The Imperial Sensorium

“Providing a veil for profit-making is not the most interesting dimension of the logic of capitalism. What matters more is the way in which private companies can extend their authority over the social order.”[1]

The colonial order casts a looming shadow over our modern times. If capitalist powers were in large part responsible for this subjugation of people, landscapes and resources through military, economic and political means[2], there were many other actors for whom the economic gains represented only secondary importance. To appeal to a techno-scientific class driven by world-building narratives rather than profit motives or strict martial discipline, the engineering of this global order was framed by the social politic of the day, from the rallying cry of World War II, the purge of communist anti-colonial partisans or the promise of a post-industrial middle class utopia.

This difference in motivation, carried by the rhetoric of civilisation and enlightenment, enabled colonialism to rely on a cadre of scientists, researchers and engineers projected by the State military, in order to weave systems of domination through industrialisation and, later, informatisation. Complex sets of representation, designed to map the acquisition of resources and the exploitation of labour, were enshrined. They remain operational to this day.

Yet the contradictions between the colonialist forays of the scientific community and the economic incentives of Capital direct much of our methods of sensing and informing. These contradictions confuse our attempts at reckoning with this inheritance. How have the digital and technological realisations of colonialist desires seized our senses? How can we parse the technological developments of the nuclear-imperial order and its influence on the concepts of information and knowledge? To come to grips with how people are moved[3] requires a study of what shaped the desires of the technocracy, for it very well might shape ours. Such an inquiry implies disentangling the convergence of aesthetics and cybernetics. Seeking to discern the sensible essence of things, aesthetics aims at discovering these forms that affect human existence[4]. Cybernetics geared itself towards making the chaotic world intelligible and organisable into observable systems. How has their interfacing altered, widened and narrowed our ability to comprehend, govern and act?

As we face a global collection of crises, almost all symptoms of imperialist brinkmanship, we must understand the influence of the cyberneticisation of thought that underpins not just our economic models, but our abilities to understand how contemporary power structures thrive in enforcing powerlessness by mortifying the living. Grasping at straws, aghast at the enormity of the dangers already unfolding before us, we turn in desperation towards the same solutions – and the same classes of people – that caused these problems to begin with.

The Eternal Sunshine of the Atomic Mind

“The instituted knowledge of society, as it exists in recorded history, is the knowledge obtained by the dominant classes in their exercise of power. The dominated, by virtue of their very powerlessness, have no means of recording their knowledge within those instituted processes, except as an object of the exercise of power.”[5]

“By demonstrating that they would not recoil from a civilian holocaust, the Americans triggered in the minds of the enemy that information explosion which Einstein, towards the end of his life, thought to be as formidable as the atomic blast itself.”[6]

“You think that typhoons are shocking? Wait till a man is out to have his fun!”[7]

In 1945, the Manhattan Project successfully split the atom, testing first in the New Mexico desert and twice more on densely populated Japanese cities. In little more that three horrifying weeks, the nuclear explosion had materialised from a mathematical theory into an unfathomably deadly practice.

The atomic bomb was an engineering-driven project of heretofore unseen magnitude[8] that propelled nation States into the irreversible imbalance of Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.) diplomacy. The Western psyche withered in the shadow of the mushroom cloud, accelerating a psychological and ethical hostility towards the living world and its inhabitants. This was by no means a new development. Centuries of thoughts and colonial practices had already enshrined a deep animosity, laced with fantasies of control, against the natural world. The conceptual hodgepodge that came to define ‘Nature’ within the Western mind appears in retrospect less like a well-reasoned concept, and more like the embodiment of every facet of the Other – and a discursive mechanism fashioned to exploit them.

Institutionalised through the political and technological reconfigurations that arose from World War II, the Cold War and decolonisation, this obsessive lens to read the world became suffused with nuclear technoaesthetics. Defined by Joseph Masco and further developed by John Shiga, nuclear technoaesthetics describes the “evaluative aesthetic categories embedded in the expert practices of weapons scientists,”[9] the systematic approach directing the sensing and the making sense of the new topology of the world. Its colonialist goals remained unchanged, now complemented by “legal discourse which presented discriminatory, exploitative, and violent sensory techniques as necessary for the production of scientific knowledge.”[10] The Pacific Islands for the United States, the Sahara for France, Australia for the United Kingdom, Kazakhstan for the USSR, Xinjiang for China: regions where imperial formations had scarred the Indigenous body and psyche were all earmarked for the testing of nuclear weapons.

In a grotesque mirror-image of nature, the mushroom cloud birthed a world-spanning mycelium, its tendrils captivating the techno-scientific class. The official and personal records of the US nuclear scientists display their attempts at grappling with the awe-inducing and highly taboo destructive power of their unanticipated success[11]. The early nuclear period is full of images conjured by the scientists who took part in the overground tests, many sharing characteristics of religious awe rather than any understanding of the annihilation of people, animals and habitats. Rationalising these experiences required the development of ‘objective’ and ‘neutral’ representations to serve as epistemological foundations: sensor readings, documentary photographs, reporting – the systematised generation of technoaesthetic artefacts geared towards the cultivation of a clinical gaze. The increasing existential, physical and intellectual separation experienced by the scientific teams underpinned this epistemological process. In overriding sensory experiences through discourse and technique, entire fields of science saw their dual abilities to sense and react captured. In place of a revulsion for questionable or violent research, a false sense of intellectual control arose[12], which formed the aesthetic experience of the nuclear apocalypse into one that was pleasurable, even desirable. These discursive and technical mechanisms accomplished a threefold purpose: measuring the success of nuclear tests, re-producing configurations of power, and dulling the monstrosity of this ‘advancement of knowledge.’

In the Western-occupied Pacific Islands, biologists Eugene and Tom Odum eagerly harvested data from irradiated life and landscapes. In June 1954, the brothers departed for the Enewetak Atoll, excited to study what they called “entire ecological systems in the field” on the Pacific Proving Ground[13]. They were determined to make the facts fit their theory: revealing the ecosystemic form at the heart of the environment. Their fieldwork was marred with frustrating hurdles, inconsistencies and mistakes. Stumbling with colonialist incompetence every step of the way, they exploited the deadly irradiation caused by ten nuclear weapons in order to show evidence of symbiosis, which they documented in an article for Ecological Monographs in 1955. Depicting Enewetak as “little affected by nuclear explosions,” this article would become a stepping stone for their careers, and Eugene Odum went on to publish his Fundamentals of Ecology in 1959, a tremendously influential book which dedicates a chapter to the new discipline of radiation ecology – the epistemological exploitation of nuclear fallout.

To facilitate this exploitation, the Atoll was labelled “primitive” and “secluded.”[14] The informational forays of the scientists accomplished a civilisational role, making the islands “alive like a university campus.”[15] Nothing could obviously be further from the truth. The Pacific Islands, far from a fantasised primitive form to begin with, had in any case been thoroughly seized by the Invisible Nuclear Hand, and their beaches were littered with industrial debris and military equipment. This discursive strategy wasn’t just geared towards the estrangement of the colonised, but an important prerequisite for the epistemological harvest: studies and analyses could only be adequately performed on an idealised ‘virgin body,’ with conditions artificially re-contextualised as comparable to the sterile and controlled environment of the laboratory.

A new banality of evil[16] was unleashed by the progressive reliance on pure technological mediation. Even before the 1963 Atmospheric Test Ban Treaty, scientists privileged the data collection of their improvised technical sensing devices over the direct experience of irradiated communities. These were testimonies of “blisters in their mouths from the [irradiated] food,” the visual confirmation of “the effects of radiation in the trees and plants they ate from,” or the horror at the sight and sound of Geiger counters manned by male scientists publicly scanning the naked bodies of Indigenous women[17]. The Atmospheric Test Ban Treaty itself was born less from a concern for public health (the irradiation of the US population following the 1955 Apple II device test) than strategic interest (countering foreign intelligence). It cemented the focus away from the reality of the manufacture of the bomb to the technologically-mediated physics of its detonation. The quantifiable perspective soon took over, under the form of pure mathematical and virtual mastery – and fever-dream fantasy. In cinemas, the "Body Snatchers"[18] of 1956 projected an ever-present ideological invasion threatening US territory, just as the RAND Corporation assisted the Atomic Energy Commission during ‘Project Sunshine’ in the harvest of thousands of corpses, body parts and organs without consent. In the skies, radar sightings of flying swans became bombers in attack formation[19].


This shift towards computerisation thoroughly affected the scientific perception of the environment. The purpose of the living world and its inhabitants was to ensure ‘optimal’ outcomes for the deployment of nuclear weapons and the tracking of their effects[21]. Data, considered a strategic asset ripe for exchange and exploitation, were not only directly captured from the bodies of the colonised populations and territories, but very much injected, under the form of presupposed taxonomy made intelligible for the colonial gaze. This brutal in-forming, performed at gunpoint and realised technically, manifested the epistemological bounties[22] arising from mechanisms of power designed to “dominate, extract, hierarchise and subdue”[23]. Conversely, entities that refused their dissolution inside this blinkered model were labelled “inhomogeneities,” a denomination that presupposed their eventual homogenisation within nuclear technoaesthetics, and their “mobilisation as a resource for the exercise of power”[24].

The experiences of the 20th century scientific community was the symptom of a broader disorientation of Western societies following the atrocities and entrenchment of fascism, the devastation of WWII, and the slow entropy affecting the colonial order. The reality of the atomic bomb – a cornerstone of technical fetishism and colonial dominance – thus became the hinge point from which deteriorating systems of power attempted to rejuvenate and redeploy themselves. The discursive mechanisms they employed to support that end, derived from systematised modes of sensing, became a cardinal way of viewing and informing the world, one that complemented rising industrial enterprises and technologies of communication.


Do Cyberneticians Dream of Electronic Revolutions?

“In communication engineering we regard information perhaps a little differently than some of the rest of you do. In particular, we are not at all interested in semantics or the meaning implications of information.”[26]

“Ether, having once failed as a concept is being reinvented. Information is the ultimate mediational ether. Light doesn't travel through space: it is information that travels through information… at a heavy price.”[27]

As the Odum brothers were busy proving themselves in the Pacific, scientists at the Oak Ridge Laboratory in Tennessee were also struggling to interpret their fieldwork due to the overflowing intricacy of natural interactions triggered by their irradiation of the environment. By 1958, the researchers turned to computers as a solution: designing models that would simulate the complexities of radiation and its deployment through land and life. The burden of interpretation lifted quickly, and their mathematical models institutionalised closed-loop system virtuality over empirical predictions[28]. The complex demands inherent in documenting the deadly practice of irradiating life and landscape was perfectly complemented by the rise of cybernetics, engendering the field of system ecology.

Eugene Odum had by 1963 risen to chairman of the Ecological Society of America’s International Biological Program committee, and had become a major proponent of cybernetics. This was the natural continuation of nuclear technoaesthetics, the sensing and informing framework to artificially model the interaction of a natural milieu. The perspective of combining these fields split Western ecologists, but eventually established itself as the dominant theory[29]. In a paper written in 1981 with Bernard Patten, Odum presupposed the existence of a “secondary informational network” regulating nature, asserting that:

>“…analogy, and the willingness to accept it, are the keys to identifying the cybernetic machinery of the ecosystem. […] To achieve orderliness (in nature), a secondary informational network is superimposed upon the primary one which regulated the conservative processes. Without such a network, nature would be chaotic, disorderly, and imbalanced.”[30]

Top: Simulation model of tide and hurricane effects on nutrients of a mangrove swamp. Bottom: Simulation model of the Vietnam war zone in 1970. Both from Howard T. Odum, Systems Ecology: An Introduction.[31]

This claim to intelligibility made possible by the informational approach was the particularly seductive aspect of cybernetics, a new ‘meta-discipline’ fashioned after the technologies of communication of the unfolding post-war era. Cybernetics showed promise in bridging “the white spaces on the map of science”[32] by seeking to “generate a new kind of link between engineering, biology, mathematics on one hand and psychology, psychiatry, and all the social sciences on the other,”[33] and was eagerly adopted by leading figures of the post-war sciences such as Gregory Bateson, Margaret Mead, John von Neumann and Talcott Parsons. Cybernetics devised axioms for the treatment of information, encouraged its proponents to refine communication technologies, even suggested that the framework could be employed to sense and quell social unrest[34].

Whereas the bomb was an offensive technology, cybernetics was initially defensive. Its first application was to provide anti-air batteries the ability to track German airships, by continuously reinjecting in the weapon system the gap between the airships’ predicted and actual position. In this “logic consciously and dramatically materialised in the wartime technology of antiaircraft missile guidance […] freedom from holocaust and other social upheavals might be achieved through the construction of an all-encompassing system of feedback,”[35] where informational pressures would be exerted on the system itself, relentlessly closing the gap between the actual situation and a desired result. As Peter Taylor further notes in his review of the technocratic optimism of ecology and cybernetics: “the individual in a feedback system appeared to gain in autonomy because systems theory addressed communication and information flow between individuals,” yet “communication systems were also command-control systems; command-control engineers would be required to ensure that the systems operated according to new criteria – for example, minimising information loss or preserving circuit stability.” Moreover:

“In the systems view, living and nonliving feedback systems alike obeyed common mechanical principles, including their mode of evolution. Data could be used to elucidate directly the dynamics of systems. And, once scientists understood the dynamics of systems, those systems would be controllable […]. The new theorists of feedback systems conceived of nature as a machine and, at the same time, acknowledged the purposive and regulatory character of that nature-machine […]. Furthermore, the same terms could be applied to all systems, whatever their components; living and nonliving could be intermeshed, eliminating the separateness of biological relations from physical factors.”[36]

Cybernetics therefore embraced a principle of information fusion, capable of codifying every facet of life – money, needs, power, health, intelligence, or even fitness – into data. By myopically focusing on the relation between an emitter and a receiver, cybernetics attempted to represent the whole of existence inside the homogeneous, self-regulating form of a system. Information became the quantifiable substance of reality, under the guise of statistically predictable signal and noise. The transcripts of the Macy Conferences, the meetings of the cybernetician minds held between 1941 and 1960, highlight the tension within this conceptual dichotomy:

STROUD: …it is rather dangerous at times to generalize. If we at any time relax our awareness of the way in which we originally defined the signal, we thereby automatically call all of the remainder of the received message the “not” signal and noise. This has many practical applications.
LICKLIDER: It is probably dangerous to use this theory of information in fields for which it was not designed, but I think the danger will not keep people from using it. […] Nevertheless, the elementary parts of the theory appear to be very useful. I say it may be dangerous to use them, but I don’t think the danger will scare us off.

The proponents of cybernetics were painfully aware of these heterogeneities that wouldn’t quite fit their insular model. These noisy and entropic discrepancies could nonetheless be seen as a reservoir of untapped opportunities – recall the previously encountered category of “inhomogeneities.”

Patches of classified US Department of Defence projects. In Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman’s 1917 novel The Green Door, a young girl named Letitia is forbidden by her aunt to open a small green door in her house with this warning: “It is not best for you, my dear.” Green Door is also the name of a 1956 hit about a man who’s denied entrance to a party taking place behind a green door. From Trevor Paglen, I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon’s Black World.[38]

The limitations of cybernetics were therefore significant, and shaped the broader process of cyberneticisation. Radiation ecology deployed its epistemological power through the release of isotopes in the environment and the tremors caused by the explosions of the nuclear tests: purposeful irradiation and destruction delineated the topological boundaries of the studied system, and assessed the environment’s resilience. The test and feedback cycle reified the interconnected totality of an ecosystem that could be formed around the desire of the nuclear-imperial order: sustain nuclear tests and wars indefinitely[39]. The tensions between cyberneticisation and the world generated an endless frontier to be techno-scientifically administered, revised and expanded[40]. This provided equally defensive and offensive strategies to make the real con-form relentlessly with desired projections.

Driven by academic and economic incentives, the cybernetic framework helped the perceived ‘soft’ science of ecology to gain a foothold in the political, scientific and public consciousness. The influence of this work was as far reaching as it was seductive. Cybernetics tinged ecological studies, seizing Western politics and policy. In the US, this new discipline made it all the way to the top. In summer 1967, the congressional hearings of the Subcommittee on Science, Research and Development of the US House of Representatives had politicians swooned by the prospect of managing nature[41].

Through cybernetics, the techno-scientific class construed radiation ecology as a peaceful use of atomic energies for managerial purposes. A broad vision pictured nature as a system in a state of rapid decay due to industrial pollution, carefully side-stepping the blatant issue of economic exploitation. A technological plan to prevent disasters was enshrined. By the mid-1960s, cybernetics and the system-men had thoroughly seized the political imagination of the US public and private sectors[42]. It remains somewhat ironic that their focus on informational systems blinded them so utterly from recognising systems of power, especially the one arising directly from their analyses. Yet in hindsight it strikes as painfully clear that this was desired, two complementing aspects of the same discursive process that accompanies deployments of power, as the latter faced increasing dissent from both inside and outside.

The fully enlightened earth radiates disaster triumphant

“Everyone wants to know whether these technologies will work. As far as I'm concerned, they already work. We got the money.”[43]

“When I say this pocket camera is ready in a flash, I mean ready in a flash!”[44]

The coupling of cybernetics with atomic science birthed entire industries of consumer goods. The building blocks of the nuclear technoaesthetics, which had served to capture the tests and its victims at ever increasing resolutions, started to flourish commercially. This took the shape of entire markets of consumer and professional goods: cameras, film, radar, medical equipment, radiology, media technologies, electronics, and of course computers.

Amped by the nuclear arms race, the virtual arms race[45] soon followed. The novel model of research and development used in war, counter-insurgency and spycraft was embraced by the Free Market: demand was artificially created, and offer buoyed by massive public funding – a financial projection of imperial power that continues well into the 21st century. Throughout the 1950s, more than half of the funding of major US tech corporations – IBM, Bell, General Electric, Raytheon, etc. – came from various federal and state governments, DARPA, and an entire network of parasitic and publicly funded military wings. The 1960s saw the now cash-fat private sector invest heavily in research and development. IBM, who had furnished the Nazis with its intelligent business machines to bring efficiency and automation to the Holocaust, reinvested 50% of its profits in internal R&D[46]. Thus came to existence the industrial titans of the newborn computer industry, founded through capital and knowledge derived from genocides and ecological annihilation.

The Cold War decades would in particular see the market for virtual representations blossom, synthesised in partnership with information technology titans. In every case, their existence was to fortify the immediate needs and desires of the nuclear-imperial order’s “closed world.” The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), the first general-purpose digital computer, was built during World War II, but, late to the party, entered service only after the end of the conflict. Having missed its chance to compute actual destruction, the project’s first computations were directed towards calculating simulations for the hydrogen bomb.

Through projects like ENIAC, cybernetics ascended from its analogue limitations, reaching its full potential through digital computing. The new opportunities afforded by the partnership weren’t limited to fantasising world-ending weapon strikes, but also their sensuousness. One of these examples was Whirlwind, conceived originally as a general piloting simulator. Plagued with a chaotic development, Whirlwind nevertheless raised “dozens of possibilities, including military logistics planning, air traffic control, damage control, life insurance, missile testing and guidance, and early warning systems,” but more importantly “the whole idea of combat information and control with digital computers.”[47]

It was the jingoistic mindset of the US Air Force (USAF) that found within this technology an ideal outlet. As military brass hallucinated Red invasions across the globe, Whirlwind was rescued, re-purposed and given a context a posteriori. Spliced with other technologies under the aegis of the Eisenhower-backed USAF, Whirlwind was given a new life as the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE)[48], a centralised system of threat detection and defensive response led by digital computers. Much like the nuclear scientists separated from their underground tests, here the technologically-mediated representation of the world glowed on the screens of the command centre. SAGE was the harbinger of new evolutions in computer technology, such as networking, video displays, synchronous parallel logic, multiprocessing, modems and software diagnostic programs, which rapidly disseminated through the commercial sector and formed the foundation of modern computing. The US private sector developed its ability to manufacture large networked systems of real-time data-processing through SAGE. For all that, it also barely worked.

In October 28, 1962, a satellite was interpreted by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) as a Soviet nuclear first strike launched over Georgia. The US bombers were readied to take off for an immediate counter-strike, only to be called off at the last minute. This was but one amongst the many similar events of brinkmanship caused by technical faults or the misidentification of weather and wildlife. Moments of planetary communication, computing and sense-making giving way to annihilation, stopped by the scepticism of human minds and the belatedness inherent to human bodies[49]. Like the Odum brothers and their professional class, nuclear technoaesthetics and cybernetics had been mobilised to generate simulations of senses and information that conformed to the desires of its creators. The seeds of future virtual representation mismatches were planted. The errors plaguing the fully-automated Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) produced false-alerts from the start, and in some cases very nearly ended in full-scale nuclear retaliations[50]. The Worldwide Military Command and Control System (WWMCCS) exhibited a high message transmission failure rate[51]. And the forlorn techno-fetishist pursuit of the “Star Wars” Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI)[52], “an ideological fiction whose computer-controlled nuclear defences would not have worked and could not have been built,” continued to be financed well into the 1990’s[53].

The Star Wars Strategic Defense Initiative was commissioned in 1983 by US President Ronald Regan, seeking to find technological solutions to “obsolete” nuclear warfare. It was dissolved in 1993 and replaced by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. The latter was dissolved in 2002 and replaced by the Missile Defense Agency.[54]

The offensive complement to the defensive strategy of SAGE, ‘Operation Igloo White’[55] generated in 1968 an idealised representation of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, one that manifested through sensors and aerials deployed in the jungle and the interfaces of the command and control room. The Vietnam War was the first war to employ a highly centralised, management-led military machine of pure quantification and computerisation. In the pursuit of this endeavour, Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara enlisted the help of the system-men, economists and social scientists of the RAND Corporation to economically manage the war effort in Vietnam. Developed from McNamara’s earlier experience at Ford Motors, the techniques of class warfare engineered in business schools found their natural progression in the prosecution of an imperialist war, seen from the start as “a kind of industrial competition.”[56] Like the Odum Brothers’ Pacific experiments, Vietnam was seen by both McNamara and Walter Rostow (an influential advisor to both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson) as a test case[57]. The country, its populations and landscapes were colonised as a laboratory for scientific and military purposes, the two industries complimenting each other and sharing the same discourse.

Despite the claims of its creators, Igloo White’s legacy was a world of fantasy rather than a supreme precognitive machine. Its automated missile strikes[58] launched from patrolling F-14 – a configuration that foreshadowed drone warfare – often targeted empty patches of jungles, killing wildlife and scarring landscapes. Its sensors were easily fooled by fake noises and bags of urine from the guerrilla resistance. The operation killed scores of civilians and wildlife, created 13.000 refugees, and the loss of 300 to 400 US aircraft. Ultimately, Igloo White failed to stop the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It remained, officially, a success.

Network infrastructure for Operation Igloo White, detailing various sensory apparatus for targeted strikes.[59]

While informatised warfare foundered in the field, its proponents ultimately succeeded in the discourse. Yet new states of things weren’t created ex nihilo. Rather, the techniques they articulated became the relay points of tendencies decades in the making, catalysts for certain configurations of power to crystallise and sustain themselves. And while the military-men oversaw and funded their financing and deployment, it was the scientific cadre who defended their ‘less aggressive’ potentials – despite all evidence to the contrary. These simulations remained firmly plugged in to very real tests on populations, animals and landscapes, as well as the purposeful destruction of the environment, alimented by the dense network of capitalist exploitation.

This complemented a movement towards a US-centric sphere of economic control[60], where the rabid development of new potentials unleashed by new technologies gave the US private sector an important edge. Counter-insurgency and government-toppling kept cheap commodities flowing from the peripheries to the imperial centre. The technological and virtual arms race would only gain momentum during the Carter and Reagan administrations, between the increase of nuclear warheads per missiles, the restrictions imposed on academic research, and the development of ever more potent and far-reaching missile technologies[61]. It was the Reagan administration that however thoroughly seized the techno-nuclear war-machine, and in their vision of an apocalyptic struggle suffused with Christian fundamentalism, only accomplished what engineer Vannevar Bush had already noted in 1945: war as “increasingly total war, in which the armed services must be supplemented by active participation of every element of the civilian population."

Bush’s vision was perfectly understood by the RAND Corporation who, in 1997, advocated publicly for “comprehensive approaches to conflict based on the centrality of information.” The technical innovations of “low-intensity” counter-insurgency warfare and other “operations-other-than-war” – enshrined by the likes of Frank Kitson with the massacre of the Mau-Mau and other colonial ‘peacekeeping’ – would be helpfully completed by an understanding of the cyberwars and netwars[62] soon to be waged in the virtually-mediated sphere[63]. In this “increasingly total war” that refuses its name, the private control over information and the State nuclear war-machine, born from the same primordial soup, accomplished the totalising vision of the system-men: a true End of History where the Last Man could be guided to more amenable course of action by technoaesthetic prods[64].

Alphaville Dēlenda Est

“In the field of representation what constitutes capital is visible identity and the power to command the desires of others.”[65]

“We shall use the power of computers to undertake an editing process on behalf of the only editor who any longer counts – the client himself […]. If we can encode an individual’s interests and susceptibilities on the basis of feedback which he supplies, if we can converge on a model of the individual of higher variety than the model he has of himself, […] marketing people will come to use this technique to increase the relatively tiny response to a mailing shot which exists today to a response in the order of 90 percent […]. The conditioning loop exercised upon the individual will be closed. Then we have provided a perfect physiological system for the marketing of anything we like – not then just genuine knowledge, but perhaps ‘political truth’ or ‘the ineluctable necessity to act against the elected government.’ Here indeed is a serious threat to society.”[66]

Radiation ecology had been one step towards the whitewashing of nuclear technoaesthetics. But the cooperation between the former and cybernetics could only achieve so much beyond the realm of clinical quantitative observation and digital machines. As Norbert Wiener emphatically hammered, it was “the purpose of Cybernetics to develop a language and techniques that [would] enable us to indeed attack the problems of control” of, among other things, human beings[67]. This project implied seducing more people than simply a political-managerial class — and seducing them profoundly.

Apart from its macro-level efforts with social sciences, cybernetics had involved psychologists from the start, such as in key positions in the engineering of SAGE. The meta-discipline had convinced itself that its closed-loop, command-and-control vision of society would accomplish, as cybernetician Lawrence Frank put it, “the dynamics of social life aris[ing] from individual actions, re-actions and interactions.”[68] This implied the study of individual personalities[69]. Cognitive psychology arose, influenced significantly by cybernetics, superseding behavioural psychology and its mechanistic framework whose mechanical reductionism saw individuals as trainable automatons. The new psychological vision was enthralled by this veneer of liberatory emancipation. Norbert Wiener himself pictured cybernetics as allowing the freeing of energies and communication within heterogeneous entities, an ecology of constant and dynamic analysis, exchange and interactions. This represented a powerful ethic geared towards the realisation of a qualitative jump beyond the quantitative perspective. It was to however calcify into an authoritarian ordering of a quantified world, making full use of the insidious discourse and configuration of power tied to the informing of the living: the quantitative passed into the qualitative, but only as represented[70].

Over the years, theorists J. C. R. Licklider, Silvan Tomkins and others attempted to psychologically encode the informatisation of the world. Licklider was a psychologist and an early cybernetician – and someone who, as seen earlier, was not especially troubled by the danger of informational reductionism. Fascinated by the connection between psychology and computer technology, he shaped the early developments of network communication alongside AI and personal computing. Licklider was a veteran of SAGE who “aggressively promoted a vision of computerised military command and control.” He envisioned a world where humans would be assisted by computers – second selves that would help the hapless organic beings reckon with the complexities of the new information age[71]. An alluring sentiment that would find wide purchase, such as in Steve Jobs’ 1990 description of the computer as the equivalent of a bicycle for the mind[72]. This man-computer symbiosis would, in the last analysis, be efficiently directed under the all-sensing gaze of automated and centralised decision processes.

Tomkins was a psychologist and personality theorist, who sought to develop an understanding on how exactly the automaton must be motivated[73]. Combining the cybernetic framework’s utilitarianism with a vulgar understanding of 17th century philosopher Spinoza’s ethics, Tomkins’ approach encoded the spinozist affects as organic feedback mechanisms, nine or so affect programs genetically hard-wired, “each of which manifests itself in distinct physiological-autonomic and behavioural patterns of response.”[74] Tomkins’ work would be embraced and extended by his student Paul Ekman. The latter ended up deeply fascinated by the bodies and expressions of Indigenous Balinese and Australians during their ritual practices, captured on ethnographic movies shot in the 1930’s[75]. These observations, synthesised within Tomkins and Ekman’s theories, would inform the pseudo-science of micro-expression analysis, and lead Ekman to become a central figure in the establishment of the Screening of Passengers by Observational Techniques (SPOT) program. Funded by the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11, the SPOT program “employs Behavioural Detection Officers at airports for the purpose of detecting behavioural-based indicators of threats to aviation security.”[76]

This new “ethico-technical economy of life”[77], a configuration of cybernetics and clinical gaze tinged by nuclear technoaesthetics, attempted the qualitative jump by weaponising a totalising comprehension of both mechanical and organic understandings of systems. Such approach, wherein, as seen earlier, the living and nonliving could be intermeshed[78], birthed a machinic conception of both quantification and desire. In this ecology of a radio-active world[79], the pressures of the act of governing, traditionally deployed on individual subjects, are replaced by an act of management on a system of relations[80]. Within this new paradigm, the enmeshing of cybernetics and nuclear technoaesthetics reaches an apex, and “the inner workings of the animal, machine, or person need not be known; it is a ‘black box,’ known through a complete listing of its past behaviours.”[81] The observed target is modulated through their environment in a way that sidesteps the traditional categories of subjectification and subjection. Instead, this approach embraces the technical projection of a constellation of profiles, identities, and the interactions connecting them – be they social media accounts, public service records, travelcard logs, AI algorithms and, already, blockchain transactions.


Norms arise (seemingly organically) from the dense mesh of synthetic relations and the continuous informing of harvested mass of behaviours separated from their context of origin. With little to no real consent, this purposeful black box accomplishes the separation of subject from observation and materialises the value of the epistemological bounty. It is a natural progression of the biopolitics described by Michel Foucault[82], from which neoliberalism derives: an insidious affecting of the body and mind to produce and consume, to sense and move, obtained by manipulating the variables of the environment[83]. No surprise that Friedrich Hayek, the Austrian economist and co-founder of the neoliberal project, observed how cybernetics echoed Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand. In helping economists understand the “self-organising systems” of the markets and their “steering mechanism”:

“…the model or representation can perform or predict the effects of different courses of action and pre-select amongst those results that which in the existing state is ‘desirable,’ it will also be capable of directing the organism to that course of action which has thus been ‘mapped out’ for it.”[84]

This departure from the parochial definitions of liberal philosophy[85] can be intensely felt at the borders of States and the enforcements without and within. Powered by Palantir and its competitors, State programs like the US I.C.E. dragnet, Australia’s Border Force and the European Frontex utterly defang ‘sanctuary cities’ or other refugee policies that still remain within the confines of this political tradition[86]. In these situations especially, the term ‘biopolitics’ hides the necessary flip side of regulating life: objectifying and dehumanising its subjects in the pursuit of management. The governmentality of the centres was forged with the sowing of misery and death in the peripheries, be it under the shape of assassinations, genocides or irradiation of landscapes. Biopolitics necessarily implies thanatopolitics – both the literal extinction of life, but also the extinction of the power of life: the power to move and be moved.

Patches of classified US Department of Defence projects. “Oderint Dum Metuant” of the centre patch means “Let them hate, so long as they fear.” From Trevor Paglen, I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon’s Black World.[87]

At the heart of the management models of governance and counter-insurgency doctrine lies again the principle of data fusion, where cyberneticised information is the uni-form substance that subsumes every facet of life. Petrify and kill, terrorise and murder: a program nowadays applied through the aptly named Gorgon Stare (the wide-area surveillance sensor system equipped on Reaper drones) or the techno-bureaucratic apparatus geared towards breaking the Uyghurs’ spirit[88]. All made possible via “a form or pattern of life that conforms with the paradigm of ‘information based on activity’” established “to spot the emergence of suspect elements based on their unusual behaviour.” But, as we can see from the absurdities of nuclear research and the error-prone cyberneticised systems of sensing, these are frequently “totally disconnected from their real effects on the ground”[89].

Yet therein lies precisely the cyberneticised act of governing: the deaths of individual targets are less important than the corrective action the assassination triggers on the system. This is an intervention, as anthropologist Talal Asad makes clear, whose “primary aim is not the protection of life as such but the construction and encouragement of specific kinds of human subjects and the outlawing of all others.”[90] The proponents of this revolting logic rightly perceive the lives they extinguish less as individual foci of liberal governmentality, and more as another cybernetic flux to be managed. Terrified by the brittleness of their vulnerable world, some among these advocates now fancy themselves fantasising a “high-tech panopticon” where everybody is fitted with a ‘freedom tag,’ monitored by a “freedom officer who can dispatch an inspector, a police rapid response unit, or a drone to investigate further.” Anything that could prolong the existence of their murderous civilisation, where “some net totalitarianism-risk-increasing effect […] might be worth accepting”[91].

“Yet man will never be perfect until he learns to create and destroy; he does know how to destroy, and that is half the battle,”[92] said the Count of Monte Cristo. “Technocracy alone offers life,”[93] would have been the retort of Howard Scott, founder of the 1930s Technocracy movement. As the post-World War II nuclear technoaesthetics solidified into an ecology through their cybernetisation, the protagonists attempted to reconcile the vile roots of this syncretic enterprise. An enterprise which, despite its repeated abject failures, delusions of grandeur and disconnect from reality, nevertheless constantly failed upward[94]. For within the coils deployed by this ethical world-building of cosmological proportion, we are to this day ensnared precisely as we are spurred.

Of Cosmic Forks

“Because it implies accountability, knowing and showing together constitute an epistemic practice to which ethics and politics become available, even necessary.”[95]

“We will all have to become what Simondon calls ‘technical poets.’”[96]

The ramifications of nuclear technoaesthetics form the very backbone of our infrastructure. Every region has been choked by the Free Market and its techno-scientist apparatus. What is the alternative? To dismantle the primacy of cyberneticised information is to dismantle its self-anointment as the conduit for actions and thoughts. It is to resist both the associated discourse that only empowers the hierarchies imposed by an imperial centre, and the representational schemes based on the epistemological claims of data. Dismantling cyberneticisation is to decide between closing, foreclosing or forking the negative commons that we inherit and upon which much of our industrial society rests[97]. What connects us to the negative commons we’ve ended up with? Who relies on them for work, for survival? How do they generate and hold information, social communion, or expression? What are their pathways for revenue, rent or speculation?

Like subaltern studies scholars have already explored, philosopher Yuk Hui suggests considering the notion of fragmentation[98]. This process necessarily originates from the epistemological practices of the embodied localities and the first concerned, constituted in epistemic communities. Such formations are, for instance, “the communities who had been displaced by the weapons tests and then prematurely resettled in an irradiated landscape” and who “began to mobilise their own embodied sensory practices as well as testimony about the sensory violence of the nuclear testing regime.”[99] It therefore accomplishes the dual task of tactically exploiting every window of opportunity created by the mismatches residing within the incumbent powers’ representations and modes of sensing; all the while discarding our reliance on technologies stemming from their hegemonic epistemology that might have seduced us.

Yet we should be careful not to fall for the trappings of a ‘local’ or a ‘decentralisation’ that perfectly fits the project of atomised neoliberal firms at every level – be it individual, familial, associative, governmental and supragovernmental. Neither should we resume the local to the sclerosed geographical or cultural enclaves fantasised by nationalism. How could this be accomplished? Focus could for instance be directed towards the concrete project of descaralisation[100], the purposeful and programmatic reduction, where needed, of the scale of the production sphere and the logistical chains. Following Jasper Bernes, interrogating negative commons through fragmentation is “to graph the flows and linkages around us in ways that comprehend their brittleness as well as the most effective ways they might be blocked as part of the conduct of particular struggles.” In this “process of inventory, taking stock of things we encounter in our immediate environs, that does not imagine mastery from the standpoint of the global totality, but rather a process of bricolage from the standpoint of partisan fractions who know they will have to fight from particular, embattled locations,” we can produce “the knowledge which the experience of past struggles has already demanded and which future struggles will likely find helpful.”[101] Vitally, this will also redirect resources towards targeted communities by compensating, in money and in kind, their active involvement, building up on the already existing economic solidarity models of these communities and online subcultures[102].

The claim to intelligibility generated by the coupling of cyberneticised information and nuclear technoaesthetics is dysfunctional, sociopathic and brittle. The real always spills over the fences constructed by its representations. It isn’t the substance-information presented with pseudo-objectivity that leads our desire, but the myriad combinations of the ways we're affected. The forms arising from the hegemonic epistemological process are but one way, and recycling them over and over through a closed-loop system can only engender a stale understanding of the world. Refusing this despotic hold over existence is an aspect found in all critiques of power, from the Luddites to Decolonialism[103]. Such refusals are the antidote to these planetary-scale systems and global governance structures rebranded as saviours of crisis, but whose core is the same illegitimate power that mistakes geese for missiles and brutalises life and land alike. By dismantling the world of cybernetics and nuclear technoaesthetics, by embracing, instead of denying, the flotsam and jetsam that irrigate individuations, becomings and political imagination, we might yet thwart this pretence of control over the real, the virtual, and all forms of life.

Benjamin Royer
Spring 2022

Edited & art directed by Cade Diehm.

Thanks to moss heim and Howard Melnyczuk for their feedback.

  1. Technocolonialism: Digital Innovation and Data Practices in the Humanitarian Response to Refugee Crises
    Mirca Madianou
    Social Media + Society
    20 July 2019 ↩︎

  2. DecolonialityOn Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis 2018

  3. Throughout this essay, ‘move’ will be employed in its dual meaning: physically and ‘emotionally.’ ↩︎

  4. ‘Form’ here does not possess its vernacular meaning of ‘shape.’ A form is the perceivable ‘essence’ of a thing. Form and matter constitute substance in hylomorphism. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari see form as part of a complex assemblage together with substance, content and expression. Evidently, the numerous philosophical inquiries surrounding and determining the essence of things have profound political implications. ↩︎

  5. The Nation and Its FragmentsThe Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories 7 November 1993

  6. Strategy of DeceptionStrategy of Deception December 2006

  7. Brecht Collected PlaysStrategy of Deception 20 March 2015

  8. Nuclear research was one of the most heavily funded facet of the war machine, both due to the organisational effort necessary for the management arising from the new configuration of State-led research and development during WWII, and in terms of investment. The Manhattan Project spent more that $800 million in 1945, $100 million more than the Army and Navy combined. Paul Edwards, The Closed World ↩︎

  9. Nuclear Technoaesthetics: Sensory Politics from Trinity to the Virtual Bomb in Los Alamos
    Joseph Masco, American Ethnologist
    August 2004 ↩︎

  10. The Nuclear Sensorium: Cold War Nuclear Imperialism and Sensory Violence
    John Shiga, Canadian Journal of Law & Society
    10 October 2019 ↩︎

  11. Nuclear Technoaesthetics: Sensory Politics from Trinity to the Virtual Bomb in Los Alamos
    Joseph Masco, American Ethnologist
    August 2004 ↩︎

  12. ibid. ↩︎

  13. Proving Grounds: Ecological Fieldwork in the Pacific and the Materialization of Ecosystems
    Laura J. Martin, Environmental History
    July 2018 ↩︎

  14. As cited by Laura J. Martin in Proving Grounds: Ecological Fieldwork in the Pacific and the Materialization of Ecosystems ↩︎

  15. ibid. ↩︎

  16. To paraphrase Hannah Arendt ↩︎

  17. The Nuclear Sensorium: Cold War Nuclear Imperialism and Sensory Violence
    John Shiga, Canadian Journal of Law & Society
    10 October 2019 ↩︎

  18. ↩︎
  19. The nuclear mistakes that nearly caused World War Three
    Zaria Gorvett, BBC Future
    10 August 2020 ↩︎

  20. Twin Peaks, Season 3, Part 8
    David Lynch (writer/director) ↩︎

  21. The Nuclear Sensorium: Cold War Nuclear Imperialism and Sensory Violence
    John Shiga, Canadian Journal of Law & Society
    10 October 2019 ↩︎

  22. It remains uncanny how this realises technically and concretely György Lukács’s concept of reification. ↩︎

  23. As Laura J. Martin states: “violence made ecosystems manifest.” ↩︎

  24. The Nuclear Sensorium: Cold War Nuclear Imperialism and Sensory Violence
    John Shiga, Canadian Journal of Law & Society
    10 October 2019 ↩︎

  25. The bombing of Hiroshima as recalled through the eyes of a child survivor. Perspectives such as these confront the clinical gaze of nuclear technoaesthetics by retelling the experiences of all - including non-human victims.
    Hadashi no Gen (English title: Barefoot Gen)
    Mori Masaki (director), Keiji Nakazawa (writer)
    1983 ↩︎

  26. The Redundancy of EnglishThe Redundancy of English 15 March 2016

  27. The High Cost of Information in Post World War II Evolutionary Biology: Ergonomics, Semiotics, and the Sociobiology of Communications Systems
    Donna Haraway, Philosophical Forum
    Winter/Spring 1981-1982 ↩︎

  28. Ecosystems, Ecologists, and the Atom: Environmental Research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory
    Stephen Bocking, Journal of the History of Biology
    Spring 1995 ↩︎

  29. Defining Ecology: Ecological Theories, Mathematical Models, and Applied Biology in the 1960s and 1970s
    Paolo Palladino , Journal of the History of Biology
    Summer 1991 ↩︎

  30. Cited in Representations of Nature Mediating Between Ecology and Science Policy: The Case of the International Biological Programme
    Chunglin Kwa, Social Studies of Science
    1 August 1987 ↩︎

  31. Top: Simulation model of tide and hurricane effects on nutrients of a mangrove swamp, Bottom: Simulation model of the Vietnam war zone in 1970. Both from Howard T. Odum, Systems Ecology: An Introduction. ↩︎

  32. Sur la philosophieSur la philosophie September 2016

  33. Sur la philosophieThe Cybernetics Group August 1991

  34. Norbert Wiener's title for his seminal book on cybernetics was, after all, “The Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine". ↩︎

  35. Technocratic Optimism, H. T. Odum, and the Partial Transformation of Ecological Metaphor after World War II
    Peter J. Taylor, Journal of the History of Biology
    Summer 1988 ↩︎

  36. ibid. ↩︎

  37. The Macy ConferencesCybernetics - The Macy Conferences 1946–1953. The Complete Transactions 15 March 2016

  38. Patches of classified US Department of Defence projects. In Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman’s 1917 novel The Green Door, a young girl named Letitia is forbidden by her aunt to open a small green door in her house with this warning: “It is not best for you, my dear.” Green Door is also the name of a 1956 hit about a man who’s denied entrance to a party taking place behind a green door. From Trevor Paglen, I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon’s Black World. ↩︎

  39. The Nuclear Sensorium: Cold War Nuclear Imperialism and Sensory Violence
    John Shiga, Canadian Journal of Law & Society
    10 October 2019 ↩︎

  40. To paraphrase Vannevar Bush’s eponymous book, Science: The Endless Frontier, written at the request of Roosevelt in order to plan the continuation of the wartime scientific apparatus into peacetime. ↩︎

  41. Cited in Representations of Nature Mediating Between Ecology and Science Policy: The Case of the International Biological Programme
    Chunglin Kwa, Social Studies of Science
    1 August 1987 ↩︎

  42. System theory as an ideology
    Robert Lilienfeld, Social Research
    Winter 1975 ↩︎

  43. David Mizell, during the 1985 Conference on the Strategic Computer Initiative ↩︎

  44. Kodak Ektralite 10 advertisement, Ebony magazine, May 1980 Kodak Ektralite 10 advertisement, Ebony magazine, May 1980 ↩︎

  45. Nuclear Technoaesthetics: Sensory Politics from Trinity to the Virtual Bomb in Los Alamos
    Joseph Masco, American Ethnologist
    August 2004 ↩︎

  46. IBM and the HolocaustIBM and the Holocaust: How America’s most powerful corporation helped Nazi Germany count the Jews 1 January 1999

  47. The Closed WorldThe Closed World April 1996

  48. IBM instruction manual for the SAGE system
    IBM instruction manual for the SAGE system
    Charles Babbage Institute
    1959 ↩︎

  49. Accidental Nuclear War: A Timeline of Close Calls
    Future of Life Institute
    2 March 2022 ↩︎

  50. U.S.House of Representatives, Failures of the NORAD Attack Warning System Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Government Operations, United States House of Representatives, 97th Congress, First Session
    May 19-20, 1981 ↩︎

  51. The World Wide Command and Control System
    David E. Pearson, Air University Press
    June 2000 ↩︎

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    Mark Stefik, Communications of the ACM
    July 1985
    The Star Wars Strategic Defense Initiative was commissioned in 1983 by US President Ronald Regan, seeking to find technological solutions to “obsolete” nuclear warfare. It was dissolved in 1993 and replaced by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. The latter was dissolved in 2002 and replaced by the Missile Defense Agency. ↩︎

  55. Ballistics digitisation diagram for Operation Igloo White, detailing various sensory apparatus to theoretically aid targeted strikes against the Vietnamese.
    Ballistics digitisation diagram for Operation Igloo White, detailing various sensory apparatus to theoretically aid targeted strikes against the Vietnamese. ↩︎

  56. The Perfect WarThe Perfect War: Technowar in Vietnam October 1986

  57. Memo, McNamara to Johnson, “South Vietnam,” March 13, 1964, cited in Fred Kaplan, The Wizards of Armageddon. ↩︎

  58. The user of Operation Igloo White's technologies bear an eerie resemblance to the modern drone pilot.
    The user of Operation Igloo White's technologies bear an eerie resemblance to the modern drone pilot. ↩︎

  59. Network infrastructure for Operation Igloo White, detailing various sensory apparatus for targeted strikes. ↩︎

  60. 1961

  61. Making the MIRV A Study of Defense Decision-Making
    Robert F. Delaney, Naval War College Review
    Winter 1977 ↩︎

  62. Where cyberwar describes a command and control approach to information warfare, netwar is the guerilla equivalent. ↩︎

  63. Futurepublic: On Information Warfare, Bio-racism and Hegemony as Noopolitics
    Tiziana Terranova, Theory, Culture & Society
    1 May 2007 ↩︎

  64. To paraphrase Francis Fukuyama and his vulgar reinterpretation of Alexandre Kojève. ↩︎

  65. Tell me what you wantTell me what you want, what you really, really want 2010

  66. Managing modern complexity, in The Management of Information and Knowledge
    Stafford Beer, Futures
    September 1970 ↩︎

  67. The Human Uses of Human BeingsThe Human Uses of Human Beings 1988

  68. Foreword
    Lawrence K. Frank, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
    1 October 1948 ↩︎

  69. AntimatrixAntimatrix 30 April 2021

  70. The Closed WorldThe Closed World April 1996

  71. Whose shape can also be decentralised and distributed. It doesn’t affect the centralised nature of the control exerted. Peter W. Singer cites for instance the case of a four-star general micromanaging in real-time a drone operator in Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century. ↩︎

  72. 1 June 2006

  73. Computer simulation of personality: frontier of psychological theory
    Silvan S. Tomkins & Samuel Messick, Psychology
    1963 ↩︎

  74. The Turn to Affect: A Critique
    Ruth Leys, Critical Inquiry
    Spring 2011 ↩︎

  75. Ibid. ↩︎

  76. Which were provided by Gregory Bateson. See ibid. ↩︎

  77. A Theory of the DroneA Theory of the Drone January 2015

  78. Technocratic Optimism, H. T. Odum, and the Partial Transformation of Ecological Metaphor after World War II
    Peter J. Taylor, Journal of the History of Biology
    Summer 1988 ↩︎

  79. As Nigel Thrift put it, with an aspirational tone entranced by nuclear technoaesthetics, in From Born to Made. ↩︎

  80. Algorithmic governmentality and prospects of emancipation
    Antoinette Rouvroy & Thomas Berns, Réseaux
    January 2013 ↩︎

  81. System theory as an ideology
    Robert Lilienfeld, Social Research
    Winter 1975 ↩︎

  82. The Birth of BiopoliticsThe Birth of Biopolitics 2 March 2010

  83. Futurepublic: On Information Warfare, Bio-racism and Hegemony as Noopolitics
    Tiziana Terranova, Theory, Culture & Society
    1 May 2007 ↩︎

  84. Friedrich Hayek, quoted in Paul Lewis, Purposeful behaviour, Expectations, and the Mirage of Social Justice: The Influence of Cybernetics on the Thought of F. A. Hayek. As Paul Lewis recalls, one of Hayek’s earliest work, The Sensory Order, published in 1952, was a psychological treaty borrowing many concepts from cybernetics. ↩︎

  85. Which still relies on liberal concepts for many of its assumptions. Antoinette Rouvroy and Thomas Berns note this conceptual tension in Algorithmic Governmentality and Prospects of Emancipation, whereby “algorithmic governance further entrenches the liberal ideal of an apparent disappearance of the very project of governance” while eschewing or ‘avoiding confrontation’ with many liberal concepts. ↩︎

  86. US immigration agency operates vast surveillance dragnet, study finds
    Ed Pilkington, The Guardian
    10 May 2022 ↩︎

  87. Patches of classified US Department of Defence projects. “Oderint Dum Metuant” of the centre patch means “Let them hate, so long as they fear.” From Trevor Paglen, I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon’s Black World. ↩︎

  88. Spirit Breaking: Capitalism and Terror in Northwest China
    Adam Hunerven, Chuǎng
    2019 ↩︎

  89. A Theory of the DroneA Theory of the Drone January 2015

  90. On Suicide BombingOn Suicide Bombing 1 June 2007

  91. The Vulnerable World Hypothesis
    Nick Bostrom, Global Policy
    6 September 2019 ↩︎

  92. The Count of Monte CristoThe Count of Monte Cristo 28 August 1844

  93. The Mystery of MoneyThe Mystery of Money December 1943

  94. System theory as an ideology
    Robert Lilienfeld, Social Research
    Winter 1975 ↩︎

  95. Paper knowledgePaper knowledge, toward a history of documents March 2014

  96. Affect, People, and Digital Social Networks
    Adam Nash, Emotions, Technology, and Social Media
    2016 ↩︎

  97. This is Fine: Optimism & Emergency in the P2P Network 16 July 2020

  98. Interview: On Technodiversity: A Conversation with Yuk Hui
    Anders Dunker, Researh Network for Philosophy and Technology
    10 August 2020 ↩︎

  99. The Nuclear Sensorium: Cold War Nuclear Imperialism and Sensory Violence
    John Shiga, Canadian Journal of Law & Society
    10 October 2019 ↩︎

  100. The concept is borrowed from the book Héritage et Fermeture written by Emmanuel Bonnet, Diego Landivar and Alexandre Monnin. A book at times complex for the sake of it, it nonetheless provides interesting templates for the closing of the negative commons. ↩︎

  101. Logistic, Counterlogistics and the Communist Prospect
    Jasper Bernes, Endnotes
    2016 ↩︎

  102. The Para-Real: Finding the future in unexpected places Ongoing

  103. For instance, Partha Chatterjee, in The Nation and Its Fragments, traces back the dyad knowledge-power within the post-colonial Indian State with epistemological endeavours imagined outside of politics. The Indian State created subjects and objects of power whole cloth, and remained split between a desire for homogenisation and the fundamental heterogeneity of reality. Within this totalising seizure, State planning made use of information and signals, and these sets of representation came to replace reality. Chatterjee concludes on a reflection around the community, as the complex site of resistance to capitalism and its hegemony – complex because constituted by the beings who are part of this community as much as by the gaze of colonial epistemology, and doubly erased by the individualistic and universalist framing of liberalism. ↩︎