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<nettime> Elements of the actuality of the vital combat
Ewen Chardronnet on Sat, 9 Jun 2007 19:00:11 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Elements of the actuality of the vital combat

One more text from the "Laboratory Planet" by the Observatory of Evolution.



Elements of the actuality of the vital combat : on nanotechnology and 
the world that goes with it
by the Observatory of Evolution

Today the greatest ignominies exist not because we commit them but 
because we let them happen. They develop inside emptiness./
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities (about 1920)

1) A new genesis

In 1989, at the same time that the ruling Socialists were celebrating
the French Revolution with the greatest possible frenzy, engineers at
IBM managed for their part to design a logo for the company made from
the manipulation of 35 xenon atoms. Since then, and even if it only
represents another step along the road towards the artificialisation
of the world that we are employed to produce, the development of
nanotechnologies has undergone a rapid expansion that would have
seemed frightening if we had not been long used to strive to become
what would soon need to be replaced.

Nanotechnologies open the way to the reconstruction of the world using
reworked elementary entities. In this new genesis all classifications
of existing beings are abolished. Of course the subjective barrier
between the inert and the living will no longer hold true; the same
goes for the barrier between species even more. As for the well-known
immunology barrier which theoretically prevents living organisms
from being infested by foreign bodies, it becomes redundant; the
nanoparticle penetrates into living cells as easily as sugar dissolves
in water. The transgenesis on which molecular biologists are working
will be achieved "naturally?. Animals and machines will merge in
the Megamachine, consolidating the artificially living character
of the social system and the machine character of naturally living
organisms. Last, self-reproducing nano-entities could be used to
create macro-organisms. The last point is a great subject of concern
for the mutants who fear that social life is escaping them while the
neo-mutants (the bolder mutants) overcome this fear and joyfully
accept to become anything whatsoever inside the Megamachine. The
latter, through the dense interconnection of everything inside it,
will resemble a large soup tureen in which all the bodies that have
shed their being will bathe, organised in a magma of extravagant
positions. This is what is called convergence: nano, bio, info et
cognito will form just one matter and one globalised subject.

Given such a vision, it is perhaps vain to try and envisage the
potential risks involved in this new advance in technical engineering;
all of them are present in this extraordinary dilution. With the
definitive disappearance of the order of natural reason, it will no
longer be possible to speak of pollution, a term that used to indicate
that a material element was to be found where, in theory, it had no
reason to be; for example, that a radioactive caesium atom had no
business being in a mushroom or in the encephalon of a child.

?There is loads of free space at the atomic level?; this remark by
Richard Feynman, the illustrious and eccentric physicist (but not to
the extent that it kept him out of the fabulous Manhattan project, in
which the most brilliant Western physicists took part), is celebrated
as an invitation to go and look into the intimacy of matter for
what has become rare in our environment: more space, energy and new
markets. Yet the amount of energy and hydraulic resources needed by
the new industrialisation of matter will soon absorb practically
everything that remains of our macroscopic natural resources (that
is, what people today can touch with their fingers and put in their
pockets). The social and geopolitical tension thus created will
probably make a large increase in security arrangements indispensable.

If the motor of development of nanotechnologies was the blind race for
power that beings, at first sheltered and later enclosed in the social
space, have never managed to hold back, then it is quite natural
that the political, military and economic deciders rush headlong
into this new game of evolution, since their social advancement
does not leave them the option to hesitate. To humans who might
worry about what is happening, the argument of their health will
first be served up again: ?at last we will put a stop to the cancer
epidemic?! And as soon as a particle of a body threatens to go wrong,
a microrobot will enter into action to repair it. The senses could be
considerably improved, corrected or quite simply adapted to what they
are supposed to produce. No body, no digital data, no thought, will
escape from the surveillance and the standardisation administered by
world market rules. From certain points of view, so much the better:
the traffickers in precious woods, threatened species and above all
new-born children had better watch out. To sensitive souls who, faced
with this worse-than-Orwellian situation, are seized by a new, deeper
vertigo, the neo-mutant ideology will explain that, after all, this
evolution is only continuing what mankind has always done and, in any
case, no one can do anything about it, which although not definitively
proven, is all the same quite likely and in any case would need to be
disproved. This last task could well be quite tricky, which will not
stop some people finding it pleasant.

/Without our animals ? which will be taken away to be burnt because they 
don't have microchips ? we'll be nothing./
A sheep-farmer, overheard one evening early in 2006 at the autonomous 
Domaine de Matens

2) Reason abused

The critique of progress is achieved ? and has been for several
millennia ?, that of the economy of production and of liberalism more
recently, but no critique, not even the best recent social analyses,
has been able to alter the direction of social development ? which
confirms in passing that until now what has driven this development is
certainly not desired or driven by human reason.

The time has passed when we could ask ourselves if technological
revolutions were good or bad, if science could be useful to
mankind; each technical development is catastrophic. To plead the
cause of progress, we can no longer say that it has maintained
the demographic situation of human beings in an extraordinary
way since this success has been transformed into a nightmare
and the mutants are now calling for a cull of human beings (cf.
http://mutation.ifrance.com/hominisation.htm). It is still possible ?
despite the multiplication of natural catastrophes ? to celebrate the
fact that modern mankind no longer has to fear bad weather, predators,
and many physical constraints like long distance travel or the
weakness of his own body. That these improvements have confined human
beings within social arrangements that each day are more controlled
and supervised, that an exchange, which is the basis of life, no
longer takes place between humans and the natural environment, but
between herded humans and social monitors, none of this should
disturb overmuch the mutants that we are. To prolong the progressist
plea it might also be recognised that technology has brought about
a whole series of emancipations of which the most obvious is the
distance travelled by mankind from the old domination of nature and
the superstitions that were a part of the ancestral state of our
harmony with the world. If these emancipations embody the greatness of
Western culture, then we need to point out that they merely accompany
the alienation of the biological order from the social order and the
enclosure of the living in a system of control of everything that
exists. So, for example, in the second half of the twentieth century,
the emancipation of women from male domination coincided with (and not
by chance) an increase in alienating technical systems.

What from our point of view undermines the apologetic discourse
of progress is, first, that the process of evolution was imposed
independently of human wishes. Even if, of course, some human beings
are delighted with social progress, it is clear that no one ever
asked the question democratically to see if it is wanted. It was
a condition for social evolution, and people could only try to
feel happy about its positive effects. It is still heard, although
more and more rarely, that deciders decide, after all, and that
humans invested with political responsibility have approved what has
happened. This argument appears today almost grotesque: the deciders
in power have only reached their positions because they have accepted
the extravagant demands of technical development beforehand, that
is, they have never decided anything other than to let the forces
of domination have their way. But what should finally ruin the idea
of progress in the eyes of human beings is that it has made them
obsolete. It has been said that humanity is a plastic being who can
be adapted to every transformation, the agent of an evolution that
destroys him while constructing him. An instrument, therefore, but
also a victim of evolution. A victim who is now being successfully
challenged in the production and the use of innovative systems. That
is why the conception and the use of what is manufactured is being
daily transferred more and more to self-programming machines. And the
perspective of a world rid of this cumbersome parasite is now being

The extraordinary historical context in which we find ourselves is
therefore that of social division, the fracture sociale; not the
division once evoked by the President of a Republic on its way to
being privatised, to indicate what separates the zealous servants
of evolution from those who, unable or unwilling to keep pace, find
themselves at the back of the pack in the banlieues; here the division
is between machines and social institutions ? which now form the most
influential part of society and control its development according to
their own interests ? and, on the other hand, the humans who find
themselves enclosed in this increasingly controlled system.

All of us are thus called upon to play an active role, as effectively
as possible, in the eradication of the living, or risk seeing
ourselves ever more rapidly excluded from the life of society. This
subjection of the individual in the elaboration of a destructive and
dominating social system is carried out by virtue of a mechanism
that is at work everywhere. This mechanism (called the bonus of
the negative) can be explained summarily by the fact that it is
statistically improbable for humans to decide everywhere as one to
cease collaborating in the pillage, even if this pillage is ruining
the world they inhabit (and those who do not take part get left
behind). The introduction of the policy doubtlessly aiming to protect
human societies from this phenomenon has historically only projected
it with more force outside the boundaries of the social space, to the
point where it now exists practically everywhere. And whilst, for
instance, a generation takes part in property speculation to have
somewhere to live, it will become virtually impossible for the next
generation to have living space; and whilst a generation intends to
prepare for retirement by turning its savings into capital in pension
funds, it is busy undermining the conditions of survival on the
surface of the planet.

Struggling in this trap without hope of being delivered only imprisons
us a little more. This is probably what certain radicals mean
when they criticize the left, the global citizens movement, the
antiglobalisation movement and most groups or individuals who try
with varying degrees of insight to resist what is happening. Perhaps
it is also what many people intuitively believe who have decided
to do nothing, not even to think. In fact, the present period is
still one in which we must question everything, or risk falling into
helplessness or thoughtlessness.

If the present situation gives rise to a resentment that in some
ways resembles that felt by a defeated people when they have to
give up their own culture and embrace that of their new masters,
the particularity of the present situation is that the last human
victors in history? let us call them the Westernised techno-merchants
? now have the feeling that their own end is at hand, and that the
new masters, if we try to see something familiar in them, have the
features of robots and machine systems. Now what has until now
characterised the mutants (those who try zealously to obey what they
believe is the path of evolution) is that they could accommodate the
demands of modernity by adopting an emancipatory ideology that still
seemed humanly reasonable. Today this is no longer the case; all
ideologies - the supernatural, the divine, the economy, humanism,
rationalism, socialism - have been discredited. What we must agree to
in order to prosper today defies human reason, including the spirit
of the scientific method, and it is clear that if we had to continue
along this path we would have to shed our human appearance. Nothing
that can be reasonable functions any more, apart from the idea of
changing oneself into anything, so long as it works. That is why the
new ideology, the neo-mutant ideology, is conceived precisely to
explain why we should find it better to go beyond the human stage.

Since we are already dead, let's make the most of it!/
(Zapatista proverb)

3) The vital combat, in Grenoble and elsewhere!

For there to be a chance of turning things around, it would not only
be necessary for the majority of humans to see that it is better to
leave the system and live differently by devoting their energies
to reconstruction projects, but also that they should realise it
everywhere at the same time. And above all that those invited to join
the techno-market system should refuse to do so. The many existing
resistance strategies come up against this difficulty. For example,
the concept of 'uneconomic growth' which is based on a quite realistic
view of our ecologic situation, seems to ignore that growth is not a
chosen or organised choice of evolution by mankind but an obligation
imposed by the requirements of domination of the most influential
societies in the rational colonisation of the living world. How can
the supporters of this concept imagine that the society in which they
find themselves will accept a huge decrease of its power at the very
moment when a billion individuals are living through an incredible
period of growth and could soon, as a result, take control (both
themselves and those who will work with them) of the countries of
uneconomic growth even more easily than the West colonised the world.

So we will not find the forces able to stop the mechanisation of
living beings within populations that have accepted, whether they
wanted to or not, to create this world. It is essentially within what
still exists outside the techno-market sphere or in what has not yet
grown there, that we should look for a potential driving force for
this movement. It is thus on the populations of the south (providing
that we do not have too many illusions about their capacity to remain
deaf to market propaganda) and perhaps on the young generations of the
north (those who have not yet left the school system to take up their
posts) that we should count. In our countries, it is not unthinkable
that the place from which massive and significant resistance to what
is happening could be organised is the secondary school. To maintain
a human community in which children are not admitted to the canteen
without the agreement of a biometric system giving access to atomised
meal trays, can only result from a strong desire and a reflection on
the part of secondary school students. It is for a generation in the
making that falls the hope of preparing a life of dignity rather than
applying for a job as a social agent. Their elders, participating
individually in this combat, will only be able to lend a hand and if
necessary give some helpful warnings.

Observatory of Evolution

(cf. ?Why the future doesn't need us" by Bill Joy)

Title taken from a work by Gérard Nissim Amzallag (CNRS Editions), in
which the author analyses the nature and the operational modalities of
the industry science and techniques.

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