Alleys of Your Mind: Augmented Intelligence and Its Traumas

A slightly reworked version of my essay on late capitalism and the scientific image of man will appear in a forthcoming publication on augmented intelligence, edited by Matteo Pasquinelli for Meson Press. The volume will be available in May both as digital open access and in a printed format (there will be a Dutch translation as well). Here is a brief overview of the volume which also can be found at Matteo’s website:

An Open Access anthology edited by Matteo Pasquinelli forthcoming (2015) for Meson Press, Leuphana University Lüneburg. With texts by Adrian Lahoud, Jon Lindblom, Reza NegarestaniOrit Halpern, Ana Teixeira Pinto, Charles WolfeBen Woodard amongst others. Dutch edition forthcoming for Leesmagaziijn, Amsterdam.

thom-catastrophe

It will not be arbitrary one day to reframe the thought of the 20th century as a quest around the definitions of error, abnormality, pathology, trauma and catastrophe always understood in both their political, technological and epistemic combination. It may be surprising for some to learn that Foucault’s history of madness was sharing common roots with cybernetics and its error-friendly universal machines. This book aims to revive some crucial debates of the early years of cybernetics and to update the critical toolbox for the times of a visible acceleration of Artificial Intelligence.

The idea of augmented intelligence was introduced by Douglas Engelbart and others in the early ‘60s as a recursive learning loop between the human and the computer. Engelbart’s vision was progressive: any form of augmentation of the individual intellect would immediately result in the augmentation of the collective one. Engelbart did not account, though, for any social tension, psycho-pathology and cognitive trauma that such new intelligent technologies would entail. The crescendo of that virtuous loop is breaking by itself, today, into the supposed ‘intelligence explosion’ of the Singularity and the collective fears for the construction of a superhuman AGI (Artificial General Intelligence).

In the same years of Engelbart, French philosophy was applying itself to the very maladies of reason. Canguilhem, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, among others, dedicated their main works to the political constitution of psychoses, madness and schizophrenia. In the late ‘90s, moreover, the political ‘abnormality’ and economic agency of the collective mind itself will be stressed by Autonomist Marxism via the notions of general intellect, immaterial labour and mass intellectuality.

Recently, a philosophical scene at the border between neomaterialism and neorationalism has revived the debate around augmented intelligence, addressing the always artificial autonomy of reason and extended cognition or, on the other hand, defending the primacy of materiality and embodied cognition. This book intervenes precisely here: it attempts to recapitulate the different trajectories of the philosophy of the mind of the 20th century in relation to the most recent developments of the mass technologies of intelligence.

Indeed digital networks are not just a matter of communication and cooperation but also of cognition. Large-scale computation is not just a weapon of mass control in the hands of superpowers: it is breeding a new scale of possibilities for education, knowledge, science and politics. Embedded in social networks and search engines, supercomputers have already transformed how our brains function and communicate. The curiosity for extended minds and social brain has always belonged to underground subcultures and the arts too. The title of the book, Alleys of Your Mind, is a reference to a track released by the Afro-Futurist band Cybotron in 1981 (probably the first track to be identified as ‘techno music’).

Whatever utopian or dystopian account of augmented intelligence may be considered, the positive and constructive role played by errors, traumas and catastrophes in the construction of the technological mind is central. The normative autonomy of mind abnormalities, psychopathologies and madness (addressed once by French post-structuralism) should be finally applied also to the network society and cognitive capitalism. This book aims to illuminate the cognitive and epistemic ruptures (and consequent re-adaptations) generated by the last stage of the Turing revolution and only recently recognised by media theory, critical neuroscience, gender studies and political philosophy.

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About Jon Lindblom

Jon Lindblom (b. 1986) is a cultural theorist and editor, based in Stockholm. He has a PhD in Visual Cultures from Goldsmiths, University of London, and is currently studying book publishing at Stockholm University. His theoretical work mainly focuses on reconsidering the history and rehabilitating the grand dimensions of cultural and aesthetic modernism. View all posts by Jon Lindblom

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