Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Henry 02.07.16 at 7:17 pm
Eszter – on the contrast between the fallibility of machine learning and hype, I liked this by danah, which you’ve presumably already seen.
Before there was Justine Tunney, (and what she became) there was Danah Boyd.
It’s been 20 years — 20 years!? — since John Perry Barlow wrote “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” — a rant in response to the government and corporate leaders who descend on a certain snowy resort town each year as part of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Picture that pamphleteering with me for a moment…
Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone.
I first read Barlow’s declaration when I was 18 years old. I was in high school and in love with the Internet. His manifesto spoke to me. It was a proclamation of freedom, a critique of the status quo, a love letter to the Internet that we all wanted to exist. I didn’t know why he was in Davos, Switzerland, nor did I understand the political conversation he was engaging in. All I knew is that he was on my side.

...Yet, what I struggled with the most wasn’t the sheer excess of Silicon Valley in showcasing its value but the narrative that underpinned it all. I’m quite used to entrepreneurs talking hype in tech venues, but what happened at Davos was beyond the typical hype, in part because most of the non-tech people couldn’t do a reality check. They could only respond with fear. As a result, unrealistic conversations about artificial intelligence led many non-technical attendees to believe that the biggest threat to national security is humanoid killer robots, or that AI that can do everything humans can is just around the corner, threatening all but the most elite technical jobs. In other words, as I talked to attendees, I kept bumping into a 1970s science fiction narrative.
A reference to Boyd in an old comment at Savage Minds. I'd read her a bit by then.
I guess I should be impressed. Tunney ended up an open, pathetic, fascist. Again the failures of utopian engineering, of the world and the self, beginning with self-hatred and ending in moralizing violence. Boyd is just the club kid at Microsoft.

The Economist: How John Perry Barlow views his internet manifesto on its 20th anniversary
The Economist: What do you think you got especially right—or wrong?
JPB: I will stand by much of the document as written. I believe that it is still true that the governments of the physical world have found it very difficult to impose their will on cyberspace. Of course, they are as good as they ever were at imposing their will on people whose bodies they can lay a hand on, though it is increasingly easy, as it was then, to use technical means to make the physical location of those bodies difficult to determine.

Even when they do get someone cornered, like Chelsea Manning, or Julian Assange, or [Edward] Snowden, they’re not much good at shutting them up. Ed regularly does $50,000 speeches to big corporate audiences and is obviously able to speak very freely. Ditto Julian. And even ditto Chelsea Manning, who despite the fact that she’s serving a 35-year sentence, is still able to speak her mind to all who will listen. 
I've made the same arguments since the time Danah Boyd was born. I was raised on them.  I played Dungeons and Dragons once in my life, in 1978, sitting on the floor with a teenage grad student in computer science, dialed into the mainframe at U. Penn, reading the printouts from a large format printer. Neither of us were very interested. Five years later watching Graeber and his friends play was depressing. Even played with human beings it was more Kraftwerk than Celtic, more escape than engagement, the panicked denial of the darkness of Kafka and Duchamp, of Warhol and Robert Wilson and Bowie and Detroit. "People think that Andy said he was a machine. But he didn't. He said he wanted to be a machine and that's not the same thing at all." The isolation of machine life, the perverse pleasures of autism, of life without pain. As ideology it was the curdled nihilism of Borges: a child who grew old refusing to grow up.  Aaron Swartz was too good for this world.

All repeated below in a comment at Savage Minds that won't make it. I understand why. I have no patience.
"It is strange when capitalism, which in the contemporary scene so values flexibility and mobility, invents constraints for itself that inhibit the very qualities it thrives on."

The intellectual models of Modernism are the philosopher, the engineer and the librarian, all builders of infrastructure. The primacy of ideas, not of people, or even the record of their actions. Librarians are bureaucrats, Benthamites of thought. The poetry of bureaucracy is Kafka, Otto Weininger, Daniel Paul Schreber, Wittgenstein, and Duchamp. It's mechanized violence and mechanized sex. Also Nietzsche and Borges: the celebration by neurasthenic bookworms for the romantic ideal of illiterate barbarians. A romance of freedom in a mechanized world. Fascism was born from paradox.

 “shell as hard as steel”  I never followed this much. Wow. Amazing how much it was twisted. The same with Strachey and Freud.

"People say that Andy said he was a machine. But he didn't. He said he wanted to be a machine and that's not the same thing at all." An old friend of mine and an expert on Warhol. The quote's from memory but I've never forgotten it.
The perverse pleasure of autism and the history of the closet. Weininger to Kraftwerk.

"Consider a discipline such as aesthetics. The fact that there are works of art is given for aesthetics. It seeks to find out under what conditions this fact exists, but it does not raise the question whether or not the realm of art is perhaps a realm of diabolical grandeur, a realm of this world, and therefore, in its core, hostile to God and, in its innermost and aristocratic spirit, hostile to the brotherhood of man. Hence, aesthetics does not ask whether there should be works of art."

The perverse desperation of Viennese art was founded in assumptions of its own inadequacy: the inadequacy of the merely beautiful in the face of the intelligent.

I've always hated Weber with a passion. A Machiavel for the steel age. I have sympathy for his damaged children, but not for geeks and manic autism without irony. Aaron Swartz was a pathetic narcissist. Justine Tunney is a transexual-fascist: again self-hating and self-loving.  Now Danah Boyd seems to have figured out that her Panglossian tech-hipster act has always been a celebration of Weberian authoritarianism. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Engineering The Revolution: Arms And Enlightenment In France, 1763-1815
Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education

Two books. The same story.
"The disenchantment of the world" is a world without desire. It never happened. It never will happen.
That Weber's supposed "iron cage" was written as “a shell as hard as steel” is just amazing. And the below becomes just obvious.
For Weber, on the contrary, the steel shell is the symbol of passivity, the transformation of the Puritan hero into a figure of mass mediocrity. True,we have not yet reached the terrifying dimension of Kafka's Metamorphosis in which the chief protagonist, Gregor Samsa, wakes to find himself transformed into a giant bug lying on his "hard, as it were armor-plated back" (panzerartig harten Rücken), and whose first thoughts and worries are about his job and his time table, rather than his fantastically changed state. But Weber's metaphor places The Protestant Ethic within a lineage that stretches past Kafka to embrace Hannah Arendt's concern that "watched from a sufficiently removed vantage point in the universe . . . modern motorization would appear like a process of biological mutation in which human bodies gradually begin to be covered by shells of steel" and beyond her to those contemporary writers who speculate on cyborgs and the "posthuman"or "transhuman"condition.
Once again, the ghost of Panofsky helps me out, giving me just the sources I need to make my point.
"those contemporary writers who speculate on cyborgs and the 'posthuman' or 'transhuman' condition."
There is no aspect of scientific knowledge that mandates institutionalized instrumental reason in all aspects of life. There is no telos to the world beyond entropy, and even that puts too much of a glow on physical events. The 18th century was the age of enchantment with science, an enchantment morphing over time into various forms of a philosophy along a line also described in the arts, which themselves describe (again) not the world but our perceptions of it. Equality in the language of philosophy originates in the discovery or construction, by members of an elite, of the idea of equality, rather than in the recognition of the practice of it by the people, and has ended in the study of people by that same elite not as equal but alike: the study of each of us only in terms of the aggregate. And in this the logic of individualism becomes its opposite, except that the elite observers have quietly removed themselves from the game. The greatest heroes of technocracy are those who can predict the behavior of the middling and in this they have become middling themselves. But it’s these heroes who are left to make the decisions for the rest of us. 
Farrell's fondness for Weber and for fantasy fiction (click the link at the bottom)
"If the public decides that academic freedom isn’t working out in terms of the goods it provides, then too bad for academic freedom." A cynic's form of democracy. Farrell's such a sleazy fuck.

I should look at Mayer and Mommsen but again, I don't have the patience for polite arguments in defense of the obvious. Appropriate that Mayer was the editor of the Gallimard edition of Tocqueville's complete works and that he wrote on the sociology of film.

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