Bernard Stiegler on disruption & stupidity in education & politics – podcast

Bernard Stiegler being interviewed

Via Museu d’Art Conptemporani de Barcelona.

On the Ràdio Web Macba website there is a podcast interview with philosopher Bernard Stiegler as part of a series to ‘Reimagine Europe’. It covers many of the major themes that have preoccupied Stiegler for the last ten years (if not longer). You can download the pod as an mp3 for free. Please find the blurb below and a link.

In his books and lectures, Stiegler presents a broad philosophical approach in which technology becomes the starting point for thinking about living together and individual fulfilment. All technology has the power to increase entropy in the world, and also to reduce it: it is potentially a poison or cure, depending on our ability to distil beneficial, non-toxic effects through its use. Based on this premise, Stiegler proposes a new model of knowledge and a large-scale contributive economy to coordinate an alliance between social agents such as academia, politics, business, and banks. The goal, he says, is to create a collective intelligence capable of reversing the planet’s self-destructive course, and to develop a plan – within an urgent ten-year time-frame – with solutions to the challenges of the Anthropocene, robotics, and the increasing quantification of life.

In this podcast Bernard Stiegler talks about education and smartphones, translations and linguists, about economic war, climate change, and political stupidity. We also chat about pharmacology and organology, about the erosion of biodiversity, the vital importance of error, and the Neganthropocene as a desirable goal to work towards, ready to be constructed.

00:00 Contributory economy: work vs proletarianization
05:21 Our main organs are outside of our body
07:45 Reading and writing compose the republic
12:49 Refounding Knowledge 
15:03 Digital pharmakon 
18:28 Contributory research. Neganthropy, biodiversity and diversification
24:02 The need of an economic peace
27:24 The limits of micropolitics
29:32 Macroeconomics and Neganthropic bifurcation
36:55 Libido is fidelity
42:33 A pharmacological critique of acceleration
46:35 Degrowth is the wrong question

AI as organ -on|-ology

Kitt the 'intelligent' car from the TV show Knight Rider

Let’s begin with a postulate: there is either no “AI” – artificial intelligence – or every intelligence is, in fact, in some way artificial (following a recent talk by Bernard Stiegler). In doing so we commence from an observation that intelligence is not peculiar to one body, it is shared. A corollary is that there is no (‘human’) intelligence without artifice, insofar as we need to exteriorise thought (or what Stiegler refers to as ‘exosomatisation’) for that intelligence to function – as language, in writing and through tools – and that this is inherently collective. Further, we might argue that there is no AI. Taking that suggestion forward, we can say that there are, rather, forms of artificial (or functional) stupidity, following Alvesson & Spicer (2012: p. 1199), insofar as it inculcates forms of lack of capacity: “characterised by an unwillingness or inability to mobilize three aspects of cognitive capacity: reflexivity, justification, and substantive reasoning”. Following Alvesson & Spicer [& Stiegler] we might argue that such forms of stupidity are necessary passage points through our sense-making in/of the world, thus are not morally ‘wrong’ or ‘negative’. Instead, the forms of functional stupidity derive from technology/techniques are a form of pharmakon – both enabling and disabling in various registers of life.

Given such a postulate, we might categorise “AI” in particular ways. We might identify ‘AI’ not as ‘other’ to the ‘human’ but rather a part of our extended (exosomatic) capacities of reasoning and sense. This would be to think of AI ‘organologically’ (again following Stiegler) – as part of our widening, collective, ‘organs’ of action in the world. We might also identify ‘AI’ as an organising rationale in and of itself – a kind of ‘organon’ (following Aristotle). In this sense “AI” (the discipline, institutions and the outcome of their work [‘an AI’]) is/are an organisational framework for certain kinds of action, through particular forms of reasoning.

It would be tempting (in geographyland and across particular bits of the social sciences) to frame all of this stemming from, or in terms of, an individual figure: ‘the subject’. In such an account, technology (AI) is a supplement that ‘the human subject’ precedes. ‘The subject’, in such an account, is the entity to which things get done by AI, but also the entity ultimately capable of action. Likewise, such an account might figure ‘the subject’ and it’s ‘other’ (AI) in terms of moral agency/patiency. However, for this postulate such a framing would be unhelpful (I would also add that thinking in terms of ‘affect’, especially through neuro-talk would be just as unhelpful). If we think about AI organologically then we are prompted to think about the relation between what is figured as ‘the human’ and ‘AI’ (and the various other things that might be of concern in such a story) as ‘parasitic’ (in Derrida’s sense) – its a reciprocal (and, in Stiegler’s terms, ‘pharmacological’) relation with no a priori preceding entity. ‘Intelligence’ (and ‘stupidity’ too, of course) in such a formulation proceeds from various capacities for action/inaction.

If we don’t/shouldn’t think about Artificial Intelligence through the lens of the (‘sovereign’) individual ‘subject’ then we might look for other frames of reference. I think there are three recent articles/blogposts that may be instructive.

First, here’s David Runciman in the LRB:

Corporations are another form of artificial thinking machine, in that they are designed to be capable of taking decisions for themselves. Information goes in and decisions come out that cannot be reduced to the input of individual human beings. The corporation speaks and acts for itself. Many of the fears that people now have about the coming age of intelligent robots are the same ones they have had about corporations for hundreds of years.

Second, here’s Jonnie Penn riffing on Runciman in The Economist:

To reckon with this legacy of violence, the politics of corporate and computational agency must contend with profound questions arising from scholarship on race, gender, sexuality and colonialism, among other areas of identity.
A central promise of AI is that it enables large-scale automated categorisation. Machine learning, for instance, can be used to tell a cancerous mole from a benign one. This “promise” becomes a menace when directed at the complexities of everyday life. Careless labels can oppress and do harm when they assert false authority. 

Finally, here’s (the outstanding) Lucy Suchman discussing the ways in which figuring complex systems of ‘AI’-based categorisations as somehow exceeding our understanding does particular forms of political work that need questioning and resisting:

The invocation of Project Maven in this context is symptomatic of a wider problem, in other words. Raising alarm over the advent of machine superintelligence serves the self-serving purpose of reasserting AI’s promise, while redirecting the debate away from closer examination of more immediate and mundane problems in automation and algorithmic decision systems. The spectacle of the superintelligentsia at war with each other distracts us from the increasing entrenchment of digital infrastructures built out of unaccountable practices of classification, categorization, and profiling. The greatest danger (albeit one differentially distributed across populations) is that of injurious prejudice, intensified by ongoing processes of automation. Not worrying about superintelligence, in other words, doesn’t mean that there’s nothing about which we need to worry.
As critiques of the reliance on data analytics in military operations are joined by revelations of data bias in domestic systems, it is clear that present dangers call for immediate intervention in the governance of current technologies, rather than further debate over speculative futures. The admission by AI developers that so-called machine learning algorithms evade human understanding is taken to suggest the advent of forms of intelligence superior to the human. But an alternative explanation is that these are elaborations of pattern analysis based not on significance in the human sense, but on computationally-detectable correlations that, however meaningless, eventually produce results that are again legible to humans. From training data to the assessment of results, it is humans who inform the input and evaluate the output of the black box’s operations. And it is humans who must take the responsibility for the cultural assumptions, and political and economic interests, on which those operations are based and for the life-and-death consequences that already follow.

All of these quotes more-or-less exhibit my version of what an ‘organological’ take on AI might look like. Likewise, they illustrate the ways in which we might bring to bear a form of analysis that seeks to understand ‘intelligence’ as having ‘supidity’as a necessary component (it’s a pharmkon, see?), which in turn can be functional (following Alvesson & Spicer). In this sense, the framing of ‘the corporation’ from Runciman and Penn is instructive – AI qua corporation (as a thing, as a collective endeavour [a ‘discipline’]) has ‘parasitical’ organising principles through which play out the pharmacological tendencies of intelligence-stupidity.

I suspect this would also resonate strongly with Feminist Technology Studies approaches (following Judy Wajcman in particular) to thinking about contemporary technologies. An organological approach situates the knowledges that go towards and result from such an understanding of intelligence-stupidity. Likewise, to resist figuring ‘intelligence’ foremost in terms of the sovereign and universal ‘subject’ also resists the elision of difference. An organological approach as put forward here can (perhaps should[?]) also be intersectional.

That’s as far as I’ve got in my thinking-aloud, I welcome any responses/suggestions and may return to this again.

If you’d like to read more on how this sort of argument might play out in terms of ‘agency’ I blogged a little while ago.

ADD. If this sounds a little like the ‘extended mind‘ (of Clark & Chalmers) or various forms of ‘extended self’ theory then it sort of is. What’s different is the starting assumptions: here, we’re not assuming a given (a priori) ‘mind’ or ‘self’. In Stiegler’s formulation the ‘internal’ isn’t realised til the external is apprehended: mental interior is only recognised as such with the advent of the technical exterior. This is the aporia of origin of ‘the human’ that Stiegler and Derrida diagnose, and that gives rise to the theory of ‘originary technics’. The interior and exterior, and with them the contemporary understanding of the experience of being ‘human’ and what we understand to be technology, are mutually co-constituted – and continue to be so [more here]. I choose to render this in a more-or-less epistemological, rather than ontological manner – I am not so much interested in the categorisation of ‘what there is’, rather in ‘how we know’.

About an Organology of Dreams – After An Organisation of Dreams, Bernard Stiegler & Ken McMullen

Bernard Stiegler being interviewed

Over on Backdoor Broadcasting you can revisit a session that was part of the Film Philosophy conference in 2012, with a film piece by McMullen “An Organisation of Dreams”.

Stiegler responds to the film with a talk listed as: About an Organology of Dreams – After An Organisation of Dreams, here’s the blurb:

Beginning with well-known proposition that the cinema serves as the perfect enactment of Plato’s cave, I would like to examine in this paper the question of transcendental cinema, returning to the problems that I raised in Le temps du cinéma, but also reopening the possibility of a transcendental stupidity – or transcendental negativity, to put it otherwise.  By turning to Freud and the notion of the dream, I will explore my hypothesis by looking briefly at a work which is itself rather brief, and which suggests an archeology of cinema that begins thirty thousand years ago, in the Chauvet Cave.

Some resonances here with Keynote Stiegler delivered at the same conference, translated by Daniel Ross: The Organology of Dreams and Arche-Cinema. The first footnote of which reads:

This keynote address was delivered on September 12, 2012, at Queen Mary, University of London, for the “Film-Philosophy Conference”, and began with the following opening remarks: “I would like to begin by thanking John Mullarkey for inviting me here, allowing me to continue a discussion with Ken McMullen that began a long time ago, with Ghost Dance (UK 1983), and passed through Jacques Derrida, and which was then pursued in various directions, in particular with An Organization of Dreams (UK 2009). I would also like to point out that Dan Ross, who was kind enough to translate my lecture into English, is also the director, along with David Barison, of The Ister (Australia 2004), another film in which I was fortunate enough to participate at the very moment I was writing Le temps du cinéma. I here thank Ken, Dan and John, and hope that perhaps some day there will be an opportunity for the three of us to have a discussion.”

Elemental machines – the becoming environmental of tech

Via dmf.

With: Andreas Broeckmann, Esther Leslie, Sascha Pohflepp
Moderated by Yvonne Volkart

“The concept of machines generally describes an assemblage of parts assigned to an overall function, designed by a human. Yet, the entwined histories of science, technology, and art are filled with ideas about nature functioning like machines, and of visions where machines become “natural” and organic. These two paths seem to merge as machines increasingly communicate autonomously and operate in fields beyond human perception and influence. Can we devise new perspectives for understanding the elemental machines that now seem to operate contingently within hybrid techno-ecologies like the forces of nature? What are the new aesthetic and political affordances or subjectivities involved in the process of technology becoming environmental?”

Amateur philosophy – boundary 2 theme issue on Stiegler

Only just seen this. Issue 1 of volume 44 (2017) of boundary 2 is entitled Amateur Philosophy and concerns the work of Bernard Stiegler.

Within the issue are published the three lectures Stiegler gave in California in 2011 (one of which was published in Lana Turner). alongside this are pieces by a stellar cast of contemporary theorists, including: Claire Colebrook, Mark Hansen, Daniel Ross and Gerald Moore. Both of the two translators who have translated the majority of Stiegler’s work into English have pieces: Stephen Barker and Daniel Ross.

This seems like a fairly important contribution to anglophone engagements with Stiegler’s work…

Here’s the full table of contents.

You need a subscription to access the papers, let me know if you have any trouble…

Reblog> Improvised Publics :: Control and Calculation :: Inheriting Liberation :: 6-17 June 2016

This event looks really interesting, check out the website for more information…

Emergenc(i)es – an event in Bristol between 6th and 17th June

Emergenc(i)es is an invitation to consider the emergency of the current historical moment.

The exhibition will dwell in the question of emergence within emergency.

Performance, education activities, visual art, screenings, installations, workshops and a library-cum-pharmacy will create time and space to diagnose, explore and understand the world we live in.

Enter – Relate – Improvise – Diagnose – Inherit – Public – Liberate – Gather

All activities are free to attend, thanks to generous funding from Awards for All.

Reblog> “Sex, annotation and verité totale” Kurenneimi’s Archival Futurism

This new book co-edited by Joasia Krysa and Jussi Parikka looks interesting…

Joasia is a curator and was one of my undergrad tutors in Plymouth on the Digital Art and Technology programme and convened some great events during her time there, not least the excellent Hybrid Discourse. It was events like that which contributed to my interest in postgraduate study…

“Sex, annotation, and verité totale”: Kurenniemi’s Archival Futurism

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 8.41.43 AMI am very glad to announce that Writing and Unwriting (Media) Art History: Erkki Kurenniemi in 2048 is out from the printers, hot off the (MIT) Press! Edited with curator, writer Joasia Krysa, the book focuses on the Finnish media art pioneer Kurenniemi, and is the key international collection on the curious thinker, sound and media artist-tinkerer, who became known for his remarkable synthetizers and archival futurism. Kurenniemi has gathered attention in the electronic music circles for a longer period of time, and with Documenta 13 he become known in the international art world too. His thoughts and work resonate with the work of other early pioneers; Simon Reynolds once called him  a mix of Karlheinz Stockhausen, Buckminster Fuller, and Steve Jobs. In 2002, Mika Taanila directed the film The Future is Not What It Used to Be about Kurenniemi.

The book includes foreword by the eminent media archaeologist Erkki Huhtamo and a range of critical essays on digital culture, archival mania and media arts. Key academic and art writers address Kurenniemi’s work but also more: the condition of the archive and sound arts, sonic fiction and speculative futures of singularity are some of the key themes that run through the book with contributions by many established names in media studies, art and sound technologies. In addition, we included many of Kurenniemi’ own writings over the decades, including some interviews that elaborate his wider computational views of the world, including his thought: by 2040s, the human brain can be completely simulated. His archive plays a key role, like an actor in itself: the archive also featured as a key “object” as part of the earlier Kiasma exhibition and we included some snippets, as well as an extensive visual section.


Writing and Unwriting (Media) Art History sits as part of the Leonardo-book series, edited by Sean Cubitt. The book was started by Krysa through her curatorial work at the 2012 Documenta 13 exhibition. It is thanks to Joasia that I am part of the project and she deserves major praise for her amazing eye for detail, enthusiasm and energy in driving this project, from a major exhibition to a book, and more.

Here’s a preview of the book’s table of contents and Huhtamo’s Foreword.

For review copy requests, or other questions, inquiries about the book, please get in touch! We are hosting some book events in Montreal, Helsinki, Berlin and London over the coming months but more info on those separately.

Writing and Unwriting (Media) Art History: Erkki Kurenniemi in 2048, eds Krysa and Parikka

Over the past forty years, Finnish artist and technology pioneer Erkki Kurenniemi (b. 1941) has been a composer of electronic music, experimental filmmaker, computer animator, roboticist, inventor, and futurologist. Kurenniemi is a hybrid–a scientist-humanist-artist. Relatively unknown outside Nordic countries until his 2012 Documenta 13 exhibition, “In 2048,” Kurenniemi may at last be achieving international recognition. This book offers an excavation, a critical mapping, and an elaboration of Kurenniemi’s multiplicities.

The contributors describe Kurenniemi’s enthusiastic, and rather obsessive, recording of everyday life and how this archiving was part of his process; his exploratory artistic practice, with productive failure an inherent part of his method; his relationship to scientific and technological developments in media culture; and his work in electronic and digital music, including his development of automated composition systems and his “video-organ,” DIMI-O. A “Visual Archive,” a section of interviews with the artist, and a selection of his original writings (translated and published for the first time) further document Kurenniemi’s achievements. But the book is not just about one artist in his time; it is about emerging media arts, interfaces, and archival fever in creative practices, read through the lens of Kurenniemi.

music with devices media archaeology kurenniemi AM


“Sex, annotation, and verité totale: Kurenniemi is a missing mixing desk between so many interesting aspects of late-twentieth-century culture. No wonder he ends up offering us a new archival futurism!”
Matthew Fuller, Professor, Director of the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London

“Providing a long-overdue critical and historical introduction to the amazingly multifaceted work of media pioneer, visionary thinker, and self-archivist Erkki Kurenniemi, this book becomes both a media-archaeological excavation and engaging reflection on the challenges of writing media art history. The range of Kurenniemi’s fascinating practice–including electronic music composition, experimental filmmaking, robotics, and curation–defies traditional classifications, and calls for new historical narratives of media art. Started as a compilation of the long-term research that went into the exhibition of Kurenniemi’s work at Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany, the volume combines highlights of his own writings and interviews with excellent contributions by scholars, contextualizing his archives, art, music, and vision.”
Christiane Paul, Associate Professor, School of Media Studies, The New School; Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts, Whitney Museum

“This book is a major contribution not only to the unprecedented scientific and artistic imagination of Erkki Kurenniemi, but also to the whole research on media and ‘real time.’ The text unveils and critically presents the reader with a series of complex technological and artistic systems exploring the man-machine relationship under the assumption both do have consciousness. Kurenniemi’s work provides us with one of the most solid grounds to examine perception, the brain, the will to speculate and travel back and forth between several realms of knowledge. Kurenniemi is bold; this text is bold and a great contribution to new forms of studying risk taking in art and science.”
Chus Martínez, Head of the Institute of Art, FHNW Academy of Art and Design


Out now > Bernard Stiegler – States of Shock: stupidity and knowledge in the 21st century

Those of you vaguely interested in the work of Bernard Stiegler, and perhaps those of you who are not (yet!) will I hope take note of the publication of an important work by Stiegler: States of Shock: stupidity and knowledge in the 21st century [a translation by Daniel Ross of États de choc:  betise et savoir dans XXIe siecle].

Here’s the blurb from the publisher Polity:

In 1944 Horkheimer and Adorno warned that industrial society turns reason into rationalization, and Polanyi warned of the dangers of the self-regulating market, but today, argues Stiegler, this regression of reason has led to societies dominated by unreason, stupidity and madness. However, philosophy in the second half of the twentieth century abandoned the critique of political economy, and poststructuralism left its heirs helpless and disarmed in face of the reign of stupidity and an economic crisis of global proportions.

New theories and concepts are required today to think through these issues. The thinkers of poststructuralism Lyotard, Deleuze, Derrida must be re-read, as must the sources of their thought, Hegel and Marx. But we must also take account of Naomi Klein’s critique of Milton Friedman and the Chicago School and her account of the ‘shock doctrine’. In fact, argues Stiegler, a permanent ‘state of shock’ has prevailed since the beginning of the industrial revolution, intensified by the creative destruction brought about by the consumerist model. The result has been a capitalism that destroys desire and reason and in which every institution is undermined, above all those institutions that are the products par excellence of the Enlightenment the education system and universities.

Through a powerful critique of thinkers from Marx to Derrida, Stiegler develops new conceptual weapons to fight this destruction. He argues that schools and universities must themselves be transformed: new educational institutions must be developed both to take account of the dangers of digitization and the internet and to enable us to take advantage of the new opportunities they make available.

Massumi on theorising ‘relation’ and ‘interactivity’

Brian Massumi speaks in the video interview below (which purports to have been recorded in 2001?!) about the ways in which we might want to think about ‘relation’ rather than ‘interaction’ when considering the design and use of (digital) media. Its interesting to see how much the ‘neural/neurological’ is threaded throughout Massumi’s argument – a condition of that moment in philosophy perhaps…

In particular, for me, Massumi’s proposition of attempting to design for ‘a-modal’ perception is intriguing”¦ sort of like designing for what might be something like ‘nonrepresentational interactivity'(?). The sense of indeterminate relations that Massumi elaborates in this sense is interesting”¦ Erin Manning’s more recent work, especially in Always More Than One, compliments and advances some of this perhaps…

Also, the conceptualisation of (affective) relationality that Massumi describes resonates with recent work in human geography around ‘affective atmospheres‘, in particular in the work of James Ash – especially in his forthcoming book “The Interface Envelope”.

All sorts of interesting stuff, more than I can précis here(!) so worth watching the video:

Via Synthetic Zero.