Derrida’s Hauntology: Spectres of Marx.

Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) is best known for developing a form of semiotic (symbolic) analysis called Deconstruction. He is associated with the movement of Post-Structuralism.

Jacques Derrida against the system
Jacques Derrida

Derrida is not a postmodernist. He writes by reading, or reads by writing. He’s looking for ghosts, partial presences, things that are there but not fully. Spectres, traces, supplementary, what hides from the most through philosophers, who forgot to notice these crucial terms.

All ontology is shadowed by a hauntology. “Of every concept, beginning with the concepts of being and time, There is what we would be calling here a hauntology. Ontology opposes it only in a movement of exorcism.”

Absence is secondary to presence. The ghost occurs halfway between the two. You can kill a term, but you can’t exorcise its ghosts.

Derrida questioned whether there was a thing between the original and its simulacrum. Something not quite dead or alive. 

“I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar.”

Nietzsche.

Weber – the sound of God was replaced by the hum of grinding, indifferent machines.

Because somethings dead, they don’t know they’re dead. Lost origin, or aborted future. 

Nostalgia, a pill to the good old days, even if it was a state we never in or had had. The nostalgic dreams of utopia. The haunts of utopia (“no place”) although its lack of existence doesn’t remove any of its efficiency. 

Revolutionaries and reactionaries hold utopia in their hearts, it haunts them, a spectre of something they never had, our childhoods haunt us, as old forms of unity and innocence. 

Although the values of nostalgia were already phantasmic and invented, that’s why they’re called values and not worths. 

The miscarried futures of the past, i.e injustices never brought to justice. Not everyone has nostalgia for the same periods. 

Marxist spectres continue to haunt while the contradictions that he pointed out still remain, inequality, oppression, debt, alienation. 

Postmodernism is also hauntological. The medium of our spectres is no longer the witch medium, but our necromantic machines. 

If this important frontier is being displaced, it is because the medium in which it is instituted, namely, the medium of the media themselves (news, the press, telecommunications, the very possibility of the res publica and the phenomenality of the political) this element itself is neither living nor dead, present nor absent: it spectralizes.”

– Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx, p. 63

Media technology, mobile recording and digital technology, and the constant inundation of the less than present spectres is a big shift. The truth was always mediated, but now it’s endlessly mediated. So the illusion of presence is a rare thing. 

The decentering has been completed, not by postmodernists but by us.

The problem for Derrida was that philosophy was too focussed on presence, that things were real observable things, even when they weren’t. So ghosts and spirits conjured by philosophers, the coherence of their images, perfection and purity, was a bleached and already idealised image. That’s why nostalgia is a ghost of simulacra. 

Derrida’s problem of the grand narrative said Guy Debord was right all along about “The Spectacle”. Everything is a conjuration, an absence in some form when a presence to a machine. Ghosts who don’t know their ghosts. 

It reflects deconstruction. Longing, loss, and fantasy because the time is out of joint. 

Advertisers worked on this, everyone became advertisers for themself. 

People try to say western civilisation is a product of Jerusalem and Athens, but it’s really San Fransisco (Google) and Vegas (Facebook).

All the ghosts were already impure, now their image is also impure, it is an impurity of an impurity. We have seen through the fantasies.

What are these churches now, if they are not the tops and monuments of god? There never was a greater event, and on account of it all, who are born after us belong to a higher history than any history hitherto.”

Nitezsche, The Gay Science.

“The fate of our times is characterised above all, by the disenchantment of the world. — For vilified man death has no meaning. It has none because the individual life of civilised man, placed into an infinite ‘progress’, according to its own imminent meaning should never come to an end, for there is always a further step ahead of one who stand in the march of progress.”

Max Weber – Essays.

No matter how hard you try there is always someone standing further down the line trying to f**k you up. 

You can’t kill what’s already dead, this is what’s haunting capitalism. 

At the time when a new world disorder is attempting to install its neo-capitalism and Neo-liberalism, no disavowal has (yet) managed to rid itself of all of Marx’s ghosts.”

What is the solution? We are already ghosts.

“As the archaeology of out thought shows, man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end, like a face drawn in the sand at the edge of the sea.” –

Foucault, The Order of Things.

History is always ending. But ends are not complete, each end is haunted. 

Deleuze: Control Societies & Cybernetic Posthumanism.

The world is run by machines – systems of information processing that interpret and remake the world according to their logic.

Society is made of many machines, social, political, bureaucratic, school is an education system. Programs are used to interpret and categorise people.

Machines take in data and calculate the best path. There is a state of flow.

Machines governs your lifestyle based on demographic information. 


Deleuze highlighted 3 eras of control. Each controlled their populations with different methods of regulation.

  • Societies of Sovereignty:
    (Pre 18th c. Europe) Regulates through Death. Disobedient citizens are executed.
  • Disciplinary Societies:
    (18th-19thc.) Regulates bodies by controlling space – Individuated bodies. Imprisonment.
  • Societies of Control:
    (Mid 20th c. – Today). Regulates Access, partly via technological automation.
    Data Aggregates. (iWatch – the data is used to measure stats to determine health insurance).

Enclosures are moulds, distinct rigid castings, but controls are like modulation, that continuously reform and adapt. These modulations control your future access options. 

Machines steer your actions and data into channels. 

Cybernetics (Greek for steer) is the process of self steering.

Cybernetic systems use feedback loops to interpret information and eliminate deviation over time.
They maintain a pattern by using the distance from its deviation to return to the original balance point – like a thermostat regulating the temperature. 

Social cybernetic machines control behaviour.

These societies don’t force people to do anything, but when a user takes actions, it places them in a certain category, which targets them with their own data to control their access, they channel and steer you into the futures their designers programmed.

These forces are set in motion to shape the world to come. This is why companies that harvest a lot of data become the most powerful. 

Are humans obsolete?

Cyber-consciousness and Human Obsoletion

Cyber-consciousness and Human Obsoletion

There may come a day where humans become obsolete, perhaps in their physical form at least. Thanks to the technology of their own creation. Much like the flint axes and primal dwellings of early humans, the very organic bodies they possess may become a spectre of the past. 

Obsolete | ˈɒbsəliːt |

adjective

No longer produced or used; out of date:

Perhaps an uncomfortable statement to read, though how would this be possible? Why would this happen?

Potentially, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and supercomputers. 

Technological advancements of the human race have accelerated over time, right now they are in the apex position. An exponential curve of technological growth. 

The endpoint of this technology could mark the beginning of a new Eon > Era > Period > Epoch > Age.

Even though the basic form of this technology is over 50 years old, Sapiens are the foot of a growing tree.

  • 2 million years ago humans started to use fire.

  • 1.7 million years ago shows signs of the earliest stone tools.

  • In 1827 Ohm analysed the electric circuit. Babbage hypothesised early computers not long after.

  • 1981 The first commercial graphics card was born.

  • 1991 The internet became available (Tim Berners Lee)

  • 2007 iPhone 1 released – Dawn of the Smartphone Era

  • 2012 Virtual Reality headsets become available to the public.

A book on the history of Ancient Egypt, describes archaeological findings which show how each successive generation of early humans had more possessions in their homes, and their homes grew in size. It started with simple huts, empty except for rough beds on the floor, slowly pots and ceramics appear for storing food. The houses expanded in size.

These ancient relics, fossilised ceramics, are common in all generations of sapiens.  In the future, perhaps the relics of our current societies and sapiens will be found, a brick like mobile phone, a headset, an electronic implant. 

The lives of our ancestors are preserved in data, fossilised into the memory banks of data servers. These words and cultures from thousands of years ago are serialised, converted to digits.


It goes without saying that there must be some external presence or influence that can extend beyond your lifetime, reflected by the influence of history. How dead characters are reanimated through their thoughts, passed through time by the transfer of language and meaning.

The Iliad was an ancient verbal story told and passed from generation to generation, it wasn’t until many years after its origins that it was written down and documented, hence the short, simple language. It was usually performed to a crowd. Yet the book is still commonly available. 

Homer, would have died many, many, years ago. Yet his literature, (and all the other ideas from the past) are still here today, and some shape the way the world runs. 

Steve Jobs is dead, yet the iPhone and apple carry on. These digital kingdoms are the new future. The data servers and algorithms will outlive the entropically decaying, rotting bodies of the code writers. It’s inevitable. Ultimately there are two options for the future of sapiens. Either they become extinct, or they evolve. (Not considering the potential endgame of the universe collapsing and heat death… for simplicity. Anyway, that’s a long time away).

Maybe we become so technologically advanced and technologically powerful that our machines become sentient, we can upload our consciousnesses directly to the computer, and move around the network, controlling robotics. 

These technologies could become very developed: mind-digital links (neural control of machines), robotics, space travel, simulation power. Creating a new path for the evolution of this form of life. 

You see our origins are millions of years old, as we began as a basic singular celled life form, evolving with each new birth, over and over and over again for millions of years, until we reach today. You reading this are potentially the most evolved organic human lifeforms. Congrats?

The process of evolution is not over though, and it can take a very long time, so don’t get hopeful that you’ll see this all play out. 


It could be said that the evolution of Homo sapiens, and thus life on earth, is not over yet. This life can continue to evolve and change. The future could be very interesting. 

Could some element of our minds be uploaded to a computer, this is a profound and fundamentally challenging question to ask. It may even be pointless, but it opens some interesting thoughts. Is the body of the human already obsolete? Is the human body a barrier for the mind to interact with the full universe? What is the meaning of life on earth? Is it to explore?

Without some kind of cryogenic technology, the human body is not well built for long-distance space travel. The issue of entropic decay reduces the time that can be spent traveling. This is why it would be more practical to have some kind of digital consciousness with a mechanical body. 

The mind of a human can control mechanical bodies, that is — robots made of metal or similar creations. The only barrier for controlling this in a 1:1 experience is the human-machine interface. It is still limited, inefficient. The most advanced and fluid control system we have is perhaps a mouse and keyboard, or gaming controller. There is potential for eye-tracking technology to be fluid but again the eyes are fairly limited controllers. For the most efficient control, it would be best to be able to input some kind of string (that is the computer word for data in the format of a combination of letters and words, eg “hello 12”).

Strings can contain any kind of data really, numerical — quantitative, and linguistic — qualitative. It can contain and describe, really any element of human thought. Especially paired with image, video, audio data. If a human mind could directly and with 0 resistance transmit a string of data to a machine, many doors could be opened, across many areas of life, from medicine to space travel.

At the same time, when (and if) this becomes possible, it could signal the obsoletion of the Homo sapiens physical form. Like all life, sapiens to are ephemeral, that is — we will come and go. Like a breath, it exists for a brief flash and then disappears. 

The genus of Homo sapiens currently has to interact with a mechanical device to input the strings to the machine for further processing. That is to say, as a human, I have to type information into a keyboard for the data to be interpreted by the machine, perhaps to control some other device like a robot, or to send a message to another human. There is a huge amount of inefficiency in this process. Wasted energy. It’s like the stone axes all over again. We haven’t quite reached the next era in history where this is possible, yet. 

Once this barrier is broken, and with powerful enough computers, essentially anything is possible. Simulation technology could be so powerful, and the human’s simulated experience could be so realistic that this simulation could be indistinguishable from “reality”. Much like the film the matrix. 

But we are not yet at the stage of swallowing the red pill, needing to take the option of escaping the machine and returning to our real, fleshy human bodies. Yet soon we may be presented with the option of plugging in, entering the system. When the screen resolution is high enough when the sensory stimulation technology is available. It might even become a necessity, to save our physical bodies from earth dying, toxic atmosphere. If renewable energy development doesn’t become successful, if pollution and environmental damage isn’t addressed, if the waste and destruction of the earth aren’t stopped, it will become inhabitable for the human body, but maybe not for the human mind, as preserved in a near-indestructible, mechanical, computerized machine. Computers don’t need oxygen, they don’t need skin or sleep. They just need electricity. Which can easily be generated by solar power.


So here’s where I see humans evolving. One potential generation will be Homo Digitalis. Their consciousness is hosted by a machine, a computer. Encased in a mechanical robotic body. They no longer need to manually reproduce, or eat, sleep. Their digital mind can simulate these experiences if they so desire, exactly as they want it to feel. 

 A satellite flying around in space with Jeff Bezos’ soul crystallized into the fastest computer processor ever made. His machine learning algorithms are so strong that they control everything. This might not be too far away.

Machine learning is the description of types of algorithms that rewrite themselves as needed. They expand and grow autonomously based on data fed to them. They differ from traditional algorithms which are programmed really to work in a linear, single-use kind of way. An ML algorithm could potentially become so powerful that it could understand all the data and information in the observable universe and beyond. 

The story of life on earth is far from over.

We are only here now because one of us, a looooong time ago, in our bacterial stage, became raptorial. That means we got so angry, or hungry or something, that we started to go out of our way to kill stuff. We developed an agency so that we started hunting other blobby, ambient life forms. This early form of technological evolution occurred in our cellar material. The first period of life on earth was relatively boring. Long, slow and bacterial. 

Human life can be simple and fun, going around, playing games, eating nice food, watching movies. It can also be very painful, sad. It can be disgusting and violent. Its structure can be rigid and linear like the molecular patterns of an iron blade. Or it can be free-flowing like water.

The Logic of Life: Creating Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence. We hear the word every day, but what is it really.

Defining Artificial Intelligence

Artificial – made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, especially as a copy of something natural.

Intelligence – the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.

So from these definitions it would seem that “Artificial Intelligence” refers to a manmade ability to acquire skills and knowledge.

A being or device which can acquire skills and knowledge.

Defining Skills and Knowledge

So the challenge here is determining how best to create such a device. Of course it will involve computers. 

The ability to acquire knowledge requires some form of memory – a method to store data to be retained and recalled at a later date. 

Knowledge is defined as – facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

Skill refers to- the ability to do something well.

Combining all the above definitions defines artificial as the following: A manmade being or device which can store and facts and information, and acquire skills. So the two main elements here are Information Storage, and Skill Acquisition and implementation.

Algorithmic Model

Below is an example of this concept rationalised into a simplistic algorithmic model:

string[] _Knowledge;		//This is an array of data containing the information representing “Knowledge”. Could be split into a table with ID, Title, etc. 
string[] _Skills; 			//This is an array off “skill” names. Each name connects to a unique set of instructions
void acquire_Know(string new_know) { _Knowledge.Add(new_know); }
void acquire_skill(string new_skill) {_Skills.Add(new_skill); }
void implement_skill(string Xskill) {  Xskill.activate; }

acquire_Know is a function that adds a knowledge item to the _Knowledge array. This would store data some some kind of recallable memory.

acquire_skill is a function that adds a skill to the _Skills database. This would contain the skill name to identify the skill, paired with a set of instructions.

implement_skill is a function that calls a skill and implements the associated instructions. 

Each would require a certain amount of subdivision, for instance the instructions given in the skill would have to contain references to the objects it interacts with.  There may be a need for additional arrays based on intractable objects and their intractable properties.


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