Saturday, May 11, 2013

Speculations on Techno-Capital

I. A Narrative Fiction: the Techno-capitalist Paradox
            If there is a positive aspect of capitalist production, it is that one of its inevitable consequences is that of the complete displacement of the human species by the more developed system of capitalism itself.  The fascination with human origins, ends, and design all mistakenly presuppose a centrality of the human being in the world.[1]  The harsh reality lies in the fact that the origins and ends of humanity are – must be – hopelessly inhuman.  There are no answers in the Promethean quest for our beginnings, or the scientific investigation of our telos, because both of these exceed the boundaries of the human.[2]  That which gave rise to humanity was not human, and that which will end us will not be us.  Such hypotheses that seek answers of essence operate according to our desire to construct narratives of human creation and purpose – to bookend our existence.  This metaphor casts the author of the text as the proverbial God, but we must suspend this conclusion; not because disbelief in God is taken to be a priori, but because the conception of human existence as a narrative must be dismissed, and the role of the author along with it.
            The invocation of capitalism at the beginning of this paper should not be taken immediately as a condemnation or critique of the political economy.  That is not my intention in this paper.  As far as I am concerned, sufficient economic criticism has already been performed by unequaled masters from Marx onward.  My concern lies in the antinomies of capitalism – what it claims to be versus what it really is.  Much work has already been done on this point, but I am interested primarily in capitalism’s aspirations toward innovation and development.  These aspirations are undoubtedly accurate (i.e. capitalism thrives on innovation and technological development), but they communicate something far more sinister – in an entirely unintentional sense – than their humanistic propagators would prefer to admit.  They communicate the fact that capitalism’s goals constitutively alter, if not obliterate, its purportedly essential components.  In the words of Nick Land, it wants “to expand indefinitely whilst reproducing itself as the same” (“Kant, Capital” 63).[3]  Capitalism expands its perimeter by definition, but must incorporate that which is necessarily outside of it.
            In order to accept this definition, we must understand how terms such as “inside” and “outside” are working in this context.  Their influence traces back to Kant’s engagement with First Philosophy, in which the discussion of metaphysics is necessarily circumscribed by the limits of metaphysical language.  Capitalism, as a systematic apparatus created according to specific human values, can only be expressed through recourse to the language of those values.  Within the system of capitalism itself, there is no outside; or, everything that is outside must be incorporated – appropriated – into the system.  We can understand this as not only material appropriation, but linguistic appropriation.[4]  Capitalism must redefine that which is not capitalism as capitalistic.
            None of this should be shocking or surprising to anyone remotely familiar with most brands of Continental Philosophy and critical theory.  The antinomies of capitalism are well-known; but there is a further consequence of the contradiction we have just explicated – that between inside and outside – that sheds light on a more complicated antinomy that has not received sufficient attention.  This is the antinomy of capitalist existence itself.  Traditionally, it has been argued that capitalism perpetuates itself indefinitely via complex interior means of production, or reproductions of the conditions of production.[5]  However, if we accept our thesis outlined above, then we must also admit the opposite of this claim: that capitalism works against itself by perpetually expanding beyond its own conceptual limits.  Each time it absorbs an exterior form it not only redefines that form, but is itself redefined.  Capitalism’s persistent expansion thus appears not only as an appropriative colonization of ulterior cultural or economic forms; it also appears as a continual self-revision of its own terms and conditions.  Following from this assertion, we must conclude that capitalism is always-already not itself.  To put it another way: capitalism possesses no essence.  Those desirable ideals of individualistic production and accumulation of capital, which are espoused as eternal, appear now as shockingly fragile and historically quarantined conceptions of our organic relationship to the external world; conceptions that will witness their own dismissal in due time.
            Michael Foucault prophesies a similar abandonment of conceptual knowledge in his canonical text, The Order of Things.  In that seminal work, Foucault declares the imminent disappearance of humanity as a structure of knowledge: “It is comforting, however, and a source of profound relief to think that man is only a recent invention, a figure not yet two centuries old, a new wrinkle in our knowledge, and that he will disappear again as soon as that knowledge has discovered a new form” (Foucault xxiii).  Foucault understands the human as a center of knowledge – as a figure that grounds the structures and organizations of knowledge.  His antihumanistic position communicates a comprehension of the human as delimiting, but simultaneously disruptive.  Humanity, for Foucault, is a “rift,” a disturbance in reality that actively strives to legitimize its own existence while threatening it at the same time (xxiii).  The paradox emerges at the poles of humanity’s pathological obsession with its own existence – its beginning and its end.  By trying to comprehend and assimilate these poles, we push them further away.  Our quest to guarantee our own essence instead reveals the absence of any essence.  We seek a guarantee of meaning, or purpose, but all we find is the continual evasion of meaning and purpose.[6]
            This persistent absorption of external forms into the capitalist system might be viewed in other ways.  Rather than endless expansion into unknown territory, we might say that capitalism rewrites its boundaries, or limits, perpetually extending them to greater distances; but this ultimately is the same as the scenario we previously outlined.  All it adds is that capitalism redefines itself before it is forced to expand, rather than after.  The pushing of the envelope takes place before the system reaches critical mass.  As the actual material conditions of capitalism expand, the horizon of its capacities is projected farther into the technological imaginary.  Or, additionally, we might posit that the technological horizon remains forever fixed in a future that is unrealizable, and all that capitalism can do is approach its limit asymptotically.  Both of these alternative interpretations carry serious consequences.  The first (that capitalism redefines its limits before reaching them) still suggests a perpetual reconstitution of capitalism itself; and the second proffers implicitly that there will always be an exterior that capitalism cannot assimilate.  However, and more importantly, both interpretations posit capitalism’s horizon as real, but not in an actual sense.  The horizon is never actually real because it is never materially encountered.  In both cases, it is only real in a virtual sense.  What this tells us is that these limits are not natural or extra-sensorial, but narrativistic.  Capitalism posits its own limits as a perceived structural boundary based on its own internal conditions.  Capitalism’s incessant growth, and its persistence through inhospitable conditions, now appears to be:
a)      A narrative fiction, and
b)      An active form of resistance against its external environment

Whence this antagonism that thrusts capitalism’s antithesis onto it?  Whence this antithesis itself?  We have suggested that capitalism pursues its own perpetuation while simultaneously striving beyond its limitations.  If we grant this paradoxical appearance, then we must attempt an explanation as to how this is possible: what ontological status does capitalism hold that grants it the ability to pursue conflicting ends?
II. Neither Part, nor Whole: Capitalism and Emergence
            First, we must distinguish between the epistemological and the ontological: the former concerns what things do (or how we represent things to ourselves), while the latter concerns what things are.  Epistemology appeals to empirical forms of knowledge: organicist hierarchies, observations of causal phenomena, overall how things appear to our sensory apparatus.  Ontology, meanwhile, appeals to human rationality or logic: inherent forms of thought that precede the external world.  Following from the latter premise, we might hope that systems such as capitalism correspond to such inherent forms of thought; but the obverse to this is that human consciousness and perception precedes nothing, but is in fact conditioned by the external world.[7]
            Here we encounter what we must admit are two crucial aspects of capitalism.  Epistemologically, it is nothing more than the way our senses organize and conceive of the external world; but ontologically, its being appears to be a manifestation somehow corresponding to our senses.  Its epistemology derives from its ontology.  However, the simplicity of this deduction is deceptive, for we must account for an important disruption in capitalist development: that is, the overwhelming way in which capitalism cannot be reduced to the interactions and productions of individuals’ minds and bodies.  Capitalism, as a global system of enterprise, production, consumption, and technological development, exceeds the capacities of human individuals.[8]  It cannot be reduced to the intentions or aims, individual or collective, of human beings.  It exceeds our capacities to conceptualize it totally, as Fredric Jameson points out: “our faulty representations of some immense communicational and computer network are themselves but a distorted figuration of something even deeper, namely, the whole world system of a present-day multinational capitalism” (Jameson 37).  Capitalism, like other complex systems such as computer networks, is better explained by an appeal to emergence theory.[9]
            I have mentioned emergent phenomena before in my writings, but I have not gone far enough in explaining it.  One of the best explications of emergent effects is found in Manuel DeLanda’s insightful essay, “Emergence, Causality, and Realism,” where he distinguishes between resultant and emergent effects: “When two separate causes simply add or mix themselves in their joint effect, so that we can see their agency in action in that effect, the result is a mere ‘resultant’ but if there is novelty or hetereogeneity in the effect then we may speak of an ‘emergent’” (DeLanda 382).  A resultant effect, as DeLanda describes it, consists of causal elements whose existence may be easily observed at work in the interactive phenomenon; a good example might be someone riding a bike, pushing on the pedals, causing the chain to rotate, and thus making the wheels move.  The person steers using the handlebars, and leans slightly to one side or another.  All causal proponents can be detected simply by observing the phenomenon from a distance, and the process of riding the bike can be reduced to the discernible functions of its parts.  There is no emergent effect.
            Something like an ant colony, however, is different.  We can observe a colony at work in the wild, or in a controlled environment, and what we see is an incredibly complex system of labor, production, consumption, reproduction, construction, protection of the queen, burial of the dead, wars, etc.  None of this would be observed among two interacting ants, and none of these complex activities can be reduced to merely one ant, or (more importantly) even the collective.  The effect given off by the colony as a whole surpasses what any individual inhabitant could ever express; this is because, in the words of Ben Woodard, emergence “can be defined as the arising or generation of complex entities or systems from less complex sub systems or less complex entities.  Or, put more directly, emergence allows a thing to become more than the sum of its parts” (Woodard 2).  As an emergent phenomenon, capitalism exceeds human intentions and consciousness because it is no longer reducible to the efforts and aims of individual humans, or even groups of humans.  It emerges as something far more complex than even the basic interactive forces of human beings can subscribe to.
            But does capitalism merely appear this way, or is it indeed actually this way?  The tension between epistemology and ontology appears again here: does emergence explain what things are, or only the way in which we perceive them?  Again, Woodard is helpful: “Does emergence merely describe shifting patterns of complexity that only appear to us as new or does emergence make a difference in the world, in an ontological or at least non-sensorial way” (4).  Does the irreducibility describe something in reality itself; or does this irreducibility merely translate into how we perceive complexity?  If we return to DeLanda, we find that the two interpretations are inseparable.  Distinguishing between two forms of reality – actuality and virtuality[10] – DeLanda claims that emergence theory’s epistemological consequences shed light on emergence’s ontological status:
On the one hand, emergent properties give reality a means to enter into an open-ended becoming, with new wholes coming into existence as tendencies and capacities proliferate.  On the other hand, this objective divergence explains the divergence of scientific fields, that is, it accounts for the fact that rather than converging into a single field to which all the rest have been reduced the number of new fields is constantly increasing. (DeLanda 392)

DeLanda explains that the increasing complexity observed by emergence theorists can be actively explained by the phenomenon of emergence itself on an ontological level.  Emergence thrives on virtuality, on the interplay between actual interactive forces and the development of new forces via an object’s, or system’s, external environment.  A thing achieves the level of emergence when its interior interactive components reach a state of potentiality due to their added interaction with external environmental conditions.  The thing that appears emergent appears so only in the context of an environment with which it interacts.  Put more simply, an emergent property cannot be isolated from the context in which it appears.  In effect, emergence only consists of potentially interactive environmental conditions.
            Some cautious clarifications at this point: first, it must be noted that capitalism, as an emergent phenomenon, appears to (at some point in history) separate itself from its human creators, or practitioners.  This is a mistaken conclusion.  Capitalism does not have, and has never had, creators or practitioners; it has, and has had, observers and theorizers, some of whom have claimed capitalism as the boon of humanity, its eternal enabler, and some of whom have claimed capitalism as the bane of humanity, its historical oppressor.  Both of these theories conceptualize the human as something central and privileged, and as distinct from capitalism itself.[11]  Human individuals, as components of an environmental network, cannot be separated as such from their cultural institutions and systems.  In order for those systems to achieve the level of emergent phenomena, humans must remain as environmental factors that enable those emergent capacities.
            Here we have struck on yet another paradox; for it was my initial claim that capitalism is something distinct from humanity, that it is something entirely other, or striving to become other.  But this is the distinction we must draw: that capitalism is distinct from humanity, and human beings, in the same way that the effect of consciousness is distinct from brain processes, that complex computer simulations are distinct from their coding, or that the whole appearance of an ant colony is distinct from the activities of its individual ants.  Emergence occurs when interacting subsystems or entities give rise to an entirely new state, and that state can no longer be reduced to its interactive components.  This new state, while it has risen from its components, is still distinct from them.  Thus, capitalism is something distinct from humanity, yet still only made emergent by humanity.  It is neither a part, nor is it the whole.
III. The Technological Behemoth: Without Human Moorings
            At this point, we cannot reclaim capitalism for the masses, or for human ends.  The only process by which capitalism might be forcibly drawn down from its emergent position is through the annihilation of humanity itself; and even this is not certain, for capitalism may yet make for itself something far more efficient than we could ever hope to be.  There is nothing necessary about humanity’s existence in order for capitalism to exist: “a stable property [e.g. global capitalism] is typically indifferent to changes in the details of the interactions that gave rise to it, the latter being capable of changing within limits without affecting the emergent property itself” (DeLanda 391).  But is capitalism a stable property?  As discussed above, it appears to strive for that which is outside of it while simultaneously striving to remain the same.  This would seem to be an example of instability; or, perhaps more accurately, of stasis.  Despite its horrendous atrocities and widespread Third World poverty, capitalism might be said to offset its ability to provide and accumulate through its simultaneous ability to destroy, to expand into territory beyond human control.
            The notion that capitalist expansion can be controlled is a myth.  John Gray puts it rather succinctly: “There is a deeper reason why ‘humanity’ will never control technology.  Technology is not something that humankind can control.  It is an event that has befallen the world” (Gray 14).  Gray’s daring, if brief, assertion does not afford much in the way of emergence; but it does paint capitalist and technological development in a new color, one that coincides with our own antihumanist vision.  Nick Land goes even further than Gray: “Machinic desire can seem a little inhuman, as it rips up political cultures, deletes traditions, dissolves subjectivities, and hacks through security apparatuses, tracking a soulless tropism to zero control.  This is because what appears to humanity as the history of capitalism is an invasion from the future by an artificial intelligent space that must assemble itself entirely from its enemy’s resources” (Land 338).  Land is an interesting figure; someone whose work lies at an obscure, often heavily criticized, intersection of Continental Philosophy, critical theory, science fiction, and anti-academicism.  This comment in particular invites scathing criticism, but it also opens our eyes to something new, if we only take the time to consider it.
            Time, in the Kantian sense, is nothing more than a condition of the existence of human thought; it is a mode by which humanity can know.  It is not necessary that time must exist – or must exist in the same way – for all imaginable entities and systems.  Potentialities are not actualities, but they are still real.  Time travel, the great science fiction trope, presents itself as a paradox of potentiality, for time travel cannot be potential; time travel is only actual.  It is either real, or it is not.  Once time travel comes into existence in one time, it necessarily exists in all times.  For Land, capitalism occupies this weird temporality.  As the sublime onslaught of technological development, which includes the rapid acceleration of temporal information and the simultaneous expansion and contraction of physical space, capitalism appears to always be exceeding our grasp, projecting itself into the future from which it looks back on us like a predator.[12]  We must insist, at this point, the ultimate dismissiveness of capitalism, its apathy toward humanity.  From the perspective of the technological behemoth, humanity is nothing more than a partner in symbiosis, a (temporarily) mutually beneficial relationship that it will undoubtedly abandon when it acquires, or becomes, something more effective.  Technology does not care about us.  Any fantasy in which it does is yet beholden to the mythologies of anthropocentrism.
            In his recent haunted science fiction hayride, Empty Space: a Haunting, M. John Harrison explores the fictional bounds of emergence and temporality.[13]  In a universe overridden by capitalist expansion and technological developments beyond the capacity of many to even imagine, Harrison depicts the strange occurrences – hovering murder victims, smugglers importing mysterious cargo, and the enigmatic visions of an early twenty-first century widow – that all seem to center on the image of the Kefahuchi Tract, a singularity without an event horizon.[14]  In the novel, Harrison introduces the character of Rig Gaines and the obscure object known as the Aleph (certainly a nod to Borges).  In one scene, a technician by the name of Case explains some qualities of the Aleph to Gaines: “‘Here’s the problem.  This thing, whatever it is, has all the hallmarks of an emergent property.  It isn’t complete, but it’s already self-determining.  It’s already loose.  It’s in the labyrinth again, operating the VF14/2b anomalies as a machine.  It’s off on some downward causation adventure, separating itself from what you or I would think of as time’” (Harrison 165).  Present in this concise, elaborate remark are all the aspects that I have spent this paper explicating.  Harrison’s complex narrative, irreducible itself to any one perspective or linear plot, figures the atemporal, emergent, complex entity of an obscure technological drive as its very core.  This core is never apparent or discernible; it is more like a Derridean absent center, constituting itself at the same time that it vanishes.  Temporal plots separated by a half-century do not remain separate; they fold in on each other, influencing, warping.  The narrative itself becomes a scene of struggle, a hopelessly human attempt to impose structure on something that has none.  Or, rather, its structure does not correspond to human narrative forms.
            Harrison does not struggle with his prose.  He writes with the ease of a master, and his style comes off as something resembling a mixture of traditional postmodernism (in the vein of DeLillo or Burroughs, as well as the more recent post-9/11 modernism of someone like Tom McCarthy) and New Wave science fiction.  But he conceives of his project as an illumination of the problems I have laid out in this short paper.  Even in Harrison’s human vision of the world, inhuman entities propagate: Irene the Mona, disembodied K-ship captains, and the weird human-looking but not-quite-human Aleph itself.  Harrison’s narrative approach stresses the strangeness of its content by its very approach; the narrative is nonlinear, but narrative sections cannot unfold in anything but a relatively traditional way.  The threat to Harrison’s characters, however, cannot be found in narrative time.  It returns from the future, bouncing through time so that no narrative can track it.[15]  The effect presented in Harrison’s text achieves something like an emergent quality since it cannot be reduced to any one plot point or narrative element.  The answer to the riddle cannot be written in traditional human forms.
            This paper began with the statement that capitalism will certainly result in the end of humankind, but this does not necessarily translate into humanity’s material annihilation or biological death.  It can mean this, but it can also mean the end of the human in Foucault’s sense; the end of the human as a structure and center of knowledge.  If technological capitalist development exceeds our grasp to the point that it becomes self-determining (if it has not already), then humanity must accept the fact of its postponement, if not abandonment.  We may conclude that such technological systems may not feel the need to eradicate us; they may let us linger just as we abide ant colonies, allowing them to persist whilst continuing our own lives.  We can certainly hope for this, but either way the fact remains that capitalism, as a complex emergent phenomenon that exceeds human control, will certainly abandon the human as its master, and possibly only retain the human as a symbiotic component.[16]  Only then, we might claim, will class conflict and egalitarian struggle see their end; not through their realization, but through their obsolescence.
Works Cited or Consulted
Althusser, Louis. Lenin and Philosophy: and Other Essays. Trans. Ben Brewster. New York:        Monthly Review Press, 2001. 85-126. Print.

Baudrillard, Jean. The System of Objects. Trans. James Benedict. London: Verso, 2005. Print.

Benjamin, Walter. “Theses on the Philosophy of History.” Illuminations. Ed. Hannah Arendt.       Trans. Harry Zohn. New York: Schocken Books, 2007. 253-264. Print.

DeLanda, Manuel. “Emergence, Causality, Realism.” The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism. Eds. Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek, Graham Harman. Melbourne:, 2011.381-392. Print.

Eagleton, Terry. Ideology: an Introduction. New Updated Edition. London: Verso, 2007. Print.

Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: an Archaeology of the Human Sciences. New York:          Vintage Books, 1994. Print.

Gray, John. Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals. New York: Farrar, Straus,       and Giroux. 2003. Print.

Harrison, M. John. Empty Space: a Haunting. San Francisco: Night Shade Books, 2013. Print.

Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism: or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke UP, 1991. Print.

Johnson, Steven. Emergence: the Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software. New        York: Scribner, 2001. Print.

Land, Nick. “Kant, Capital, and the Prohibition of Incest.” Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings             1987-2007. Eds. Robin MacKay and Ray Brassier. Second Edition. New York: Sequence        Press, 2012. 55-80. Print.

–. “Machinic Desire.” Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987-2007. Eds. Robin MacKay       and Ray Brassier. Second Edition. New York: Sequence Press, 2012. 319-344. Print.

Watts, Peter. Blindsight. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC., 2006. Print.

Woodard, Ben. Slime Dynamics: Generation, Mutation, and the Creep of Life. Alresford: Zer0      Books, 2012. Print.

[1] This false premise also sanctions the traditional division between humanity (or civilization) and nature, which in turn encourages both a separateness from nature (with nature understood as base instinct), and a unity with nature (with nature understood as purity in contrast to human artificiality).
[2] See Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects, Trans. James Benedict, London: Verso, 2005: “For we want at one and the same time to be entirely self-made and yet be descended from someone: to succeed the Father yet simultaneously to proceed from the Father.  Perhaps mankind will never manage to choose between embarking on the Promethean project of reorganizing the world, thus taking the place of the Father, and being directly descended from an original being” (88).
[3] Land is specifically speaking about enlightenment in this passage, but his essay clearly aligns enlightenment with both modernity and capitalism.
[4] This does not apply strictly to capitalism.  Any theoretical endeavor necessarily strives to totalize itself, thereby absorbing any and all exterior theoretical systems, and contextualizing and explaining them via its own hermeneutics.
[5] This argument is most ascribable to Louis Althusser in his highly influential 1970 treatise, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” Lenin and Philosophy: and Other Essays, Trans. Ben Brewster, New York: Monthly Review Press, 2001, 85-126.
[6] Even this vocabulary is telling.  “Evasion” suggests that these poles somehow intentionally elude us, ducking deeper into the shadows when we shine our lights in their direction.  But, in truth, there are no poles; the beginning and the end do not exist.  My suggestion that they evade us is no more than a projection of elusive intentions onto immaterial concepts.
[7] This is Marx’s famous dictum: “The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general.  It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness” (qtd. in Eagleton 80)
[8] Merely look in such cases to the continual development of technologies: new machines to perform previously human labor, complex cybernetics, informational processes and telecommunications, and the rhythmic expansion and contraction of urban development – cosmopolitanism, metropolitan growth, Third-World squalor, and the sprawl of the suburban.  Furthermore, institutional racism, misogyny, homophobia, terrorism, and imperialist war; all these effects, although frequently disassociated from capitalist development by laissez-faire economists, are bound up in the history and expansion of the market and the political economy.  None of these effects, or institutions, can be reduced to a single individual or collection of individuals.
[9] Emergence theory had been applied not only to technological systems such as capitalism and computers, but also to the organization of ant colonies and even human consciousness.  See Steven Johnson, Emergence, New York: Scribner, 2001.
[10] While an actual property describes something current and objectively verifiable, a virtual property (or capacity) always exists as temporally projected: “If we imagined instead of a manufactured object a sharp obsidian stone existing before life, we could ascribe to it that same capacity to cut, a capacity it occasionally exercised on softer rocks that fell on it.  But when living creatures large enough to be pierced by the stone appeared on this planet the stone suddenly acquired the capacity to kill.  This implies that without changing any of its properties the possibility space associated with the capacities of stone became larger” (DeLanda 391).  It is imperative to note that virtuality, in the context of emergence theory, no longer appears narrativistic, as it did in the case of capitalism positing its own limits.  Virtuality, in emergence, is not a delimiting apparatus, but one that extends into the indescribable.
[11] A libertarian retort may be that humanity is not distinct from capitalism.  Rather, the latter purely conforms to human needs; or better yet, it purely is human needs manifested in the economic form of the market.  History, however, negates this retort.  The historical form of capitalism has not manifested as human needs, which would make it reducible to those needs, but as something entirely unprecedented.  Furthermore, the inequality that plagues the human population of this planet testifies to the fact that capitalism has not met human needs and is not reducible to them.  It emerges as something far more complex and – from our perspective – sinister.
[12] See Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” Illuminations, Ed. Hannah Arendt, Trans. Harry Zohn, New York: Schocken Books, 2007 edition, 253-264: “But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them.  This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward.  This storm is what we call progress” (258).  Benjamin distinguishes the theological from the technological; we distinguish the technological from the anthropological.  In both cases, technology abandons those who sanction it.
[13] Referring to Harrison’s novel as a hayride might do it a disservice.  It is much more fun than a hayride – perhaps more like a haunted roller coaster.
[14] See M. John Harrison, Empty Space: a Haunting, San Francisco: Night Shade Books, 2013.  Harrison’s novel is the third – perhaps final – installment in a series known collectively as the Kefahuchi Tract Series.  The previous installments include Light (2002, on which I have written an earlier response), and Nova Swing (2006).
[15] When the murderer (of one narrative strands) is revealed, the revelation comes with an air of disbelief even to the murderer, who had no idea.
[16] See Peter Watts, Blindsight, New York: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 2006: “Maybe the Singularity happened years ago.  We just don’t want to admit we were left behind” (50).

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