The latest wave of infuriating technical problems with this blog have reached breaking point — even post updates have become impossible due to hosting issues. To resolve these, it’s going to be necessary to switch over to a reliable server, which will inevitably mean some disruption. I’m hoping this can be limited, and that after dealing with the move updates, images, and all kinds of other perfectly normal stuff will become possible. Apologies for the time out.
Writing in e-flux, Franco Berardi Bifo excitedly ties a number of accelerationism-related topics together. Explicitly linking accelerative “semiocapitalism” to the fiat currency era, he tracks the dot pattern forward into neuropharmacological collapse:
William Burroughs has said that inflation is essentially when you need more money to buy fewer things. It’s simple: you need more and more signs, words, information, to buy less and less meaning. It is hyper-acceleration used as a crucial capitalist tool. When Marx speaks of relative surplus value, he’s speaking about acceleration: if you want a growth in productivity — which is also a growth in surplus value — you need to accelerate work time. But when the main tool for production ceases to be material labor and becomes cognitive labor, acceleration enters another phase, another dimension, because an increase in semiocapitalist productivity comes essentially from the acceleration of the info-sphere — the environment from which information arrives in your brain.
A set of links to online accelerationist writings is under assembly at the top of this blog. It’s going to thicken up slowly — probably just a new link or two each day — but if there’s anything worthy that you think I’m going to miss, let me know and it will be included eventually.
Putting this up is a vote of confidence from my end that this topic has legs. If it’s going to peak, it won’t be for a while — and even then it will be back. There’s still plenty of theoretical work (and argument) up ahead.
How money moves out of China.
‘Spengler’ on demography and geopolitics. Also at ATOL, tail risk.
An interview with Li Ka-shing.
Bitcoin for little children. (Focused on the solution to the double-spending problem.)
How can we do anything of importance without building a space elevator first?
The death of privacy on the Internet is a political catastrophe wrote Evgeny Morozov (last October). Kevin Kelly is more relaxed (although the way “we define ourselves as humans” has to change).
The ‘state of exception’ is just the state.
Returns of Ouroboros. Also, time-looping with tape.
Recalling Heinlein’s ‘speedtalk‘ in an age of computer-accelerated language.
How ‘Neoliberals’ think. (Among the more insightful critiques.)
Beyond ‘bad philosophy’. (This kind of “the-truth-is-not-enough” pseudo-Medieval decadence is increasing popular — which doesn’t say anything good about the state of the West today.)
A (quick) digression on speed
Acceleration, as Accelerationism employs it, is a concept abstracted from physics. In this philosophical (and socio-historical) sense, it preserves its mathematical definition (consolidated by the differential calculus) as higher derivatives of speed, with continued reference to time (change in the rate of change), but with re-application from passage through space to the growth of a determinable variable. The theoretical integrity of accelerationism, therefore, rests upon a rigorous abstraction from and of space, in which the dimension of change — as graphed against time — is mapped onto an alternative, quantifiable object. The implicit complicity of this ‘object’ with the process of abstraction itself will ultimately translate into explicit theoretical complications.
The flight into abstraction is theoretically snarled by reflexive tangles. Comparable difficulties arise on the side of the flight ‘out’ of space, primarily because the coincidence of intelligibility and spatiality tends rather to thicken than dissolve with each further increment of abstraction, propelling intelligence into phase-spaces, probability-spaces, Cyberspace, and deterritorialization. Space is released from its ‘original’ concreteness into the purity of the intuitive medium, while acquiring active intelligibility as display space, within which concepts become sensible. There is no more archaic, or more contemporary, illustration than the intuition of time through space, as demonstrated by the entire history of horology, the time-line, time dimensionalization, and graphed dynamics. Space sticks to measure on its path into abstraction, and even leads it there.
The Incredible Machines conference held last Friday and Saturday threaded discussion of technology (by theorists and artists) together with some impressive boundary-pushing on the exploitation side. Despite some inevitable tech-hitches, the ‘real’ (or Vancouver meat-space) and virtual (global Cyberspace) components of the event were inter-networked with remarkable vividness, and even a certain smoothness. Internet-driven delocalization was crossing a threshold, in a way that any future international event will find difficult to ignore.
Youtube video — and transcripts? — are accessible from the event website. (The Incredible Machines Facebook page also has some bits and pieces.)
“If any system has been associated with ideas of acceleration it is capitalism,” says #Accelerate, unobjectionably. “The essential metabolism of capitalism demands economic growth, with competition between individual capitalist entities setting in motion increasing technological developments in an attempt to achieve competitive advantage, all accompanied by increasing social dislocation.”
As previously noted, of the trends referenced here “economic growth” is easily the most accessible (due to its commercial self-quantification). The technoscientific apprehension of technoscience, while already embryonic at the beginning of the modern epoch, is still some distance from mathematical self-comprehension as a natural event. Its quantification, therefore, poses far more challenging problems, leaving even very basic questions about its trend-lines open to significant controversy. (Self-quantification of development trends in the electronics and biotech sectors merit focused attention at a later stage.) Any attempt to provide a precise and coherent measurement of “social dislocation” is likely to confront even more formidable obstacles.
Capitalism present itself as the exemplary accelerative mega-object because it is self-propelling and (cross-excitedly) self-abstracting. In both its technical and commercial aspects, it tends towards general-purpose potentials that facilitate resource re-allocations (and thus efficient quantifications). Productive capability is plasticized, becoming increasingly responsive to shifting market opportunities, while wealth is fluidized, permitting its rapid speculative mobilization. The same self-reinforcing process that liquidates traditional social forms releases modernizing capital as volatile abstract quantity, flexibly poised between technical applications, and inclined intrinsically towards a ‘decoded’ or economistic apprehension.
Assume — at least provisionally — that Accelerationism is serious. While abstracted from physics, the concept of acceleration is not reduced to mere rhetoric (or metaphor), even if it is no longer applied to changes in the velocity of objects in space. It refers strictly to change of the first derivative (or higher) in a measurable quantity across time, formally compliant with the differential calculus. The rate of acceleration — or system performance — can be estimated in principle, even if practical considerations complicate this task. In other words, the object of accelerationist attention (and promotion) has demonstrable reality.
The intellectual history of industrial capitalism advances two streams of (quantitative) information, both of great apparent relevance. On its technical side, it produces an apparatus of rigorous measurement directed to the behavior of complex physical systems, or machines — temperature differences, free energy, thermodynamic efficiency, entropy dissipation, complexity, information, and (emergently) intelligence. On its commercial side it establishes institutions of accountancy and econometrics, denominated in currency units, and applied to economic production, income, taxes, trade flows, credit, asset values, and increasingly exotic financial instruments. While an argument could be made that the confluence of these two streams is implicit within — and even essential to — the nature (or culture) of capitalism, with intelligence-price discovery as its immanent epistemological directive, no such results are readily or publicly available. There might even be reasons for suspecting that the raw question how much is intelligence worth? cannot be overtly articulated within any imaginable social order. It is, in any case, a distraction at this stage.
While waiting for the Better Half‘s book to finally reach the shelves (thank you publishing industry), here‘s a taster of what’s inside.
#Accelerate positions itself very clearly within a Marxian intellectual tradition. In this respect, it remains consistent with the main current of ‘accelerationist’ thinking as it has developed from the Marx of The Communist Manifesto, through Marx’s later writings on imperialism and international relations, and into the ‘Nietzscheanized’ quasi-Marxism of Deleuze, Guattari, and Lyotard. The constant political recommendation across this diverse heritage is alignment with the capitalistic social revolution, in order to realize its ultimate eschatalogical implication. To interrupt capitalistic development is to retard the formation of the final revolutionary class — the radically-industrialized international proletariat (or whatever decoded schizo-swarms it later becomes). Hence the defining imperative slogan of Deleuze & Guattari: Accelerate the process.
Beyond this point, however, obscurity gathers rapidly. In particular, is in entirely unclear which broad trend of Marxist theory is being extrapolated. From the available rhetorical clues, it does not seem as though #Accelerate endorses the wholesale deleuzoguattarian break from classical Marxism — crossing the theoretical catastrophe that includes abandonment of the Law of Value (in an embrace of ‘machinic surplus value’, ‘machinic value of code’, and marginalism); differentiation of ‘capitalism’ and market economics (following Braudel); denunciation of state socialism as a regressive ‘Oriental Despotism’ (following Wittfogel); and a dehumanization of the revolutionary subject without obvious limits (drawing upon sources from Samuel Butler to Antonin Artaud). If this were the vector pursued, it would — surely — be vividly evident?