revenge of the real
COVID-19 exposed the pre-existing conditions of the current global crisis. Many Western states failed to protect their populations, while others were able to suppress the virus only with sweeping social restrictions. In contrast, many Asian countries were able to make much more precise interventions. Everywhere, lockdown transformed everyday life, introducing an epidemiological view of society based on sensing, modeling, and filtering. What lessons are to be learned?
The Revenge of the Real envisions a new positive biopolitics that recognizes that governance is literally a matter of life and death. We are grappling with multiple interconnected dilemmas—climate change, pandemics, the tensions between the individual and society—all of which have to be addressed on a planetary scale. Even when separated, we are still enmeshed. Can the world govern itself differently? What models and philosophies are needed? Bratton argues that instead of thinking of biotechnologies as something imposed on society, we must see them as essential to a politics of infrastructure, knowledge, and direct intervention. In this way, we can build a society based on a new rationality of inclusion, care, and prevention.
The Revenge of the Real: Politics for a Post-Pandemic World
(2021) by benjamin bratton
preface: when death governs life
this is a book about.. how so much philosophy failed the pandemic’s test.. and so provides an outline for an alt..
the most difficult lessons to be learned are those that come when reality – in the form of a virus, of our vulnerability to it.. crashes thru comforting illusions and ideologies.. recognizing the lessons of ‘the revenge of the real‘ it envisions a post-pandemic politics and what must happen now
so the revenge is via the virus
can the world govern itself differently? if so what models are needed?
no models.. just a means to undo our hierarchical listening to self/others/nature..
this pandemic demos a critical inability of the west, in particular, to govern itself as it needs to
imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for..
the real culprit is not, as some have suggested, an unnatural global entanglement that can be undone by blunt segregation, putting everyone/everything back in place.. entanglement is the baseline, not the exception
the pandemic is a revenge of the real.. it is a non negotiable reality that upends comfortable illusions no matter how hard some may try to push back w their chosen form of magic.. what are the forms of ‘the real’ that the pandemic has forced us to confront?
how has the unprecedented filtering and sorting of people into their countries of passport revealed the power/limits of exclusive national citizenship? ..how will .. risk alter the commonsense notion of what a ‘society ‘ is?.. how does the uneven/inequitable distribution of testing and care demo just how collective the risk really is..
what do the ‘mask wars’ reveal about the destructive nature of libertarian individualism as the basis of sovereignty? as we pass by a stranger, how do the ethics of the immunological commons shift from subjective intention of harm or endearment of the objective bio circumstance of contagion? is it at all surprising that the philosophies based on ‘biopolitical critique’ which hold that any governance of bodies is fundamentally authoritarian and illegit.. fail so miserably in interpreting wha tis truly at stake? .. as lockdowns began to open back up.. what did the explosion of protests against police violence reveal about the effects of a generational dismantling of equitable effective governance..
finally.. what now for post pandemic earth? in arational/equitable world, what form of *planetary protection, **governance, and ***competence are needed.. and what deep and difficult changes in political culture might bring them about ..
the post pandemic politics i describe is one that is inclusive, materialist, restorative, rationalist, and based on a more demystified image of the human species, anticipating a future different from the one prescribed by many cultural traditions.. t
yeah that.. hari rat park law et al.. legit diff ness
it accepts the evolutionary entanglement of mammals and viruses.. it accepts death as part of life..
it therefore accepts the responsibilities of medical knowledge to prevent and mitigate unjust deaths and misery, as something quite diff from the nativist immunization of one population of people from another..
laissez faire vitalism for which ‘life will find a way’ is not an option; it is a fairy tale
it (this book) is an attempt to use the pandemic as a lens into the deeper issues that allow us to imagine a world in which planetary society is able to deliberately compose itself w compassion and reason.. this means *letting go of the idea that such a composition can **emerge entirely on its own any more than a sick body can be **healed by just letting life and death take their course
again.. that’s only in sea world.. so yeah.. let go.. but a much deeper *letting go... we need a means to get out of sea world.. and once we do that.. the **emerging and healing will happen on its own.. the only way legit emerging/healing/living can happen..
1 – the revenge of the real
yet another ‘second wave’ of the virus would be catastrophic, but so would another wave of its underlying causes.. t
missing pieces.. that deep
the sense of emergency is palpable and real… but instead of naming this moment a ‘state of exception’ we should see it more as revealing pre existing conditions.. the consequences of poor planning (or no planning), broken social systems and isolationist reflexes are explicit..
not about planning or not.. not about broken social systems (ie: makes no diff is cancer is broken or not).. but about needing to org around legit needs
we must keep attention trained on the pathologies revealed, and in doing so willfully inhabit a changed world and its many challenges
rather.. we just need a legit re\set
to (virus) leap et al
if nothing else, this book is a call for new realist form of planetary politics as an antidote to the populist incoherency of recent years that is clearly not up to the task
rather.. what we need is a completely new/diff org (around legit needs).. one we’ve not tried before..
(populism) is a prison of its emotional investments.. this is how status of war heroes can command more earnest defense than the bodies of living people.. populism subordinates the repairing of broken systems to a virtual contest of semiotic (signs, symbols) brinkmanship (the art or practice of pursuing a dangerous policy to the limits of safety before stopping, especially in politics)
again.. we don’t want to repair broken systems.. we want a legit diff system.. legit global systemic change et al
the populist politics that set the stage for the west’s inadequate response to the virus remains stuck in a world where politics means to oppose, change, police or defend the representation of the real, often w contempt for the very idea that the underlying reality may be utterly indifferent
this is why the covid 19 pandemic is a revenge of the real making itself known..
repressed are the biological realities of human society’s co evolution w viruses.. the epidemiological reality of populations, the real calculus of positive and negative freedom all on behalf of various placebos.. chief among them.. as i will argue.. are myths of individual autonomy
as said, the book’s argument is on behalf of a ‘positive biopolitics’ that may form the basis fo viable social self org.. governmentality .. needs a refresher course and a gut check..
the touchpoints that comprise the argument are varied.. they involve the right to be counted
rather.. the letting going of counting ness.. of rights ness.. of any form of m\a\p
finally, what constitutes the forms of planetary competency thru which we might support ourselves..
rather.. trusting ourselves enough.. so that competency and support are realized as cancerous irrelevant s
mid pandemic, it could not be more excruciatingly clear that a biopolitics of population-scale self-composition and realist care must be constructed at the scale of the planetary population itself.. t
there is no simple formula that will work.. we have to build a politics capable of engagement w the full complexity of reality..
well.. it is simple.. and it’s about not building a politics.. just letting whatever emerge.. everyday..
ie: imagine if we ness
the pre existing conditions that have not been exposed clarify the need for a geopolitics based not on self undermining, prisoner’s dilemma tactics in the face of common risks, but on *a deliberate plan for the coordination of the planet we occupy and make and remake over again..
2 – the big filtering
that there was no other apparent option (for how we dealt w pandemic) is an indictment of our collective capacity of governing in mutual interest and cooperation, not to mention our imagination as to who or what constitutes a person or population in need of care.. given the planetary scope of the pandemic, there must be other ways of organizing a response besides those based on the deeply fraught condition of ‘citizenship’.. (everyone going back to passport countries)
the question is not a matter of whether the world should never be sorted, but how else it could be sorted in a way that is more viable because less punitive and restrictive.. t
the mobilization toward a feasible ‘post anthropocene world conducted at the required planetary scale will demand an extraordinary choreography.. a pragmatic vision for what is and is not ‘essential’.. t
yeah.. let’s do that dance..
3 – comparative governance
may look back upon as the largest control experiment in comparative governance in history.. w virus as control variable.. the results are plain to see.. a kind of litmus test.. a way to eval the effectiveness/logic of those system and cultures that animate them.. relative gdp was less of a factor than the quality of governance
makes no diff is all data is from sea world
how diff systems responded should affect how political cultures eval their traditions
rather.. that we have the virus (speaking to us that we’re messed up).. should help us realize we need something completely diff.. not just to all tweak toward best current model.. or even combo of best of each
hari rat park law et al
this shows just how much a universally available health system providing excellent care gets you.. and also how much more that would have helped in directly curtailing the contagion elsewhere
deeper man.. virus.. mass shootings.. war.. et al.. are all telling us.. need a health system that isn’t about fixing people.. need a governance that has nothing to do with people telling other people what to do.. any form of m\a\p..
need to org around legit needs
the range of responses reveal much about the political capacity of diff systems/cultures.. some aspect of centralized command and control have worked.. others have not
what lessons must be learned form this experiment, even if there is no one single criterion of success? those who did worse would learn from and seek in diff ways to emulate, those that did better.. it would be an even greater stupidity to overlook that opp
oi.. the opp (to (virus) leap ness) is in realizing that none of them work.. that we have to look/listen deeper.. otherwise.. just collecting data from rats in a rat cage.. whales in sea world.. need to get out first.. then trust us.. ie: a nother way
to be sure.. we must not take all reported data at face value..
what we need is to let go of all data to date.. it’s all non legit.. we need to re\set via a means to undo our hierarchical listening.. this data distraction/obsession is keeping us from us.. se need to listen deeper
another important lesson is that it is misleading to attribute a country’s success to a single approach
rather.. that it is misleading to attribute success.. ie: krishnamurti measure law et al
the moment when people’s lives and livelihoods are put at risk by the excruciatingly loud void that could have been filled by a rational, competent , comprehensive, coordinated governance should imply the end of empty symbolism taking the place of property policy..
the tenacity of self defeating populism is fierce..we see it in the ‘the revenge against the revenge of the real’ in mask wars and anti vaccine politics and in the overlap of technophobia and xenophobia.. our human ability to bend facts to favor narrative remains steadfast
again.. makes no diff if all facts are non legit.. re\set
the clear conclusion of this comparison of governance points away from zombie sovereign power and toward a positive biopolitics at planetary scale.. we can glimpse a bit of what that positive biopolitics may look like in what did work well.. first.. the culture of data matters..
oi.. none of it worked well.. we need diff data.. ie:
imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness..
second.. on governance.. the notion that complex systems such as human societies can do w/o top down steerage finds its limits
third.. responses need to be based on both tech and social.. necessary for a society to be able to sense, model and act back upon itself and it is necessary for it to plan and provide for the care of its people..
one of the core cultural foundation of that post pandemic politics is something we all have learned more than a bit about: the epidemiological (relating to the branch of medicine which deals with the incidence, distribution, and control of diseases) view of society
gabor on virus ness.. et al
4 – the epidemiological view of society
the image of our interconnected whole seen in these reflections should stay with us, long after data fatigue and the immediate crisis pass..t
emphasis shifts from personal experience and toward responsibilities couched in the underlying biological and chemical realities that bind us
no shifting from one to another.. has to be all.. and no responsibility ness.. otherwise dangerously treading into people telling other people what to do ness..
need to set ourselves free first.. then trust us.. otherwise.. mucking with the choreography of an undisturbed ecosystem
each organism is a transmission medium for info.. from ideas to viruses.. and is defined by who and what each is connected to and disconnected from.. the political premise of ‘immunization’ .. to make oneself immune by excluding someone or someone else.. must be couched in conceptual and technical models of the social that are as inclusive and agnostic as epidemiological models and which carry the same weight of shared responsibility..
the pandemic has made it easier to see oneself more as a node in a biopolitical network to which one is responsible than as an autonomous individual whose sovereignty is guaranteed by free will .. this is a big change.. it should be secured
?.. if responsible ness.. any form of m\a\p.. not a legit change
the notion that life is just too mysterious to grasp or that the natural order is too sacred to fiddle with, and that this actually suffices as the basis of an effective and ethical medical policy.. is the daydream of a comfortable class who does not live w the daily agencies of sewage landscapes and exposed corpses.. t
5 – the sensing layer
the epidemiological model of society is dependent on knowing what it really happening
during the pandemic, testing and tracing were key aspects of the ‘sensing layer’ of the governing epidemiological models.. w/o them the models are guesswork.. but do we see them this way?
ultimately, testing and sensing are the same thing.. to have more widely available testing is to have more accurate sensing.. which means better models which means a better public health response
and so.. a good defn of the sensing layer refers to all of the ways in which a society is able to sense what is going on at both granular and holistic levels so as to make a model that it may use to act back upon itself and thereby govern itself
oh my.. iterating intoxication.. when we need to be iterating detox
when any/all of them are failed or broken.. that is a broken sensing layer.. and that society is in the dark
aka: in sea world (all of us.. always have been.. need to get out first)
the collective aggregation produces a more actual picture of the whole.. you cannot see a virus.. the model is a collective intelligence about something that is true even though it can never be personally experienced..
it’s not about naming, knowing, ..
the permanently shifting question of how we provide for ourselves is answered in patterns of relative access and exclusion..
well.. has to be all of us.. trusting all of us.. or we won’t ever provide for ourselves..
but as far as the model is concerned.. exclusion also means occlusion: those uncounted are also unseen..
balancing requirements that everyone is seen but only in the right way is extremely difficult.. t
well not really.. we’ve not even yet tried to see/hear everyone.. mufleh humanity law et al
what is difficult is letting go our version of being counted/seen ness.. we totally have the means (easy means) for listening to every voice/itch.. everyday.. let’s have that as our data
and so what the sensing layer is sensing is not just the presence of a virus but movement across the uneven surfaces of global society.. it senses us as we are and are not.. in the blind spots.. the virus also senses all the ways we have neglected ourselves and one another..
the sensing layer is a means for societal self understanding
if we were legit free.. i think self understanding.. would be/seem irrelevant
.. and the institutional enforcement of its implication, it is also a kind of instantiation of a collective immune system..
6 – model simulations
good governance w/o good models is extraordinarily difficult; it leads to blunt, low res responses, such as blanket lockdowns, instead of targeted interventions
good governance (if we insist on using the word) wouldn’t need interventions (another word for people telling other people what to do).. the interventions are distractions.. red flags of not trusting us.. signs that we haven’t let go of all the forms of m\a\p
a society may only act upon itself based on the info it has and heeds..
society doesn’t need to act upon itself if legit free.. and if not legit free.. info is non legit.. so just perpetuates myth of tragedy and lord et al
(during pandemic) to cope we became amateur epidemiologists and learned to see ourselves accordingly.. in gauging how close the wolf was to the door by reading graphs .. we learned a new rep of the social, and so learned a new way to conceptualize what the social is.. *that way of seeing is something that will remain w us
*hope not.. we need a legit diff way of seeing/hearing (ie: not defense, response, et al)
how you see yourself depends on how you see the world, and during a pandemic the world is epidemiological, outlined by specific visual vernacular of what constitutes *risk, pattern, curve, prediction and recommendation.. trains us to imagine society as a confluence of interlocking and cascading **cause and effects.. the afterimages of these models become part of a public literacy thru which we grasp he situation viscerally and locate ourselves in than immunological commons.. ***this retraining will persist after the crisis
*red flags we’re doing it/life wrong.. oi
**wrong, cancerous, distracting, energy sucking .. focus
will this work? is this model modeling what *really matters?.. while it is true that ‘numbers do not bleed; people do’.. it’s also true that w lousy numbers.. there will be more bleeding
the architecture of a viable post pandemic biopolitics therefore depends upon the scope, validity, and appropriateness fo the data.. all dependent on a sensing layer that has been well composed and which is able to enforce the implication so of its models.. so.. what is the problem? it is not for lack of tech knowhow or capacity.. instead, we have been using the techs upon which such models depends for far less important things (advertising, arguing, the monetization of affectation, etc)..t
what we need .. is a means to undo our hierarchical listening.. ie: tech as it could be
there needs to be a shift in the cultural valence (the combining power of an element) of sensing and what is called ‘surveillance’
7 – surveillance is not the right word
one of the most difficult challenges of *governing responses to the pandemic has been the development and deployment of infection tracing and tracking platforms.. apps et al
it is a mistake to reflexively interpret all forms of sensing and modeling as ‘surveillance’ and all forms of active governance as punitive constraint.. we need a diff and more nuanced vocab..
in addition to the right to reasonable privacy there is also a right and responsibility to be counted
for post pandemic biopolitics, inclusivity is essential
as current controversies over citizenship and the census reveal.. we see that certain neighborhoods, populations, types of inhabitants.. certain less visible persons, places, and processes are undercounted, under measured, under accounted for ..even unnamed.. and are functionally invisible in terms of what is due to them
oh my.. so backwards.. such whalespeak..
any form of m\a\p is exclusionary
8 – what 5g stands for
the problem is not just a few crazies.. the number of people who you know that will refuse or have refused to get vaccinated for utterly spurious reasons will surprise if not shock you.. what is going on? belief in conspiracy theories by several interlocking motives: epistemic (one’s understanding of what is going on), existential )feelings of being safe an din control) and social (maintenance of a positive image of oneself an social group).. i suggest the real problem is not w the disclosure of the real and what they imply about how the world works.. but that people are persecuted by those demands of self affirmation..
oh my.. yeah.. conspiracy theories.. theory ing in general.. is a distraction/energy-suck/cancer et al.. but oh my.. the way this is worded (hoping/knowing i’m not understanding what he’s getting at)
they are certain that the world is now attempting to intro fatal harm to their bodies because it has already harmed their sense of agency and id..
the ultimate claim of this cornered positions is not just that their particular subjective sense of the world is the best.. but that the sovereignty of individual subjectivity itself should decide what is true and real because it is intrinsically valid..
well intrinsic ness if huge to a nother way for 8b people to live.. kingdom is within you ness et al.. but.. we all need detox first.. aka: means to undo our hierarchical listening.. otherwise as you say.. just cornering ourselves into whalespeak and sea world perpetuation..
i recoil at what facebook is as much as anyone.. but at a point, critical theory tips into paranoia.. conspiracy theory is apophenia (the tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things) as political science; it perceives causes and deliberate agents where only truly frightening systemic failure exist..
the demolition of societal self gov thru populism in the neolib era has left societies both more complex and less willing and able to deliberately comprehend themselves..
or rather.. thinking they have to comprehend themselves.. so.. we ongoingly can’t let go of any form of m\a\p
for many.. and not surprisingly.. the notion than an absence of viable systemic control has caused this chaos is just too intolerable.. and so there is comfort to be found in quixotic mobilizations against alien elites..
*one of the things the pandemic has reveled is that the absence of control, authority and competency in the west is very real and dangerous.. post pandemic politics must revive its legitimacy, capacity and effectiveness.. this will be possible only to the extent that the paths toward an inclusive, equitable positive biopolitics are open and active.. those politics will need to remap and deconflate id, subjectivity, status, and agency form one another in order to build the co-immunoloigcal commons.. **perhaps nothing is more essential than this
*we have no idea .. because we don’t let go enough.. and so we perpetuate myth of tragedy of the non commons and lord of the flies
**oh my.. so.. same song.. oi
9 – the problem is individuation itself
on surveill capitalism
what is left uncriticized is the much deeper issue of the org of planetary scale *computation around predicting and placating individual human desires in the first place.. it is the logic that is largely reinforced and legitimated by zuboff and other’s defense of the abused autonomy of he self sovereign individual subject..
the remedy of post pandemic politics is not to ‘free’ individuals so their individual private wants can be better met.. faster and more transparently.. but to org society’s capacity for self modeling and self composition around a diff axis than individuals and their wants
tech ethics, as a framework, is thus guaranteed to elevate the most *inconsequential voices and divert **debates into acrimonious contests between placebo reforms
if we’re all legit free.. *there are no inconsequential voices.. and **no debates/contest
10 – touchlessness
the problem of over individuation w/in the systems we use to model ourselves is compounded by the physical isolation each of us experiences in extended rhythms of lockdown.. the situation has brought new cultural and interpersonal realities, many of them unfamiliar and uncomfortable, such as the tense choreography of social distancing and vocabularies of touchlessness..
how.. when each of us is forbidding to touch, can a renewed sense of our biopolitical entanglement emerge.. it may come thru a recognition that societal care is not only a personal, face to face, and skin to skin experience.. but something that also happens at a distance, thru impersonal systems upon which each of us relies.. these too are social relations.. tech mediation between us is a principle, not a secondary complication.. the solidarities that bind us cannot be reduced to direct experience; they are also found in how we build systems for those we never meet..t in these ways as well, sensing an sensibility align..
there is then a link between the over individuation of societal modeling and the insistence that direct and ‘unmediated’ touch is not only preferable to remote engagement .. but that it is authentic in ways that mediated social relation can never be.. this is not only a misrecognition of what touch is, it is also a suppression of the sociality of relations we all hold w one another as part of a common biological and technological world.. it is a belief that drags attention away from mutual entanglement on behalf of privatized communicative experiences.. t
the problem then is not exactly the prioritization of intimacy over remoteness.. but rather the disqualification of remote intimacy that societal scale health care demands.. we must see them instead as mutually reinforcing..
jean luc nancy, commenting on ‘touch and touchlessness’ describes how all touch is ultimately and finally touchless.. that touchlessness is the basis of our intimacies.. as we view a grid of hundreds of viewers in a video conference.. where voices and images of faces surely touch all of our ears and eyes.. he reminds us how even the most intimate encounters are mediated by sights and sounds.. machines.. bodily fluids.. membranes and prescribe behaviors.. knowing what can and cannot be touched is a form of embodied social intelligence.. ie: ‘touching death’ taboo as prevention of disease transmission over the personal expression of grief.. his most emphatic point is that we are touching and being touched constantly, and thus mediation is not a secondary condition of our embodiment, it is the condition of our embodiment..
instead of thinking of touch as that which is immediate.. w/o mediation.. we understand instead that even as one experience may have more visceral tactility than another, that touching is always to some degree touching at a distance, and across a distance that is not empty but full of mediation..t
the significance of this for the context of the pandemic is in locating the provision of med care w/in the larger, discontiguous social apparatus of sensing.. that is , the sensing layer is how the larger social body, in essence, touches itself and senses itself so that another exacting kind fo touch, which is this provision of med care, can be provided..
among the most intimate techs of touchlessness is the mask.. it is not just an intervention onto the individual body but a collaborative tech that thru filtration mediates the proxemic relationship between two or more of us.. because we are always touched by one another’s exhalations.. the mask makes the interrelation a matter of shared concern.. it prevents contact by the deliberate withdrawal of the space between us, and it is precisely for that reason a way that we care for one another.. but directly, the mask works not because we are.. as filtration is indifferent to affective ethics.. but rather we care because it works..
(on remaking sites.. restaurants in pandemic et al) it reintros touch directly and viscerally as a variable tha thad been there all along.. but had been forgotten.. this context of touch and mediation between bodies and person in the fulfillment of social encounters had become invisible in conventions like handshakes.. which today seem inappropriate.. if before touch was not seen as something that needed to be so deliberately calibrated, that is no longer the case.. the touch-fulness of these touchless encounters is now something of which we are excruciatingly aware.. so we compose the skins and boundaries of the world w understanding we had thought lost.. t
11 – quarantine urbanism
certain features of many cities are already the historical result of how they have dealt w past pandemics.. lockdown, quarantine and isolation are all spatial techs that filter us from one another.. quarantine is a state of limbo.. you are neither sick nor healthy; rather, it is officially undecidable.. unlike many past quarantines, in this case the whole population is quarantined form itself.. w no clear inside or outside..
quarantine means a kind of suspended indeterminacy: days slip into weeks.. if the general quarantine lasts a very long time, some of these relations will become permanent.. as amenities that were once known as ‘places’ in the city are now transformed into apps and appliances inside the home, public space is evacuated and the domestic sphere becomes its own horizon.. where is an office? what is a school?
those questions should be asked regardless.. supposed to’s of school/work are huge part of the problem
how we relate to each other is part of how we relate to the city, and we have long done so thru layers of artificial skins and prostheses (aka clothes and phones)
we are uncomfortably adapting to pyachogeograhies of isolation
already were (schools and offices et al).. now just more visible?
for more privileged.. like a trial run of fully automated luxury capitlaism.. at push of button world hads folded into whims that appear on doorstep.. for other people.. closer to solitary.. or even worse.. *sharing of a cell w someone you may fear
yeah.. again.. not new.. (*something tech you ref’d on p 72 has helped with)
the lockdowns while not necessary also rep multiple policy failures at once.. they are a condition of durable but unnecessary uncertainty..
12 – strategic essentialism
as cities shut down.. societies are pared down to the core function of food, medicine and communications.. for the pandemic.. the real revelation is how unrealistic were expectation that localism could suffice
suffice for sea world.. we have no idea what would suffice for legit free people..
what was most starkly revealed were incredible deficiencies in some areas (med supplies) and ridiculous surpluses in other (take your pick.. for the post pandemic world.. the question of what really is essential is an open question worth asking anew.. t
for many, having their work recognized as ‘essential’ meant placing them at sacrificial risk.. that placement/risk were made official
because not legit needs.. .. not essentials..
some of our researchers at the strelka institution compared this to the ‘death price’ whereby insurance companies pay dramatically diff amount for lives lost in disaster depending on approx future earnings.. what is obvious however.. the cost of risk and cost of social reproduction are being shouldered by those most at risk.. nothing so new here.. sadly..
the mandate for ‘essentialism’ means more than a state driven industrial policy; it is what every org institutes upon itself as it virtualizes.. whether it is online ed, distribute media production, endless meetings, online dr visits, or romance, what had been seen as the essential paraphernalia and processes of most orgs.. from office space to airline flights.. has been instantaneously jettisoned on behalf of the essential parameter of info..
that said the reduction of social econs to an ‘essentialness’ whether in accordance w pandemic emergencies, or degrowth , or austerity, or highly automated affluent social democracy, ow whatever progammatic narrative suits.. is never w/o its contestable presumption as to what must be accounted for and what must not.. the reduction of the essential and the re modeling and recalibration of these operations accordingly, will stay w us for some time
13 – resilience and automation
we have abdicated innovation of automation in the public realm to private platforms
what we need more is ai as augmenting interconnectedness
the app-to-warehouse-to-driver-to-door cybernetic loop became an emergency public service, and proved that platform economics is not a secondary innovation upon the real econ; it is the real econ.. automation made the lockdown econ possible.. its workers/tech essential to how society functions, and to what and who is essential to us all.. there is no post pandemic politics that is not also a political econ of automation.. automation isn’t the fragile virtual layer on top of the sturdy city; rather, the inverse is true..
automation is defined here less by the replacement of humans w machines than as the general name of the coordinated sequences of people, algorithms, and physical and protocolgical machines.. *how they fulfill key functions thru the programming of hundreds of interim little decisions w a minimum of direct human contact.. the pandemic made clear that the supply chain is the society
the questions go to the core of what ‘labor‘ is, how it is valued, and what social resilience even means.. everyone/everything is already in the loop one way or another..
if everyone was legit in a loop.. what is labor and who/what/how is valued and resilience ness.. wouldn’t be issues.. the problem is .. it’s not everyone.. it’s not even one of us.. we all need detox first.. for the dance/loop to dance
the conception of a diff social econ of automation should make 2 pivotal contributions to post pandemic politics: 1\ (help people do what they want).. decouple provision of basic living needs from distortions of real social value ..mind numbing jobs that machines could do instead of letting them create, invent and take care as the would want.. 2\ (w/o hurting eco).. decouple fulfillment of those needs from egregious eco impacts.. .. a vision for what automation is for
(to) automate not only physical labor but also cognition and decision.. so ie: decision doesn’t need to be remade again and again.. retraining the social function of automation means retraining how automation automates itself
there are certainly aesthetic and stylistic reasons to prefer homogenous village scale communities to ‘alienating’ anonymity of the big city.. some may have forgotten that , despite their bucolic pleasures, small towns are also facial recognition-based social control systems from which many people have given their lives to escape..
14 – the mask wars
recognizing the mask as a tech of intimacy at a moment when other forms of tactical intimacy are less available is to see it as a negotiation of trust.. the handshake was gesture of trust thru direct touch and may be again someday.. but in the current moment, strangers who offer their hand are deeply untrustworthy.. the mutual trustworthiness of the prophylactic (intended to prevent disease) masks works for the same reason.. touchlessness can instill and realize actual care..
15 – the ethics of being an object
to be contagious is not to be a bad person, but it does mean that irrespective of one’s wishes.. one may cause objective harm to others.. the revenge of the real arises in the ethical challenges posed by the realization that the virus is indifferent to the moral projection we might make upon it..
the dr may care deeply for their patient on an interpersonal level, but more likely they are able to care for them because they are able to see them as an object..
16 – agamben, having been lost
it is possible that giorgio agamben destroyed whatever was left of his reputation as a public intellectual w his many agitated, delusional and frankly embarrassing published responses to the covid 19 pandemic.. he tainted a life time of work.. this is not to suggest that his body of work is devoid of value, but it is qualified by the fact that when a biopolitical philosophy was needed most.. the author went mad
In The Coming Community, published in 1990 and translated by longtime admirer Michael Hardt in 1993, Agamben describes the social and political manifestation of his philosophical thought. Employing diverse short essays he describes the nature of “whatever singularity” as that which has an “inessential commonality, a solidarity that in no way concerns an essence”. It is important to note his understanding of “whatever” not as being indifference but based on the Latin “quodlibet ens” translated as “being such that it always matters”.
the significance here for post pandemic biopolitics is not just that one septuagenarian was not a very helpful reference.. but that the episode demos just how much works is in front of us and how broken and frightened the western theoretical discourse about bio, politics and design really is..
instead of the lockdowns being the result of an incompetent lack of prep and a crisis of the absence of viable governance, for agamben they were intricately calculated and manufactured for the purpose of prohibiting social intimacy and the dangers it poses to consensus reality
his controversial arguments that the pandemic is a hoax like attempt by the state to implement generalized concentration camp conditions.. based on the degradation of the human to a mere biological animal stripped of its divinity.. have put his and related political philosophical approaches in doubt..
17 – the emptiness of biopolitical critique
for silvia federici, the fulcrum point of resistance to the totalitarian demystification of human bodies is the active reenchantment of the world.. including the restoration of witchcraft
it is not the actual diagnosis that is so bad, but rather what it means to submit to it.. given how it was manufactured
18 – the social explosion
the question of the kind of society we want cannot be reduced to the question of the kind of policing we want.. and yet here we are.. t
walter benjamin famously referred to fascism as the ‘aestheticization fo politics’ and as anarchist and fascist co occupied the streets this summer.. both flanking the larger crowds, each found the other like a favorite symptom.. what bound them together was their shared commitment to an absolutist aestheticization of the political stakes of the moment and a foundational hatred of rational social self composition all wrapped in the rhetoric of immediate action
m of care – may 19 – on benjamin
19 – for planetary competency
the revenge of the real.. is not a matter of global omniscience or omnipotence, but of planetary competence.. it is a call for a biogovernmentality that trains planetary scale computation and modeling capacities on infrastructure for the remediation and rectification of a wounded species and its wounded habitat
oh no.. no.. that’s same song ness man.. nothing new there.. let go.. dang
at the end of the day there is no really good technical reason why every man/woman/child was not give a test, care and comfort as soon as the virus was known
with basic foresight, it was possible and it is still possible.. planetary competency is not some optimist dream.. it is simply applying *speculative reason and understood techniques to **known problems in careful ways by ***reorganizing social and economic infrastructure to meet their real purposes
wow.. so disappointing
the relationship between the pandemic and climate change is not only that both rep and reveal an absence of functioning governance capable of acting at the scale of the phenom.. both are things that are known to us as statistical models that could not possibly have been gleaned w/o pervasive sensing, calculation indexing and modeling of the real..
[oi.. sinclair perpetuation law et al]
both attest to the role of governing simulation s as a medium thru which the whole makes sense of itself and acts back upon itself
just a a medical model does, it must not only daignose but also cure
for any positive biopolitics to be possible, we must realize that the issues we face are due to an *absence of control over what matters..and an excess of investment in things that do not..
control does not equal oppression; read your foucault better.. control is also means of protection from, composition of, form giving, structure making, enforcement of, and the freedom not to die early and pointlessly..
oh my.. whalespeak
ultimately, it does matter whether the administration of this qualities as a state or a decentralized autonomous org or a law or a platform or machine or something yet unnamed.. what matters more, however, its that it is actually built
that is true.. (again.. costello screen\service law et al).. but it still is not true that validation comes from things that are built/efficient/competent.. (mufleh humanity law et al).. we need to build (and we have the means easy) something not yet tried/named/whatever.. ie: tech as it could be
at stake is not only the ability to act at a planetary scale.. t
which we’ve not yet ever done
but also the conceptual register of planetarity itself: what it is and might be.. what is a planet’s capacity for self formation, which is finally all that i mean by its governance? what would be necessary to actually approach and realize this capacity.. t
it is totally untenable for the long run to rely on this myth (putting things back in their places).. this is a scientifically and ethically inaccurate understanding of the relationship between the *world and what is in it
furthermore, we cannot just ‘take back our data’ form the bad actors and presume that it can be used for the necessary purposes, because put simply, it is the wrong data..t data about predicting individual habits of consumption is just not especially useful for the positive biopolitics we need
that is spot on (but am sure data you would suggests is same song – yep.. see p 151-2)..
data we need: self-talk as data
imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for..
huge.. we are obsessing w non legit data
all the likes, posts, sad vacations, photos.. go solve climate change w all the heated comment thread about whatever?.. you will soon realize that .. you will *need different data that what is being produced.. training our compositional creativity on producing the data we actually need will prove **more difficult and worthwhile than the easy reforms on offer.. but it will ***require a diff understanding of what data at this scale is and what it is for
**not if legit data about (itch-in-8b-souls everyday)
it does so not only by producing enormous archives of data, but also by reading the planet itself as an archive.. from ic cores to tree rings to water testing.. but.. only possible thru the extension of focused secular technical reason beyond the horizon of one location, moment, or lifetime; .. per derrida, the archive is a promise of the future that the present time will make itself accountable.. it can also be a technology to ensure that future is even possible..
conclusion: what is the post pandemic?
to play ‘caputre the flag’ in the capitol building therefore makes sense until they realize that is not where power actually resides.. oops.. the power of a positive post pandemic biopolitics exists instead in an incipient biopolitial stack: hardware, software, wetware.. it is comprised of techs, processes, policies, and parameters from diff actors in a highly contested multipolar geopolitical conditions.. it is built of sensors, chips, simulate genomes, needles, and sterile wipes and realized by the labor of millions of people.. its planetarity.. its future.. is .. however.. in duoblt.. there is nothing inevetiabl aobut its coalescence or its success.. its foothold is tenuous at best
worse.. that’s not where legit ‘power’ (means to change) lies.. well.. it lies as in.. where it is lying to us..
its realization depends on many things: 1\ econ that enables inclusive availability 2\ trusted data and models 3\ functionality not dependent on morality of individual or competence/ignorance of whoever occupies govt
there is no tech miracle necessary to accomplish this; the means are at hand.. but the international coordination necessary seems from another planet.. t.. ‘why can’t amazon handle the vaccine rollout’ et al
from another planet (as in legit diff aka: org around legit needs) yes.. but not difficult.. if we let go of the irrelevant s/distractions.. long enough to legit set us all free.. to legit detox us.. we do have the means at hand.. ie: imagine if we
at this point what is needed is not just a push toward ‘invention’ but also a shift in the purpose, function, and rationale of existing geotechs.. t toward more rational and equitable ends
ie: tech as it could be
mufleh humanity law et al
that shift will require.. the realization of planetary scale political parties, programs, platforms, and policies (the 6 p’s if you like)
competency does not demand omniscience, nor does it presume fantastic new techs to suddenly align just right by deus ex machina.. it demands, foremost , the realized potential of what we already know and are now learning
we are aligned w stanislaw lem’s admonition that what is most interesting about tech is how unpredictable it is, and how its most interesting effects are never reducible to first intentions.. the winding history of architecture, computation, vaccines, masks, anesthesiology, microbiology, antibiotics, and more attests to this
yeah.. that’s what’s most interesting about people .. about alive things .. graeber unpredictability/surprise law et al..
the conclusion to be drawn (from virus path et al).. is not that global interconnection is dangerous, but that it is intrinsic and runs deeper than normally realized..t
our thinking and our interventions must instead be based on an understanding of cyclical interrelations and physical economies, from scales of viral infection to intercontinental circulation and back again
rather.. need to be based on a means that doesn’t require/assume knowing/understanding ness.. back to that unpredictability ness..
the composition of post pandemic biopolitics entail then not just the *reorg of institutions to fill the void left by the current anarchy of international geopolitics but, by defn, that we **reconceive and remake ourselves.. it is to intervene on what should be immune from what.. what might evolve in relation to that immunity, and so is ultimately ***to decide over and over the uneven boundary of the human itself..
*we need a legit diff org..
**rather.. uncover/detox.. to get back/to what is already there
what does governance (ability of a society to model and act back upon itself) then mean for post pandemic biopolitics? we should not assume that its institutional model isa collage of the past, nor that it will get us so far to restage a surrogate debate frame d as centralization vs decentralization.. the ‘calculation problem’ isn’t made any easier because of this.. nor is the more difficult problem of ‘*what is it that should be calculated at all‘
*nothing.. we need to let go of any form of m\a\p if we want the dance to dance
there is no central ‘immunological processor’ in biology the function is distributed all throughout the body..
yeah that.. that one body ness.. we need all of us.. that’s why we need a means that is legit inclusive..
(in what will middle of next decade show).. who does and does not ‘take’ the vaccines will become increasingly contentious, as the annual cycle of flu shots graduates from a procrastinative errand to an overt political act, full of congratulations or carefully nuanced compromise.. automation will recompose the home’s interfaces to the urban exterior.. urban architecture will grow new prostheses dedicated to the principles of touchlessness.. and design schools will continue to convene studios of serious aesthetic interest to debate this plan or that.. today’s improv accommodations will give way to more precise apertures and.. to only seemingly more pluralistic open commons accessible only to permanent residents..t
eventually.. the epidemiological dispositions will not be an emergency any more than luggage scanners at airports, counting calories, saying ‘thank you’ to your fellow passenger for using the hand sanitizer, or getting your shots..
fortunately, however, better plans and paths are also available to us.. t
ie: a nother way.. let’s try something legit diff..
final thought: last month, a reporter asked me w suspicion if i am a ‘globalist’.. i said, ‘yes, but in a way that is well beyond your worst fears’