Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Disincarnation - a vague disease

Dear Gottalaff

You asked what I intended by the term, 'world-building'. I thought I may as well make my effort at definition publicly available. 


World-building is an adjunct to the concept of 'life-world' which I often use. But where the latter refers to to a static and naturalistic domain upon which the life-form depends, the former indicates the process of constructing what we could call interpellated subjectivities. Both concepts refer to non-designed domains in which relationships between life-forms are situated. The life-world and world-building overlap but the former refers to certain fixed and irreducible adaptations upon which the life-form is dependent and which define the external constraints upon its being. By contrast, world-building describes the transmission and inheritance of acquired characteristics (or learnt responses to changing circumstances). 

Strangely, this may be better described using animal examples rather than humans. The evolutionary 'arms race' between cabbages and caterpillars, or moths and bats belong to the register of the life-world. However, when crows learn to drop walnuts and oysters into the path of oncoming cars, or when blue tits learn to drink from milk bottles, or starlings imitate the sound of trimphones, or when foxes raid chicken coups, all of this describes learnt behaviour which is transmitted as a set of relations and which feeds back into consequent behaviour and alters it, then this is 'world-building'. 

Learnt behaviour is contingent upon random intrusions into the life-world which are then metabolised and adapted to but which at the same time can be left behind - a hermit crab will always use conveniently available gastropod shells but a particular external history has to have occurred beyond the confines of its life-world for it to adopt the fabled discarded tin can instead. 

A crow cannot transform the fundaments of its life-world, its crowness, it will always have an opportunist capacity, but it can easily forget or supersede specific learnt patterns. The campaign against blue tits drinking milk involved numerous covers and tops to milk bottles, but the behaviour was finally unlearnt when milk delivery was superseded by cheap supermarket milk. 

World-building is the solidification of experiences and habits into an external domain which then feeds into relations and alters subsequent behaviour. But as I emphasise, it is not to be confused with elective world-changing projects. There has never been a designed society built from tabula rasa and every effort at elective utopia is rapidly inundated by unintended consequences and unexpected significant forces which were not anticipated or factored into the original design. World-building is 'autonomic' because it solidifies around us without our intending it, it happens in the background of other activities like hardening of the arteries - it describes the accumulation of our experiences and habits in physical form which becomes our 'learnt environment'. 

One of the characteristics of learnt behaviours is that the tendency to short-cutting is written into them, they become compressed and adapted-to as they are integrated into the life-world. 'Intrusions', 'habits', 'compressions', 'unintended consequences', 'inundations', 'non-factored forces' are all synonyms for triggers and commands - what is compressed in learnt behaviours, and what short cuts across the built world as 'habits', are the lengthy and multiple command sequences contained within learnt adaptations and the familiarised objects to which they are attached. Thus, as Hegel says in the preface to the Phenomenology, hard won discoveries of previous ages become mere playthings for subsequent generations - by this he means, we once had to consciously overcome resistances and scruples to learning those procedures (train travel will cause our brains to turn to mush) which we now take in our stride. Today, the situation is reversed and we have to actively reintroduce resistance to our accelerating rate of reckless surrender to the hidden command pathways of automated affirmation (e.g. software terms and conditions of use) resulting in ideas of  're-wilding', 'no-screen days', 'slow food' and other artificial re-inhibitant measures. Our preference though, our natural inclination, is to follow the path of least resistance, and drift along with the death instinct/process towards our own disappearance.

History is the the compression and impaction of multiple changes where world-building seeps into life-world in the form of metabolised (i.e. intrinsic, unconscious and unrecognised) command sequences - i.e. where learnt behaviours introduce inalterable transformations to the conditions of those behaviours. Hence Nick Land's 'degenerative ratchet' (and the mantra: the way out is not the same as the way in).

My point in 'Pale Classroom' is that ordinarily, consciousness appears at the point where world-building enters crisis in order to inject new terms and overthrow the undesigned and unwanted accumulated muck of ages - it is the basic, and revolutionary potential, of psychoanalysis (bringing to consciousness hitherto unnamed and unconscious forces uncouples them from pathological behavioural traits). Unfortunately, we now live in a built world where the accumulation of historical changes has passed a threshold where consciousness has the capacity to introduce 'revolutionary' terms. Not even a very thorough and hyped version of psychoanalysis (say, schizoanalysis) can hope to unpick the lengthy command chains compressed into even the most basic of our procedures. The muck exceeds the shovel. 

Yours in doomism,

Ol' Misbegotten

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