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Re: <nettime> Notes on Tiqqun's 'The Cybernetic Hypothesis'
Newmedia on Wed, 7 Jul 2010 18:45:08 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Notes on Tiqqun's 'The Cybernetic Hypothesis'


Joss:
 
Thanks for your comments and you are correct to notice that this is an  
important topic to which many have contributed -- some of which has even  
occurred on nettime.
 
In particular, Norbert Wiener, the man credited with coining the term  
"cybernetics" (and my father's mentor), became very concerned early-on that his  
work was being used against humanity.  
 
In the introduction to his 1948 book "Cybernetics," he specifically  
identifies Margaret Mead (a leader in promoting Communications Science  
departments) and Gregory Bateson (the secretary of the proto-CIA-funded Macy  
Cybernetics Conferences mentioned in Chapter 3) along with Kurt Lewin (a founder  of 
the field of Social Psychology) as people who had tried to recruit him for  
this purpose.
 
In 1950, Wiener published "The Human Use of Human Beings" in which warned  
that cybernetics was being used to replace human moral agency with 
robot-like  submission.  He used his notoriety and went on a broad campaign to spread 
 this warning, only to discover that his worst fears had already come true 
and  that there were already few humans left with the capacity for moral  
judgement.  So, he rewrote the book and covered his tracks.
 
Marshall McLuhan underwent a similar experience of deep concern, followed  
by attempts to sound the alarm (i.e. his 1951 "The Mechanical Bride") and  
finally recognition that humanity -- specifically in its unique capacity for  
morality -- had already "disappeared."  Like Wiener, he spent the rest of  
his life "probing" in the hopes that a glimmer of human moral capabilities 
could  be re-awakened.  He wasn't very successful.
 
The problem, of course, with "modern" attempts to return to these subjects  
is that they are typically devoid of historic context.   The authors  often 
recapitulate earlier observations without understanding what came before  
them, as if they were the first to feel this way.  History is only  
(mis-)used to make a point about the present.
 
As is often the case, what appears as an immediate problem in your own life 
 has in fact been a serious issue for a very long time and many people, 
some far  better equipped than you, have failed to have any impact.
 
Crucially, the "post-moderns" often seem to have no idea why this was  such 
an important topic in the 1945-55 period and how the various actors at that 
 time confronted the widely understood threat of humanity endangering 
itself to  the point of extinction -- specifically through the expression of 
individual and  collective evil.
 
Moreover, given the general anti-religious attitude of "critical" analysis, 
 there is no way out of the conundrum that it constructs.  "Subjectivity"  
alone doesn't resolve anything -- socially or personally -- as most have  
discovered.  Being "free" to be yourself doesn't mean that you aren't  acting 
with evil consequences.
 
"Do what thou wilt is the whole of the law" is evil incarnate -- as Crowley 
 was happy to admit.
 
The real problem is the lack of human morality.  "Autonomy"  doesn't help 
unless there is a personal examination of deep moral issues that  are much 
older than cybernetics or the Internet.  Deny a central role for  human evil 
and you have denied the fundamental problem.
 
Cybernetics makes us all cyborgs and androids do not dream of electric  
sheep because they don't have souls.
 
Various people have solved this problem in various ways.  Peter  Lamborn 
Wilson (aka Hakim Bey), famous for his TAZ schema, is a carefully  studied 
religious "occultist."  So too are many others, for whom  spirituality is a 
personal matter and the source of their moral  convictions.  
 
What will be the morality in the ZOO?  Pagan?  Sufi?
 
Perhaps someone on the Tiqqun collective had all this in mind when they  
penned "De l'economie consideree comme magie noire."  After all, black  magic 
precedes cybernetics in economics by 500+ years.
 
As Max Weber concludes in his final lecture, "Science as a Vocation"  
(Munich, 1918), which has little to say about science and a lot to say about  
religion, "This, however, is plain and simple, if each finds and obeys the 
demon  who holds the fibers of his very life."
 
Mark Stahlman
New York City
 

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