Archive for November, 2012

On Technoscientism

Technoscientism is the privileging of a worldly transitivity: an ecstatic rather than enstatic pursuit of the humanly possible. That is, the things of the world, and the instrumentality of the world, come to determine the prioritizations of behavior and will. Technological objects in their utility are presumed to, and do, perform the functions of ontical significance for which they are devised, but which in their increasing indispensability can and do become ontologically more significant. Technological objects as such and their manipulation are invested with the kind of epistemic authority that disguises a fetishism of the object as a signifier for which the signified is necessarily unconscious. If the unconscious relation with biotechnological prosthesis were made explicit (as it potentially becomes in the symptomatology of obsessive compulsion or repetition), then the objects themselves would become ambiguous and the appearance of the repressed begin to subvert their overt, rather than covert, purposes.

Which means the human-prosthetic status of technological objects ideally remains regulated by a larger authority or even power than the merely individual one: the political and economic state, the free market, and the scientific-academic-medical institution. The dependency relation with the internet is perhaps in a transition phase, and it is not surprising that it accordingly begins to be controlled and censored by the regulating mechanism of the corporation and state which requires its polymorphous potentiality to be constrained within the boundaries of the pre-circumscribed system. Technoscience is in this case the value-neutral means to nevertheless authorize and faciltate the control of that system as it seeks to delimit the proliferation of the virtual world-mind threatening its own hegemony.

Trivially, it is not negotiable that larger digital home TVs or CD players should replace old quaint analog versions; yet this kind of imperative has an unspoken demandedness that goes beyond mere functionality and begins to disclose otherwise unseen ontological demands. When it comes to much less trivial cases such as biogenetic manipulation the same dynamic is less opaque. Yet the ontological emphasis is in principle the same: it is not the case that the market-state could ever potentially ‘choose’ to sanction old analog technology some nostalgic dignity beside the new, just as citizens could not optionally choose between the disclosure of biodata or remaining biologically obscure in the interests of state security. The mythos of technoscientism, by which late-industrial capitalism reifies its vested imaginaries, would disabuse the possibility. Biodata as a form of national security validation or incrimination is only an extreme, so visible, case.

Instead, ‘the maintenance of the state’ as a biotechnological complex performs an ecstatic (or external ‘world-centric’) function in the objectified manifestation of a collectively projective yet unconscious value. By so doing it absolutises technoscientific advance as the primary, if not exclusive site for the generation of such value. This value is increasingly only understood by virtue of its non-contingent artefacts, so that lacking these, value-as-such remains not only dis-placed but dis-agentic. Technoscientism begins to perform an ultimate validation and authorization of the sense of value that otherwise is left individually undetermined, ostensibly merely ‘subjective’ and even dubitable as such.

Such fetishisation of technoscientific authority is perhaps nowhere as distinct as in the near-universal concession to brain science and neurophysiology as the fundamental site and arbiter for all properly human value. Only insofar as ‘my brain’ allows my cognitive process differing degrees of agency, do I have sanctioned value as a sentient being. Further, it is only such self-empowering brain-states themselves that allow for the generation of those cognitive and creative products that mark me as an organism embodying value, and thus of value. My value is my brain-states; thus I must embark on the project of maintaining, and better, enhancing to greater and greater degrees of self-determination, ‘my brain’ in its privileged ontical status.

But I do this not for the sake of value as such, or as  ‘the place’ or prime site of value, as ‘representing’ or embodying it, but for the sake of the brain in its singular instantiation of value before all other objects. The complex symbolic relations I negotiate in ‘consuming’ technical, logical or aesthetic data have value not principally in themselves, but in their disclosure of the more significant functions and superior capacities of my cognitive or neurophysiological process. I am my brain, in the ontology of technoscientism, before I am ‘represented’ by whatever cognitions and symbolic systems that brain proposes as its ostensible, but necessarily diminished, sacred cows. Science alone escapes such delusive projection by ascertaining reality most truly even where the Higgs Boson  – or so-called ‘God’ – particle is an inference that ontologically speaking has possibly no less negligible existence than the antediluvian God once did.

Similarly, my society is primarily its efficient and enhanced capacity for technoscientific (ie. collective-objectified) advancement. Value is the advancement; not something advancement fails or doesn’t fail to instantiate. Value, subsumed by technoscientific production, is not pre-constitutive for the plethora of phone applications, mobile devices, virtual or digital resources I am able to access; they are value in their capacity purely as ontic signifiers of a transcendental signified: that which must necessarily represent an ultimate biotechnical fulfillment itself also deferred into an indefinitely postponed utopian future.

Technoscientific innovations do not exist neutrally, as optional addenda to the already-constituted habitus of value. Increasingly they monopolise the shared imaginary of value so that lacking them my lived-world lacks, not merely incidental, but ontologically decisive value. Such lack begins to be legalistically invoked in the minor but consequent requirements that attend many social and economic forms of enfranchisement. House leases, banking transactions and loans, training applications, minor medical or legal processes and so on increasingly require that the subject of the state be regulated and ‘connected’ in its specifically technoscientific constitution. In this way the state is a biotechnological organism that can only adequately function with the acquiescence of its similarly plugged-in human validators.

Thus my subjecthood increasingly finds metaphysical alibi in its embeddedness in, and submission to, state-sanctioned technoscience. My religious, political or ethnic identification carries almost nothing of the ontological weight it may once have. What counts now is my participation in and submission to those objectified forms of communal identity technoscience validates with primary epistemic authority. To demur is to be off the ontological grid, which is to be negligibly sub-existent in all the terms that now qualify full existence and membership in the species.

August, 2012

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