SOME REFLECTIONS ON POLITICAL AUTOMATION

 

1. Automation is what transforms chaos into logos, therefore it’s hardly a surprise we’ve ended up mistaking automation for a god. Any attempt to automate, for instance, the absurd —by means of repetition, by making it organized and predictable—, would result in reason sequestering absurdity. This might sound amusing, but it actually depletes the absurd of its full cognitive potential. Automation and looping, as the history of the gentrification of 20th century’s artistic and sociopolitical avantgardes shows very well, must be applied cautiously.

 

2. In a world that loves to present itself as a videogame-like competition of soft techno-totalitarian societies, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from politics because technology is expected to be indistinguishable from abstract reason, and abstract reason is expected to govern. The confusion between politics and technology is one of the recurring issues of modernity, albeit it is not a new thing: politics, since Plato and Confucius, has always been considered a technology of social automation.

 

3. Both modern science and philosophy have been endlessly working to reduce thinking to technology and technology to thinking. Modernity has been a continuous —and, in many ways, a very successful— attempt to transform gambling into gaming. Social activists wanted human behaviour to be more dependent on nurture than on nature because they believed nurture was more easily manipulable (more likely to be implemented into social machines) —however, we are quickly approaching a point in which nature will become more manipulable than nurture, resulting in a complete reorganization of modernity’s ethical and political principles that are expected to be replaced by biotechnologies and cybernetics. Automation is a replacement.

 

4. The pursuit of the mechanization of the logos forestalls the understanding of technology as a precondition for thinking. Technology is not considered anymore as the result of the evolution of the tool —a quite unexpected, radically exterior thing which might be found “at hand” to perform an unpredictable task—, but as a “machine” —the logical consequence of abstract reason following a set of transcendental rules and pursuing a teleological ideal. As Nick Land explains, “the unambiguous conclusion of modern history has been that the definitive solution to any problem of cognitive consistency is a machine.” Machines are, of course, the materialization of dreams of automation; first of the human motor functions, and more recently of human cognition.

 

5. Gilbert Simondon differentiates between “abstract” and “concrete” technical objects —symbols and actual machines derived from symbols: “The technical object exists, then, as a specific type that is arrived at the end of a convergent series. This series goes from the abstract mode to the concrete mode: it tends towards a state at which the technical being becomes a system that is entirely coherent with itself and entirely unified.” The apparent coherence between abstract and concrete technical objects is the consequence of machines being actually material metaphors of how we would like the world to be.

 

6. A machine is not just the result of establishing a set of causal relationships that would ensure, if not always a predictable outcome, at least a predictable logic and mechanism, but of having discarded all processes and features which are not strictly relevant to its machinations. Instead of thinking of technology as an exit from humanity, it should be admitted that there is an outside of technology. A space of insanity, as defined by Alfred Einstein, in which doing the same thing over and over actually produces different results. A space for memory, which is the process of computing different pieces of information across tome to keep getting the same result. A Simondonian technical object might help with winning a game, but if used for gambling, it becomes just another amulet: the apotropaic evidence of the fact that winning games is not all that it counts.

 

7. Consider the artist-gambler who would relentless shift from illusion to strategical thinking with the intention of alternatively mechanizing and de-mechanizing thought. No one gambles without a strong cognitive bias resulting in believing that a particular bet has more possibilities than others. “Order in the absence of theoretical explanation is no longer identified as a self-supporting structure, but as a problem, or research prompt.” —explains Nick Land— “Patterns are to be derived. They are puzzles rather than conclusions. To think that any serious question is answered by a pattern approximates to a definition of scholasticism.” In gambling, however, pattern is in itself a result.

 

8. The gambler plays in a deterministic environment (of a finite number of elements and a number of combinations limited by a fixed set of arbitrary rules) as if it was non-deterministic. The rational technologist plays in a non-deterministic world as if it was deterministic —so, instead of following the idealistic, modern-anthropocentric motto of “dominating nature,” rational technology must accept itself as the exactly the opposite of “domination:” it must ignore all “irrelevant data,” selecting and isolating closed-system portions of reality and transforming them into sequencies of predictable patterns: a language or a set of languages.

In those “as if” spaces of inadequacy, is where thinking might actually happen

 

9. Contemporary politics, mostly but not exclusively in the West, is the way to put in stand-by mode all those “irrelevant data” that do not fit into the current automation devices.

 

10. Irrelevant data, that part of reality which is still inadequate for automation, has become the last space for aesthetical action.

GERMÁN SIERRA

 

*published in ALIENIST Magazine #7 (January 2020): AUTOMATIC AUTONOMIA

 

critical art ensemble

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