freedom from the known

Technology and science are valves for economic production. They can’t be the guiding themes of the content which is supposed to fuel our imagination for the future.

Some of my thoughts on this are a little woowoo. I really believe there exist imaginative realms which, on one hand, contain nothing resembling the known universe, but on the other are accessible, capable of being rendered in art, and which can guide our political imagination. It’s worth it to look further than the recognizable motifs of technoscience.

This is why contemplation and interiority are subversive. You might fall into an internal world — a place populated with expressive but non-representative forms — that you want to drag into the real one.

I can’t make this post without calling out sci-fi specifically. I’m sorry. I just don’t think it’s as politically powerful as everyone says it is.

Really want to re-record this. Lyrics from As You Like It:

I was seven of the nine days out of the wonder before you came,
for look here what I found on a palm tree;
I was never so berhymed since Pythagoras’ time,
that I was an Irish rat,
which I can hardly remember—

Hi from Germany. Frankfurt is unseasonably warm, hotter than New York right now. It feels like Southern Virginia at the time I left. I was in Berlin and Poland (Sczcecin) last weekend. It was not much colder in either city. Trying not to think about climate change feels like trying not to be human.

Even if I could measure time by shifts in weather, it would still be hard to believe a month has passed since I got here. My German is still really bad.

o-culus needs some work on the administrative end. For that reason, this is probably going to be the last post until I can devote a whole day to tinkering with it (/praying I don’t lose half a year’s worth of content in a shift over to a new hosting system).

When the site is back I’ll start posting more regularly 🙂

I’ll be speaking at two conferences in October, some information here:

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Oct 1-2 —> Intelligent Futures: Automation, AI and Cognitive Ecologies, at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England. Here is the conference site. Talk title and abstract:

Psychedelic Science and The Question of Artificial Intelligence

In this paper, I argue that qualitative research on the medical application of psychedelic drugs problematizes the positivist, generalizing and inductive principles of machine learning as a basis for artificial intelligence. I draw from interdisciplinary scholarship that uses qualitative methods, and in particular interpretative phenomenological analysis, as a hermeneutic device for research on the use of psychedelics in psychiatry. I combine precepts of machine learning with developments in psychedelic research to explore the inherent problems of generalizing psychedelic verbal reports data in the classification systems of A.I. classification. In doing so, I demonstrate that the use of qualitative methods in psychedelic drug research may envelop an immanent critique of the notion that machine-learning based predictive systems can be intelligent. I begin with an overview of the “psychedelic renaissance,” the recent resurgence of interest in the medicinal use of psychedelics. This includes an emerging paradigm which recognizes the need for qualitative and abductive theorization, including methods from phenomenology, poetics and critical theory as tools to interpret the deeply subjective narrative data that is evaluated in psychedelic studies. From there, I explore axioms of machine learning and artificial intelligence that emphasize the ways in which generalization and inductive reasoning are essential to algorithms that effectively “predict” the future. Assessing dynamics from psychedelic research that stand against pure inductive reasoning alongside the empirics of machine learning as a basis for A.I., I offer that the former can work toward a theorization of the possible epistemic limitations of artificial intelligence.

Oct 15-16 —> Deep Learning and Explanation in Cognitive Science, at the Institute of Philosophy in Prague, Czech Republic. No conference website or program available yet. Talk title and abstract:

Screens of Perception: Psychedelic Science, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

In this talk, I will argue that qualitative research on the medicinal use of psychedelic drugs problematizes the development of data models, which in turn presents challenges for the predictive functions of machine learning and artificial intelligence. I draw from interdisciplinary scholarship that uses qualitative methods to interpret research on psychedelic substances, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin mushrooms, as assistive devices for psychotherapy. I combine precepts of machine learning with developments in psychedelic research to explore the complexities of generalizing research in contemporary psychedelic science. This includes subject-reported accounts from those undergoing ineffable and difficult-to-predict experiences. In doing so, I demonstrate that the use of qualitative methods in psychedelic drug research may offer a critique to machine-learning based predictive systems based on classification.

I begin with an overview of the “psychedelic renaissance,” the recent resurgence of interest in the medicinal use of psychedelics. Here, I offer a brief history of medicinal experiments with psychedelic drugs that begins in the twentieth century. I note that for legal reasons, 2014 marked the first LSD study approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in forty years, and that several related developments have occurred within the past five years. This includes an emerging paradigm which recognizes the need for qualitative, hermeneutic and deductive modes of theorizations. These includes interpretive methods inspired by phenomenology, poetics and aesthetic philosophy. I directly cite published research which speaks to their efficacy as interpretive devices on data from psychedelic psychotherapy.

From there, I explore axioms of machine learning and artificial intelligence that emphasize the ways in which generalization and inductive reasoning are essential to algorithms that effectively “predict” the future. Evaluating dynamics from psychedelic research that stand against pure inductive reasoning alongside the empirics of machine learning as a basis for artificial intelligence, I offer that the former can work toward a theorization of the possible philosophical limitations of the latter. As such it is an intervention in the notion that mentality may be replicated in data and algorithmic systems that stipulate predictive functions.
These talks will be similar, although the latter more narrowly focused on machine learning.

 

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I’ll also be traveling a bit to other places — Scotland, after the conference in Brighton, to see family and Amsterdam at the beginning of November for research. If anyone is reading this and wants to give me a good excuse to return to Berlin, my email is open..

acid communism

Yet another mainstream news article about Silicon Valley’s fetish for microdosing LSD. I’m kind of sick of hearing about this trend. (Article posted here only for the sake of reference; see thumbnail below).

Meanwhile I’ve been getting more into Mark Fisher, reading Ghosts Of My Life for the first time. I just learned that at the time of his death he was working on a book called Acid Communism. Some words about this from Plan C, a crew of anti-authoritarian communists based in the UK:

Alongside feminist consciousness raising [Mark Fisher] also identifies the various ways in which class consciousness was raised. To these he then adds the consciousness changing effects of psychedelia, which worked through pop culture to embed a notion that reality is plastic and changeable. Wow, what a move. Before his death Mark was writing a book on post-capitalist desire called Acid Communism so we can see that this was no mere digression but an opening up of whole new areas of enquiry. Where can we find post-capitalist desire expressing itself today? How can we help that desire to be realised? ( Full article here, https://www.weareplanc.org/blog/towards-acid-communism/ )

It seems intuitive enough to me that, although it may manifest itself in the culture industry, psychedelia is a vector for post-capitalist desire. You don’t even need the chemical experience. Psychedelic music, art and sentiment encapsulates so much that shouldn’t technically have any life under digitized capitalism. That capital wants to claim LSD as its own via the tech industry is no surprise, and something tells me we shouldn’t bother preparing for what happens if acid-dropping entrepreneurs turn onto communism.

These days I’m writing about psychedelics not only as palliatives, but producers of knowledge applicable beyond the scope of curative medicine. As in Stanislav Grof’s remark that LSD and other psychedelics may be for psychology what the microscope was for biology or the telescope for astronomy — not just a bandage, but a magnifying lens. If psychedelics can illuminate hidden aspects of cognition, maybe they can tell us something about cognitive-computational capitalism, about which Matteo Pasquinelli is writing a monograph. I can infer from his essay on Glass Bead that he connects the theories of mind writ large in artificial intelligence to a distinctly economic logic. At the very least it seems the notion of a fully-computable consciousness, naturalized as Real Objective Science in the field of A.I., expedites technologized capitalism.

Silicon Valley is going to do its thing whether it has acid or not. Just like how cryptocurrency folks are getting chummy with psychonauts although right now it looks like acid needs Bitcoin more than Bitcoin needs acid. (Fwiw, I assume Bitcoiners are funding psychedelic research in the interest of their productivity). Positioned at the margins of all these discourses, I’ve worried about alienating myself from one camp or another. I don’t want to fly the flag of technology, psychedelic science, or leftism too high, since those groups normally keep their distance from one another, and my work relies on all of them. This mutual exclusivity is nonsense, of course; their interests coalesce in streams of politics and culture fed anew every day.  Mark Fisher taught me.

I like that Fisher identifies desire to be the grail of post-capitalist inquiry. It takes power of an erotic magnitude to slice through the banality of politics / culture in their current forms. An almost sexual desire to live in a pro-social world. To explore consciousness in peace and fascination, to develop perspectives that don’t prioritize competition and metrical contrast with other people. To not only give according to our abilities and take according to our needs, but to provide everything for everyone. Everything for everyone.

One week after arriving. The worst piece of advice I got for Germany is that language isn’t a problem because everyone speaks English. You hear it all the time in the states. It’s not true.

The second worst is that people are reserved. That’s also false. I don’t understand them, of course, so I wish I could let myself believe that the strangers who approach me are always being friendly. I’m too cynical to assume they’re not sometimes just judging me.

Regarding language differences, I think I like broken German more than Germans like broken English

 

I took these next 2 photos in my home district. Appealingly ungentrified and unpopular with tourists, very pretty, but it smells like New Jersey. I have no problem with the rats in the river but wish I could better handle bad urban aromas and tobacco smoke —  can confirm that German cliché.

 

Daily pain, and I’m not into recalibrating my senses. (All the USA stereotypes are true, like the smoke gets to me).

I think this first travelogue will also be the last one. Don’t really want to write about my real life, but posts about research forthcoming.

indignities

Writing tweets; thinking in pull quotes; drunk brocialists; disappointment, faintly suggested but fully registered; hangovers; Puerto Rico; superhero movies; Elon Musk; Bitcoin boosters; union busters; the treacly-precious task of recuperating “dignity;” being a good sport; tawny blonde highlights; forgetting how to offend; being forgotten; forgetting faces but not conversations; losing your religion; enjoying yourself more when you realize you’re enjoying yourself; bug bites; the tradeoff between pure erotic fantasy and spontaneous honesty; stuttering; politically incorrect lucid dreams; the jokes that don’t land; the jokes that land too much; the agora of protein bars; New York, NY.

I’ll think of more later.

Just remembered this great joke from The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy:

PREFECT: You should prepare yourself for the jump into hyperspace; it’s unpleasantly like being drunk.

ARTHUR: What’s so unpleasant about being drunk?

PREFECT: Just ask a glass of water.