Quotable (#125)

Steven Weinberg on whiggish history of science:

… scientific history with an eye to present knowledge is needed by scientists. We don’t see our work as merely an expression of the culture of our time and place, like parliamentary democracy or Morris dancing. We see it as the latest stage in a process, extending back over millennia, of explaining the world. We derive perspective and motivation from the story of how we reached our present understanding, imperfect as that understanding remains.

Quotable (#124)

Mathematics as a social model:

The salient feature of syntax is that it is concrete. The question whether a putative proof is indeed a proof is a matter simply of checking. Disputes about the correctness of a proof are quickly settled and the mathematical community reaches permanent consensus. The status, age, and reputation of the parties to the dispute play no role. In this we are singularly blessed.

Quotable (#123)

The moralization of ecology is a strange modern phenomenon, leading to something like this:

Capitalism’s grow-or-die imperative stands radically at odds with ecology’s imperative of interdependence and limit. The two imperatives can no longer coexist with each other; nor can any society founded on the myth that they can be reconciled hope to survive. Either we will establish an ecological society or society will go under for everyone, irrespective of his or her status. Yet we can’t stop the process. A capitalist economy, by definition, lives by growth; as Bookchin observes: “For capitalism to desist from its mindless expansion would be for it to commit social suicide.” We have essentially, chosen cancer as the model of our social system.

Limits can take care of themselves, can’t they? Hitting a harsh boundary and undergoing selection there is the way it works. (Mother Nature and Capitalism share some very basic assumptions in this respect.)

Quotable (#122)

Nick Dyer Witheford (in conversation) on the variants of far Left politics under advanced capitalism:

… it’s clear that capitalism is creating potentials – not just technological, but organizational potentials – which could be adapted in a transformed manner to create a very different type of society. The evident example is the huge possibilities for freeing up time by automation of certain types of work. For me, the problem both with Paul [Mason]’s work, which I respect, and with the accelerationists, is there is a failure to acknowledge that the passage from the potential to the actualization of such communist possibilities involves crossing what William Morris describes as a “river of fire.” I don’t find in their work a great deal about that river of fire. I think it would be reasonable to assume there would be a period of massive and protracted social crisis that would attend the emergence of these new forms. And as we know from historical attempts in the 20th Century to cross that river of fire, a lot depends on what happens during that passage. So there is, if one could put it that way, a certain automatism about the prediction of the realization of a new order in both these schools, which we should be very careful about.

(What automation wants — be definition — is more of itself. There’s a name for that, and it isn’t ‘communism’.)

The abstract for this talk gives a sense of the diagnosis.


Craig Hickman raises an intriguing question:

In fact one wonders if [Reza Negarestani] is even thinking of humans at all, but rather of those future artificial beings that might replace us: “The craft of an intelligent life-form that has at the very least all the capacities of the present thinking subject is an extension of the craft of a good life as a life suiting the subject of a thought that has expanded its inquiry into the intelligibility of the sources and consequences of its realization.” The notion of a Craft of Intelligent Life-Forms? A utopia of robotic life-forms where the Good Life is one without humans, a perfectly programmed world of robots and environment where the only good is autonomous thought, revisable and autonomous – autopoetic and allopoetic?

Is the difference between Right and Left accelerationism ultimately reducible to the merely nominal decision as to whether we call the thing that’s coming ‘us‘?

(FWIW I doubt it — because controversy over the functionality of competition isn’t so readily soluble — but it’s good to see the question being asked.)

Here‘s the Negarestani essay under discussion.