Writings: Viva Ultra

Viva Ultra

“The Singularity: prepare to be unprepared …

… In technology, things get faster. It’s called hyper-exponential acceleration and it has profound implications. Soon, there will be a concatenation of globalization, biotech, climate change, AI, robotics, discovery of life elsewhere, nuclear fusion, maglev trains and carbon nanotubes, all technologically enabled. The hyper-exponential curve that we’ve been riding is going vertical. More change will happen in the next generation’s first years than in all of human history including the Stone Age.

The speed of history is tied to the pace of innovation, so society has a problem. No one is going to be able to keep up with their own history or with the succession of technologies. Science fiction writers won’t be able to imagine the future fast enough to stay ahead of it.

The point in time when the rate of change exceeds our collective ability to deal with it is named after the bit of a black hole where nothing makes sense anymore; the Singularity.”

– Alexander Cartwright, p. 7 in Garageland magazine, issue 10. Published by Transition Editions. www.transitiongallery.co.uk

Complexity, complex patterns, structure, or lack of structure?… It all assumes such overwhelming proportions. Seems impossible to choose, and just as impossible to disregard the need for making choices, decisions… We aim higher, constantly higher, as we try to sort through the layers of chaotic static that pulsate all around us.

Anxiety is everywhere. Anxious insides. Anxious surroundings. Anxious work. Anxious dreams. It spreads like wild fire and pulls you in, catches you off guard, again and again. We stumble through our days, and sleep with our eyes open.

Nervous System

According to Italian critic and media activist Franco ’Bifo’ Berardi, technological transformations have displaced the economic process from the sphere of the production of material goods toward the sphere of semiotic goods. In this way, ’semiocapital’ (signified value / meaning) has become the dominant form of the economy. What he refers to as ’the accelerated creation of surplus value’ depends on the acceleration of the infosphere. Because of the digitalization of the ’infosphere’ signs are produced and circulated at a growing speed, but as humans, with the limited capacity of our embodied minds, we are put under too much pressure by this acceleration, and we end up crumbling. In Bifo’s opinion the current economic and political crisis has a lot to do with this imbalance between the fields of ’semioproduction’ and ’semiodemand’ – in other words the imbalance between the supply of semiotic goods and the socially available time of attention.

We’re currently experiencing an increase in pace, an acceleration of the infosphere so intense that we simply cannot keep up with it. Scientists and intellectuals are expressing serious concerns as to whether or not we’re in process of exceeding the limited capacity of our minds and moving away from human social behavoir all together. In Asia they’ve already reached the point where kids and teenagers are so addicted to social media and being online non-stop day and night, that they’ve had to invent rehab facilities for dealing with this new serious form of addiction. Our nervous systems are under attack like never before in human history and it doesn’t seem like the current mindfulness trend, our yoga classes and coaching sessions concerned with stress handling and finding meaning, will be enough to counteract this development. We’re in the middle of a gigantic evolutionary shift, moving away from the Real and further towards the Virtual with every passing minute we spend online.

”In recent decades, the organism has been exposed to an increasing mass of neuromobilizing stimuli. The acceleration and intensification of nervous stimuli on the conscious organism seems to have thinned the cognitive membrane that we might call sensibility. The conscious organism needs to accelerate its cognitive, gestural, kinetic reactivity.

The time available for responding to nervous stimuli has been dramatically reduced. This is perhaps why we seem to be seeing a reduction of the capacity for empathy. Symbolic exchange among human beings is elaborated without empathy, because it becomes increasingly difficult to perceive the existence of the body of the other in time. In order to experience the other as a sensorial body, you need time, time to caress and smell. The time for empathy is lacking, because stimulation has become too intense.”

– Franco ’Bifo’ Berardi : After the Future, p. 67-68

What happens when the human nervous system enters a semi-permanent state of overload? This is usually the point when we… wake up?… turn our attention away from the screen and start searching for communities, intimacy and social connection. A sense of humanity and solidarity is awakened under extreme pressure, but why do we have to push ourselves so far, into a state of exhaustion that almost kills us, before we finally stop and listen to our nervous heartbeat and our aching bodies? Why has it become so incredibly difficult for us to get out of our heads, stop working, go off-line and just be still for a while? We’re all workaholics to some extent – no doubt, but that still doesn’t explain our reluctance to pay attention to all the warning signs we’re constantly witnessing in the form of stress, anxiety disorders, violence, loneliness, depression etc.

Sensitivity is slowness

”Connection is interoperability and it makes possible the circulation of abstract information. It involves conscious and sensitive bodies, but the conscious and sensitive body is only a passive carrier of connection. Consciousness is only an operational ability to react. And sensitivity is slowness, hindering acceleration and competition.”

– Franco ’Bifo’ Berardi :After the Future, p. 57

We’ve been taught to think that being online is the same as being ’connected’. This is of course true if you’re thinking about the word ’connected’ an a strictly electronic sense, as being hooked up to a power source and online, part of the virtual circuitry. But if you consider the meaning of being ’connected’ in a more social and human context, it again becomes a question of defining what’s real and what’s virtual. You can feel connected to a friend, a family member, a partner, or even strangers if you get close to them and share your thoughts, your body language and feelings with them, but you have to use all of your senses in order to experience this meeting with the Other. Your Mac will never be able to show you any understading or empathy. It’s not a real person you can share your thoughts and secrets with, and it will never be your friend. Neither will the virtual ’people’ or ’friends’ whose names you see popping up on the screen when you’re online. None of it is Real. Communicating and interacting with other people online is still, and will probably always be a kind of one way street – at least as far as our senses are concerned. As long as we still experience the world through the filter of human consciousness and our bodily senses, any kind of virtual reality will seem alien and lacking to us.

”The infinite acceleration of the world with respect to the mind is the feeling of being definitively cut off from the sense of the world. Sense isn’t found in the world, but in what we are able to create. What circulates in the sphere of friendship, of love, of social solidarity is what allows us to find sense. Depression can be defined as a lack of sense, as an inability to find sense through action, through communication, through life. The inability to find sense is first of all the inability to create it…. ”

– Franco ’Bifo’ Berardi : After the Future, p. 64