Life and Number
1. A new image of thought is haunting our minds: the ideology of immanence. While we were continuing to taste the power of the last text of Gilles Deleuze, trying to land in that life freed from subjectivity and objectivity, of affects beyond good and evil, we found ourselves caught in the meshes of control, and catapulted into the most dogmatic of morals: the truth, here and now, without mediation.
The construction of pure immanence, a life, where the article refers to the “indetermination of the person” but also to the “determination of the singular”, is today claimed by the agents of ‘Data Behaviourism’, whose dream of nullifying the outside – that is, everything not amenable to data and thus computable – has almost been brought to its realization. In this seemingly a-transcendent way, nothing can escape digitalization, no virtual can be excluded from algorithmic calculation, and every effect – deprived of its relation with any causality, and thus always in some way present – is already there, is already (in the form of a) given (datum), ready to be discovered or “captured” by operations of correlation and prediction. Total and definitive immanence. Does this not seem to realize the immensity of the empty time described by Deleuze, where one sees the event yet to come as having already happened, “in the absolute of an immediate consciousness”? And in this immediacy and indistinguishability of data and subjects/objects, does it not seem that the existence of any transcendental idea has, finally, been abolished?
“A life is everywhere, in all the moments that a given living subject goes through and that are measured by given lived objects: an immanent life carrying with it the events or singularities that are merely actualized in subjects and objects”. On the immanent plane of data, no individual specificity appears (“the life of the individual gives way to an impersonal life”), but only a multitude of decontextualized effects, that may or may not occur depending on the combinations of what is given, and that are as such untied from any subject-object relation. On the plane of data, again, no individuation is possible, because the quality of haecceities is pure power: neither geographical nor temporal, not subjected to any being, not submitted to an act, but only to the movement of distribution and to the combinations that happen. Rhizome.
“There is a moment that is only that of a life playing with death”. But it is not the kind of death that is up to the individual, rather, the cold quality of the inorganic, of the number, of the datum, and the calculation that links them. The vitalistic air that blows through “Immanence” seems really to hit a wall in the labyrinth of total computation, where the infinite speed of thought is converted into the instantaneity of algorithmic correlation.
2. The advent of such a scenario had in 1990 already been prevented by Deleuze, who affirmed the necessity of learning to pass through the thin nets of this serpentine metamorphosis of power. Control: this is the new force of a system the language of which is numerical, and in which the cypher marks the access to a metastable, floating and tentacular world, capable of grabbing and incorporating any detail of the existences to be codified into its own chessboard, where every movement is determined, previewed, anticipated.
Today, this logic of the cypher as password has saturated everyday life, and the entrance into the world of calculation has become a common experience. The foundations of a biometrical revolution have already been laid, where the password is no longer an alphanumeric code, but the real body. The digitalization of biological elements as the key to accessing any door, voice or retina has already replaced the code in cases where maximum security is requested, and wearables have become the new form of hospitalization, capable of prescribing a treatment without the presence of either doctor or patient. The suggestions of Francis Galton have been listened to and surpassed: fingerprints are not only an “invaluable adjunct to a severe passport system”, but the foundation itself of encoded life, subjected to the technological control of today. Every movement is caught by this apparatus of capture whose unique end is to devour each singularity, with the aim of extracting (or better, to induce them to themselves offer) information. Hence, immigration flows, capital transactions, flight paths of birds, Facebook profiles, are equalized under the common sign of an alienating identification, as foundational materials for the automatized forecasting of private and public life, feeding a ravenous market, the current champion of the gathering, channelling and exploitation of data.
3. The first objection to this condition had already been imagined prior to its actualization. It took place in the sixties, when Fernand Déligny began to think the necessity of an alternative to the places of internment and to institutions of care, which he will call “sites of living”. Anti-institutional, anti-psychiatric, and anti-alienating, the site of living is structured as a “to live-with”, so that the relation of proximity with the other is what can allow ‘a’ guy (“ce gamin-là”) to be considered in terms of his own singularity and as part of a whole: the network, something to show rather than to explain. Far from being an attempt at normalization into an already existing framework, and rather than giving the illusion of a subjective recreation of the self, this space is configured as a series of cartographies, projects of subjectivation without individuation (Schérer). Immanence, a site of living, means precisely to put into brackets the dominant economico-political structure, an occasion to get out from one’s own being an individual, a possibility of existing outside the choice – always that of somebody else – of being included or not within a particular state-nation, workplace, historical narrative, frame of normalization, objective of the camera, hence beyond any language used for framing (Pasolini). Or for calculating, this being the most representative gesture of current civil society, driven by the compass of a rationality that we desire to call “scientific”, objective, operational.
4. Recently, the most suggestive updating of the Deleuzian intuitions on control have been effected by Antoinette Rouvroy, who, with the concept of ‘algorithmic governmentality’, has unmasked the apparent trajectory of absolute immanentization of the digital world, showing it up for what it is: a radical foreclosure of the ideals of emancipation of the sixties and seventies. The ideology of Big Data is nothing more than a refolding of the digital in upon itself, a neutralization of the ‘outside’ (and of the thought of the outside) that operates a transcendentalization of its own models. “There is a big difference between the virtuals that define the immanence of the transcendental field and the possible forms that actualize them and transform them into something transcendent”, Deleuze wrote. Hence he himself seems to suggest the existence of a path that could convey us to the workshop where those ‘new weapons’ are to be built, necessary in order to countereffect the uptake of immanence into the absolutization of data, and with it the particularization of singularities (Stiegler). But our GPS’s show only interrupted tracks. We realize that the immersion of the immanence of ‘a life’ cannot correspond to the formulation of patterns that claim to exhaust knowledge of the world. And we realize that the becoming impersonal that we have undertaken, segmenting existences in the form of digital signals, coincides only with their desingularisation. Therefore, is it really still possible to free ourselves from the coils of that snake called “societies of control”, at a moment when submitting singularities to calculability provokes the loss of their character of novelty, reducing them to total predictability, while the systematic translation of subjects into a-personal profiles, far from augmenting their degree of (self)knowledge, merely extends the ability of the system to know “what they might do”, a means of performatively forecasting behavior? And in this case, how to think the program?
5. The theme of the resingularization of the individual, of his reappropriation of ‘a life’, is thus inseparable from the critique of algorithmic rationality, just as “Immanence: A Life” is indivisible from “Postscript on the Societies of Control”. But the converse is also true, because if a site of living is still possible, it is so by virtue of coming back to the very heart of Deleuze’s thought, that is, to that transcendental empiricism whose Leitmotiv is nothing but a radical substitution of any “conditioning” instance, with the urge of an authentic genesis – and today, more than ever, the genesis of new forms of life must coincide with the critique of what we are becoming. For this reason, faced with the impostures and lies of our times, but concomitantly with the honest accelerationist afflatuses, the first struggle to conduct is with the tendencies that lodge within us, “the combat between oneselves”, without which every claimed becoming is but a sterile and clumsy repetition of Deleuzian writing. And what struggle could be more glorious, more heartwrenching, more sublime, than the one still lit by the tension between the Postscript and Immanence: A Life?
Biometric Technologies and contemporary societies of control;
Impersonal Transcendental Field;
Algorithmic Governmentality and Big Data;
Intercessors of Deleuzian immanence;
Revolutionary Processes and acceleration;
Algorithms and general intellect ;
New rationalities and debate on speculative realism;
Individuation and dividuality ;
Automatisation and subjectivity ;
Immediacy, hyper-mediation and post-media ;
Deadline: May 27th, 2016 [DEADLINE EXTENDED]
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