Tuesday, March 11, 2014

this was tomorrow #24 ("chronosickness" and "Cosmism" text 'n' pix edition)

                                                      images from Cybersyn

"Cybersyn, a Chilean project cybernetic simulator developed between 1971–1973 (by Stafford Beer for Salvador Allende’s government) aimed at constructing a distributed decision support system to aid in the management of the national economy. The project consisted of four modules: an economic simulator, custom software to check factory performance, an operations room, and a national network of telex machines that were linked to one mainframe computer.

Alex Williams, "Escape Velocity", e-Flux issue on Accelerationism: " It is only a post-capitalist sociopolitical model which is likely to be capable of launching a robust cosmist imperative. The first two thirds of the twentieth century saw astounding leaps forward in technology and political and social consciousness, with the era immediately after the Second World War (running up to about 1979) the apogee of future-oriented thought in scientific and popular culture. But these futurological visions of the revolutionary intersection of techno-scientific development and social transformation, after the advent of neoliberalism, were quickly replaced by a yearning for kitsch retro-futurism. This is the story of modernism and early postmodernism collapsing into what might be termed a generalized chronosickness: a loss of the thread of techno-social Enlightenment. This is encapsulated especially in the loss of space as “final frontier.” Starting in the 1970s, the huge Soviet and American space programs collapsed under the strain of political pressure and budget cuts. The resumption of a serious and ongoing exploration of space is perhaps the ultimate expression of freedom imaginable to present minds, what the design theorist Benedict Singleton refers to as a maximum jailbreak...."

From the same issue, see also: 

Benedict Singleton's Maximum Jailbreak, on "Cosmism", via the late 19th Century Russian thinker Nikolai Fedorov, author of The Philosophy of the Common Task, whose subject was:

"the articulation of a plan for the entire human race, a project that can readily be sloganed as storm the heavens and conquer death....

"It seems obvious that we are confined in space to the surface of the earth, and in time to the length of a life. Fedorov’s imaginative achievement revolves around refusing to mistake the ubiquity of these constraints—for all the great hold they exert—as inescapable necessities we have no choice but to accept. Those who point to the huge expanse of the earth and the whole terrestrial history of life—this is nothing but myopia, squalid provincialism. In isolated form, this is the characteristic gesture of cosmism, what we might call the “cosmist impulse”: to consider the earth a trap, and to understand the common project of philosophy, economics, and design as being the formulation of means to escape from it: to conceive a jailbreak at the maximum possible scale, a heist in which we steal ourselves from the vault...."
"... Technologies must loosen the grip of gravity, not eradicating it per se but meaning we would no longer be forced to obey it without question, no longer subject to its necessity. Epic and unexpected, the creativity of Fedorov’s vision extended to its detail:
He speculated that someday, by erecting giant cones on the earth’s surface, people might be able to control the earth’s electromagnetic field in such a way as to turn the whole planet into a spaceship under human control. We would no longer have to slavishly orbit our sun but could freely steer our planet wherever we wished, as, in the phrase he used as early as the 1870s, “captain and crew of spaceship earth.”5
"This complex of ideas, which by the 1900s had been dubbed “cosmism,” was capable of inspiring peculiar devotion in the few who were exposed to it....

"The Common Task played a central role in the formation of cosmonautics. Chief among the devotees of Fedorov’s thought was his protégé, Konstantin Tsiolkovski, a frequent visitor to Fedorov’s library as a teenager, who was to go on to configure the mathematical basis for space travel, from a series of vital rocketry equations to the calculation of optimal ascent, descent, and orbital trajectories for spacecraft; and who put these to use in the design of the first multistage booster rockets, an extraordinary technological innovation that stood among many others in his work, including designs for airlocks and moon bases..."

Singleton examines the notion of the trap, and the cunning of the creature who can design a way to  escape it. Then ventures:

"As an event in this alternative history of design, cosmism arrives as a kind of absolutization of its basic principles into a project of generalized escapology.... 

"Fedorov’s cosmism is a project, ultimately, of freedom, commissioning an assault by practical reason on the things that bind us, irrespective of their historical ubiquity; the perception that a life subjected to 1g gravity is inevitable is among the casualties already listed. The conception of the world as a field of nested traps renders this vision of freedom quantitative, a series of practical achievements, proceeding by degree"

The distinction between escapism and escapology seems suggestive:

"...In order to be free of a trap, it’s of less use to the trapped to decide upon some holy condition of freedom than to understand how one is implicated in the mechanism of one’s entrapment. To engage in the former is mere escapism, as we’ve noted. The designation of this limit as sacrosanct is alien to the very logic of traps and of escaping them, to its abstract insurrectionary force"

"explode into space"

"it flies sideways through time"

"I've seen the future and I've left it behind"

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