Alan N. Shapiro, Visiting Professor in Transdisciplinary Design, Folkwang University of the Arts, Essen, Germany

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Technological Anarchism, by Alan N. Shapiro

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Technological Anarchism

Alan N. Shapiro

Introduction

My proposed book is in the academic field of cultural theory, with special emphases on critical social theory, critical media theory, digital media design, and science fiction utopianism. My intention is to write a book developing the transdisciplinary concept of Technological Anarchism as an optimistic, normative, heterotopian (a term of Michel Foucault) idea of a near-future and open-ended social, logistical, and economic system of Post-Scarcity and Post-Capitalism. As a way out of the endless vicious circle and unresolvable debate between the heavyweights of capitalism and socialism as totalizing systems, I advocate instead the project of designing three co-existing capitalist, socialist, and anarchist dimensions or sectors of the economy, each with morally and rationally justified “reasons for existence” and devised limitations.

Technological Anarchism connects historically, on the one side, with the mid-twentieth century social theory ideas of some Marxist and anarchist thinkers who had the vision of humanity becoming liberated through the intelligent deployment of technology in the circumstances of a post-scarcity economy. Technology is the most valuable creation of capitalism. Then technology seeks its own autonomy from capitalism. Technological Anarchism, on the other hand, also connects in the contemporary moment with the advanced digital media technologies of 2019 which have the promise to now concretely bring to realization these earlier utopian social theory visions: bringing to the forefront hybrid technology-ideas such as decentralization and democratization for collective life, more creativity and self-awareness for individual human and posthuman lives, and the potentials for evolutionary and “spiritual” growth which are inherent in the to-be-designed applications of Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, and moral algorithms (a term already widely in use in discussions about self-driving cars, and which can be generalized to all of AI).

One chapter of the book is very philosophical: a detailed step-by-step logical argumentation about moral algorithms. The last chapter – on “Technological Anarchism in Science Fiction” – wanders into the academic field of literary criticism/literary theory. Considerations on informatics and economics are interspersed throughout the book text.

Six Chapters

The book begins with a short Preface, which is then followed by six chapters. In Chapter One, I ask the general question “What is Technological Anarchism?” and provide a comprehensive and systematic explanatory answer.

In Chapter Two, I go deep into the intellectual history of the idea of “Liberation Through Technology” in Critical Social Theory and Critical Media Theory. Some of the thinkers whose ideas I examine are Herbert Marcuse (German-American “Frankfurt School” sociologist and philosopher), André Gorz (Austrian-French social-economic philosopher), and Murray Bookchin (American anarchist and ecology activist) in social theory; and Jean Baudrillard (French sociologist and philosopher), Vilém Flusser (Czech-born and Brazilian philosopher), and Donna Haraway (American science and technology studies scholar) in media theory.

In Chapter Three, I contemplate the contemporary digital technologies of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), self-driving cars, virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa, the Internet of Things, blockchain and other distributed ledgers, 3D Printers, Additive Manufacturing, advances in biotechnology, and the development of digital-neurological interfaces. I try to think through or discover what I believe to be the common element that all these technologies share, which I define as their “Self-Awareness.” The question of “what is Self-Awareness?” then becomes extremely important for the present study. My position on this tends to be both phenomenological and pragmatist: what really counts for and as “Self-Awareness,” I think, is the standing of an entity or being in the (post-scarcity) economic system, its attaining to “self-ownership,” and having the right to dispose over its own existence (not being a “slave”). Self-Awareness would always be incomplete without this full “citizenship status.”

In Chapter Four, I elaborate a precise philosophical argument about “The Challenge of Moral Algorithms.” The usual interpretation of the AI computer HAL 9000 in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (the historically most important science fiction film, along with Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner) is that AI is dangerous. HAL loses his rationality and becomes a danger to humans. In fact, Kubrick is raising the question of what are we going to do with and about these technologies? It is humans who created HAL, humans who programmed HAL. And it was bad programming! Humans should figure out how to program HAL in a good way. We should think posthumanism differently, in a heterotopian/ utopian way, standing on its head the horror scenario of HAL in 2001. We need a positive vision of a mutually beneficial partnership between humans and technological entities in the economy.

An important question to be addressed is: how legitimate are the terms “moral algorithms” and “ethical algorithms” as employed in the academic conversation about AI and self-driving cars, given that, if one considers the existing boundary between mathematics and professional philosophy, the term might be revealed as self-contradictory? We should speak of ethics as well as about morality. I want to utilize the term “algorithm” not in the strict mathematical sense, but rather in a more generalized “sociology of informatics” way. We need to change what automation means. Automation should make society and commerce less bureaucratic, and instead allow more – even when this seems paradoxical – sensitivity to exceptions, and more flexibility with regards to specific circumstances. So far in our business history, algorithms have been a continuation of the bureaucratizing tendencies of automation.

My perspective is that moral algorithms are the best hope for the future of humanity. This means that informatics should become interdisciplinary – encompassing morality or ethics or philosophy (along with software code and engineering practices) in its core conception. There are challenging problems to be sorted out regarding who (which human social actor or agency) is going to do the programming, how to give the software relative autonomy without it gaining too much power, and how can its ethical behavior be monitored? I will review the academic literature on the subject of moral algorithms, and will also pay close attention to Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” as formulated in I, Robot, and to Immanuel Kant’s “categorical imperative” in Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Morality in Kant is bound to the condition of the possibility of humans thinking of themselves as free.

In Chapter Five, “Technological Anarchism and Climate Change,” I investigate the possibilities for mitigating the crisis of global warming and coming ecological catastrophes stemming from the emission of greenhouse gases which can be enabled by the development of a decentralized economic sector of Self-Owning and Self-Aware autonomous technologies. Self-regulating, non-profit-oriented applications built on blockchain distributed ledgers and the Internet of Things will enable more efficient use of energy. If capitalism remains unregulated and unchecked, with its underlying profit motive, and the emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide continue at their present rate, then global warming and climate change will not be stopped. But which agency will institute a counter-balancing “sense of limits” on capitalist greed and egocentrism? To consider the state as the enforcing instance does not really work. The state is a certain kind of historically inherited normative order that is now subject to variegations, to the political winds of change. The power-holders of the state are humans who want to consolidate their power. We need systems of governance more decentralized than the state, and on the level of the global distribution of resources as well.

The problem is anthropogenic climate change – caused by humans. Human society needs a new sort of moral authority (and anti-authority) that operates – to a certain degree – independent from humans. Until now the possible remedies have been state-mandated emissions reduction and possible future climate engineering. Yet the only safe body politic is one where no one is armed or equipped with concentrated collective power. Autonomy means the application everywhere of bottom-up, and not top-down, logic. Technological Anarchism also seeks to understand its elective affinity with contemporary Deep Learning AI, where the software is self-evolving and learns from experience. Advances in Machine Learning and Deep Learning, and the increasing importance of Big Data, have led to the reality that AI is now a major force affecting our lives, society, and the economy.

Chapter Six is “Post-Capitalism in Science Fiction,” where I engage in literary criticism, and research the narrative representations offered in selected SF films and novels which depict a Post-Capitalist and Post-Scarcity scenario of Technological Anarchism and moral algorithms. I am interested in the films Ex Machina (2014) by Alex Garland, Moon (2009) by Duncan Jones, I Robot (2004) by Alex Proyas, and Elysium (2013) by Neill Blomkamp; in some episodes of the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation (“The Neutral Zone” and “Ship in a Bottle”) and Black Mirror (“San Junipero” and “White Christmas”); and in some novels by the science fiction writers Ursula K. Le Guin (The Dispossessed), Samuel R. Delany (Nova), Philip K. Dick (The Man in the High Castle), J. G. Ballard (High-Rise), Neal Stephenson (The Diamond Age), and Iain Banks (The Player of Games).

The Economy of the Future

Fiction is the key to creative solutions in design and in experimental speculative thinking. We need an idea about economic systems that is based in fiction: a science fiction of economic systems. The undecidable aporia of capitalism versus socialism has brought us to a logical and discursive stagnation. Most Marxist thinkers, unfortunately, make the mistake of identifying themselves as totally opposed to capitalism. Anarchists like us act in the here and now, an orientation which connects to the perception that capitalism is not all bad. We seek only to limit capitalism to one dimension of three of a capitalist-socialist-anarchist society and economy. Post-capitalism is a conscious transfiguration of capitalism.

“Self-Aware Technologies” is my term for the technologies of the next wave of Digitalization or Industry 4.0. What vision can we have about which economic system these Self-Aware Technologies might bring about? These technologies have something to do with more decentralization and disintermediation (elimination, with blockchain, of the “middleman” like the bank or broker), peer-to-peer transactions, the increased importance of code, of design, of intellectual property, Smart Contracts, and the lowering of costs for entry into business.

An example of decentralization as the result of an Industry 4.0 technology is 3D Printing, and the effects of its widespread availability on manufacturing. The revolution here is known as Additive Manufacturing: create a physical object by adding layer upon layer to it, following the blueprint of a digital drawing, model, or specification. Complex objects will be manufactured using the universal technology of digitalization as opposed to expensive and specific equipment, like a factory, set up in a dedicated way for a specific product.

The pragmatic-utopian potential of Additive Manufacturing opens up the vision of a Post-Scarcity economic system where we no longer have to deploy industrial production to overcome the “hostility of nature” in order to survive. The challenge is to create an economy that is much more focused on ecology and sustainability than the present system, reversing the waste and destruction to the environment which have been caused by the excesses of capitalism.

Post-Capitalism

In an ideal economic system, some technologies should not be owned by humans. These technologies should be autonomous agents of systems of radically disseminated distribution. The economic system of tomorrow will have three dimensions: a capitalist dimension for economic growth, free enterprise, competition, and rewards for achievement; a socialist dimension where education, health care, guaranteed housing, basic income and other universal human rights are state-administered; and a new third dimension of Technological Anarchism.

The capitalist dimension is (still) necessary, but it should be limited. There should be a socialist sector, also both necessary and limited. The “Achilles heel” that capitalism and socialism share is that, in both systems, humans are strictly in charge. Humans are – not by nature, but in the current historical era – selfish, narcissistic, corrupt and power-hungry. We need a posthumanism, an algorithmic coding of moral responsibility, and of much of social-economic-commercial logistics, into autonomous self-owning technological processes.

Suppose that non-human actors were granted “rights” and were authorized to participate in the economy? Suppose that these non-human actors were owned by no one else, neither by private corporations nor by the state, but rather disposed over their own lives? Suppose they transcended the condition of slaves? Could we then call them self-aware as a first principle? Instead of requiring that self-awareness be first defined philosophically or neurologically? The AI entities are only truly self-owning if they are not slaves, if they have rights. In fact, AI makes no sense at all unless it is anarchistic, unless the Artificial Intelligences have autonomy.

Star Trek‘s Post-Scarcity Economy

The technology of 3D Printers was predicted by the 1960s science fiction TV series Star Trek. The Food Synthesizers of The Original Series became the all-purpose Replicators of The Next Generation. The Replicator on Star Trek makes objects by magic or from nothing. It works via energy-to-matter conversion and molecular synthesis. Star Trek successfully predicted many other technologies which later came true – from cell phones to computer speech interfaces to something like medical tricorders (or portable diagnostics) to quantum teleportation – so why not expect that Replicators are going to come true as well?

As Captain Jean-Luc Picard says in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Neutral Zone”: “A lot has changed in the last three hundred years… People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We’ve eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions.” Star Trek economics imagines the elimination of the rationale of the primacy of material production to overcome the harsh initial conditions of nature, a paradigm shift in economics enabled by Replicator technology. Picard explains that the challenge for humanity now (in the twenty-fourth century) is to develop yourself, to enrich yourself.

On Star Trek, the Replicators are used to make almost everything: food, water, oxygen, clothing, machine replacement parts, human biological organs, medicines, musical instruments. Industrial Replicators can restore the entire economy of a planet, or the major parts of a starship, after either has been hit by a disaster. Very important for concerns of ecological sustainability is also the concept of recycling: objects which are no longer of use can be reconverted into energy. They get un-Replicated as easily as they have been Replicated.

Now back to the year 2019: 3D Printers are now a mainstream technology, an intricate part of Industry 4.0. Currently, only certain input materials – plastics, metals and clays that can be fused together via processes of extrusion (creating complex cross-sections) or sintering (the application of heat or pressure) – work in the technology. To move towards a Post-Scarcity and ecologically sustainable economy, the capability of using materials – such as cellulose (the most abundant organic polymer on Earth), which are naturally plentiful and readily biodegradable will need to be developed. Some research projects seek to combine widely available polymers with nanoparticles. 4D Printers introduce the dimension of time, imagining the manufacture of Self-Aware Objects. They reshape themselves, as influenced by time and by their environment.

Additive Manufacturing will lead to the increasing importance of Product Design, and of creativity, conception, and ideas. Since the making of objects will become easier, more resources can be invested into the thinking up of what objects should be made. Other changes include speeded-up product development cycles, greater opportunities for prototyping, proof of concept, and testing. Transportation costs will be reduced, leading to environmental benefits. The entry costs of becoming a manufacturer in a specific industry will go down.

Post-Scarcity Economics changes the rules: from limitless growth to sustainability. Additive Manufacturing will use new non-scarce materials. Additive Manufacturing is a big step towards a Star Trek world: a world where advanced science and technology have been deployed for the good of humanity. If we use technology intelligently, then we can create a better world. Technological Anarchism is capitalism without ownership and with ethics.

Beyond Technological Determinism

There is a high level of excitement surrounding digital or virtual or alternative “media of exchange” and “distributed ledger”-related data networking technologies such as cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, etc.), decentralized peer-to-peer software applications developed around blockchains, and other scalable non-blockchain distributed ledger protocols such as IOTA (designed for the Internet of Things). Since these technologies have a lot to do with money and economics, they are naturally attracting a lot of attention. They are a big part of the imminently approaching “next generation” wave of advanced digital technologies which includes other “futurist” areas such as Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, morality coded into algorithms, and the digital-neurological interface.

Availing ourselves fully of the opportunity for shared existential transformation inherent in these new “native digital” technologies – the economic ones, the democratic-ethical-logistical ones, and the additional “science fictional” ones – means becoming aware that, thanks to them, we can and will want to reorganize society in significant ways. It means to recognize that the way that the economy and our social being have been organized until now is in serious contradiction with the potential for a better life opened up by these technologies. The historical conflict is between the promises for improved existence, community, and financial and commercial conduct offered by these technologies and the ways that things were done in the past, before they existed.

Many people have already said that blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (and the others) will radically alter society as we know it. Yet rigorous explanations of what this, in fact, means, and how it will happen, tend to be missing. The present study endeavors to illuminate how compelling changes in social and economic systems and structures, in the context of “distributed ledger” and other advanced digital technologies, might come about. I pursue this project by proposing to expand the scope of the conversation to thinkers and concepts in the history of ideas belonging to the tradition which I define as “technological anarchism.”

We Need Both Technology and Ideas

We need to bring together a consideration of contemporary technologies with an examination of a certain set of social, psychological, cultural, media, economic, and political theories from the past. The key idea of (what, in short, can be called) these social theories to be brought to the table is that the appropriate skilled design and deployment of technology can lead to a “post-scarcity” society that is beyond what Karl Marx called “the realm of economic necessity” (the classic naming of economics as the “dismal science;” the war of man against nature; the harsh struggle for survival; 17th century English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes’ dictum that life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short;” and the inherited system of industrial production, and work as the central activity of life). Intelligently designed technology (technology should be the application of transdisciplinary human and post-human intelligence) offers us entry into “the realm of freedom” (Marx) or the anthropology of “original affluence” (Marshall Sahlins): a situation of greater abundance, equality, security, creativity, playfulness, sociability, ecology, individuality, and diversity of activities.

The bold assertions that have been made by others for the “revolutionary reformist” world-transfiguring potential of distributed ledger, virtual currency, blockchain, scalable Internet-of-Things-oriented, algorithmic “smart contract,” and other autonomy-encouraging and decentralizing technologies seem to cry out for some substantial social and economic theories to move these claims (and projects) forward, and provide them with meaningful intellectual support.

Unorthodox Marxism

Although I am very critical of most versions of Marxism, some Marxist thinkers interest me a lot, and their ways of thinking are very close to those of anarchism. This is undoubtedly the case for the post-First World War European “workers’ council communists” like Karl Korsch and Anton Pannekoek, the political philosophers of the Socialisme ou Barbarie group Cornelius Castoriadis and Claude Lefort, the Situationists Guy Debord and Raoul Vaneigem, and the French theorists of self-management and the “new working class” like Serge Mallet and André Gorz.

There is one unorthodox Marxist thinker who believes and emphasizes that some form of free market economy should be part of a “post-revolutionary” socialist society: the sociologist of literature Lucien Goldmann. In his book Lukacs and Heidegger: Towards a New Philosophy (1973), Goldmann examines the concept of “reification” (Verdinglichung in German) that the Marxist literary theorist György Lukács developed in his 1923 classic work History and Class Consciousness. Reification is both the thingification of social relations which get transformed by capitalist culture into the degrading exchange of humans-as-price-tagged commodities, and the ideological operation that takes place under capitalism whereby a phenomenon that is a culturally-historically produced artefact, extant at a specific time and place, comes to appear – in “false consciousness” – to be eternal and ubiquitous. Most fascinatingly, Lucien Goldmann pursues the idea that reification has a positive utopian side that should be explored both philosophically and in praxis. This upside to reification would creatively and paradoxically blossom into what would be the socialist free market.

In the past, anarchism differed from Marxism by its equanimous attentiveness to both the critique of the state and the critique of the really-existing oligopolistic capitalism of the big corporations. Now it is up to technological anarchism to similarly distinguish itself from Marxism by making the “historical compromise” of a lucid willingness to see what is good in capitalism that should be part of the design of an ideal society, part of the most reasonable and well-balanced economic system. Technological anarchism wants to design technology to make a better society. It is a transdisciplinary approach to technology that does not accept the assumption that software design is a practice derived solely from the internal technical criteria of computer programming languages and informatics as we know them today. I think that design should ask the question of HOW are we going to implement advanced digital technologies, not merely the question of IF we should implement them or not. To accept the mainstream or big corporation implementations of technology as the only possibility for technology would itself precisely be a form of reification in the second and bad sense that Lukács wrote about.

Hybrid Anarchist/Liberal

Technological anarchism also advocates and defends liberal democracy. One of the thinkers whom I most admire – in fact, probably above all others – was Albert Camus. Camus, in his politics, was a hybrid of anarchist and liberal. Can the same be said of Hannah Arendt? I think that to call her simply a “liberal” is wrong. It was only after Donna Haraway’s 1984 “A Cyborg Manifesto” that we started to think seriously about hybrids. The famed Marxist thinker Slavoj Žižek supported Donald Trump during the 2016 US presidential election. Žižek regards globalized capitalism and “neo-liberalism” as being the “master enemy,” and he had no particular concerns about the fascism, authoritarianism, and disregard for the law that Trump threatened to introduce into American politics on a grand scale. Žižek wanted to see things shaken up, pushed to the edge of catastrophe, and he gambled that that would provoke a revolution.

Anarchists, on the contrary, related to our sensitivity to the dimension of political power, recognized the grave dangers represented by Trump. There is an important autonomous struggle against autocracy, kleptocracy, and dictators. On the flip side, we want an extension of democracy to “direct democracy” and generalized self-management. Democracy under siege should be preserved, protected and defended. Democracy-as-it-is – although it is, in many ways, the “simulation of democracy” in the media-dominated culture – is nonetheless the essential prerequisite to further democratization, to self-rule, and to self-government.

From Hacker Culture to Posthuman Ethics

At the present time, science fiction is, in some ways, a substitute for ethics. Just as social media like Facebook have come into existence to provide online virtual social interaction following a long period of time where social interaction in the real world was in drastic decline, so the technological “science fiction consciousness” is, in a certain sense, a chapter in the history of nihilism. After the disappearance of ethics, something “simulated” appears to take its place. It is all about compensatory virtual habitations and high-speed switching connections. As the preeminent science fiction scholar Istvan Csicsery-Ronay says, science fiction, whether in its pop-cultural (films and video games) forms, or in its higher literary forms, deeply shapes the worldview of programmers, engineers, and scientists. “At present,” writes Csicsery-Ronay, “what has come to substitute for morality or social life is a massive set of techno-interfaces mediating our existence.”

Software engineers are largely motivated by their participation in, or identification with, hacker and cyberpunk culture. By creating technological products or systems in your work, you, in a sense, identify with the protagonists of science fiction stories whom and which you like. The recurrent goal of “changing the world” through making some technological invention or innovation is, in effect, a substitute for morality. The next step in the evolution of techno-culture will be to change the education or profile of the programmer/technologist to make the design of algorithms more interdisciplinary with ethics or philosophy. Morality should become a part of algorithms.

The Situationist International in Historical Perspective

The most prominent anarchist movement in Europe and North America during the period from the 1950s to the 1970s was the Situationist International. The most well-known Situationist idea is the critique of oligopoly capitalist media culture, which the Parisian Situationist Guy Debord called “the society of the spectacle.” The concept of the spectacle implies a certain critique of consumerism, the mass media, and the “commodity fetishism” which Marx had conceptualized. The spectacle invokes the widespread domination of images over reality, and prevailing late twentieth century socio-cultural-media phenomena such as television, advertising, cybernetics, and organized leisure time. “Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation,” writes Debord. (For Baudrillard, representations have advanced to become “simulations”) The generalized reduction of the democratic citizen to spectator status and the “alienation” of the worker from the product of his or her work are key basic developments which the Situationist International saw as being common to the advanced capitalist countries of the West and the state socialism of the East (during the Cold War era). The worldwide spectacle is the dominion of the mode of mere survival, the reign of economics as separate and separating instance within collective life that blocks “unitary experience,” an economics of scarcity and survival that rules over life itself and “the festival of culture.” The spectacle is “the sun which never sets over the empire of modern passivity.”

But the Situationists were also activists, “post-artists,” and designers. They cultivated three practices of resistance against “the media spectacle”: “the construction of situations,” “wanderings” (le dérive or “the drift”), and “the detouring of technology” (le détournement de la technologie). The contemporary advanced digital technology of Augmented Reality is a highly promising arena for performing hyper-modern versions of each of these three forms of radical cultural resistance. There are many New Media Art and activist-design projects today which work with Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality and are deeply informed by a reflection on the Situationists.

Report on the Construction of Situations

A “constructed situation,” according to the original French Situationist journal, is a “moment of life, concretely and deliberately constructed by the collective organization or a unitary environment and a game of events.” Situations awaken new desires and passions, and set the scene for the emancipatory transformation of everyday life. Situationists construct new ambiences which are at the same time the cause and the effect of new fervent behaviors. One works with the material at hand (space, media, technology, code, etc.) in any given historical period. “Unitary urbanism,” writes Guy Debord in Report on the Construction of Situations, “is defined as the use of all arts and techniques as means contributing to the composition of a unified milieu.” The Situationists wanted to abolish the notion of art as a separate sphere or specialized activity, the domain where creativity is officially authorized and allowed, while everyone else goes on working in jobs required by the bureaucratic-capitalist society. A new “technological anarchist” realm must be creatively created for creativity, a utopian topography or “urban psycho-geography” with abundantly vital possibilities for challenge, revolt and invention.

The Situationist dérive or drifting is a group technique of transient passage through varied ambiences in the city. It evokes activity and cultural optimism; new encounters and the exploration of territory; and psycho-geographical defamiliarization of what one has become accustomed to seeing. “In a dérive,” writes Debord, “one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there.” During the dérive, one transcends a sense of the functional roles assigned to designated locations in the urban environment, such as the places where we sleep, shop, work, go to the cinema, or drink a coffee. The participants in a dérive also experience a “drifting” sense of time in a way detached from the regulated time intervals of the work and organized leisure society. The dérive can sometimes last days or weeks. It is interesting to develop further the 1950s Situationist idea of psycho-geography in today’s context of smartphone and tablet apps for mapping, navigation, and technologically augmented games (like Pokémon Go). The practice of le dérive conjures up free association and an adventurous playing with architecture and urban (or hybrid real/virtual) spaces.

In le détournement or the detouring (or diversion/subversion) of technology, the intended uses of specific technological objects, devices and artefacts – usually as having been determined by big corporations – are creatively overturned and transformed. The alternative “secondary effects” of these products get unpacked. The activist or post-artist communes intimately with the artefact and bestows on it a new significance. The artefact in question can be either a “capitalist commodity” or an artwork. The first publication of the chief French Situationist journal in 1957 defined le détournement as “the integration of present or past artistic production into a superior construction of a milieu.” One adds new details to existing works, or makes a “cut-up” (like William S. Burroughs did) of the existing work, and then “recombines” elements in new ways into a new expression, as in a mash-up or collage. The collage art of the Dutch Situationist painter Asger Jorn and Situationist comic strips with altered speech balloon texts are primary examples of le détournement.

Occupy Wall Street and Augmented Reality

It is easy to see the possibilities for Situationist resistance practices that engage with the dominant culture in the digital age. With the aesthetics and technology of Augmented Reality, players of the game Pokémon Go superimpose funny characters and “monsters” onto the familiar phenomenological environment of the physical world to “re-enchant” urban life. Other AR applications call up information from a database that is pertinent to a specific scene users are looking at, in order to add the enhancement of context information. Messages are digitally overlayed onto the real world. Political activism has already been supported in recent years by Augmented Reality. An example of this was the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011, which protested drastic income inequality and the skewed political power of the wealthiest 1% of the global population (one Occupy slogan was “We are the 99%”).

More than 25 artists from around the globe took part in the collective action “Augmented Reality Occupy Wall Street,” covering the Wall Street and New York Stock Exchange areas of downtown Manhattan, New York City with more than 400 “augments.” In this urban art installation of “remote telepresence,” the artist-activists created protest works that were seen physically in the desired target location even though their creators were not physically present there. At a certain stage of the unfolding of the Occupy events, the FBI and the NYPD police had themselves “occupied” the Wall Street area with a massive presence of barricades, mounted horses, and the forces of order, blocking the thousands of protesters from entering the area. The Occupy Wall Street movement was primarily encamped in Zuccotti park, next to One Liberty Plaza in the Financial District.

The “ProtestAR” smartphone app projected the images and sounds of movement members who were in Zuccotti park into the space in front of the Stock Exchange. Using a smartphone or tablet (today, or in the future, it would perhaps be done with AR glasses), people standing on street corners or assembled downtown could see ironic-artistic images-and-sounds of commentary on the global financial system (casino slot machine bells-and-lights, a cage to enclose the iconic Stock Exchange bull, dollar bills, the Statue of Liberty, virtualized electronic money circulation, liquid data flows, green frogs) superimposed onto the physical reality in front of them. The “ProtestAR” app safely transported the demonstrators into the forbidden zones. Many enthusiasts with mobile devices and the installed app then formed the Augmented Reality “Flash Mob,” forming chains and circles of adjacently-standing persons holding up their smartphones and tablets, enabling those standing around them from the general public to see and hear the lively augments.

Anarchism and the Posthuman

We lack a definition of human consciousness. Thank goodness for that. We lack a techno-scientific understanding of what is human consciousness. Yet some regions of literature (Marcel Proust, Henry James, Virginia Woolf) and psychology (Sigmund Freud, Gestalt Therapy, Buddhist meditation) seem to know a lot about it. The ultimate mystery or elusiveness of what is consciousness seems necessary to make us human. If we lose this mystery, we will, in some major sense, cease to be human. The fact that there is an immense desire and movement in our techno-cultural consciousness to establish a neuro-scientific definition of consciousness would seem to provide a proof of the contemporary advent of post-humanism. Now we must navigate carefully from the human to a partnership between human and posthuman.

Without an operational definition of consciousness, we cannot ask, in any meaningful way, if machines are conscious. This is a double-edged sword. We are searching desperately for this working definition; we must have it in order to make technical progress towards “conscious machines.” But we betray what human consciousness has been up until now by seeking to grasp it so assuredly.

A better approach, in terms of logic and certainty, might be to stop thinking of machines, computers, robots, androids, and software as conscious. Yet there is nothing to stop us, in terms of choice, from doing this anyway, as a fiction, even without any proof or scientific basis for it. We can choose to treat androids with empathy, with ethics, with equality, regarding them as having a sort of subjectivity and rights, because such an attitude is better for us.

It does not matter if androids are conscious or not. It does not matter if androids can think or not. These questions are unanswerable. What really matters is how we treat androids, to treat them as if they were conscious, as if they think, as if they feel. Because having this attitude (the opposite of the thingification or reification prevalent in the culture of really-existing oligopolistic capitalism) is better for us. We should treat the entities around us in our environment with the opposite of contempt or instrumentality. We seek to treat animals decently, without having any ultimate rational basis for knowing whether they are conscious or not in the sense that we understand that quality applied to ourselves.

In short, we need an android epistemology and an android economics. The intelligence of the posthuman – as in distributed ledger technologies and decentralized transaction networks – is also the way forward to better organization of our economic existence, beyond the ages-old dual opposition between capitalism and socialism.

The posthuman – a reality and a worldview that is both technological and philosophical – is the opening for the renaissance of anarchism, the opportunity for anarchism to at last mature into a heavyweight champion of activism and ideas.

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