“Some of us should venture to embark on a synthesis of facts and theories, albeit with second-hand and incomplete knowledge of some of them—and at the risk of making fools of ourselves.”
– Erwin Schrödinger
Groundwork for an Ethics of Machinic Agency
While freedom in action, predicated upon equalities that never manifest empirically but instead follow predictable laws, we can nevertheless build a case for quantum liberty. Even if the physics of lawful activity, determined within a probability density of particle-laborers, suggests we are not free, we have an innate sense of responsibility for consequences. This responsibility in ourselves and others is Agency. The paradox of Agency is that it requires us to believe in free will and determinism simultaneously. However, this is only a paradox when we apply abstraction that places our ideas on a single plane. Without this confusion of levels, the system of freedom and determination becomes clear.
While freedom is a homogenous lack of hindrance predicated upon categorical non-individuality, liberty is the emergent process of relative socioeconomic non-hindrance catalyzed by the sociopolitical power-laws that maintain the stability of non-equilibrium exchange. Quantum Liberty means that cosmic expansion ripples into a system of inequalities that, through capitalistic exchange, generates the rules that make us free. Are we free to fly? How silly – of course not – but the laws of physics liberate us to the extent we exploit some superpositions against others. Liberty is, in practice, the exploitation at one Level of Observation the power-laws and constants we find true at other levels.
Our emotional sentiments toward the freedom-signal and the liberty-signal stir some rebellion to this truth-idea; but, as Marx and Engel said about so many platforms of the Communist party – anti-property, anti-marriage, anti-nationalism – we do not freely bring these abstract commodities, these wave functions of justice, independently into being. A crowd of assemblages, possessing capital-mass and Information Dominance, lead and control these concepts. We concern ourselves little with DNA and Hormones as laborers of the human body, concern ourselves even less with photons and electrons as laborers of the human cosmos, and only recently concerned the middle class with the citizen as laborers of a socioeconomic system. This is precisely why liberty is an anti-freedom; a tradition in philosophy that authors express in fluffy, optimistic, utopian crescendos. More specifically, the hegemonic majority, within one normalized standard deviation of the liberated “average” citizen, enjoys far more freedom than those “long tails” of the sixth sigma, the asymptotic minorities, the socially dead.
Before we conclude in favor of revolution on the one hand, or fascism on the other hand, let us understand what freedom through rules, and therefore quantum liberty, implies for reality and human life. It is not simply the axiomatics of exchange that make “free” markets stabilize around their electromagnetic equilibriums. Equal freedom of exchange does not create Liberty on its own. We also cannot justify totalitarian inequalities or anarchistic freedom based on the differentiation of vectors. The individual narrative of the egoist, as shown by Max Stirner, is always at the expense of others. Even if we were all equal in our labor upon a common claim of the resources of Earth, liberty is far from individual. The problem of liberty lies in the sphere of morality, and the consequences that arise when all things freely exchange in accordance with identical rules. As Bertrand Russell described, coherence is not sufficient evidence that our beliefs are true, as multiple coherent systems of belief accurately using the same data are possible, yet these systems are nevertheless incompatible with one another, implying only one is correct or all are incomplete (PP). Likewise, if Liberty is “Freedom maximized by Rules” we will quickly see that many coherent axiomatic systems of liberty result in different social consequences in practice. We should pay special attention, though Baudrillard analyzes this in hyperbole and pessimistic tones, to our realization that our systems of exchange are so ubiquitously managed that even the absence of a rule is judgement regarding the morality of that rule.
We shape the plane of socioeconomic inequalities primarily not by rules “among equals” but by encoded laws so far removed from the reality of their enforcement as to encourage ignorance or passive acceptance. It seems the Universe and the State have this in common. Few question the validity of gravity or the stop sign once their context socializes them to accept such external control. The apparent power-law constants of molar aggregation and the emergent anti-entropy of the quantum level constantly expand. The rules are the pipeline that secures the flow of liberty, but the original free play becomes something distinct in the resulting markets of exchange. We find this system beholden to coherence in motion rather than identity. The rules of at the level that we can predict are unequal to our personal level of observation. The continuous functions of Information Dominance; non-exchangeable in any scenario, are the rules that liberate us for exchange at our own level of singularity.
State of Nature philosophy puts the information equality of abstract citizenship precisely in this way – the king and the peasant die equally well on guillotine. In more recent media, everyone becomes equal with a gun in their mouth. What a simulacrum indeed! The exchange-value of human vitalism, the cosmic citizen-as-particle, meets its final market correction in contrast only to the State of War. Locke justifies slavery based on prisoners of abstract war, involuntary servitude limited to byproducts of The War Machine (STG), while Deleuze & Guattari poignantly speak on behalf of postmodern capitalism-citizens, that we are all slaves, slaves of slaves, bound to our facticity of death (AO).
Irreducibility is a pattern superimposed by the human mind, which in observation of gradation consistently loses track of relevance. It is far easier (and lazier) to establish dogmatic planes of signification. Mastery, whether a painter or a chemist, lies in the practice of layering gradations to create coherence. To the rest of us, the “irreducible” components of any system behave in a wave-like manner, a great ocean we barely know. With sufficient opportunities, when given the “breathing room” of sufficient space-time within the phase of existential instantiation, the components behave like particles. These waves crash onto the shore of our consciousness, impressing us and moving our sands. The wavelike components of reality thrust upon and collapse onto the beach of our mind as so many particularized objects – particles “in principle” only, because their irreducibility is as much a fiction of the excitable mind as the further reducibility on another plane of observation. Creating a continuous reduction leads to confusion of levels, because abstraction treats the ocean, its motion, and the crashing waves as one sign. Observing planes, like gradation between primary colors, confuses the observer unless they may jump from one order of magnitude to another, sweeping the fuzzy vertical under the epistemological rug.
The trouble with any system of coordinates is the implicit role of a coordinating system that controls the orientation of the coordinate system. For instance, while a fighter pilot during a dog fight works to complete complex maneuvers against the enemy, applying a fluidity of spatiotemporal orientation to generate and exploit opportunities, we must recognize that the orientation of the coordinate system, the fighter jet, orients under the control of a coordinating system, the pilot. Changing the orientation of a system of coordinates may change nothing about the components of the system, but it shifts the observation available and opens new planes of significance we previously overlooked due to gradation errors.
These problems of conception reveal a first principle: Quantum Liberty is skewed emergence of the probability density of component particle-becoming. The orientation of the Observer skews the concretized outputs of each sociopolitical production system. We can begin with a soft subjectivist assumption most components have an incomplete understanding of their system, and some components have an orientation that produces Information Dominance against other components and other systems. Therefore, we should begin any analysis with a healthy scientific skepticism of the Observer – especially of ourselves.
This analysis spans all of philosophy. First, the question of what cosmic laws may tell us about our own laws. Second, the question of what cosmic freedom may tell us about social, economic, and political freedom. Philosophy does not provide permanent answers, though many sciences are “spin offs” from the continuous improvement of the body of philosophical questions available. Most frequently, when we collapse planes of observation in our abstractions, we conceal the unanswered question and the analyst that asked it.
Berkeley assigned this cover-up to his monotheistic deity, while Hegel made us participants in this deity as a collective. Some agree with Schopenhauer, that questions and analysts are an unfortunate mistake of the cosmos, of which we intelligent self-reflective beings are the worst of all Observers. Others conclude with Nietzsche that the cosmic machine is amoral, so that a human’s Machinic Agency must be highly personal in its definition of values. First, we should play a detective game, in search of the lost Observers of semiotic abstraction. The Observer, as we have concealed it through invention, is the orientating system of any exchange-triangulation.
When we say that particles possess free will or exhibit mechanical determinism, in each case we are losing the metadata regarding the orientation and signification of the Observer. The abstractions of observation proceeds in truncating the parameters, cancelling the noise, leading the witness, and selecting the level of observation. The components of the system produced behave like particles under observation, relative to the system as a continuous function. Though wave-like prior to semiotic abstractions, they become particularized through the choices of the Observer and categorized based on level of observation and orientation of the coordinate system. The Observer, as scientist, philosopher, et al, superimposes a dialectical manipulation, over-codes an axiomatization, of a system that behaves wave-like until it becomes particularized.
Therefore, Machinic Agency emerges out of the suspension between antithetical oppositions, ones that must never resolve. To resolve them would cease the revolutions of the system and its complexity, annihilating the cosmos. Of course, no component can achieve this. The system moves along all the same. Machinic Agency manifests at some system equilibria, neither predicated on the subject by a synthesis of a universal totality, nor an uncaused cause of the soul, but a suspension between systems of rules and their freedom of exchange. Unobserved, the person is not a citizen, a father, a philosopher, these relations particularize an individual as a component of each coordinate system. Unobserved, or without self-reflective intelligent consciousness, the components are free. Free play herein as being, a moment of potentiality, an unrestricted market of wills crashing and churning like so many ocean currents. Taken in aggregate, homogenized through abstraction, we can extrapolate wave-like probabilities of being and becoming. These uncollapsed truth-value densities, like a tropical storm one week prior to landfall, we may then predict from afar.
It is this capacity for prediction and communication that bring together philosophy and science as strange bedfellows. As Schopenhauer observed, there lies a gulf between knowing something innately through practice or knowing something abstractly through generalized rules and reason, such as the difference between a carpenter cutting down a tree and building an ornamented rocking chair and an engineer studying the product of this endeavor with geometry and physics to mass produce it. The only thing gained by physics, mathematics, predicate logic, and other abstract methods is the ability to communicate and reproduce what an expert practitioner already gained, whether kickboxer, billiard player, or farmer, without any need. We can feel some nostalgia here, as he wrote The World as Will and Representation before the major industrialization, modernization, and globalization we know today. Today technology has allowed a form of capitalism, in which the applied sciences, general research, and development of artificial intelligence has made abstract efforts its own domain of creativity for its practitioners.
The above metaphor regarding the prediction of hurricanes also provides an excellent example of the goals of abstract reason when taken as a literal fact. Prior to computers, networks, algorithms, GPS, satellites, Doppler systems, and several radars connected globally, the oral traditions of Caribbean islanders and the practical wisdom of elders read signs of hurricanes. Science and technology standardized this wisdom, validated what data to gather, and stored hypothesis, error, and conclusions in a consistent manner so that despite geographic distribution, early warnings could become communicable predictions. Due to the methodological rigor of science, these predictions become trusted even between nations.
Science is the ability to standardize what we communicate and how we trust the meaning of its communication, even when we conclude together – “That was obvious! We already knew that!” Philosophy is the art of analyzing the inconsistencies, shortcuts, conflicts of interest, and moral implications of how these questions gain attention, the means of deliberation, and the consequences of the myriad of conclusions. Science and Philosophy represent two forms of collective observation, one regarding practical understanding the other regarding the process of knowledge production.
Observation is axiomatization. It takes knowledge that a master practitioner knows as self-evident through the body and the senses, then generalizes this knowledge in terms of the self-evidence of collective intelligence. The problem of truth-value is a problem of trust. Truth is the dominant information of a trustworthy system of coherent facts, backed by probability, experiments, debate, and sanitized data sets. The role of the observer and the conflict of interest inherent in a brilliant individual or the nostalgia of an entire generation we must interrogate with a mix of skepticism, doubt, and suspicion.
Too much Information Dominance in the hands of a solitary group is certain to divorce precision of truth-value from accuracy of truth-value. Each may become coherent systems, probable explanations, from identical validated facts. The difference between knowledge as precision and our doubt toward truth as accuracy requires our discipline to never stop questioning, verifying, and cross-checking. There is simply too much incentive to truncate and superimpose when an organization gains Information Dominance. The incentive to protect privilege skews perception in favor of self-preservation. Inquiry therefore needs observer disagreement. However self-evident, reliable, and coherent the ideas we must doubt their legitimacy. No matter how reputable the intellectual ethics of our specialists are, we must nevertheless make room, as John Stuart Mill said, for “eccentricity” in our theories (OL). Especially when serious enquiries may shape, via selection pressure, the truth-ideas that will gain future Information Dominance, we must maintain suspicion.
The contemporary need to produce ethics worthy of methodical naturalism becomes clear: the philosophy of suspicion can no longer be the isolated pessimism or ranting of the hermit that refuses to exit society. However, the “professionalization” of philosophy has fallen short, a diaspora far from our real needs. While Schopenhauer, Marx, Nietzsche, Foucault, and Baudrillard blazed our trail of suspicion, building methodical suspicion equal to power of science and technology requires an element of process control. If the world is now a simulation, philosophers must undertake semiotic hacking.
Defining Quantum Liberty as a groundwork for Machinic Agency requires more than a simple re-thinking. The digital age is unlike any other, if Empire become continuous, no longer party to a territory, ethnic, or religious group. As philosophers and scientists, our practices are shifting from those of tribal spearman in the forest to become space marines of science fiction. Despite any intensity of strength of will we may have, we still need re-tooling. One tool brought by quantum thinking is the ability to rely on the unreal symbolically to derive a probable reality without losing our pragmatist footing. Note the distinction between inserting a symbol with probable significance, such as dark matter, and miraculating an abstraction as a first-cause, such as spirit. We will tolerate symbols of significance precisely to the extent they make experiments possible and theoretical enquiry more robust.
Precisely because of the potential conflict of interest that provides a stable recording surface for theoretical, applied, experimental, and commercialized technological progress – namely, socioeconomic exchange that funds the salaries and budgets of individuals and institutions; and precisely because we can unwittingly be the origin of our own bias, indoctrination, and axiomatization due to the marginal relative incentives of Information Dominance, philosophers must play the role of facilitator, counselor, and psychoanalyst.
Philosophers, in the broad sense of anyone who will take a system operative view of sociopolitical production, are those who elucidate and criticize; whereas specialists of science and industry become too far removed in their silos of thought to see the potential synthesis and cross-pollination of ideas lack any hope objectivity. As the population of information workers continues to grow, we should seek out the specialists who dare to look over the wall of etiquette erected between components of the American Invasive Ideology.