Sunday, November 13, 2011

Euphoric Crisis – From the internet to the New Emancipation

"...other things being equal, we can say that the philosophy which certain biologists, geneticists and linguists today are busy manufacturing around ‘information theory’ is a little philosophical ‘crisis’ … in this case a euphoric one."*

What would a euphoric crisis look like today? How would information theory look if it produced euphoria, then articulated the euphoria to a crisis? Which of these two conditions, euphoria and crisis would it be correct to emphasize? 

These questions beg the ultimate question: Could information theory really determine a euphoric crisis? The empirical answers, of course, abound in the positive. They are rooted in our virtual and material lives. Surely the relationship between information theory and euphoria is becoming clearer by the day.

At every juncture of our lives the smart phone connection offers access to advanced telecommunications in a seamless network of experiential bliss. It is ubiquitous, ushering in the horizon. Never before in human history has it been possible to experience on a daily basis the euphoria that exists because of the internet. This is not a little philosophical crisis, as called out by Professor Althusser in 1971, it is a big one! It is the crisis of all established forms of philosophy.

This is the crisis that results from the impending unrestricted circulation of knowledge. In this moment, it may in fact be possible to achieve a nearly continuing state of machine induced euphoria. These days, 40 years after Professor Althusser’s comment it could be called wonderment. Such is the stimulation the digital always already makes possible.

This is not to be confused with the simulation the digital also makes possible.

The crisis is the stuff of a new kind of emancipation in which the conditions for the sensuous life are achieved. Every emotion is concentrated like a laser beam of perfect energy. It is a practicum of participation, in which the public dances on the horizon. The individual feels fully realized, liberated, unconstrained, momentarily transcendent.

I make a phone call, from anywhere, and successfully connect – euphoria. 
I wish to speak to my daughter in Boston and I hear her immediately – euphoria.
I speak to my son on the line in the same city – euphoria.
I look for a song, long forgotten and find it – euphoria.
I discover the song, its title and a moving picture of the artist – euphoria.
I stop the video to examine the pock marks on the singer’s face – euphoria.
I start then stop again as I look at the base player’s overlong fingernails – euphoria.
I whistle along to a happy tune, within a cocoon of the present – euphoria.
I look at the photo of Ken Wark and think about a conversation we had in 1992 with Meaghan Morris– euphoria.
I listen to “Dolphins” by Tim Buckley on You Tube– euphoria.
I reminisce about a friend whose image appears on line – euphoria.
I cannot be constrained - …

The infinity of possibility is terrifying. The foundation of the crisis is this terror. Old disciplines like philosophy cannot describe this terror, therefore it cannot claim it. For his part, Professor Althusser could never imagine this, especially the interconnection of geneticists with information theorists.

Who could predict that DNA would be the basis for the crisis? Now it is because it describes information theory, connected as it is to the internet.  Even the subject, “I” is removed from the DNA project, a field described by nanotechnology. The “stuff of life” is a series of structures, where “I” do not exist.

The experience of euphoria gives way to another set of possibilities – to call it reality would be misplaced. It is post-human sensibility.  

And in the post-human the crisis for philosophy is with us. Euphoric is a word – probably not the right one. So it is necessary to move into the transdisciplinary domain, where the usual conditions for analysis fade away. Under these conditions philosophy is terminated as an otherwise dead weight on the analysis. The transdisciplinary project makes it possible to get to the end point more speedily.

Emancipation is what human beings desire. The burden of life is finally realized in death. It is why death is the solution for those people who kill themselves, because it is the perfect realization of freedom.  All the prophets say this, suggesting that to become a prophet one must work out how to convey the hopelessness of life and replace it with emancipation in death. To be able to tell that story is to make a claim to prophetic insight.

Should the digital life be prophetic? This may be the end point of information theory euphoria. Certainly it marks the end point of life as it has been known. It is the beginning of the end of the crisis.  

*Louis Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy, 1971.