Amsterdam, 9 Apr. On carbosilicon assemblages and cyberfossil capital

April 9th, 2016

my talk on carbosilicon assemblages and cyberfossil capital for the Studium Generale at the Rietveld Academy: a proposal to discuss the Anthropocene as an occult ideology of labour…

Bernhard Lang © Coal mine series

Bernhard Lang © Coal mine series

On the Technosphere of the Anthropocene: The Planetary Computation of Energy and Information into Cyberfossil Capital

The history of the industrial civilization can be depicted as a bicephalous chimera whose heads grew out of the same machine, innervated each other and, after further metamorphoses, also attempted to subjugate each other. The two heads are Energy and Information and they bifurcated out of the industrial machine of the 19th century, although at different tempo. They initiated and extended two technological lineages or machinic phyla: the civilizations of Carbon and Silicon respectively, the one of energy as a medium of motion and the one of energy as a medium of control and communication, the paradigm of ecology and the one of cybernetics. The two regimes carried of course different energetic costs and also quite different colonial costs, having been developed at different historical stages and at different latitudes of the planet.

Confronting the Anthropocene paradigm with Guattari’s machinic ecology (that is with an ecology that includes the inorganic, organic, technological, social and psychic in the same Umwelt), my contribution attempts to recompose the “metabolic rift” between Energy and Information that was provoked by industrial capital and then amplified by cybernetics and the digital revolution. Within this picture, it is understood, labor remains the collective agency that is socially and politically separated by machines into Energy and Information, and that then appears as ‘encrypted’ (or, more interestingly, outcrypted) in all the subsequent regimes of production. The recombination of labor’s knowledge, that is recombination of Energy and Information at a higher scale of complexity, is a necessary passage towards the machinic ecology that Guattari envisioned also as a political ecology of the mind.

The carbosilicon machine is the assemblage of the industrial machine and the information machine, the coupling of a Turing machine with the governor device of a thermodynamic one. The carbosilicon apparatus is the automaton that has been organizing the division and multiplication of manual and mental labor in the industrial factory throughout the cybernetic society and the datacenters of planetary computation. The history of political economy and critical thought have alternatively underlined opposite aspects of the capitalistic development—sometimes the hegemony of information and cognitive labor, other the hegemony of fossil energy and manual labor. History shows that the two regimes of information labor and manual labor are coupled into something that can be called cyberfossil capitalism—the most archaic biosphere and the most abstract technosphere united by capital.

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