I Want to be a Real Boy (Part one)

Adrian Ghenie

“If the teacher is only recording videotape, then there is no telepresence at all, and a great deal is surely lost. For example, if risk is important in the learning process, then when the teacher and the class are present together both assume a risk that is not there when they are not interacting – the student risks being called on to demonstrate his knowledge of the subject of the lecture, and the teacher risks being asked a question he cannot answer. If this is the case, then it may mean that distance teaching not only may produce poorer learning opportunities, but it may produce poorer teaching.”
Hubert Dreyfus (On the Internet)

“We will show neurons firing in real-time on August 28th. The matrix in the matrix.”
Elon Musk (Tweet, July 2019)

“I give you the secret of secrets.… All of you, look at your life in a mirror and you see Death at work.”
Jean Cocteau (said by the angel in Orphee, 1950)

There is an enormous swell of enthusiastic interest in, and belief in, Artificial Intelligence (AI). Now I wrote before about transhumanism and game theory and the political opportunism behind these movements (if that’s what they are) but I wanted to delve more deeply into what the attraction is, not just the marketing of this junk, but the deeper and perhaps previously latent pull such topics have on people.

It is interesting that the best critique of AI was written way back in 1978 by Berkeley Proffessor Hubert Dreyfus. I actually met Dreyfus at a party once and exchanged maybe two words. But Dreyfus is a Heidegger scholar among other things. And what is sort of fascinating is that Heidegger studies lend themselves so well to understanding the authoritarian mystifications of AI.

Victor Man

“Early Judaic/Hebraic Jewish writings dating back to about 5700 years BCE discuss thenepesh when referring to ‘me’ or ‘I’ or ‘instinct’; leb when referring to ‘heart’, ‘bosom’ or ‘morality’; ruach when referring to ‘breathe’ or ‘wind’; and neshamah when referring to ‘intellect’ and ‘awareness of God’, respectively (MacDonald, 2003). The meanings of the words are dependent on the context in which they are used, and the meanings may vary from quite literal to figurative; for example, nepesh can mean ‘wanting to have a drink’, or it can mean ‘one’s own freely chosen desire’. What is quite evident, however, is that these words also refer to the intellect and cognitive abilities of people, and thus reveal an awareness and description of the ‘inner’, which is hidden from others.”
Sandra Therese Baker (An Examination of Wittgenstein’s Approach to the Mind-Body Problem, Doctoral paper, University of South Africa)

I was recently discussing the Padua Playwrights Festival with Guy Zimmerman (https://soundcloud.com/aestheticresistance/podcast-22) and it reminded me of the teaching aspect of that festival, and the saturday readings where students had their
work read and discussed. The *presence* of the teachers, which included Irene Fornes and Murray Mednick, John O’Keefe, and myself, was hugely important, and at times perhaps more important than exactly what was said. It has also occurred to me that I learned more from communal dinners and cooking than I did from anything else. For in such contexts a young writer begins to learn what being an artist might mean.

Michael Levin, photography.

“Take as a starting point the “mechanical philosophy” that reached its apogee in the 17th century: the idea that the world is a machine of the kind that could be constructed by a skilled craftsman. This conception of the world has its roots in common sense understanding, from which it drew the crucial assumption that objects can interact only
through direct contact. As is familiar, Descartes argued that certain aspects of the world-crucially, the normal use of language-lie beyond the bounds of mechanism. To account for them, he postulated a new principle; in his framework, a second substance, whose essence is thought. The “unification problem” arose as a question about the interaction of
body and mind. This metaphysical dualism was naturalistic in essence, using empirical evidence for factual theses about the world-wrong ones, but then, that is the rule.”

Noam Chomsky (Language and Nature)

The problem with AI stems, still, from that 17th century notion of the brain as a machine. And machine and engineering metaphors still persist in everyday speech about this topic. Though some of that is now replaced with game theory jargon. Now I’m not really qualified (nor does a blog post have room or scope) to go into great detail about the mathematics involved or the neuroscience. But what interests me more is the psychology and the social implications of the delusions about AI.

“Thus the view that the brain as a general-purpose symbol-manipulating device operates like a digital computer is an empirical hypothesis which has had its day. No arguments as to the possibility of artificial intelligence can be drawn from current empirical evidence concerning the brain. In fact, the difference between the “strongly interactive”
nature ofbrain organization and the noninteractive character of machine organization suggests that insofar as arguments from biology are relevant, the evidence is against the possibility of using digital computers to produce intelligence.”

Hubert Dreyfus (What Computers Can’t Do)

Charmion von Wiegand

The trend today in psychology is to see the human as an information processing machine. In other words akin to a computer. I have written before, a lot actually, about the evolution and effects of instrumental thought. It has had and clearly continues to have a pernicious effect on culture.

“The word Information, in this theory, is used in a special sense that must not be confused with its ordinary usage. In particular, information must not be confused with meaning.”
Walter Weaver (The Mathematical Theory of Communication)

Before going further mention should be made of Giulio Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory. And all the same problems are instantly evident. There are, I think, five basic axioms to ITT. The second of which goes like this.

“Composition: Consciousness is structured: each experience is composed of multiple phenomenological distinctions, elementary or higher-order. For example, within one experience I may distinguish a book, a blue color, a blue book, the left side, a blue book on the left, and so on.”

This is not a description of experience. This blue book *I* experience is not just a blue book. Even if *I* don’t know what the book is (the Bible or Trump’s The Art of the Deal) the experiential sensual consciousness of a *blue book* is infinitely deep and is also both instant and delayed. There is an unconscious relationship to the book, and this is not even to discuss the color blue or the language I employ in narrating to myself the idea or concept of book. Now if Tononi means all this by *phenomenological distinctions*, I think we are immediately running into a problem. For this is not *multiple*, it is almost infinite and it is fluid. And the phenomenologists, like Husserl, spent a good deal of time examining the way anticipation played such a crucial role in translating perception. How we fill in the background and sometimes even the foreground, to what we see and hear and feel. One of the problems for AI theory in general is mimesis. For mimesis is both body and thought. There is also the problem of time. And it strikes me that all AI comes up against the problem of time. And it may be that some AI theorists are looking to find simply a sliver, a flash, an ephemeral *something* that can, maybe, be called intelligence. If AI true believers imagine a time when machines (sic) can make decisions and evaluate on their own, I wouldn’t disagree. But that is not consciousness, nor is it really thought. It is a high end data processing. Those decisions are built on programming.

The narrative is: the ultimate servant who then becomes master. I suspect this is the fable AI techies create for themselves.

David Benjamin Sherry, photography.

“…there is either a stream of sounds or there is meaningful discourse. The meaning is not produced from meaningless elements, be they marks or sounds. The stream of sounds is a problem for physics and neurophysiology, while on the level of meaningful discourse, the necessary energy processing has already taken place, and the result is a meaningful world for which no new theory of production is required nor can be consistently conceived.”
Hubert Dreyfus (ibid)

Le Aventure di Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi. 1892 Illustration by Enzo Mazzanti.

This is related, in a sense, in Wittgenstein’s notes on colour.

“ I see in a photograph (not a colour photograph) a man with dark hair and a boy with slicked-back blond hair standing in front of a kind of lathe, which is made in part of castings painted black, and in part of smooth axles, gears, etc., and next to it a grating made of light galvanized wire. I see the finished iron surfaces as iron-coloured, the boy’s hair as blond, the grating as zinc-coloured, despite the fact that everything is depicted in lighter and darker tones of the photographic paper.
But do I really see the hair blond in the photograph? And what can be said in favor of this? What reaction of the viewer is supposed to show that he sees the hair blond, and doesn’t just conclude from the shades of the photograph that it is blond?–“

Ludwig Wittgenstein (On Colour)

A neuroscientist wrote about the meaning of words, of inferring the meaning based on context. “If a word has multiple meanings, you infer the meaning of that word for that particular sentence depending on what was said earlier,” said Jain, a PhD student in Huth’s lab at UT Austin. “Our hypothesis is that this would lead to better predictions of brain activity because the brain cares about context.” (Science Daily, 2019)

Now, this kind of research may have some practical medical uses, I don’t know. But the fact remains, philosophically speaking, that this reductionist discourse and it is symptomatic. *Meaning* is not a thing. Its not even simply context based, nor is it even often simply practical. There was a philosophical presumption that meaning related or pointed to something exterior to the proposition. Or, something *in* the mind. Wittgenstein decried this tendency constantly throughout his later work. (see language-games and family resemblance). He said philosophers craved generalization.

Olivier Debre

“The brain has to continually sense the world in real time in order to interact with it. The perceptions only last a short time and are mostly forgotten afterwards. “
Louis Savain (The World Is its Own Model or Why Hubert Dreyfus Is Still Right About AI)

But all of this is serving as a preface of sorts to the discussion of why such phantasmogoric science and corporate motivated pseudo science are so popular, why the idea of the singularity, for example, has such an attraction. And while people wring their hands and clutch their pearls, in print and in person, about the *dangers* of AI and future robot overlords, beneath that is a clear erotic current and a kind of desire. Running through all these theories is an idea, too, of both people and the world as things. It is a ‘thinginess’ cosmology and it ignores birth and death and love. It is the quintessential instrumental tendency of post Enlightenment society, and a tendency that has accelerated in advanced capitalism.

One one other thing needs saying quite clearly. The ruling class is depraved and extreme wealth makes individuals inherently sadistic (I believe). Elon Musk might tell you the neuro-link in the pig has a future to help Parkinsons patients or ADL, which may or may not be true…but of one thing we can be sure: that implant, or others like it, can and will be used to torture and render immobile or stupid all those in the great surplus populace out there.

Pierre Tal-Coat

It seems over just the last several years that Androids have displaced or even replaced zombies as pop culture fetishes. And it is worth considering the relationship between androids and zombies, but also androids and cinema or TV. And by extension the relationship of AI to film and TV. There is a machine to machine dynamic here. And one can go back to the Pinocchio story (which in the original story, by Carlo Collodi, circa mid 1800s, and who intended it as a cautionary tragedy) to see something of the desire for the machine to become human. In Pinocchio the lament is “I want to be a real boy”. But the narration is that of the insensible. I will return to this, but there are two other branches of discussion worth mentioning, in regards to androids; the uncanny and deja vu. Stefano Micali has an excellent paper on Deja Vu that I want to quote here.

“Allow me a short remark about this aspect. If we consider this interpretation as valid, we should have a clear proliferation of déjà vu in our contemporary world. Our globalized society is certainly characterized by the reduplication of the same anonymous structures and matrices in different contexts. Marc Augé introduced the notion of non-places into the terminology of anthropological studies for referring to anonymous and homogenous forms of space (Augé 1992). Non-places have a very similar, if not identical, structure, the same colors, same materials, and so on, by fulfilling the same function. The proliferation of these non-places (in Marc Augé’s sense) should have as consequence the increase of the sense of déjà vu, if this explanatory paradigm is right. In light of this interpretation, a familiarity with virtual reality could contribute to the dissemination of déjà vu as well. In this regard, it is interesting to consider the following case reported by Brown: A couple enters a hotel room, and against a background of spooky music, the moderately distressed man says ‘I’ve been in this room before!’ His nonchalant woman partner replies ‘What?’ to which he emphatically repeats ‘I’ve been here before!’ The woman quickly solves his quandary by reminding him that ‘You took the virtual tour on Hotels.com.’ While this serves as a great relief to the man, it illustrates how readily such information may become planted in our experiential memory at a shallow level, and then subsequently connected with the real situation that is playing out in front of us, causing momentary memorial distress. (Brown 2004: 43)”
Stefano Micali (The Repetition of a Singularity: Phenomenology of Déjà Vu. Philosophy Today, vol 62)

Enzo Cucchi

Micali quotes Herni Bergson is another paper on the same topic..the quote from Memory and The Present and False Recognition.

“Our actual existence, then, whilst it is unrolled in time, duplicates itself all along with a virtual existence, a mirror-image. Every moment of our life presents two aspects, it is actual and virtual, perception on the one side and memory on the other. Each moment of life is split up as and when it is posited.”

I have described this as re-narrating to ourselves. It is, in the Adorno sense of the term, a mimetic action. The sense we make of perception is tied into not just language but narration. Intelligence then is at its base a kind of creative state. Our perception presents itself as narrative. At this point is probably a good idea to note the difference between practical robotics and certain technical advances in many fields, in medicine certainly. Its funny though when people imagine androids (and Hollywood bears this out) they imagine sexy female androids for the most part. In the fantasies of AI this is still true. One does not imagine the robotic lawn mower left out in your back yard as someday writing its own code and rebelling in a robot insurrection. But the medical tech and the wholesale robotics that have replaced so many workers are not what is being discussed in AI conventions. What is, often, discussed is surveillance and control technology. One seems to swing either to the ‘basic pleasure model’ of android (per Philip K Dick and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) or to the most efficient eavesdropping program, or lip reading, or some other so called *soft AI problem*….being able to predict movement in a crowd that might signal a fight. The problem with soft problems such as this is that mostly humans can still do this stuff better. Perhaps not in the same scope or magnitude, but such problems are also difficult to verify.

Leah Sobsey, photography.

Consciousness is impervious to explanation. And part of the reason it, seems anyway, impervious, is because we die. Mortality (and under this rubric is time) washes across all aspects of the imagination. Experiences of deja vu, of the uncanny, of the unspoken are also tied into the fact of death. But I will return to this.

“As we have already mentioned, in déjà vu what is new is impossibly experienced as being already known. What is new is the differential and surprising limit between the present and the future. According to Husserl, this mobile limit, termed “primary impression”, is an originary creation. In déjà vu the irruption of the primary impression is felt as already lived – as if one already knows which direction things will take. Here the primary impression appears to be old. The whole subjective experience assumes the character of a mirage. Also, for this reason, déjà vu is most often associated with a phenomenon of derealization ( ) The feeling of pre-existence is linked to the “oldness” of the primary impression lived as a repetition of what cannot be located in past time, but can be anticipated. A common and fatal mistake in the investigation of déjà vu is that this vague anticipation is traced back to memory. According both to common sense and to our metaphysical tradition there is a necessary connection between the possibility of intuitively fulfilled anticipation and memory. The general anticipation of a particular situation implies a previous experience.”
Stefano Micali (The Anticipation of the Present)

Robert Gotzfried, photography.

I quote this because I think it is important to note how philosophy treats psychology, for one thing. When I was first trying to educate myself (since I never went past high school) I was living in NYC. I was surrounded by pretty smart people, radicals, revolutionaries and artists. And we all read, all the time. I actually sat one summer and read Husserl’s Internal Time Consciousness. What did I understand? Perhaps not much, I cannot honestly say. But also probably more than I realized at the time. I read Merleau-Ponty after that, I remember. But the point is that the complexity of human existence is so cosmically beyond the AI techies that that itself is hard to comprehend. And the current wave of AI fantasy is the product of a culture that has stopped reading (unless technical manual of some kind) and a deeply indoctrinated culture. I don’t think its at all a reach to see the causality between sub literacy and the dreams of machine supremacy.

One of the take aways from my immersion in AI reading this last few weeks is that this, like game theory and transhumanism, feels like a male province. And the android fantasy (which includes most of AI) can be seen as an expression of the desire for submission to the machine. AI theorists (sic) want the singularity, they want computers to make all the important decisions (we are not worthy). All those fake warnings they utter are just thinly disguised valentines to our future cyborg masters. The appeal of the android is linked to the sense of worthlessness in the people predicting their triumph. There is more than a little sexual masochism in all this worship of a machine sex bot. The AI theory of a singularity is more or less pure fantasy. No matter the enormity of the numbers crunched, the data processed, the equation does not reach “consciousness”. Not ever.

Western society, and in particular the U.S. and UK have seen a gradual but inexorable decline in literacy …but more significant perhaps … a deskilling of the entire population. When workers could actually make a chair, they had some grasp of logical connections, of scale and legitimacy in the natural world. But those workers are gone. Today there is the abstract capitalism, an almost theology of digital capital, that appoints experts to all fields and that suffers no dissenting opinions.

Lorenzo Lotto (Marsilio Cassotti and Family, 1523)

“Under the radically altered metaphysics of theologized capitalism, market outcomes have become sacred and inevitable. Conversely, humanity and the natural world have been desacralized and defined as malleable forms of expendable and theoretically inexhaustible capital. Even life-sustaining ecosystems and individual human subjectivity are being subsumed under a market rubric touted as historically preordained.
Brazilian Philosopher Eduardo Giannetti characterizes this new market theology as “extremely aggressive and daring” in its relentless effort to impose market rationality on both the natural world and humanity’s archaic brain. The stone faced god of the market does not offer ecclesiastical indulgences. Giannetti describes a resultant crisis in the “psychic ecology” that mirrors the ecological crisis in the physical environment.”

Michael Meurer (Reimagining TINA, June 2020)

The pervasive sense of inauthenticity is linked to these sci fi dystopian narratives and product.

Photographer unknown. Date unknown.

This is a society where therapists and shrinks speak of the rise of patients expressing some version of I am authentic, I am nothing, a nobody, worth nothing. When Terminator 2 came out, this marked the open expression of androids as parents. That theme has been repeated a good many times. The recent Russian sci fi series Better Than Us (with Kirill Käro, the Estonian actor and so side bar…’why does Estonia have so many good actors? Same question vis a vis Belgium? I have no answer) featured sex-droids who rebel. This not terribly far from the UK series Humans. Google Emily Berrington as Niska (in Humans) and then google Paulina Andreeva in Better than Us. You will get the idea. This is the fantasy. Unblinking, child like but slightly nymphomaniacal, gamine-like, long legged, slender, empty, beautiful. Come to think this is the description of a high fashion model. There is also running as a sub text here the idea of sex bot as highly skilled assassin. Once machine sex enters discourse, violence cannot be far behind.

I will coin the term Android Anxiety, and link to it feelings of inauthenticity which are projected onto the obviously inauthentic droid, and serve with a not insignificant degree of castration anxiety and performance anxiety. In fact there is a secondary topic worth a discussion and that is how actors and directors choose to portray the not human android. That in turn leads back to the machine/machine dynamic between camera and android. And it is perhaps the close up that allows for a convincing performance of the non human. There is something like a paradox in there, I think. But the close up is an artificial pov. The CU is also authoritarian, as Godard noted. And so, the non human is betrayed by his or her eyes.

Joel Peter Witkin, photographer.

“Acting has always been about wearing masks, literally or metaphorically; what the android character does is unequivocally demonstrate how disturbing this experience can actually be. It seems to us that the dissociation of mask, face and eyes operated by the android brings forth an unnatural and powerful gaze. According to the art historian Hans Belting ,by having human eyes peer through a synthetic mask, or on the contrary, by having artificial eyes peer through the sockets of anactual human face, “the vivid interaction between gaze and facial expression is disturbed or interrupted” in such a way that the gaze becomes charged with an uncanny force: At that point the gaze, which we can suddenly no longer interpret,acquires an uncanny force that renders us powerless. When we find ourselves restricted to such a gaze, disembodied from the face, we are no longer capable of exchanging glances, an action that belongs to the fundamental experience of our faces.”
João Vitor Resende Leal (Unmasked Androids, Cinélekta 8 Volume 28, numéro 1, automne 2017)

Let me return to death and AI. In Paul Malone’s essay on Von Kleist and marionettes, and on androids and the cyber, he opens with this paragraph…

“Just because Marilyn Monroe is dead doesn’t mean she has to stop making movies.” Thus Salem Alaton, in the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail, heralded the arrival of “Synthespians – computer-generated actors either based on photo scans of actual persons or wholly invented”. In Alaton’s 1996 article – inspired by the film Forrest Gump, and by a television commercial featuring a virtual Marilyn – Stephen Waddell, executive director of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, is quoted as asserting that this development “goes to the issue of replacing performers.”
Paul Malone (Cyber-Kleist: The Virtual Actor as Uber-Marionette)

Sarah Anne Johnson, photography/media.

Androids are probably a creation of a film saturated era. The unconscious as a film reel (per Beller) can be taken further, or more broadly, as the conscious mind is now seeking similarities between screen image and oneself. The screen image does not provide immortality, it provides endless death. A death in the form of mechanical non-humaness. If theatre is a projection (in one sense) of our inner space, as it were, of the empty stage where ur-stories are first recited, an interior stage which is the scene of the crime, then the screen version is the pale reflection of this, one in which we observe our own observation. The screen may or may not achieve that off-stage status that is the bedrock core of theatre, but it does serve (perhaps mostly because of the close-up) as a kind of mental mortuary. Everyone in movies is an android…at least in one sense. But I think its more that in the 20th century, the filmic century, the android is a necessary invention. It comes out of film far more than it comes out of science. In fact AI may be another child of the cinema.

“In utilizing this metaphor of theatre, I hope to shed light on two aspects of psychic activity: the framework or place where the scene occurs, and the characters that play there. The first aspect relates to the economy of the psyche, the second to its dynamic significance. It is up to the ‘I’ to compose with these elements, to maintain meaning and to channel the forces of cathexis. “
Joyce McDougall (Theatres of the Mind)

Joan Mitchell

On screen there is an interrupted cathexis. And there is another question regarding the uncanny and deja vu. Now there isn’t room in this post to explore this too much, but I do wonder, not that deja vu doest not exist on screen (it is MORE prevalent probably) but at the quality of that phenomenon. Has the endless watching of film and TV deadened our sense of forgotten memories? Do people in general care less? Allow me to quote Samuel Weber from an essay on Freud and the uncanny (Psychoanalysis and Theatricality, Parallax 2000)…

“Freud starts in the hopes of making discoveries, but finds himself caught in an infernal repetition, leading back to disreputable figures of desire – figures that,however, share with actresses the quality of being heavily ‘made up’, ‘geschminkt ’, and who offer themselves to be seen, and quite possibly more than just seen. It is the position of the observer that suddenly is called into question by the unexpected repetition: the observer ceases to be a casual passerby and becomes himself a character, open to observation as a possible participant, a potential protagonist. The story has become a scenario, in which the separation of spectator and actor isundercut by a repetition that undermines all simple linearity.”

This is a comment on Freud’s anecdote about an uncanny experience on streets of, probably, prostitution, while in Italy. What is interesting vis a vis androids is the idea of being made up to be seen. For this is intwined with all film culture. Early film footage (see Dawson City, Frozen Time) show people who had no idea what a camera was and hence did not make those infinite subtle adjustments that the contemporary populace make when they know they are being recorded. And then the unexpected repetition. And here, but in short form, I want to return (from a couple postings back) to Deleuze and Repetition and Difference. For I think the entire topic and the energy surrounding AI has two foundations. One is economic and class based. The development of tools of surveillance and domination are going to be marketed as dreams and fantasies, but also as cures of illness and suffering. The second is the, perhaps, unexpected popularity and excitement (and mock controversy) surrounding this research. And that popularity, and more precisely, the form these expressions took and are still taking, are directly related to cinema.

Dove Allouche, microscopic photography.

“It (language) repeats because it (the words) is not real, because there is no definition other than nominal. It (nature) repeats because it (matter) has no inferiority, because it is panes extra panes. It (the unconscious) repeats because it (the Ego) represses, because it (the Id) has no memory, no recognition and no consciousness of itself – ultimately because it has no instinct, instinct being the subjective concomitant of the species as concept. In short, things repeat always by virtue of what they are not and do not have. We repeat because we do not hear. As Kierkegaard said, it is the repetition of the deaf, or rather for the deaf: deafness of words, deafness of nature, deafness of the unconscious. Within representation, the forces which ensure repetition – in other words, a multiplicity of things for a concept absolutely the same – can only be negatively determined.”
Gilles Deleuze (Repetition and Difference)

Artificial Intelligence has repeated the same mistakes, certainly most of them ontological and epistemological, for fifty years. This has in no way deterred the enthusiasm, partly because the economic branch of this phenomenon is accruing enormous profit, but also because the second part is a dream.

“Pleasure and repetition have thus exchanged roles, as a consequence of the instantaneous leap, that is to say the twofold process of desexualization and resexualization. In between the two processes the Death Instinct seems about to speak, but because of the nature of the leap, which is instantaneous, it is always the pleasure principle that prevails. There is a kind of mysticism in perversion: the greater the renunciation, the greater and the more secure the gains; we might compare it to a “black” theology where pleasure ceases to motivate the will and is abjured, disavowed, “renounced,” the better to be recovered as a reward or consequence, and as a law. The formula of perverse mysticism is coldness and comfort ( the coldness of desexualization, on the one hand, and the comfort of resexualization, on the other, the latter being clearly illustrated by Sade’s characters). As for the anchoring of sadism and masochism in pain,this cannot really be understood so long as it is considered in isolation: pain in this case has no sexual significance at all; on the contrary it represents a desexualization which makes repetition autonomous and gives it instantaneous sway over the pleasures of resexualization. Eros is desexualized and humiliated for the sake of a resexualized Thanatos. In sadism and masochism there is no mysterious link between pain and pleasure; the mystery lies in the desexualization process which consolidates repetition at the opposite pole to pleasure, and in the subsequent resexualization which makes the pleasure of repetition seemingly proceed from pain.”
Gilles Deleuze (Masochism; Coldness and Cruelty and Venus in Furs)

Qin Yifeng

I think a much more extensive discussion of Deleuze in relation to this will make up part two of this posting. As I wrote above, this feels a bit like an introduction to a complex topic and much stuff had to be gotten out of the way before proceeding.

A.I. is the broad spectrum fantasmagoric dream of a culture of scientism and resentment. It contains elements of self loathing, and perhaps masochism, but is certainly in any case a product of a screen mediated sensibility. The representations of AI dreams are eroticized and masculine, they cross pollinate with Western capital and the delusions of Imperialism and a great global police state. In this, per Deleuze, the death instinct is about to speak.

Androids are the children of movies. They are the cinematic unconscious made into adolescent masturbatory fantasies. Consciousness was never the goal anyway.

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  1. “One one other thing needs saying quite clearly. The ruling class is depraved and extreme wealth makes individuals inherently sadistic (I believe).”

    I have personal experience of the eerie transformation that otherwise sane… even nice… people go through, sometimes, after an “elevation” of circumstances. A friend who was producing pop records was given a singer to work with and the singer proved to be quite popular and this producer-friend suddenly found himself rather richer, rather quickly. Important detail: it’s my direct experience in the music business in this city/ country that the “hits” are, or were, driven by the look/ personality of the singer. Innovative productions were not, from my experience, driving the German music business from c. 1990 until c. 2010 (the interval during which I was involved). Whereas in the US, say, there were superstar producers who might reign for ten or fifteen years, with half a dozen acts, I noticed that pop producers in Germany worked largely to avoid risking distracting from the natural consumerability of their acts. The productions were often direct steals of proven formulas.

    All to say: this producer-friend’s sudden wealth was very much a gift of the Random Gods who saw this popular singer assigned to my friend’s studio.

    However: I noticed a peculiar change in him almost immediately: he took on the aura of an Ascended Being. He took on the gestures and cadences of “Wisdom,” he became a sudden source of advice on any possible situation, and he began making the amazing claim that “people who aren’t successful aren’t thinking or living properly”. This friend (a trained engineer) was superficially a “scientific type”… but here he was actually espousing the distinctly impossible notion that the “Universe” had smiled on him, deliberately, because he had deserved it. Being a nice guy, this transformation didn’t turn him into a greedy pig… it turned him into a generous (and terribly sententious) “Saint”. This was both amusing and disturbing to me but I generally paid it no mind until, roughly four years later, another friend…

    … an Artist, had a sudden breakthrough: his Art was highly conceptual and rather snarky in an ur-millennial-hipster way and his sensibility clicked with the local Zeitgeist, of the Expat-driven Hipster scene in Berlin… and because his Art was affordable (not more than, say, 20-Euros per piece, back then)… he found himself selling these things, in good numbers, out of dozens of little shops. A pile of money appeared! And my skin actually crawled the afternoon I stood with this Art-Buddy, in a friend’s Atelier in Moabit, and I heard him reproduce, nearly word-for-word, the self-serving nonsense speech on the metaphysics of wealth I’d heard my producer friend spout in the late ’90s.

    Neither human could admit that luck had played a substantial part in their sudden good (but not mind-boggling: neither man made more than, say, 200K) fortune. They each, independently, and identically, reinvented the metaphysical underpinning of The Religion of Wealth: the Rich are special first, then rich next: blessed (noticed/ rewarded) by The Great Spirit (who always carries a checkbook for when It comes across Wondrous Proto-Yuppie hominids so much better than hoi polloi).

    Both men gave me, essentially, an Oscar Acceptance Speech (always found it instructive that people who thank JHVH for an Oscar or Grammy think that the same Super Being who did them that favor wouldn’t lift a finger to airlift a soon-to-be-peeled-alive baby or granny out of Auschwitz). The second time I heard it I was ready for the speech and a Great Row… disguised as civilized discourse (voices weren’t raised but nostrils flared and postures hardened)… ensued. Art Chum pretended to be interested in my counter-view but of course, if he’d really been rich, he would’ve stabbed me with an expensive fountain pen.

    And, again: these were very mild cases of sudden local wealth. So just imagine the daily psychic eugenics-flavored neutron bombs emitted by Fortune 500 fuckers day in, day out, with no old chums left to yell back at them.

  2. AndroidEros says:

    You’re definitely onto something, man. I don’t know how general these things are, sociologically speaking, but from personal experience I can say you’re describing me, and probably a good part of my generation, extremely well. Ending on the note of perversion- you’re on the right track (: ‘Androids are the children of movies’
    Soulless emptiness nothing beneath the mask! Soulless Emptiness nothing beneath the mask!
    I have an unfortunate masochistic sexual fetish-fantasy that I think I was first exposed to through Scooby Doo, that stupid kids show. ‘Cartoons and cereal’

    I hope the one-acts will keep rockin’ over on Aesthetic Resistance… they’re so amazing

  3. John Steppling says:

    thanks man, glad people are digging those.

  4. Regino Robainas says:

    The Struggle is Being Contested

    Paraphrasing Dostoyevsky, if the price of
    is the suffering of one little girl, then keep
    it. And not all ascents have to be arrogant and
    self-centered. Recalling Nietzsche, victory is
    the strongest and most dangerous of medicines. Not
    all science or technology has to be mechanistic and
    reductionist. Many of us have struggled against
    the profit machine and life is still being contested.


  5. Wonderful to hear intelligent conversation and thinking rather than reacting to external conditions placed upon us by our 1% masters of the universe. Indeed AI and all of the futurist images of film has visualized a future for us of infinite technological progress. For me this techno-illogical future is only as deep as the photons creating the images on our screens.

    Kudos on your article in Off-Guardian which linked me here. Some of us on the left who are opposed to this covid lockdown bailout recoupment of failed capitalism are artists and anti-authoritarian/egalitarians that are feeling completely marginalized and alone. Old radicals, real anti-authoritarians, are under the spell of covid-sacrifice-original-sin. They seem accepting of a police state to protect “others” without ever digging deep into the data and facts of the CDC + WHO or the machinations of the WEF’s Great Reset, AI, digital cash, 5G (massive immersion into an ecosystem of RF and surveillance), masking and leashing like a dog, and worst of all, unquestioned acceptance of the elite lies.

    Why has once unstoppable resistance humans folded to a 1% fake-science excuse for the population to self-deploy mutual aid, to only their benefit!, risking the bottom 90% to voluntary self-destruction? It’s truly mind-boggling.

    The only saving grace is, imho, AI will never work. It’s a pipe dream just like mining the moon or colonies on Mars or chips replacing, augmenting, or improving biological functionality. AI is programming for tools under human control, that is is all. AI or it’s products have no skin-in-the-game. Earth is an organic, proprietary, life-cycling dependent evolving ecosystem. Everything else that does not operate under those conditions and capabilities is rendered fodder for recycling within the non-biological elements of Earth. AI and robots may be great bolted to the floor of a factory, sent off for deep space missions or great little algorithm tools for specialized use. But the idea AI can replace humans and human functionality on Earth is pure deadly fantasy of the 1%. AI will implement the will of the 1% while giving plausible deniability for all the negative outcomes. And there will be, as there already are, massive negative outcomes in every facet of human life.

    Which leads me to advocate/point out a solution. Stop going along. Resist, withdraw, disobey, general strike every abomination while collectively designing a solution to catastrophic 1% decision making. We must replace the 1% with 99% collective decision making.

    I urge everyone to revisit Marshall McLuhan’s work in “The Gutenberg Galaxy” and “Understanding Media” where he points out the obvious. If the purpose of technology is to improve the lives, well-being and success of humanity why are we instead accepting technology for it’s own sake, under the unexamined excuse of “progress”? McLuhan’s answer is the observation that each human is seduced and blinded by the superhuman powers conferred by technology. From the wheel to paper maps to mass publishing to power tools to amplification to electrification to digitalization, to screens and virtualization of everything. No pre-development vetting of potential long term negatives or even mitigations after the fact. We now sit, an overpopulated planet, over-resourced, depleted, near exhaustion, industrial toxics everywhere, every natural resource contaminated with only more artificial, exotic, risky extrernalized costs thrown at us as life savers for the rich’s failing capitalism.

    The solution is to replace the current ruling objective of modern societies from Commerce Profits for the 1% to Providing for the Social Needs of Humanity, the 99%. We should not accept any of their commerce decisions which is the purpose of all their decisions. If we did preface the social needs of humanity for all the outcomes of technological developments, like AI, we would all have to be involved in the decision making. Conscious consent and involvement in the purpose of the design of any policy, technology or budget should be our right and responsibility.

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