In the last article we reviewed the world of Accelerationism, its political flavors and concluded with the hyperstitional Grey Hat Accelerationism (GHx) vector.
By the article’s very nature it covered subjects from a variety of fields downloading more acronyms into the cortexes of readers than found in your average government department’s Kafkaesque documentation.
This however provided an ethnographic ground work for what is to come next.
In this article we will look at how a GHx movement can use contemporary research, theory-fiction and pyschogeography to understand and influence the world around it. These tools allow the GHx proponent to make sense of the competing and overlapping claims of sovereignty, the built world, politics, the written word and most importantly how to interact , deterritorialize, reterritorialize and enhance them.
Following this in future essays we will look at the actual application of these tools in Proof of Concept software and hardware applications.
If contemporary global society is as Benjamin Bratton argues an accidental megastructure distorting our Westphalian models of sovereignty we must learn not only how to build within it and upon it but also how to hack it.
Before drilling into this explanation of the megastructure a recap is required on Accelerationism’s political forms. Following this we will explore how GHx by returning to a starting point of the Ux or more strictly speaking a Ccru state can aim to nudge developments in a more favorable direction.
[Rx, Lx, Ux]
The CCRU’s fusion of disparate elements included texts by Deleuze and Guattari , cyberpunk and science fiction references, films such as Blade Runner and Apocalypse Now, and jungle and rave music. – Eugene Brennan
Let’s start by looking at the value of array – Rx aka Right-Accelerationism (sometimes written as R/Acc)
Rx as noted has largely been consumed by NRx. But that needn’t have been the case. A Right-wing path essentially means at least from a contemporary view that Accelerationism will be fit to a Right-wing narrative or be channeled from a Right-wing perspective.
Ax + R -> Rx
Here the group in question takes Accelerationism as a separate entity and attempts to fit it to pre-existing Right-wing constructs with the aim that Accelerationsim can help to bring around some Right-wing end goal, for example a technologically advanced enthological, Libertarian or civic-nationalist state.
This is in contrast to:
R -> Ax -> Rx
Where there is an assumption that existing Right-wing movements will bring about something resembling Accelerationism as an emergent property of their politico-economic system.
To summarize in the former case Accelerationism is something alien and external fit to an existing construct and in the later case it is an emergent property of the construct.
You’ll often see in online debates that the term ‘Right’ can broadly take two definitions if we place each at opposite ends of a Right-wing spectrum. Right-wing used in the context of social/collective-identity group based around nationalism or similar cultural ties or Right-wing used in the context of economic theory (and personal freedom) such as Libertarians, Anarcho-capitalists or classical Liberals would be familiar with. The second grouping may actually be in opposition to the former group on the idea of social collectivism, marriage, aspects of economics and the role of the state.
As this is a spectrum it does not also preclude some overlap of these two forms and this appears to be especially true in the somewhat chaotic Alt-right and NRx movements. The recent article on Murray Rothbard – The Forgotten Man in The Baffler touches upon this within the context of modern US politics.
True, Trump may not be a man of ideas, but his presidency and political style were imagined by one man: the libertarian economist and philosopher Murray N. Rothbard, who died in 1995. Not long before his death, Rothbard rejoiced when he saw in the emergence of David Duke and Pat Buchanan, in 1992, his long-held vision for America’s right and concluded that what was needed was more of the same
– The Forgotten Man – John Ganz, The Baffler.
We can argue therefore in the case of NRx it would be leaning to the former of our two equations giving us:
Ax + R -> NRx
That is – Accelerationism is fit to existing Right-wing narratives (in somecases as a counter-narrative to Lx). This meaning Accelerationism is separate and has been adopted by elements of the Right to form NRx, a fusion in essence.
So, to briefly summarize: R/ACC (Right Acceleration/Neo-Rx) is borne out of the reactionary fear that the future might not favor the kind of stability and social engineering that its proponents initially thought it would–it is an ideology in which the most fervent xenophilia (love of antihuman capital-AI demon) and xenophobia are cobbled together haphazardlly. It is an ideology of an aging speedfreak who fears pulmonary embolisms.
– Preliminary notes on Acceleration and the Body, hypostition blog.
This echoes the thoughts from above of collections of Right-wing groups and ideologies attempting to fit accelerating capitalistic changes (antihuman capital-AI demon) into a mold they attempt to control (through neo-cameralist states or similar).
Turning to our second equation it seems to be much rarer within the Accelerationist world although Libertarian/classical Liberals do seem to have found a home amongst the Futurism/Singularitarian movement. Here some argue that by removing government controls and similar, technology will flourish and bring about a Singularity.
So of course then the term Rx has to be associated with one if not both of the above equations in a political context otherwise calling it Right-Accelerationism would make little sense. We’d be better off referring to it as Unconditional-Accelerationism (U/Acc) if devoid of a political context which is what Vincent Garton’s piece Unconditional Accelerationism as antipraxis touches on.
With this in mind the work of Ccru, Land et al in the 1990s is thus much closer to Ux (or Ux is much closer to them perhaps being the better statement) in that it used writings from both sides of the spectrum (and non-political writings too) to understand the phenomenon even if ostensibly some of its seeds came from a Marxist background and drew heavily on Deleuze.
Its members of course having read Marx, through Deleuze and Guatarri, H.P Lovecraft, Steve Gibson and Philip K Dick had an eclectic number of influences from across political and fictional spectrums which can be witnessed in their writings.
Meshing together fiction, number theory, voodoo, philosophy, anthropology, palate tectonics, information science, semiotics, geotraumatics, occultism, and other nameless knowledges, in these pages the incomplete evidence gathered by explorers including Burroughs, Blavatsky, Lovecraft, Jung, Barker, J.G. Ballard, William Gibson, and Octavia Butler, but also the testimony of more obscure luminaries such as Echidna Stillwell, Oskar Sarkon, and Madame Centauri, are clarified and subjected to systematic investigation, comparison, and assessment so as to gauge the real stakes of the Time-War still raging behind the collapsing façade of reality.
– Urbanomics – Description of Ccru writings from 1997 – 2003
However the Ccru had no official specific political alignments as a group as far as we can discern but was channeled from a Left-wing origin (Deleuze) as Nick Land mentioned in a recent interview with syntheticzero.net:
The original revival of accelerationism in the English speaking world comes about with the recapitulation of CCRU’s take-up of Deleuze and Guattari’s recapitulation of Nietzsche’s accelerated process. In Deleuze and Guattari there’s an explicit invocation of going in the direction of the market. At the origin, the CCRU was pushing this orientation in advance of a word accelerationism having yet been formed, which was done by a critic later. It was a Left position, because it was articulated by Deleuze & Guattari as an anti-capitalist political strategy. I don’t think CCRU was revisionist about that. Deleuze and Guattari’s accelerationism as the way to accelerate capitalism to its death was also CCRU-phase accelerationism. There was a suggestion that it came from the Right, because at that stage of its articulation it’s impossible to differentiate Left and Right Accelerationism.
– Nick Land, Interviewed at syntheticzero
As Land rightly points out however if your logical end point is to accelerate capitalism to bring about its end, then the policies and governmental structure you would support would be those which would maximize the efficiency of capitalism. This would bring to mind then political constructs from the Right, especially those that fit within the Right-wing economic paradigm discussed above.
So this brings us back full circle to the point where we can argue that Ccru was really without a specific political alignment as to realize Deleuze’s end-point you’re mixing across political spectrums until it becomes a blur.
Post-Ccru however as explored in the previous article some members of the collective went on to form more concrete Left-wing aligned interpretations (and Land moved to the Right).
At this point we see these individuals and others incorporating Accelerationism into a Left-wing movement of types, rather than being one of many voices explaining what we have come to know as Accelerationism as an emergent state of capitalistic systems. This new state of attempting to form some kind of praxis i.e adopt Accelerationism as part of existing Left-wing organization as we noted in the last article comes to life in the later half of the first decade/beginning of the second of the 2000’s – for example Srnicek, Williams, the work done at Goldsmiths and #Altwoke.
Here the argument is broadly that Accelerationism is this alien system that can be harnessed by capitalism but also by some other form of Left-wing political-economic construct. Therefore it should be adopted by Left-wing groups and used to channel a post-capitalist world. This world is essentially one of post-scarcity, an end to ecocide and a radical re-thinking of the concept of work. One also has to assume it ends in some form of post-human world to?
Thus we see the equation applying to these Left-wing groups.
Ax + L -> Lx
The next case is what we would think of as more traditional Marxists. Those that believe the accelerating returns of capital will force the system to eat itself, collapse in revolution and give birth to a pre-planned (as in built on the ideas of Left-wing economists and theorists) post-Capitalist state i.e. Communism. This has been termed as True-Left Accelerationism in the Meta-Nomad piece providing an overview on the various strands of Accelerationist thought.
The equation we could use then to describe this would be:
L -> Ax -> (T)Lx
Some opponents of both forms of Lx would argue that either of these systems would collapse prior to being truly-realized and capitalism would regenerate/re-assert itself thus leading to an Unconditional or Right Accelerationist future once again. The argument would continue that as Accelerationism is a by-product of capitalism which in turn is an emergent system, it is a constantly re-emergent entity.
If Ux then is arguably a continuation of the works of the 90s using the insights of multiple fields to understand the exponential change technomics is undergoing, then the manner it takes is one of a hands off approach. It would appear that it’s not a case of actively speeding up the Accelerationism process, but one of watching it unfold. It takes the position that the human is no longer at the center of the equation but an input, merely part of the User class. That politics is largely window dressing.
It is thus the study/recognition/acceptance of Accelerationism as a emergent property with an attitude/spirtuality of what will be, will be – an anti-praxis.
Anti-praxis is a mantra central to the nihilist chic of U/ACC. This idea of “letting go” and letting deterritorialization run its course is curiously theological..
– Preliminary notes on Acceleration and the Body, hypostition blog.
Where GHx contrasts with Ux then is as stated before its attempt to nudge or better yet hack the direction and constructs of an Accelerationist future without trapping it into the confines of traditional Right or Left wing politics or adopting a nihilistic stance of unconditional acceleration.
In a world where the Westphalian system is breaking down and Users have multiple identifies and are subject to multiple intersecting and disjoint borders, standard political solutions seem to break down in concert.
Thus GHx uses tools from both sides of the spectrum and those with no political affiliation at all to cope with this new state.
A question that will be asked though is – how will this jacking, hacking and cracking happen? First we need to understand how the world will be viewed through a GHx lens. For this we need to turn our attention to The Stack.
Platforms don’t look like how they work and don’t work like how they look. – Benjamin H. Bratton
Benjamin J. Bratton’s book the The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty is a tour de force of the current planetary computational megastructure human society has conjured up. It guides the reader through each layer of this megastructure which has been described in a TCP/IP protocol stack inspired format.
A brief video overview of the Stack can be found below.
For those interested in a more in-depth presentation you can find it here.
Bratton’s Stack contains multiple layers those being Earth, Cloud, City, Address, Interface and User. Throughout the rest of the piece when referring to one of these layers I will italicize the word.
At the Earth layer we find many substrates where creatures such as the oozing monster of oil, manifesting itself in the megastructure as a source of vehicular energy (supernaturally expressed in Negarestani’s book Cyclonopedia) exist. The Earth layer feeds the Stack via its resources of oil, precious metals, natural gas and so forth.
At the atmospheric level yet occupying a place lower in that Stack than some of the surface objects of the Earth at the City layer is the Cloud. This is no Cirrus, Stratus or Cumulus but a seething mass of bits, radio waves, electrons and cooled server rooms. It’s the tendrils of fibre optic that creep across the pacific floor – Cthulhu’s tentacles and tentillum manifest. Here laptops, desktops and mobile device form extra peripherals for globe spanning computational systems that conflict and merge with existing nation states.
Following the Cloud we traverse our way up to the City layer. Spires of glass reaching to the sky. Traffic choked streets shrouded in a fog emanating from within the black corpse of the sun’s gaseous immolation. Boilers burning with the ointment of the Naphtanese. Here urban spaces are opened and closed to different User groups and architecture becomes a computational and physical building block.
This is followed by the Address layer. Beyond the mere cartographic carving up of the planet in three dimensions, the scír, country, bailiwick or continent everything becomes addressable as everything is computable or computing. Some buildings may become untethered from their physical address, haunting a space between past and present. Paradoxical ships of Theseus mapped to 32-bit and 128-bit address spaces.
The penultimate layer is occupied by the Interface. The world of the GUI, semiotics, semantics and mechanisms to map the lower levers of the Stack in a fashion that the User can work with. Switches, buttons, sensors, screens, doors, portals and beacons provide examples of these interfaces providing a narrative for how the User commands and is commanded by the Stack around them.
Finally we come to us but not solely occupied by us, the final layer, the category of agent referred to as the User. The human, the AGI, the robot, the self-driving car, the Artilect and Cyborg.
This Stack’s manifest destiny seems to have come about thanks to a phase shift at the beginning of the age of the microprocessor. K-dawn if you will.
The seventh decade of the 20th Century – the decade of the birth of the stack and The Stack. This is the world where Accelerationism’s unwitting incubators unleashed Adam Curtis’ Hypernormalization. The radical transformation and de-territorization of the world by a technomic elite. Banks, computers, technocrats, the genesis of neo-China. A post ’68 world.
For GHx The Stack in manuscript form is a a manual and atlas of the world . Most users passively interact with the stack or build upon it, GHx will seek other mechanisms to manipulate it.
GHx: Interactions with The Stack via [Psychogeography, Hyperstitions, Text, Technology]
[Psychogeography] the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals – Guy Debord
The origins of psychogeography can be found in the work of the Letterist International, a precursor to the Situationist International. Ivan Chtcheglov the Franco-Ukrainian political theorist can be seen as the individual who brought the concept to the Left bank via Unitary Urbanism. This was followed by Guy Debord championing it through his writing and the Letterist and Situationist groups of whom is was a leading member.
Developed upon the ideas of Dada, surrealists, Alfred Jarry and the works of Charles Baudelaire, Debord and Chtcheglov conjured up ideas such as the dérive and non-euclidean approaches to architecture (which for many may bring to mind the works of M. C. Escher).
We see some of these ideas that were briefly enumerated above bleeding through into the Meta-modernist take on the world and realized in the refactored formats of New-Urbanism and the unconscious adoption of Blade Runneresque Neo-futurist architecture – where life mimics some of the urban-futuristic aspects of cyberpunk fiction.
As Land hit upon (consciously or not) with his phrase “Neo-China arrives from the future” aspects of China have come to resemble the work of Philip K Dick. A fusion of the future and present incarnate in the 21st Century.
Psychogeography operates within Bratton’s Stack on multiple layers but can primarily be experienced at the City and Interface layers as both a study of its psychological impacts on the User and as a mechanism for hacking several layers of the Stack via the Interface layer.
The term psychogeography itself could be imagined as the set of alternate Protocol Data Units (PDU) that pass information between layers of the Stack, from User and City via Interface and Address layers and then down the Stack and back up to another User experiencing the hack via an Interface. It provides a User defined mechanism for how each layer can interact (often bypassing existing mechanisms) pulling tools from the psychogeographic tool box including the dérive and culture jamming.
An example of this in action can be seen with the quasi-fictional work by the Portals of London collective. The Guardian newspaper recently reported on one of their latest psychogeographic experiments regarding a time anomaly with the Woolwich tunnel. The creation of a fictional Interface to aspects of the City layer.
The Guardian described it as follows:
It’s a great example of the blurring of fact and supernatural fiction, presented as documentary fact.
– Martin Belam, The time anomaly of the Woolwich foot tunnel and other portals of London
The Portals of London team had documented a strange tale where the foot path tunnel that passes under the Thames at Woolwich posed some time defying affects. Blending fact and fiction together they captured the idea that physical locations within the City can have a fictional attachment (an Interface) that can be interacted with. Although the flâneur knows the affect to be fictional, they can interact with the location via a different vertical pathway through the Stack. One that blends myth and fact via the Interface of a story.
Another experiment that hacks the Address layer by the Portals of London team is the that which looks at the psychic footprint of dead churches, better yet known as “The Church Of All-Corners-Within-The-Wall“.
A (fictional) ethereal church based upon actual historical events, which individuals stumble into and contains the portal like property (one of it’s many fictional Interfaces) to exit them in some other part of London’s warren of roads, courtyards, streets and alleys. This phantom like building being untethered from a physical address (a mungeably strange relationship between Address, City and User) is neither in the present nor past. Neither real or fictional. Some strange combination of all four states.
And through websites such as this we see psychogeography has gone beyond merging the physical with the mythic. It can be seen how as a concept psychogeography found its way whether consciously or not onto the Web as cyber-psychogeography.
Cyber-psychogeography can be envisaged as happening in its early years solely within the realm of the Internet. Initially it would have described the world of the Web the “online world” which was separated by physical barriers from IRL (In Real Life). However it now goes beyond mere websites (including those that describe the physical world with their cartographic portrayals of the built environment). It now literally merges the concrete and digital. An intersection exists between cyber-psychogeography and psychogeography. Or perhaps better yet psychogeography has become cyber-psychogeography and the boundaries between the two are torn down.
Areas of the Web have existed that adopt a mirage like physical presence, the terms: address, location and so forth all use the terminology of the built world to describe a spectral place made of bits and bytes. But this mirage is blending with the corporeal. With QR codes and ambient computing impregnating a digital soul to the physical world. API’s connect the physical with the digital. VR overlays the digital onto the physical.
The world of the mobile app has been absorbed into (cyber)psychogeography too as we can see with the following offerings that blend the cellular world with bricks and mortar:
Within the Stack, the sinews and synapses that bring together locations near and far also have a new navigational system forming that allows the physical and cyber to communicate like an interconnected nervous system. This collection of metaphorical synapses, receptors and neurons is known as Ceptr.
And through a protocol of pluggable protocols data can flows from one realm to the other allowing anything to talk to anything. Building’s temperature sensors imparting ADC processed data onto the holochain and triggering actions in an API on the other side of the Neo-Tokyo like City.
And what when ubiquitous computing assigns address space to physical objects and Users can experience a deeper interaction through new Interfaces? Thermostats, kiosks, beacons and augmented reality blend with glass, stone and brick? And when onwards from this, these physical loci linked to other Users on the web via VR’s offerings result in relationships where both physical and digital become indiscernible?
These hypothetical questions allow us to see many possible planes and experiences will open up in the computational megastructure.
What can be ascertained then with cyber-psychogeography is that it guides the User to interact via new Interfaces with the Address, City and so on via mediums that blend fiction and non-fiction. This interaction happens at two levels, the textual level (both material and digital) followed by the physical level.
Closer examination of Accelerationism has revealed how Users within the Stack see an accelerating future unfold via a variety of mediums that refactor the parts of the Stack they operate in. When cyber-psychogeographic texts describe the world and result in self fulfilling prophecies of physical interaction it becomes hyperstitional. When they take the next step and alter the world blending the cyber and physical it becomes hyperreal.
And beyond psychogeography we see other influences that draw upon mixing fact and fiction in the same text to construct a hyperstitional narratives and culture-jamming interactions with the Stack.
An example can be seen with the release of Max Tegmark’s Life 3.0. Tegmark provided a fictional introduction to his non-fiction book. This chapter was published in Nautil as The Last Invention of Man and tells the tale of how an artificial general intelligence can reprogram, enhance and augment the Stack.
Here Tegmark’s Prometheus AI not only self improves, but amongst other plays, plugs itself into Amazon’s cloud services taking over the role of humans in the Mechanical Turk platform. A ghost like User in the Cloud.
Beyond this fictional introduction Tegmark then explores the world of AI in an accessible manner breaking down terminology for the lay reader and investigating the various parts of society an AGI would affect. He then finally moves into the world once reserved for mythology and philosophy to theorize about an AGIs impact on our society. As Yuval Harari notes in the Guardian:
Consequently Tegmark soon leaves behind familiar debates about the job market, privacy and weapons of mass destruction, and ventures into realms that hitherto were associated with philosophy, theology and mythology rather than politics. This can hardly be avoided. For the creation of superintelligent AI is an event on a global or even cosmic rather than a national level.
– Yuval Harari, Life 3.0 by max Tegmark review – we are ignoring the AI apocalypse
Tegmark is not alone with this switch between fiction, factual description and hypothesis within his work.
The Ccru was also known to indulge in blending fact and fiction in both the Sci-Fi/Horror sense but also with conspiracy/hoax like letters written by others but purporting to be about them (did the Ccru really write them one wonders?) as can be seen in CCRU Writings 1997 – 2003 – “Who’s Pulling Your Strings?” chapter.
One mythology that also reoccurs in Ccru texts is that of the lost continent of Mu. The merry band of philosophers out of Warwick were not the only 90’s denizens to experiment with the ideas of Le Plongeon and use them as a mechanism to influence other Users.
During the later half of the 1980’s and first half of the 1990 ‘s The KLF sometimes going by the moniker The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu and inspired by the The Illuminatus! Trilogy books weaved esoteric concepts into their music and art which often included situationist and culture jamming aspects. Here we see evidence of how the Stack can be hacked using audio-visual components to provide a new User Interface.
The discordian and conspiratorial ideas expressed by the writers of the Illuminatus! Trilogy, the antics of the KLM, the Situationists, the wanderings of the psychogeographer and facade of mythology expressed by many Accelerationists can be articulated as further growths of a rhizome dating to the end of the 19th Century. The tendrils having passed through the post-modern philosophers, OULIPO, H.P Lovecraft, futurists and Alfred Jarry back to something of an origin with the symbolists.
All of these groups provide ideas for hacking, annotating, understanding and/or speeding up the emergent Stack. All of these enumerated items can be combined with existing and hyperstitional concepts to amplify their effects.
It’s this area that future essays, code and hardware schematics will examine. However they will go beyond merely discussing, theorizing on influences, individuals, technologies and ideologies but explain how a hyperstitional GHx movement implements these techniques.
In this article we recapped on the world of Accelerationist alignment, passed through the layers of the Stack and then briefly dipped our toes into the world of psychogeography as an explanation for how one might Hack The Stack.
In part 3 of this series of essays we will will look at some of the elements that have influenced both psychogeography and Accelerationism as briefly touched upon above, giving concrete examples of their application in the analogue real world. We’ll break down how their affects worked and discuss how they can be upgraded and slotted into the modern world.
This will lay the ground work for user manuals/Proof Of Concepts/tool development where we will implement these techniques via text, software and hardware in the Cloud, City and Interface spaces.