EPISODE 52 MUSIC IN PHASE SPACE
The time of hypersubjects is ending. Their desert-apocalypse-fire-and-death cults aren’t going to save them this time. Timothy Morton and Dominic Boyer talk about how the time of hyposubjects is just beginning.
1 hyperobjects, narcissism, white boys, looping, teenagers, toys, games, squats, gut bacteria.
We live in a time of hyperobjects, of objects too massive and multi-phasic for humans to fully comprehend. Many of the hyperobjects that concern us have human origins. For example, global warming.
A certain kind of human has helped usher the world into the hyper- objective era. Hypersubjects wield reason and technology as instruments for getting things done. They command and control, they seek transcendence, they get very high on their own supply.
There is no time for hypersubjection any more. It is hyposubjectivity rather than hypersubjective that will become the companion of the hyperobjective era
The road to our present condition is paved with mastery of things, people and creatures. We have weird faith in our species’ alleged ability to always know more and better. We wonder whether that sense of weakness and insignificance is actually what needs embracing.
Like their hyperobjective environment, hyposubjects are multiphasic and plural, not-yet, neither here nor there, less than the sum of their parts. They do not pursue or pretend to absolute knowledge and language let alone power. Instead they play, they care, they adapt,
Can you imagine what it’s like being in Generation Z? As much as I dislike PR advertising labels, I’m fond now of being an X-er. X is a high scoring letter in Scrabble, for a kickoff. And the X implies something fun and foolish about one’s parents, the Boomers
Fail better and fail often.
When I turn the ignition, that’s a statistically meaningless action. But at the same time, scaled up to earth magnitude — we’re talking about billions of key turnings every few minutes, — I am contributing to global warming.
A hyposubject is how a hyperobject feels about itself.
We humans have a “massive, narcissistic attachment to our own sense of distinctiveness as a species” “We are the ones who may have gotten ourselves into the Anthropocene but we’re also the saviors, the only ones who are going to get us out of this situation”
There is no one narcissism, and there is not narcissism versus non-narcissism. So Derrida argues that there are in fact many different narcissisms and the idea would be to try to extend one’s narcissism to include as many humans and nonhumans as possible.
Wounded narcissism sees itself as the top of the food chain. Once you know that an agricultural project that was doomed within a few hundred years of its beginning, like neoliberalism, you have a narcissistic wound.
In other words, one of the ways we get towards hypo- subjectively accommodating ourselves to hyperobjects is through some kind of rapprochement with narcissism. If you destroy the narcissistic relation, you destroy in advance any possibility of relation to the other.
Because in a certain sense, narcissism is a feedback loop to yourself and the only way to work through hyperobjects, most honestly and least violently, would be underneath or within
One of the complaints about ecological politics is that the Nazis thought it up. Are we going to do something even more violent, to achieve a way to relate to these big-scale entities? Is it possible to go to a place which is more playful, maybe, or open.
I don’t want to stay in tragedy mode forever. Not just because it sucks, but because it’s a symptom of the problem that we’ve been in, that we find ourselves caught in the headlights of our own doings.
We face the unenviable challenge of, while still hallucinating madly, trying to disrupt our current pleasuring loops, because those loops now have produced catastrophic oscillations as scaled up to the planetary level.
Even Neanderthals, would have loved Coca-Cola Zero. We use resistance in the classic way: ‘I’m not a consumerist. This has to be the age of squatting and occupation of the hyper-objective terrain. It’s not resistance in a typical literal, political way, speaking truth to power.
I doubt that speakingtruth to power will be enough to disrupt our hyperobjective condition. Playing is the hyposubjective qualities we need to maintain and to nurture. Also to realize that we’re all hypocrites, with incomplete toys at the political, philosophical, psychic levels.
The technocratic character of much of the resistance discourse and apparatus at our disposal, makes the future feel very forlorn. Even if it were to win, would you want to live in that world?
The question is more, what kinds of toys are we going to fit to other toys? We have a lot of toy making wedded to a particular kind of Taylorist, Fordist industrial apparatus. That abundance of mass-marketed toys, and not just games of monopoly, but also all the epistemic toys
Gameification, is a constant reinvestment in the way things are. The intolerable way things are. It’s saying that this particular neoliberal model isn’t a toy, it’s the toy factory. You can play with all the toy, as long as you don’t make the factory into a toy, and change that.
In order to make things that the corporations want, engineers have to make a lot of toy things. And then the corporation decides this toy is not a toy, it’s our product. That’s the bit that sucks for engineers, in the same way than for the humanist as someone who just toys around
prototypes can also be fun. They can be mischievous. They can be uncertain and incomplete. And in that way I think they’re more toy-like. Squat the hyperobject. That’s the new t-shirt that everybody has to wear.
II ooo, dasein, bananas, phenomenology, children’s books, space movies, revolutionary infrastructure, micronauts
The notion of us being possibly extinct has become quite clear. The work of the hyposubject is precisely to find a better way of inhabiting a world of hyperobjects we live in. You have to think of a clever way of playing with them, as opposed to seen them as demonic
Object-oriented Ontology OOO is an approach to phenomenology that looks at the place of the subject in relation to objects. In the phenomenological tradition, subjects are always very present, the necessary ego. Can we connect hyposubjects to the tradition of phenomenology?
OOO is a school of thought that rejects the “anthropocentrism” of Kant’s Copernican Revolution. In object-oriented ontology, all relations between objects distort their related objects in the same basic manner as human consciousness, and exist on an equal footing with one another
“OOO” is an un-alienated theory of the subject. A hyposubject is in a way someone who can tell they’re intrinsically un-Alienated. “A shrimp sandwich is a thing that happened to some shrimp. It means you don’t have to prove that lemurs have a self-concept
The word hyposubject and also the word object are that they imply terms borrowed from Aristotle that might be part of the problem. We don’t have to make everything be one to get rid of the subject/ object dualism. Instead we have a kind of duality at every place in the universe.
A book we might talk about is How Forests Think. I really love the idea of networks of things communicating indexically. But there are ways without even being indexical. We don’t generate new concepts as a matter of will or insight but rather we are being infused by new condition
Play suggests that isn’t just about the darkest images and concepts we are capable of conjuring. There’s an opening bifurcated now into a) hypersubjective titan form. We are now realizing that our titan form has accomplished a path of acceleration toward planetary extinction.
Extinction logistics reaching a kind of almost perfect functioning, that if left to continue, would within the next hundred years quite happily wipe out 50% of all life forms on the planet. Humans too would be part of that.
For a moment everything has been mastered but it’s only an illusion. Suddenly the whole apparatus is shredded, by a chain of human actions gone awry. But that’s also a kind of perfect extinction fantasy, having sacrificed ourselves to unite with the deep inky infinite.
b) Whereas otoh, there is a new sort of potential human that’s being awakened here that hasn’t figured out what it can do yet or what its responsibilities and entitlements and ethics can be — but what it does know is that it is not the mega. That one certainty of ID: “that’s not me
III global village, dyslocation, right wing fantasies, finance capital, speculative realism, downloads, bliss-horror, role-playing games
History has a tendency to proceed as a discipline based on prepackaged theoretical constructs that are unexamined. So, you know: ‘human beings evolved, and made all the other ones extinct’ That’s the ultimate dream of the old school humanism: I can keep on transcending myself.
In other words, Sapiens. The word itself, suggesting that the human is what he is thinking: canny, wise — that’s why we beat the Neanderthals. It’s an old-school story: ‘we were able to see around corners that they couldn’t see around.’
I worry that if ecological discourse means progressing into an ever more democratic future with an eighteenth- century way of picturing things, not adjusting to the Anthropocene and the philosophy that weirdly goes along with it, then I never want to be in that future.
I was just reading John Stuart Mill, and liberty sounds very wonderful until you realize that children don’t get it, that women probably won’t get it, and that everyone living outside civilized Europe gets “benevolent despotism.” Mill worked for the British East India Company
Children get it another way, by being forced into chimneys and machines. Yes. So there is an era that produces these discourses on the human, on liberty, on freedom. And these are very much the engines of the beginnings of what becomes today’s order, already naturalizing violence
Revolutions are all wedded to mega-level industrial programs, needing mega-levels of energy to power enormous productive apparatuses. It’s not about the globalized proletariat seizing back use value production, so much as pervasive creative squatting within the grid/ road world
So much of our thinking is warped by the long inefficient supply chains of fossil and nuclear energy that empower centralized governments but force the rest of us to pay rent for their inefficiencies.
Grid engineers hate solar energy because they see it as parasitic and weird and intermittent. They view renewable energy as a virus in the grid world, endangering the health and stability of the system. But it’d dawning on us that the grid doesn’t matter so much any more
Part of the unthinkability of moving against the trajectory of the Anthropocene is this idea that we must always continue to supply the grid of reinforcing the hypersubject-hyperobject death drive loop.
That’s the problem with Marxist-Leninism. It wants the fires to burn just as brightly as before. A kind of Hegelianism where you say, ‘go to the top level, and then you change the totality, then everything will be different at successively lower levels.’
The reality of “globality” has become inhibiting in political speech. This supposed abstract global has turned into another kind of local, only really, really big. There have been postmodern ways of saying what we’re saying right now, but now is when it really happens
Maybe the Euclidean worldview just can’t be sustained anymore. The attempt to build a nice stable little fantasy home and hearth in the middle of a torrent of finance capital, multinational corporations, new kinds and intensities. Dislocations multiply.
Not dislocation, but malocation, the idea that location is a little bit sinister. My locatedness isn’t good. It’s all dislocation but this dislocation is dys-location. It’s not that I find myself nicely cozily here, and then it’s all disrupted.
It’s that I find myself rather sinisterly here. I’m on a planet. And it’s this planet and not that planet. And this planet retroactively affects all its sub-regions. So one of the problems for the hyposubject is this feeling of dyslocation.
Dislocation from an Americanized 50s fantasy space, while neglecting the great public infrastructures that the New Deal built — the roads, the bridges, the dams — all these mobility and energy infrastructures that a certain mode of nation-statehood was built upon.
Atst it invested rather heavily in global telecom infrastructure and the Internet, which in turn created the possibility for finance as hyperobject. It’s not that the local has died. It’s that the local has metastasized and that the universal has died or is in serious condition
This metastasis of the local and neoliberalism leads to an increasing appetite for these fantasies of national purity and extra-national invasive species. But to the extent that a lot of people believe in the fantasy, one must take it seriously. It’s a certain kind of real.
Fascists aren’t how they used to be. Which might be a symptom of the emergence of hyposubject and dyslocation. Even fascism has to change so that it isn’t about blood and soil. It’s some kind of weird smell of leather and a barbecue in suburbia. That doesn’t mean it’s nicer
I’m horrified by my reason, and my reason itself is horrifying, and instead of soaring into the heaven, I’m rubbernecking my inclusion in the Cthulhu-like multipodal abyss of horror. “I have to invent a big global force that is oppressing me in order to comfort myself”
Strangely, it’s comforting to imagine that I’m a little sucker on the tentacle of Cthulhu. Rather than imagining that I’m an agent in a world of agents, with the interminable task of getting along with one another that’s actually more irksome, irritating and draining of my libido
If a tiny thing that I do brings this extremely negative orgasm of bliss-horror into my world — destructive, incandescent — I am actually inhibiting the ways in which I could imagine plugging my libido into other stuff like putting solar panels on the roof…
With the pursuit of bliss-horror, we deflect ourselves from investing in ideas and behaviors that would actually, at a mass level, make a difference. The reason to act is that you’ve done something wrong. And then eventually you realize, the reason to act is because I am wrong.
I become horrified by my own horrible stuff. Horror is one level below shame. It’s more phenomenologically accurate and it’s more compelling than the shame of being a human who doesn’t even recycle or whose recycling efforts are haphazard.
To my mind, gaming is not only a place not for fantasy and experiment but also a place for the training of the imagination to work across scales and phases and locations. Gaming is how the hyposubject can learn and extend its abilities.
Game ideation is a place where unexpected thoughtlines can begin to develop. Sure, gaming has social institutional structure, we all know that. But it’s something to be taken seriously. Clearly, corporations are taking it seriously.
The whole phenomenon of gamification where you have to allow the libido of the corporation to leech itself off of you, to penetrate you, to that extent where not only must you work really hard and look like you’re enjoying your work, but actually really enjoy it, for real.
When you think about technologies of the self that are widely available, and that attract people through their sheerly ludic qualities — even when they aren’t actually sure of what it is they’re attracted to — then you have to think about games.
So it became more of an improvised performance, and the game master essentially operated as a storyteller, setting up a mystery that could be explored through the game play. The thing is, the beasts were so — Absurd. Absurd, but also deadly. Absurdly deadly.
The Cthulhu mythos (game)was about the possibility of encountering something of a radically different scale and significance that would leave you utterly transformed. It was a experience of messianic time. Not just slogging through linear time, getting a loot and then gtfo
In D&D terms the Lovecraft monsters had -20 charisma, which basically meant that when you saw them, you would go completely round the bend. I think we should push hard on the idea that hyposubjectivity offers very fertile ground for game-making and gamer-making.
If we’re living in a world where we’re being asked to inhabit these dreary political fantasies and games — the MAGA games — then why shouldn’t we be calling for a proliferation of new kinds of game that could take on those fantasies and work through them to unlock new possibilities?
IV subtraction, transcendence, excess, implosion, singularity, subscendence, unplugging, roombas
Is the concept of hyposubject robust enough to include the nonhuman? Must it necessarily include it? What I like about the notion of hyposubjects is that it feels subtractive. You take away some features of the subject, thus allowing it to percolate into other domains
Ray Kurzweil has proposed a remake of the classic idea that humans can use AI to upload themselves into the cloud. That we’re capable of transcending ourselves. That we’re hypersubjects like Heidegger’s idea of Dasein allows other beings to fall into its lawn-mowing path
Maybe the whole idea of hyposubjects is that we’re talking about beings that can’t actually transcend itself. A kind of Western agricultural mode, which remains one of our big problems, is a kind of dispositif, a paraknowledge regime.
It’s an elephant in the room that sucks other beings into its orbit, and disposes of them. It seems to me that the project is to think of a way to crawl out from under it rather than to transcend it, because transcendence is precisely the operational mode of agriculture.
Transcendence is a powerful and seductive fantasy. “We’re going to somehow transcend our material conditions. It’s exactly the same as when you talk to people invested in the oil and gas industry about technological breakthrough in carbon sequestration
The point being that even if that’s true, this is a moment in which to think otherwise. Even if we could push a button to make our problems go away, would we want to live in a world where the button-pushing is done by a massive oil corporation ran by a transcendence epistemic?
In a way, everything is shaping the world to its own ends. The problem being the philosophy behind the agrilogistics is, when scaled up to earth magnitude, obviously toxic to other life forms establishing a rigid boundary between what is inside and outside social space
We need to pay attention to the fact that we are interconnected with other beings. Ie, between cattle who die in genocidal industrial slaughterhouses and humans who are being driven to become refugees. Both are forms of life that are being extinguished by interrelated processes
We need to recognize and recover the enormous quantity of nonhuman and human labor that was required to constitute Modernity. That labor has been completely silenced and occluded behind institutional walls. We only hear about human invention and genius and breakthroughs.
We never hear about all the life that was orchestrated to make it happen, he says. “This is all about transcendence again. We can’t allow it to become an ontological reduction to a general category of life,”
No one physicist could possibly be in charge of CERN anymore, if at all, ever, he says. We can’t allow it to become an ontological reduction to a general category of life, a One that unites us all. If we’re all the same underneath, then it’s even easier to manipulate us.
Or maybe instead of thinking of ourselves as everything, we could think of ourselves as an enormous something that isn’t everything. All qualities we attribute to god are qualities of us that we’ve alienated. So, god is love means love is god, as John Lennon said.
A point about the Nietzschean übermensch is about what über means in German, it’s not ‘over;’ so ‘overman’ is the wrong translation. Über is more like a volcano whose lava is spilling outside of its crater. It’s a condition of excess so übermensch is the excessively human,
It’s the being that’s always already spilling outside of itself. There one also senses the deeper crypto-Hegelian trope of constant dialectical process in which becoming is always overwhelming being, always confronting it, negating it, leaving being
There’s an excess, but it’s not something that’s bursting out, but rather imploding. An imploded form of subjectivity is worth considering as an antidote. One that is denser, but also more aware of the architecture of its density and of the gravitational forces that hold it
What would it be if we weren’t beings who established our destiny.’ What if that wasn’t what being an entity consisted of. It would have to be thinkable along the lines, articulated in there. The notion of a multiplicity of physical qualities that can’t be reduced to,
Hyposubjects necessarily include nonhumans, because hyposubjectivity always has more in it than it itself. The whole is always less than the sum of its parts. Think of Houston, as megacity, is much less than the totality of all the houses and streets and pathways and sprawl t
The emphasis on knowledge, inevitably involves a new project of mastery and transcendence through incorporation. We’re very good at it. We’ve practiced it in many different modes for at least 12,500 years.
In the next ten years, something the size of a blood cell maybe will have an iPhone’s computing power. This going to involve an awful lot of rare Earth elements and electricity.The whole techno-fantasy is really about transcending the physical in the final analysis.
The transcendence narrative has to do with inhabiting some gridlike structure that’s much bigger than me, in a much better way, he says. White masculinity is just software loaded onto a machine, but it seems preferable to living as wetware.
Their idea of transcendence Is basically Christian millennial apocalypticism without the inconvenience of sin and redemption. Transcendence is not going to be a Terminator scenario.: It’s a sweet spot fantasy in which we have transcendence of the human without catastrophe
We already are part of intelligences that totally outstrips you. We’re surrounded by things that are much more clever than us, just by dint of being a part of a biosphere. This whole techno-fantasy is really about transcending the physical in the final analysis.
Whats scary about artificial intelligence being smarter than you is scary about women being more powerful than you. I suspect the whole singularity fantasy is a displaced reaction to feminism. And mortality and reproduction and children
The transcendence narrative inhabit some gridlike structure that’s much bigger than me, that enables me to be much more powerful “I’m going to wait until I’m as great as I can possibly be before I figure out what to do” And then, we’ll be able to look after the animals.
So here’s the politics of something we might call subscendence as opposed to transcendence. Dismantle the apocalypse. The important thing being not so much the content conveyed, but rather the energetic infrastructure itself.
The medium is the message so to speak
I try to subscend my fantasy of a perfect marriage between the misogynistically disembodied matrix and my power trip. That becomes an identification with the poor nonhuman beings, such as one’s own flesh, that have gone to the trouble of allowing me to think fantasies of myself
The insight is that a given concept set is actually ontologically smaller than the things it’s drawing a line around. Subscendence happens when a set of things begins to exit its concept and becomes its own entities.
What if neoliberalism (always one step ahead of you) its more like a T-Rex, a big, scary creature with tiny little arms that can easily topple over and become extinct. Bailing out could be ridiculously easy. 12,000 is a long time but it’s also not eternity
One of the limits we are facing is that our inherited critical practice often wishes to offer a hyperobjective solution to a hyperobjective problem. Once upon a time what was going to save us was the proletariat. But the proletariat is a hyperobject if I’ve ever heard of one.
It’s the imagined holistic antidote to the generalization of bourgeois society on a global basis.
Marx never used the word “capitalism.” Not once. I don’t think he saw the society he opposed as being ontologically systemic or even whole. It was always about capital for him, which was the formalization, but diverse formalization, of productive activity.
In the 20th century meanwhile, from the 1930s onwards there’s such a strong influence of cybernetic and other electronic modes of thinking. The proposition of autopoietic systematicity is again the same holistic Ontology in a different costume.
Systematicity is a wholly death-driven and transcendent fantasy, which is the kind of Ontology this planet can no longer afford. It also reinforces a kind of paranoia that isn’t helpful, he says. It’s more like thinking about an algorithm.
You have these materials to do this thing and then you pay people just a little bit less for more work or ask a little bit more work for the same amount of money and that’s how you turn M into M’, right? It’s an algorithmic procedure.
But you can also imagine a different procedure that doesn’t sap the soil and the worker in the same way and which would thus cause the first algorithm to die on the vine.
There’s no need for this bleak sense that we’re all part of a system. Everything’s going to be co-opted in advance; all of our Resistance is futile.
Yes. All of our resistance is futile, and yet we’re going to resist anyway.
There’s a way of integrating the vulnerabilities that does not include the heroic savior which is another transcendental trick even to the point of paranoia about hypersubjects adopting the language of hyposubjects as a philosophical escape pod for the conditions they created
Desire is a product of, well-nourished types that by virtue of income need no fat storage. Desire is the nub of the problem. I want infinity in the infinity.
The trouble is that the psychoanalytic formulization of consumerism, also contains within it a kind of sadism. I can do anything because everyone is manipulable
A sugar high is apparently so potent that it was worth organizing a global apparatus of agriculture, slave labor and transportation to make it available on demand
The fantasy that I can do anything to anything is predicated on my always already being caught in a force field between me and at least one other entity that’s already doing something to me. The Coke bottle is hailing me.
Subscendence doesn’t necessarily mean that we want less food. In other words, pathologizing obese people is a like another kind of magic bullet/transcendent solution, like if we could just get rid of gluten! If we could take that out, the whole system would function smoothly.
Smooth functioning is itself a concept. And we keep on wanting smooth functioning to function smoothly. We want this idea that problems can be patched over. Even a lot of environmentalism seems to be saying: if we just fixed this one little thing, then we’ll be okay.
Ecological politics shouldn’t be about trying to make things function smoothly. The smooth functioning period of consumerism is called “need”. At some point we knew what we want, and we wanted what we knew. And then we started invent- ing new needs.
Then there was an excess and the system broke down, and now we have luxury products and desire. Consumerism didn’t invent desire; it’s logically prior. One task we have is to disentangle desire from the way it’s been captured by neoliberalism.
The inverse of obesity is the desire to look thin and muscular and blissfully free of fat which is then stored somewhere else. We need to recognize the material basis of pleasure and craving, the chemicals and neurotransmitters that are involved in the operation of desire.
There’s never enough of salt. It’s just that varying amounts of sodium across that barrier end up causing or inhibiting the flow of ions through the channel. There’s an off-switch in your brain for sugar. You don’t have an on-switch for salt
What is distinctive about the contemporary economy of pleasure is that it’s objective is apparently to stay in a pleasured state constantly, to stay as consistently high as possible, whether that’s through sugar or alcohol or a variety of pharmaceuticals
Fitness can participate in the same economy to the extent that one is chasing endorphin rushes there as well. What has changed is that there’s no longer oscillation, or when one comes down, you’re falling farther and faster than ever before.
So that is medicalized too, as “depression,” the retreat from pleasure, a pathological inability to get high despite the happy abundance of options. The unexpected byproduct of modern temporality is that now even wfh we expect the potentiation of pleasure at all time
A big part of the issue with the Anthropocene is how to deal with certain magnitudes of energy use. Consumerism is obviously part of that problem, with all those flights to Caribbean.
Subscendence helps by revealing that consumerism is filled with vacancies and those vacancies point toward a practice of squatting. Small and seemingly insignificant occupations that can reform our present conditions and relations in a less “catastrophogenic” direction
The challenge is creating spaces of intermediacy. We’re living in a culture of either immediacy or infinite postponement of gratification. The desire loop has to do with infinite desire and therefore infinite dissatisfaction + infinitesimal immediate gratification simultaneously
The rise of Fordism and Taylorism led to the domestication of a certain kind of machinic manual labor. By the 1970s it became obvious that that productive model compromised life and environment at every turn. Pressure mounted to send industry elsewhere, increasingly to Asia
Then we could enjoy the fruits of industrial productivity but not suffer negative environmental effects. What are good middle class subjects in the Global North going to do with themselves if they’re not working a factory job? And that dilemma created the “knowledge economy”
With fewer people working now, it truly reveals how capitalism is about exploitation of surplus labor time. Even leisure time is turning into labor now, especially with the Internet. The Internet started off in academia and the military and now it’s everybody.
Part of the fantasy was that our new interactive digital technologies and artificial intelligence have finally provided us with our long promised absolute leisure conditions. But of course we then discover that that leisure is empty and purposeless and filled with yearning.
The message being that it’s fine that what our actually-existing digital technologies did over the past thirty years was to recolonize our leisure time as forms of usually unwaged work. Patriarchy plus washing machines.
There’s so much maintenance. Maintaining machineries is what we’re about. Maybe not machines of iron but of silicon and electricity. Not to mention maintaining a smoothly functioning agrilogistical project.
At all costs, we have to keep the smooth functioning going, and we have to keep the smooth functioning of smooth functioning going. We want to believe that every bit of sand can be made a pearl.
Hyposubjects is about the possibility of encountering something of a radically different scale and significance. It is about experience of messianic time (time of a ‘specific recognisability). Not just slogging through linear time, getting a loot and then gtfo