Futurability

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

(Thomas S.Eliot, Prufrock)

“End of the future” has been a recurrent theme in the last decades. A metaphor, of course. But metaphors are not purely language games, they are imagination tools, and tools for understanding where we are heading to. We are going nowhere said the Sex Pistols in 1977.

Actually nothingness seems to be the direction of the world, in the age of financial nihilism.

But the problem of futurity needs a reconsideration, if we are to find a conceptual way out from the dark tunnel of no future.

Therefore I want to transit from the attitude of prediction (or presentiment) to the attitude of discrimination, distinction.

Is a scientific vision of the future possible?

What actually is future? I’m asking what the future “is”, not what the future will be, because future is inscribed in the present configuration of reality. But this inscription is not linear, or deterministic. It is a stratified inscription. Therefore we have to read the different layers of futurability that are inscribed in the present. Futurability is the potential arrangement of events in the coming time, the lines of potential deployment – plural, diverging, conflicting – that emerge from the chaos of possible.

Past does not exist as past. The past does not exist anymore, but it can be re-enacted in the present. like a taffeta jacket that is changing colouring and brilliance according to the change in our perspective.

The past is not motionless. The past changes because it is a retrospection of our mind: memory, revision, reconstruction that continuously tear apart and recompose visions that we did not see before.

1. The word “futurability” is meant to realize that there is not a single future, a monolithic dimension in which the time ahead is hidden.

There are many layers of futurability, and these layers reside in the texture of the present configuration, and particularly in the present consciousness and imagination.

The theoretical modes that may conceptualise the becoming future of the present are the following: Necessity (Absolute necessity), Probability (relative necessity), Tendency, Possibility, and Impossibility.

Absolute necessity is the logical necessity inscribed in the mental functioning. Logical implications have a character of absolute necessity involving the future. Two and two will be four tomorrow, and the square will always have four sides, as we talk of functions that are inscribed in the human mind, of tautological assertions. Death too is belonging to the mode of necessary futurability, as being mortal is a defining feature of man.

An other example of absolute necessity is the irreversible. The devastation of the natural environment of the Earth is a largely irreversible phenomenon. And the processes of decadence of biological matter have irreversible nature, and are inscribed in the future as absolutely necessary.

Also in the social sphere we can detect processes of irreversible degradation (disintegration), that are marking the future with absolute necessity.

2. Let’s focus on the relatively necessary mode of futurability. If you don’t pay the rent you’ll be evicted. This an example of relative necessity. In the computer of the estate agency the link between not paying the rent and eviction are transformed into techno-logical implications. The overall organisation of financial capitalism is based on a system of techno-logical implications whose finality is to reduce future into necessary limits that are functional to the profit of financial agencies which are presently governing the world.

In this case, however, we should speak of relative necessity: those implications are not mathematical, but techno-linguistic. It is not a logic necessity being evicted if you don’t pay the rent.

Financial capitalism is based on the assumption that techno-linguistic implications that are presiding the financial dynamics are logical truths or natural necessities. They are not. What are they indeed?

They are reductions of the range of possibility to the narrow grid of the probable. This reduction is enabled by techno-linguistic devices and programs: machines for the pre-arrangement of living bodies according to a disciplining model). These engines are conceived in two different forms: the Statisticon and the Pre-emption.

Statisticon is the techno-informational automatism which captures data concerning the activity of living organisms and their interactions in order to adapt the global machine to the predispositions of the organism itself. Filter bubble is the exemplary mode of existence of the Statisticon: collection and capture of the present behaviour, reduction of future behaviour to predictable patterns. Eli Parise defines “filter bubble” those techniques of customisation of the information offer, that give Google the ability to anticipate our researches and our requests.

The capture of data that is operated by the agencies of control is essentially aimed to predict future flows and to predispose modes of control on they actual future deployment. This kind of techniques allow the channeling of future events into statistical models: a reduction of possible to probable, and therefore to predictable.

Pre-emption is complimentary to the statistical capture of information on the statistical propensity recorded by data. Pre-emption is simultaneously prevention and evacuation: de-singularization and preventive uniformation of the behaviour of large populations.

The techno-linguistic automatisms shape the future behaviour also through the exclusion of those acts and behaviours that are escaping the prevailing relative necessity. If you don’t pay the debt you’ll not have access to the University. If you don’t pay the rent you’ll be evicted.

The eviction or the expulsion is not enacted by an human agent, but it is performed by a technical automatism, as if a logico-mathematical necessity was implied.

Furthermore, the pre-emption can happen thanks to the introduction of determinist chains in the future of the living organism or in the future of the social organism as a whole: biotechnology in fact can introduce codes of pre-emption. For instance, biotechnology can insert determinist chains in the organism.

Determinism is not only a philosophical methodology that describes the becoming in terms of determinist causation, but is also a political strategy based on the insertion of causal chains in the individual and in the social organism.

The relative necessity is transformed into automatism, and we may define this effect of automation of human behaviour as the determinist tangle of pre-emption. In this tangle the tendency is captured by automatisms and the possible is reduced to probable, and the probable is finally presented as necessary.

3. Tendency is an ambiguous concept. The set of events constituting the world is changing in accordance with conflicting and interacting tendencies that modify and influence each other. Tendency is the becoming which is inscribed in the immanent. The future is the instantiation of the immanent tendency emerging through the interplay of transformers of futurability.

In human history imagination is the main transformer of futurability.

In the range of potentialities inscribed in the present (or immanent tendency) imagination is the reducer or the amplifier of possibilities. What will happen in the future largely depend on our ability to imagine an evolution of the immanent tendency.

In Guattari’s parlance “chaoide” is a transformer of the tendency, an activator of imagination. Art, poetry, schizoanalysis and the social movement are transformers of this kind.

Poetry is a factor of de-automation of language. Sklovski names ostranenie the act of disentangling words from linguistic determinism. Poetry is the reactivation of imagination outside the determinist tangle of cognitive and linguistic automation.

Similarly the social movement is a factor of de-automation of daily life: it breaks the automatic routines and mobilises possibilities that escape probability in social interaction.

The final mode of futurability is the possible.

What contradicts the logical reason is absolutely impossible.

What contradicts the techno-linguistic automatisms embedded in the present is relatively impossible.

Imagination is the condition to access the space that is outside the tangle of techno-linguistic automatisms.

Possible is the range of futurable projections that are contained in the tantric egg. In order to liberate possible events that are blocked or made impossible (relatively impossible) by the probability automaton, we need an act of disentanglement. and of escape from the tangle.

Possible, the tantric egg

“Nous traitons le corps sans organes comme l’oeuf plein avant l’extension de l’organisme et l’organisation des organes, avant la formation des strates, l0oeuf intense qui se définit par des axes et des vecteurs, des gradients et des seuils, des tendances dynamiques avec mutation d’energie, des mouvements cinématiques avec déplacement des groupes, des migrations, tout cela indépendamment des formes accessoires, puisque les organes n’apparaissent et ne fonctionnent ici que comme des intensités pures. L’organe change en franchissant un seuil, en changeant de gradient. Les organes perdent toute constance, qu’il s’agisse de leur emplacement ou de leur fonction, des organes sexuels apparaissent un peu partout des anus jaillissent, s’ouvrent pour déféquer luis se referment, l’organisme tout entier change de texture et de culer, variations allotropiques au dixième de seconde…Oeuf tantrique.” (Deleuze Guattari: Comment se faire un corps sans organes, Mille plateaux p. 190).

The tantric egg contains countless inter-cellular concatenations: this is the reticulum of possibilities. The evolution of the existing concatenations from the state of virtuality to the state of deployed organisms is the space of the possible.

Potency is the condition of enactment of a possible configuration. Potency leads to deployment a virtual concatenation transiting from the zero-dimensionality of information to the multidimensionality of the event.

Power is the grid of selection which enforces the actualisation of a possibility, cutting out other networks of possible from the space of actualisation.

The tantric egg (body without organs in Deleuze and Guattari) is filled by the potentialities contained in the existing cartography of relations.

The global digital network enables infinite possible relations among mind: these are the infinite possibilities of the general intellect as potentiality contained in the net. Semiocapital is the force that submits the General intellect to the prevailing Gestalt, the generator of forms. Power is the imposition of this Gestalt on the content transiting from the potential to the actual condition.

The alternative (dilemma) looming at the horizon of our time is the following: deployment of the General intellect potentialities according the lines of semiocapital and neuro-totalitarianism, or self-organisation of the general intellect according to its free potentialiy.

Inside this dilemma is outlined our task of artists, scientists, activists and thinkers: disentangle the content (the intimate rational of knowledge as use-value) from the impending Gestalt of Semiocapital.

Franco Berardi

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