The Future of Information

In reality, goals are absent.

Nietzsche

Rivalry is only a spectacle; it is the state of appearance. Equilibrium is phenomenal, and the distance is real. The law of opposition belongs to phenomenology; the law of irreversibility or of falling downstream is real. Behind all representation.

Michel Serres

A Genealogy of Modern Science
Science appears to begin with the Greeks: somehow, somewhere, a resentful pre-scientific impulse begins to criticize the unity of life and culture. Some say that before this interruption, there must be an alien infiltration (the arguments for Oriental contributions to Greek culture,) but ultimately the “true” source is irrelevant, for it is this real criticism, this faithful engagement with the material culture, with everyday life, that is at once of the greatest importance, that is the authentic germ of enlightenment (Greek or otherwise.) For this criticism already contains a larval critique of creativity, of society, and most important for the development of a scientific instinct, a criticism of divinity and images. By Plato and Aristotle, science will separate itself completely from creativity, from works of the imagination and from art. Plato’s criticism of images (what we would call “advertising”) is well-known; Kant’s rejection of the empirical as a source for truth reproduces the same critique in reverse. In short, it is by rigorously separating life and culture that science discovers itself positively (i.e., as this objective dissocation, this symmetrically dis-sociative personality.)


Thus has discovery has been the dominant tone of scientific research for thousands of years. Science becomes a game of discovery, of exploring the infinite folding and unfolding of symmetry patterns; but it would still have yet to realize itself as a creative, affirmative power as in the healing intuition behind the Greek enlightenment. Even the “great crime” of institutionalization, the Greek incarceration of science’s chaotic (a-cultural) discoveries back into an associative hierarchical (living) series, was a necessary phase of development.

Particular scientific apparatuses are anomalies, since it is not the self-organizing ‘system’ of science which matters, but the willing behind science, that peculiar instinct of the Greeks, which is already the entire point: creative joy is the real power behind science, the light by which we understand it and communicate it. Observation and experimentation open exchanges through which generative flows may coalesce. But science has not realized its own creativity, is still young enough to feel ashamed of itself as a half-formed creature. Science has yet to have reintegrated creation as one of its proper modes (though of course discovery already demands a great deal of creativity — in timing and problem selection, for instance.)

Modern scientism refuses re-association with the divine; but in order to proceed, rather than choose pure (‘logical’) refusal, it must finish dissociation, it must finally destroy the fission between life and culture. Here our human fascination within symmetry is perhaps our greatest blind spot. The persistent image of a secret truth behind events, a spark of the divine, seems always to lie in wait to lure us away from a clarified scientific ontology.

Creativity is one of the lures of symmetry; thus, such an ontology would necessarily dissociate creativity, in order to (continually) produce a more creative conception of science (that truly has no need of divinity, or even images.) Thus science proceeds on a extra-imaginary path towards an enlightenment which it never possesses. Not light, but science itself moves in the ethereal.

What is the ethereal? A space of transformation, a gradient. Science dares to diagram black holes. Science moves towards infinite darkness, towards null singularity, the ethereal object of scientific critique. And it is much rather us, our machines and our history, the scientists’ themselves, which are the ‘dirt’ to be transcended, the material objects of science’s critique.
Clearly, dissocation is not this (more-or-less artificial) distinction between the ethereal and the material; rather, it is the actual trans-individuation of the material into the ethereal and back. In other words, a critical transcendence instead of a theological transcendence. The return to the material, the implementation or diagnosis is the most powerful moment of affirmation in science; a diagnosis or theory must be arrived at creatively, but it is also a demand upon creativity to respond to the diagnosis, to test the theory. Transcendence occurs only by anomaly, by creativity. Hence we must first-away affirm (as soon as we hear some ‘call’ to a divinity to guarantee stability, integrity, probability, etc.) there is yet a second lure to a clearer science — the image of the future war machine. The two lures are the same, or rather, they are part of the same machine. This asymmetrical war machine is the spark of untruth flashing in between regimes of scientific “truth.” With a hard eye for anti-symmetry, for counter-symmetries, we have the beginning of a truly modern science.

Information and Noise

There is no irreducible ontological division between noise and image, between information and form, only spaces of transformation between noises and images, between forms and information. This fluent, morphogenetic convergence remains intractable to a solid, clumsy-fingered science; the apparent series are related genealogically, and their law of participation evolves with them. Every age, every language has taken stock of this ‘primordial’ divergence in its own unique way. Yet with science a new thought awakens, one capable of rending this hasty division in twain. Out of the depths of division, we begin to reach for the heights of multiplicity, of chance. The void is not sutured to itself, it folds in upon itself; the point of connection is the space of the fold, the ontological division but the line of the fold.
Anomalies tell stories. Their birth, their generation differed; they remind us that difference is the force of history, that matter naturally combines and integrates forces, but at differing speeds giving rise to all kinds of different forms and processes. Creativity is a power resting ultimately in matter itself; matter is itself productive of new forms.

A joyous and revolutionary science doesn’t liberate from war; it liberates from fascism, from the force of habit and from lack of creativity. Science inspires creativity, it awakens us to the creativity already embodied within us, within matter — in many ways this is its highest and proudest achievement.

If science could learn to affirm probability, at all scales and in infinite dimensions, (that probability interpenetrates space,) it would still then have to learn the epic resistance requisite for the refusal of enlightenment.

To resist is to bring about difference through stability, through remaining unchanged, unmoved, undifferentiated. Revolution is pure difference, pure anomaly, pure capacity. Science is first about discovering what resists revolutions (always advantageous for the war machine) but later it can pause and ask a second, stranger question — but in what do revolutions resist?

This second question aims at my point: revolutions exist only as pure symmetry.
From the standpoint of the state, they are pure chaos. As more perspective is gained, their disorder appears to contain a secret order no less complex than that the state, perhaps even moreso because it is tactically organized to outrun and escape the state.

A complex network is a symmetry group: it is pure information.
A revolution is a miniature signal-sign network, a tiny parasite. The transmitted image of the state gets blurred, stretched, distorted; it becomes a dangerous call to disorder, an anomalous signal disturbing the delicate balance of the heterogeneous multiplicity. It induces and precipitates crisis, but it is already a crisis.
It threatens (further) symmetry-breaking, it demands a revaluation. Science evolves through revolutionary refusal; revaluation never lasts. Revolution takes time to foment but it breaks loose in an instant. The flash of lightning governs the universe. First this way…

Revolution takes place immanently, it is the opening up of a field of political intensities, the arrival of a counter-organization. Why is the social war-machine so often a religious one, centered around a name, a sign, a sacred place? But what is important are the exceptions: social movements without a cause, or with conflicting and impossible demands, which rupture the state space and invite new machines to explore new spaces.

Scientific revolution is needed to break with the war machine — but always in order to produce new war machines! When science becomes positive, when it dissociates itself from life, when it dissociates life from culture, it thereby ungrounds the state, creates or taps into deep and turbulent forces rumbling beneath surfaces and through the earth. We still do not yet know of what a body is capable; science’s most secret prayer is that it never will, this is its primary dissociation, its logical revolt or refusal of mysticism. The scientific spirit becomes awakened through the rejection of negative transcendence, through the positive transcendence of radical critique — but this smooth revolutionary space is not enough, new machines must be created, they must dig into the new earth. Science lives beneath utopia, as though separated only by the thinnest pane of glass (just as the scientific perspective itself is at many points only minimally separated from everyday life.)

This entry was written by Joseph Weissman and published on Tuesday, November 13, 2007 at 5:33 pm. It’s filed under art, counter-symmetry, creativity, culture, difference, divinity, enlightenment, equilibrium, history, image, information, life, nature, noise, probability, revolution, Science / Mathematics / Technology, separation, symmetry, war machine. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

5 thoughts on “The Future of Information

  1. This really confuses me. I’m not sure at all what you’re doing here. You don’t quote or talk about Serres; why is his name here? Why is all of this so painfully abstract? You’re talking about Science and Revolution in a way that precludes you from really talking about them except in a preparatory way.

    Also, your use of the signal-sign system is using it in a completely different sense than in Deleuze; why is it necessary here, too?

    Instead of talking about what science can do in general, maybe it would be fruitful to talk about certain problems in this field–I was digging what you were saying about noise and images, but I felt like you left that in the dust and didn’t want to really continue talking about it (that’d probably make you quote Serres finally!).

  2. Thanks for your response!

    I’m sorry that it confused you, but I’d definitely be happy to talk about it. My thinking here is obviously close to Serres and Deleuze in many ways but I’m really trying to go somewhere a little different, actually. (And I’ll definitely be doing work on the Parasite in another piece.)

    When you say it was abstract I’m not quite sure — I’m not just talking about science ‘in general,’ I’m talking about the genealogical structure of scientific thought. That, in particular, science begins with a particular kind of criticism, a criticism of unity and transcendence and mysticism. This logical refusal can awaken science to its positive task, diagnosis and creativity. (Instead of simply opening abysses and mazes to go down into an explore — and I know I have to be careful with how I say this, but — science can learn to create, and finally realize, the highest in us.)

    So I’m talking about both past and future science. I understand that it probably could sound a bit confusing! What I’m really interested in is this space of transformation, which can be reached and investigated scientifically (along of course with other turbulent vectors of insight.)

    The idea of morphogenesis in particular becomes interesting here as well, which already gets us into your second question about signal-sign systems. Now I said signal-sign networks, and I think it wouldn’t be too far from saying that this describes the structure of a revolutionary organization. The key would be the ‘infrastructure,’ the ‘secret’ or ‘revolutionary’ aspect of the knowledge or goal. I’m not really sure how my use is all that different or similar to Deleuze’s (I wasn’t even particularly thinking of Deleuze on that point.)

    Finally, what do you mean by “certain problems in this field” (like such as…)? I mean, what I’m trying to deal with is maybe in a Kuhnian sense the ‘structure’ of scientific problems in general, that they have a certain symmetry, that in scientific revolutions these symmetries are broken, reoriented, transposed, etc. So you’re asking me, I suppose, to actually apply the model to some problems in information science or physics. OK, take gravity for instance. With Newton, we’ve got a vector space full of momenta, with intensities colliding and interacting symmetrically in time and space. Everything’s nice and reversible — except gravity. It’s a force at a distance, completely unrelated to anything but mass and distance. Lagrange takes the ‘differential’ of this topological models and shows us some curious symmetries between momentum and gravity, but it will really take Einstein until the topological has been completely replaced, or at least radically reoriented; for with Einstein, reality becomes a singular porous space-time whose curvature produces matter and energy. The reformalization on the basis of the new topology allowed new, completely undreamt of predictions: light bending, black holes, etc…

  3. Whoever has traced the history of an individual science finds a clue in its development for understanding the most ancient and common processes of all “knowledge and cognition.” There as here it is the rash hypothesis, the fictions, the good dumb will to ‘believe,’ the lack of mistrust and patience that are developed first; our senses learn only late, and never learn entirely, to be subtle, faithful, and cautious organs of cognition. Our eye finds it more comfortable to respond to a given stimulus by reproducing once more an image that it has produced many times before, instead of registering what is different and new in an impression. The latter would require more strength, more ‘morality.’ Hearing something new is embarrassing and difficult for the ear; foreign music we do not hear well. When we hear another language we try involuntarily to form the sounds we hear into words that sound more familiar and more like home to us: thus the German, for example, transformed arcubalista, when he heard that, into Armbrust. What is new finds our senses, too, hostile and reluctant. and even in the ‘simplest’ processes of sensation the affects dominate, such as fear, love, hatred, including the passive affects of laziness.

    Just as little as a reader today reads all of the individual words (let alone syllables) on a page–rather he picks about five words at random out of twenty and ‘guesses’ at the meaning that probably belongs to these five words–just as little do we see a tree eactly and completely with reference to leaves, twigs, color, and form; it is so very much easier for us simply to improvise some approximation of a tree. Even in the midst of the strangest experiences we still do the same: we make up the major part of the experience and can scarcely be forced not to contemplate some event as its “inventors.” All this means: basically and from time immemorial we are–accustomed to lying. Or to put it more virtuously and hypocritically, in short, more pleasantly: one is much more of an artist than one knows. (Beyond Good and Evil, section 192).

  4. Twitch of the death on said:

    I really like this Joe. It get to the basic question of our course. That said here are my questions:
    (1a) Based on what you have said about science, how is it different from other creative acts (such poetry, etc.)? What about philosophy? Any role here? My concern is that you have so abstractly defined science it becomes indistinguishable from other activities.
    (1b) What are apparatus’ anomalies? Are they not essential to science? What about Galileo and his telescope? It seems that you have turned science into type of idealism in the moment when you seem to want to move beyond such things.

    (2) Would any scientist recognize themselves in your description? If so, only ‘new’ scientists (historical question)? or all? If historically determined, what has changed? Would Newton see himself in the way that you have described? If the scientist does not see himself in this way, why is that you can? Is this what philosophy does when confronted by science? Does the scientist have anything to say about their own approach or is what you are saying their repressed truth (from Lacan)?

    (3) Why use the word transcendence? Why are both approaches transcendent? Transcendent from where? to where? Where is Immanence?

    (4) What do you mean by “war-machine”? Same as D & G? Different? Where are you taking me?

    (5)Where is rationality? What happens to science when it is no longer a rational exercise? Does it become poetry? Where is the material?

    Thanks for the post Joe.

  5. Sid,

    Thank you for reading it, I’m glad you liked it. As to your questions:

    (1a) Based on what you have said about science, how is it different from other creative acts (such poetry, etc.)? What about philosophy? Any role here? My concern is that you have so abstractly defined science it becomes indistinguishable from other activities.

    Then the first thing I’ll do is define it more clearly: Science is about an inventive moment of insight into an organizational discipline which dissolves previous disciplines, renders earlier spaces of thinking and arranging elements null and void. So Parmenides is really the first to do science; his abstract insight is a completely alien infiltration into Greek history (Nietzsche calls him a ‘thinking machine’) Without mysticism, without materialism, he says Becoming is futural, beyond concepts, never completely given in the senses, or even in one chain or linked series of insights. No closed circles of disciplines can contain all the truths there are; and only disciplined intuition can open new spaces for thought. So I think that poetry and human science are much closer, in general, to mathematics and physical science than we suspect, and that the truths they have discovered bear many kinds of subterranean interconnections.
    The distinction we make between human and natural science (i.e., the matheme and the poem) is provisional like any other distinction. These distinctions are inventive insights, scientific moments in themselves. There is no meta-science: it’s either all science equally, or none of it is. To me, an insight or theory is more scientific when it is both rich and rigorous, but of course nonsense can be rich and rigorous. Perhaps one extreme of science is a meta-science, with a method that is not only rich and rigorous, but also ensures that only further increases of richness and rigor can occur. I do not think it is idealistic to conceive of science in this way. Like life, like evolution, science follows the inverse of the Law of Entropy; it follows a Law of General Self-Organization.
    But any particular organization begins to reach a point, as Serres adeptly points out, of diminishing returns, where the richness begins to fade, when we realize the rigorous method no longer applies quite so universally. So it’s when our cognitive horizon is punctured and expanded, opened onto infinity, that there awakens the possibility for a scientific innovation. There is, of course, also the possibility of getting wrecked upon infinity. We have to admire the bold daring of science — “Let us maintain a careful approach towards the boundaries!”– whereas poetry has a different boldness entirely, a courage to descend into hell, to burn with inhuman, overhuman sensitivity, to be lacerated, cracked open, to be precisely wrecked upon infinity. Science is sobriety, while poetry is intoxicated. They are the same journey experienced in two different but simultaneous ways.
    As to the role of philosophy in science, I think this is a deceptively simple question. The simple answer is that the Greek philosophers invented science, (Thales, Parmenides) but really I think science goes back much further, to the origins of language, of farming, of writing. Ultimately, Science begins with fire. But philosophy begins with light, it is already there before science. In other words, science is about weight, speed, length, heat, radiance, motion and rest — positive, measurable quantities. Philosophy aims to discuss negative qualities also: the extensive qualities of relation and non-relation, time and space as such, etc. Those philosophical fields about which very many things become known and explained in terms of positive quantites, they are no longer considered‘pure’ philosophy: physics, psychology, etc. Eventually, only metaphysics remains, and the question of morality (shouldn’t we read today: metaphysical politics?)
    
(1b) What are apparatus’ anomalies? Are they not essential to science? What about Galileo and his telescope? It seems that you have turned science into type of idealism in the moment when you seem to want to move beyond such things.
    Particular apparatus’ are anomalous, they may be part of a larger system, but in themselves they are specific, individual, always defective in some unique way. Sometimes these defects may be advantages. It’s all a question of tactics, how you use the machine. But again, as I said, it’s not a question of the machine, of the self-organizing machine of science as such, it’s a question of the willing behind the scientist, the will behind the question, the joy and fear behind the question. In short, does the question ask the right things for the right reasons? Thus, finally, this is a technological question, a question about the proper functioning of scientific machines, including science itself.
    You are right: the anomaly, the defect is quite essential. It is perhaps like a dark precursor, expressing within its obscure symptoms its unique break with regularity, its ongoing self-deregulation. De-regulating ourselves is good, it’s our goal. So we can re-define science as the de-regulation of the senses; but, curiously, this de-regulation is also spontaneous poetry. In short, we cannot distinguish between art and science at the level of the de-regulation of the senses, the derritorialization of spaces, or the creation of the war machine. Science and art both create war machines, and for much the same reasons. War machines are extrinsic to scientific and artistic regimes, but subterranean science and art are themselves forms of war against a static (utopia) metaphysic or (idealist, humanist) morality. At this level both science and art transcend history, and enter into a new space shaped by unconscious, political self-organization… Where science and art are most truly science and art, they converge.

    (2) Would any scientist recognize themselves in your description? If so, only ‘new’ scientists (historical question)? or all? If historically determined, what has changed? Would Newton see himself in the way that you have described? If the scientist does not see himself in this way, why is that you can? Is this what philosophy does when confronted by science? Does the scientist have anything to say about their own approach or is what you are saying their repressed truth (from Lacan)?

    Of course, I hope at least some scientists would recognize themselves in my descriptions! You know, really I’m often saying that there’s not one but two kinds of science in order to clarify a particular point. But I also am arguing that it’s often only in retrospect that we can distinguish between the two kinds of science, the two kinds of becoming, and in reality, they intertwine and communicate so frequently it’s often difficult to distinguish one from the other at all.
    Thus we must also say further that the distinction into two kinds of science (human and natural, etc.) is provisional as I’ve talked about earlier… Newton would recognize himself as a scientist, I think, in those moments of particular scientific intuition. There is just as much science in a moment of calculation or experiment or observation, but it was really these ‘peaks’ of inhuman insight that earn him the name of scientist.
    These moments are not the ‘repressed truth’ of the scientist; it is precisely because he is capable of expressing them that we call him a scientist. The scientist does not deal with truth; this is still an idealism against which science struggles to overcome. Real science seeks freedom, liberation from fascism: it’s higher politics; real Art seeks transformation, creation from wreckage: it’s lower politics. Again, two simultaneous but differing experiences of the same passage from space to the ‘unspace,’ into the void surrounding the event… (I.e., their difference isn’t definite, it’s an ever-moving boundary that threatens each instant to dissolve.)

    (3) Why use the word transcendence? Why are both approaches transcendent? Transcendent from where? to where? Where is Immanence?

    Science and art as a descent into the void transcend history, creating in the process a new organization, a new space for interactivity. The breaking off of the descent, differentiation, is the return to immanence, the organization of the real field, the machination of the essence, the collapse of unity which is individuation. Psychic surgery: truth, infinity, the other is pulled out from inside of me, from a virtual place folded within our brains. We need a better model, in fact, the observe model. Truth and infinity express themselves to us in interactive potentiality; we are ‘afforded’ so much truth and infinity from an other which is immediate, not mediated. This is ‘reason,’ and rationality is the distinguishing and measuring of spaces to optimize energy flow. Machines require cleverly-reasoned design, as well as a cautious construction. Science is a clever machine which improves itself; it is independent of any particular scientist. Science is this general transcendence and return, to the design and back, the moment of inventiveness which characterizes particular moments of a scientists’ existence. Moments where they transcend history in a critical, diagnostic correlation of elements from separate ontological layers, or at least what we had supposed to be separate fields. Science pierces these ontological layers or ‘sheaves’ gradually, folding them into itself in order to overcome them. It aims along with Western metaphysics towards the Other, the shadowy origin of reason, of technology.

    (4) What do you mean by “war-machine”? Same as D & G? Different? Where are you taking me?

    War machines are dis-sociative, they destroy the unity of life and culture, the threaten the integrity of the present working system. They are parasites, defects, they swarm in from nowhere. We are among them all the time. Just as any particular scientific insight is a war machine, it desires to construct a new machine, a new topology for ordering flows of discourse. A real and untimely insight threatens the whole system with obsolescene, and forces an unconscious re-shaping of the political social space. The re-shaping of the discourse based on a new insight: this is what I’m really curious about. How do war machines shape space, how do these ‘hole’-machines (un)ground our systems of thought? (This is, incidentally, why I’m really fascinated with Reza Negarestani. )

    (5)Where is rationality? What happens to science when it is no longer a rational exercise? Does it become poetry? Where is the material?

    I feel like I’ve already answered this one, but if you’re still curious, just ask me. In short, though, science is a rational exercise. But it should also be a creative exercise, as well.

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