consciousness, disaster, event, fantasy, intensity, power, recognition, wager



A series of imminent and necessary breakdowns are inherent to the production of desire: first, because desires connect up to an outside, with something which is always unrecognized, which is totally foreign; next, because desire is brought to turn upon itself, it is seduced into betrayal (by resentment, fear, hate, etc.); finally, because desires are always collective, but the individual makes these collective desire their own, digests and reintegrates them. In each case, there is a kind of fundamental deadlock to any investigation of the unconscious which reflects the essential paradox of psychoanalysis.

We risk not only our feelings and thoughts but even ourselves as beings entirely: the risk of losing not just our habits, our beliefs and our identities, but the very significance, the subjectivity, of our reality. Everything becomes a trajectory, a cosmic machine, a universal process of production. A becoming-nothing which is the essence of consciousness: and in the end will we know which it is — a disease or an experiment? –But what do we matter? For alienation is becoming a stranger; not trading places with a double, nor a diagnosis, but rather this mis-recognition of an alien consciousness always already present within enjoyment, within our desire itself.


The Disaster, the Event, Difference — this is what is always recognized but never known; or rather, you don’t know, you will never know whether this alterity is truly radical or not. We must make a certain wager in order to discover the real, to know our desire, to learn anything at all about ourselves. It is not a question of imitation, but of pure intensities, of movements and singularities and flows. There is always a risk involved in a becoming, a risk which is always recognized and never known to us — a displacement of essence internal to becoming, an infinite capacity which transfigures reality.

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algorithm, complexity, computation, consciousness, cybernetics, deduction, emil post, godel, hologram, hooft, information, information processing, laws of form, physics, psychoanalysis, quantum gravity, spencer-brown, string theory, structure, Turing, wolfram

Universal Computation and The Laws of Form

Remarks on Turing and Spencer-Brown

(Joseph Weissman)


Computation is holographic. Information processing is a formal operation made abstract only by a reduction in the number of free variables, a projective recording which analyzes from all angles the entropy or information contained in the space. Thus, basing my results partly on Hooft’s holographic conjecture for physics (regarding the equivalence of string theory and quantum theory,) and by extending Spencer-Brown’s work on algebras of distinction (developed in his Laws of Form,) I will sketch the outlines of a new theory of universal computation, based not on system-cybernetic models but on holographic transformations (encoding and projection, or more precisely, fractal differentiation and homogeneous integration.)

Hooft’s conjecture allows us to extend the Laws of Form with an “interface” model where computation doesn’t require an observer, only the potentiality of being observed. In other words, all we need is the construction of a interface (positive feedback system, i.e., an iterative calculation or mutual holographic projection) in order to process information. Light itself can be thought of as encoding information, and in particular, electromagnetic waves form a necessary part of holographically recorded information. In other words, to operate in a formal system is to derive information only from interfaces, simpler than but in some way equivalent to the “real” objects.
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consciousness, ethics, metapsychology, other, phenomenology, society

Time Warp

A little time warp this time. This extract is from the first ‘series’ of scattered early writings, almost two years ago now. I hate looking at old stuff but in practice it can end up teaching you a lot. So here it is:

A personal relationship with the universe is accomplished in the separation which constitutes daily existence. The portion of the universe which is given meaning by my observation and interaction is absolutely separated from the perspective and comprehension of the other. What we speak of is not an absolute reality from which we are separated; our individual perspectives, our relationships–interactions, connections–with external reality constitute appear to constitute a totality. this totality is the self, which we believe to be a unity, that is, to be singular. Common sense suggests that there is only one you. A personal relationship with the universe is the existence of a conscious mind: they are not isolated from one another, but in fact are defined by one another. However, a self-aware creature’s reality is unique, singular unto itself, isolated by an infinite abyss between the realities of other conscious minds, yet the conscious mind is not limited by this separation: a personal relationship with the universe is a linking of finite consciousness with infinity, the absolute, with Being.

Strong but loose. For clarity’s sake, I’ll try to identify two of the major theoretical mistakes I made here. It’s strange indeed to see the resurfacing of themes and examples. Also the way I’d emphasize different aspects of the relation to the other now, like the machinic interfaces and images which mediate the relation between singular beings. I’m now starting to think that the issue of class and money comes into the whole question of ontology much more strongly when you consider the political and sexual connection between systems of knowledge and systems of power. For example, we can’t just say: absolute being is one thing, and processes (natural or human) are different: they have different rhythms, cycles, and so forth. This is because their cycles are all in some sense interdependent even though always seemingly only locally informed–this primal ‘reconnection’ I assumed to be absolute being, but it seems in the light of a more psychoanalytically inclined mindset to be pure narcissism, the desire to assume primary importance in a parasitic modality.

This leads us to the second theoretical mistake: question of ethics remains completely unraised in this text–even as the relation to the other is ceaselessly invoked. It goes implicit, unmediated but ultimately unstated. Perhaps, after all, we cannot state an ethics–but nonetheless, a certain degree of meta-ethics is always required in any project. I would now identify a link within conscious self-reflection to the idea of a bad infinity, a good infinity being represented more clearly in discourse, reason, cooperation, co-evolution. A ‘pure’ meta-ethic would run something like: abuse and addiction are negative forms of infinity; restoration and ethical practice are positive forms of infinity.

This question of being always seems to elude, in one way or another, the traumatic realization that nature’s rhythms are not always sensitive to ours, and likewise that ours are not sensitive to nature’s; but this is no will of a capricious deity, no contradiction– but a fractalized interdependent network of impressions and movements, that is, there’s nothing but different events. And isn’t the ultimate mystery the locus of our own self-difference? The key to this crisis is the relation to the other, and is identified fairly clearly in the text, but still–without any sort of mediation, or modulation of this ‘personal’ relation to the universe.

How is such a relation, after all, not supposed to totalize us, to reduce us to a naked singularity, to quantize us and see us as interchangeable and replacable? It’s only in the rhythm and pulse of the social realm that we are irreplacable–but at the same time, through economy made completely replacable, through politics completely displaced… Society plays a much more complex role in terms of transcendence and sense than can be accounted for merely in the idea of the infinte, or the relation to the other as such… This, then, would mean we need a sort of phenomenology of social forces, or put another way: a meta-psychology of ethics.

artificial intelligence, chalmers, consciousness, henri wallon, lacan, phenomenology, psychoanalysis

Lacan and Artificial Intelligence

Here I’d like to try to make a little more explicit some of the more provocative interrelations between Lacan’s philosophical and psychoanalytic project and the goals of modern artificial intelligence. Let’s start with the “hard problem” of consciousness, which can be phrased: “Why is there a subjective component to experience?” In his seminal article Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness, Chalmers puts it thus:

It is undeniable that some organisms are subjects of experience. But the question of how it is that these systems are subjects of experience is perplexing. Why is it that when our cognitive systems engage in visual and auditory information-processing, we have visual or auditory experience: the quality of deep blue, the sensation of middle C? How can we explain why there is something it is like to entertain a mental image, or to experience an emotion? It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all? It seems objectively unreasonable that it should, and yet it does.

This “undeniable” element of experience is the zone of subjectivity proper. It is not, properly speaking, a location, a concept, a word or an object. On the contrary, this zone seems to be the ultimate source of linguistic/gestural ‘reality’; as such, it represents the capacity of a signifier to delay its own signification, the delay being the experience of the signification which depends on future utterances to acquire its meaning. Such a postponement is not technically a concept, a word or an object, but an experience or a temporal mode. There are close ties here to Derrida’s notion of differance here: for Lacan, the self constructs its identity relationally, as signs do.
So, in short, the crisis can be boiled down to a recursion problem: How can we even begin to signify “how the self begins to signify”? This “explanatory impasse” of consciousness, our inability to translate it into schematic, algorithmic or in any sense technical (non-poetic or archetypal description) results, apparently, from the curious self-ownership of experience, from the fractured reflexivity of intentional awareness. Lacan closely analyzes this cut or rupture as the joint or juncture of subjectivity in his 1949 lecture on the mirror stage (which is also the subject of the first paper in Ecrits.)
Lacan’s work on development was of course influenced by Freud, but also very much by Marxist psychoanalyst Henri Wallon, who lectured at the Sorbonne in the first decades of the last century. Wallon’s theory differed from Piaget’s model of development by asserting the possibility of regression (which cannot occur in Piaget’s theory.) For Wallon, from the moment a child is born (and probably much earlier) there already exist impulsive and emotional factors, affective influences from the external environment which are mirrored by internal feelings and a burgeoning subjective awareness. These factors dominate the child’s reality until, by positive and guided interaction, the child differentiates emotional modes and dispenses with “gestural disorder”; the child integrates the external stimuli, allows these to structure their reality (instead of the affective internal sensations which previously dominate.) This second stage (which Wallon called the sensorimotor and projective stage) supports the emergence of two distinct kinds of intelligence: practical intelligence which emerges from the manipulation of real world objects and the child’s own body, and discursive intelligence which can emerge only through structure interaction (imitation, appropriation and correction.) The most important philosophical consequences of Wallon’s views (on Lacan) is the crisis of development. Wallon emphasizes the messy causality, the properly dialectical (in the Hegelian sense) progress of development: the subject is structured by a lack; a positive theory of development is, in a sense, a critical impasse, an anti-synthesis, for an all-too-real crisis of disruption underlies all possible development and progress.
So for Lacan, the crisis at the mirror stage is not the erasure of a previous body composed of “bits and pieces” which are united by a glance in the mirror (“Ah! I am finally unified once and for all!”) To Lacan, the salvation of a unity of consciousness is already a misrecognition and only highlights the ever-present risk of a depersonalization, the traumatic possibility of a real disruption, of regression–one step forward, two steps back. The child has a desire to see himself as an “I,” as a complete entity exterior to the external world. Desire itself, for Lacan, is a desire for wholeness; yet the desire is the hole, desire is the missing piece. The object of desire–the completed self–structures our self-directed activity through maintaining a distance to the desired object. The subject is this division; the object (the symbolic hole within the imaginary whole) is the desire. Lacan, then, is saying that the “recognition” the child experiences when he looks at the mirror is actually a misrecognition, that is, it recognizes a lack: the sense of wholeness emerges from “bits and pieces.” Being doubly outside ourselves: this is what it to be ourselves. So in looking at the mirror, by misrecognizing ourselves, we create a self which is alienated from us, which is structured by a lack which we try forever (impossibly) to close and endlessly fantasize about filling in. Let’s hear from Lacan himself (from Sheridan’s translation of Ecrits):

This act [looking into the mirror], far from exhausting itself, as in the case of the monkey, once the image has been mastered and found empty, immediately rebounds in the case of the child in a series of gestures in which he experiences in play the relation between the movements assumed in the image and the reflected environment, and between this virtual complex and the reality it reduplicates–the child’s own body, and the persons and things, around him. This event can take place, as we have known since Baldwin, from the age of six months, and its repetition has often made me reflect upon the startling spectacle of the infant in front of the mirror. Unable as yet to walk, or even to stand up, and held tightly as he is by some support, human or artificial (what, in France, we call a ‘trotte bébé’), he nevertheless overcomes, in a flutter of jubilant activity, the obstructions of his support, and fixing his attitude in a slightly leaning-forward position, in order to hold it in his gaze, brings back an instantaneous aspect of the image. For me, this activity retains the meaning I have given it up to the age of eighteen months. This meaning discloses a libidinal dynamism, which has hitherto remained problematic, as well as an ontological structure of the human world that accords with my reflections on paranoiac knowledge. We have only to understand the mirror stage as an identification , in the full sense that analysis gives to the term; namely, the transformation that takes place in the subject when he assumes an image–whose predestination to this phase-effect is sufficiently indicated by the use, in analytic theory, of the ancient term imago.

For Lacan, all knowledge is paranoiac because it is built directly upon deception, and in this way he directly opposes himself to Cartesian theories of the subject which derive their power from the reflective axiomatism of the cogito. He can say this because he understands the mirror stage as an identification. In Freudian theory, identification is always identification with another, especially an ideal image of oneself. This assumption of an image is understood to be an ideal mental object from the child’s earliest memories–that we have an imagined ego-ideal which we strive to identify with. In other words, the ego is a fiction:

This form would have to be called the Ideal-I [je-ideal], if we wished to incorporate it into our usual register, in the sense that it will also be the source of secondary identifications, under which term I would place the functions of libidinal normalization. But the important point is that this form situates the agency of the ego [moi], before its social determination, in a fictional direction which will always remain irreducible for the individual alone, or rather, which will only rejoin the coming-into-being (le devenir) of the subject asymptotically, whatever the success of the dialectical syntheses by which he must resolve as I his discordance with his own reality.

The agency of the ego–a phrase which ought to be of some interest to artificial intelligence experts–is identified prior to its social determination as an irreducible fiction, one which cannot be integrated into being-in-the-world by any sort of dialectical synthesis. Yet we are driven towards precisely such a resolution, and this is the rupture in which the ego circulates as a pulse, the cut in which we attempt to resolve our own discordance with ourselves, that is, the break between ourselves and our own reality. Whether or not “Can we model/simulate such a rupture?” is a meaningful question, we shall have to leave for another time.