingly to be evoked. Examples range from Hans Moravec's invocation of a "postbiological" future in which human consciousness is downloaded into a computer, to the more sedate (and in part already realized) prospect of a symbiotic union between human and intelligent machine that Howard Rheingold calls "intelligence augmentation."(19) Although these visions differ in the degree and kind of interfaces they imagine, they concur that the posthuman implies a coupling so intense and multifaceted that it is no longer possible to distinguish meaningfully between the biological organism and the informational circuits in which it is enmeshed. Accompanying this change, I have argued, is a corresponding shift in how signification is understood and corporeally experienced. In contrast to Lacanian psycholinguistics, derived from the generative coupling of linguistics and sexuality, flickering signification is the progeny of the fascinating and troubling coupling of language and machine. more »
Wednesday, March 11
by Debashish on March 11, 2009 07:03PM (PDT)
Some relections on the continuing issue of techno-capitalism and post-human futures by Debashish Banerji. This is a first fragment highlighting Moishe Postone's commentaries on the late writings of Marx. more »
Tuesday, October 28
by Debashish on October 28, 2008 01:12AM (PDT)
William Olaf Stapledon (1886-1950) was a British writer of Science Fiction, who dealt with themes which explored heightened utopic possibilities of human subjectivity. As one may see from his dates, he lived somewhat contemporaneously with Sri Aurobindo and it is not unlikely that he may have come across his writings or ideas. Stapledon's philosophical explorations into collective consciousness led him to use the term "supermind" for a global consciousness related to the mutual resonance and union of all human minds. Such ideas as also those of communication between different life forms and explorations of humanity's seeking for Truth and future perfection form the subject of many of his books. Stapledon may be thought of as one of the founders of modern Sci-fi and had a strong influence on other such masters of the genre as Arthur C. Clarke, Brian Aldiss, Stanislaw Lem, C. S. Lewis and John Maynard Smith. In this short story, The Flames, Stapledon brings together many of these themes and explores them from a certain perspective. more »
Thursday, October 9
by Ron on October 9, 2008 08:57PM (PDT)
I've taken the liberty of typing in all of Chapter 4 of my copy of this important book, because it powerfully addresses one of the main themes of SCIY, the manifold relationships between science, culture, and consciousness. (ron)
"It is a paradox of the work of Artificial Intelligence that in order to grant consciousness to machines, the engineers first labor to subtract it from humans, as they work to foist upon philosophers a caricature of consciousness in the digital switches of weights and gates in neural nets. As the caricature goes into public circulation with the help of the media, it becomes an acceptable counterfeit currency, and the humanistic philosopher of mind soon finds himself replaced by the robotics scientist. ...
"Both the mechanists and the mystics say that we are now at a great bifurcation in human evolution. The mechanists like Ray Kurzweil, Danny Hillis, and Hans Moravec prophesy that we are at the end of the human era, and that 'nanobots' are about to be embedded in our bodies until our antique organs of flesh are entirely surrounded by a new silicon noosphere of networked computers. Like ancient mitochondria or chloroplasts surrounded by the gigantic eukaryotic cells, we are about to be engulfed in the next evolutionary stage. So the mechanists see noetic technologies surrounding human culture and consciousness and compressing it into an endosymbiont in a larger and swifter and more elegant evolutionary vehicle. ...
"Mystics flip this literalism over to see technology as a system of externalized metaphors that derive from pre-existing ontological modes at play and at large in the universe... For the mystic — be she Cabbalist or Sufi — an angel is a 'Celestial Intelligence' — a form of cosmic noetic organization that does not require a detour through animal evolution. So when Kurzweil claims that by 2030 implanted nanobots in the bloodstream will enable humans to turn off to the outside world to attune to a virtual reality, the mystic would recognize a literalist rendering of the process of meditation. Kurzweil's vision of the world in 2030 reminds me of Borges's 'Library of Babel'. 'I suspect that the human species — the unique species — is about to be extinguished, but the Library will endure: illuminated, solitary, useless, incorruptible, secret'.  And here we need to be sensitive to the full force of Borges's use of the word 'Babel'. ... " more »
Tuesday, October 7
by Rich on October 7, 2008 07:14PM (PDT)
In his 'Postscript on Control Societies,' Deleuze marks our emergence from the disciplinary, panoptic societies Foucault studies. He describes a movement from a society 'equipped with thermodynamic machinces presenting the passive danger of entropy and the active danger of sabotage' to a society functioning 'with information technology and computers, where the passive danger is noise and the active, piracy and viral contamination' (Deleuze, 1995: 180). Deleuze's observations suggest more than a shift in the metaphors by which we understand society; they indicate a shift in the material relationship between humans and machines. Deleuze and Guattari's work has extensively explored this relationship, from molecular proto-machines of desire to the molar assemblages of the state. Their work operates, in part, on the shifting boundaries between aesthetic and technological paradigms. Science Fiction has also worked upon this boundary. Though the generic term 'Science Fiction' only hints at the multiple possibilities for communication (and contamination) between the two, Deleuze and Guattari recognize its potential, noting that the genre 'has gone through a whole evolution taking it from animal, vegatable and mineral becomings to becomings of bacteria, viruses, molecules, and things impreceptible' (1987: 248). more »
by Debashish on October 7, 2008 07:05PM (PDT)
The concluding section on Techno-Capitalism and Post-Human Destinies by Debashish Banerji continues its second installment's reflections on the Omniscience, Omnipotence and Omnipresence presented to us as the emerging destiny of post-Enlightenment Modernity and compares this destination with its appropriation and supercession in the Neo-Vedantic teleology of Sri Aurobindo. What are the differences, dangers and promises of these destinies and what are the conditions for achieving an alternate destination? ... more »
Tuesday, May 6
by Rich on May 6, 2008 07:58PM (PDT)
In speaking of the disciple of the body especially, when the task of disciple is simultaneously intended to improve its utility for production, here are some riffs on Foucault's: Discipline & Punish. Historical context is primary and Foucault's archaeological method helps uncover the rupture within the Enlightenment whose legacy still haunts us, as Deleuze observes, because they have now morphed into technologies of control.
In the European tradition Foucault traces the disciplining of the body back to medieval Monastic exercises, which were intended to facilitate renunciation of the world. These exercises were transformed when adopted by the socio-political regimes of the 17th & 18th century, (especially military, pedagogical, and industrial) into a method for maintaining control over the actions of the bodies it governed through disciplining processes. These disciplining practices have co-evolved with technology (and are in fact technologies in themselves) to become ever more omnipresent as tools of surveillance and control. Going forward it will be the omnipresence of ubiquitous technologies (bio-technical/computational/networked) that will largely determine the environmental parameters in which our future bodies must structurally couple.
Resistance to the virus of docility, to the infection of the gaze, to the insertion of discipling technologies is often the unintended consequences of the mechanisms of control themselves, as William Gibson says, "the street finds its own use for things". The future is a random other. For example, what we know as the internet today has evolved from technology first designed for survival after a nuclear holocaust.
Activism whose interests lie in discovering alternative, non coercive, paths to human development would be well served to find patterns created by resistances to, and ruptures from, the paradigms of control and technological will organizing the human resources of the planet. Such an activism proceeds by both locating those ruptures in the paradigms of organizational control and cultivating resistance practices to them in ones own life and community. One such practice to resist the discipling machinery of global socio-economic power exchanges is yoga. Although the aim of yoga is to achieve a frictionless flow between individual and cosmos, the many and the one, a yoga such as integral yoga whose concern is not merely a transcendental urge but an immanent concern for the world, is a unique resistance form because its own monastic traditions of psycho/physiological practices, established well before the body was appropriated by the exercises of technicity, allows one to leverage the silence of ones own embodiment as a method of resisting external regimes of control. rc..
Tuesday, April 29
by Ron on April 29, 2008 04:00PM (PDT)
...This has been a pretty remarkable month, actually, with all the problems of "The Long Emergency" accelerating impressively. Oil is now testing the $120 mark, the airline industry is imploding (largely over fuel costs), the housing scene has reached a degree of collapse unseen since the 1930s, food shortages have strayed out of the Third World and begun to affect Japan and the USA, bats are dying of a mysterious disease in the Northeast, and the Arctic sea ice is shrinking away to nothing.
We're in a strange collective psychic bubble. We'd like to forget about all these troubling rumors of hardship and bad weather and just get on with the daily task of making a living and paying for stuff and enjoying our customary entertainments. The comforting ceremonies of everyday life seem to continue. The freeways are still full of cars. Nancy Grace comes on TV dependably at 8 p.m. and is there deploring the latest pervert arrest. The baseball season has ramped up and the teams are criss-crossing the nation in their chartered airplanes. The stock market is actually going up -- what's wrong with that?
But there's an equally eerie vibe out there that things are seriously out-of-whack. We're on the edge of something. We're at the entrance of a dark passage where some of the ceremonies of daily life meet resistance. You go to the WalMart and five of your six credit cards are refused. Uh oh. It begins to dawn on you that you're spending a quarter of your take-home pay filling up the gas-tank every week. There's no dial tone when you pick up the telephone. How could all the supermarkets in town be out of rice? The local hospital just declared bankruptcy. The neighbors down the street auctioned off all their furniture in the driveway last week. Why does the cat pick up so many ticks these days? ... more »
Friday, April 18
• "The Final Empire: The Collapse of Civilization and the Seed of the Future," by SCIY Editor Wm. H. Kotke
by Ron on April 18, 2008 01:51PM (PDT)
I just received an email from SCIY Editor Wm. H. Kotke announcing the publication of the first reprint of his underground classic: "The Final Empire: The Collapse of Civilization and the Seed of the Future," first published in 1993. I just downloaded the E-book version (for just $6.95) and after a quick scan through its 600+ pages, I'm convinced this is a significant read for those SCIY readers concerned about Earth's sustainability crisis. As an Amazon reviewer said:
"This is an incredibly well documented and prophetic book. Prophetic in the sense that when I first read it over ten years ago, I was skeptical of many predictions. They have all turned out to come true. This book is indigenous and inspiring in the sense that it offers practical earth friendly strategies that affirm the possibility that man is part OF nature, not apart FROM it. Well written! Real history and facts, vitally relevant, and hence empowering! Good medicine for all earthlings. A powerful gift! Thanks Bill!" ... more »
Sunday, March 23
by Rich on March 23, 2008 09:56PM (PDT)
One thing that can be said non-metaphorically about that the way Sri Aurobindo practiced yoga was that it was scientific. The perfection of his sadhana was a feat that required experimentation and one in which he sought demonstrable results. It should reasonably follow that his perspective on science would be one in which its truth claims were open to critical interrogation, just as were his experiments in yoga.
Given his penetrating intellectual insights into cultural change, his understanding of history as both progressive and cyclic, his multivocal criticisms of society, his integrative encounter with other voices and texts, his ability to effortlessly traverse the subjectivities of Europe and India and to transit freely between both ancient and modern zeitgeists, it seems reasonable to assume that he would size up science with a critical gaze....
Sri Aurobindo's project can be said to be a valiant attempt to find ways to integrate various levels of understanding and seemingly incommensurable experiences by respecting each ones particular articulation of truth while simultaneously harmonizing their unique claims to truth. But he also seems to have anticipated several recent scientific claims on the role punctuated equilibrium, symbiosis, complexity and emergence play in evolution as well as to have held perspectives that most social theorist share today. These social theories dismiss positivist arguments for reductive epistemology and highlight how biology can be used as an ideological tool. Additionally, early on at a time it was still popular, Sri Aurobindo discounted the more extreme implications of Spencer's Social Darwinism “survival of the fittest” strategy and clearly was repelled by the social engineering program of eugenics..... more »
A Review of Dipesh Chakrabarty's "Provincializing Europe" by Amit Chaudhuri (London Review of Books) Debashish
AntiMatters vol 3 no 4 is out koantum
Classicism, post-classicism and Ranjabati Sircar’s work: re-defining the terms of Indian contemporary dance discourses by Alessandra Lopez y Royo Debashish
LACMA 111909 - Debashish Banerji Debashish
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler