BERNARD STIEGLER: fast automata vs slow neurons

More from Stiegler’s seminar, from 22’30 » to 28’14 »:

« Those were some generalities that I wanted to go over to introduce this year’s seminar. Now I want to go back to what was said in last year’s seminar and in the seminar of the year before that, to introduce the questions for today, for this class. During the first seminar of 2 years ago I introduced the context of these questions by asking what Google does to the question of philosophy. I said that Google is a machine for posing questions that is absolutely stupid. There is nothing dumber than Google, the way it functions is absolutely stupid. It is a series of automatisms, it is a set of automats that are applied and that treat digital tertiary retentions, billions of them in a second. And what permits this, what permits us to address queries to this machine for asking questions, is the speed of light. What makes it function is is that it functions at the speed of light. It is writing at the speed of light, writing and reading at the speed of light, which is produced via algorithms that exploit this potential of the speed of light, and that exploit a lot of other things too. But what is very special about this particular tertiary retention is its speed. Not just that, but first of all that.

If there was not that speed, nothing would work. And that is very, very important. You will see, perhaps towards the end this year’s seminar, or otherwise next year, that at the level of the brain the speed of circulation of electrical influxes between neurons is an absolutely capital question. You must be aware that a precursor of neurology, called Helmholtz, who is a very famous physiologist, established that the speed of circulation of the electric flux in the nerves is extremely slow. I think it is about 20m/s, very slow. Your nervous reflexes are a lot slower than Google’s reflexes. It is incomparable. Google is extremy rapid, it goes at the speed of light. You go at 20m/s, which means, I don’t really know, perhaps a million times slower. I may be wrong, I haven’t calculated it. But you see what I mean, they are scales or factors of difference that are incredible. It is in this context that one must pose the problem of contemporary automatisation.

So, during last year’s seminar, which was constructed on the basis of my reading of Nicholas Carr’s book THE SHALLOWS, Is Internet making us stupid?, we broached the question of the neurosciences, which I just discussed in relation to Helmholtz. On this subject I will send you tomorrow some bibliographical references to supplement those I have already given you. Some texts that I find very interesting on this question of the neurosciences. So last year we broached the question of the neurosciences, but in a very special context, which is that of neuro-marketing. I spoke about this in the Summer Academy at Epineuil in August last year. And also in the context of the neuro-economy, which is not at all the same thing as neuro-marketing. Neuro-economy is an economic theory based on on cognitivist theory, neuro-marketing is a marketing technique inspired by neuro-economy, but is not itself a theory.

I tried to show last year, I think at the Summer Academy, that neuro-marketing is a technique that aims at short-circuiting the organological circuits of interiorisation of the neo-cortex. And to accede directly to the deep circuits of the mesencephalon (midbrain), ie the reflex sytems that are very close to the animal instincts. What neuro-marketing exploits is the automatic character of the survival behaviours that are inscribed in the brain. And it shortcircuits the systems of inscription of education in the neocortex. That is grosso modo how it works, according to me. By the way I will be going soon to the German part of Switzerland to the University of St. Gallen, which is the largest business school in Switzerland, and which forms the specialists of the financial industry, and I will be participating in a round table discussion about neuro-marketing with one of the professors of that university who is a specialist in neuro-marketing. It should be quite interesting.

This year, on the basis of what I have just summarised of the first and second seminar, I would like to describe the current context, which is evolving extremely quickly, and that is another problem the rapidity of the speed of light that I mentioned makes those industrial, social, and psychic structures that are taken up in these networked digital retentional set ups themselves evolve extemely rapidly ».

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4 commentaires pour BERNARD STIEGLER: fast automata vs slow neurons

  1. arranjames dit :

    It seems like Stiegler, who I’ve had limited exposure to in the past, is working in a similar vein to- and using Virilio in a similar manner as- Franco Berardi, minus the autonomist reading of Marx and the romantic excesses (although I’m sure there is more of a difference than this brief caricature). What is interesting to me is the notion of neurocapitalism as « pharmocapitalism »; although I don’t write about it on my blog very much, the invariantly proletarian condition of the « mentally ill », and the way in which whatever this means is coming to colonise the supposedly nonpathological everyday forms of life, is precisely what prompted me to train as a psychiatric nurse. If this is a condition that Stiegler is pursuing then perhaps he would be worth considering in conjunction with « Bifo », as well as some of the new wave antipsychiatric thinkers like Joanna Moncrieff (psychiatrist), Richard Bentall (clinical psychologist).

    In an interview with Krisis Stiegler has this to say:

    « I think so [that societies of control are becoming uncontrollable societies]. If you look at China for example, or in Japan, there are a lot of problems now with the youth. And the only way it is being fought is by producing a hyperproletarianization and a chemical one , through drugs. You know that in America fifteen percent of the youth is using Ritalin, Prozac, etcetera. And we have the same problem with respect to work. Hyperactivity of workers for example. I was a manager of a big company once. For five years I had one-thousand people to manage. And I saw very well how they were in fact not at all happy with their work, but were only producing a kind of hyperactivity… creating a kind of hypnosis, in order to forget to think, to forget their concerns, their problems. And they had a lot of problems. Maybe you have read the book Le nouvel esprit du capi-talisme by Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello. They say that the final result of the development of this new type of capitalism is to destroy the cou-ples, the family. Because when the husband needs to go to work in this factory and the wife in another, you destroy the family. But if you destroy the family, you destroy ‘labor power’. Because what is ‘labor power’? It is the children. If children are not brought up and educated anymore, what will become of the future? There will be: No future. This is what the young people say: there is no future. And now capitalism begins to under-stand this. » ,

    This no future, this « after the future » or post-futurism is where Bifo begins his analysis in a lot of his texts. He reaches some unsatisfying conclusions in some places, including the idea that (a la Tiqqun and Hakim Bey before them) we ought to withdraw or engage in a Paulo Virno style exodus; elsewhere he speaks of old Europe, as the old world of the global north, being able to embrace its elderly status and affirm a kind of senilisation that would also be a recovery of sensuousness, and this very much reminds me of Tom Kitwood’s critique of dementia care as being predicated on a hypercognitivism that forgets other modes of sensibility. It is what is at stake in the riots and the Thatcher death parties here in the UK, and it is also behind Ballardian phenomena such as a news story I saw on the television yesterday that detailed how a gang of teenagers had beaten a man to death « for a dare ».

    I think there is also a lot in the idea of automatism- this idea has fascinated me for years, especially in the form that Gurdjieff writes about it as a kind of being-mechanical. It is also interesting because of the way Stiegler is placing automatism beside accidents, that there is a kid of stupid and unreflexive mastery hidden inside automatism that prevents the car crash. Here again, I can’t help but want to ask the Ballardian and Virilian question: would mastery emerge from a new relationship with the crash, that is to say the refusal of this kind of mastery could reveal a new form of relating to the accident, one that saw in the accident the conditions of emancipation, of a break from some sleeping state- even if it didn’t wrench one into a full consciousness (as if false consciousness were merely a gloss on a truer one)? Somewhere, I’m not sure where, Virilio says that what he calls ‘accident’ is what contemporary philosophy tends to call ‘the event’. In Crepuscular Dawn, Virilio states that the invention of automatons- the being that is fully automated, and why not include Google?- is an invention that results from the forgetting of the accident of politics. Is not the figure of pharmaco-proletarian not also the figure of a kind of radical post-political subject?

    These questions don’t arise, for me, from the rejection of pharmacology as a technique and as a tool, but from a pharmaco-logic that infests psychiatric practice so that despite the empirical evidence to the contrary – cf. Robert Whitaker- psychiatry acts as if long-term drug regimens will deliver the mad, the sad, the hyper-stimulated and the exhausted from their fallen-ness.

    I should end this comment here as I’m not sure how beneficial it is to anyone except myself as a bit of a much needed rant!


  2. verlainelefou dit :

    Cheers Terence you may find this useful ~ particularly in yr fight with that jackasrse levi by and company (that band of pretentious nonphilios and 2nd rate ‘parasites’: « I am a pluralist: the problem which I have set myself is that of the individualization of discourses. There exist criteria for individualizing discourses which are known and reliable (or almost): the linguistic system to which they belong, the identity of the subject which holds them together. But there are other criteria, no less familiar but much more enigmatic. When one speaks in the singular of psychiatry, or of medicine, or of grammar, or of biology, or of economics, what is one speaking of? What are these curious entities which one believes one can recognize at first glance, but whose limits one would have some difficulty in defining? Some of them seem to date back to the dawn of history (medicine, mathematics), whereas others have appeared quite recently (economics, psychiatry), and still others have perhaps disappeared (casuistry). Each discourse undergoes constant change as new utterances are added to it. » P.S. I was at the lectures back in the 70’s through to pretty the last year Deleuze taught. It’s a whole story. Anyways, keep up the good fight.

    P.S. Nearly all that you do is interesting and I am sure you’re gathering a following of real thinkers and contributors. I am also of the opinion that the stuff happening with BERNARD STIEGLER:(especially the creation of the ‘pharmakon’ school is terrific). Alors, as old Prof. Deleuze used we continue our work, eh?


  3. verlainelefou dit :

    Opps. Apologies: the quote is from an interview with the long ‘late’ and beloved Michel Foucault.


    • terenceblake dit :

      Perhaps one day you will tell your story, or maybe you already have? I think our stories are an important part of our individuation. My engagement with Harman and Bryant are part of my individuation because they embody the « shadow » of the philosophy I pursue, a form of identification and stasis that dogs us all, the temptation of subordinating thinking to membership and marketing. We should thank them for they act out a tendency towards philosophical « stupidity » that is in all of us, but that we resist.


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