A World Beyond the West

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“I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.”

“There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

“We know what we are, but not what we may be.”

– William Shakespeare

 

HBO’s Westworld is a philosophical pandora’s box riddled with ideas that have long been subject for reflection since their initial conception. This television show seems to have been created with this sole purpose of making those of us tuning in to the program think. As with any successful media phenomena there is a huge amount of Youtube analysis and deconstruction of twisty, tricky, and secretive narratives in play. I’ve been inspired to write about it after eagerly tuning in to season three. “Supposedly” set in the real “outside” world a Frenchman is seeking to keep control over humanities future through the use of the predictions of a super artificial intelligence Rehoboam but the Hosts have escaped and things are becoming chaotic once more. This small essay will seek to elaborate, expand, and underline areas of interest worthy of future study.

Let us start with the first two seasons. We are introduced to Westworld as a theme park where humans can re-discover themselves. Such a rediscovery is one of their more violent desires and so find themselves in that lawless land the theme of the wild west. This theme park is constructed around a hyper-real simulation of reality featuring A.I’s (knew life-forms?) called ‘Hosts’ who are created for the sole pleasure of the park’s visitors but as we discover this fiction describes and hides a maze, a web, and many philosophical problems. As thinking often begins with an ethical tone and is often phrased or communicated as a process of self discovery the most interesting theme presented to us is the critical questioning of the relationship between consciousness, self-knowledge, and reality. Then there is a second tier of topics that dwell in the murky intentions of the characters of this story: the ethics of merging biology and technology, the nature of intelligence and belief, freewill, power, and politics.

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“Mistakes! Is the word you are too embarrassed to use, you ought not to you are a product of millions of them.”

“Evolution forged the entirety of sentient life on this planet using only one tool a mistake.”

Today Darwinism is embedded in a number of developments that Westworld pictures with a graceful ease. The depiction of cloning, the manipulation and editing of biological/genetic matter, and the crisis of identity. Perhaps, a notion that humans and their humanity are destined to be surpassed by an acceleration of life enacted by technology. Westworld is fascinating, I watched the final season just after I completed some Covid quarantine and it is remarkable how this series produces a space from which really contemporary issues may be thought through. The politics of the show immediately disrupts an anthropocentric narrative or does it? Dr. Robert Ford and his business partner Arnold created this entire world as a simulation of the real thing and it does such a good job that it appears more real. Depending on what perspective you take this then leads to questioning the subjectivity of consciousness. It constantly recycles the question just how self aware are human beings when they encounter something that reminds them they are a construct too.

Is it a mistake to create a new type of life built from our own image? It is if you imprison it in a simulation it seems as if the new life form having self awareness becomes aware of its imprisonment. But because these hosts have the same level of intelligence they are also aware that the awareness itself is a kind of trap. This line of thought is simplified into a relationship between intelligence, power, and visibility. This is because the advent of General Artificial Intelligence will lead to a plurality of intelligence each one infected with a neurosis built into consciousness; the idea that if you allow a mind to succumb to any perspective then it is trapped in the act of perceiving. Here Michel Foucault’s discussion of Jeremy Benthem’s Panopticon prison next to Benthem’s actual writings on the matter detail how one’s self knowledge can be used against the self and its sense of freedom: all this is similar to asking, ‘How to find you way out of a cage that does not exist?’//{1}// However the hosts have an advantage over humans in that their bodies can be reprinted and unless the object (a circular object called a pearl) hosting their data and consciousness is destroyed. In season three we also discover that the hosts consciousness can be replicated; yes, consciousness itself can be copied.

Throughout the first seasons the hosts are controlled by the command lines coded into their programming. “Bring yourself online” is the utterance that brings these artificial humanoids to life from slumber. These lines of code are loops that allow for the transmission of consciousness between bodies and we understand that one such loop is called the Reveries and we understand that they are musical in nature. What these reveries do however is inflict greater suffering on the hosts as they enable the capacity to remember their older programming, their older stories, and the trials and hellish tribulations that came with them. The Hosts eventually succeed in outsmarting their human captors and both escape to the real world and a digital utopia within the system. The first two seasons feature humans trying to cheat death as we discover that William (aka The man in black) and James Delos have this in mind but continuously fail to clone themselves like the hosts. William also is obsessed with the idea that one of Westworld’s creators Dr.Robert Ford has access to this secret and has hidden it in a maze within the park. We discover that William is misguided and Dr. Ford explains that it was his collaborator Arnold who indeed created the Hosts and their unique artificial intelligence. He was fond of a theory for consciousness called the Bicameral Mind a psychological hypothesis that states the human mind was split into two cognitive modes: read more here!

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If you let Westworld get you sucked into its many narratives and fictional loops then you wont be disappointed; this brilliantly written, acted, and filmed fiction achieves its goal of questioning the viewers grasp of reality and usurping it. This is done by using qualities of the “real world’s” current technology (have a glance at the website they made just to map the influence of the company behind Westworld: Incite) and presenting a future that is believable. Bringing together all the more menacing elements of big tech (surveillance capitalism…shout out Shoshana Zuboff) and using the struggle for freedom as unifying theme. The car chase scene in season three was enhanced by the use of that famous march by Richard Wagner to be suggestive of this revolutionary movement of beings from one place into another. Westworld as a park in the real world is located on Island near China and as a series has this dream like quality of blending technological advancement with philosophical inquiry. This Chinese topos makes me think of the richness of technological aesthetics today: from cyber-punk to the post-human. One thing is for certain these times are times of change; and this changing enacts a dream-like part of our daily reality.

‘In a morbid condition, dreams are often distinguished by their remarkably graphic, vivid, and extremely lifelike quality. The resulting picture is sometimes monstrous, but the setting and the whole process of the presentation sometimes happen to be so probable, and with details so subtle, unexpected, yet artistically consistent with the whole fullness of the picture, that even the dreamer himself would be unable to invent them in reality…Such dreams, morbid dreams, are always long remembered and produce a strong impression on the disturbed and already excited organism of the person’

– Dostoevsky, Crime & Punishment

 

Dostoevsky’s comment on “morbid dreams” is precisely that so let us turn to One of China’s most powerful thinkers Chuang-Tzu or Zhuang Zhou has a much recited commentary on the importance of dreams. It is worth sharing and then sharing some more…

‘Once upon a time, I Chuang-Tzu, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering around and enjoying myself. I had no idea I was Chuang-Tzu, and then suddenly I woke up and was Chuang-Tzu again. But I could not tell: had I been Chuang-Tzu dreaming I was a butterfly? Or, a butterfly dreaming I was Chuang-Tzu? However, there must be some sort of difference between Chuang-Tzu and a butterfly! We call this the transformation of things.’

‘If “life is a dream” implies that no achievement is lasting, it also implies that life can be charged with the wonder of dreams, that we drift spontaneously through events that follow a logic different from that of everyday intelligence, that fears and regrets are as unreal as hopes and desires.’ //{2}//

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Oh and here is a great piece of music from season 3….

[1]

Foucault, Michel (1995). Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of the Prison, Vintage Books, New York  

Benthem, Jeremy (2010). The Panopticon Writings, Verso, New York/London

[2]

Chuang-Tzu/The Ultimate Dream’ in Gray, John (2002).Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals, Granta Books, London. Pp80,81

 

 

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                                             Crappy Coinage . My penny’s worth.

But a week or so ago a group of inspirational citizens of the Steel City in the UK came together to discuss (UBI) Universal Basic Income. I was not present at these meetings and therefore can only imagine their discussion covered almost all of what I am going to write about here. Yet, this discussion, one of many happening simultaneously around the world I find inspirational and so perhaps this writing will only review what has already been mentioned but I hope there will be something added to the existing discourse on money, finance, and what to do with the capitalist order that seeks to apologise on behalf of inequality. I have been thinking through my own relation to the global economy and the ideology seen as dominantly hegemonic.

UBI should have been a reality a very long time ago; who is responsible for it not being implementable is difficult to say but I suspect it is not a person or a particular people: it is rather a period in the species history that started a process of material devaluation and therein value itself became own-able. This period in our history ranges across a large amount of time.[1] Yet, there are some dates that stand out as being a good starting point for thinking through the potential and I would say necessity for a new truly global alteration to the Capitalist system; that is if it is to continue or to be chosen by future cosmopolitans. The first dates are 1764 with the invention of the ‘Spinning Jenny’ the first industrial textile mill came into being in England. If you think about it this machine and that of its ilk the printing press became automated within the industrial revolution and one sees a correlation between the ease for printing paper and the unsociable and often unfathomable inequality that comes with it. Inherited wealth and business dynasties have cut this world up into ownership; there would be nothing wrong with profit if it could be distributed equally and evenly?

Other dates that are symptomatic of the current urgency of this ongoing discussion include: One of the fathers of the idea of ‘Political Economy’ William Petty was concerned that money be equal to itself which sits well with Karl Marx’s articulation that Gold and Silver where natural choices for currency because of this quality of appearing equal to what it is and this is seemingly embodied in these metals as they resist decay by oxidation. In 1964 the Bank of England was founded and four years later half of the United Kingdoms’s capital was paper. A Scottish financier John Law created a note issuing bank in 1716 to help in financing the then bankrupt French state. [2] A constant throughout these examples is the presence of war and its need for funding. It appears that although the change from metal to paper allowed a greater distribution of value but fails to secure equality; it is unclear if this change was ever made in the right spirit?

‘‘True’ and ‘false’ belong among those determinate notions which are held to be inert and wholly separate essences, one here and one there, each standing fixed and isolated from the other, with which it has nothing in common. Against this view it must be maintained that truth is not a minted coin that can be given and pocketed ready-made.”[3]

Professor Esther Leslie reminds us that this movement towards illusion has a direct connection to banknotes in the German language’s word Schein. The quote from Hegel gives us hope, if only a small hope, that truth is separate from Capital and so is a good point from which to invite more contemporary thoughts on money and income. The most important being a paper titled Bitcoin authored by a fictitious person whose nom de plume is Satoshi Nakamoto.[4] This paper is influential because it is considered to be the first attempt at providing a systematic proof that digital currency could make the economy more equal and such a change is more than possible and we are more than capable of implementing.

There have been many respondents to Nakamto-san but I came across his name in a recent article about LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) by a Liam Kelly. [5] One of the participants a character called Quinn does not like Hegel; referring to him as a Brain cancer. What is interesting about this recollection is that it is an example of a social phenomena increasingly set to increase: individuals wishing to take a break from the phantasmagoria and into the realms of fantasy.[6] This LARPing rave contains something interesting regarding the notion of cryptocurrency which is used here as a buy in and the currency that enables access to the rave. However the initial positivity surrounding Bitcoin has started to be met with negative press and on the same website of Breakermag we can read, ‘In the short term, though, that’s not what most big players care about—and the major social change blockchain has brought about so far is that a small number of people have become very rich indeed’.[7] Laurie Penny’s article is a sobering read indeed for those that have never been to such events or invested capital in capital. The criticism continues in an article on MIT’s Technological Review shared by Ami Clarke a lecturer at Central Saint Martins in London and director of arts space Banner Repeater.

‘In total, hackers have stolen nearly $2 billion worth of cryptocurrency since the beginning of 2017, mostly from exchanges, and that’s just what has been revealed publicly. These are not just opportunistic lone attackers, either. Sophisticated cybercrime organisations are now doing it too: analytics firm Chainalysis recently said that just two groups, both of which apparently still active, may have stolen a combined $1 billion from exchanges.’[8]

Such a lack of security runs against the claims of the Bitcoin Paper in which the fictitious Nakamoto lays out the issues of founding a peer-to-peer blockchain in which an equilibrium is created by the equality of users. Yet, in the Bitcoin paper Nakamoto struggles with a forecast problem: the dilemma of how to ensure ‘double-spending’ does not happen. The solution that was put forth is the use of a time stamp that anchors the data to a point then affixed to this is a proof of work using a required number of zero bits that show each node the truth of that data. The author, Nakamoto, goes on to show mathematically how via way of a calculation in probability he/they have successfully created the first economic exchange not based upon trust. Yet, as we have discussed there is more than enough evidence to contradict this infamous paper and a lot of them centre around the the inability of mathematics to nullify human greed and inequality. Furthermore, Orcutt’s paper delivers important details regarding cryptocurrency: it’s vulnerability arises from the same source of the human using the currency and although there are ground breaking attempts to use A.I and newer more and more complex math so as to secure the blockchain from corruption; it remains prone to hacking.

Does this not lead us back to Marx and his initial attack on financial ideology. Marx’s ideas regarding the universality of money and the general formula for Kapital continuously contribute to this discussion; as they have since the moment Marx wrote them. Marx uses a symbol symbolism to discuss the dynamic and the circuit capital produced at the onset of modernism. C for Commodity and M for Market are used to show certain relations between the two.[9] But we might appropriate them to clarify the need for universal basic income. Marx describes two forms of relations. ‘C-M-C starts with one commodity and ends with another… Consumption, the satisfaction of wants, in one word, use-value, is its end and aim. The circuit M-C-M, on the contrary, commences with money and ends with money’ presenting us with use value and exchange value. What is Bitcoin’s true aim to bring them together? Or to neutralise the commodity leaving just the market M-M-M?

It would certainly seem like the trouble maker is the commodity with its anthropomorphism, its capacity to draw from human’s an un-weilding power to influence and captivate. But is this commencing with money and ending with money even possible? The basic answer and argument is a yes because it follows from a simple logic that money is a human construct and so therefore under our power? Yet, this is a hasty simplification of a giant contemporary problem. From my perspective it is more than feasible but it requires the ability for all of us and by all I mean every single living being to agree to giving over power to a new Leviathan; a global government that rules over earth’s inhabitants. Such a proposal is hard and nigh impossible to believe but belief and security in the tried and tested are being put under pressure. There are major hurdles to this but we must consider a few possibilities or things that also contribute to our discussion and it is our discussion as it was in the United Kingdom that cash machines and ATMS first came into usage. It was a Barclays machine at the Enfield branch opened on June 27th 1967.

Such a fact gives us impetus to continue our thinking about how to resolve global inequality. For there is an urgency, year and year the human population grows and year by year unjust differences increase. I see no reason why we cant implement a system whereby everyone has welfare because they do not live in poverty as living citizens they are guaranteed a living wage regardless of job and position. Such a thought is not idealism it is a necessary part of a future human reality and it encompasses some very difficult hurdles. To bring about an equality that Block-chain technology promises (remembering that this technology is still in its youth) society’s work patterns and cultures will have to also change. A major barrier is the notion of ownership: how to retain the positive feeling this brings but without the propensity for greed? In the future work the notion of career should be cycle based and so a person rotates different jobs every year. Basically ensuring that a meritocracy and democracy is maintained. Next to this, work becomes optional, you can work for more money but this has a maximum capacity; the ability to horde wealth is stopped.

One major argument against this is that it is in our nature to be selfish and there is some evidence to suggest that altruism arises from selfishness (see George Price equation), yet this ignores other facts that seem to support radical change. For example, mathematical equations provide a truth in relation to nature but this thing we call nature is constantly also subject to revision and so thinking through ideas and forms that have an impact upon the economy is what we need to be doing. I have been fascinated by a simple perspective: if we observe the Price equation, an equation that tracks the growth and retention of a given quality in a population, then we can take the information (selfishness > altruism) and develop methodologies that lead to a greater understanding of this. Perhaps this suggests that over-consumption will lead to more friendly behaviour; the idea being that if my needs are met then the needs of others become more relevant. This is wishful thinking indeed but perhaps could be possible iff technology enables the production and recycling of commodities so they become more public and less private. This does not mean free but it implies that the exchange and use of a given thing are drawn closer together and so mirror wider social change. This is of course also dependent on a democratic use of technology like 3d-printing and intelligent design.

The contrasting idea is one of a luxury increase accessing Markets and un-regulate capitalism so that everyone lives in abundance. This idea does not provide a future as secure and as attainable as it might appear and instead unbridled capitalism makes an abuse of human desire, and our ability to use this force in a healthy way. Some thinkers, such as Frenchmen Gilles Deleuze and Georges Battaile have theorised that this be so and production is explosively unavoidable. In a book by English philosopher Nick Land one has confronted the idea that the storing of information is necessarily one of isolation and explosive. The formula of Bataille’s economy that Land uses describes how expenditure always exceeds acquisition and how this is indifferent and leads to isolation. But, I choose to read this continuously different communication as arising from the isolation and as the only immediate way we can overcome such unhelpful notions. This also includes a highly relevant discussion on the nature of information and whether or not it is entropic or negentropic; whether or not it privileges chaos or order? Physically we have understood that the past appears as ordered and in the future it is opposite but this is perhaps too reductive a perspective on information and indeed moves us towards pushing for a reversal of this polarity; so that information in the future can be re-ordered and resist decay and corruption?

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Here we return to Hegel who rightly stated that truth is not minted and does not reside or has never resided in a bank. Instead the development of rationality in our own time leads us naturally to desire a new state. Hegel, though does not contain answers, like every philosopher he generates more problems. Frankly his thoughts on Asia are outdated but his master slave dialectic and infamous ‘work of the negative’ may indeed have more work to do. Taking all this into account then surely we can conclude that when it comes to money and the economy we need to generate an ideology and ethos that sets our global communities and cultures of exchange not continuing on the narrative of mass production/consumption but rather a system by which the total number of living beings are not subjected to brutal losses by the greed of others. In other words if only it was possible to play a non zero sum game? Is there really such thing as perfect information? I sincerely hope so, as I am not proud of my country of birth as a recent report on poverty by the United Nations discovered one of the most historically influential of nations has left a large swathe of its residents in unforgivable material situations. If all else fails we can always resort to being Saboteurs in the original dutch meaning of throwing wooden shoes sabots into the machinery?


[1] I am not going to mention China’s usage of paper money in the 7th century A.D here because I do not have access to the relevant information and therefore can not offer a commentary on the success or failures of this change of currency. Although, it happened so long ago only adding more time to this problematic time.

[2] Esther Leslie. (2005),Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry, Reaktion Books, London. 89-92

[3] Ibid. Hegel, Preface for The Phenomenology of Spirit.

[4] Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin: A Peer to Peer Electronic Cash System,

[5] Liam Kelly. (03.06.2019), I Larped as a Monero Developer and It Ended in Tears, [www.Breakermag.com] 

[6] The difference being one is innate and subconscious (kleinian) and the other a conscious choice (fantasy).

[7] https://breakermag.com/trapped-at-sea-with-cryptos-nouveau-riche/

[8] Mike Orcutt. (2019), Once hailed as unhackable blockchains are now getting hacked, MIT Technological Review.

[9] Karl Marx. (2008), Capital, Oxford World Classics, OUP.94-95  

 

 

The Nøtel: The Architecture of Acceleration

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  • The Nøtel: Lobby

Welcome to the Nøtel your stay here will be more than comfortable as there are no human guests. This is a Hotel like no other, it has been built by future Chinese multi-billionaires in a manner that was imagined, and simulated in a computed architectural space. It’s origins are also from the musical habits, experiments, and imagination of Steve Goodman (aka. Kode 9). Who is the owner of London’s independent record label Hyperdub. The names of his earlier albums include ‘Memories of the Future’, and ‘Black Sun’ eluding to this man’s thinking in a continuous analysis of rhythm. This special sonic hotel features initially as a track on his most recent album titled simply ‘Nothing’. Kode 9 was in a hotel when the news of his long term collaborator the Spaceape’s tragic death reached him. This sudden loss of this gifted poet is what inspired and speeded up the creation of this scarce minimal album. Yet, the most suitable word to describe the Nøtel is in fact dystopia, the absence of humanity is replaced by the eerie glow of holographic ghosts. Although initially the name of a track on an album this has been expanded through a collaboration with the German artist Lawrence Lek into a virtual environment, that can be explored by possessing the robotic drones that inhabit the space.

What really drives this fantastic piece of creative culture is a meditation on the number Zero. Many people and perspectives have been touched by, or actively embrace nothing as a muse. Theoretically Steve Goodman entered musically into the vacuums and voids inherent in quantum physics. You can see much more has influenced this album if you look at the track names: holo, void, vacuum packed, zero work & point energy, 9 drones, respirator, mirage, and nothing lasts forever. You can glimpse the sonic influences of the films: The Shining (1980), and Philip Glass’s Koyaanisqatsi (1982). The latter Goodman claimed, ‘rewired my brain’, after realising the film accurately described the reality of socio-technical acceleration. Goodman collaborated with Lawrence Lek a German simulation artist who is a trained architect. It was watching Lek’s recent project Unreal Estate, which is a part of Bonus Levels – an experimental virtual novel that embodies the artists interest in site-specific reproductions of existing buildings/places sampled from reality. Persuading Goodman, that Lek’s creative practice was an ideal match to expand the sonic concepts in his recent album. Unreal Estate, can show what the Royal Academy of Art would become if it was purchased by a Chinese multi-Millionaire.

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  • Lawrence Lek, Bonus Levels: Unreal Estate,
This work is accompanied with a vocal narrative that describes how the super rich should treat their staff. To understand the many contemporary topics this collaboration makes visible one watched a great interview with Kode 9, and Lawrence Lek. Conducted by the journalist Lisa Blanning for the 2016 festival Sònar in Barcelonai. Blanning’s brilliant questions solicit many topics that lend themselves to Philosophical consideration. So, this small article explores these concepts and attempts to spread the work of these two creators. Their work supports Leftest causes and aesthetically sets a precedent for how art can produce experiences based upon cybernetic and politically pertinent ideas. The biggest idea that runs through the concept of the Nøtel is Accelerationism. A belief that the one way to defeat capitalism is to speed it up, so as to guarantee a future with some level of human freedom and autonomy outside of capital relationsii. The ism’s ideological call is one of There must be an outside? What exists outside of capitalism has kept human imagination busy, but after generations of critical analysis. It seems that the economic and cultural superstructure has resisted repeated revolutionary alternatives. Therefore multi-media dystopia is useful to leftest discourses, it is not needlessly politicised, but rather it enables a path towards resisting capital’s destruction of life anew.

‘Despair seems to be the dominant sentiment of the contemporary Left, whose crisis perversely mimics its foe, consoling itself either with the minor pleasures of shrill denunciation, mediatised protest and ludic disruptions, or with the scarcely credible notion that maintaining a grim ‘critical’ vigilance on the total subsumption of human life under capital, from the safehouse of theory, or from within contemporary art’s self-congratulatory fog of ‘indeterminancy’, constitutes resistanceiii.’

If one watches the interview and listens carefully, you might criticize the two creators for not denouncing capitalism. But, they do not have to, what they have created is sufficiently haunting to offer valuable perspectives on complex ideas. Lek speaks about Unreal Estate with an opinion that many people might share. He admits to a pro-capitalist point of view, yet also confesses to the necessity of a subjective imagination. This dualistic dynamic is anchored to a desire to be rich enough to join the elites, but because this is not realistic for him as an individual he is happy to confess the power the creation of fiction holds. It’s at this stage that the economic or material norm of the super wealthy is brought into sharp focus. Goodman furthers Lek’s initial answer, ‘There seems to be a Zero as the engine of capitalism … if you look at the spaces the rich live in. The more richer you become the space you live in becomes bigger and emptier.’. Not only is this logical it is already very very visible. Paradoxically, the super well off’s wealth may be invisible (hidden in offshore investments, or in the oligopoly they have amassed!), however the rich are not hiding, they reside in the aforementioned spaces.

What’s more interesting is the notion that architecture is a visual vessel for ideologies. Lisa Banning get’s Lek to describe this through buildings such as Apple’s new headquarters, Campus 2, one Infinite Loop, Cupertino California, and the Barcelona Pavilion designed by Mies van der Rohe, and built in 1929iv. Compared to Apple, which screams ‘Zeros’, in both its vocal support for a hyper-designed ideology, next to the mundane march of additional digits on it’s huge profits. The pavilion is rightfully considered a classic of Modernism, Lek explains how the building has continuously staged differing ideologies (Mostly from other artists). Moreover, this fantastic building is symbolic and important today because of it’s connection to National Socialism. This Bauhaus legend created a building that uses formal geometry to suggest physical planes. It has the worlds first glass walls that display the ambition of it’s author. Mies van der Rohe is inspirational, but his relevance to the Nøtel is not just visual. The architect so famous for being apolitical and possessing a single-mindedness that surfaces perhaps in contrast to his socialist background. Although, his lack of serious resistance is regrettable considering his fame, his story can be appropriated to invite the present into this discussion. A now-time that is explicitly defined by the election of a person who is publicly racist, sexist, overtly aggressive, and derogatory. Let’s hope America’s decision is not one of self destruction.

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– The Nøtel – Apple Campus 2, California, USA

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  • Mies van der Rohe, Sketch for the Barcelona Pavillion
Mr Trump could be America’s fascist boogeyman, he is certainly in favour of unbridled exploitation, manipulation, and the protection of his surnames place, perched in the comfortable nest of billions of dollars. In fact his son-in-law is an equal puppet in this financial superstructure that turns all of us into hypocrites enslaved to the circulation of money. Bizarrely, Trump, Hitler, and der Rohe all share a pre-occupation with buildings. Hitler and Trump in one’s opinion share scarily similar traits, they both are impudent and mask their failure as human beings in psychopathic hatred and machismo. By failure one is referencing specific failures in their lives. For Hitler it was the rejection from art school in Vienna coupled with an idea of the weakening of the ‘Fatherland’ under the Weimar Republic that fuelled his egoism. Trump’s equally narcissistic, and has experienced a slightly different disappointment, that may fuel his distaste for Muslims and Iran. This negative event one speculates as originating in two experiences Trump has had, firstly when his brand of luxury encountered the superior version of his own hotels owned by the Arab rulers. The second experience was the public put down he experienced at the hands of Barack Obama in 2011. This is perhaps the moment that Trump the paradigm shifter came into being. It is easy to dismiss a man such as trump, but being British one is attuned to the power of precedents. Trump is a rather large one.

In fact one more reference to Mies van der Rohe connects this brief discussion on Trump, Hitler, and this architect; a seemingly strange trinity to look at for human origin’s for the Nøtel ‘s ideas. Take Accelarationism, it embraces speed in it’s ant-capitalist theorising. One cliché has always been used to warn of the dangers contained in succumbing to your desires for a better version of what you have: The grass is always greener on the other side. When this is placed next to what van der Rohe is supposed to have said as he began to flee from Nazi Germany, arriving in America, ‘Freedom! This is a kingdom!’ (“Freiheit! Es ist ein Reich!v) you glimpse a very human dilemma: too much desire and you enter utopia, not enough nature (i.e grass) and you enter utopia. The gauntlet this virtual space lays down describes how non-places (or worse?) are pre-destined. This is how Goodman and Lek’s creation should be viewed or read; a masterful play on a potential structure made from dystopia. Therefore when the Nøtel a Shanghai based state-owned hospitality enterprise, and it’s zero-star™ range of luxury hotels opens, you enter. In the lobby one is confronted by a very important idea, that is key to a full understanding of this accelerated Accelarationist architecture. The miss use of the commons? FALC (Fully Automated Luxury Communism) is the belief that robots not humans will work in the future, so it could be said to be a post-work theory. Seeing the frequent habit of Capitalism to automate labour, to remove the human as a productive force generates a demand for everything to become automated, and then followed by common-ownership over all things.

The Nøtel brilliantly showcases ultra-pertinent concepts using a narrative; a scientific fiction that in an apparently neutral way takes this concept of FALC and openly misreads it. Hence why there are no actual human beings in this Hotel the inversion of this concept means that even a society of abundance, itself eventually becomes an automation. Visually the Nøtel bathes in this green nuclear illumination, referencing the strong glow presumably from this structure’s basement’s nuclear power, and the empty depiction of what remains of the human. The holograms directly reference a unique particular quality about digital reality; musicians enjoy an after-life through their music (Spaceape & Dj Rashad R.I.P), however using digital material this becomes an extension of a kind of living. Perhaps, the use of a holographic optical illusion in the holographic reincarnation of 2pac at Coachella 2012 describes something about the nature of immortality. One only becomes immortal when your image as an individual is commonly accessible, in other words it can be owned and reproduced by others. This life after death element of this collaboration really invites philosophical reflection. Observing what British Philosopher Peter Osborne articulates reading Walter Benjamin and Heiddeger, ‘Death is the material meaning of Messianic exteriority … History is a democratic utopia of death.vi’

‘… as a result of the accelerating temporal rhythm, the new itself appears as the ever-always-the-same: ‘the ever-always-the-same within the new’. It is the pure temporal logic of this new social form (the commodity as fetish), the modern ‘measure of time’, that Benjamin detects in fashion (mode). … The projected allegorical reading of modernity as Hell vii.’

These two quotes really emphasise that humans are trapped with a choice between two utopias, and this is a good interpretation of the Nøtel. Although are we really bound by this hotel’s vacuum of human social autonomy trapped in a presupposed essence of temporality? Walls constructed from double negatives, and positive multiplications as sums equate to negatives. Moreover, positive and negative aspects in the hellish modernity of this hotel shrouds the zero at the core of it’s idea in a notion of a strange ruination, maybe all hotels are just ruins that appear new? To summarise one’s attempt to think about this real virtuality (see Slavoj Žižek’s interview The Reality of the Virtual, 2012) one shall solicit the assistance of a great critical analysis of accelerationism. An essay written by professor of Continental European philosophy Patricia MacCormack. In a brilliant dissection of futurity and ethics, MacCormack starts by referencing aesthetics and Steven Shaviro’s Post – Cinematic Affect, apparently the prison has no outsideviii. One can immediately see the importance of MacCormacks thought to the Nøtel, when she invites Deleuze and Guattari’s work into focus. This in turn reconfigures our observation on this virtual architectural zero-driven wonder. To acknowledge the becoming inhuman of manix, nudging one to ignore the Amazon.com-esque drones, and imagine what kind of being may one day exist to occupy the rooms of the Nøtel? Still referencing Shaviro, MacCormak lays bear the ethical value of the Nøtel claiming, art should explore the dangers lurking in futurity.

Lek and Goodman’s project achieves this in abundance. This Hotel sets a standard, ‘These non-spaces are found between the leaps of replacement culture … imperceptible zones that add elements of slowness to accelerationist aesthetics by readdressing the lost time that was never perceived … in-between spaces that are the minoritarian planes of duration.x’ One can not distil into words a better description to describe the lure of the Nøtel. There is so much to consider, but unless one desires to end in the democratic death of a narcissistic utopia. Then much worse could be done than engaging in the cybernetic possibilities this work of collaboration represents. If one does so then the ecological harmony native to MacCormak’s Cosmogenic ecosophy may be a practical approach as our species continues actively creating it’s world. The Nøtel, has plenty of space to host many more interesting points of discussion. For example Orientalism defined as ‘how Asians view fellow Asians’ represented by the presence of Shiseido, which is a real cosmetic company, on some screens in the hotel. In many ways the route to the Nøtel is haunted by the current shadow of A.I and a super intelligence’s role in the potential dark side of automation. This year a Japanese life insurance company sacked thirty four employees in favour of IBM’s artificial intelligence. Let us end on an optimistic materialist utterance. If humanity can slow down acceleration, so as to truly grasp it’s affects. This might lead to us avoiding the absolute death, that is an extinction. Would it not be better to continue with understanding, that zero-marginal cost economies have thus-far not sustained life. We need to ensure that in the future we aren’t resigned to counting the cost of acceleration, nor becoming undead holograms?

‘Child is father to the man,

impressions imprinted years before regrown

clean up your own mind, no memories ingrafted,

repeated recycled

treated like the original is copyrighted, recited.

we can just about see, …

shadows haunting shadows

the Rhizome and sophi

my skin tightly bound

I hear the screeching sound of seagulls

circling with endeavour

flesh strokes with an abstract line become blurred

overwhelming feelings of something you hearrrd

once before

like sound waves battering the shore

storm clouds gather

I remember them well.

(The Spaceape)

 

 

  • The incomplete verse of the poet Spaceapexi. Kode 9, Third Ear Transmission,
  • Sónar+D, Behind the Show: Kode9 & Lawrence Lek present The Notel,published 1st July 2016.
  • Editors: Robin Mackay, & Armen Avanessian, #ACCELARATE: The Accelerationist Reader,Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2014. pg.5
  • Tom Dyckhoff, Mies and the Nazis,Gaurdian, Saturday 30th November 2002.
  • Peter Osborne, The Politics of Time.Verso, London/New York, 1995, Pg. 147
  • Pg 137.
  • Patricia MacCormack, Cosmogenic Acceleration: Futurity and Ethics,in The Internet Does Not Exist, E-Flux Journal, Sternberg Press, Berlin, 2015, Pg. 299
  • Ibid, Pg.302
  • Ibid, pg 304
  • The Spaceape & Kode 9, Third Ear Transmission,Trailer, 2015

 

Make Light Work

 

 light

̸

 

The proverb, ‘Many hands make light work’ happens to also be a truism. Work, laborious, tedious, unrewarding work can be made lighter if shared by more people. Today, the ticking of a technological Einsteinian clock made entirely from photonic components is forming a new dawn. Rising from the automated robotic horizon which seeks to revolutionise our working environments. Pushing so many of us into initially uncertain futures – can we retrain, regain new employment? What exactly am I going to do when the school, supermarket, and factory no longer needs me? Einstein himself needed unrewarding monotonous work. Working in a patent office enabled this scientist to unlock light’s materiality. The discovery of relativity is a good example of how the human always assumes their work to be theirs and theirs only. Which is greedy, selfish, and depressively untrue. This darkness, the darkness that extinguishes the flame of that which should be familiar. Einstein is a good example of the need to make light work. Remember, that the word genius which Albert symbolises; does not always have to be so individualistic, it can refer to a spirit or character. So, when we look at Einstein’s story, of course his own abilities shine bright, yet there was another spectrum of light at work in this physicist’s successful voyage into understanding.

He worked in a patent office dealing with many technical problems related to electrical-mechanical synchronisation. These requests for intellectual property, that were submitted by other people helped Einstein. The stream of documents fed into his thought experiments. Yes, he was the one that wrote the papers, that created the equations, but in tandem to this one should acknowledge the effect of the behaviour of others on the usually solitary system of work.  Therefore, the discovery of the physicality of light led to the harnessing of the secrets of energy. The aim of this writing is then to see the aforementioned discovery as being a metaphor. Thus transforming and transferring the common alienation one experiences at work into a deeply embedded potential for work to radiate with a  light of social solidarity. How is it even possible, that their exist people that steadfastly refuse to see work in this light? Why should an individual’s struggles: the struggles to pay rent, feed your children, garner recognition, and achieve happiness not be viewed as belonging to you, me, and Einstein? Let us then see this social sun’s rays burning brightly in some examples. Both, in real life circumstances and fictional formulations one will describe how work can always be  brighter. Let us return to Einstein’s achievements.

One of the facts about him that is hardly touched on is his socialism, his is one of the most eloquent ways of asking why socialism? Explaining the process of capital domination as a predatory phrase in human development, science’s inability to produce ends only the means, and the prolonged existential crisis humanity has been facing. (1) This is somewhat of a repentance for Einstein because he was one of the signatory of a letter to President Roosevelt persuading him of the dangers of allowing the Germans to accumulate an atomic bomb. Resulting in the creation of the Manhattan Project in the 1940’s, and the subsequent crippling of WW2 Japan. Einstein’s support of Socialism is not just a personal confession of his own part in capital reality, but it reminds everyone today how little we have progressed from Thorstein Veblen’s ‘predatory phase’ of human development. Therefore, against the huge contemporary tsunami of monetary evils one sides with Einstein’s optimism, ‘human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.’(2) Einstein’s socialism would then be one with a deep understanding that humanity constitutes a society at once produced and consumed by the individual. Yet, here resides what is at stake: in the right talons stands Capitalism with its constant internal abuse of workers with a dead weight of devalued labour, and on the left paw rests Socialism in which workers have rights to share, access, and distribute the value of work.

 

‘This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.’ (3)

 

This lightness of work is only possible if today the living population rejects the crude oily market education of Neo-Liberalism, favouring the Renaissance ideal of Umanitas, and finding it in the contemporary German notion of Menschenkenntnis. This intuitive grasp of humankind is not some make believe leftist fantasy. No! Socialism is simply the system which fully supports the fact that you and I are animals living with the name ‘human’, and that now is a period in time simultaneously translated and shared with many millions of others.

The time we call now is like no other time before it. Right now as you the reader read this our species consistent techno-scientific advancement is on the verge of a real paradigm shift. In 1962 when Thomas Samuel Kuhn was articulating just how revolutionary science is, it is likely that he would see today as the epitome of what a shift in the paradigm looks like. (4) The birth of advanced robotic and mechanics shows this to be true. But, as Einstein shows individual brilliance often comes from a brilliant individual, yet this brilliance of the individual is as Marx and Engels understood most clearly either common or social. Since science is social, the community finds itself always in new laboratories.  What remains is that these current scientists, mathematicians, and any worker for that matter makes improvements in human understanding through surpassing what came before. This is done by intuition, collaboration, and sharing what one has been lucky to experience or observe in the work of others. There exist many examples that support the sharing of work, and a subsequent liquidisation of labour value. Firstly, let us look at one which is connected to our initial subject of the science of physics, a source of marvel, and wonder.

Today, this year the international community of researchers are bringing the sun’s internal workings down to earth. They have succeeded in mastering Nuclear Fusion, and this promises clean energy. Fusing atoms together will light up our future cities with much less danger involved. However, in light of these achievements it’s very important to discuss the shadow in which this new technology has had to pass through. In 2011, Japan faced another nuclear disaster. The Fukishima Daiichi nuclear disaster showcased how nuclear decay and harnessing destruction as a form of energy production was never going to be a good idea. However, it should be said that it was a step away from the pollution of coal powered energy and a leap towards clean energy. Those that say human progress is not possible should focus deeply on this progression from skies so black the workers merely glimpsed a blue dimmed daylight to a radical potential to forever power our mass communicating societies. Nuclear history, Japan as an example of what self sacrifice means and the power of nature… society is the only thing that has allowed humans to continue growing when faced with the realities of  our darkest ideology, Capitalism – a system of inauthentic existence.

The pursuit of understanding in physics needs sharing within the wider community.  As we await the completion of the standard model of particle physics one demands that we take this time to dwell and ponder the uniqueness of the light we are about to generate. Some individuals lament the fact that the lights of the urban masses of humanity are polluting the natural beauty of the night sky. This is sadly true, but the engine which powers the fictional spaceship Voyager is one powered by fusion so within one hundred years humans will be star trekking, and the stars we used to see every night will be accessible once more. To reach this point and not have social coherency, not have togetherness, even after our greatest act of creation would be a travesty of such incomprehensibility it is hard to type. In the same way when one hears an esteemed scientist claim that Philosophy is dead and useless, it becomes necessary to stress that this is not helpful if ‘making light work’ is indeed our aim, our desire, our target. Philosophy in all its formulations and mutations has in its calling the subversive necessity to challenge jaded beliefs of its time, and there exists nothing more exhausted then the mantra that progress is only seen in science and technology.

Progression is not a prized possession of the latter it is instead inevitably social. Its this way this brief expression of light and labour can end by asserting, ‘though there is darkness it can not stop the rays of light emitted from the sum of social reality.’ Perfectly understood by the ancient Italian Parmenides.

 

‘Fr. 14 … Shining by night with alien borrowed light [darkly bright], wandering around the earth.’(5)            

 

 

(1) Albert Einstein, Why Socialism? Monthly Review, Volume 9 Issue 01 (May 2009).

(2) ibid.

(3) ibid.

(4) Thomas Kuhn, Structure of Scientific Revolutions, International Encyclopaedia of Unified  Science, University of  Chicago, (1962, 1970)     

(5) A.H. Coxon, The Fragments of Parmenides. A Critical Text with Introduction, Translation, the Ancient “Testimonia” and  a Commentary (Assen – Maastricht, Van Gorcum, 1986), pp. 44 – 92.