ABSOLUTE (NON-)KNOWLEDGE, NON-INHUMANISM, AND ALGORITHMIC SUFFICIENCY

Bernard Stiegler speaks of the rise and transformation of the « technosphere », which is increasingly regulated by algorithmic reason, as a domain of « absolute non-knowledge ». He notes with regret that engineers, technicians, and to an increasing extent « scientists » do not know what they are doing. They make use of uninterpreted algorithms because of their efficacity, rather than their meaning.

The algorithms « work », and that is supposed to enough. This constitutes what one could call in Laruellese the principle of algorithmic sufficiency. François Laruelle’s thought on this point is convergent with Stiegler’s. There is no question of rejecting or condemning the algorithm, but only of refusing its hegemony. The algorithm is no foundation for our desire, knowledge, creation, and action. Rather it is one inhuman aspect of our thought that needs to be supported to the human (what Stiegler calls in a Laruellean use of the « non- » the « non-inhuman »).

Talking about non-philosophy, Laruelle declares:

One cannot separate or isolate pure, formal and algorithmically manipulable rules; non-philosophy solely has an algorithmic aspect (a transformed material) of the machine, even of the automaton, and it’s a machine indeed, but determined in-the-last-instance by Man.

This allows us to see a potential critical force to the division that Deleuze and Guattari set up between science (function, algorithm) and philosophy (concept, noesis) in WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? Scientists, on this account, do not « know » what they are doing when they do not fully conceptualise.

This scientific non-knowing corresponds to Kuhnian « normal science », a de-concepted manipulation of de-noetised procedures and formulae that tendentially abstracts from thought and experience in favour of data and algorithms.

Desire, like thought, thus becomes increasingly algorithmically regimented, and this algorithmic desire is the degraded de-noetised state of desire that corresponds to the new regimes of algorithmic governance. Stiegler, after Deleuze, and in convergence with Laruelle, calls for a (re-)noetisation of algorithmic and functional assemblages.

Bernard Stiegler goes so far as to deny even the status of « desire » to the result of the de-sublimation and dissolution effectuated by algorithmic calculation and governance. The expression « algorithmic desire » would be a contradiction in terms, as for Stiegler the algorithm dissolves desire by unbinding and disinhibiting the drives.

A more Deleuzian approach would permit this formulation of « algorithmic desire », as a de-noetised algorithmised desire remains a desire, and the sharp demarcation made by Stiegler between desire and drive cannot be made within the conceptual landscape of CAPITALISM AND SCHIZOPHRENIA I and II.

Bibliographic note

For the concept of « algorithmic governance » I am indebted to the work of Antoinette Rouvroy. For an interesting and accessible interview in English see: https://www.greeneuropeanjournal.eu/algorithmic-governmentality-and-the-death-of-politics/

For the concept of « algorithmic desires » I am indebted to the work of Maryse Carmès. Her work creates a problematic which synthesises concepts from Deleuze, Laruelle, Latour, Stiegler, and Rouvroy. See her « Désirs algorithmiques de l’action publique : une lecture sémiopolitique », in Algorithmes et décisions publiques (published 31 January 2019, edited by Gilles Rouet).

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