February 7 2023: here’s my last Twitter thread (in both senses of the word “last”), ca. December 2022. It’s a response to this podcast episode: https://phantompod.org/afterlife/

In 12 parts:

  1. David Cecchetto talks about how data are taken to represent “real” (or “natural”) connections between things. Data show correlations that indicate causal mechanisms. 
  1. But, of course, experience is made up of “unreal” events- e.g., a dream that impacts your waking state of mind. What he calls “incommunication” refers to gaps in understanding between communicating parties which may comprise the actual content of communication. 
  1. The point being that the causes behind human actions and encounters are mysterious, and the explanatory tools we use to dispel the mystery are neither natural nor inevitable.
  1. In his words, data “hallucinate equivalences” between things. They perform a sleight-of-hand trick to make various phenomena appear to be related, as do our associative minds. 
  1. Psychedelic experiences enhance the mind’s ability to make causal associations that have no comprehensible logic— as do dreams. 
  1. This is interesting in light of the widespread notion that data “naturally” reflect the “intrinsic” connections between phenomena. This notion contributes to the social and financial fetishization of data; also,
  1. it implies the epistemological position that there are essential, given links between things, and that we can understand and represent these links in their given form. A lot of assumptions there.
  1. I’m fascinated by the datafication of unreal experiences because, in these cases, the epistemic power we impute to data —as alleged bearers of “real”  links between things— is applied to situations defined by a lack of clear causal logic. 
  1. (E.g., a person on acid who sees the sky turn green and has a conversation with their ceiling fan about it. How can you causally account for that?)
  1. Psychedelic research is, imo, the best case study here because psychedelics allow us to induce & study such strange effects in a fairly dependable fashion. 
  1. Sure, you could take research on dreams, spiritual and aesthetic encounters, and so forth, as similar case studies. But psychedelics more reliably yield unreal effects that have a “real” impact. 
  1. With that said, I think the premises of positivist psychedelic research are kinda absurd. Indeed- if you scrutinize the epistemic authority of data alongside efforts to scientize psychedelic experience, you see the shortcomings of both.

Sharing this because of its connection to this fantastic essay — https://excavating.ai/ — which I think was just published this month. Within and beyond its application to psychedelics, I have a lot to say about the archaeology of knowledge produced by digital automation. But, as always, never as much time to write as I need. I’ll make the time…