His eyes re-focused on the page. He discovered that while he sat helplessly musing he had also been writing, as though by automatic action. And it was no longer the same cramped, awkward handwriting as before. His pen had slid voluptuously over the smooth paper, printing in large neat capitals –
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER
over and over again, filling half a page.
He could not help feeling a twinge of panic. It was absurd, since the writing of those particular words was not more dangerous than the initial act of opening the diary, but for a moment he was tempted to tear out the spoiled pages and abandon the enterprise altogether.
He did not do so, however, because he knew that it was useless. Whether he wrote DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER, or whether he refrained from writing it, made no difference. Whether he went on with the diary, or whether he did not go on with it, made no difference. The Thought Police would get him just the same. He had committed — would still have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper — the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed for ever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.
It was always at night — the arrests invariably happened at night. The sudden jerk out of sleep, the rough hand shaking your shoulder, the lights glaring in your eyes, the ring of hard faces round the bed. In the vast majority of cases there was no trial, no report of the arrest. People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.
George Orwell’s 1984
Automation, which is at once the most advanced sector of modern industry and the epitome of its practice, confronts the world of the commodity with a contradiction that it must somehow resolve: the same technical infrastructure that is capable of abolishing labor must at the same time preserve labor as a commodity and indeed as the sole generator of commodities. If automation, or for that matter any mechanisms, even less radical ones, that can increase productivity, are to be prevented from reducing socially necessary labor-time to an unacceptably low level, new forms of employment have to be created. A happy solution presents itself in the growth of the tertiary or service sector in response to the immense strain on the supply lines of the army responsible for distributing and hyping the commodities of the moment. The coincidence is neat: on the one hand, the system is faced with the necessity of reintegrating newly redundant labor; on the other, the very factitiousness of the needs associated with the commodities on offer calls out a whole battery of reserve forces.
– Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle
Before we stare into the postmodern abyss, we should complete our analysis of technology and its essence; that is, its existential conceptual universalization. For this, we must turn to Martin Heidegger, who claimed that the machination of technological progress and its accompanying mechanization of life turns every living being into stockpiled resources, mechanical means to an uncertain end. The speciesism implicit in humanistic ideology left philosophy at a loss once animal and slave labor no longer played a role in the most effective economies of the world. For Heidegger, this reveals the insufficient expression of will-to-power across human form-of-life. The essence of being will never emerge from humanistic existential self-negation.
Heidegger saw in Germany the progression of technology into bureaucracy, disenchantment, and fascism. In response to the removal of meaning and significance, the need to generate subjective meaning independent of society and the State became the imperative of human life. Autocratic regimes performing genocide of arbitrary scapegoats is the consistent result of socialistic centralization. Reliance on a higher power, whether for objectivity or purpose, creates its own subjection. Losing their will to self-responsibility, socialization of meaning results in moral insolvency of individuals, then moral bankruptcy. Whether political subjection, spiritual asceticism, or conformity to THEY, through consumerism and spectacle, the intelligent being who fails to generate meaning out of their own experience of becoming-in-the-world inevitably falls into inauthenticity and suicide.
The mechanization of dualism was the same movement as the development of totalitarian idealism. Descartes escaped from the moral responsibility unending war and brutality by separating mind from body, leaving the use of each body permissible – responsibility for slavery, carnism, and war avoids recognition through stoic detachment. Kant escaped from the moral responsibility of choices that carry consequences by crystalizing this dualism even further. The realm of the thing-in-itself required a duty of egalitarianism at the expense of the entire phenomenal plane. Space, time, and bodies are all illusions; choice, consequences, and individual merit are productions of the mind. Kant’s moral bankruptcy results in a total loss of objectivity; just another system of inequalities, based on the comprehensive negation of life and meaning, again results in depravity, corruption, bureaucracy, carnism, slavery, and war. The last step in this progression spawns Hegel, who loses any pretense of objectivity or concern for life, again anointing idealistic hierarchy and war instead of freedom, value, and significance.
This placed philosophy in a terrible position. To regain objectivity necessitated an increasing belief in mechanical determinism and materialist history. To regain meaning necessitated an increasing romanticism of our sentimental, subjective, perceptual flux and emotional chaos. Once determinism, forgiven of any moral responsibility by Descartes and Kant, moved into rationalized sciences, philosophical materialism narrowed its attention to the interplay of historical forces, diminishing further the importance of any life or the Earth; when war is the only mechanism of progress, individual freedom, choice, value, and significance depreciate. Meanwhile, increasing romanticism results in further emotional rebellion; continuous movement without objective action. Philosophies of meaning progressively abandoned the attempt to take meaningful action, leaving positivism, structuralism, and pragmatism to their own pluralistic, pervasive doubt of knowledge, communication, or causal agency. We cannot feel surprised by the insanity that results from the fantasies of FreudoMarxian depersonalization. The “perpetual flux of stratified assemblages, ordered by the Body Without Organs” inspires rational revolt. This sad reaction to the absurd abyss at which we realize our total responsibility becomes a circus of values in its escape; we have the epistemology we deserve.
For Heidegger, the essence of a semiotic sign is more than its rhizomatic tracing through pluralistic matrices. Essence is the universality of the sign as a form, an aspect of being that transcends time and experience. Technology remains lost between mechanization and machination; its pervasive influence continues to spread and entrap the individual through technique, tools, means, and ends:
“To posit ends and procure and utilize the means to them is a human activity. The manufacture and utilization of equipment, tools, and machines, the manufactured and used things themselves, and the needs and ends that they serve, all belong to what technology is. The whole complex of these contrivances is technology. Technology itself is a contrivance—in Latin, an instrumentum.”
– Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology
Mechanization paradigms generate systems of inequality through principles, anchoring technological acceleration in favor of partisan gradations of value. Technology, if an independent partisan entity, is a contrivance that reinvents everything by a standard of instrumentalism. Because technology and technique are fundamentally human endeavors, this becomes tautological. To say that the utility of utility proves itself in its increase of utility says nothing new, only that acceleration, growth, and expansion are core elements of human success, precisely because these are emergent power-laws of anything that gains material complexity to survive against entropy and chaos. Growth rationalizes the intended consequences of inequality, which is to raise the virtuosity of capital rather than the worker. Technology provides equalization of process independent of human volition by means of an aggregation of generalized systemic liquidity. However, the socioeconomic systems that produce this technology constantly degrade technological validity through collective action. Impatient with the pace of progress for the baseline standards of living, socialism attempt to correct the emergent inequality of equal rights, preferring centralized control of unequal treatment. Because the idealist visions of an ordered and orchestrated society are incompatible, mechanization of economy becomes mechanization of sociopolitical panopticism. Out of this duplicity, more machination paradigms emerge, generating their system of values as a rejection of those with power at the time, pointing to aggregate unintended consequences. Because the mechanization paradigm never purifies itself and the machination paradigm attacks the symptom rather than the disease, the system falls into learned helplessness; bureaucracy, stagnation, and entropy result.
Just as early modern metaphysics failed to reveal the truth of being, life, and consciousness, its artificial prioritization of human, male, race, and class caused epistemology to fail in understanding instrumentalism. For Heidegger, the system of inequalities creates a paradigm that cannot reveal the truth of technology. Namely, that the essence of technology is the enframing and stockpiling of energy, forced from the Earth, held for a future purpose. Workers and resources become “stockpiled” as a means to a later end, but this purpose remains unknown, continuously displaced. Instrumentalism turns all beings into instruments of becoming. Unless someone argues that technology itself has a purpose of its own, a purpose to which we remain woefully ignorant, our progress will continue to leave us alienated as stockpiled instruments of future beings.
Of course, this is precisely what adults do through socioeconomic behavior; we stockpile time, energy, and resources in any form we can for the support of our own future, the future of our children, and for those with the wealth to do so, as many generations of human civilization that we can afford to improve. Indeed, we must take up moral responsibility for the end goal of this stockpiling, establishing it upon a system of meaning, or we will displace the guilt and anxiety of machination indefinitely. The danger begins when we miraculate our anxiety toward our own teleological stockpiling into a causa prima for religious, political, or social mechanization.
“The coming to presence of technology threatens revealing, threatens it with the possibility that all revealing will be consumed in ordering and that everything will present itself only in the hiddenness of standing-reserve. Human activity can never directly counter this danger. Human achievement alone can never banish it.” – Ibid
Heidegger’s analysis of instrumental machination shows that that mechanization is a method of enframing, we entrap meaning within an ordered framework out of anxiety toward our own finitude of orchestration. Technology reveals the potential of nature by means of capital, society, and science that relies upon system builders orchestrating the majority. The natural energy impossible to the individual is then entrapped within an artificial order of stock-piled energy. When this instrumentalism is miraculated as first-cause, this energy revelation expands to include the rationalization of every living being, in accordance with a destiny; unfortunately, it is a destiny no one yet realizes. The greatest danger of technology is that our increased certainty of probable outcomes exhausts the possibility of meaning, while hiding the essence of being in a stockpiled network of means without an end.
Heidegger later made a claim that philosophy as practiced is dead because THEY (the rabble, the spectacle) aligned existentialism too much with humanism rather than being-in-itself as an expression of will-to-power. As our analysis will show, the clear answer to claims of machination and the moral bankruptcy of mechanization requires a restoration of equality, objectivity, and responsibility. To avoid the depravity of instrumentalist systems of inequality, we must build our paradigm without the foolish speciesism that brings about the Biopolitics of fascism and communism. This means that our duality is on the side of life as it balances and conquers entropy. A morality of will-to-power ought to treat animal, alien, and machine life as an intelligent end, wherein minimum viable resilience is our means.
Life-process versus entropy; this will indeed anchor our valuations, though philosophers have taken this exposure to the equality of “bare” life with extremes of hope and desperation. We draw this line, between the life-process as an open system and the the entropy of its material hardware; entropy as the gravity that life is struggling to overcome. Looking to Heidegger’s predecessors, will find this life-against-entropy dualism has partisan affects; a clear division arises between the pessimistic virtualization of Schopenhauer and the affirmative nihilism of Nietzsche. This partisan separation continues into the French post-structuralists and contemporary American pragmatism, though each repeatedly lose themselves in Marxist ideology. Dividing reality into will-in-itself versus perpetual flux continues to result in mystic subjectivism or violence romanticism, yet each are integrally pessimistic.
“Great men, great nations, have not been boasters and buffoons, but perceivers of the terror of life, and have manned themselves to face it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Expansive mechanization and automation of any system pursues progressive acceleration as a teleonomic goal, increasing efficiency of predictably effective patterns of behavior through reproducibility. Acceleration of proven virtuosity through mechanization and automation also increases the rate at which opportunities for new experiments will occur. Technological progress thereby necessarily implies that some of those workers most proud of their struggle to attain virtuosity will find offense in their mechanical replacement. It also implies that some changes will only become imaginable once new generations arise with an utterly revolutionary system of values, allowing a paradigmatic shift to occur. We cannot, however, claim that there is no standard by which we may judge the perpetual flux of information across subjective, pluralistic systems of values. As Thomas Sowell elucidates in his several works, the emergent migration of peoples, practices, and beliefs reveal a macroeconomic standard of value that is quite consistent; humanity pursues freedom, mobility, security, and wealth through cooperative self-interest and self-interested cooperation. Only the philosopher that isolates their theories from the reality of human existence can ignore that peoples do everything in their power to adopt any tool, apparatus, machine, or practice that improves the efficiency and effectiveness of securing the necessities of human survival. This method of expanding reduction of anxiety defies any bureaucratic measures put in place to stop it, even when people must undermine the national ideology of must break the law to do so, as in Lenin’s soviet Russia.
Acceleration has exponentially increased human populations and improved the average standard of living. It is irrational sentimentalism when a philosopher like Berardi opposes technology, acceleration, or wealth “for its own sake” because these are never the purpose of progressive economic mechanization. Certainly, there are unintended consequences when aggregated historically, tempting the spectator to judge the merits of rhizomatic narratives ad post hoc. However, the “quest for cosmic justice” inspired by any deontological approach exacerbates irrational sentiment into an accumulation of insanity.
From Kant to Rawls, a forced sense of altruism and envy replace aggregate self-interested cultivation, to the detriment of freedom, value, and significance. Placing equal laws in response to third-party effects, pollution, safety, transportation or communication infrastructure, and military is very different from inventing a plethora of bureaucratic institutions that enforce speculative despotism.
The enclosure of the socialist autocracy as an internal deterrence machine is at the heart of French postmodern decoherence. In its entire approach, it requires a metaphysic of pessimistic virtualization. Deleuze, Guattari, Foucault, and Baudrillard each employ the tools of suspicion originating with Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud, to reveal the machination of automated State mechanization. Unfortunately, due to the lack of constitutional sovereignty and equality before the law in their own nations, each of these quasi-communist authors found the libertarian acceleration of capitalist technology utterly inseparable from the bureaucratic machine of their own bloated government in France. In the process, a loss of objectivity leaves the post-structuralist outlook entirely nihilistic. To import and misapply these ideas in America shows how little some of our intellectuals understand of our libertarian constitution.
The current mood in post-classical standard liberalism has broken America’s machinic virtualization morality along a partisan bipolarity. We are sprinting down Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, demonstrated in egalitarian-socialist economics, consumerist-egoism culture, and republican techno-bureaucratic democracy. The concretized gravity of a mechanization paradigm leaves behind many rhizomes. In tracing these, philosophers generate a negative system of values in reaction. In the acceleration and rationalization of mechanization, invention in aggregation often entails generalized unintended consequences. While mechanization accelerates the technological development of political economy, the choice between increasing liberty, energy, and action, or the cowardice of the opposite through bureaucracy, impediment, and empty movement, is independent from the velocity of economic production.
The socialist trend was thoroughly underway due to Eastern Europe’s jealousy of Western Europe, long before Marx forced socialist sentimentalism into a false choice between communist or fascist fulfillment. The end of mysticism, sexism, and slavery had begun through rise of industrial capitalism and global trade, but the lingering taste of the schizoid moralities created by Descartes, Kant, and Hegel were far more difficult to cleanse from the palate. In reaction to their generalized mechanization arose several theories of machination. Human cognitive psychology shows that performance of complex logic tests triples when we are catching a cheater. An identical logic problem, enframed within a narrative that allows the performers to catch a cheater, they far more easily solve than its abstract, formal equivalent. Grasping the abstractions of economic liberty become easily overpowered by conspiracy theories because our brain wires itself in favor of suspicion and unveiling.
Nietzsche showed in religious cultures the division of self-actualized, powerful, master morality, contrasted against reactive, vindictive, slave morality. Within our current phase, we may trace a secular polarity as well. There we find mechanization systems of value and machination systems of value. When the Judge-Priest turns upon the Magician-King, we must move not only beyond good and evil, but also beyond mechanization and machination. Heidegger’s assessment of technology, the search for its being-there or essence, represents the pragmatic ramifications of phenomenological mechanization:
“The jet aircraft and the high-frequency apparatus are means to ends […] Yet an airliner that stands on the runway is surely an object. Certainly. We can represent the machine so. But then it conceals itself as to what and how it is.”
– The Question Concerning Technology
This belief in concealment, of an invention remaining unseen as well as unintended, a trojan horse lurking in our midst; this is the essence of machination paradigm. This rise in suspicion and the disenchantment that followed create temporal stratifications, evidenced in the rhizomes. Modern philosophy through Descartes, Hume, Hegel, Adam Smith, and Freud reveals a belief in separation of “man” with a soul and “nature” as a machine; throughout these authors, we find belief in scientific progress, wealth through mechanization, and egoistic individualism. The new middle-class academics were profiting because of industrialism, economic liberalism, and democratic republics were accelerating the wealth and domination of Europe. However, many of them were profiting from violence and exploitation as well. Once the spread of mechanization paradigm imposed the presence of machines upon everyone, the mood began to change.
Karl Marx showed with precision that production machines within the factory represent alienate laborers from their products. This alienation was not only individual and concrete in each worker, but also systemic, abstract, and universal. The latter is essential, as Marxist materialism is Kant and Hegel’s mystic dualism combined with large-scale determinism. For Marx, when we conceptually aggregate production machines into a unity, the capitalist system contrives an exploitative machination. Production Machines and Abstract Machines are self-similar duplicitous inventions by which capitalism, as an invasive ideology, steals the surplus labor value and virtuosity of generalized craftsmanship. This alienation splits authentic concretized meaning into several fractals, none of which the craftsman could reclaim within the paradigm of capitalistic political economy.
The production machine increases efficiency, standardizes factory labor-time, and improves consistency of quality. This consistency embeds within the machine itself the virtuosity that once differentiated the hierarchy of craft guilds. Through technology, the machine is virtuous, while the laborer becomes little more than an observer.
“Once adopted into the production process of capital, the means of labour passes through different metamorphoses, whose culmination is the machine, or rather, an automatic system of machinery […] set in motion by an automaton, a moving power that moves itself; this automaton consisting of numerous mechanical and intellectual organs, so that the workers themselves are cast merely as its conscious linkages.”
– Karl Marx, Grundrisse – Fragment on Machines
The increased production capacity of industrial capitalism requires the reliance on currency as an abstract machine so that the over-abundant goods no longer travel to destinations for exchange. This instead occurs on the financial market. Whereas the production machine contains the surplus value of the general intellect, the currency machine contains the surplus value of product circulation: “The real costs of circulation are themselves objectified labour time – machinery for the purpose of abbreviating the original costs of circulation.” The universe of labor has virtuosity and opportunity under the control of machines, both material and abstract. Virtuosity itself, as acceleration and liquidity, becomes multiple abstract machines as well, through interplay of factory automation and financial automation.
The mechanized industrial factory removes the opportunity of expression for any skillful labor with an increasingly powerful machination of rationalized separation, dividing labor and treating the factory as the concretized unit of labor processes. The factory-machine generates flow from one production machine to another, with human labor little more than fuel and oil to keep the machine running. Once the production process becomes automated, the factory is a machine that only works when it breaks down; that is, from the humanist perspective, until the factory breaks down there is automation, no human work arises unless the machinist labors to restore the automaton.
The financial machine develops when bankers, merchants, and capitalists recognize that the circulation of coins with intrinsic value is too inefficient relative to the production capacity of the factories, especially at the scale of investment already underway in the mechanization process. Thus, two financial machines become increasingly powerful, the bank note (representing a potentially infinite quantity of currency without the need for concrete circulation) and the finance loan (accelerating the availability of capital for investment).
Marx’s conception of the machine generalizes the forms of invention that divide the laboring class. Generalized mechanization benefits the bourgeoisie while exploiting the surplus value of labor. Whether symbolic, intellectual, or industrial, mechanization produces inventions that enclose the technique and virtuosity of organic systems within an artificial, inorganic construct. This generalization creates the basis for a negative machination paradigm, according to which any decision that accelerates or expands political economy necessarily does so at the expense of the proud and virtuous laborers. In the primitive commune, the baker with extra bread may trade or eat it. In the industrial factory, the wage-earner takes home currency possessed of no intrinsic value and cannot afford either the products of labor or the essentials of life.
However, the concretized alienation of particularized workers had its axiomatization ahead of time, from Bentham, Ricardo, and Smith, anchoring the system of inequalities found within utilitarian capitalism. The end justifies the means in such political economy. Small pockets of precarious workers are an insufficient argument against an irrational paradigm. Marx bases arguments in the generalization of material idealism to fight the utilitarianism driving the alienation of capitalism. The machination sentiment glorifies older forms of destitution against new forms.
Machination paradigms aggregate the unintended consequences of mechanization, elucidating the essence of the precarious system of inequalities already in progress. This machination, once fully recognized, will inevitably lead to revolution. The rise of abstract machines of finance represents a machination against potential laborers driven by the capitalist. The bank note allows the capitalist or merchant to move without notice or unnecessary risk, or circulate currency simply by sending it by messenger or post. The acceleration of capital liquidity through the finance loan removes the necessity of laboring against raw materials prior to trade. The availability of financing makes colonialism and industrialism an attractive replacement for local labor, because an economic system may far more easily circulate currency and bank notes than populations of skilled workers.
The generalized alienation of labor, divorcing the class from its value creation, results not only from the enclosure of the virtuosity of skilled work within the machine and the factory, but also from the enclosure of the worker within the factory and industrial society. Marx has a specific machination paradigm based on the displacement of blue collar jobs, skilled workers who can no longer connect their identity with the value they create.
“The worker’s activity, reduced to a mere abstraction of activity, is determined and regulated on all sides by the movement of the machinery, and not the opposite. The science which compels the inanimate limbs of the machinery, by their construction, to act purposefully, as an automaton, does not exist in the worker’s consciousness, but rather acts upon him through the machine as an alien power, as the power of the machine itself.”
– Karl Marx, Grundrisse – Fragment on Machines
Marx finds the machination implied in mechanization as that which entire virtuosity of the craftsman within the machine, generalized and reproduced as simulacra. Each new machine further divides labor and alienates the skilled class of society, creating a vicious cycle. The original virtuosity of a wooden furniture carpenter, for example, becomes replaced by an entire chair factory in which no skill or creativity gains expression from the worker. The extensive job specialization required to continue the expansion of capital creates the capacity for managers, engineers, and scientists to improve upon the machines and factories, who then also become exploited. mechanization becomes a cycle that perpetuates itself until the general intellect and virtuosity of craft completely diverge. The workers earn a wage to operate machines that no longer enclose their virtuosity, but invalidate it as inferior. The knowledge production systems of the general intellect likewise receive salary but no share in the capitalist application. Engineers apply the general intellect, selling their craft to the capitalist who will reproduce the machine ad infinitum. This becomes overproduction, so that the State displaces the surplus value produced into additional general science, engineering, and technology, including education and research grants, uses tax incentives to push consumer confidence, or displaces the industrial into the military, allowing surplus productive capacity to generate self-destructive products (weapons, death of the working-class soldier).
Max Weber saw machination in the bureaucratic machine of capitalist rationalization. Although the division of labor increases freedom and wealth, it diminishes the possibility of meaningful work and certainty of social standing. Because bureaucratic capitalism divides labor into narrowly-defined roles, the values of societal rationalization lie at the level of the system, not the practitioner. While the majority will gain a higher standard of living, the intended utilitarian consequence of mechanization, the individual becomes a producer-consumer.
Alienated and disenchanted, the only meaning available lay within consumerism, which further encloses the individual:
“The idea of a man’s duty to his possessions, to which he subordinates himself as an obedient steward, or even as an acquisitive machine, bears with chilling weight on his life. “
– The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
The factory production system, bureaucratic machine, and acquisition ideology all place the individual in a position stripped of value, meaning, or significance. Once destined upon a path, there is no escape. The intended consequence of industrial capitalism was to harness individual rational self-interest in aggregate, so that the economy will produce generalized economic welfare. For Weber, the social machine concealed a greater machination than the system of inequality pushing capital into the hands of finance and speculation.
It was precisely because the self-representative state reveals its own lack of an intrinsic motivation that efficiency of the mechanism becomes harnessed by the whim of the plutocracy. It is the political economy machine that continues itself, with an intrinsic origination and purpose long forgotten, that becomes susceptible to self-destruction. This quickly expands in a vicious cycle, as governance displaces progressively more representative sovereignty into bureaucratic regimes of planning centralization. The engine of socialism replaces libertarian democratic representation with comprehensive diffusion of responsibility.
At scale, the aggregated ordering of bureaucracy promotes moves an economic system further toward rationalization and ascetic vocationalism. Weber saw in Marx a short-sighted and narrow view of political economy, because bureaucracy is an invasive ideology that is irreversible. Enclosure of technique applies technological improvement to tools, apparatus, and machines:
“Tools” are those aids to labor, the design of which is adapted to the physiological and psychological conditions of manual labor. “Apparatus” is something which is “tended” by the worker. “Machines” are mechanized apparatus.
– Weber, Economy and Society
Weber looks more broadly, applying each form of acceleration. The worker desires better hammers and the soldier better swords, but only the state apparatus can harness the war machine to create a permanent, centrally planned, political economy. These three methods of technological development place the worker in a distinct relationship, but this relationship also repeats in fractal patterns at any level of observation. The improvement of the tool centers upon the practitioners and their virtuosity and effectiveness. The apparatus mechanizes the virtuosity and accelerates the efficiency of the process, displacing the skilled worker in favor of cheap labor that the capitalist can exploit. Finally, more complex, and more powerful, systems of machines attain automation, combining to displace even the precarious wage-earner, leaving a handful of janitors and engineers to passively monitor the machines.
This process repeats in the bureaucratic machine of the government and the economic system as well. Currency and taxation introduce acceleration of debt, centered on the needs of those with wealth. These were the original tools of commerce, communication, and power between the monarch and the landed aristocracy. The rise of a merchant and industrial bourgeoise (a “new money” upper middle class) de-regulates the value of currency and the State apparatus now gains center stage. Acceleration of capital liquidity and the policing of inequality arise to preserve the system of inequalities. As Hayek would later note, the essential problem of bureaucracy is the passage of laws without legislative consensus. The democratic representatives create governmental decision-making groups they have displaced powers beyond democratic oversight. The State apparatus thereby produces its own vicious cycle of parasitic growth rather than equality before the law, outside the control of the electorate. Generating an ever-increasing diffusion of responsibility, the impossibility of equal rights before the universal applicability of legislative justice forces attention onto the inequality of outcomes instead.
Finally, the automation of the rationalizing capitalist system results in the social machine that entraps every member as cogs within its bureaucracy:
“Bureaucracy is the means of transforming social action into rationally organized action […] superior to every kind of collective behavior and also any social action opposing it. Where administration has been completely bureaucratized, the resulting system of domination is practically indestructible.”
Max Weber, Economy and Society
Note the contrast between the mechanization paradigm that divides life along arbitrary lines of inequality. The machine had no soul, so entrapping a woman in a marriage with any rights, appropriating resources from colonial control over “savage” natives, completing scientific experimentation on the poor, vivisection, eating any animal desired, slave-labor, and the destruction of ecological systems were all justified. Western “Man” had a bourgeois mind-soul that ruled over his machine, everyone else more closely approached an instrument. Once society progress toward democratic socialism, only machinations become meaningful. The collective organism loses all objectivity. Rather than dealing with concretized forms-of-life, the state apparatus becomes a social machine that concerns itself only with itself. The law is no longer for its people, but for the lawyers, bureaucrats, and social workers.
At this stage, the machine is no longer a mere tool, it gains a crucial point of reference. There is no other contender, because reliance on slaves, animals, and skilled workers for labor proves inefficient by comparison. The system of inequalities given by early modern philosophy now shifts upward, toward the State apparatus. Where the law and rationalization once emerged as a tool of the social contract, aristocracy, or monarch, population density drives rationalization of the codes. Moving from government as a tool, wielded by those with axiomatized power, it transitions to an apparatus that is powerful but needs representatives to “tend to” its functions rather than making laws; this is a critical step in the emergence of bureaucracy and national death.
The apparatus of the mechanized State requires humans to “push its pedals” at the right time, like an early industrial loom, but the virtuosity of governance becomes increasingly automated, placing humans in a passive role before bureaucratic machine. This requires an immense source of mechanical power; power that remains external but contains no purpose or identity of its own. Deteriorating the energy of the social body, the State apparatus seeks new forces of acceleration and couples itself to the energy of the War Machine. As Deleuze & Guattari describe, the State appropriates the War Machine in the form of generalized terror, generalized brutality, the police state, and the army, but the War Machine exists prior to and outside of the State.
We can take Hobbes and Karl von Clausewitz quite literally if we provide an internal limit to their claims: once bureaucratic mechanization becomes automated, the State is only comprehensible as an interruption and a temporary suspension of the universal flow of absolute war, the war of all against all. Through the disenchantment of the people and the diffusion of responsibility throughout the representatives, the only way to prevent anarchy is to appropriate its energy. The State apparatus does not prevent the War Machine from tearing down the socioeconomic scaffolding of society, but internalizes it. The warriors, rebels, barbarians, and criminals are axiomatized into automation of its bureaucratic fabric. Before turning to outright dictatorship, the State remains an apparatus that still requires “tending to” by means of the War Machine. The State needs police brutality, military deployment, and terrifying incarceration as the appropriation of a remainder, balancing the equation of order, orchestration, security, and organization. This displacement and re-territorialization provides the energy for additional bureaucratic, not economic, growth.
Three problems emerge along with the generalized threat of the War Machine, which the State apparatus employs to convince society that any disruption of progressive bureaucratic rationalization will totally unravel the nationalist political economy. First is dehumanization; mechanical rationalization requires that individuals re-program their natural rhythms to meet the standardized cadence of mechanized synchronization. Second is mobilization; the State apparatus drives collusion and sponsored monopoly, assisting protected capitalists in the militarizing of rationalization. Third is disenchantment, because the State apparatus progressively strips the both the social body and the body of Earth of its natural liberty, resources, and power, survival and information increase at the expense of meaning and beauty.
The first problem that emerges with the State’s generalized threat of the War Machine is the dehumanization of the social body and the individual body, re-territorializing all values within the centralized schedule of political economy. Rationalization requires that individuals re-program their natural rhythms to meet the standardized cadence of mechanical synchronization. In a populist effort to protect favored laborer groups from the acceleration of technological evolution and displacement of jobs, democratic socialism takes control of both the capitalist and the laborer. Rather than loosening the restrictions on work or increasing the generalized well-being of those in transition, bureaucratic rationalization appropriates both the increased industrial effectiveness from the capitalist and the dehumanization of the worker, turning an increasingly ordered and orchestrated social body toward nationalistic goals.
Dehumanization is not an inherent property of capitalism, but an intrinsic attribute of the State apparatus once bureaucratic rationalization begins socializing both capital liquidity and labor liquidity for its own ends. Because the State apparatus centralizes the cadence of synchronization, it must orchestrate the flows of artificial codes of political economy through an ever-larger government of specialized bureaus. This increasingly establishes its codes based on the continuous performance of the machines of finance, industry, politics, and war. Human life and every other form-of-life play a diminishing role, entrapping all energy within the machine of the establishment. The capitalist no longer dehumanizes workers with direct technological demands. As described by Hayek, the State apparatus formalizes the inhumane into law through positive diffusion of responsibility to negatively arbitrary bureaucratic machines, making every depravity constitutional and legal, in the largest and most precise sense of these terms. This has immense implications for the entire ecological order that gave rise to the progress of society:
“The psycho-physical apparatus of man is completely adjusted to the demands of the outer world, the tools, the machines — in short, it is functionalized, and the individual is shorn of his natural rhythm as determined by his organism; in line with the demands of the work procedure, he is attuned to a new rhythm[…] in the factory as elsewhere, and especially in the bureaucratic state machine, [rationalization] parallels the centralization of the material implements of organization in the hands of the master.”
– Max Weber, Economy and Society
The biorhythms of intelligent primates that evolved for one context become entrapped within fixed cycle of light, work, and food that attempts erasure of the variations of daylight, seasons, and ecology. Rivers become redirected, swamps drained, lakes created by damns, rampant deforestation, insects, soil, and wildlife destroyed; every additional control mechanism added generated unintended consequences that require additional controls in response. The vicious cycle creates its own crises and thrives on the power-grab each crisis, especially war, allows.
The second problem that emerges with the State’s generalized threat of the War Machine is the mobilization of the entire economy according to war-time distributions of values. This is quite separate from a strong standing national military, which remains distinct from the decentralized decisions of the peace-time economy. Mobilization uses tariffs, special taxes, bureaucratic committees, centralized planning, nationalistic subsidies, and other incentives to remove the distinction between war-time control of the economic system and peace-time economic freedom. The State apparatus bribes the capitalists in this mechanization, militarizing bureaucratic rationalization. The soldier and slave, in the dual systems of military and slavery, are the two modes of organization best suited to political economy fully subjected to the State. In the mobilization-socialist phase-space of hyperactive industrial centralization, all the brilliance, creativity, and charisma that gave rise to the invention of better tools, apparatuses, and machines now serves the universal deterrence plan of the State apparatus. Deterrence is necessary externally and internally, because it relies heavily on the spread of polemical envy.
As Thomas Sowell wrote in The Quest for Cosmic Justice, “One of the ways in which the dogma of equal performance is a threat to freedom is in its need to find villains and sinister machinations to explain why the real world is so different from the world of its vision. […] Paranoia and freedom are an unlikely and unstable combination.” The State apparatus thrives on mobilization of war-time bureaucratic control through the increase of paranoia, envy, and machination paradigms. The great Nietzschean irony is that the glorification of socialist eternal war is that it requires a pervasive slave morality.
The inventions of capitalism under conditions of decentralized acceleration makes average labor-time lower, increasing the average standard of living. The waking time available to the worker for parenting, education, hobbies, and entrepreneurship should increase; but the pace of changes becomes a source of envy. The younger worker has the privilege of energy, ambition, and less engrained habits and opinions, while the older worker may become marginalized if they cannot adapt to the rapidly changing society. Rather than more effectively spreading time across the multiple requirements of life, adapting to the new demands of an accelerated society, the working class demands their demagogue peers protect them at the expense of economic progress. Bureaucracy grows exponentially, erodes the culture of creativity, then kills the possibility invention. Once the State apparatus fully rationalizes political economy in accordance with a cohesive paradigm, the social body stagnates.
The only way ensure centralized rationalization is to entrap every living being in a tangled mobilization of false wars, enslavement to the “war” on drugs, terror, etc. The nationalist socialism dictatorships known as communism and fascism are the ultimate outcome. The War Machine and the automated State machine are fully unified, a final centralization and enslavement that kills any additional progress. Even a minor return, along the way, to economic liberalism must fight against the sludge of bureaucratic friction that remains intact. Each new idea for improvement becomes increasingly impossible to actualize, and after a few generations the population emerges fully trained for their State mechanical enslavement.
Through indoctrination, socialization, and deterrence, the individuals within social body no longer possesses any values of its own. The energy created from youthful hope, courageous risk, and innovative ideas dwindles, causing the economy and emergence of culture to entropy. The same process of rationalization that ensured the growth of mechanization also prevents its additional development by isolating knowledge in fragmented specialization, increasing bureaucracy around the actualization of disruptive ideas, and universal interference against innovation, through tariffs, heavy taxation, and restricted immigration.
The third problem that emerges with the State’s generalized threat of the War Machine is disenchantment. The increasingly large and bureaucratic State apparatus progressively removes any meaning or significance from the natural pursuit of the intelligent primate’s struggle for life. Certainty of survival increases, but centralization puts this security in place through deterrence rather than growth and deliberation; information, advertising, and propaganda become intertwined, at the expense of wonder, personal values, and mystery:
“As intellectualism suppresses belief in magic, the world’s processes become disenchanted, lose their magical significance, and henceforth simply ‘are’ and ‘happen’ but no longer signify anything.”
– Max Weber, Economy and Society
Note that suppression of magic, wonder, and mysticism does not increase the capacity for intelligent consensus of the social body, but restricts all meaning, enclosing significance within the controls of the State apparatus. There remains an immense amount transcendental dualism, but it becomes centralized for the purposes of subjection. This centralization of meaning puts the State in the position of providing its own axiomatic justification.
Through medical bureaucracy, not only the danger but also the magic of childbirth becomes rationalized but disenchanted. Through industrial-economic bureaucracy, not only the danger but also the magic of agriculture and metallurgy becomes rationalized but disenchanted. Through juridico-political bureaucracy, justice and morality become increasingly codified and clarified, but also the magic of spiritual retribution and moral vindication becomes rationalized and disenchanted. This last element turns the State apparatus into a purveyor of cosmic justice at the hands of demagogues rather than the legal justice that predicated its constitution. Once a tool of the people, representative democracy displaces the responsibility of legislation further into socialist bureaucracy and further away from legitimacy, accountability, or significance.
At each step, the State apparatus must harness additional power from the War Machine, because it is taxing the power of the economy out of existence. This requires extensive centralization of control because the War Machine that the State apparatus appropriates is the negation of control. The War Machine is the nihilism of cultural entropy, the barbarous rejection of civilization. To channel this into the purposes of the State apparatus, wars, terror, and civil unrest must remain constant.
We should again take note that the military of a free society, external to the economic conditions of its people, preserves the national defense through external deterrence. The external aggregation of a War Machine in this form is consistent with equality before the law, constitutional sovereignty, and the preservation of a democratic republic. When mobilization and disenchantment combine to turn the War Machine inward, forcing private economic activity toward permanent internal deterrence and centralization, the State is no longer a distinct tool and the culture no longer recognizes the War Machine for what it truly represents. The State becomes an apparatus of enslavement, enclosing the War Machine within the society itself. What ought to remain outside the State and the People, as a tool for the deterrence of external chaos becomes enmeshed for the deterrence of internal freedoms.
“There is a growing demand that the world and the total pattern of life be subject to an order that is significant and meaningful.”
– Max Weber, Economy and Society
The machination of the State apparatus arises as an unintended consequence of rationalization and disenchantment when visions of universals become backpropagated from the intelligentsia into the political system. The more that mechanization increases efficiency and smooths the flow of economic development, the larger the intelligentsia demands the bureaucracy become. When the bureaucracy gains prevalence over the mechanization, the energies of the social body congeal; slowing, glycating, and diminishing, which requires the State to continue escalation of centralized control especially over cultural signification. It creates holidays, times of remembrance, propaganda, political publicity, thematic policies, and finally war of international conquest in its effort to generate the significance continuously diminished by its own methods.
In this evolution, the State apparatus moves increasingly into panopticism as it automates the sociopolitical machine. The apparatus achieves aggregate internal deterrence in the spectacle of generalized voluntary surveillance. The machination of State mechanization, distinct from the private economic mechanization that it parasitized, emerges into a Socializing Machine. Arising from the disenchantment of the fully rationalized apparatus, the phase-space of the Socializing Machine enclose the political body by automating the flows of rationalized internal deterrence. The transitional phase first requires panopticism and spectacle, then turns to hegemonic simulation and simulacra. Two types of totalitarian mechanization may emerge: the weaponizing Machine, automating the techno-bureaucratic regime within nationalist socialism (fascism); or the fantasy Machine, automating the terror-determent regime through repressed internalization (communism). Each rely on the vision of a system of inequalities to anchor their cosmic justifications of cruelty, murder, rape, and slavery.
The original mechanization paradigm developed during early modern philosophy, hoping to justify Protestantism, revolution, slavery, colonialism, and industrialism. Initially, this marks an externalization of the permanent schism inherent in Christianity; stoicism toward the world and its bodies, ascetic investment in the realm of the spirit. However, the separation of the pure mind-soul from the impure matter-body creates an Oedipalization of moral valuation-signification. By placing the system of values permanently out of reach, away from any human objectivity, the death of Platonic idealism results in a mechanization increasingly toward nihilism.
Rene Descartes begins the modern era of philosophy with the justification of systems of machines and their intrinsic moral inequalities built in:
“[Witness] the variety of movements performed by the different automata, or moving machines fabricated by human industry, and that with help of but few pieces compared with the great multitude of bones, muscles, nerves, arteries, veins, and other parts that are found in the body of each animal.”
These machines fabricated by human industry are twofold. On the one hand, the mechanization of economic production and on the other, its machination into specialists capable of secular innovation, including dissection and live vivisection, both animal and human. After this we see an increasing prevalence of philosophers who redefine the mind/body dualism in subtle ways based on the discoveries of science and the advances of technology, until today quantum mechanics, general relativity, super-intelligent computers, and network theory all become incorporated. To say that the materialism of Democritus, or the Idealism of Orphic Plato, represents receives vindication and victory in contemporary science, from the holographic to the simulation hypothesis, this belies a nonsensical attribution to past thought.
The inherent praise of complexity and intention throughout all systems of inequality, which may have some pragmatic merit when desperate for human species population growth, loses much of its objectivity once we feel we risk over-population. Religious systems have frequently dogmatized the best advice for health, sanitation, and political stability available to them, but their dedication to outdated information constantly puts them at odds with the needs of the time. In either case, we will find very few philosophers admitting that their system of inequalities is strategic rather than evident.
However, we find a hard delineation rather than admission of a continuous gradation in philosophers like Descartes and Kant. Saying that a human is an organized system makes it a machine designed with a soul. If soul, from the Greek psyche, were simply “the virtualization of speculative reality by the brain” we might return to a more gradual spectrum between the highly intelligent and the lowest intelligence. Instead, this frequently becomes combined with mysticism, bigotry, and religious violence. In resistance to the religious implications, others described this self-determination as nature, privileging the “natural” superiority of civilized man over the machines, animals, brutes, savages, etc. Again, if nature meant “the genetic code inherited to build the minimum viable reproduction of an organism” we might treat dogs, cats, and pigs very differently, as their stewards; the long-running prevalence of claims that God or Nature justify rape, castration, vivisection, enslavement, imprisonment, colonialism, and murder shows how the Cartesian invasive ideology brings us to disgrace.
Soul is the favored word of weakness and bureaucracy, always losing itself in dogmatic foolishness, while Nature is the confused word that implies fatalist destiny. In either case, the words conceal moral uncertainty and every utopian sentiment results in unintended consequences.
“Such persons will look upon this body as a machine made by the hands of God, which is incomparably better arranged, and adequate to movements more admirable than is any machine of human invention”
– Rene DeCartes
Descartes is content to ascribe the superiority of the European man to his Cristian God, blessing these inequalities with divine designation. After centuries of anti-Semitism and crusades against Islamic territories, which left Western civilization in a dull superstitious stupor, it took many more centuries for philosophy to recover fully from Christianity’s influence. The machines as they rose certainly help this progression.
Thomas Hobbes, for his part, believed that the State needed the same level of stability as the human body, but his belief in centralization reflected premature notions of the mind’s physiological control of the body. In our own era of democratic nationalism, we might draw a better analogy by saying that consciousness presides over the execution of some elements of the body’s political economy, but we frequently change this president without changing the character of the role. Since Hobbes was afraid of democratic overthrow of his monarchy, he wrote against this systemization. The history of democracy was not promising for political stability, in his defense. More importantly, Hobbes was searching for a moral refutation of the capacity for moral indictment of monarchical injustice. This is a crucial step in the separation of justice, morality, and religious ideology in philosophy.
Hobbes argues a nation-state could only maintain its order against the chaos of natural anarchy with the agency of a monarch. Without a state we will suffer through continuous civil war, a war of all against all. This conception of egoism will arise repeatedly. The body politic, to end this continuous civil war, establishes the social machine. Individuals give away their power to the social machine and enclose themselves within its protection. The body politic is the product of the social machine in Leviathan, analogous to an organism. Hobbes treats all men as equal in their natural state, because death equalizes the danger represented by others:
Nature hath made men so equall, in the faculties of body, and mind; […] as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination, or by confederacy with others, that are in the same danger with himselfe.
The secret machination justifies the mechanization of any armed force necessary to protect the stability of the State. Rather than any emphasis on machines, Hobbes concerns himself only with imagination, and the inventions of men. While these arguments come after the enlightenment, the industrial revolution has not begun the slow evolution of conceptualization we will see in reaction to the rise of machines.
Rousseau, in defense of his theory of democracy and individualism, allows the lines of traditional society to blur, giving us the literary archetype of the “noble savage” and a more optimistic view of the state of nature, but he again privileges the freedom of intelligent human dominion over others:
“I see nothing in any animal but an ingenious machine, to which nature hath given senses to wind itself up, and to guard itself, to a certain degree, against anything that might tend to disorder or destroy it. I perceive exactly the same things in the human machine, with this difference, that in the operations of the brute, nature is the sole agent, whereas man has some share in his own operations, in his character as a free agent.”
– Jean Jacque Rousseau, On the origin of inequality
With Rousseau, the justification of differences of rights lies in the capacity of the machine to resist its rules. Again, we see there is an immense gulf between the concept of a designed machine and a free will; only centuries of technological progress provide us with evidence that order can arise from chaos and chaos can arise from local rule-based order. It is an important theme throughout morality however, and Rousseau give it succinct expression for the first time. Morality is the capacity to ignore the rules of short-run patterns of behavior in favor of long-run accomplishment. Extrinsic payoff does not drive this exclusively, like objectivism’s rational self-interest, because compassion and holistic sentiment belies our self-narrative.
In contemporary retrospective, when we built more complex machines, especially computers, we finally saw how overly simplistic we were in the supposition of simple determinism by nature versus free will of consciousness to directly override nature. To anyone knowledgeable of contemporary science, the last century has continued to remove fatalism from nature, destroying the grounds for materialism and racism simultaneously. Education, environment, motivation, nutrition, and some genetic traits all contribute to the superior virtuosity of a charismatic leader, cello player, or physicist. Language, expectation, and privilege play a vital role. Complexity of ideas and the security felt toward uncertainty are issues of nurture, not nature. Stability, language, complexity, and specialization in political economy allow these “higher” elements to arise today. Wealth was the only sign of security in early modern political philosophy.
Consider for instance what an “invention” it was in Hobbes’ conception of the political body, and the recognition that specialization allows the nation-state to divide labor, increase efficiency, and manage trade. The invention of machines is central to the progress of division of labor, which becomes later articulated by Adam Smith at the beginning of the industrial revolution:
“The invention of all those machines by which labour is so much facilitated and abridged, seems to have been originally owing to the division of labour.”
– The Wealth of Nations
The social contract philosophers lay the groundwork for a comprehensive mechanization paradigm. Rousseau held a superficial view of intelligence, but criticizes Hobbes for holding the strict egoist view of human motivation. It is in the elucidation of compassion as a moral virtue, that we find it in more than one species, that begins our look outward to children, foreigners, and other mammals for guidance on the injustice of tyrannical government. It is striking that he took the steps of equalizing all mammals in death, mourning, anxiety, and empathy, but leaves this mammalian morality secondary to the self-conscious intelligence that allows humans the machination against their own short-run interests.
“There is another principle which has escaped Hobbes; which, […] tempers the ardour with which he pursues his own welfare, by an innate repugnance at seeing a fellow-creature suffer. […] One animal never passes by the dead body of another of its species: there are even some which give their fellows a sort of burial; while the mournful lowings of the cattle when they enter the slaughter-house show the impressions made on them by the horrible spectacle which meets them.”
– On the origin of inequality…
However, Rousseau’s analysis never extends beyond equality among European men, because he only wants moral justification of democratic revolution and the legitimacy of warfare and murder to secure equality. We should note that the text has inspired two lines of thought that remains in contemporary political criticism. On the one hand, Rousseau’s arguments for the capacity of citizens to apply rational morality in judgement against the state’s system of justice gave inspiration to the evolution of classical liberalism that followed. On the other hand, his sentiments combine with Marxism in France in a more anarchist manner that we will find significant in post-structuralism.
“All the inequality which now prevails owes its strength and growth to the development of our faculties and the advance of the human mind, and becomes at last permanent and legitimate by the establishment of property and laws. […] it is plainly contrary to the law of nature, however defined, that children should command old men, fools wise men, and that the privileged few should gorge themselves with superfluities, while the starving multitude are in want of the bare necessities of life.” Ibid
We see a continuation of support for inequality of aliens, animals, and slaves in John Locke. Women likewise, while receiving natural rights, do so secondary to the rights of men. The treatment or moral inequalities in Second Treatise of Government remains in contemporary governance, as the 15th amendment leaves involuntary servitude permissible in our current system of incarceration. This is a triumph over the rampant hereditary servitude perpetuated in Western history for more than 10,000 years.
However, in the context of a rampant African slave trade and colonialism, Locke’s arguments aided the arguments for enslavement based on race for centuries to come. He later expresses in Some Thoughts Concerning Education that animals possess emotional awareness but he makes certain that avoidance of cruelty on behalf of animals, but only indirectly. Harming property harms the owner’s pursuit of happiness.
It is in the works of Hume that we finally see the machine taking hold of philosophical conceptualization. Hume possesses an extreme skepticism, but between the lines we find his honesty toward uncertainty and pragmatism for what to do about uncertainty itself. Likewise, the ramifications of methodological naturalism, early modern science, and the predominance of the machine in industrialized society come to fruition. Unfortunately, Hume was too polarizing for most to embrace then and gained notoriety primarily through Kant.
The ramifications of a machine that behaves according the rules of deterministic physical reality at one “level” but somehow produces self-conscious reflection and free choice at another remains difficult to grasp. To do so, we end up in the qubit code in which space-time has no bearing. However, each escape we allow, any denial and simplification, prevents understanding machinic virtualization and agency. This in turn produces a morally repugnant allowance of inequalities under false pretenses. The dogmatic separation of animal, machine, and human intelligence in science and philosophy is meaningless sophistry to Hume.
Hume attempts to give us as the highest good the libertarian stoic, who is a creative scientist, free thinker, and system builder. Rational citizens democratically and rightfully follow the critical leadership of the System Builder, becoming machines for the mechanization of the system. So long as the followers complete their subjection to a leader base on the merit and vision of the person and the system, Hume feels satisfied that the inequality of conduct has justification. Virtuosity should be the justification of inequalities, rather than money, religion, or lineage:
“Like many subordinate artists, employed to form the several wheels and springs of a machine: Such are those who excel in all the particular arts of life. He is the master workman who puts those several parts together; moves them according to just harmony and proportion; and produces true felicity as the result of their conspiring order.”
– The Stoic 6, Mil 149
This leaves open the larger problem of how far a system builder ought to feel privileged in mechanizing, though he handles this elsewhere. The functional harmony of specialized, divided, organized machines has its own beauty to Hume. In this conceptualization of leadership, Hume becomes the perfect model of arborescence in every topic he touches. Describing the ability of the emotions to distort the clarity of understanding in the mind:
“The least exterior hindrance to such small springs, or the least internal disorder, disturbs their motion, and confounds the operation of the whole machine.”
– Of the Standard of Taste
Order is beauty, while disorder is disruptive. Freedom of representational democracy must have in its means and ends a level of social stability, or else society has no justification. Skepticism toward metaphysical ideals of injustice, combined with scientific approach to a logically ordered system, lead him to speak frequently of the “political machine” that receives orderly conduct through continuous self-maintenance against mysticism, corruption, and despotism:
“Rust may grow to the springs of the most accurate political machine, and disorder its motions.”
– Idea of a perfect commonwealth
Hume makes a clear distinction between the systems of representation and the machines that display order. This is both materially and politically self-similar for him. In general, he considers anything behaving in accordance with apparent causality and physicality, a machine. He considers any disorder a breakdown of the machine. Loss of functionalism becomes thereby our criterion for judgement of patterns of behavior.
The perpetual flux of perception contains objects that we sense in an uninterrupted succession. Why this virtualization feels so complete remains unknowable; “the power or force, which actuates the whole machine” is one we will never perceive, because lies outside the boundaries of perception. Hume’s statement expresses hard agnosticism that does not fit with the rest of his optimistic methodological naturalism.
When tackling this metaphysical element of cosmology, Hume again returns to probability and emergence, as the cosmos is a machine of machines of machines behaving according to rules:
“You will find [the cosmos] to be nothing but one great machine, subdivided into an infinite number of lesser machines, which again admit of subdivisions, to a degree beyond what human senses and faculties can trace and explain.”
– Hume Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
In general, Hume’s employment of the machine as a metaphor gives it a glorified status, whereby events that interrelate predictably and with high probability are mechanical, and therefore beautiful. We may paraphrase and elaborate his expression. The cosmic machine emerges from galaxy machines, which emerge from astronomical machines, which emerge from molecular machines, which emerge from atomic machines, which emerge from quantum machines. This is the contemporary suspension of disbelief we maintain in methodological naturalism. Humanity is a complex biological machine at both individual and species level, witnessing the perpetual flux between the molar and molecular. The axiomatization of machinic theory is therefore essential to the sciences. Through purposeful uncertainty of conclusions, we have in the past two centuries taken immense steps forward in predictions of probability, at levels of observation Hume might barely have imagined.
As a system of inequalities, Hume best summarizes the ethics of moral machines unintentionally, in a footnote: “That the lighter machine yield to the heavier, and, in machines of the same kind, that the empty yield to the loaded; this rule is founded on convenience.” Convenience of machinic size and weight, rules that produce yielding to superior gravity, energy, and complexity to produce flow, this becomes the first honest analysis of hierarchy; because, “societies of men are absolutely requisite for the subsistence of the species; and the public convenience, which regulates morals, is inviolably established in the nature of man and of the world, in which he lives.”
Found in An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, these statements provide a groundwork for a morality of acceleration, expansion, and growth. This is the height of Mechanization paradigm an idealistic statement, but the logic underlying it was too far-fetched without the scientific discoveries that have since vindicated it. Combined with scientific advances, capitalism, and the digital age, this prioritization of flow feels comfortable to a contemporary technologist. The question that remains, if we accept the preservation of the human species through the ordering of Earth, we must develop the ethics by which we judge the unintended consequences of mechanization. A true science of ethical ideal is necessary, not based on consensus, but based on vision for a better future for all life. When technology alienates, and production destroys, we must analyze the boundary at which short-run mechanization re-territorializes into long-run machination. Miraculating the symbolic, capital, is not the answer.
For now, we may continue the philosophical evolution of the moral machines produced by the social machines. Based on our distinction, consciousness recognizing itself as causal agent results in the moral creativity of the System Builder. The System Builder is feel the system of representations leave consciousness liberated to machinic agency in the development of new systems of representation. In contrast, consciousness recognizing itself as machinic effect of another system of representation entraps itself. The System Builder employs the symbolic order to gain Quantum Liberty, even without proof of freedom. Those who are subjected, even when free of dominated objectification, are machines who self-enslave without proof of power over them. The system that liberates itself to build new systems of values places the power of purpose intrinsic to its own system, the machine enslaves itself through belief in its enslavement to other machines producing it; social, ideological, biological, and metaphysical.
This distinction provides a new addition to the definition of morality; the essence of morality is the will to adhere to a symbolic rule that prioritize long-run realization of the system of values over the short-run desires of the machines. We will find that the problem remains discursive. When John Locke and Adam Smith combine the System Builder with utilitarianism, this anchors a moral justification for the inequalities of economic liberalism and constitutional democracy. When Nietzsche combines the System Builder with aristocratic egoism and evolutionary racism, this anchors a moral justification for the inequalities of fascism and nationalistic socialism. When Marx combines the System Builder with the virtuosity of fraternal craftsmanship, this anchors a moral justification for the inequalities of dictatorial communism. In a Theocracy, God is the only System Builder, nominally. From Xenofeminism, we find prophecy of total upheaval by an artificial superintelligence aligned the feminine mystique. In each of these cases, we see that, while political economic, ethics, and science are part of a feedback loop with personal morality, the moral systems of individuals anchor new feedback loops for the evolution of the social machine.
Agency Dilemma occurs when the person with the power to take action is distinct from the two parties with a stake in the exchange. While contemporary Behavioral Economics provides a more realistic understanding of these parties, this reality is nevertheless a level playing field if individuals remain unrestricted their natural freedom of voluntary exchange. We may add to the classical theory of economics that the real individuals in the market are habit-driven, quasi-rational, and normatively bounded in their self-interested exchanges. What remains true, however, is that better outcomes occur when the least amount of Agency Dilemma is present. What also remains true is that Agency Dilemma is multiplicative, developing a bureaucracy that spreads like a cancer in the social body, removing its will to live.
America is losing its objectivity, not due to subjectivity or pluralism, but due to the invasive ideology of the egalitarian-bureaucratic machine. The agency dilemma multiplies geometrically, creating unnecessary complexity and total slowdown of action, even when movement is high.
The depravity of agency dilemma degrades three critical sources of objectivity:
- Causal Agency – the belief that actions determine consequences.
- Moral Agency – the belief that values require action.
- Economic Agency – the belief that value-actions determine payoffs.
Causal Agency simply disintegrates in any system of metaphysical dualism or transcendence of consciousness. To separate at a cosmic scale the “free” mind from the “determined” body leads to impossible conclusions. If we take the freedom of the mind to its radical conclusions, we are entirely alone in our private universe of thoughts, unable to trust the reality of material objects, causality, existence of other agents, or the significance of memories. If we take the determination of material reality to its radical conclusions, we all have a passive experience of the objects around us; we float in a great ocean of helpless predetermination, unable to trust any sentimental mechanism that tells us otherwise.
Neither of these two directions away from common sense can become a foundation for a moral system. There is no positive system of values based on either set of extremes. One option sets us free but removes all objectivity and significance, the other option gives us causality but removes all choice and intention. Not one of these extreme options is in accordance with normal human actions, in which objectivity and consequences may be speculative but true of reality. We only find this dualism important in denial of our own death. Without this psychological escapism, the most rational paradigm is both the most obvious and the least comforting: limited causal agency because of cognitive selections is “free” despite emerging as a property from layers of “determined” complex adaptive systems.
Without causal agency, whether due to a lack of freedom or a lack of consequence, moral agency is impossible. The great irony, which humans avoid recognizing at all costs, is that the only path to a positive moral system is the absence of distinction between the material and immaterial. To make any action special, we must not presume we come into the event with any privilege. To make any event significant, we must not presume it is transcendentally justified or forbidden. Causal Agency is a pre-requisite for Moral Agency, while Moral Agency is a pre-requisite for value, meaning, and significance.
Moral Agency requires an authentic understanding of responsibility for our actions. These actions aggregate in every passing moment of life until death. The inability to undo decisions or drastically switch to a different life that requires a path of objectivity and dedication is a source of anxiety. The authentic life requires the courageous embrace of this anxiety. The world is real. Time is short. Death limits the time we have available. We cannot reverse time. We are responsible for our decisions.
This objectivity toward life, death, pain, and pleasure is the only way to build a moral system, dedicate our time to its significance, and gain certainty that our life held meaning. Morality is an internal decision to externalize our vision, whatever that vision entails. Morality is typically the delay of gratification or the bold tolerance short-term pain for the sake of a long-run value. Self-discipline and self-responsibility pursues not one value, but a system of values. Causal, moral, and economic agency is the pursuit, with clarity of responsibility, of a single lifetime that cannot replace or exchange itself for different world, life, or system, rather spatiotemporal or transcendent.
The destroyers of this objectivity do not argue directly against our freedom, agency, morality, or rationality – there is no need. Any bureaucratic machine only needs to inspire general doubt that certainty is possible. Dualism, in its materialist, subjectivist, and transcendental forms, becomes an immense propaganda campaign that leaves every socialized, indoctrinated cog saying, “I’m not sure if…” and, “I don’t know if we can…” such that the only morality is the valuation of governmental control. This is not skepticism for the sake of learning, exploration, or debate; it is the fundamental destruction of belief in opinion, action, and identity.
Once a population has lost Economic Agency in the valuation of their moral and causal significance, the bureaucratic machine pumps a sludge of propaganda, spectacle, and terror into the social body. Generalized slowdown, mediocrity, layering, committees, taxation, and redistribution all develop the same form of governance: centralization, security, and deterrence. Honest morally significant debate becomes impossible, as does representative democracy; both Republican socialists and Democratic socialists slowly pass laws that place the power of legislation outside the legislature and into programs, departments, and special interests. When the power of legislation no longer resides in the representatives, democratic accountability slowly dies.
The increased role of bureaucratic, arbitrary, amoral diffusion of responsibility spreads into every government-sanctioned oligarchy and monopoly, protected by tariffs, bailouts, grants, and regulatory oversight. The bloated publicly traded corporations created through government interventions survive by mimicking the parasitism that created them, only able to survive by duplicating the rationalization and socialization of institutional mediocrity.
We have already seen where this slow decline of civilized value creation leads. Democratic socialism loses its pretense of personal liberty once the entire nation is dependent on government or corporate bureaucracy. The impossibility of creative energy, freedom of thought, and responsibility for actions gradually drives out anyone with morality or ability. The economy, devoid of life, becomes increasingly nationalistic, preparing and fighting in endless wars, continuing to increase centralization of control over natural and human resources. The society incarcerates or institutionalizes a steady group of rebellious discontents and the marginalized precarious as one normalization boundary while an elaborate system of fantasy provides other. The indoctrinated society believes they are free in reality, but only in contrast with Guantanamo Bay and Disneyland.
The population that remains in the socialist machine, fully trained and conditioned for nationalism, collectivism, militarism, and subjection, finally trade their remaining liberty for a dictator. Unable to rely on the energy of new ideas, ambition, and goals, the nation looks for a scapegoat. Realizing that the freedom, value, and significance of an earlier era, parasitically destroyed by socialism and corporatism, leave the social body in total exhaustion. The guards posted at the nation’s borders turn inward, and the bureaucratic machine takes the final step into to fascism or communism; the enslaved society finally has its mediocre masters.
Each of these three forms of Agency Dilemma result in diffusion of responsibility. Agency Dilemma is the disconnection of power from consequences. When decisions become increasingly distributed across a hierarchy of narrow-minded bureaucratic interests, the ability for to parties to make a rational exchange diminishes. Frequently we find a mysterious “They” preventing actions. Between the shareholder and the customer stand thousands of employees with agency dilemma, no economic accountability, and moral diffusion of responsibility. Between the individual and the factory farms, sex slaves, and child trafficking stand thousands of bureaucrats with agency dilemma, no economic accountability, and moral diffusion of responsibility. Between the product developer and the end user, between the citizen and the law, between the teacher and the student, between the entrepreneur and international trade; agency dilemma, no economic accountability, and moral diffusion of responsibility.
Without causal agency, no action is possible, only motion, movement, perpetual flux, and meaningless assemblages. Without moral agency, no value is possible, only doubt, diffusion, sentiment, and distraction. Without economic agency, no freedom is possible, only mismanagement, accidents, and bureaucracy.
We built America on a single premise – my moral code and yours need not agree. We need only agree on our mutual but individual rights of liberty and value. Each President and legislature moves us closer to a Hitler or Lenin, then the steady decline of American importance on the world stage. As the only country from its inception a constitutional democratic republic, the world is watching our fall to mediocrity.
We must reclaim our liberty, creativity, and objectivity.
David Hume sets a standard for skeptical empiricism that not only creates a metaphysical dead-end but also makes pragmatism, probability, and process control the best approach to knowledge. As Bertrand Russell later elucidates, even Hume was unable to fully hold to the logic implied by his skepticism in certain places. We may more easily explain this by Hume’s stylistic effort to maintain a semblance of legibility (which Kant and Hegel totally abandoned). Though centuries of technology and scientific progress elaborated most hypotheses given by Hume, much of the underlying logic, and methodological skepticism, remains relevant. The primary element with which we are interested, the inference of causality from constant conjunction, paves the way in the short-run for Kant; in the long-run, the theory reaches is full conclusion in Deleuze and Guattari, who take to constant disjunction with philosophical zeal. Therefore, to develop an uncertainty principle of Epistenomics, we will need a superposition of conjunction, disjunction, conjunction-disjunction, and nonconjunction-nondisjunction.
To update his arguments for our analysis, Hume argues that we cannot possess knowledge of causation because we never perceive causation. Instead we infer probability of sequence out of habitually related events. In the perpetual flux of perceptual experience, we attain a recognition of patterns of assemblage, treating them particularized as objects (i.e. an apple) and then ascribe to it a constant conjunction with an additional spatiotemporal or qualitative pattern, in terms of additional qualities or causality. Hume provides the example that we would now take for granted, as Pavlov’s dog begins the many psychology textbooks: the visual recognition of an apple causes an expectation of the probable taste of the apple. Hume says we do not believe this out of logical necessity, but out of habit. This will not shock the contemporary reader. Conditioned response is not as rational and conscious as Hume or Russell might have wished.
Hume’s skepticism when taken to further application, could include a sudden loss of gravity or whether the sun will still be safely in its place tomorrow. The key innovation over the ancient Greeks is the capacity for hypothesis and probability. Hume finds it unlikely that anyone will change their expectation of constant conjunction suddenly, because the habit is so strong. Likewise, we are not irrational to assume the sun will not instantly change without someone noticing. Although we cannot logically say that the apple causes the taste of the apple, we grow into a habit of correlating events the more frequently they occur. When we add our optimism bias, anchoring, and confirmation bias, it is easy to explain the widespread ability to trust information that we do not test beyond a reasonable doubt. Philosophically, Hume says we can only conclude that our experiences cause us to infer the causal relationship.
Russell points out the apparent inconsistency of inferred causality, rightfully separating the objective skepticism and subjective psychology implicit in Hume’s treatise. However, writing while cognitive and social science were much younger, he takes incredulously what we in the digital age would not; namely, that repetition conditions and programs our expectations, we learn probability inference as much this inference anchors the application of inference to constant conjunction. It would be odd to claim the next time we see apple that we will suddenly believe it will taste like roast beef instead, or that we will wake up and assume the sun is gone when everything else fits our typical experience of life in the solar system.
We also know that we can program inferences and the belief in causality itself. Just as we trust the subsequent of two events out of repetition, we trust the weight of the evidence upon which this psychology likewise proved true. Thus, while we may not trust that every apple will taste the way our decaying information tells us it will, and we may not trust that an identical apple from the same tree will taste the same tomorrow, and we may even distrust that any isolated sensory pattern shall subsequently conjoin with an expected sensory pattern, the body of evidence that some next moment will occur, and that it will have some coherent consistency with the preceding moment becomes too strong to ignore. We may distrust anything specific, but our distrust of additional impressions remains counter to experience until death. Those who argue against this total relativity of belief for aesthetic purposes undermine the possibility that we will remain functionally sane without interaction with other individuals of our species. There are 7 billion of us, so the marketplace of truth-value is quite large. If all but one person died, they would have much greater problems than philosophical doubt. Post-structuralism to the contrary, there must be balance of opposing views to ensure both individual and population realism. The tyranny of the majority from Rousseau’s era loses relevance when every universe of thought becomes so specialized that multidisciplinary correction requires diligent orchestration.
Subjectivity privileges personal infallibility, but we should not abandon all normative boundaries in society precisely because we are fully aware that psychological programming can be so powerful when an ideological system exploits isolation and misinformation. For someone with a cheese addiction, the opioid effect of melted cheese provides an expectation of neurological payoff when we smell pizza in addition to the salivary response that the smell constantly conjoins with eating food. However, information like this suffers from exponential decay. Three weeks as a vegan, and cheese pizza begins to smell like rotten cattle pus.
Similarly, treatment for heroin or alcohol addiction begins with an effort to remove the repetition of constant conjunction, relying on the immense body of evidence that neurological information enjoys exponential decay. Reprogramming requires opportunities, time, and discipline, but we cannot agree with Russell’s argument that doubt of future expectation of conjunction is irrational. That is, we simply attain more trust that a next moment will occur than we attain regarding that the next moment will follow according to the prediction of the present moment.
Speculative metaphysics of uncertain causality relies on relativity of trust both in cause and effect. The gravity of a truth-idea develops with the aggregated matter of particle-ideas. We have no body of subjective evidence more massive than that of perpetual flux, so we trust this most. All other matter orbits this. Pattern recognition anchor us to emotional and physical exchange from infancy, so the relevance and significance of patterns becomes next most massive body of trust, orbiting perpetual flux. Surrounding this we find massive bodies of trustworthy conjunctions, and expectation of conjunction itself. Again, this programming makes immense foundational collapses during infancy, prior to language development, and is essential to the calibration of all other sensory development – vestibular, ocular, proprioceptive, pain, pressure, and touch all impress upon us increasing evidence that the actions of our body-pattern has consequences on other body-patterns.
Language development codifies programmed responses into systems of subjects and objects extended by predicates. Eventually, the gravity of universals like “Justice” in subjective sentimental significance outpaces the rational gravity of empirical evidence of patterns of particularized justice so significantly that we begin to doubt; justice is here an example, and this might begin with some other universal. Through doubt, to take e=mc^2 as metaphor, we consistently find that energy of belief equals the mass of evidence multiplied by the rate of repeated opportunities. The greatest consistency of all, therefore, is that of matter possessing gravity, while the space-time between ideas exist in relation to this anchor.
Russell’s analysis of Hume’s constant conjunction has the benefit of realizing that universalization of causation learned through physical volition is reliant on physiological causality at another level, the biological, neurological, and chemical; but this again has higher and lower levels of observation, that is, gravitation and quantum mechanics, each of which undermine the possibility of causality-in-itself due to nonlocality and space-time relativity. Russell concludes that rationalizing expectation of conjunction, “should therefore be a principle of probability. But all probable arguments assume this principle, and therefore it cannot itself be proved by any probable argument, or even rendered probable by any such argument.” He thought this dangerous, precisely due to the loss of moral responsibility it implies, but this is not a proof of its invalidity.
If specific consequences gain probability relative to specific events, and those events gain probability relative to the experience of time, and this gains probability as part of consciousness itself, the system is logically coherent, no matter how subjective this becomes. This is precisely why the romantic movement becomes communism or fascism, an attempt to free the subject to total self-enslavement to the social body. We find a confusion of levels between the subject-systems optimizing payoffs and its organ-systems likewise undergoing continuous experimentation. There are many answers that memory answers more quickly than a pragmatist logical test, but there are also many hypotheses undertaken automatically by the brain for the organism. To abstract these forms of payoff optimization clouds what is meant by morality and reality, speculative as our probability may be intellectually.
While Russell is incorrect about the confidence we can possess through probability, quantum physics has provided repeated evidence that the ability of purely deductive logic to infer possible empirical tests then allow probability to become its own proof. While this leaves us believing we are in a simulation, that we are alone, or that we are zombies experiencing material determinism passively, 3msec behind reality, these three conclusions, like Hume’s and Russell’s counter, become matters of taste. Taste we must judge by its unintended consequences, both individually and systemically, judging the distance between the two: this is precisely why we not respect or take seriously anyone who argues that, “Hitler did the Jews a favor in the long-run based on the strength of today’s Israeli nation.” Hitler’s individually intended and unintended consequences, juxtaposed with the systemic and historic intended and unintended consequences leave an enormous gulf or moral disconnection.
In this gulf of moral dissymmetry emerges our process of re-valuation for the burden of responsibility. The wave function diffuses in real values as follows:
– intended short-run individual consequences juxtaposed against systemic long-run intended consequences
– intended short-run individual consequences juxtaposed against systemic long-run unintended consequences
– intended short-run individual consequences juxtaposed against systemic long-run intended consequences
– intended short-run individual consequences juxtaposed against systemic long-run unintended consequences
Obviously, this arborescent fractal enfolds rhizomatic narratives of short-run non-intention or purely short-run and long-run consequences. Moreover, there is value in the refrain of short-run resolution that results in long-run unintended disharmony. Aesthetically, moral responsibility orchestrates beautifully when order becomes challenge that becomes a fractal of self-similar order; moral responsibility orchestrates worthlessness when a ferocious start gives into an arrhythmia of out-of-tune cacophony, not only far from the intentions of a good system builder, but also obviously far from the path of any system building the conductor might have followed.
Therefore, we may praise Mother Theresa for both espousing and pursuing short-run intended consequences that we certainly hope to have only consistent and harmonic long-run consequences, even those that were unintended. When intended consequences appear altruistic, we simply mean that the unresolved tension between individual and population, both short-run and long-run, as well as intended and unintended, all harmonize into a sensible refrain. The opposite, of course, may we find in Hitler. His short-run and long-run stated goals do not match actualization in practice, we find an immense gulf between his short-run intended consequences and his long-run unintended consequences, so much so that we believe him not only ugly, but defeated. Thus, morality is not only aesthetic, but logical. It is a logic that may outlast agency, but these unintended consequences, and their harmony with the system builder, is a critical aspect of morality.
Likewise, this provides insight into what morality, in terms of methodological naturalism, requires in practical process control. Without the ability to forecast multiple potential series of probability consequences, we thereby limit the moral responsibility held. We do not excuse a human child merely because of age or “maturity” in a vague sense, but we mean precisely the capacity to consider multiple path-dependent probable outcomes in a decision. Also, we excuse moments of virile action when the cost of delaying a decision warrants a restriction of deliberation, such as killing for self-defense when our child is in immediate danger. We do not excuse a “wild” animal because it is their instinct or “nature” to kill for food to eat, this is not sufficient. We excuse them because while they attain intelligent consciousness of consequences, it is quite limited in scope. If we thought them capable of deliberation of alternatives, we would find their “instinct” rather unacceptable.
Morality, however, is not merely the capacity to rationally forecast multiple potential series of probability consequences, in both the short-run and long-run, but in the irrational, that feeds the extension of the rational; it is not only short-run personal or social payoff, nor long-run personal or social payoff, it is the extraordinary anxiety of the uncertain, the expectation of unintended consequences. The extrinsic risk of alienation tends to be simple to mitigate, but the intrinsic alienation in feeling the risk one’s narrative, role, identity, relationships, future, personal gain, social progress, and long-run unintended consequences; this is the complex function of morality. The burden of responsibility is the anxiety of the gulf of alienation. Therefore, even if programmed into a machine, engineered in an animal, or upon meeting an alien assemblage, morality is the self-induced anxiety of long-run uncertain consequences that must gain resolution through a significant action.
Causal Agency and Moral Agency have a congested interrelationship throughout philosophy, one that now plays out heavily in postmodernism-inspired film. The Matrix and its sequels explore the inability to distinguish between the simulation and the real, Blade Runner and its sequels explore the inability to draw a clear line between replicant humanity and legacy humanity, Inception explores the inability to base judgement of value upon the possibility of a higher or lower plane of consciousness, Westworld (tv) explores the line between artificial and human self-reflective conscious, and the reborn Planet of the Apes franchise explores the line between animal and human intelligence and rights.
When we study the vegetation in our desert of the real, when at last we admit how arbitrarily humanity draws up the lines of moral agency and political rights, an entire history and an immense contemporary system of inequality and injustice crash upon us. This is our hyperreality. At one time, as Nietzsche pleaded, we might have drawn up new lines of virtue and meaning, but this can only succeed when local, physically present, development of meaning is more prevalent than virtual, simulated meaning.
Melancholia, nihilism, hypocrisy, denial; these are all sources of complacency. Supposing we want to build a better understanding of the machines of our systems, we must begin from an assumption of power. The partisan nature of meaning emerges entangled with the only trait that remains, for now, distinctly human: the long memory of symbols of death, and the denial that death of Other implies death of Observer.
First, we should look with some honesty at the inequalities we believe we left behind. We will find that the line drawn in philosophy between human freedom versus the automated machines of physics and nature justified, repeatedly, enslavement, domination, inequality, torture, rape, and domestication. A brief review of the ideological between the lines of Western philosophical statements on intelligence, freedom, equality, and political economy will reveal the evolution of moral exceptions granted to the systemically privileged. At each phase, the exception moves but takes the same form, privilege provides itself exceptional claims to power based on the relegation to animal nature and machine determinism for the unprivileged.
To reclaim our capacity to anchor moral responsibility, we must embrace the loss of distinction between animal, machine, and human. This holds sweeping ramifications in judgment of past and present. Even if, out of privileged weakness, someone remains dedicated to the current regime, they should at least give honest admission of the arbitrary lines that this will draw.
The question, if we are to look it in the eyes, unflinchingly and courageously, desires to understand what morality we ought to pursue when we are not special in the universe, when we are inseparable from our physicality and ecology. It is an immense re-valuation of all values that even openly fascist modernity could not begin to mobilize. To remove the center is to open us to relativity: divinity has not blessed us with superiority, we did not evolve for carnism like proper carnivores, we are different from animals only because we develop and internalize language, we are distinct from hypothetical superintelligence only because we fear and deny our own death. We must establish a new set values based on the unlimited interconnection of will-to-power. To limit this artificially, as Western traditional oppression has, to one form-of-life, judged territorially according to intelligence, social class, ethnic appearances, gender, religion, or geography; this is the height of all ignorance.
Machinic Agency is post-nihilistic. We can only understand morally effective action, in which an entity is the steward of the efficient cause, by answering what it would take for an automaton, either super-intelligent biological or technical machine, to gain the status of moral agency. Just as Quantum Liberty removes the distinction between free will and determinism, our understanding of moral virtualization must reset our valuation-signification without distinguishing between animal, machine, and human. Nietzsche asserts that nihilism takes place when we find, “That the highest values are devaluing themselves” (WTP Aph. 2). This is the case today, when the religious privilege of stewardship results in massive environmental destruction, when political freedom results in mass incarceration, and capitalist modes of ensuring security of food and medicine leaves ghettos and nations dying from meats that slowly poison the “disposable” class.
Machinic Agency then requires a Turing test for morality. We are simply asking, “At what point does an assemblage of parts, biological or mechanical, become identified as making decisions based on value-judgements?” This test defines the artificial limits we establish for morally significant actions.
While we will later show the progression of privilege based on machination, its first major entrant also provides our starting point for the Machinic Agency test. By doubting everything except rational certainty, Descartes begins from his own existence then sets up two criteria for recognizing the consciousness of others. First, an assemblage will need the ability to respond with original expressions of normal language, not only through direct interaction (like the Turing test), but in spontaneous group dialogue that understands the context and signification of conversation among humans. If an assemblage cannot overhear a conversation, relate its implications to its historical and political context, judge it based on a value system, and defend the rationalization spontaneously, then it must not be equally human. Second, while Descartes supposed someone might build machines that could perform extraordinary tasks, and we may teach animals to perform tricks, the ability to attain virtuosity of action, including skillful improvisation rather than mere rule-based execution, was a human capacity.
We immediately the problem of privilege in this test, because it is relative to the intelligence and values of the observer. Descartes generates a test that assures anyone who cannot directly participate through displays of intelligence, language, education, and skill are lesser beings, unworthy of the privileges of the bourgeois intellectual European male. This method easily becomes a justification for sexism, colonialism, despotism, sexual repression, forced poverty, carnism, and slavery. He believes, that if we cannot recognize someone’s intelligence and virtuosity, we have no moral obligation to treat them as an equal.
Again, by means of these two tests we may likewise know the difference between men and brutes. For it is highly deserving of remark, that there are no men so dull and stupid, not even idiots, as to be incapable of joining together different words, and thereby constructing a declaration by which to make their thoughts understood; and that on the other hand, there is no other animal, however perfect or happily circumstanced, which can do the like.
We can juxtapose this with Hume’s empiricism, which through methodological naturalism recognizes the exceptions we ought to build into our theory of justice based on the development of moral understanding, providing the example that, if a young bachelor makes politically inflammatory statements the government should excuse for a time his youthful rebelliousness, while a father who engages in plans to take up arms to depose the king bears a greater guilt of treason; the guilt of the crime for Hume must match the burden of responsibility the agent bears through experience and understanding.
The arguments explored through our time in the desert revealed that the debate of metaphysics was always the foundation for the moral systems of inequalities established afterward. Nihilism removes this justification of privilege. We have already seen that changing the prevalent ideological system changes the outcomes that early modern philosophers allowed to taint their objectivity. The “masses” have may have subtle natural differences in cognitive ability, but even these remain suspect. Education, health, economic, and social factors produce the differentiated performance abilities. Early modern philosophers and European political systems in general treated these differences static and hereditary, based on gender or ethnic group, and we continue to recover from the consequences.
We may further confound this problem by recognizing how fluid our conception of which actions in our children are part of a “phase” and at what point the “know better” – though it seems more likely this is because they learn inconsistency of beliefs, contradictory assertions, and genuine hypocrisy from parents more than anything else. Thus, the twofold test from Descartes will certainly not help us. As Heidegger shows, Nietzsche did not establish nihilism, he revealed as an “always already” existent socio-historical process.
Philosophy often works better in science fictional scenarios. If we imagine developing a breed of intelligent chimpanzees, as what point would we believe their actions have moral significance? We would need them to have the capacity to articulate signification of non-present concepts using language. They would need to recognize patterns of intelligence in one another that make dialogue worthwhile for survival and coordination. We would need them to possess memories of past events and express them to their offspring. They would need to understand from the death of another intelligent chimpanzee that they will also die. They would need to recognize that every member of their species bears equal risk of death. They would need to value development of a social system over the hedonistic egoism in the face of this existential crisis.
Now we have evolutionary utility for morality. Realization of death, memory of what is absent, abstraction of concepts, internalization of parental vocalization, externalization through typography, these are all developments we see in our own children. Machinic Morality is the tension of short-run and long-run consequences, both in external ramifications, and in self-conscious understanding, compared against our system of values. We are capable of Machinic Agency when we have sufficient narrative and identity that our choices may either destroy, refine, or strengthen. We do this in the context of predicted outcomes for personal, interpersonal, social, and environmental preservation-enhancement.
Machinic Morality admits that distinguishing between sensory virtualization and the biological machine that produces this virtualization is a false dichotomy. Privilege of one form-of-life over another is no longer justifiable. Our special place in our socioeconomic, technological, and biological ecologies is that of paternalism: cultivation, protection, and stewardship. Any distinction between human rights and animal rights under supersensory is false. Adult humans should not possess any privilege against animals that they would not enjoy against another human. When we better understand dolphins, dogs, or trees as children of our environment, we may again act as stewards, attain to wisdom, guaranteeing the ecologies for which we have a duty of care.
Spending “our time in the desert” carries a long-running history in Western religious and philosophical literature. The desert provides clarity of analysis to the Observer by escaping the subjectivity of densely-populated areas. Whether prophet or philologist, escaping the world of privileged life to find an alien world without our feelings, fears, and troubles; this has long been a clarifying moment. However, as we will find, even the “desert of the real” no longer holds the same significance. We have experienced to many living deserts, too many virtualizations of false lifelessness, smiling at us and walking around out of habit.
In Western philosophy, the desert represents a partial answer to what the world might be when it is absent of life. Many of the problems of philosophy emerge out of linguistic or stylistic flaws, existential particularized instances that thought transforms into generalization prematurely, or abstractions that take on a “life of their own” and run amok in the civilized mind. The spectacle of human society is too full of symbols and signs, leaving the philosopher in search of “bare life” in the wilderness, to at last secure a hold on the sublime. There is immediately a textual question, were one to note it: why the desert? Nietzsche, like his own retreat to Switzerland, has Zarathustra retire to the mountains. Henry David Thoreau escapes to Walden pond, painting a scene of a small cabin among American pines, praising self-sufficiency. In similar fashion, we may try our own hermitage to mountains or forests to escape the confused misrepresentations of society and fashion. The desert, in contrast, represents an alien reality, one that does not welcome us or praise us, a physicality that humbles the consciousness that believes reality manifests for life.
In the process of enduring the desert, we see an escape of the noise, light, and concerns of Others. Yet this escape requires there be something to escape into as well. The desert holds the appeal of an absence of signs, representation, and symbolic exchange. The comforts of the mountain or the forest still let us believe we can make a home, then construct a metaphysics that justifies our selfish human privilege. The alien forms of the desert, self-sufficient without the presence of human mechanization and machination, reveals the Observer’s alienation. The unintended consequences of society become clear in the desert of the real. The alien landscape of human lifelessness reveals the alienation of human society. Then we see that enclosure within the social machine encroaches upon individual moral systems of valuation and signification.
For this, we must strip representation down to bare life, then even forget life itself. At the extremes, the cosmos is a lush paradise, phenomenon created by the human mind and for the human mind; else it is an enormous desert, a system of objects that entraps us, an enormous machine in which matter is more real than our lives ever might be.
The inescapable social machine creates the need to distance thought from its comfortable privilege, opening the individual value system to the experiments of alien reality. The long-running contemplation of inhuman reality as a desert represents a stance on metaphysics. The weight of our decisions in the desert are the moral responsibility of bare life; every metaphysics carries extreme implications for moral systems.
Plato told us that there is a perfect and sublime realm of pure forms, triangles, circles, concepts, and virtues, all complete and wholesome in the full light of the sun. Meanwhile human existence is a sad misrepresentation of the true reality, like shadows cast on the wall of cave, create by puppets and trifles in a flickering fire. The allegory of the cave inspires a long lineage of mathematicians, astronomers, and rationalists, all trying to wake up from the dream of this world so that they may see the true world in all its sublime glory. This effort to deny the significance of bodily life makes its way to the Rationalists, like Descartes and Spinoza. The rationalists insisted that a perfect reality lay outside the material reach of humanity, except through total conceptualization and pure reason.
Aristotle takes a more encyclopedic approach (an apt description of the method by William James). Describing the attributes of human experience, cataloging the ideas found in agreement, and attempting to summarize the most probable and consistent explanation for the full sum of human belief, Aristotle established the framework for the division of our major sciences. The lineage of Aristotle, ending with the British Empiricists, insist that the material perception of humanity is the only reality upon which we can base our judgements. Anything abstract is either self-evident, as the result of a system of abstract machines like 1+1=2, or they are generalizations of experience, hypotheses that must undergo continuous experimentation for validity.
Insisting on exclusively a priori grounds, Descartes builds out a moral system based on the perfection of axiomatization, aspiring to find God-given precepts as pure as mathematics. Descartes wants an ontologically self-evident deity, with a moral code as self-contained – in the absence of any believer – as Euclidean geometry. Insisting on exclusively a posteriori grounds, Hume insists that human nature and justice must arise from probability, experiments, and patterns.
As good literary critics, we must look to the context of these arguments and read between the lines. The foundations of metaphysics and physics, its implications for ontology and epistemology, these were the formal concerns of their arguments. Between the lines, the first modern philosophers were finding that the “pagans” of Rome and Greece were not so different from Europeans and that the divine right of kings ought not trump the sovereignty of individuals. On the one side, the rationalist denial of the validity of human life and the Christian attitude toward worldly pain and desire, whatever the intended consequences, had resulted in abuses of despotism, outlandish inequality, disposability of slaves and peasants, as well as a long series of wars, killing and torturing lives in the name of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Hume’s skepticism laid out a groundwork for methodical naturalism that had terrible implications for personal beliefs about the burden of moral responsibility humanity bears. By what means do we justify enslavement, castration, starvation, domestication, or carnism – there is no grounds for any of these injustices without a social machine producing it. Empirical logic dictated that the ontological argument for a deity only gave the cosmos itself the name of God. All the injustices of human life, and many abuses against nature, originate in human prejudices, perpetuated by justifications provided by organized religion.
Hume awoke Kant from his “dogmatic slumber” and likewise startled into action all Western philosophy that followed. Hume stated, “All knowledge degenerates into probability.” Indeed, centuries of improvement in stochastic econometrics proves above all that the average human keeps economics and statistics as far away from their domesticated habits as they can. Probability of two united representations of the senses provide us with increasing certainty, but generalization of correlation into causality can only be an optimism bias imposed by the mind itself. Necessity, power, force, causal agency are thus projections of the mind superimposed on the consistent union of representations in the constant conjunction. Like heat, color, weight, sound, taste, and smell gain signification relative to the context of the Observer, Hume closes the book on generalization from certainty of probability. There is no cause and effect, nor causality and causal agency at all, only a probability we forecast and trust based on consistency of experience; “Anything may produce anything,” and by implication, any king, master, government, or religion who tells your otherwise are deluding you for the purposes of undeserved access to resources, labor, and moral hypocrisy.
Kant takes the extremes of the two approaches and attempts a “Copernican Revolution” by embracing both sides wholesale. Kant argues that the mind produces causality, not as a forecasted probability, but as a category of the mind itself. The representations of the senses, cause and effect, are all produced by the mind, as are space and time, but the mechanical determinism we see outside the mind tells us nothing about the freedom of the will “inside” the mind. The machine may look predetermined and predictable from the outside, reactive within a chain of causes and effects, but the ghost within this shell is free and moral. While causality is consistent beyond a reasonable doubt, the feeling of freedom of the will and moral valuation is likewise consistent beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, he argues, it must be the mind itself that adds everything other than freedom of will and pure reason to our representations of space, time, appearance, and causality. This lensing applies to the perception of other rational agents, and any of our interactions among intelligent beings, so their determinism and our freedom cannot contradict one another.
Based on this approach to bridging the gap between free will and determinism, Kant builds causal agency upon the synthesis of internally true freedom and externally apparent determinism. Without insisting on the rationalist freedom necessary for moral choices or insisting on the naturalist determinism necessary for moral consequences, Kant breaks the world in two. On one side of life we find the phenomena that the mind generates, but on the other side the mind builds this upon the numen of metaphysics, the thing-in-itself about which we can reach no conclusions. This separation is essential to the moral agency we take for granted anyway, because in a purely deterministic world we would have no ability to make choices, and therefore bear no burden of responsibility; while in a purely free world we would have no control over the outcome of our choices, and therefore bear no burden of responsibility. When we begin with the axiomatics of Western philosophy, it is only if we are both free to make choices and the world contains enough determinism to link our choices to consequences that we bear any moral responsibility for actions.
Kant short-circuits the arguments for either extreme by separating human reality from actual reality. This allows for the belief that each choice is its own causa prima without undermining our responsibility for the consequences in deterministic perception. However, this separation, and the postulated numen as a thing-in-itself devoid of human perceptions, built a wall between humanity and the metaphysical realm. The intended consequences of this mechanization lay in finding a logically necessary system of morals. The unintended consequences of this machination are precisely where philosophy finds its desert: a world of numen in which mind refuses to live.
While Kant placed a wall in the individual mind, separating the senses and intellect from the metaphysical reality of the thing-in-itself, Hegel takes this license into senseless material abstraction, under the premise that any narrow view of the material whole may find through its self-reflection the complete understanding of the whole.
Schopenhauer criticizes the entirety of Kant’s approach, saying that it is recycled Platonism. Ironically, it was only Kant’s popularity that drew so much attention to Hume’s methodological naturalist skepticism. Schopenhauer surveyed the full history available from multiple cultures for the first time since the fall of Rome, finding new insights in Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucius, and Taoism. In practice, Kant’s method was too convenient for the morality that submits to the prevailing ideology. If the creation of phenomena occurs in the mind of every self-conscious rational observer, and moral imperatives only apply to self-conscious intelligence, Kant’s prioritization of human valuation over the will expressed in all forms-of-life violated the principle of sufficient reason; instead, Schopenhauer argued our physical experience itself alienates us, the world of representation separates itself from the metaphysical will as a lonely expression of selfish altruism among the collective desire for consciousness.
The will was Schopenhauer’s thing-in-itself, and the will-to-live was far more coextensive than humans or civilization. In the world of will and representation, we experience thorough determinism of signs and even the choices we believe we make are representative interpretations of the movement of the one will; as generator of the forces driving all representational things. Finally, we arrive at the desert of Western philosophy. Stripping away the layers of representation, removing the system of values, both in concept and precept, and anything specific to the strategic goals of the human species, he lands upon the will by wandering into the desert, realizing the will cannot stop willing. Simply, being cannot stop becoming even throughout infinite revolutions and recurrence:
But let us suppose such a scene, stripped also of vegetation, and showing only naked rocks; then from the entire absence of that organic life which is necessary for existence, the will at once becomes uneasy, the desert assumes a terrible aspect, our mood becomes more tragic; the elevation to the sphere of pure knowing takes place with a more decided tearing of ourselves away from the interests of the will; and because we persist in continuing in the state of pure knowing, the sense of the sublime distinctly appears.
– Schopenhauer, World as Will and Idea Vol. 1
The inescapable desert of pure knowing led him to immense pessimism, and he believed even the honesty of systems like Stoicism and Buddhism were insufficient for this desert. At one point he articulates this as a conversation among two friends, one wishing to be certain of the eternity of the soul, the other explaining the foolishness of wanting such assurance. In the end, the two call each other childish and part ways with no resolution; this may have been the underlying insight of all his philosophy, that all representation is childish non-sense. The will-to-live expressed in any one life was helplessly biased, and only self-conscious intelligent humanity was fully aware of the terrible burden of moral responsibility implicit in the recurrence.
Supposing anyone agrees to the groundwork of the pessimistic view reacts in the negative, treating its conclusions with any level of anger, indignation, and indolence, where might such a warrior take his passion? For this we find Friedrich Nietzsche, ready to reject the asceticism of any collective religion. He paves the way for a new method of nihilist existentialism that requires individualist positivism. While religious systems had long founded their origins on the ideas of prophets spending their time in the desert, seeking the truth-in-itself, Nietzsche rejected the notion that anyone may meaningfully appropriate these insights from another.
Going even further than Feuerbach or Schopenhauer, Nietzsche deploys his powers of literary criticism to show how the organization of religions around the insights of prophets provides us with the opposite guidance exemplified by their embrace of the desert. We ought to echo these as free spirits, creating our own system of values, not follow blindly the dogma institutionalized complacency. Within the mechanization of an ideological, dogmatic, axiomatized belief system, built in the shadow of these warrior-philosophers, we find the machination of the priests and clerics who, too weak to spend their own time in the desert, prevent all others as well.
The only answer for Nietzsche is to run into the desert, like a camel that has escaped with its burden, shrug it off, become a lion, and battle the enormous dragon “Thou Shalt” so that one may become a child, making new games and values:
“In that the NEW psychologist is about to put an end to the superstitions which have hitherto flourished with almost tropical luxuriance around the idea of the soul, he is really, as it were, thrusting himself into a new desert and a new distrust […] he finds that precisely thereby he is also condemned to INVENT—and, who knows? perhaps to DISCOVER the new.”
– Nietzsche, Beyond Good & Evil
Nietzsche sets the tone for the personal responsibility to become our own prophet in the desert, a warrior-philosopher far removed from the falsehoods of entrapment in the social machine. Albert Camus, who fought as a rebel during the Nazi occupation of France in WWII, took this moral responsibility as the essential meaning of human existence.
In the face of immense human suffering and depravity, surrounded by casualties of war and hopelessness actualized through countless suicides, Camus likewise found a desert in which we must fight for meaning and purpose. He called this desert the “absurd” – the self-consciousness speculative reality we experience, that is neither the material objects nor pure representation of mind. Representation distances us from the simple possibility that consciousness can distrust itself for some strategic reason; or that humanity repeatedly utilizes abstractions to justify murder. Therefore, we must revolt against the absurd and continuously fight for meaning.
It is here that the full history of philosophers rejecting naïve realism, with comprehensive skepticism that we may ever attain objectivity, finally reaches its absurd conclusion from the phenomenologists, that nothing is certain, “evoking after many others those waterless deserts where thought reaches its confines. After many others, yes indeed, but how eager they were to get out of them!” The desert of the real is the end of the power of thought, a limitation few philosophers were willing to accept.
This inability to find justification in knowledge of reality forces the burden of responsibility for our actions on our own shoulders. Thought will not attain certainty of material determinism or spiritual unity. We can only look to other humans for the depravity of the absurd. The mechanization of institutionalized values, which machinate unintended consequences, should not become our complacent acceptance.
“At that last crossroad where thought hesitates, many men have arrived and even some of the humblest. They then abdicated what was most precious to them, their life. Others, princes of the mind, abdicated likewise, but they initiated the suicide of their thought in its purest revolt. The real effort is to stay there […] to examine closely the odd vegetation of those distant regions. Tenacity and acumen are privileged spectators of this inhuman show in which absurdity, hope, and death carry on their dialogue. The mind can then analyze the figures of that elementary yet subtle dance before illustrating them and reliving them itself.”
– Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
When we reach this realization, that nothing human can be certain, that nothing behind or under perception justifies our life, pleasure, suffering, or death; this is where all the interesting and dramatic intricacies of systems of living representations occur.
The absurd is a desert of the mind, the distance or distortion that lies between what the material of the cosmos might be without representation in consciousness and signification by intelligence. The absurd is everything that painfully fails to make sense, such that we reject the validity of our senses, or even put an end to sensory experience. The revolt against this denial and delusion described by Camus, as well as the reality of our moral systems within the social machine, reflects the prophetic independence of Nietzsche’s warrior-philosopher.
Camus concludes that if the absurd is the quintessential defining attribute of human life, he must maintain the discipline of methodological naturalism in his authentic appraisal of the system: “I must sacrifice everything to these certainties and I must see them squarely to be able to maintain them. Above all, I must adapt my behavior to them and pursue them in all their consequences” (Ibid).
He likewise takes stock of the problem of re-valuation of all values and the cowardice to do so. While Nietzsche treats this fear with disgust, Camus treats it with empathy. The desert of the real, the fact that we and all those we love will die, that the world will forget us and everything we ever hoped or desired; to fear the reality of this supposition is only natural:
“But I want to know beforehand if thought can live in those deserts. I already know that thought has at least entered those deserts. There it found its bread. There it realized that it had previously been feeding on phantoms. It justified some of the most urgent themes of human reflection.” Ibid.
For Camus, there is no doubt of how difficult and terrifying it may be to reconsider everything once held valuable, meaningful, and true. An individual re-valuation of all values must proceed when we finally strip away the mechanization and machination that filter our reality. Our time in the desert reveals the alienation and denial that it has brought us, that we are party to the machine, and it prevents us from prioritizing with any lucidity or acumen.
Bertrand Russell summarizes the long-running battle for objectivity similarly in Some Problems of Philosophy, and the alienation it represents, saying, “If we cannot be sure of the independent existence of objects, we shall be left alone in a desert — it may be that the whole outer world is nothing but a dream, and that we alone exist.”
Unfortunately, we have a new problem today. The same mechanization of general intellect implicit in capitalism is a machination that undermines virtuosity and moral responsibility. The interlinked supercomputers in our pockets free us to access more information than ever, but too much information too fast leaves us unable to find any significance in it. This is the decisive step in the process of alienation humanity pursued with the successive objects placed between us: tools, weapons, religion, governments, enclosure, property, currency, contracts, machinery, corporations, computers, the spectacle. The “war of all against all” described by Hobbes, the social machine can finally reduce our natural state of civil war to isolated individuals, so long as they carry their own chains of self-enslavement in their pocket.
We no longer find enclosure in the social machine mechanization of labor, we enclose the machination alienation within our personal machine. The spectacle and virtualization prevent us from reaching any desert of thought and any authentic life. In Simulacra & Simulation, Jean Baudrillard calls this problem hyperreality: “Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.” When social engineering precedes our understanding of rational normative valuation, when the full globalization of economic Oedipalization leaves us with no unaltered experience, we are only able to recognize patterns that Others created ahead of time for us to recognize.
Hyperreality is the universally unauthenticated life. It represents a loss of significance by managing all mystery ahead of time. We do not experience any event authentically because the genuine physicality experience is not the anchor, a virtual experience anchors us ahead of time. If we go camping, virtualization anchors us to what camping is and who campers are through movies, commercials, and social media. To be certain, this is not a new and unexpected result of technology, it is the very essence of technology. Where we once spent time in the desert to escape the representations of the social machine, now we recognize its total inescapability.
Philosophers once inspected the distinction between the world of the mind and the world the mind perceives, some claiming everything was virtual, others claiming everything was machines. Repeatedly, some dualism became established, such that our virtualization, though developed and enclosed by machines, we could feel confident we could escape them. Today our understanding of either loses its innocence, precisely because we finally know how to engineer the patterns. It is no longer a few power-hungry men and the herd instinct of the masses that develops the unintended consequences of our morality, we can no longer claim ignorance or escape. Today we are all party to the data, the algorithms are intentional, and intelligent people fight to manage or mismanage the collateral damage.
“The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory — precession of simulacra — it is the map that engenders the territory […] It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges subsist here and there, in the deserts which are no longer those of the Empire, but our own. The desert of the real itself. – Baudrillard
Just as the chains of hyperreality prevent us from knowing the distinction between the real and the virtual, between our mechanization and our machination, the desert of the real is no longer a problem between us and material physicality, nor between us and the social machine. Now the absurd reality is within us. As we trace this lineage of the desert, we come full circle to the machines and automata from which self-consciousness attempted to distance us. The remainder of our philosophy will face the ethical and political dilemma in which we awake, to understand the moral weight of decisions, even if these we pursue in a dream within a dream, even if our awakening is only to another dream. We must establish what moral values ought to carry significance regardless of how deep in Plato’s cave we might be. Any mechanization that prevents this personal responsibility to life and existence is a machination.
Regardless of its original evolution, the intended consequence of formalization in written language was to bring humanity together. Abstraction became a powerful tool, trading on the currency of truth-values. Generalization allowed anchored, consistent existential instances to become probable patterns that we could exchange and test against reality. Once language became typography, the rules of grammar formalized and analyzed, and the lexicon of significations network into a matrix of signs, we realized the tool meant to bring us together resulted in our separation. The signs of language are simulacra, words that have definitions prior to our experience of an object. Together, full literacy creates a simulation of the world that we project upon it, distorting its significance. The signs of images in media do the same, so that instead of recognizing an object as a particularized word, we have experiences the name, the image, and the normative reactions of others in advance. Finally, we take all these simulations and place them on our own body, first in the pocket, then as wearable, with a goal to achieve further integration. Virtualization consumes us prior to any experience of reality.
Our time in the desert of the real means that we cannot look to a higher or lower plane of existence, or base our morality on the significance of rules outside ourselves. Now there are no rules outside us, only the axiomatization of our simulations, rules which we either manage or mismanage. For Schopenhauer, the desert was our capacity to resist the will and engage in pure simulation. For Nietzsche, the desert was the struggle to create new systems of significance and new patterns of understanding. For Camus, the desert was the absurd distance that alienates us from objectivity. In Baudrillard, we finally face our desert of the real, that the loss of any objectivity leaves everyone equally speculative, in a simulation we create and cannot escape. We are party to all the unintended consequences of the system and must build a better machine.