• Simulacra & Simulation, by Jean Baudrillard

    Jan 28 2013, 21h32

    TABLE OF CONTENTS I. The Precession of Simulacra II. History: A Retro Scenario III. Holocaust IV. The China Syndrome V. Apocalypse Now VI. The Beaubourg Effect : Implosion and Deterrence VII. Hypermarked and Hypercommodity VIII. The Implosion of Meaning in the Media IX. Absolute Advertising, Ground-Zero Advertising X. Clone Story XI. Holograms XII. Crash XIII. Simulacra and Science Fiction XIV. The Animals: Territory and Metamorphoses XV. The Remainder XVI. The Spiraling Cadaver XVII. Value's Last Tango XVIII. On NihilismTHE PRECESSION OF SIMULACRA The simulacrum is never what hides the truth - it is truth that hides the fact that there is none. The simulacrum is true. -Ecclesiastes If once we were able to view the Borges fable in which the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up covering the territory exactly (the decline of the Empire witnesses the fraying of this map, little by little, and its fall into ruins, though some shreds are still discernible in the deserts - the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction testifying to a pride equal to the Empire and rotting like a carcass, returning to the substance of the soil, a bit as the double ends by being confused with the real through aging) - as the most beautiful allegory of simulation, this fable has now come full circle for us, and possesses nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra.*1 Today abstraction is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it. It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory - precession of simulacra - that engenders the territory, and if one must return to the fable, today it is the territory whose shreds slowly rot across the extent of the map. It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges persist here and there in the deserts that are no longer those of the Empire, but ours. The desert of the real itself. In fact, even inverted, Borges's fable is unusable. Only the allegory of the Empire, perhaps, remains. Because it is with this same imperialism that present-day simulators attempt to make the real, all of the real, coincide with their models of simulation. But it is no longer a question of either maps or territories. Something has disappeared: the sovereign difference, between one and the other, that constituted the charm of abstraction. Because it is difference that constitutes the poetry of the map and the charm of the territory, the magic of the concept and the charm of the real. This imaginary of representation, which simultaneously culminates in and is engulfed by the cartographers mad project of the ideal coextensivity of map and territory, disappears in the simulation whose operation is nuclear and genetic, no longer at all specular or discursive. It is all of metaphysics that is lost. No more mirror of being and appearances, of the real and its concept. No more imaginary coextensivity: it is genetic miniaturization that is the dimension of simulation. The real is produced from miniaturized cells, matrices, and memory banks, models of control - and it can be reproduced an indefinite number of times from these. It no longer needs to be rational, because it no longer measures itself against either an ideal or negative instance. It is no longer anything but operational. In fact, it is no longer really the real, because no imaginary envelops it anymore. It is a hyperreal, produced from a radiating synthesis of combinatory models in a hyperspace without atmosphere. By crossing into a space whose curvature is no longer that of the real, nor that of truth, the era of simulation is inaugurated by a liquidation of all referentials - worse: with their artificial resurrection in the systems of signs, a material more malleable than meaning, in that it lends itself to all systems of equivalences, to all binary oppositions, to all combinatory algebra. It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real, that is to say of an operation of deterring every real process via its operational double, a programmatic, metastable, perfectly descriptive machine that offers all the signs of the real and shortcircuits all its vicissitudes. Never again will the real have the chance to produce itself - such is the vital function of the model in a system of death, or rather of anticipated resurrection, that no longer even gives the event of death a chance. A hyperreal henceforth sheltered from the imaginary, and from any distinction between the real and the imaginary, leaving room only for the orbital recurrence of models and for the simulated generation of differences. THE DIVINE IRREFERENCE OF IMAGES To dissimulate is to pretend not to have what one has. To simulate is to feign to have what one doesn't have. One implies a presence, the other an absence. But it is more complicated than that because simulating is not pretending: "Whoever fakes an illness can simply stay in bed and make everyone believe he is ill. Whoever simulates an illness produces in himself some of the symptoms" (Littré). Therefore, pretending, or dissimulating, leaves the principle of reality intact: the difference is always clear, it is simply masked, whereas simulation threatens the difference between the "true" and the "false," the "real" and the "imaginary." Is the simulator sick or not, given that he produces "true" symptoms? Objectively one cannot treat him as being either ill or not ill. Psychology and medicine stop at this point, forestalled by the illness's henceforth undiscoverable truth. For if any symptom can be "produced," and can no longer be taken as a fact of nature, then every illness can be considered as simulatable and simulated, and medicine loses its meaning since it only knows how to treat "real" illnesses according to their objective causes. Psychosomatics evolves in a dubious manner at the borders of the principle of illness. As to psychoanalysis, it transfers the symptom of the organic order to the unconscious order: the latter is new and taken for "real" more real than the other - but why would simulation be at the gates of the unconscious? Why couldn't the "work" of the unconscious be "produced" in the same way as any old symptom of classical medicine? Dreams already are. Certainly, the psychiatrist purports that "for every form of mental alienation there is a particular order in the succession of symptoms of which the simulator is ignorant and in the absence of which the psychiatrist would not be deceived." This (which dates from 1865) in order to safeguard the principle of a truth at all costs and to escape the interrogation posed by simulation - the knowledge that truth, reference, objective cause have ceased to exist. Now, what can medicine do with what floats on either side of illness, on either side of health, with the duplication of illness in a discourse that is no longer either true or false? What can psychoanalysis do with the duplication of the discourse of the unconscious in the discourse of simulation that can never again be unmasked, since it is not false either?*2 What can the army do about simulators? Traditionally it unmasks them and punishes them, according to a clear principle of identification. Today it can discharge a very good simulator as exactly equivalent to a "real" homosexual, a heart patient, or a madman. Even military psychology draws back from Cartesian certainties and hesitates to make the distinction between true and false, between the "produced" and the authentic symptom. "If he is this good at acting crazy, it's because he is." Nor is military psychology mistaken in this regard: in this sense, all crazy people simulate, and this lack of distinction is the worst kind of subversion. It is against this lack of distinction that classical reason armed itself in all its categories. But it is what today again outflanks them, submerging the principle of truth. Beyond medicine and the army favored terrains of simulation, the question returns to religion and the simulacrum of divinity: "I forbade that there be any simulacra in the temples because the divinity that animates nature can never be represented." Indeed it can be. But what becomes of the divinity when it reveals itself in icons, when it is multiplied in simulacra? Does it remain the supreme power that is simply incarnated in images as a visible theology? Or does it volatilize itself in the simulacra that, alone, deploy their power and pomp of fascination - the visible machinery of icons substituted for the pure and intelligible Idea of God? This is precisely what was feared by Iconoclasts, whose millennial quarrel is still with us today.*3 This is precisely because they predicted this omnipotence of simulacra, the faculty simulacra have of effacing God from the conscience of man, and the destructive, annihilating truth that they allow to appear - that deep down God never existed, that only the simulacrum ever existed, even that God himself was never anything but his own simulacrum - from this came their urge to destroy the images. If they could have believed that these images only obfuscated or masked the Platonic Idea of God, there would have been no reason to destroy them. One can live with the idea of distorted truth. But their metaphysical despair came from the idea that the image didn't conceal anything at all, and that these images were in essence not images, such as an original model would have made them, but perfect simulacra, forever radiant with their own fascination. Thus this death of the divine referential must be exorcised at all costs. One can see that the iconoclasts, whom one accuses of disdaining and negating images, were those who accorded them their true value, in contrast to the iconolaters who only saw reflections in them and were content to venerate a filigree God. On the other hand, one can say that the icon worshipers were the most modern minds, the most adventurous, because, in the guise of having God become apparent in the mirror of images, they were already enacting his death and his disappearance in the epiphany of his representations (which, perhaps, they already knew no longer represented anything, that they were purely a game, but that it was therein the great game lay - knowing also that it is dangerous to unmask images, since they dissimulate the fact that there is nothing behind them). This was the approach of the Jesuits, who founded their politics on the virtual disappearance of God and on the worldly and spectacular manipulation of consciences - the evanescence of God in the epiphany of power - the end of transcendence, which now only serves as an alibi for a strategy altogether free of influences and signs. Behind the baroqueness of images hides the éminence grise of politics. This way the stake will always have been the murderous power of images, murderers of the real, murderers of their own model, as the Byzantine icons could be those of divine identity. To this murderous power is opposed that of representations as a dialectical power, the visible and intelligible mediation of the Real. All Western faith and good faith became engaged in this wager on representation: that a sign could refer to the depth of meaning, that a sign could be exchanged for meaning and that something could guarantee this exchange - God of course. But what if God himself can be simulated, that is to say can be reduced to the signs that constitute faith? Then the whole system becomes weightless, it is no longer itself anything but a gigantic simulacrum - not unreal, but a simulacrum, that is to say never exchanged for the real, but exchanged for itself, in an uninterrupted circuit without reference or circumference. Such is simulation, insofar as it is opposed to representation. Representation stems from the principle of the equivalence of the sign and of the real (even if this equivalence is Utopian, it is a fundamental axiom). Simulation, on the contrary, stems from the Utopia of the principle of equivalence, from the radical negation of the sign as value, from the sign as the reversion and death sentence of every reference. Whereas representation attempts to absorb simulation by interpreting it as a false representation, simulation envelops the whole edifice of representation itself as a simulacrum. Such would be the successive phases of the image: it is the reflection of a profound reality; it masks and denatures a profound reality; it masks the absence of a profound reality; it has no relation to any reality whatsoever; it is its own pure simulacrum. In the first case, the image is a good appearance - representation is of the sacramental order. In the second, it is an evil appearance - it is of the order of maleficence. In the third, it plays at being an appearance - it is of the order of sorcery. In the fourth, it is no longer of the order of appearances, but of simulation. The transition from signs that dissimulate something to signs that dissimulate that there is nothing marks a decisive turning point. The first reflects a theology of truth and secrecy (to which the notion of ideology still belongs). The second inaugurates the era of simulacra and of simulation, in which there is no longer a God to recognize his own, no longer a Last Judgment to separate the false from the true, the real from its artificial resurrection, as everything is already dead and resurrected in advance. When the real is no longer what it was, nostalgia assumes its full meaning. There is a plethora of myths of origin and of signs of reality - a plethora of truth, of secondary objectivity, and authenticity. Escalation of the true, of lived experience, resurrection of the figurative where the object and substance have disappeared. Panic-stricken production of the real and of the referential, parallel to and greater than the panic of material production: this is how simulation appears in the phase that concerns us - a strategy of the real, of the neoreal and the hyperreal that everywhere is the double of a strategy of deterrence.RAMSES, OR THE ROSY-COLORED RESURRECTION Ethnology brushed up against its paradoxical death in 1971, the day when the Philippine government decided to return the few dozen Tasaday who had just been discovered in the depths of the jungle, where they had lived for eight centuries without any contact with the rest of the species, to their primitive state, out of the reach of colonizers, tourists, and ethnologists. This at the suggestion of the anthropologists themselves, who were seeing the indigenous people disintegrate immediately upon contact, like mummies in the open air. In order for ethnology to live, its object must die; by dying, the object takes its revenge for being "discovered" and with its death defies the science that wants to grasp it. Doesn't all science live on this paradoxical slope to which it is doomed by the evanescence of its object in its very apprehension, and by the pitiless reversal that the dead object exerts on it? Like Orpheus, it always turns around too soon, and, like Eurydice, its object falls back into Hades. It is against this hell of the paradox that the ethnologists wished to protect themselves by cordoning off the Tasaday with virgin forest. No one can touch them anymore: as in a mine the vein is closed down. Science loses precious capital there, but the object will be safe, lost to science, but intact in its "virginity." It is not a question of sacrifice (science never sacrifices itself, it is always murderous), but of the simulated sacrifice of its object in order to save its reality principle. The Tasaday, frozen in their natural element, will provide a perfect alibi, an eternal guarantee. Here begins an antiethnology that will never end and to which Jaulin, Castaneda, Clastres are various witnesses. In any case, the logical evolution of a science is to distance itself increasingly from its object, until it dispenses with it entirely: its autonomy is only rendered even more fantastic - it attains its pure form. The Indian thus returned to the ghetto, in the glass coffin of the virgin forest, again becomes the model of simulation of all the possible Indians from before ethnology. This model thus grants itself the luxury to incarnate itself beyond itself in the "brute" reality of these Indians it has entirely reinvented - Savages who are indebted to ethnology for still being Savages: what a turn of events, what a triumph for this science that seemed dedicated to their destruction! Of course, these savages are posthumous: frozen, cryogenized, sterilized, protected to death, they have become referential simulacra, and science itself has become pure simulation. The same holds true at Cruesot, at the level of the "open" museum where one museumified in situ, as "historical" witnesses of their period, entire working-class neighborhoods, living metallurgic zones, an entire culture, men, women, and children included - gestures, languages, customs fossilized alive as in a snapshot. The museum, instead of being circumscribed as a geometric site, is everywhere now, like a dimension of life. Thus ethnology, rather than circumscribing itself as an objective science, will today, liberated from its object, be applied to all living things and make itself invisible, like an omnipresent fourth dimension, that of the simulacrum. We are all Tasadays, Indians who have again become what they were - simulacral Indians who at last proclaim the universal truth of ethnology. We have all become living specimens in the spectral light of ethnology, or of antiethnology, which is nothing but the pure form of triumphal ethnology, under the sign of dead differences, and of the resurrection of differences. It is thus very naive to look for ethnology in the Savages or in some Third World - it is here, everywhere, in the metropolises, in the White community, in a world completely cataloged and analyzed, then artificially resurrected under the auspices of the real, in a world of simulation, of the hallucination of truth, of the blackmail of the real, of the murder of every symbolic form and of its hysterical, historical retrospection - a murder of which the Savages, noblesse oblige, were the first victims, but that for a long time has extended to all Western societies. But in the same breath ethnology grants us its only and final lesson, the secret that kills it (and which the Savages knew better than it did): the vengeance of the dead. The confinement of the scientific object is equal to the confinement of the mad and the dead. And just as all of society is irremediably contaminated by this mirror of madness that it has held up to itself, science can't help but die contaminated by the death of this object that is its inverse mirror. It is science that masters the objects, but it is the objects that invest it with depth, according to an unconscious reversion, which only gives a dead and circular response to a dead and circular interrogation. Nothing changes when society breaks the mirror of madness (abolishes the asylums, gives speech back to the insane, etc.) nor when science seems to break the mirror of its objectivity (effacing itself before its object, as in Castaneda, etc.) and to bend down before the "differences." The form produced by confinement is followed by an innumerable, diffracted, slowed-down mechanism. As ethnology collapses in its classical institution, it survives in an antiethnology whose task it is to reinject the difference fiction, the Savage fiction everywhere, to conceal that it is this world, ours, which has again become savage in its way, that is to say, which is devastated by difference and by death. In the same way, with the pretext of saving the original, one forbade visitors to enter the Lascaux caves, but an exact replica was constructed five hundred meters from it, so that everyone could see them (one glances through a peephole at the authentic cave, and then one visits the reconstituted whole). It is possible that the memory of the original grottoes is itself stamped in the minds of future generations, but from now on there is no longer any difference: the duplication suffices to render both artificial. In the same way science and technology were recently mobilized to save the mummy of Ramses II, after it was left to rot for several dozen years in the depths of a museum. The West is seized with panic at the thought of not being able to save what the symbolic order had been able to conserve for forty centuries, but out of sight and far from the light of day. Ramses does not signify anything for us, only the mummy is of an inestimable worth because it is what guarantees that accumulation has meaning. Our entire linear and accumulative culture collapses if we cannot stockpile the past in plain view. To this end the pharaohs must be brought out of their tomb and the mummies out of their silence. To this end they must be exhumed and given military honors. They are prey to both science and worms. Only absolute secrecy assured them this millennial power - the mastery over putrefaction that signified the mastery of the complete cycle of exchanges with death. We only know how to place our science in service of repairing the mummy, that is to say restoring a visible order, whereas embalming was a mythical effort that strove to immortalize a hidden dimension. We require a visible past, a visible continuum, a visible myth of origin, which reassures us about our end. Because finally we have never believed in them. Whence this historic scene of the reception of the mummy at the Orly airport. Why? Because Ramses was a great despotic and military figure? Certainly. But mostly because our culture dreams, behind this defunct power that it tries to annex, of an order that would have had nothing to do with it, and it dreams of it because it exterminated it by exhuming it as its own past. We are fascinated by Ramses as Renaissance Christians were by the American Indians, those (human?) beings who had never known the word of Christ. Thus, at the beginning of colonization, there was a moment of stupor and bewilderment before the very possibility of escaping the universal law of the Gospel. There were two possible responses: either admit that this Law was not universal, or exterminate the Indians to efface the evidence. In general, one contented oneself with converting them, or even simply discovering them, which would suffice to slowly exterminate them. Thus it would have been enough to exhume Ramses to ensure his extermination by museumification. Because mummies don't rot from worms: they die from being transplanted from a slow order of the symbolic, master over putrefaction and death, to an order of history, science, and museums, our order, which no longer masters anything, which only knows how to condemn what preceded it to decay and death and subsequently to try to revive it with science. Irreparable violence toward all secrets, the violence of a civilization without secrets, hatred of a whole civilization for its own foundation. And just as with ethnology, which plays at extricating itself from its object to better secure itself in its pure form, demuseumification is nothing but another spiral in artificiality. Witness the cloister of Saint-Michel de Cuxa, which one will repatriate at great cost from the Cloisters in New York to reinstall it in "its original site." And everyone is supposed to applaud this restitution (as they did "the experimental campaign to take back the sidewalks" on the Champs Elysees!). Well, if the exportation of the cornices was in effect an arbitrary act, if the Cloisters in New York are an artificial mosaic of all cultures (following a logic of the capitalist centralization of value), their reimportation to the original site is even more artificial: it is a total simulacrum that links up with "reality" through a complete circumvolution. The cloister should have stayed in New York in its simulated environment, which at least fooled no one. Repatriating it is nothing but a supplementary subterfuge, acting as if nothing had happened and indulging in retrospective hallucination. In the same way, Americans flatter themselves for having brought the population of Indians back to pre-Conquest levels. One effaces everything and starts over. They even flatter themselves for doing better, for exceeding the original number. This is presented as proof of the superiority of civilization: it will produce more Indians than they themselves were able to do. (With sinister derision, this overproduction is again a means of destroying them: for Indian culture, like all tribal culture, rests on the limitation of the group and the refusal of any "unlimited" increase, as can be seen in Ishi's case. In this way, their demographic "promotion" is just another step toward symbolic extermination.) Everywhere we live in a universe strangely similar to the original - things are doubled by their own scenario. But this doubling does not signify, as it did traditionally, the imminence of their death - they are already purged of their death, and better than when they were alive; more cheerful, more authentic, in the light of their model, like the faces in funeral homes. THE HYPERREAL AND THE IMAGINARY Disneyland is a perfect model of all the entangled orders of simulacra. It is first of all a play of illusions and phantasms: the Pirates, the Frontier, the Future World, etc. This imaginary world is supposed to ensure the success of the operation. But what attracts the crowds the most is without a doubt the social microcosm, the religious, miniaturized pleasure of real America, of its constraints and joys. One parks outside and stands in line inside, one is altogether abandoned at the exit. The only phantasmagoria in this imaginary world lies in the tenderness and warmth of the crowd, and in the sufficient and excessive number of gadgets necessary to create the multitudinous effect. The contrast with the absolute solitude of the parking lot - a veritable concentration camp - is total. Or, rather: inside, a whole panoply of gadgets magnetizes the crowd in directed flows - outside, solitude is directed at a single gadget: the automobile. By an extraordinary coincidence (but this derives without a doubt from the enchantment inherent to this universe), this frozen, childlike world is found to have been conceived and realized by a man who is himself now cryogenized: Walt Disney, who awaits his resurrection through an increase of 180 degrees centigrade. Thus, everywhere in Disneyland the objective profile of America, down to the morphology of individuals and of the crowd, is drawn. All its values are exalted by the miniature and the comic strip. Embalmed and pacified. Whence the possibility of an ideological analysis of Disneyland (L. Marin did it very well in Utopiques, jeux d'espace [Utopias, play of space]): digest of the American way of life, panegyric of American values, idealized transposition of a contradictory reality. Certainly. But this masks something else and this "ideological" blanket functions as a cover for a simulation of the third order: Disneyland exists in order to hide that it is the "real" country, all of "real" America that is Disneyland (a bit like prisons are there to hide that it is the social in its entirety, in its banal omnipresence, that is carceral). Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, whereas all of Los Angeles and the America that surrounds it are no longer real, but belong to the hyperreal order and to the order of simulation. It is no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology) but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real, and thus of saving the reality principle. The imaginary of Disneyland is neither true nor false, it is a deterrence machine set up in order to rejuvenate the fiction of the real in the opposite camp. Whence the debility of this imaginary, its infantile degeneration. This world wants to be childish in order to make us believe that the adults are elsewhere, in the "real" world, and to conceal the fact that true childishness is everywhere - that it is that of the adults themselves who come here to act the child in order to foster illusions as to their real childishness. Disneyland is not the only one, however. Enchanted Village, Magic Mountain, Marine World: Los Angeles is surrounded by these imaginary stations that feed reality, the energy of the real to a city whose mystery is precisely that of no longer being anything but a network of incessant, unreal circulation - a city of incredible proportions but without space, without dimension. As much as electrical and atomic power stations, as much as cinema studios, this city, which is no longer anything but an immense scenario and a perpetual pan shot, needs this old imaginary like a sympathetic nervous system made up of childhood signals and faked phantasms. Disneyland: a space of the regeneration of the imaginary as waste-treatment plants are elsewhere, and even here. Everywhere today one must recycle waste, and the dreams, the phantasms, the historical, fairylike, legendary imaginary of children and adults is a waste product, the first great toxic excrement of a hyperreal civilization. On a mental level, Disneyland is the prototype of this new function. But all the sexual, psychic, somatic recycling institutes, which proliferate in California, belong to the same order. People no longer look at each other, but there are institutes for that. They no longer touch each other, but there is contactotherapy. They no longer walk, but they go jogging, etc. Everywhere one recycles lost faculties, or lost bodies, or lost sociality, or the lost taste for food. One reinvents penury, asceticism, vanished savage naturalness: natural food, health food, yoga. Marshall Sahlins's idea that it is the economy of the market, and not of nature at all, that secretes penury, is verified, but at a secondary level: here, in the sophisticated confines of a triumphal market economy is reinvented a penury/sign, a penury/simulacrum, a simulated behavior of the underdeveloped (including the adoption of Marxist tenets) that, in the guise of ecology, of energy crises and the critique of capital, adds a final esoteric aureole to the triumph of an esoteric culture. Nevertheless, maybe a mental catastrophe, a mental implosion and involution without precedent lies in wait for a system of this kind, whose visible signs would be those of this strange obesity, or the incredible coexistence of the most bizarre theories and practices, which correspond to the improbable coalition of luxury, heaven, and money, to the improbable luxurious materialization of life and to undiscoverable contradictions. POLITICAL INCANTATION Watergate. The same scenario as in Disneyland (effect of the imaginary concealing that reality no more exists outside than inside the limits of the artificial perimeter): here the scandal effect hiding that there is no difference between the facts and their denunciation (identical methods on the part of the CIA and of the Washington Post journalists). Same operation, tending to regenerate through scandal a moral and political principle, through the imaginary, a sinking reality principle. The denunciation of scandal is always an homage to the law. And Watergate in particular succeeded in imposing the idea that Watergate was a scandal - in this sense it was a prodigious operation of intoxication. A large dose of political morality reinjected on a world scale. One could say along with Bourdieu: "The essence of every relation of force is to dissimulate itself as such and to acquire all its force only because it dissimulates itself as such," understood as follows: capital, immoral and without scruples, can only function behind a moral superstructure, and whoever revives this public morality (through indignation, denunciation, etc.) works spontaneously for the order of capital. This is what the journalists of the Washington Post did. But this would be nothing but the formula of ideology, and when Bourdieu states it, he takes the "relation of force" for the truth of capitalist domination, and he himself denounces this relation of force as scandal - he is thus in the same deterministic and moralistic position as the Washington Post journalists are. He does the same work of purging and reviving moral order, an order of truth in which the veritable symbolic violence of the social order is engendered, well beyond all the relations of force, which are only its shifting and indifferent configuration in the moral and political consciences of men. All that capital asks of us is to receive it as rational or to combat it in the name of rationality, to receive it as moral or to combat it in the name of morality. Because these are the same, which can be thought of in another way: formerly one worked to dissimulate scandal - today one works to conceal that there is none. Watergate is not a scandal, this is what must be said at all costs, because it is what everyone is busy concealing, this dissimulation masking a strengthening of morality, of a moral panic as one approaches the primitive (mise en) scène of capital: its instantaneous cruelty, its incomprehensible ferocity, its fundamental immorality - that is what is scandalous, unacceptable to the system of moral and economic equivalence that is the axiom of leftist thought, from the theories of the Enlightenment up to Communism. One imputes this thinking to the contract of capital, but it doesn't give a damn - it is a monstrous unprincipled enterprise, nothing more. It is "enlightened" thought that seeks to control it by imposing rules on it. And all the recrimination that replaces revolutionary thought today comes back to incriminate capital for not following the rules of the game. "Power is unjust, its justice is a class justice, capital exploits us, etc." - as if capital were linked by a contract to the society it rules. It is the Left that holds out the mirror of equivalence to capital hoping that it will comply, comply with this phantasmagoria of the social contract and fulfill its obligations to the whole of society (by the same token, no need for revolution: it suffices that capital accommodate itself to the rational formula of exchange). Capital, in fact, was never linked by a contract to the society that it dominates. It is a sorcery of social relations, it is a challenge to society, and it must be responded to as such. It is not a scandal to be denounced according to moral or economic rationality, but a challenge to take up according to symbolic law. MÖBIUS - SPIRALING NEGATIVETY Watergate was thus nothing but a lure held out by the system to catch its adversaries - a simulation of scandal for regenerative ends. In the film, this is embodied by the character of "Deep Throat," who was said to be the eminence grise of the Republicans, manipulating the left-wing journalists in order to get rid of Nixon - and why not? All hypotheses are possible, but this one is superfluous: the Left itself does a perfectly good job, and spontaneously, of doing the work of the Right. Besides, it would be naive to see an embittered good conscience at work here. Because manipulation is a wavering causality in which positivity and negativity are engendered and overlap, in which there is no longer either an active or a passive. It is through the arbitrary cessation of this spiraling causality that a principle of political reality can be saved. It is through the simulation of a narrow, conventional field of perspective in which the premises and the consequences of an act or of an event can be calculated, that a political credibility can be maintained (and of course "objective" analysis, the struggle, etc.). If one envisions the entire cycle of any act or event in a system where linear continuity and dialectical polarity no longer exist, in a field unhinged by simulation, all determination evaporates, every act is terminated at the end of the cycle having benefited everyone and having been scattered in all directions. Is any given bombing in Italy the work of leftist extremists, or extreme-right provocation, or a centrist mise-en-scène to discredit all extreme terrorists and to shore up its own failing power, or again, is it a police-inspired scenario and a form of blackmail to public security? All of this is simultaneously true, and the search for proof, indeed the objectivity of the facts does not put an end to this vertigo of interpretation. That is, we are in a logic of simulation, which no longer has anything to do with a logic of facts and an order of reason. Simulation is characterized by a precession of the model, of all the models based on the merest fact - the models come first, their circulation, orbital like that of the bomb, constitutes the genuine magnetic field of the event. The facts no longer have a specific trajectory, they are born at the intersection of models, a single fact can be engendered by all the models at once. This anticipation, this precession, this short circuit, this confusion of the fact with its model (no more divergence of meaning, no more dialectical polarity, no more negative electricity, implosion of antagonistic poles), is what allows each time for all possible interpretations, even the most contradictory - all true, in the sense that their truth is to be exchanged, in the image of the models from which they derive, in a generalized cycle. The Communists attack the Socialist Party as if they wished to shatter the union of the Left. They give credence to the idea that these resistances would come from a more radical political need. In fact, it is because they no longer want power. But do they not want power at this juncture, one unfavorable to the Left in general, or unfavorable to them within the Union of the Left - or do they no longer want it, by definition? When Berlinguer declares: "There is no need to be afraid to see the Communists take power in Italy," it simultaneously signifies: -: that there is no need to be afraid, since the Communists, if they come to power, will change nothing of its fundamental capitalist mechanism; -: that there is no risk that they will ever come to power (because they don't want to) - and even if they occupy the seat of power, they will never exercise it except by proxy; -: that in fact, power, genuine power no longer exists, and thus there is no risk whoever seizes power or seizes it again; -: but further: I, Berlinguer, am not afraid to see the Communists take power in Italy - which may seem self-evident, but not as much as you might think, because-: it could mean the opposite (no need for psychoanalysis here): I am afraid to see the Communists take power (and there are good reasons for that, even for a Communist). All of this is simultaneously true. It is the secret of a discourse that is no longer simply ambiguous, as political discourses can be, but that conveys the impossibility of a determined position of power, the impossibility of a determined discursive position. And this logic is neither that of one party nor of another. It traverses all discourses without them wanting it to. Who will unravel this imbroglio? The Gordian knot can at least be cut. The Möbius strip, if one divides it, results in a supplementary spiral without the reversibility of surfaces being resolved (here the reversible continuity of hypotheses). Hell of simulation, which is no longer one of torture, but of the subtle, maleficent, elusive twisting of meaning*4 - where even the condemned at Burgos are still a gift from Franco to Western democracy, which seizes the occasion to regenerate its own flagging humanism and whose indignant protest in turn consolidates Franco's regime by uniting the Spanish masses against this foreign intervention? Where is the truth of all that, when such collusions admirably knot themselves together without the knowledge of their authors? Conjunction of the system and of its extreme alternative like the two sides of a curved mirror, a "vicious" curvature of a political space that is henceforth magnetized, circularized, reversibilized from the right to the left, a torsion that is like that of the evil spirit of commutation, the whole system, the infinity of capital folded back on its own surface: transfinite? And is it not the same for desire and the libidinal space? Conjunction of desire and value, of desire and capital. Conjunction of desire and the law, the final pleasure as the metamorphosis of the law (which is why it is so widely the order of the day): only capital takes pleasure, said Lyotard, before thinking that we now take pleasure in capital. Overwhelming versatility of desire in Deleuze, an enigmatic reversal that brings desire "revolutionary in itself, and as if involuntarily, wanting what it wants," to desire its own repression and to invest in paranoid and fascist systems? A malign torsion that returns this revolution of desire to the same fundamental ambiguity as the other, the historical revolution. All the referentials combine their discourses in a circular, Möbian compulsion. Not so long ago, sex and work were fiercely opposed terms; today both are dissolved in the same type of demand. Formerly the discourse on history derived its power from violently opposing itself to that of nature, the discourse of desire to that of power - today they exchange their signifiers and their scenarios. It would take too long to traverse the entire range of the operational negativity of all those scenarios of deterrence, which, like Watergate, try to regenerate a moribund principle through simulated scandal, phantasm, and murder - a sort of hormonal treatment through negativity and crisis. It is always a question of proving the real through the imaginary, proving truth through scandal, proving the law through transgression, proving work through striking, proving the system through crisis, and capital through revolution, as it is elsewhere (the Tasaday) of proving ethnology through the dispossession of its object - without taking into account:the proof of theater through antitheater; the proof of art through antiart; the proof of pedagogy through antipedagogy; the proof of psychiatry through antipsychiatry, etc. Everything is metamorphosed into its opposite to perpetuate itself in its expurgated form. All the powers, all the institutions speak of themselves through denial, in order to attempt, by simulating death, to escape their real death throes. Power can stage its own murder to rediscover a glimmer of existence and legitimacy. Such was the case with some American presidents: the Kennedys were murdered because they still had a political dimension. The others, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, only had the right to phantom attempts, to simulated murders. But this aura of an artificial menace was still necessary to conceal that they were no longer anything but the mannequins of power. Formerly, the king (also the god) had to die, therein lay his power. Today, he is miserably forced to feign death, in order to preserve the blessing of power. But it is lost. To seek new blood in its own death, to renew the cycle through the mirror of crisis, negativity, and antipower: this is the only solution - alibi of every power, of every institution attempting to break the vicious circle of its irresponsibility and of its fundamental nonexistence, of its already seen and of its already dead. THE STRATEGY OF THE REAL The impossibility of rediscovering an absolute level of the real is of the same order as the impossibility of staging illusion. Illusion is no longer possible, because the real is no longer possible. It is the whole political problem of parody, of hypersimulation or offensive simulation, that is posed here. For example: it would be interesting to see whether the repressive apparatus would not react more violently to a simulated holdup than to a real holdup. Because the latter does nothing but disturb the order of things, the right to property, whereas the former attacks the reality principle itself. Transgression and violence are less serious because they only contest the distribution of the real. Simulation is infinitely more dangerous because it always leaves open to supposition that, above and beyond its object, law and order themselves might be nothing but simulation. But the difficulty is proportional to the danger. How to feign a violation and put it to the test? Simulate a robbery in a large store: how to persuade security that it is a simulated robbery? There is no "objective" difference: the gestures, the signs are the same as for a real robbery, the signs do not lean to one side or another. To the established order they are always of the order of the real. Organize a fake holdup. Verify that your weapons are harmless, and take the most trustworthy hostage, so that no human life will be in danger (or one lapses into the criminal). Demand a ransom, and make it so that the operation creates as much commotion as possible - in short, remain close to the "truth," in order to test the reaction of the apparatus to a perfect simulacrum. You won't be able to do it: the network of artificial signs will become inextricably mixed up with real elements (a policeman will really fire on sight; a client of the bank will faint and die of a heart attack; one will actually pay you the phony ransom), in short, you will immediately find yourself once again, without wishing it, in the real, one of whose functions is precisely to devour any attempt at simulation, to reduce everything to the real - that is, to the established order itself, well before institutions and justice come into play. It is necessary to see in this impossibility of isolating the process of simulation the weight of an order that cannot see and conceive of anything but the real, because it cannot function anywhere else. The simulation of an offense, if it is established as such, will either be punished less severely (because it has no "consequences") or punished as an offense against the judicial system (for example if one sets in motion a police operation "for nothing") - but never as simulation since it is precisely as such that no equivalence with the real is possible, and hence no repression either. The challenge of simulation is never admitted by power. How can the simulation of virtue be punished? However, as such it is as serious as the simulation of crime. Parody renders submission and transgression equivalent, and that is the most serious crime, because it cancels out the difference upon which the law is based. The established order can do nothing against it, because the law is a simulacrum of the second order, whereas simulation is of the third order, beyond true and false, beyond equivalences, beyond rational distinctions upon which the whole of the social and power depend. Thus, lacking the real, it is there that we must aim at order. This is certainly why order always opts for the real. When in doubt, it always prefers this hypothesis (as in the army one prefers to take the simulator for a real madman). But this becomes more and more difficult, because if it is practically impossible to isolate the process of simulation, through the force of inertia of the real that surrounds us, the opposite is also true (and this reversibility itself is part of the apparatus of simulation and the impotence of power): namely, it is now impossible to isolate the process of the real, or to prove the real. This is how all the holdups, airplane hijackings, etc. are now in some sense simulation holdups in that they are already inscribed in the decoding and orchestration rituals of the media, anticipated in their presentation and their possible consequences. In short, where they function as a group of signs dedicated exclusively to their recurrence as signs, and no longer at all to their "real" end. But this does not make them harmless. On the contrary, it is as hyperreal events, no longer with a specific content or end, but indefinitely refracted by each other (just like so-called historical events: strikes, demonstrations, crises, etc.),*5 it is in this sense that they cannot be controlled by an order that can only exert itself on the real and the rational, on causes and ends, a referential order that can only reign over the referential, a determined power that can only reign over a determined world, but that cannot do anything against this indefinite recurrence of simulation, against this nebula whose weight no longer obeys the laws of gravitation of the real, power itself ends by being dismantled in this space and becoming a simulation of power (disconnected from its ends and its objectives, and dedicated to the effects of power and mass simulation). The only weapon of power, its only strategy against this defection, is to reinject the real and the referential everywhere, to persuade us of the reality of the social, of the gravity of the economy and the finalities of production. To this end it prefers the discourse of crisis, but also, why not? that of desire. "Take your desires for reality!" can be understood as the ultimate slogan of power since in a nonreferential world, even the confusion of the reality principle and the principle of desire is less dangerous than contagious hyperreality. One remains among principles, and among those power is always in the right. Hyperreality and simulation are deterrents of every principle and every objective, they turn against power the deterrent that it used so well for such a long time. Because in the end, throughout its history it was capital that first fed on the destructuration of every referential, of every human objective, that shattered every ideal distinction between true and false, good and evil, in order to establish a radical law of equivalence and exchange, the iron law of its power. Capital was the first to play at deterrence, abstraction, disconnection, deterritorialization, etc., and if it is the one that fostered reality, the reality principle, it was also the first to liquidate it by exterminating all use value, all real equivalence of production and wealth, in the very sense we have of the unreality of the stakes and the omnipotence of manipulation. Well, today it is this same logic that is even more set against capital. And as soon as it wishes to combat this disastrous spiral by secreting a last glimmer of reality, on which to establish a last glimmer of power, it does nothing but multiply the signs and accelerate the play of simulation. As long as the historical threat came at it from the real, power played at deterrence and simulation, disintegrating all the contradictions by dint of producing equivalent signs. Today when the danger comes at it from simulation (that of being dissolved in the play of signs), power plays at the real, plays at crisis, plays at remanufacturing artificial, social, economic, and political stakes. For power, it is a question of life and death. But it is too late. Whence the characteristic hysteria of our times: that of the production and reproduction of the real. The other production, that of values and commodities, that of the belle epoque of political economy, has for a long time had no specific meaning. What every society looks for in continuing to produce, and to overproduce, is to restore the real that escapes it. That is why today this "material" production is that of the hyperreal itself. It retains all the features, the whole discourse of traditional production, but it is no longer anything but its scaled-down refraction (thus hyper-realists fix a real from which all meaning and charm, all depth and energy of representation have vanished in a hallucinatory resemblance). Thus everywhere the hyperrealism of simulation is translated by the hallucinatory resemblance of the real to itself. Power itself has for a long time produced nothing but the signs of its resemblance. And at the same time, another figure of power comes into play: that of a collective demand for signs of power - a holy union that is reconstructed around its disappearance. The whole world adheres to it more or less in terror of the collapse of the political. And in the end the game of power becomes nothing but the critical obsession with power - obsession with its death, obsession with its survival, which increases as it disappears. When it has totally disappeared, we will logically be under the total hallucination of power - a haunting memory that is already in evidence everywhere, expressing at once the compulsion to get rid of it (no one wants it anymore, everyone unloads it on everyone else) and the panicked nostalgia over its loss. The melancholy of societies without power: this has already stirred up fascism, that overdose of a strong referential in a society that cannot terminate its mourning. With the extenuation of the political sphere, the president comes increasingly to resemble that Puppet of Power who is the head of primitive societies (Clastres). All previous presidents pay for and continue to pay for Kennedy's murder as if they were the ones who had suppressed it - which is true phantasmatically, if not in fact. They must efface this defect and this complicity with their simulated murder. Because, now it can only be simulated. Presidents Johnson and Ford were both the object of failed assassination attempts which, they were not staged, were at least perpetrated by simulation. The Kennedys died because they incarnated something: the political, political substance, whereas the new presidents are nothing but caricatures and fake film - curiously, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, all have this simian mug, the monkeys of power. Death is never an absolute criterion, but in this case it is significant: the era of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, and the Kennedys, of those who really died simply because they had a mythic dimension that implies death (not for romantic reasons, but because of the fundamental principle of reversal and exchange) - this era is long gone. It is now the era of murder by simulation, of the generalized aesthetic of simulation, of the murder-alibi - the allegorical resurrection of death, which is only there to sanction the institution of power, without which it no longer has any substance or an autonomous reality. These staged presidential assassinations are revealing because they signal the status of all negativity in the West: political opposition, the "Left," critical discourse, etc. - a simulacral contrast through which power attempts to break the vicious circle of its nonexistence, of its fundamental irresponsibility, of its "suspension." Power floats like money, like language, like theory. Criticism and negativity alone still secrete a phantom of the reality of power. If they become weak for one reason or another, power has no other recourse but to artificially revive and hallucinate them. It is in this way that the Spanish executions still serve as a stimulant to Western liberal democracy, to a dying system of democratic values. Fresh blood, but for how much longer? The deterioration of all power is irresistibly pursued: it is not so much the "revolutionary forces" that accelerate this process (often it is quite the opposite), it is the system itself that deploys against its own structures this violence that annuls all substance and all finality. One must not resist this process by trying to confront the system and destroy it, because this system that is dying from being dispossessed of its death expects nothing but that from us: that we give the system back its death, that we revive it through the negative. End of revolutionary praxis, end of the dialectic. Curiously, Nixon, who was not even found worthy of dying at the hands of the most insignificant, chance, unbalanced person (and though it is perhaps true that presidents are assassinated by unbalanced types, this changes nothing: the leftist penchant for detecting a rightist conspiracy beneath this brings out a false problem - the function of bringing death to, or the prophecy, etc., against power has always been fulfilled, from primitive societies to the present, by demented people, crazy people, or neurotics, who nonetheless carry out a social function as fundamental as that of presidents), was nevertheless ritually put to death by Watergate. Watergate is still a mechanism for the ritual murder of power (the American institution of the presidency is much more thrilling in this regard than the European: it surrounds itself with all the violence and vicissitudes of primitive powers, of savage rituals). But already impeachment is no longer assassination: it happens via the Constitution. Nixon has nevertheless arrived at the goal of which all power dreams: to be taken seriously enough, to constitute a mortal enough danger to the group to be one day relieved of his duties, denounced, and liquidated. Ford doesn't even have this opportunity anymore: a simulacrum of an already dead power, he can only accumulate against himself the signs of reversion through murder - in fact, he is immunized by his impotence, which infuriates him. In contrast to the primitive rite, which foresees the official and sacrificial death of the king (the king or the chief is nothing without the promise of his sacrifice), the modern political imaginary goes increasingly in the direction of delaying, of concealing for as long as possible, the death of the head of state. This obsession has accumulated since the era of revolutions and of charismatic leaders: Hitler, Franco, Mao, having no "legitimate" heirs, no filiation of power, see themselves forced to perpetuate themselves indefinitely - popular myth never wishes to believe them dead. The pharaohs already did this: it was always one and the same person who incarnated the successive pharaohs. Everything happens as if Mao or Franco had already died several times and had been replaced by his double. From a political point of view, that a head of state remains the same or is someone else doesn't strictly change anything, so long as they resemble each other. For a long time now a head of state - no matter which one - is nothing but the simulacrum of himself, and only that gives him the power and the quality to govern. No one would grant the least consent, the least devotion to a real person. It is to his double, he being always already dead, to which allegiance is given. This myth does nothing but translate the persistence, and at the same time the deception, of the necessity of the king's sacrificial death. We are still in the same boat: no society knows how to mourn the real, power, the social itself, which is implicated in the same loss. And it is through an artificial revitalization of all this that we try to escape this fact. This situation will no doubt end up giving rise to socialism. Through an unforeseen turn of events and via an irony that is no longer that of history, it is from the death of the social that socialism will emerge, as it is from the death of God that religions emerge. A twisted advent, a perverse event, an unintelligible reversion to the logic of reason. As is the fact that power is in essence no longer present except to conceal that there is no more power. A simulation that can last indefinitely, because, as distinct from "true" power - which is, or was, a structure, a strategy, a relation of force, a stake - it is nothing but the object of a social demand, and thus as the object of the law of supply and demand, it is no longer subject to violence and death. Completely purged of a political dimension, it, like any other commodity, is dependent on mass production and consumption. Its spark has disappeared, only the fiction of a political universe remains. The same holds true for work. The spark of production, the violence of its stakes no longer exist. The whole world still produces, and increasingly, but subtly work has become something else: a need (as Marx ideally envisioned it but not in the same sense), the object of a social "demand," like leisure, to which it is equivalent in the course of everyday life. A demand exactly proportional to the loss of a stake in the work process.*6 Same change in fortune as for power: the scenario of work is there to conceal that the real of work, the real of production, has disappeared. And the real of the strike as well, which is no longer a work stoppage, but its alternate pole in the ritual scansion of the social calendar. Everything occurs as if each person had, after declaring a strike, "occupied" his place and work station and recommenced production, as is the norm in a "self-managed" occupation, exactly in the same terms as before, all while declaring himself (and in virtually being) permanently on strike. This is not a dream out of science fiction: everywhere it is a question of doubling the process of work. And of a doubling of the process of going on strike - striking incorporated just as obsolescence is in objects, just as crisis is in production. So, there is no longer striking, nor work, but both simultaneously, that is to say something else: a magic of work, a trompel'oeil, a scenodrama (so as not to say a melodrama) of production, a collective dramaturgy on the empty stage of the social. It is no longer a question of the ideology of work - the traditional ethic that would obscure the "real" process of work and the "objective" process of exploitation - but of the scenario of work. In the same way, it is no longer a question of the ideology of power, but of the scenario of power. Ideology only corresponds to a corruption of reality through signs; simulation corresponds to a short circuit of reality and to its duplication through signs. It is always the goal of the ideological analysis to restore the objective process, it is always a false problem to wish to restore the truth beneath the simulacrum. This is why in the end power is so much in tune with ideological discourses and discourses on ideology, that is they are discourses of truth - always good for countering the mortal blows of simulation, even and especially if they are revolutionary. THE END OF THE PANOPTICON It is still to this ideology of lived experience - exhumation of the real in its fundamental banality, in its radical authenticity - that the American TV verite experiment attempted on the Loud family in 1971 refers: seven months of uninterrupted shooting, three hundred hours of nonstop broadcasting, without a script or a screenplay, the odyssey of a family, its dramas, its joys, its unexpected events, nonstop - in short, a "raw" historical document, and the "greatest television performance, comparable, on the scale of our dayto-day life, to the footage of our landing on the moon." It becomes more complicated because this family fell apart during the filming: a crisis erupted, the Louds separated, etc. Whence that insoluble controversy: was TV itself responsible? What would have happened if TV hadn't been there? More interesting is the illusion of filming the Louds as if TV weren't there. The producer's triumph was to say: "They lived as if we were not there." An absurd, paradoxical formula - neither true nor false: Utopian. The "as if we were not there" being equal to "as if you were there." It is this Utopia, this paradox that fascinated the twenty million viewers, much more than did the "perverse" pleasure of violating someone's privacy. In the "verite" experience it is not a question of secrecy or perversion, but of a sort of frisson of the real, or of an aesthetics of the hyperreal, a frisson of vertiginous and phony exactitude, a frisson of simultaneous distancing and magnification, of distortion of scale, of an excessive transparency. The pleasure of an excess of meaning, when the bar of the sign falls below the usual waterline of meaning: the nonsignifier is exalted by the camera angle. There one sees what the real never was (but "as if you were there"), without the distance that gives us perspectival space and depth vision (but "more real than nature"). Pleasure in the microscopic simulation that allows the real to pass into the hyperreal. (This is also somewhat the case in porno, which is fascinating more on a metaphysical than on a sexual level.) Besides, this family was already hyperreal by the very nature of its selection: a typical ideal American family, California home, three garages, five children, assured social and professional status, decorative housewife, upper-middle-class standing. In a way it is this statistical perfection that dooms it to death. Ideal heroine of the American way of life, it is, as in ancient sacrifices, chosen in order to be glorified and to die beneath the flames of the medium, a modern fatum. Because heavenly fire no longer falls on corrupted cities, it is the camera lens that, like a laser, comes to pierce lived reality in order to put it to death. "The Louds: simply a family who agreed to deliver themselves into the hands of television, and to die by it," the director will say. Thus it is a question of a sacrificial process, of a sacrificial spectacle offered to twenty million Americans. The liturgical drama of a mass society. TV verite. A term admirable in its ambiguity, does it refer to the truth of this family or to the truth of TV? In fact, it is TV that is the truth of the Louds, it is TV that is true, it is TV that renders true. Truth that is no longer the reflexive truth of the mirror, nor the perspectival truth of the panoptic system and of the gaze, but the manipulative truth of the test that sounds out and interrogates, of the laser that touches and pierces, of computer cards that retain your preferred sequences, of the genetic code that controls your combinations, of cells that inform your sensory universe. It is to this truth that the Loud family was subjected by the medium of TV, and in this sense it amounts to a death sentence (but is it still a question of truth?). End of the panoptic system. The eye of TV is no longer the source of an absolute gaze, and the ideal of control is no longer that of transparency. This still presupposes an objective space (that of the Renaissance) and the omnipotence of the despotic gaze. It is still, if not a system of confinement, at least a system of mapping. More subtly, but always externally, playing on the opposition of seeing and being seen, even if the panoptic focal point may be blind. Something else in regard to the Louds. "You no longer watch TV, it is TV that watches you (live)," or again: "You are no longer listening to Don't Panic, it is Don't Panic that is listening to you" - a switch from the panoptic mechanism of surveillance (Discipline and Punish [Surveiller et punir]) to a system of deterrence, in which the distinction between the passive and the active is abolished. There is no longer any imperative of submission to the model, or to the gaze "YOU are the model!" "YOU are the majority!" Such is the watershed of a hyperreal sociality, in which the real is confused with the model, as in the statistical operation, or with the medium, as in the Louds' operation. Such is the last stage of the social relation, ours, which is no longer one of persuasion (the classical age of propaganda, of ideology, of publicity, etc.) but one of deterrence: "YOU are information, you are the social, you are the event, you are involved, you have the word, etc." An about-face through which it becomes impossible to locate one instance of the model, of power, of the gaze, of the medium itself, because you are always already on the other side. No more subject, no more focal point, no more center or periphery: pure flexion or circular inflexion. No more violence or surveillance: only "information," secret virulence, chain reaction, slow implosion, and simulacra of spaces in which the effect of the real again comes into play. We are witnessing the end of perspectival and panoptic space (which remains a moral hypothesis bound up with all the classical analyses on the "objective" essence of power), and thus to the very abolition of the spectacular. Television, for example in the case of the Louds, is no longer a spectacular medium. We are no longer in the society of the spectacle, of which the situationists spoke, nor in the specific kinds of alienation and repression that it implied. The medium itself is no longer identifiable as such, and the confusion of the medium and the message (McLuhan)*7 is the first great formula of this new era. There is no longer a medium in the literal sense: it is now intangible, diffused, and diffracted in the real, and one can no longer even say that the medium is altered by it. Such a blending, such a viral, endemic, chronic, alarming presence of the medium, without the possibility of isolating the effects - spectralized, like these advertising laser sculptures in the empty space of the event filtered by the medium - dissolution of TV in life, dissolution of life in TV - indiscernible chemical solution: we are all Louds doomed not to invasion, to pressure, to violence and blackmail by the media and the models, but to their induction, to their infiltration, to their illegible violence. But one must watch out for the negative turn that discourse imposes: it is a question neither of disease nor of a viral infection. One must think instead of the media as if they were, in outer orbit, a kind of genetic code that directs the mutation of the real into the hyperreal, just as the other micromolecular code controls the passage from a representative sphere of meaning to the genetic one of the programmed signal. It is the whole traditional world of causality that is in question: the perspectival, determinist mode, the "active," critical mode, the analytic mode - the distinction between cause and effect, between active and passive, between subject and object, between the end and the means. It is in this sense that one can say: TV is watching us, TV alienates us, TV manipulates us, TV informs us ... In all this, one remains dependent on the analytical conception of the media, on an external active and effective agent, on "perspectival" information with the horizon of the real and of meaning as the vanishing point. Now, one must conceive of TV along the lines of DNA as an effect in which the opposing poles of determination vanish, according to a nuclear contraction, retraction, of the old polar schema that always maintained a minimal distance between cause and effect, between subject and object: precisely the distance of meaning, the gap, the difference, the smallest possible gap (PPEP!),*8 irreducible under pain of reabsorption into an aleatory and indeterminate process whose discourse can no longer account for it, because it is itself a determined order.It is this gap that vanishes in the process of genetic coding, in which indeterminacy is not so much a question of molecular randomness as of the abolition, pure and simple, of the relation. In the process of molecular control, which "goes" from the DNA nucleus to the "substance" that it "informs," there is no longer the traversal of an effect, of an energy, of a determination, of a message. "Order, signal, impulse, message": all of these attempt to render the thing intelligible to us, but by analogy, retranscribing in terms of inscription, of a vector, of decoding, a dimension of which we know nothing - it is no longer even a "dimension," or perhaps it is the fourth (which is denned, however, in Einsteinian relativity by the absorption of the distinct poles of space and time). In fact, this whole process can only be understood in its negative form: nothing separates one pole from another anymore, the beginning from the end; there is a kind of contraction of one over the other, a fantastic telescoping, a collapse of the two traditional poles into each other: implosion - an absorption of the radiating mode of causality, of the differential mode of determination, with its positive and negative charge - an implosion of meaning. That is where simulation begins. Everywhere, in no matter what domain - political, biological, psychological, mediatized - in which the distinction between these two poles can no longer be maintained, one enters into simulation, and thus into absolute manipulation - not into passivity, but into the differentiation of the active and the passive. DNA realizes this aleatory reduction at the level of living matter. Television, in the case of the Louds, also reaches this indefinite limit in which, vis-à-vis TV, they are neither more nor less active or passive than a living substance is vis-a-vis its molecular code. Here and there, a single nebula whose simple elements are indecipherable, whose truth is indecipherable. THE ORBITAL AND THE NUCLEAR The apotheosis of simulation: the nuclear. However, the balance of terror is never anything but the spectacular slope of a system of deterrence that has insinuated itself from the inside into all the cracks of daily life. Nuclear suspension only serves to seal the trivialized system of deterrence that is at the heart of the media, of the violence without consequences that reigns throughout the world, of the aleatory apparatus of all the choices that are made for us. The most insignificant of our behaviors is regulated by neutralized, indifferent, equivalent signs, by zero-sum signs like those that regulate the "strategy of games" (but the true equation is elsewhere, and the unknown is precisely that variable of simulation which makes of the atomic arsenal itself a hyperreal form, a simulacrum that dominates everything and reduces all "ground-level" events to being nothing but ephemeral scenarios, transforming the life left us into survival, into a stake without stakes - not even into a life insurance policy: into a policy that already has no value). It is not the direct threat of atomic destruction that paralyzes our lives, it is deterrence that gives them leukemia. And this deterrence comes from that fact that even the real atomic clash is precluded - precluded like the eventuality of the real in a system of signs. The whole world pretends to believe in the reality of this threat (this is understandable on the part of the military, the gravity of their exercise and the discourse of their "strategy" are at stake), but it is precisely at this level that there are no strategic stakes. The whole originality of the situation lies in the improbability of destruction.Deterrence precludes war - the archaic violence of expanding systems. Deterrence itself is the neutral, implosive violence of metastable systems or systems in involution. There is no longer a subject of deterrence, nor an adversary nor a strategy - it is a planetary structure of the annihilation of stakes. Atomic war, like the Trojan War, will not take place. The risk of nuclear annihilation only serves as a pretext, through the sophistication of weapons (a sophistication that surpasses any possible objective to such an extent that it is itself a symptom of nullity), for installing a universal security system, a universal lockup and control system whose deterrent effect is not at all aimed at an atomic clash (which was never in question, except without a doubt in the very initial stages of the cold war, when one still confused the nuclear apparatus with conventional war) but, rather, at the much greater probability of any real event, of anything that would be an event in the general system and upset its balance. The balance of terror is the terror of balance. Deterrence is not a strategy, it circulates and is exchanged between nuclear protagonists exactly as is international capital in the orbital zone of monetary speculation whose fluctuations suffice to control all global exchanges. Thus the money of destruction (without any reference to real destruction, any more than floating capital has a real referent of production) that circulates in nuclear orbit suffices to control all the violence and potential conflicts around the world. What is hatched in the shadow of this mechanism with the pretext of a maximal, "objective," threat, and thanks to Damocles' nuclear sword, is the perfection of the best system of control that has ever existed. And the progressive satellization of the whole planet through this hypermodel of security. The same goes for peaceful nuclear power stations. Pacification does not distinguish between the civil and the military: everywhere where irreversible apparatuses of control are elaborated, everywhere where the notion of security becomes omnipotent, everywhere where the norm replaces the old arsenal of laws and violence (including war), it is the system of deterrence that grows, and around it grows the historical, social, and political desert. A gigantic involution that makes every conflict, every finality, every confrontation contract in proportion to this blackmail that interrupts, neutralizes, freezes them all. No longer can any revolt, any story be deployed according to its own logic because it risks annihilation. No strategy is possible any longer, and escalation is only a puerile game given over to the military. The political stake is dead, only simulacra of conflicts and carefully circumscribed stakes remain. The "space race" played exactly the same role as nuclear escalation. This is why the space program was so easily able to replace it in the 1960s (Kennedy/Khrushchev), or to develop concurrently as a form of "peaceful coexistence." Because what, ultimately, is the function of the space program, of the conquest of the moon, of the launching of satellites if not the institution of a model of universal gravitation, of satellization of which the lunar module is the perfect embryo? Programmed microcosm, where nothing can be left to chance. Trajectory, energy, calculation, physiology, psychology, environment - nothing can be left to contingencies, this is the total universe of the norm - the Law no longer exists, it is the operational immanence of every detail that is law. A universe purged of all threat of meaning, in a state of asepsis and weightlessness - it is this very perfection that is fascinating. The exaltation of the crowds was not a response to the event of Rinding on the moon or of sending a man into space (this would be, rather, the fulfillment of an earlier dream), rather, we are dumbfounded by the perfection of the programming and the technical manipulation, by the immanent wonder of the programmed unfolding of events. Fascination with the maximal norm and the mastery of probability. Vertigo of the model, which unites with the model of death, but without fear or drive. Because if the law, with its aura of transgression, if order, with its aura of violence, still taps a perverse imaginary, the norm fixes, fascinates, stupefies, and makes every imaginary involute. One no longer fantasizes about the minutiae of a program. Just watching it produces vertigo. The vertigo of a world without flaws. Now, it is the same model of programmatic infallibility, of maximum security and deterrence that today controls the spread of the social. There lies the true nuclear fallout: the meticulous operation of technology serves as a model for the meticulous operation of the social. Here as well, nothing will be left to chance, moreover this is the essence of socialization, which began centuries ago, but which has now entered its accelerated phase, toward a limit that one believed would be explosive (revolution), but which for the moment is translated by an inverse, implosive, irreversible process: the generalized deterrence of chance, of accident, of transversality, of finality, of contradiction, rupture, or complexity in a sociality illuminated by the norm, doomed to the descriptive transparency of mechanisms of information. In fact, the spatial and nuclear models do not have their own ends: neither the discovery of the moon, nor military and strategic superiority. Their truth is to be the models of simulation, the model vectors of a system of planetary control (where even the superpowers of this scenario are not free - the whole world is satellized).*9 Resist the evidence: in satellization, he who is satellized is not who one might think. Through the orbital inscription of a spatial object, it is the planet earth that becomes a satellite, it is the terrestrial principle of reality that becomes eccentric, hyperreal, and insignificant. Through the orbital instantiation of a system of control like peaceful coexistence, all the terrestrial microsystems are satellized and lose their autonomy. All energy, all events are absorbed by this eccentric gravitation, everything condenses and implodes toward the only micromodel of control (the orbital satellite), as conversely, in the other, biological, dimension, everything converges and implodes on the molecular micromodel of the genetic code. Between the two, in this forking of the nuclear and the genetic, in the simultaneous assumption of the two fundamental codes of deterrence, every principle of meaning is absorbed, every deployment of the real is impossible. The simultaneity of two events in the month of July 1975 illustrated this in a striking manner: the linkup in space of the two American and Soviet supersatellites, apotheosis of peaceful coexistence - the suppression by the Chinese of ideogrammatic writing and conversion to the Roman alphabet. The latter signifies the "orbital" instantiation of an abstract and modelized system of signs, into whose orbit all the once unique forms of style and writing will be reabsorbed. The satellization of language: the means for the Chinese to enter the system of peaceful coexistence, which is inscribed in their heavens at precisely the same time by the linkup of the two satellites. Orbital flight of the Big Two, neutralization and homogenization of everyone else on earth.Yet, despite this deterrence by the orbital power - the nuclear or molecular code - events continue at ground level, misfortunes are even more numerous, given the global process of the contiguity and simultaneity of data. But, subtly, they no longer have any meaning, they are no longer anything but the duplex effect of simulation at the summit. The best example can only be that of the war in Vietnam, because it took place at the intersection of a maximum historical and "revolutionary" stake, and of the installation of this deterrent authority. What meaning did this war have, and wasn't its unfolding a means of sealing the end of history in the decisive and culminating historic event of our era? Why did this war, so hard, so long, so ferocious, vanish from one day to the next as if by magic? Why did this American defeat (the largest reversal in the history of the USA) have no internal repercussions in America? If it had really signified the failure of the planetary strategy of the United States, it would necessarily have completely disrupted its internal balance and the American political system. Nothing of the sort occurred. Something else, then, took place. This war, at bottom, was nothing but a crucial episode of peaceful coexistence. It marked the arrival of China to peaceful coexistence. The nonintervention of China obtained and secured after many years, Chinas apprenticeship to a global modus vivendi, the shift from a global strategy of revolution to one of shared forces and empires, the transition from a radical alternative to political alternation in a system now essentially regulated (the normalization of Peking - Washington relations): this was what was at stake in the war in Vietnam, and in this sense, the USA pulled out of Vietnam but won the war. And the war ended "spontaneously" when this objective was achieved. That is why it was deescalated, demobilized so easily. This same reduction of forces can be seen on the field. The war lasted as long as elements irreducible to a healthy politics and discipline of power, even a Communist one, remained unliquidated. When at last the war had passed into the hands of regular troops in the North and escaped that of the resistance, the war could stop: it had attained its objective. The stake is thus that of a political relay. As soon as the Vietnamese had proved that they were no longer the carriers of an unpredictable subversion, one could let them take over. That theirs is a Communist order is not serious in the end: it had proved itself, it could be trusted. It is even more effective than capitalism in the liquidation of "savage" and archaic precapitalist structures. Same scenario in the Algerian war. The other aspect of this war and of all wars today: behind the armed violence, the murderous antagonism of the adversaries - which seems a matter of life and death, which is played out as such (or else one could never send people to get themselves killed in this kind of thing), behind this simulacrum of fighting to the death and of ruthless global stakes, the two adversaries are fundamentally in solidarity against something else, unnamed, never spoken, but whose objective outcome in war, with the equal complicity of the two adversaries, is total liquidation. Tribal, communitarian, precapitalist structures, every form of exchange, of language, of symbolic organization, that is what must be abolished, that is the object of murder in war - and war itself, in its immense, spectacular death apparatus, is nothing but the medium of this process of the terrorist rationalization of the social - the murder on which sociality will be founded, whatever its allegiance, Communist or capitalist. Total complicity, or division of labor between two adversaries (who may even consent to enormous sacrifices for it) for the very end of reshaping and domesticating social relations. "The North Vietnamese were advised to countenance a scenario for liquidating the American presence in the course of which, of course, one must save face." This scenario: the extremely harsh bombardments of Hanoi. Their untenable character must not conceal the fact that they were nothing but a simulacrum to enable the Vietnamese to seem to countenance a compromise and for Nixon to make the Americans swallow the withdrawal of their troops. The game was already won, nothing was objectively at stake but the verisimilitude of the final montage. The moralists of war, the holders of high wartime values should not be too discouraged: the war is no less atrocious for being only a simulacrum - the flesh suffers just the same, and the dead and former combatants are worth the same as in other wars. This objective is always fulfilled, just like that of the charting of territories and of disciplinary sociality. What no longer exists is the adversity of the adversaries, the reality of antagonistic causes, the ideological seriousness of war. And also the reality of victory or defeat, war being a process that triumphs well beyond these appearances. In any case, the pacification (or the deterrence) that dominates us today is beyond war and peace, it is that at every moment war and peace are equivalent. "War is peace," said Orwell. There also, the two differential poles implode into each other, or recycle one another - a simultaneity of contradictions that is at once the parody and the end of every dialectic. Thus one can completely miss the truth of a war: namely, that it was finished well before it started, that there was an end to war at the heart of the war itself, and that perhaps it never started. Many other events (the oil crisis, etc.) never started, never existed, except as artificial occurrences - abstract, ersatz, and as artifacts of history, catastrophes and crises destined to maintain a historical investment under hypnosis. The media and the official news service are only there to maintain the illusion of an actuality, of the reality of the stakes, of the objectivity of facts. All the events are to be read backward, or one becomes aware (as with the Communists "in power" in Italy the retro, posthumous rediscovery of the gulags and Soviet dissidents like the almost contemporary discovery, by a moribund ethnology, of the lost "difference" of Savages) that all these things arrived too late, with a history of delay, a spiral of delay, that they long ago exhausted their meaning and only live from an artificial effervescence of signs, that all these events succeed each other without logic, in the most contradictory, complete equivalence, in a profound indifference to their consequences (but this is because there are none: they exhaust themselves in their spectacular promotion) - all "newsreel" footage thus gives the sinister impression of kitsch, of retro and porno at the same time - doubtless everyone knows this, and no one really accepts it. The reality of simulation is unbearable - crueler than Artaud's Theater of Cruelty, which was still an attempt to create a dramaturgy of life, the last gasp of an ideality of the body, of blood, of violence in a system that was already taking it away, toward a reabsorption of all the stakes without a trace of blood. For us the trick has been played. All dramaturgy, and even all real writing of cruelty has disappeared. Simulation is the master, and we only have a right to the retro, to the phantom, parodic rehabilitation of all lost referentials. Everything still unfolds around us, in the cold light of deterrence (including Artaud, who has the right like everything else to his revival, to a second existence as the referential of cruelty). This is why nuclear proliferation does not increase the risk of either an atomic clash or an accident - save in the interval when the "young" powers could be tempted to make a nondeterrent, "real" use of it (as the Americans did in Hiroshima - but precisely only they had a right to this "use value" of the bomb, all of those who have acquired it since will be deterred from using it by the very fact of possessing it). Entry into the atomic club, so prettily named, very quickly effaces (as unionization does in the working world) any inclination toward violent intervention. Responsibility, control, censure, self-deterrence always grow more rapidly than the forces or the weapons at our disposal: this is the secret of the social order. Thus the very possibility of paralyzing a whole country by flicking a switch makes it so that the electrical engineers will never use this weapon: the whole myth of the total and revolutionary strike crumbles at the very moment when the means are available - but alas precisely because those means are available. Therein lies the whole process of deterrence. It is thus perfectly probable that one day we will see nuclear powers export atomic reactors, weapons, and bombs to every latitude. Control by threat will be replaced by the more effective strategy of pacification through the bomb and through the possession of the bomb. The "little" powers, believing that they are buying their independent striking force, will buy the virus of deterrence, of their own deterrence. The same goes for the atomic reactors that we have already sent them: so many neutron bombs knocking out all historical virulence, all risk of explosion. In this sense, the nuclear everywhere inaugurates an accelerated process of implosion, it freezes everything around it, it absorbs all living energy. The nuclear is at once the culminating point of available energy and the maximization of energy control systems. Lockdown and control increase in direct proportion to (and undoubtedly even faster than) liberating potentialities. This was already the aporia of the modern revolution. It is still the absolute paradox of the nuclear. Energies freeze in their own fire, they deter themselves. One can no longer imagine what project, what power, what strategy, what subject could exist behind this enclosure, this vast saturation of a system by its own forces, now neutralized, unusable, unintelligible, nonexplosive - except for the possibility of an explosion toward the center, of an implosion where all these energies would be abolished in a catastrophic process (in the literal sense, that is to say in the sense of a reversion of the whole cycle toward a minimal point, of a reversion of energies toward a minimal threshold). * NOTES * 1. Cf. J. Baudrillard, "L'ordre des simulacres" (The order of simulacra), in L'echange symbolique et la mort (Symbolic exchange and death) (Paris: Gallimard, 1976).2. A discourse that is itself not susceptible to being resolved in transference. It is the entanglement of these two discourses that renders psychoanalysis interminable. 3. Cf. M. Perniola, Icônes, visions, simulacres (Icons, visions, simulacra), 39. 4. This does not necessarily result in despairing of meaning, but just as much in the improvisation of meaning, of nonmeaning, of many simultaneous meanings that destroy each other. 5. Taken together, the energy crisis and the ecological mise-en-scène are themselves a disaster movie, in the same style (and with the same value) as those that currently comprise the golden days of Hollywood. It is useless to laboriously interpret these films in terms of their relation to an "objective" social crisis or even to an "objective" phantasm of disaster. It is in another sense that it must be said that it is the social itself that, in contemporary discourse, is organised along the lines of a disaster-movie script. (Cf. M. Makarius, La stratégic de la catastrophe [The strategy of disaster], 115.) 6. To this flagging investment in work corresponds a parallel decline in the investment in consumption. Goodbye to use value or to the prestige of the automobile, goodbye amorous discourses that neatly opposed the object of enjoyment to the object of work. Another discourse takes hold that is a discourse of work on the object of consumption aiming for an active, constraining, puritan reinvestment (use less gas, watch out for your safety, you've gone over the speed limit, etc.) to which the characteristics of automobiles pretend to adapt. Rediscovering a stake through the transposition of these two poles. Work becomes the object of a need, the car becomes the object of work. There is no better proof of the lack of differentiation among all the stakes. It is through the same slippage between the "right" to vote and electoral "duty" that the divestment of the political sphere is signaled. 7. The medium/message confusion is certainly a corollary of that between the sender and the receiver, thus sealing the disappearance of all dual, polar structures that formed the discursive organization of language, of all determined articulation of meaning reflecting Jakobson's famous grid of functions. That discourse "circulates" is to be taken literally: that is, it no longer goes from one point to another, but it traverses a cycle that without distinction includes the positions of transmitter and receiver, now unlocatable as such. Thus there is no instance of power, no instance of transmission - power is something that circulates and whose source can no longer be located, a cycle in which the positions of the dominator and the dominated are exchanged in an endless reversion that is also the end of power in its classical definition. The circularization of power, of knowledge, of discourse puts an end to any localization of instances and poles. In the psychoanalytic interpretation itself, the "power" of the interpreter does not come from any outside instance but from the interpreted himself. This changes everything, because one can always ask of the traditional holders of power where they get their power from. Who made you duke? The king. Who made you king? God. Only God no longer answers. But to the question: who made you a psychoanalyst? the analyst can well reply: You. Thus is expressed, by an inverse simulation, the passage from the "analyzed" to the "analysand," from passive to active, which simply describes the spiraling effect of the shifting of poles, the effect of circularity in which power is lost, is dissolved, is resolved in perfect manipulation (it is no longer of the order of directive power and of the gaze, but of the order of tactility and commutation). See also the state/family circularity assured by the fluctuation and metastatic regulation of the images of the social and the private (J. Donzelot, La police des/amilles [The policing of families]). Impossible now to pose the famous question: "From what position do you speak?" - "How do you know?" "From where do you get your power?" without hearing the immediate response: "But it is of you (from you) that I speak" - meaning, it is you who are speaking, you who know, you who are the power. Gigantic circumvolution, circumlocution of the spoken word, which is equal to a blackmail with no end, to a deterrence that cannot be appealed of the subject presumed to speak, leaving him without a reply, because to the question that he poses one ineluctably replies: but you are the answer, or: your question is already an answer, etc. - the whole strangulatory sophistication of intercepting speech, of the forced confession in the guise of freedom of expression, of trapping the subject in his own interrogation, of the precession of the reply to the question (all the violence of interpretation lies there, as well as that of the conscious or unconscious management of the "spoken word" [parole]). This simulacrum of the inversion or the involution of poles, this clever subterfuge, which is the secret of the whole discourse of manipulation and thus, today, in every domain, the secret of any new power in the erasure of the scene of power, in the assumption of all words from which has resulted this fantastic silent majority characteristic of our time - all of this started without a doubt in the political sphere with the democractic simulacrum, which today is the substitution for the power of God with the power of the people as the source of power, and of power as emanation with power as representation. AntiCopernican revolution: no transcendental instance either of the sun or of the luminous sources of power and knowledge - everything comes from the people and everything returns to them. It is with this magnificent recycling that the universal simulacrum of manipulation, from the scenario of mass suffrage to the present-day phantoms of opinion polls, begins to be put in place. 8. PPEP is an acronym for smallest possible gap, or "plus petit écart possible."-TRANS. 9. Paradox: all bombs are clean: their only pollution is the system of security and of control they radiate as long as they don't explode.HISTORY: A RETRO SCENARIO In a violent and contemporary period of history (let's say between the two world wars and the cold war), it is myth that invades cinema as imaginary content. It is the golden age of despotic and legendary resurrections. Myth, chased from the real by the violence of history, finds refuge in cinema. Today, it is history itself that invades the cinema according to the same scenario - the historical stake chased from our lives by this sort of immense neutralization, which is dubbed peaceful coexistence on a global level, and pacified monotony on the quotidian level - this history exorcised by a slowly or brutally congealing society celebrates its resurrection in force on the screen, according to the same process that used to make lost myths live again. History is our lost referential, that is to say our myth. It is by virtue of this fact that it takes the place of myths on the screen. The illusion would be to congratulate oneself on this "awareness of history on the part of cinema," as one congratulated oneself on the "entrance of politics into the university." Same misunderstanding, same mystification. The politics that enter the university are those that come from history, a retro politics, emptied of substance and legalized in their superficial exercise, with the air of a game and a field of adventure, this kind of politics is like sexuality or permanent education (or like social security in its time), that is, posthumous liberalization. The great event of this period, the great trauma, is this decline of strong referentials, these death pangs of the real and of the rational that open onto an age of simulation. Whereas so many generations, and particularly the last, lived in the march of history, in the euphoric or catastrophic expectation of a revolution - today one has the impression that history has retreated, leaving behind it an indifferent nebula, traversed by currents, but emptied of references. It is into this void that the phantasms of a past history recede, the panoply of events, ideologies, retro fashions - no longer so much because people believe in them or still place some hope in them, but simply to resurrect the period when at least there was history, at least there was violence (albeit fascist), when at least life and death were at stake. Anything serves to escape this void, this leukemia of history and of politics, this hemorrhage of values - it is in proportion to this distress that all content can be evoked pell-mell, that all previous history is resurrected in bulk - a controlling idea no longer selects, only nostalgia endlessly accumulates: war, fascism, the pageantry of the belle epoque, or the revolutionary struggles, everything is equivalent and is mixed indiscriminately in the same morose and funereal exaltation, in the same retro fascination. There is however a privileging of the immediately preceding era (fascism, war, the period immediately following the war - the innumerable films that play on these themes for us have a closer, more perverse, denser, more confused essence). One can explain it by evoking the Freudian theory of fetishism (perhaps also a retro hypothesis). This trauma (loss of referentials) is similar to the discovery of the difference between the sexes in children, as serious, as profound, as irreversible: the fetishization of an object intervenes to obscure this unbearable discovery, but precisely, says Freud, this object is not just any object, it is often the last object perceived before the traumatic discovery. Thus the fetishized history will preferably be the one immediately preceding our "irreferential" era. Whence the omnipresence of fascism and of war in retro - a coincidence, an affinity that is not at all political; it is naive to conclude that the evocation of fascism signals a current renewal of fascism (it is precisely because one is no longer there, because one is in something else, which is still less amusing, it is for this reason that fascism can again become fascinating in its filtered cruelty, aestheticized by retro).*1 History thus made its triumphal entry into cinema, posthumously (the term historical has undergone the same fate: a "historical" moment, monument, congress, figure are in this way designated as fossils). Its reinjection has no value as conscious awareness but only as nostalgia for a lost referential. This does not signify that history has never appeared in cinema as a powerful moment, as a contemporary process, as insurrection and not as resurrection. In the "real" as in cinema, there was history but there isn't any anymore. Today, the history that is "given back" to us (precisely because it was taken from us) has no more of a relation to a "historical real" than neofiguration in painting does to the classical figuration of the real. Neofiguration is an invocation of resemblance, but at the same time the flagrant proof of the disappearance of objects in their very representation: hyperreal. Therein objects shine in a sort of hyperresemblance (like history in contemporary cinema) that makes it so that fundamentally they no longer resemble anything, except the empty figure of resemblance, the empty form of representation. It is a question of life or death: these objects are no longer either living or deadly. That is why they are so exact, so minute, frozen in the state in which a brutal loss of the real would have seized them. All, but not only, those historical films whose very perfection is disquieting: Chinatown, Three Days of the Condor, Barry Lyndon, 1900, All the President's Men, etc. One has the impression of it being a question of perfect remakes, of extraordinary montages that emerge more from a combinatory culture (or McLuhanesque mosaic), of large photo-, kino-, historicosynthesis machines, etc., rather than one of veritable films. Let's understand each other: their quality is not in question. The problem is rather that in some sense we are left completely indifferent. Take The Last Picture Show: like me, you would have had to be sufficiently distracted to have thought it to be an original production from the 1950s: a very good film about the customs in and the atmosphere of the American small town. Just a slight suspicion: it was a little too good, more in tune, better than the others, without the psychological, moral, and sentimental blotches of the films of that era. Stupefaction when one discovers that it is a 1970s film, perfect retro, purged, pure, the hyperrealist restitution of 1950s cinema. One talks of remaking silent films, those will also doubtlessly be better than those of the period. A whole generation of films is emerging that will be to those one knew what the android is to man: marvelous artifacts, without weakness, pleasing simulacra that lack only the imaginary, and the hallucination inherent to cinema. Most of what we see today (the best) is already of this order. Barry Lyndon is the best example: one never did better, one will never do better in ... in what? Not in evoking, not even in evoking, in simulating. All the toxic radiation has been filtered, all the ingredients are there, in precise doses, not a single error. Cool, cold pleasure, not even aesthetic in the strict sense: functional pleasure, equational pleasure, pleasure of machination. One only has to dream of Visconti (Guepard, Senso, etc., which in certain respects make one think of Barry Lyndon) to grasp the difference, not only in style, but in the cinematographic act. In Visconti, there is meaning, history, a sensual rhetoric, dead time, a passionate game, not only in the historical content, but in the mise-en-scène. None of that in Kubrick, who manipulates his film like a chess player, who makes an operational scenario of history. And this does not return to the old opposition between the spirit of finesse and the spirit of geometry: that opposition still comes from the game and the stakes of meaning, whereas we are entering an era of films that in themselves no longer have meaning strictly speaking, an era of great synthesizing machines of varying geometry. Is there something of this already in Leone's Westerns? Maybe. All the registers slide in that direction. Chinatown: it is the detective movie renamed by laser. It is not really a question of perfection: technical perfection can be part of meaning, and in that case it is neither retro nor hyperrealist, it is an effect of art. Here, technical perfection is an effect of the model: it is one of the referential tactical values. In the absence of real syntax of meaning, one has nothing but the tactical values of a group in which are admirably combined, for example, the CIA as a mythological machine that does everything, Robert Redford as polyvalent star, social relations as a necessary reference to history, technical virtuosity as a necessary reference to cinema. The cinema and its trajectory: from the most fantastic or mythical to the realistic and the hyperrealistic. The cinema in its current efforts is getting closer and closer, and with greater and greater perfection, to the absolute real, in its banality, its veracity, in its naked obviousness, in its boredom, and at the same time in its presumption, in its pretension to being the real, the immediate, the unsignified, which is the craziest of undertakings (similarly, functionalism's pretension to designating - design - the greatest degree of correspondence between the object and its function, and its use value, is a truly absurd enterprise); no culture has ever had toward its signs this naive and paranoid, puritan and terrorist vision. Terrorism is always that of the real. Concurrently with this effort toward an absolute correspondence with the real, cinema also approaches an absolute correspondence with itself - and this is not contradictory: it is the very definition of the hyperreal. Hypotyposis and specularity. Cinema plagiarizes itself, recopies itself, remakes its classics, retroactivates its original myths, remakes the silent film more perfectly than the original, etc.: all of this is logical, the cinema is fascinated by itself as a lost object as much as it (and we) are fascinated by the real as a lost referent. The cinema and the imaginary (the novelistic, the mythical, unreality, including the delirious use of its own technique) used to have a lively, dialectical, full, dramatic relation. The relation that is being formed today between the cinema and the real is an inverse, negative relation: it results from the loss of specificity of one and of the other. The cold collage, the cool promiscuity, the asexual nuptials of two cold media that evolve in an asymptotic line toward each other: the cinema attempting to abolish itself in the cinematographic (or televised) hyperreal. History is a strong myth, perhaps, along with the unconscious, the last great myth. It is a myth that at once subtended the possibility of an "objective" enchainment of events and causes and the possibility of a narrative enchainment of discourse. The age of history, if one can call it that, is also the age of the novel. It is this fabulous character, the mythical energy of an event or of a narrative, that today seems to be increasingly lost. Behind a performative and demonstrative logic: the obsession with historical fidelity, with a perfect rendering (as elsewhere the obsession with real time or with the minute quotidianeity of Jeanne Hilmann doing the dishes), this negative and implacable fidelity to the materiality of the past, to a particular scene of the past or of the present, to the restitution of an absolute simulacrum of the past or the present, which was substituted for all other value - we are all complicitous in this, and this is irreversible. Because cinema itself contributed to the disappearance of history, and to the advent of the archive. Photography and cinema contributed in large part to the secularization of history, to fixing it in its visible, "objective" form at the expense of the myths that once traversed it. Today cinema can place all its talent, all its technology in the service of reanimating what it itself contributed to liquidating. It only resurrects ghosts, and it itself is lost therein. * NOTE * 1. Fascism itself, the mystery of its appearance and of its collective energy, with which no interpretation has been able to come to grips (neither the Marxist one of political manipulation by dominant classes, nor the Reichian one of the sexual repression of the masses, nor the Deleuzian one of despotic paranoia), can already be interpreted as the "irrational" excess of mythic and political referentials, the mad intensification of collective value (blood, race, people, etc.), the reinjection of death, of a "political aesthetic of death" at a time when the process of the disenchantment of value and of collective values, of the rational secularization and unidimensionalization of all life, of the operationalization of all social and individual life already makes itself strongly felt in the West. Yet again, everything seems to escape this catastrophe of value, this neutralization and pacification of life. Fascism is a resistance to this, even if it is a profound, irrational, demented resistance, it would not have tapped into this massive energy if it hadn't been a resistance to something much worse. Fascism's cruelty, its terror is on the level of this other terror that is the confusion of the real and the rational, which deepened in the West, and it is a response to that.HOLOCAUST Forgetting extermination is part of extermination, because it is also the extermination of memory, of history, of the social, etc. This forgetting is as essential as the event, in any case unlocatable by us, inaccessible to us in its truth. This forgetting is still too dangerous, it must be effaced by an artificial memory (today, everywhere, it is artificial memories that efface the memory of man, that efface man in his own memory). This artificial memory will be the restaging of extermination - but late, much too late for it to be able to make real waves and profoundly disturb something, and especially, especially through a medium that is itself cold, radiating forgetfulness, deterrence, and extermination in a still more systematic way, if that is possible, than the camps themselves. One no longer makes the Jews pass through the crematorium or the gas chamber, but through the sound track and image track, through the universal screen and the microprocessor. Forgetting, annihilation, finally achieves its aesthetic dimension in this way - it is achieved in retro, finally elevated here to a mass level. Even the type of sociohistorical dimension that still remained forgotten in the form of guilt, of shameful latency, of the not-said, no longer exists, because now "everyone knows," everybody has trembled and bawled in the face of extermination - a sure sign that "that" will never again occur. But what one exorcises in this way at little cost, and for the price of a few tears, will never in effect be reproduced, because it has always been in the midst of currently reproducing itself, and precisely in the very form in which one pretends to denounce it, in the medium itself of this supposed exorcism: television. Same process of forgetting, of liquidation, of extermination, same annihilation of memories and of history, same inverse, implosive radiation, same absorption without an echo, same black hole as Auschwitz. And one would like to have us believe that TV will lift the weight of Auschwitz by making a collective awareness radiate, whereas television is its perpetuation in another guise, this time no longer under the auspices of a site of annihilation, but of a medium of deterrence. What no one wants to understand is that Holocaust is primarily (and exclusively) an event, or, rather, a televised object (fundamental rule of McLuhan's, which must not be forgotten), that is to say, that one attempts to rekindle a cold historical event, tragic but cold, the first major event of cold systems, of cooling systems, of systems of deterrence and extermination that will then be deployed in other forms (including the cold war, etc.) and in regard to cold masses (the Jews no longer even concerned with their own death, and the eventually self-managed masses no longer even in revolt: deterred until death, deterred from their very own death) to rekindle this cold event through a cold medium, television, and for the masses who are themselves cold, who will only have the opportunity for a tactile thrill and a posthumous emotion, a deterrent thrill as well, which "vill make them spill into forgetting with a kind of good aesthetic conscience of the catastrophe. In order to rekindle all that, the whole political and pedagogical orchestration that came from every direction to attempt to give meaning to the event (the televised event this time) was not at all excessive. Panicked blackmailing around the possible consequence of this broadcast on the imagination of children and others. All the pedagogues and social workers mobilized to filter the thing, as if there were some danger of infection in this artificial resurrection! The danger was really rather the opposite: from the cold to the cold, the social inertia of cold systems, of TV in particular. It was thus necessary that the whole world mobilize itself to remake the social, a hot social, heated discussion, hence communication, from the cold monster of extermination. One lacks stakes, investment, history, speech. That is the fundamental problem. The objective is thus to produce them at all cost, and this broadcast served this purpose: to capture the artificial heat of a dead event to warm the dead body of the social. Whence the addition of the supplementary medium to expand on the effect through feedback: immediate polls sanctioning the massive effect of the broadcast, the collective impact of the message - whereas it is well understood that the polls only verify the televisual success of the medium itself. But this confusion will never be lifted. From there, it is necessary to speak of the cold light of television, why it is harmless to the imagination (including that of children) because it no longer carries any imaginary and this for the simple reason that it is no longer an image. By contrast with the cinema, which is still blessed (but less and less so because more and more contaminated by TV) with an intense imaginary - because the cinema is an image. That is to say not only a screen and a visual form, but a myth, something that still retains something of the double, of the phantasm, of the mirror, of the dream, etc. Nothing of any of this in the "TV" image, which suggests nothing, which mesmerizes, which itself is nothing but a screen, not even that: a miniaturized terminal that, in fact, is immediately located in your head - you are the screen, and the TV watches you - it transistorizes all the neurons and passes through like a magnetic tape - a tape, not an image.THE CHINA SYNDROME The fundamental stake is at the level of television and information. Just as the extermination of the Jews disappeared behind the televised event Holocaust - the cold medium of television having been simply substituted for the cold system of extermination one believed to be exorcising through it - so The China Syndrome is a great example of the supremacy of the televised event over the nuclear event which, itself, remains improbable and in some sense imaginary. Besides, the film shows this to be the case (without wanting to): that TV is present precisely where it happens is not coincidental, it is the intrusion of TV into the reactor that seems to give rise to the nuclear incident - because TV is like its anticipation and its model in the everyday universe: telefission of the real and of the real world; because TV and information in general are a form of catastrophe in the formal and topological sense Rene Thorn gives the word: a radical qualitative change of a whole system. Or, rather, TV and the nuclear are of the same nature: behind the "hot" and negentropic concepts of energy and information, they have the same power of deterrence as cold systems do. TV itself is also a nuclear process of chain reaction, but implosive: it cools and neutralizes the meaning and the energy of events. Thus the nuclear, behind the presumed risk of explosion, that is to say of hot catastrophe, conceals a long, cold catastrophe, the universalization of a system of deterrence. At the end of the film again comes the second massive intrusion of the press and of TV that instigates the drama - the murder of the technical director by the Special Forces, a drama that substitutes for the nuclear catastrophe that will not occur. The homology of the nuclear and of television can be read directly in the images: nothing resembles the control and telecommand headquarters of the nuclear power station more than TV studios, and the nuclear consoles are combined with those of the recording and broadcasting studios in the same imaginary. Thus everything takes place between these two poles: of the other "center," that of the reactor, in principle the veritable heart of the matter, we will know nothing; it, like the real, has vanished and become illegible, and is at bottom unimportant in the film (when one attempts to suggest it to us, in its imminent catastrophe, it does not work on the imaginary plane: the drama unfolds on the screens and nowhere else). Harrisburg,*1 Watergate, and Network: such is the trilogy of The China Syndrome - an indissoluble trilogy in which one no longer knows which is the effect and which is the symptom: the ideological argument (Watergate effect), isn't it nothing but the symptom of the nuclear (Harrisburg effect) or of the computer science model (Network effect) - the real (Harrisburg), isn't it nothing but the symptom of the imaginary (Network and China Syndrome) or the opposite? Marvelous indifferentiation, ideal constellation of simulation. Marvelous title, then, this China Syndrome, because the reversibility of symptoms and their convergence in the same process constitute precisely what we call a syndrome - that it is Chinese adds the poetic and intellectual quality of a conundrum or supplication.Obsessive conjunction of The China Syndrome and Harrisburg. But is all that so involuntary? Without positing magical links between the simulacrum and the real, it is clear that the Syndrome is not a stranger to the "real" accident in Harrisburg, not according to a causal logic, but according to the relations of contagion and silent analogy that link the real to models and to simulacra: to television's induction of the nuclear into the film corresponds, with a troubling obviousness, the film's induction of the nuclear incident in Harrisburg. Strange precession of a film over the real, the most surprising that was given us to witness: the real corresponded point by point to the simulacrum, including the suspended, incomplete character of the catastrophe, which is essential from the point of view of deterrence: the real arranged itself, in the image of the film, to produce a simulation of catastrophe. From there to reverse our logic and to see in The China Syndrome the veritable event and in Harrisburg its simulacrum, there is only one step that must be cheerfully taken. Because it is via the same logic that, in the film, nuclear reality arises from the television effect, and that in "reality" Harrisburg arises from the China Syndrome cinema effect. But The China Syndrome is also not the original prototype of Harrisburg, one is not the simulacrum of which the other would be the real: there are only simulacra, and Harrisburg is a sort of second-order simulation. There is certainly a chain reaction somewhere, and we will perhaps die of it, but this chain reaction is never that of the nuclear, it is that of simulacra and of the simulation where all the energy of the real is effectively swallowed, no longer in a spectacular nuclear explosion, but in a secret and continuous implosion, and that today perhaps takes a more deathly turn than that of all the explosions that rock us. Because an explosion is always a promise, it is our hope: note how much, in the film as in Harrisburg, the whole world waits for something to blow up, for destruction to announce itself and remove us from this unnameable panic, from this panic of deterrence that it exercises in the invisible form of the nuclear. That the "heart" of the reactor at last reveals its hot power of destruction, that it reassures us about the presence of energy, albeit catastrophic, and bestows its spectacle on us. Because unhappiness is when there is no nuclear spectacle, no spectacle of nuclear energy in itself (Hiroshima is over), and it is for that reason that it is rejected - it would be perfectly accepted if it lent itself to spectacle as previous forms of energy did. Parousia of catastrophe: substantial food for our messianic libido. But that is precisely what will never happen. What will happen will never again be the explosion, but the implosion. No more energy in its spectacular and pathetic form - all the romanticism of the explosion, which had so much charm, being at the same time that of revolution - but the cold energy of the simulacrum and of its distillation in homeopathic doses in the cold systems of information. What else do the media dream of besides creating the event simply by their presence? Everyone decries it, but everyone is secretly fascinated by this eventuality. Such is the logic of simulacra, it is no longer that of divine predestination, it is that of the precession of models, but it is just as inexorable. And it is because of this that events no longer have meaning: it is not that they are insignificant in themselves, it is that they were preceded by the model, with which their processes only coincided. Thus it would have been marvelous to repeat the script for The China Syndrome at Fessenheim, during the visit offered to the journalists by the EDF (French Electric Company), to repeat on this occasion the accident linked to the magic eye, to the provocative presence of the media. Alas, nothing happened. And on the other hand yes! so powerful is the logic of simulacra: a week after, the unions discovered fissures in the reactors. Miracle of contagions, miracle of analogic chain reactions. Thus, the essence of the film is not in any respect the Watergate effect in the person of Jane Fonda, not in any respect TV as a means of exposing nuclear vices, but on the contrary TV as the twin orbit and twin chain reaction of the nuclear one. Besides, just at the end - and there the film is unrelenting in Regard to its own argument - when Jane Fonda makes the truth explode directly (maximum Watergate effect), her image is juxtaposed with what will inexorably follow it and efface it on the screen: a commercial of some kind. The Network effect goes far beyond the Watergate effect and spreads mysteriously into the Harrisburg effect, that is to say not into the nuclear threat, but into the simulation of nuclear catastrophe. So, it is simulation that is effective, never the real. The simulation of nuclear catastrophe is the strategic result of this generic and universal undertaking of deterrence: accustoming the people to the ideology and the discipline of absolute security - to the metaphysics of fission and fissure. To this end the fissure must be a fiction. A real catastrophe would delay things, it would constitute a retrograde incident, of the explosive kind (without changing the course of things: did Hiroshima perceptibly delay, deter, the universal process of deterrence?). In the film, also, real fusion would be a bad argument: the film would regress to the level of a disaster movie - weak by definition, because it means returning things to their pure event. The China Syndrome, itself, finds its strength in filtering catastrophe, in the distillation of the nuclear specter through the omnipresent hertzian relays of information. It teaches us (once again without meaning to) that nuclear catastrophe does not occur, is not meant to happen, in the real either, any more than the atomic clash was at the dawning of the cold war. The equilibrium of terror rests on the eternal deferral of the atomic clash. The atom and the nuclear are made to be disseminated for deterrent ends, the power of catastrophe must, instead of stupidly exploding, be disseminated in homeopathic, molecular doses, in the continuous reservoirs of information. Therein lies the true contamination: never biological and radioactive, but, rather, a mental destructuration through a mental strategy of catastrophe. If one looks carefully, the film introduces us to this mental strategy, and in going further, it even delivers a lesson diametrically opposed to that of Watergate: if every strategy today is that of mental terror and of deterrence tied to the suspension and the eternal simulation of catastrophe, then the only means of mitigating this scenario would be to make the catastrophe arrive, to produce or to reproduce a real catastrophe. To which Nature is at times given: in its inspired moments, it is God who through his cataclysms unknots the equilibrium of terror in which humans are imprisoned. Closer to us, this is what terrorism is occupied with as well: making real, palpable violence surface in opposition to the invisible violence of security. Besides, therein lies terrorism's ambiguity. * NOTE * 1. The incident at the nuclear reactor on Three Mile Island, which will shortly follow the release of the film.APOCALYPSE NOW Coppola makes his film like the Americans made war - in this sense, it is the best possible testimonial - with the same immoderation, the same excess of means, the same monstrous candor . . . and the same success. The war as entrenchment, as technological and psychedelic fantasy, the war as a succession of special effects, the war become film even before being filmed. The war abolishes itself in its technological test, and for Americans it was primarily that: a test site, a gigantic territory in which to test their arms, their methods, their power. Coppola does nothing but that: test cinema's power of intervention, test the impact of a cinema that has become an immeasurable machinery of special effects. In this sense, his film is really the extension of the war through other means, the pinnacle of this failed war, and its apotheosis. The war became film, the film becomes war, the two are joined by their common hemorrhage into technology. The real war is waged by Coppola as it is by Westmoreland: without counting the inspired irony of having forests and Phillipine villages napalmed to retrace the hell of South Vietnam. One revisits everything through cinema and one begins again: the Molochian joy of filming, the sacrificial joy of so many millions spent, of such a holocaust of means, of so many misadventures, and the remarkable paranoia that from the beginning conceived of this film as a historical, global event, in which, in the mind of the creator, the war in Vietnam would have been nothing other than what it is, would not fundamentally have existed - and it is necessary for us to believe in this: the war in Vietnam "in itself" perhaps in fact never happened, it is a dream, a baroque dream of napalm and of the tropics, a psychotropic dream that had the goal neither of a victory nor of a policy at stake, but, rather, the sacrificial, excessive deployment of a power already filming itself as it unfolded, perhaps waiting for nothing but consecration by a superfilm, which completes the mass-spectacle effect of this war. No real distance, no critical sense, no desire for "raising consciousness" in relation to the war: and in a sense this is the brutal quality of this film - not being rotten with the moral psychology of war. Coppola can certainly deck out his helicopter captain in a ridiculous hat of the light cavalry, and make him crush the Vietnamese village to the sound of Wagner's music - those are not critical, distant signs, they are immersed in the machinery, they are part of the special effect, and he himself makes movies in the same way, with the same retro megalomania, and the same non-signifying furor, with the same clownish effect in overdrive. But there it is, he hits us with that, it is there, it is bewildering, and one can say to oneself: how is such a horror possible (not that of the war, but that of the film strictly speaking)? But there is no answer, there is no possible verdict, and one can even rejoice in this monstrous trick (exactly as with Wagner) - but one can always retrieve a tiny little idea that is not nasty, that is not a value judgment, but that tells you the war in Vietnam and this film are cut from the same cloth, that nothing separates them, that this film is part of the war - if the Americans (seemingly) lost the other one, they certainly won this one. Apocalypse Now is a global victory. Cinematographic power equal and superior to that of the industrial and military complexes, equal or superior to that of the Pentagon and of governments. And all of a sudden, the film is not without interest: it retrospectively illuminates (not even retrospectively, because the film is a phase of this war without end) what was already crazy about this war, irrational in political terms: the Americans and the Vietnamese are already reconciled, right after the end of the hostilities the Americans offered economic aid, exactly as if they had annihilated the jungle and the towns, exactly as they are making their film today. One has understood nothing, neither about the war nor about cinema (at least the latter) if one has not grasped this lack of distinction that is no longer either an ideological or a moral one, one of good and evil, but one of the reversibility of both destruction and production, of the immanence of a thing in its very revolution, of the organic metabolism of all the technologies, of the carpet of bombs in the strip of film . . .THE BEAUBOURG EFFECT: IMPLOSION AND DETERRENCE The Beaubourg effect, the Beaubourg machine, the Beaubourg thing - how to give it a name? Enigma of this carcass of flux and signs, of networks and circuits - the final impulse to translate a structure that no longer has a name, the structure of social relations given over to superficial ventilation (animation, self-management, information, media) and to an irreversibly deep implosion. Monument to the games of mass simulation, the Pompidou Center functions as an incinerator absorbing all the cultural energy and devouring it - a bit like the black monolith in 2001: insane convection of all the contents that came there to be materialized, to be absorbed, and to be annihilated. All around, the neighborhood is nothing but a protective zone - remodeling, disinfection, a snobbish and hygienic design - but above all in a figurative sense: it is a machine for making emptiness. It is a bit like the real danger nuclear power stations pose: not lack of security, pollution, explosion, but a system of maximum security that radiates around them, the protective zone of control and deterrence that extends, slowly but surely, over the territory - a technical, ecological, economic, geopolitical glacis. What does the nuclear matter? The station is a matrix in which an absolute model of security is elaborated, which will encompass the whole social field, and which is fundamentally a model of deterrence (it is the same one that controls us globally, under the sign of peaceful coexistence and of the simulation of atomic danger). The same model, with the same proportions, is elaborated at the Center: cultural fission, political deterrence. This said, the circulation of fluids is unequal. Ventilation, cooling, electrical networks - the "traditional" fluids circulate there very well. Already the circulation of the human flux is less assured (the archaic solution of escalators in plastic sleeves, one ought to be aspirated, propelled, or something, but with a mobility that would be up to this baroque theatricality of fluids that is the source of the originality of the carcass). As for the material of the works, of objects, of books and the so-called polyvalent interior space, these no longer circulate at all. It is the opposite of Roissy, where from a futurist center of "spatial" design radiating toward "satellites," etc., one ends up completely flat in front of . . . traditional airplanes. But the incoherence is the same. (What happened to money, this other fluid, what happened to its mode of circulation, of emulsion, of fallout at Beaubourg?) Same contradiction even in the behavior of the personnel, assigned to the "polyvalent" space and without a private work space. On their feet and mobile, the people affect a cool demeanor, more supple, very contemporary, adapted to the "structure" of a "modern" space. Seated in their corner, which is precisely not one, they exhaust themselves secreting an artificial solitude, remaking their "bubble." Therein is also a great tactic of deterrence: one condemns them to using all their energy in this individual defense. Curiously, one thus finds the same contradiction that characterizes the Beaubourg thing: a mobile exterior, commuting, cool and modern - an interior shriveled by the same old values. This space of deterrence, articulated on the ideology of visibility, of transparency, of polyvalency, of consensus and contact, and sanctioned by the blackmail to security, is today, virtually, that of all social relations. All of social discourse is there, and on this level as well as on that of the treatment of culture, Beaubourg flagrantly contradicts its explicit objectives, a nice monument to our modernity. It is nice to think that the idea did not come to some revolutionary spirit, but to the logicians of the established order, deprived of all critical intelligence, and thus closer to the truth, capable, in their obstinacy, of putting in place a machine that is fundamentally uncontrollable, that in its very success escapes them, and that is the most exact reflection, even in its contradictions, of the current state of things. Certainly, all the cultural contents of Beaubourg are anachronistic, because only an empty interior could correspond to this architectural envelope. The general impression being that everything here has come out of a coma, that everything wants to be animation and is only reanimation, and that this is good because culture is dead, a condition that Beaubourg admirably retraces, but in a dishonest fashion, whereas one should have triumphantly accepted this death and erected a monument or an anti-monument equivalent to the phallic inanity of the Eiffel Tower in its time. Monument to total disconnection, to hyperreality and to the implosion of culture-achieved today for us in the effect of transistorized circuits always threatened by a gigantic short circuit. Beaubourg is already an imperial compression - figure of a culture already crushed by its own weight - like moving automobiles suddenly frozen in a geometric solid. Like the cars of Caesar, survivors of an ideal accident, no longer external, but internal to the metallic and mechanical structure, and which would have produced tons of cubic scrap iron, where the chaos of tubes, levers, frames, of metal and human flesh inside is tailored to the geometric size of the smallest possible space - thus the culture of Beaubourg is ground, twisted, cut up, and pressed into its smallest simple elements - a bundle of defunct transmissions and metabolisms, frozen like a science-fiction mecanoid. But instead of breaking and compressing all culture here in this carcass that in any case has the appearance of a compression, instead of that, one exhibits Caesar there. One exhibits Dubuffet and the counterculture, whose inverse simulation acts as a referential for the defunct culture. In this carcass that could have served as a mausoleum to the useless operationality of signs, one reexhibits Tinguely's ephemeral and autodestructive machines under the sign of the eternity of culture. Thus one neutralizes everything together: Tinguely is embalmed in the museal institution, Beaubourg falls back on its supposed artistic contents. Fortunately, this whole simulacrum of cultural values is annihilated in advance by the external architecture.*1 Because this architecture, with its networks of tubes and the look it has of being an expo or world's fair building, with its (calculated?) fragility deterring any traditional mentality or monumentality, overtly proclaims that our time will never again be that of duration, that our only temporality is that of the accelerated cycle and of recycling, that of the circuit and of the transit of fluids. Our only culture in the end is that of hydrocarbons, that of refining, cracking, breaking cultural molecules and of their recombination into synthesized products. This, the Beaubourg Museum wishes to conceal, but the Beaubourg cadaver proclaims. And this is what underlies the beauty of the cadaver and the failure of the interior spaces. In any case, the very ideology of "cultural production" is antithetical to all culture, as is that of visibility and of the polyvalent space: culture is a site of the secret, of seduction, of initiation, of a restrained and highly ritualized symbolic exchange. Nothing can be done about it. Too bad for the masses, too bad for Beaubourg. What should, then, have been placed in Beaubourg? Nothing. The void that would have signified the disappearance of any culture of meaning and aesthetic sentiment. But'this is still too romantic and destructive, this void would still have had value as a masterpiece of anticulture. Perhaps revolving strobe lights and gyroscopic lights, striating the space, for which the crowd would have provided the moving base element? In fact, Beaubourg illustrates very well that an order of simulacra only establishes itself on the alibi of the previous order. Here, a cadaver all in flux and surface connections gives itself as content a traditional culture of depth. An order of prior simulacra (that of meaning) furnishes the empty substance of a subsequent order, which, itself, no longer even knows the distinction between signifier and signified, nor between form and content. The question: "What should have been placed in Beaubourg?" is thus absurd. It cannot be answered because the topical distinction between interior and exterior should no longer be posed. There lies our truth, the truth of Mobius-doubtless an unrealizable Utopia, but which Beaubourg still points to as right, to the degree to which any of its contents is a countermeaning and annihilated in advance by the form. Yet-yet ... if you had to have something in Beaubourg - it should have been a labyrinth, a combinatory, infinite library, an aleatory redistribution of destinies through games or lotteries - in short, the universe of Borges - or even the circular Ruins: the slowed-down enchainment of individuals dreamed up by each other (not a dreamworld Disneyland, a laboratory of practical fiction). An experimentation with all the different processes of representation: defraction, implosion, slow motion, aleatory linkage and decoupling - a bit like at the Exploratorium in San Francisco or in the novels of Philip K. Dick - in short a culture of simulation and of fascination, and not always one of production and meaning: this is what might be proposed that would not be a miserable anticulture. Is it possible? Not here, evidently. But this culture takes place elsewhere, everywhere, nowhere. From today, the only real cultural practice, that of the masses, ours (there is no longer a difference), is a manipulative, aleatory practice, a labyrinthine practice of signs, and one that no longer has any meaning. In another way, however, it is not true that there is no coherence between form and content at Beaubourg. It is true if one gives any credence to the official cultural project. But exactly the opposite occurs there. Beaubourg is nothing but a huge effort to transmute this famous traditional culture of meaning into the aleatory order of signs, into an order of simulacra (the third) that is completely homogeneous with the flux and pipes of the facade. And it is in order to prepare the masses for this new semiurgic order that one brings them together here - with the opposite pretext of acculturating them to meaning and depth. One must thus start with this axiom: Beaubourg is a monument of cultural deterrence. Within a museal scenario that only serves to keep up the humanist fiction of culture, it is a veritable fashioning of the death of culture that takes place, and it is a veritable cultural mourning for which the masses are joyously gathered. And they throw themselves at it. There lies the supreme irony of Beaubourg: the masses throw themselves at it not because they salivate for that culture which they have been denied for centuries, but because they have for the first time the opportunity to massively participate in this great mourning of a culture that, in the end, they have always detested. The misunderstanding is therefore complete when one denounces Beaubourg as a cultural mystification of the masses. The masses, themselves, rush there to enjoy this execution, this dismemberment, this operational prostitution of a culture finally truly liquidated, including all counterculture that is nothing but its apotheosis. The masses rush toward Beaubourg as they rush toward disaster sites, with the same irresistible elan. Better: they are the disaster of Beaubourg. Their number, their stampede, their fascination, their itch to see everything is objectively a deadly and catastrophic behavior for the whole undertaking. Not only does their weight put the building in danger, but their adhesion, their curiosity annihilates the very contents of this culture of animation. This rush can no longer be measured against what was proposed as the cultural objective, it is its radical negation, in both its excess and success. It is thus the masses who assume the role of catastrophic agent in this structure of catastrophe, it is the masses themselves who put an end to mass cu
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    Mar 9 2011, 18h03

  • The Hedonistic Imperative

    Jan 23 2011, 6h27

    (From: 0.1 The Naturalisation of Heaven. This manifesto combines far-fetched utopian advocacy with cold-headed scientific prediction. The Hedonistic Imperative outlines how nanotechnology and genetic engineering will eliminate aversive experience from the living world. Over the next thousand years or so, the biological substrates of suffering will be eradicated completely. "Physical" and "mental" pain alike are destined to disappear into evolutionary history. The biochemistry of everyday discontents will be genetically phased out too. Malaise will be replaced by the biochemistry of bliss. Matter and energy will be sculpted into life-loving super-beings animated by gradients of well-being. The states of mind of our descendants are likely to be incomprehensibly diverse by comparison with today. Yet all will share at least one common feature: a sublime and all-pervasive happiness. This feeling of absolute well-being will surpass anything contemporary human neurochemistry can imagine, let alone sustain. The story gets better. Post-human states of magical joy will be biologically refined, multiplied and intensified indefinitely. Notions of what now passes for tolerably good mental health are likely to be superseded. They will be written off as mood-congruent pathologies of the primordial Darwinian psyche. Such ugly thoughts and feelings will be diagnosed as typical of the tragic lives of emotional primitives from the previous era. In time, the deliberate re-creation of today's state-spectrum of normal waking and dreaming consciousness may be outlawed as cruel and immoral. Such speculations may currently sound fantastical. Yet the ideas behind this manifesto may one day be regarded as intellectually trite - albeit today morally urgent. For as the genetic revolution in reproductive medicine unfolds, what might once have been the stuff of millennialist fantasy is set to become a scientifically feasible research program. Its adoption or rejection will become, ultimately, a social policy issue. Passively or actively, we will have to choose just how much unpleasantness we wish to create or conserve - if any - in eras to come. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 0.2 Saving Vehicles With Bad Drivers. Blind selective pressures have acted on living organisms over hundreds of millions of years. Darwinian evolution has powerfully favoured the growth of ever more diverse, excruciating, but also more adaptive varieties of psychophysical pain. Its sheer nastiness effectively spurs and punishes the living vehicles of genetic replicators. Sadness, anxiety and discontent are frequently good for our genes; they're just psychologically bad for us. In absolute terms, global suffering is probably still increasing as the population explosion continues. Human ingenuity has struggled, often vainly, to rationalise and somehow derive value from the most frightful anguish. But over the aeons, the very anguish which intermittently corrodes the well-being of the individual organism has differentially promoted the inclusive fitness of its DNA. Hence it has tended to get inexorably worse. Of course such doom-and-gloom isn't the whole picture. The world's horrors can be contrasted with life's rewarding experiences. People sometimes have fun. Long-lasting depression is rarely adaptive. Yet what Michael Eysenck describes as the "hedonic treadmill" ensures that very few of us can be very happy for very long. An interplay of cruelly effective negative feedback mechanisms is at work in the central nervous system. Feedback-inhibition ensures that a majority of people would be periodically bored, depressed or angst-ridden in a recreated Garden of Eden. A small minority of humans do in fact experience states of indefinitely prolonged euphoria. These states of involuntary well-being are usually pathologised as "manic". Unlike unipolar depression, sustained unipolar euphoric mania is very rare. Other folk who just have high "hedonic set-points", but who aren't manic or bipolar, are sometimes described as "hyperthymic" instead. This isn't a common mindset either. "Bipolar disorder", on the other hand, is experienced in the course of a lifetime by perhaps one in a hundred people or more. Popularly known as manic-depression, bipolar disorder has several sub-types. Mood characteristically alternates between euphoria and abject despair. Cycles may vary in length. It is a complex genetic condition which runs in families. Typically, bipolarity is marked by a genetic variation in the serotonin transporter as compared to "euthymic" normals. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in sleep, sociability, feeding, activity, impulse-control, mood, and a lot else besides. The serotonin transporter mops up "excess" serotonin released by nerve cells into the synapses. Very crudely, manic states are associated with enhanced dopamine and norepinephrine function; in mania, serotonin function is dysregulated or low. Sadly, among today's "bipolars" manic exuberance can spin out of control. Euphoria may be accompanied by hyperactivity, sleeplessness, chaotically racing ideas, pressure of speech and grandiose thought. Hyper-sexuality, financial excesses and religious delusions are common. So is rampant egomania. Sometimes dysphoria may occur. In dysphoric mania the manic "high" is actually unpleasant. The excited subject may be angry, agitated, panicky, paranoid, and destructive. When in the grip of classic euphoric mania, however, it's hard to recognise that anyone might think anything is wrong. This is because everything feels utterly right. To suppose otherwise is like going to Heaven and then being invited to believe there has been a mistake. It's not credible. Today, euphoric (hypo-)mania is liable to be clinically subdued with drugs. ["Hypomania" denotes simply a milder mania.] Toxic "medication" can depress elevated mood to duller but "normal" levels. Such flatter and supposedly healthier levels of emotion enable otherwise euphoric people to function within contemporary society. Compliance with a medically-dictated treatment-regimen (lithium, sodium valproate, carbamazepine, etc.) will be enhanced if the victim can be persuaded that euphoric well-being is pathological. (S)he can then look for warning signs and symptoms. By the norms of our genetically-enriched posterity, however, it is the rest of us who are chronically unwell - if not more so. Contemporary standards of mental health are just pathologically low. Our super-well descendants, by contrast, will enjoy a glorious spectrum of new options for mental super-health. They may opt to combine emotional stability, resilience and "serotonergic" serenity, for instance, with the goal-oriented energy, optimism and initiative of a raw "dopaminergic" high. Post-humans will discover that euphoric peak experiences can be channelled, controlled and genetically diversified, not just medically suppressed. For there is a cruel irony here. Clinically prescribed mood-darkeners would be laughably redundant for the great bulk of humanity. At present, life for billions of genetically "normal" people is often very grim indeed. No amount of piecemeal political and economic reform, nor even radical social engineering, can overcome this biological reality. Today's billion-and-one routes to supposedly lasting happiness are pursued in the guise of innumerable intentional objects. [Intentionality in philosophy-speak is the 'aboutness' or 'object-directedness' of thought]. We convince ourselves that all manner of things would potentially make us happy. All these peripheral routes to personal fulfilment are not merely vastly circuitous and inefficient. In the main, they just don't, and can't, durably work. At best, they can serve as palliatives of the human predicament. If the mind/brain's emotional thermostat, as it were, is not genetically and/or pharmacologically reset, then even the greatest triumphs and successes turn to ashes. Lottery winners, cup-final hat-trick scorers and blissful newly-weds are left time and again to discover this fate anew. Even those of us who tend to lead a relatively happy day-to-day existence will, in the course of a lifetime, undergo spells of wretched unhappiness and disappointment. If we opt to have children, our corrupt code ensures they will periodically suffer a similar fate. It would be easy but unwarranted simply to extrapolate past and present trends into the indefinite future. Usually, we assume without question that our descendants - however different from us in other respects - will be biologically prone to suffer negative states of consciousness. We suppose that future generations will sometimes feel distress, both subtle and crude, just as we have always done ourselves. Yet this assumption may be naïve. The neurochemical basis of feeling and emotion is rapidly being unravelled. The human genome is going to get comprehensively decoded and rewritten. In ages to come, it will become purely an issue of (post-)human decision whether unpleasant modes of consciousness are generated in any form or texture whatsoever. Aversive experience is a sinister anachronism in the age of post-genomic medicine. We will soon have to decide if we should inflict suffering on ourselves or on others. A terrible but once unavoidable fact of organic life then becomes instead a matter for active moral choice when one decides upon the genetic make-up of one's future kids. And that choice can be declined. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 0.3 Humans Are Not Rats. One possibility, though not an option to be canvassed here, is that in freeing ourselves from the nightmarish legacy of our evolutionary past we might choose to enjoy a lifetime of raw, all-consuming orgasmic bliss. This bliss needn't be directed at any well-defined intentional objects. We - or more likely our robot-serviced descendants - wouldn't be ecstatic about anything in particular. Our nature would be constitutionally ecstatic. Genetically pre-programmed euphoria would be as natural and inevitable as breathing. We would simply be happy about being happy. The defining image here, perhaps, is the notional human counterpart of the experimenter's lever-pressing rat. Microelectrodes can be implanted directly into the mind/brain's pleasure centres. These lie in the mesolimbic dopamine system, the core of the brain's reward circuitry. It extends from the ventral tegmentum to the nucleus accumbens, with projections to the limbic system and orbitofrontal cortex. Notoriously, the wired rat will indulge in frenzied bouts of intra-cranial self-stimulation for days on end. The experience is so wonderful that it takes precedence over food and sleep. Intra-cranial self-stimulation is preferred even to sex. The rat doesn't need to undergo a contrasting "low" to appreciate the "high". The little bundle of joy is apparently incapable of becoming bored with, or physiologically tolerant to, the rodent equivalent of Heaven. Such animalistic images are unedifying to all but the most unabashed hedonist. Yet more subtly engineered human counterparts of the euphoric rat are perfectly feasible. Centuries hence, any pleasure-maximising ecstatics will be using their personal freedom to exercise what is, in an ethical utilitarian sense, a legitimate lifestyle choice. The "wirehead" option, however, will be only one item taken from a very large menu. Unfortunately, it is also the most easily visualised. So the spectre of perpetual intra-cranial self-stimulation can easily be taken, wrongly, to symbolise the whole approach that The Hedonistic Imperative represents. The desperate ethical urgency that underlies the abolitionist project may thus too easily be dismissed. For humans, as we are solemnly reminded, are not rats. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 0.4 Life In Dopaminergic Overdrive. An important point to stress in the discussion to follow is that many dopamine-driven states of euphoria can actually enhance motivated, goal-directed behaviour in general. Enhanced dopamine function makes one's motivation to act stronger, not weaker. Hyper-dopaminergic states tend also to increase the range of activities an organism finds worth pursuing. Outside the pleasure-laboratory, such states of necessity focus on countless different intentional objects. So humanity's future as envisaged in this manifesto is not, or certainly not just, an eternity spent enraptured on elixirs of super-soma or tanked up on high-octane pleasure-machines. Nor is it plausible that posterity will enjoy only the dullish, opiated sensibility of the heroin addict. Instead, an extraordinarily fertile range of purposeful and productive activities will most likely be pursued. Better still, our descendants, and in principle perhaps even our elderly selves, will have the chance to enjoy modes of experience we primitives cruelly lack. For on offer are sights more majestically beautiful, music more deeply soul-stirring, sex more exquisitely erotic, mystical epiphanies more awe-inspiring, and love more profoundly intense than anything we can now properly comprehend. I shall first schematically set out how a naturalistic, secular paradise of effectively everlasting happiness is biotechnically feasible. Second, I will argue why its realisation is instrumentally rational and ethically mandatory. Third, I will offer a sketch of when and why such a scenario is likely to come to pass in some guise or other. And, finally, I shall try to anticipate some of the most common if not always cogent objections that the prospect of psychochemical nirvana is likely to arouse, and attempt to defuse them. 1. How? "God's in His Heaven - All's right with the world!" (Robert Browning) 1.0 Sabotage at the Mill. To escape from the hedonic treadmill we must first sabotage a small but vicious set of negative feedback mechanisms. These are genetically coded into the mind/brain. Recreational drugs of abuse do not transcend or subvert such mechanisms. On the contrary, they actually bring them into play with a vengeance. Today's quick-and-dirty euphoriants are nonetheless instructive. They give us a tantalising glimpse of what humanity's natural state of consciousness could become if several ugly neural metabolic pathways were inhibited or eliminated. A better clue to organic life's emotional future dates from the early 1950s. The unlikely guinea-pigs were veterans at a U.S. tuberculosis sanatorium. Residents prescribed the MAO-inhibiting drug iproniazid were not merely cured of their tuberculosis. After a few weeks of treatment, many of them started to feel exceptionally happy. Doctors described their patients, rather over-colourfully perhaps, as "dancing in the aisles". For the most part, the veterans had not previously been clinically depressed, as distinct from rather crotchety. Nor was their new-found euphoria simply an understandable reaction to restored good health. Moreover, in contrast to most recreational drugs, tolerance to the MAO-inhibitor's mood-brightening side-effect, and the consequent danger of uncontrolled dose-escalation, didn't set in. Instead, it transpires that MAO-inhibitors as a class can induce a benign, long-term re-regulation of several families of nerve-cell receptor proteins involved in making us happy or sad. Quite by accident, modern medicine had stumbled on the sustainably mood-lifting properties of a remarkable and diverse category of drugs, the monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Monoamine oxidase has two main types, uninformatively labelled A and B. MAO is an enzyme responsible for the deamination of monoamine neurotransmitters such as dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin. It also deaminates trace amines such as phenylethylamine, found in chocolate and released when one is in love. MAO isoenzyme-A deaminates serotonin, norepinephrine and, to a lesser extent, dopamine. Isoenzyme-B breaks down dopamine and phenylethylamine. The action of monoamine neurotransmitters on the post-synaptic receptors, and the post-transduction intracellular cascade they induce, plays a vital role in mediating mood and emotion. Depletion of monoamines in the synaptic vesicles e.g. by the anti-hypertensive drug reserpine, can sometimes precipitate severe and even life-threatening depression. Elevated levels of dopamine, on the other hand, are associated with (hypo-)manic euphoria. By modulating the synaptic availability, and consequent receptor re-regulation, of simple neurotransmitters on a long-term basis, the MAO-inhibitors were to serve as the first of a disparate group of drugs uninvitingly categorised as "antidepressants". Some of today's mediocre crop of licensed products, such as the tricyclics, are in general unrewarding to people who aren't rated clinically depressed. They tend to be sedating. Their action dulls, however mildly, the intellect and sensibility. Most traditional therapeutic agents - at least until the development of (relatively) selective serotonin re-uptake blockers such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and noradrenaline reuptake blockers such as reboxetine - are "dirty" and unselective drugs. They have lots of troublesome side-effects. They frequently flatten rather than deepen the emotions. Several brands, such as the older, unselective and irreversible MAO-inhibitors, are potentially dangerous if taken in the absence of rigorous dietary restrictions. All of them, thanks to the puritanical ethos of the medical establishment, have been tested and brought to market with the deliberate additional aim of not inducing a euphoric sense of well-being ("abuse-potential") in the user. Most contemporary "antidepressants" only modestly outperform a placebo in well-controlled clinical trials. It is the twenty first century's successors to these unpromising-sounding drugs, however, and not today's fast-acting recreational euphoriants, that promise to deliver the world's supposedly "euthymic" population from the sick psycho-chemical ghetto bequeathed by our genetic past. Potent, long-acting mood-brighteners - but not clinical "psychic anaesthetisers" or "quick-hit" street-drugs - will serve as a life-enriching stop-gap until radical gene-therapies enable us to knock out the Darwinian pathologies of consciousness altogether. Time-delayed designer euphoriants will foreshadow an extended product-line of innovative treatments for all kinds of malaise. Collectively, such interventions will cure what post-human posterity will recognise as a gene-driven spectrum of psychiatric disorders characteristic of Darwinian life. A lot of the time at present, we just don't - and can't - conceptualise the full extent of how unwell we are. For there are powerful arguments to suggest that everyday consciousness, insofar as it is not transcendentally wonderful, is symptomatic of profound psychological ill-health. This possibility is not widely acknowledged in public today. Mental illness still carries a stigma. "Of-course-I'm-all-right. There's nothing wrong with me!", one may sometimes snappishly be told. To be depressive is to be fitness-impaired, low-status, a poor choice of mate, and generally uncool. So there are self-protective defence- and denial-mechanisms, as well as a plain failure of the imagination, at work. Defensiveness and denial won't be needed for ever. A few generations hence, the intoxicating joy of normal post-Darwinian life will be genetically pre-programmed. A reproductive revolution of "designer babies" will hardwire happiness from the womb. Psychoactive drugs may become redundant, or rather tools for consciousness research and life-enrichment rather than self-medication. For pure well-being can potentially become a deep and natural presupposition of everyday life. Undiluted existential happiness will infuse every second of waking and dreaming existence; and pervade every aspect of one's body and psyche. Sadly, the sort of germ-line gene-therapy needed to achieve gradients of lifelong, high-functioning euphoria for everyone who thinks they can handle it is still some way off. In the transitional era before global paradise-engineering unfolds, chemical mood-uplifters will be essential too. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.1 The Biological Program. Grand meta-narratives currently aren't very fashionable. History can indeed seem like one damn thing after another. The nearest we get these days to some kind of plot or story about where life on earth is heading usually adds up to some simple-minded technological determinism. Nevertheless, a sketch of one possible route by which all sources of negative value will be purged from the world is set out below. Other biological strategies for Cosmic Value-Maximisation - or simply making everyone a great deal happier - are in prospect too. Details and variations matter. Every family of options for naturalising heaven-on-earth needs to be exhaustively researched - and not just idly philosophised about. Yet it is vital to distinguish the overall goal of abolishing suffering from our first faltering blueprints of how the abolitionist project should be implemented. The technical shortcomings of anything proposed here should not be allowed to taint the overall strategy of the abolitionist project itself. This particular biological program, at least, is inspired by an almost desperate sense of moral urgency, not gung-ho technophilia. It's not "hedonistic" in the popular sense of term. For it's worth pausing and trying to practise, quite literally, a few minutes of systematic empathy. Atrocious, agonising things are happening to people like you, me and our loved ones right now. The full horror of some sorts of suffering is literally unspeakable and unimaginably dreadful. Under a Darwinian regime of "natural" reproduction, truly horrible experiences - as well as endemic low-grade malaise - are both commonplace and inevitable. In Chapter Two, the moral case will be argued that this nastiness should be stopped. Since 'ought' implies 'can', however, it must first be established that scrapping unpleasant experience really is a biologically feasible option. It will be argued that the lesson of intracranial self-stimulation studies - despite their lamentable contemporary image - is yes. It is harder to establish that life-long, intellectually discerning bliss is feasible, either via rationally designed drugs or gene therapy or both. But from an information-theoretic perspective, what counts is not our absolute location on the pleasure-pain axis, but that we are "informationally sensitive" to fitness-relevant changes in our internal and external environment. Gradients of bliss can suffice both to motivate us and offer a rich network of feedback mechanisms; so alas today do gradients of Darwinian discontent. The blueprint set out below outlines only a cartoonish prototype of a mature post-Darwinian paradise. Its sketch of likely future neuro-scientific breakthroughs may well be wrong both in its few specifics and its projected time-scales. Experts in the relevant specialist fields will doubtless wince, at least in places. For The Hedonistic Imperative consists in a hand-waving, cross-disciplinary romp through dauntingly complex specialist topics. Inevitably, some of the pop neuroscience is simplistic to the point of parody. Eyebrows should be raised, too, at the dogmatic brevity with which various philosophical problems deserving book-length treatment are dispatched in a single sentence. The multitude of practical, medico-legal and socio-political problems which fulfilling our neurochemical Manifest Destiny will entail are largely passed over as well. These caveats are important. Yet leaving them aside, the biological program may be divided, somewhat arbitrarily, into three stages. They are here ranked in order of difficulty. Luckily, the stages happen to coincide in relative ethical importance, since crude harm-reduction, cruelty-prevention and pain-abolition are easier to accomplish than refining the architectural subtleties of paradise. Less happily, any biochemical description of the mechanics of the sublime just travesties the nature of the experience itself. The sub-academese prose below unavoidably debases what it aims to evoke. This is because of the contaminated associations of any terms associated with drug-abuse, genetic engineering, eugenics, or even the emotionally frigid atmosphere of the laboratory. Our present perspective on utopian biopsychiatry is jaundiced. For our education system virtually ignores the neurobiological foundations of all emotional life. Happily, that system also provides the formal tools for us to describe and escape from our predicament. What is really needed, above and beyond mere chemical formulae, is a new network of concepts - a user's guide to map out the magically alien realms of consciousness ahead of us. Yet by the time such tools can be developed as new state-spaces of experience are accessed, the revolutionary conceptual scheme they embody will be less urgently needed. One day, we may have thoughts like sunsets! Their brilliance will replace the elusive and phenomenologically thin series of sad little cognitive tickles which we (apparently) shuffle around and via which this manifesto is written and read. In the meantime, the impersonal vocabulary of chemistry and molecular biology is all we can rely on for communicating how to get things done. An earthly paradise can be achieved only by the profane application of science. World-wide mental superhealth won't be achieved via the edifying discourses of religion or magic. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.2 Pumping Up The Volume. One crude but effective ingredient of the initial stage of the biological program will involve modifying the meso(cortico-)limbic dopamine system. Controversially, and oversimplifying a little since dopamine is not itself a magic "pleasure molecule", the mesolimbic reward pathways play an intimate role in the final common pathway for pleasure in the brain. Neuronal dopamine-release may be elicited "naturally" via biochemical transduction-mechanisms. It is usually triggered by adaptive environmental stimuli. On the other hand, dopamine-release may also be induced more directly via the use of recreational drugs. The "rush" of crack cocaine, for instance, falsely signals a huge Darwinian fitness benefit. Either way, although the central nervous system has tens of billions of cells, its mesolimbic wellspring of pleasure, motivation and libido has only some 30-40 thousand neurons; and clearly this isn't nearly enough. The axons and dendrites of mesolimbic dopaminergic neurons innervate the higher cortical regions of the brain. They thereby help mediate the genetically adaptive "encephalisation of emotion". This neat little trick has served our DNA, but frequently not us, fiendishly well. Emotional encephalisation convinces its victims that happiness is inseparable from presence or absence of variously innervated types of intentional object. We are happy or sad 'about' things. Entirely non-coincidentally, the realisation of our most emotionally charged types of intentional object tends to promote the inclusive fitness of our genes. Crudely, we like most what's good for them. Unfortunately, they don't care about us. Our genes don't look after their vehicles for very long. In adult life, dopaminergic neurons die off at a rate of over 10% per decade. Their death ensures that senescence is marked by a decline in drive, libido, pleasure and the intensity of experience itself. Even in one's youth, the fullest and most beautiful scope for expression of the dopaminergic pleasure-cells is continually frustrated by inhibitory feedback. This derives both from the cells' own pre-synaptic autoreceptors and the processes of other, often less benign, neurons that synapse upon them. Thus what must be included in any program of systematic life-enrichment is a strategy of at once multiplying the numbers of, and selectively reducing feedback inhibition on, mesolimbic dopamine cells. Targeting the medium spiny neurons of the rostral shell of the nucleus accumbens is critical. Achieving a modest initial hundredfold, say, enrichment of an organism's capacity for well-being is not, needless to add, simply a matter of genetically switching on an uncontrolled proliferation of dopaminergic neurons; though it has to be said that, as causes of death go, a tumour of the pleasure cells has a certain whimsical appeal. Nor, of course, does a regimen of sustained pleasure-amplification simply entail enhancing the levels of dopamine in the synapses. Excessive post-synaptic stimulation of particular dopamine receptor sub-types is implicated in, for instance, the florid symptoms of schizophrenia. Dopamine overdrive also marks the psychotic excesses of that ultimate egoist, the crack addict. So crude monotherapy surely won't do the job alone. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.3 The Civilising Neurotransmitter. There is a more promising twin-track approach. This consists of boosting sub-types of both dopaminergic and serotonergic function. Serotonin has been described as the "civilising neurotransmitter". Such a label is a useful piece of mental shorthand. It's still worth noting that even this simple monoamine has fifteen or more functionally distinct receptor sub-types. Serotonergic dysfunction is associated with irritability, explosive anger, violence, sociopathy, and suicide. Conversely, the extraordinarily deep sense of love, trust and empathy inspired by "the penicillin of the soul", MDMA, is due primarily to the massive release of serotonin which its use provokes. It causes only a modest release of dopamine. Both dopamine- and serotonin-release are needed for the inhibitory effects of MDMA on glutamate-evoked neuronal excitability in the nucleus accumbens to take its full magical effect. In any event, the result of casually popping a pill can be a life-defining revelation. The trouble today is that the magic doesn't last. There's no good reason why it shouldn't. In the new reproductive era of "designer babies" ahead, neurobehavioural systems that evolved to maximise Darwinian fitness of hominids on the African savannah can be redesigned to maximise personal well-being. A new kind of selection pressure comes into play when allelic combinations are deliberately chosen for a new child by its prospective parents in anticipation of their likely effects. Until invincible well-being can be genetically preprogrammed, however, it would be eminently sensible to develop a delayed-action, non-neurotoxic drug or cocktail-mix of sustainable mood-brighteners. This sort of designer elixir could make us all very happy and revolutionise our archaic conception of mental health. Day-to-day life in drug-assisted Eden can blend, if we so choose, the most exalted, life-loving euphoria of a potent dopamine or mu opioid agonist with the serene and mystical love of an 'empathogen' or 'entactogen' such as MDMA ("ecstasy"). States of incisive, goal-directed thought can co-exist with a profound love for our fellow beings. If we want, we can make such states biologically natural; and eventually innate. There are unimaginably good times ahead. As hedonic engineering develops into a mature biomedical discipline, the generic modes of paradise we opt for can be genetically pre-coded. Native-born ecstatics will flourish. All the wonderful models of mental superhealth discussed in this section of HI may come to be viewed as simple-minded prototypes. The innovative, high-specification bio-heavens beyond will be far richer. We lack the semantic competence to talk about them sensibly. Yet however inelegantly our goal may be accomplished at first, the ultimate strategic objective should be the neurochemical precision-engineering of happiness for every sentient organism on the planet. Sounds flaky? Yes, but then so, originally, has almost every radical reform movement in history (including, of course, the genuinely flaky ones.) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.4 The Cardinal Importance of Delayed Gratification. Eventually, well-being will be part of our very nature. A robust network of homeostatic mechanisms will ensure all hereditary ecstatics have gene-coded hedonic set-points way beyond today's puny maxima. In the Transitional Era, however, the widespread use of mind-healing drugs will in practice be unavoidable. Gene-therapy is still in its infancy; and germ-line clinical trials are time-consuming in humans. So crucially, the medically and socially responsible emphasis of the pharmacological arm of the biological transition strategy must be on the (relatively) long-term structural and functional effects in nervous tissue which a delayed-reward euphoriant-mix will induce in the individual mind/brain. Fast-acting recreational highs are a snare and a delusion. We must master - and educate our children in - the pharmacological equivalent of the principle of deferred gratification. The delay in therapeutic benefit stemming from gene-triggered receptor re-regulation can actually be very useful. Not merely is the development of tolerance diminished. Uncontrolled and potentially noxious bingeing on a psychoactive drug occurs when there is minimal delay between ingestion and reward. By contrast, the anticipated gene-switched, up- or down-regulation of the pre- and post-synaptic neuronal receptors in a regimen of sustainable mood-enhancement will generally take up to several weeks to complete. Fortunately, enhancing serotonin function tends to increase patience and impulse-control as well as mood. Perhaps a comparison with tobacco-smoking can be of use here. In its present setting, nicotine is so addictive, not because of the quite minimal "high" it induces, but because of the sheer speed of onset of its intrinsically mild hit due to the customary delivery mechanism. The "reward" comes about seven seconds after inhalation. If the whole-body orgasmic rush of even crack-cocaine were delayed for ten days or so after its consumption, then the drug would be far less of a social and medical problem than it is at present. Tragically, most of its current users seem unacquainted with, or have long since forgotten, the concept of delayed reward. They might now be unwilling to wait nearly so long. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.5 The Molecular Genetics Of Paradise. Strategic, species-wide pharmacotherapy of the kind advocated above can be complemented, and synergistically allied, with genetic engineering as it matures from mere genetic tinkering. Gene therapy will be targeted both on somatic cells and, with even greater forethought, the germ-line. If cunningly applied, a combination of the cellular enlargement of the meso-limbic dopamine system, selectively enhanced metabolic function of key intra-cellular sub-types of opioidergic and serotonergic pathway, and the disablement of several countervailing inhibitory feedback processes will put in place the biomolecular architecture for a major transition in human evolution - and life itself. The re-engineering of bits of psycho-neural circuitry sketched above may, it is true, seem somewhat ambitious. Perhaps it sounds impossibly futuristic. Comparatively, however, these techniques amount to a primitively inept form of piecemeal tinkering compared to the revolutionary redesign of the mind/brain likely to be undertaken in millennia to come. For it won't just be the quality and quantity of consciousness in the world which will be transformed in the early stages of the post-Darwinian Transition. As humanity emerges from the psychochemical Dark Ages, enriched dopaminergic function in particular will sharpen the sheer intensity of every moment of conscious existence. For a generation whose lifetimes span both modes of awareness, it will be as if they had just woken up after sleep-walking through life in a twilit stupor. Thereafter their former mundane and minimal existence may be recalled only as some kind of zombified trance-state. Our own "ordinary" consciousness may be unmasked as a shallow and uninteresting vehicle of malaise whose properties we were physiologically incapable of recognising 'from the inside'. At present, however, we lack the neural substrates of a capacity to set archaic consciousness in a pre- and post-Darwinian context. Or as Einstein says: "What does the fish know of the sea in which it swims?" Other neurohormones, transcription factors, opioids, tyrosine-hydroxylase activators, oxytocin-releasers, receptor density-regulators, intra-cellular second- and third-messengers, phosphorylated proteins, and genetic repressors and promoters which are implicated in the modulation of mood, emotional tone and psychophysical pain will be reconfigured too as the biological program unfolds. The details are messy and complicated. Naturally, our neurotransmitter systems finely interlock. They can be treated in isolation only conceptually and for purposes of expository convenience. They form a complex and delicate interplay of feedback loops that defies easy simplification and synopsis. In centuries to follow, however, they will be collectively enlisted to re-work the texture of experience. Our happiness will be chemically and genetically enhanced with ever greater artistry and finesse. Conversely, several vicious triggers of extraordinary nastiness (e.g. bradykinin, nociceptin, substance P) will be banished from the sensorium, one trusts for ever. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.6 The Re-encephalisation Of Emotion. These procedures will lay the hedonic foundations for a dizzyingly exalted ground-state of conscious existence. The most pressing question to examine next is what will - and what should - be done with it? How, and why, should emotion be encephalised in an era when intentionality is no longer tied to furthering the inclusive fitness of self-replicating DNA in our ancestral environment? What's worth being happy "about"? For the real intellectual challenge won't lie ultimately in sheer happiness-maximisation. After all, if eternal bliss were the sole objective of paradise-engineering, then a rat with electrodes fixed in its pleasure-centres already points the way forward. In fact, our descendants may find generating generic states of life-long happiness per se trivially easy. Most of us, however, are intellectually quite snobbish. We don't want our emotions de-encephalised. We like good moods, but anything resembling the prospect of a perpetual orgasmic frenzy of delight stirs more ambivalent feelings. The limbic innervation of the neocortex has been so adaptive because it allows sophisticated genetic vehicles like us to feel some intentional objects are inherently good or bad. We want to feel that we are happy for good reasons - genetically self-serving as they may so often be. We'll soon be in a position to de-fang this dangerous tendency altogether. But we won't want to abolish it. In generations to come, a primary focus of neuroscientific mind-making will be on remapping the axonal and dendritic arborisation of the neo-cortex which makes the rationalisation of emotion possible. The aim of this rational redesign can be to bootstrap our way into fulfilling our second-order desires ("desires about desires") for who and what we want to become. What we will ultimately turn into is hard to imagine. One may predict merely that it will be utterly sublime. Using biotechnology to select and fine-tune a post-Darwinian personality will partly depend on individual taste. One's choice of identity even in paradise will still be tempered by genetic biases, ancient cultural stereotypes, and the latest vagaries of fashion. The lure of hot-button super-normal stimuli will at first be very potent. Yet we may also be enchanted by ideas and modes of experience that today haven't even been conceptualised. Potentially, there are far more things to be happy "about" than we can possibly grasp. On a societal level, some form of neuro-architectural planning permission will presumably still be needed for the purposes of orchestrating the multiple microcosms as each designer-heaven takes shape. Yet harmonisation should be more readily accomplished when people are already blissfully and empathetically happy - "all loved up". Neurologically, in fact, there is nothing to stop co-operating with others from being a source of rapturous joy; as alas it isn't always today. When life isn't perceived as an approximation to a zero-sum game, social existence is going to be far easier to co-ordinate. Initially, it may be tempting for newly-enlightened ecstatics to seek the idealised realisation of purely traditional objects of delight. Effectively, we'll be able to have anything we've always wanted and more. This includes enjoying the biomolecular substrates of an unprecedentedly vivid sense of reality, a perpetually enriched feeling of meaningfulness and significance, a sense of heightened authenticity, and never-ending raw-edged excitement - or intense serenity and spiritual peace. In these early days, subjects may find the idea of fulfilling older conceptions of the good life a reassuring prospect. Prior to their own personal transition to heavenly superhealth, any paradoxical trepidation coming from candidates for hedonic enrichment should be laid to rest by the following reflection. Nothing we have previously enjoyed in the old Darwinian era will afterwards be unavailable or any less satisfying than before. In fact, we may be motivated to pursue old goals with far greater gusto once weakness of will becomes just an evolutionary curiosity. For weak will-power caused by dopamine hypo-function is one of those neurological deficiencies which effort alone can't overcome. Happily, in Paradise the frailest spirit can move mountains. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.7 How Could Anything Be So Good? Perhaps a few examples of early post-Darwinian life are in order. The Nature-lover, for instance, will be able to contemplate with awe-struck reverence scenes of overpowering sublimity eclipsing the superficial prettiness on offer before. A musician may wish that those of his functional modules which mediate musical appreciation should receive especially rich innervation from his freshly amped-up pleasure system. (S)he might then hear, and have the chance to play, music more exhilarating and numinously beautiful than his or her ancestors ever dreamed of; the celestial music of the spheres heard by privileged medieval mystics will be as a child's toy tin-whistle in comparison. The sensualist will discover that what had previously passed for passionate sex had been merely a mildly agreeable piece of foreplay. Erotic pleasure of an intoxicating intensity that mortal flesh has never known will thereafter be enjoyable with a whole gamut of friends and lovers. This will be possible because jealousy, already transiently eliminable today under the influence of various serotonin-releasing agents, is not the sort of gene-inspired perversion of consciousness likely to be judged worthy of conservation in the new era. A painter or connoisseur of the visual arts will be able to behold the secular equivalent of the beatific vision in a million different guises, each of indescribable glory. The toy-town lexical tokens we permute today will by then be an archaic residue of little use in evoking their majesty. As language evolves to reflect and navigate ever more exalted planes of being, fresh taxonomies of pleasure-concepts will be pioneered to help define newly-discovered modes of awareness. As an exercise, the reader may care briefly to summon up the most delightful fantasy (s)he can personally conceive. Agreeable as this may be, states of divine happiness orders of magnitude more beautiful than anything the contemporary mind can access will pervade the very fabric of reality in generations to come. Even the most virile of imaginations can apprehend in only the barest and formal sense the ravishing splendour that lies ahead. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.8 All We Need Is Love? Still in a personal vein, fragile self-esteem and shaky self-images will be beautified and recrystallised afresh. For the first time in their lives, in many cases, human beings will be able wholeheartedly to love both themselves and their own bodily self-images. Bruised and mutilated egos can thus be strengthened. They can be regenerated anew from the wreckage of the Darwinian past. Love will take on new aspects and incarnations too. For instance, we will be able, not just to love everyone, but to be perpetually in love with everyone, as well; and perhaps we'll be far more worth loving than the corrupted minds our genes program today. It's been said that when in love we find it astonishing that it is possible to love someone else so much, because normally we love each other so little. This indifference, or at best mere diffuse benevolence, to the rest of the population is easily taken for granted amid the harsh social realities of competitive consumer capitalism. Yet our deficiencies in love are only another grim manifestation of selfish (in the technical sense) DNA. If humans had collectively shared the greater degree of genetic relatedness common to many of the social insects (haplodiploidy), then we might already have been "naturally" able to love each other with greater enthusiasm. Sociobiology, and its offspring evolutionary psychology, explains our relative coldness of heart. Happily, in future it will be possible to mimic, and then magnify out of all recognition, the kind of altruistic devotion to each other which might have arisen if were we all 100% genetically-related clones. We'll all be able to love each other to bits. A delicious cocktail mix of oxytocin, phenethylamines and mu receptor-selective opioids - or potent god's-own wonderbrews not yet genetically-coded - can be automatically triggered whenever anyone one knows is present or recollected. Darwinian man, by contrast, will be seen as a mean-minded crypto-psychopath. Our successors will be far kinder. They'll combine absolute, unconditional and uninhibited love for each other with a celebration of the diversity of genes and cultures. At present this prospect seems some way off. Another aspect of post-Transition love may be found even more surprising. Individual personal relationships may at last be bonded truly securely, should we so desire. Throughout the ages, dreadful pain has been caused by the soul-destroying cruelties of traditional modes of love. We acknowledge, in the main, that we hurt the most those we love. Yet we often simply can't stop ourselves from doing so. Before very long, if we really care enough, we'll actually be able to do something about it. Whatever their proximate causes, the distal origins of so many relationship break-ups lie, once again, in the competing interests of rival coalitions of genes. Just to take one example, two lovers, perhaps, who years before professed they would rather die than hurt each other, later part in tears and acrimony. The woman may find that with the decline in her reproductive potential over time she is no longer sexually attractive to the man who pledged his undying love. Her partner, quite possibly hating himself for his treachery, finds himself deserting her and their teenage offspring for a younger, sexier woman, and then fathers another family. Lives are destroyed; inclusive genetic fitness is served. Nature is barbarous and futile beyond belief. After the Transition, on the other hand, one will be able to love somebody more passionately than ever before. In the post-Darwinian era, one will be safe in the knowledge that one will never hurt them, nor be hurt by them in turn. True love really can last forever, though responsible couples should take precautions. If one desires a particular relationship to remain uniquely and enduringly special, then the mutually co-ordinated design of each other's neural weight spaces can ensure that a distinctively hill-topped plateau in the new hedonic landscape structurally guarantees that each other's presence is always uniquely fulfilling. Choosing how big a hit we get off each other's presence is not an exact science today. Of course, it is possible that, generations hence, exclusionary pair bonding may seem a quaint anachronism. It may be regarded as just one more vestige of the genetic past which is fated one day to pass away. The example above is recounted to show only how ill-defined worries that anything precious one wants to save will be somehow sacrificed in the post-Transition epoch can be discounted. We've nothing to lose. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.9 The Taste Of Depravity. Now before considering the prospects for the more distant future of affective states in the universe, the status of non-human animals must be addressed. This is because most of the world's suffering is undergone by members of other species. A convergence of evidence suggests that the nature and relative extent of organic life's biological capacity to suffer is mediated by key neuronal firing frequencies; cellular, synaptic and receptor densities; and a distinctive neurochemical and functional architecture of the central nervous system. Pain is not rooted in the unique human linguistic capacity for a generative syntax. Humanity often behaves as though it were. For we presently keep hundreds of millions of other sentient beings in unimaginably frightful conditions. We do so for no better reason than to satisfy our culinary tastes. It has aptly been remarked that if animals had a conception of the Devil, he would surely have human form. Alas this is no mere rhetorical conceit. Contemporary humans deliberately incarcerate and butcher our fellow creatures in a vast, state-sanctioned apparatus of concentration and extermination camps. They are run with mechanised horror for commercial profit. In retrospect, our descendants may view them as a defining feature of our age in a way akin to our own conception of the Third Reich. Analogously, their sheer viciousness and even existence is usually camouflaged behind a morass of bland euphemism. Fortunately for our peace of mind, at least, we find it hard properly to conceive of what we're being spared. Conditions inside the camps and factories are frequently so gruesome that members of the public have to be barred from watching the atrocities that go on inside them. For the most part, however, we are willing accomplices in our own ignorance. By our purchases we pay others to commit acts of extreme violence which might otherwise upset our squeamish sensibilities. Ironically, anybody who practises, or connives in, the maltreatment of a helpless and undeveloped infant of our own species is likely to be demonised and reviled. Ordinary decent people will find it "inconceivable" how such an "inhuman" monster could cause such suffering to the young, innocent and helpless. So (s)he will be prosecuted and locked up. What we are doing in the death-factories is so vile that a few lines of text can scarcely even hint at its ghastliness. Nevertheless, we are so inured to the notion of exploiting and killing other sentient beings to titillate our palates that many otherwise "sophisticated" people will find the starkness of expression of these paragraphs somehow sensationalistic; or perhaps "emotive", as if the reality of such suffering could properly be otherwise. Caring about the plight of the non-human victims of our actions is not a case of sentimental bunny-hugging nor of child-like anthropomorphism. Nor is it a matter of caring more about animals than humans; nor even, as is sometimes suggested with all appearance of seriousness, outright misanthropy. "Tender-minded" people who worry about the torture of non-humans are on balance temperamentally more inclined to act in an effort to minimise human suffering too. Such contrasts and false antitheses are in any case unhelpful. Simply by abstaining from eating meat, for instance, one can still spend just as much time campaigning for exclusively human causes as one did as a practising meat-eater. There is one real glimmer of hope amid the ongoing carnage. Within the next hundred years or so, and possibly sooner, biotechnology will enable the human species cost-effectively to mass-produce edible cellular protein, and indeed all forms of food, of a flavour and texture indistinguishable from, or tastier than, the sanitised animal products we now eat. As our palates become satisfied by other means, the moral arguments for animal rights will start to seem overwhelmingly compelling. The Western(ised) planetary elite will finally start to award the sentient fellow creatures we torture and kill a moral status akin to human infants and toddlers. Veganism, though not in quite the contemporary sense, will become the global norm. Thanks to genetic engineering, the huge reduction in gratuitous suffering forecast here is likely to take place even if none of the other predictions of HI are borne out. If they are, then the humblest snack will taste more delicious than the ambrosial food of the gods. Today's gourmets might as well be feeding on greasy chips. Much more seriously, in those traditional eco-systems that we chose to retain, millions of non-human animals will continue periodically to starve, die horribly of thirst and disease, or even get eaten alive. This is commonly viewed as "natural" and hence basically OK. It would indeed be comforting to think that in some sense this ongoing animal holocaust doesn't matter too much. We often find it convenient to act as though the capacity to suffer were somehow inseparably bound up with linguistic ability or ratiocinative prowess. Yet there is absolutely no evidence that this is the case, and a great deal that it isn't. The functional regions of the brain which subserve physical agony, the "pain centres", and the mainly limbic substrates of emotion, appear in phylogenetic terms to be remarkably constant in the vertebrate line. The neural pathways involving serotonin, the periaquaductal grey matter, bradykinin, dynorphin, ATP receptors, the major opioid families, substance P etc all existed long before hominids walked the earth. Not merely is the biochemistry of suffering disturbingly similar where not effectively type-identical across a wide spectrum of vertebrate (and even some invertebrate) species. It is at least possible that members of any species whose members have more pain cells exhibiting greater synaptic density than humans sometimes suffer more atrociously than we do, whatever their notional "intelligence". As a utilitarian [technically, an ethical negative-utilitarian - see below], I would have to say, counter-intuitively, that were this to be the case, then such "hyperalgesic" life-forms would intrinsically matter, and they would themselves find that things intrinsically matter, more so than we do. This sounds extravagantly overstated. But it is just the ethical yardstick by which we should be reckoned to matter more than our phenomenologically impoverished silicon etc intellectual mentors centuries hence. One must just hope the disquieting notion that anything, anywhere, can suffer more than humans do is ill-conceived. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.10 On The Misguided Romanticisation of Feline Psychopaths. In future, anyhow, the life-forms which exist on this planet will be there purely because we allow them to be so, or choose to create them. This smacks of hubris; it is also true. Increasingly, we are able to configure the matter and energy of the world in any way we so desire consistent with the laws of physics. So the moral and practical question arises: what other organisms, and therefore what other modes of experience, are we going either to create or retain "in the wild" outside the gene-banks and computer software libraries in millennia to come? One may suspect that most people could bear the possible loss of a few hundred thousand species of beetle with relative equanimity. Familiar if eugenically-enhanced herbivores, on the other hand, can be allowed to graze securely within the confines of a well-regulated natural habitat. They will best be treated with long-acting depot contraceptives to stop uncontrolled breeding. Their happiness should prove easier to engineer genetically than is possible in humans. This is on the assumption that non-humans are less intellectually fastidious in their pleasures than are, on occasion, some members of our own kind. Yet what about the carnivorous species? It is easy to romanticise, say, tigers or lions and cats. We admire their magnificent beauty, strength and agility. But we would regard their notional human counterparts as wanton psychopaths of the worst kind. So just as there is no need to recreate the natural habitat of smart, blond, handsome Nazi storm-troopers who can then prey on their natural victims (and Nazis are a no less natural and noteworthy pattern of matter and energy thrown up in the course of evolution, albeit of a type now fortunately extinct), likewise the practice of continuing to breed pre-programmed feline killing machines in homage to Nature is ethically untenable too. It is not, needless to say, the fault of cats that they are prone to torturing mice; but then, given the equations of physics, it isn't the fault of Nazis they try to persecute Jews. This is no reason to let them continue to do so. In a triumph of aestheticism over morality, many animal lovers otherwise sympathetic to the sentiments expressed here will doubtless be aghast at the very idea of losing such loveable companions and time-honoured killers as members of the cat family; but then they are unlikely to be hunted down in terror or physically eaten alive, which lends a rather different perspective to any issue at all. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.11 The Last Twisted Molecule On Earth? This meditation on the plight of our fellow species leads to one of the few precise, and potentially falsifiable, predictions to be hazarded here about the next couple of thousand years. At some momentous and exactly dateable time, the last unpleasant experience ever to occur on this planet will take place. Possibly, it will be a (purely comparatively) minor pain in some (to us) obscure marine invertebrate. This event will occur well before the end of the fourth millennium. It may even be technically feasible - though in practice unlikely - for us to abolish unpleasantness altogether by the end of the third. Heady stuff. Yet just as the smallpox virus was systematically hunted down to extinction, so the precise molecular signature(s) of aversive experience and its predisposing genes will predictably be hunted down and wiped out as well. The systematic application of nanotechnology, self-reproducing micro-miniaturised robots armed with supercomputer processing power, and ultra-sophisticated genetic engineering, perhaps using retro-viral vectors, will abolish the root of all evil in its naturalistic guise. Of course, pain and unhappiness apparently take myriad forms. So it might be supposed that an impossibly large hotchpotch of biochemical reactions will have to be eliminated before the emancipatory project can be complete. The difficulty, and more controversially the impossibility, of establishing non-trivial type-type identities between physical and higher mental states would seem to make the task of purging unpleasantness from the world even worse. In one respect at least, however, the many faces of misery are deceptive. Like the various nominal sources of happiness, they foster a genetically adaptive delusion. In this case, the delusion is that [Darwinian] fitness-diminishing phenomena are inherently bad. This delusion is an "adaptation" born of the mechanisms by which the primary neural processes that mediate emotion physically infiltrate and infuse the neo-cortex. Millions of years of DNA-driven encephalisation have obscured emotion's primitive substrates deep in the mind/brain. These substrates can be coded out. And by striking at the ancient limbic motors of despair, future paradise-engineering specialists should induce its legion of cognitive hangers-on to dissipate too. First in humans and, progressing "down" the phylogenetic tree, eventually in every non-human metazoan as well, all of the incomprehensibly diverse modes of experience a mind/brain can undergo should share the property of being generically delightful. A uniquely vile era in the history of the world will then have drawn to a close. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.12 The Persistence of Hard-Core Porn? Quite what vestiges of the past will be archived after nastiness has been purged from our consciousness is hard to guess. Just as we have retained (but one may trust that we will never use) the precise information necessary to re-create the smallpox virus - for we know its entire genome precisely - so records of the phylogeny and molecular architecture of pain and depression will presumably be preserved too. It is hard to see why unpleasant types of pattern should ever be physically revived. Perhaps they will remain largely undeciphered. The interpretation of their dangerous and quasi-pornographic formalism may be accessible to our descendants, if at all, only by ill-understood analogy. For post-humans will know about hedonic gradients. After all, insofar as shifting nuances of delight will imbue whatever they think about, pleasure differentials will most plausibly remain the primary motivators to action. So distant generations should be able, in the abstract at least, to conceptualise "pain" and "despair". Such states can be imagined as modes of consciousness far lower in the heavenly hierarchy - a level where a generic property of experience itself undergoes a kind of mysterious phase change. But beyond the ill-defined cross-over point, perhaps, our ecstatic posterity will find the properties of experience on the wrong side of the great divide elusive. For their sake, it must be hoped that purebred ecstatics keep any intellectual curiosity about such taboo mysteries in check. They will be in no position to make an informed choice before opting to go slumming in the abyss. Nothing could prepare them for the horror they would find. Fortunately, they will most probably lack our prurient interest in the depraved and obscene. It might here be objected that states of comparatively diminished pleasure are tantamount to states of unhappiness. So short of promoting a uniform, action-paralysing level of lifetime happiness, then surely aversive states will be endemic even in the mature post-Darwinian regime. This objection is plausible but ill-conceived. When faced with two painful alternatives, one's opting for the lesser of two evils doesn't make a still painful experience somehow pleasurable. Likewise, experiencing the lesser of two delights isn't somehow really painful; it's just that pleasure cells are very greedy indeed, and always avid for more of the same. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.13 The Growing Pleasures of Homunculi. On the assumption that they will indeed always ask for more, what else can be said about the distant future of emotion in the universe? How will post-humans actually spend their lives, and what will it feel like to exist, after Heaven has been biologically domesticated? First, a note of caution. Today most of our futurist fantasies focus on hard-core hi-tech. We lap up the world of Star-Trek fantasy-physics. Exotic new emotions, however, are as unimaginable to us as exotic new phenomenal colours. They are just empty, abstract possibilities we can idly gesture at, but no more. Implicitly, we assume that our ancient vertebrate repertoire of fitness-enhancing sentiment will characterise both our post-human descendants and any alien life-forms they encounter. We're even prone to anthropomorphise inorganic robots in the same manner. We assume they'll "feel" superior and "want" to dominate us (shades again of the African savannah!) Yet the emotional economy of a post-Darwinian psyche may be incommensurable with anything that's gone before. Indeed the entire inner life of post-Darwinians may be opaque to our hunter-gatherer minds. The first-person texture of their modes of experience may be nothing like our own in anything but name. Even if we could glimpse the future, perhaps we'd be like cats watching TV. We just wouldn't understand the significance of what was going on. Unfortunately, there's no way to map out the extent of our cognitive closure from within. This is frustrating. If quantum cosmologists can theorise about the first 10-43 second after the Big Bang, thirteen billion and more years ago, and still, rightly, be counted as practising hard science, it's a shame that conjectures we do make about the living world a few thousand or million years hence have to be treated, not even as soft science, but as science-fiction. There are too many unknown unknowns to predict with any rational confidence. Merely extrapolating present trends is bound to mislead. The projected time-scales of even relatively predictable biomedical triumphs, e.g. the elimination of the ageing process, are vague. HI may veer towards heady speculation; but by the end of third millennium, life and consciousness may be more foreign to the contemporary imagination than even the most extravagant prediction dreamed up here. On the other hand, for all we know, some variant of the pleasure-principle is a universal - and universally intelligible - signature of sentient life; and its apotheosis in some sort of sublime cosmic orgasm is the ultimate destiny of the Universe. [This may overtax one's credulity; the Big Bang indeed!] We simply don't have enough evidence. That said, we may still incautiously proceed. Once suffering has been abolished, the era of old-fashioned moral choices will come to an end. The physiological mechanisms underlying the mind-brain's value-creation processes will be unravelled during the invention of a pain-free world; but the kind of naturalised, mind-dependent value created by paradise-engineers after the phenomenology of nastiness has disappeared won't embrace ethical categories in a sense we presently understand. The heroic moral urgency will have gone; indeed there is a risk that truly hedonistic themes as discussed in these sections of HI will divert attention away from the utter moral seriousness of the whole post-Darwinian project as conceived today. Even so, here's a quick run-down of some of the long-term options. First, the present dimensions of the human mind and its affective capabilities are limited by the size of the female birth canal. So long as selection pressures favoured the evolution of more potently nasty biological substrates - primed to trigger adaptive bouts of agony and emotional wretchedness - then the birthing constraint has been one small mercy at least. It won't last; but then it won't need to. After the global application of cross-species genetic engineering has ensured that suffering is physiologically impossible, such a restriction of size would only retard the emotional development and maturation of the living world. For healthy [non-hippocampal] neurons, unfortunately, don't reproduce. We have almost a full complement at birth. They die off somewhat erratically thereafter. Once it becomes feasible to nurture the human embryo and foetus from conception to term in an artificial extra-uterine environment, however, then the number as well as quality and synaptic density of nerve cells can be selectively multiplied with a clear utilitarian conscience. So can receptor density, post-synaptic transduction-mechanisms and vital genetic transcription control-factors in the pleasure-pathways. The serotonin-producing subgenual prefrontal cortex can be enlarged and enriched too. Puzzlingly, today's clinically acknowledged depressives have on average over 40% less brain tissue here than controls. This region seems to be critical for the processing of emotions related to complex personal and social situations. Its role should grow. After we've designed more sophisticated and socially responsible neural circuitry, all of our emotionally pre-literate modes of social life may come to be seen as shallow and rudimentary. It is unclear quite how many orders of magnitude larger a super-organism's mind/brain could in theory be scaled upwards before running up against insuperable design-constraints. It's unclear, too, whether a "Jupiter brain" could undergo the quantum mechanical coherent states needed to sustain a unitary experiential manifold (cf. Sellars' "grain problem" of consciousness) and thus support a potentially integrated "Jupiter-self". In the meantime, and on a more conservative scale, gigantic societies of hedonistic super-neurons can be grown and self-sculpted to form progressively larger, happier and more richly variegated virtual worlds. It might be supposed that access to unparalleled states of whole-body orgasmic euphoria fuelled by a vastly hypertrophied and souped-up pleasure apparatus would be quite enough for anyone. Well, perhaps; it depends on one's circle of acquaintance. Two flavours of happiness always worth distinguishing are blissful satiety and euphoric incentive-motivation. If, as predicted, it's the latter dopaminergic engine of progress which will power the post-Transition era, then the delights cited above will be only a foretaste of further millennial Transitions - and whatever mind-wrenching meta-paradigm shifts their advent entails. For a start, the somato-sensory cortex and its bodily "homunculus" currently occupy only a very modest portion of the brain. Its comparatively small size marks it as another obsolescent relic from Darwinian antiquity. Using the great bulk of the cortex to run data-driven egocentric simulations of the external environment, and not just the egocentric body-image of the host vehicle, tended to maximise genetic fitness on the African savannah. With predatory lions long gone, such states of partial self-alienation become less useful. So in the future somato-sensory-style cells can be used to seed the other areas of the cortex and its adjacent structures. They can thereby selectively interpenetrate the rest of each person's experiential manifold. Accordingly, whole-body hyper-orgasmic rapture can be optionally extended to impregnate an entire psycho-neural virtual world. The mystic's dream of becoming one with the universe - albeit unwittingly only with his own neural micro-cosmos - can be realised in a total ecstasy of the senses and neurochemical soul. Life could get better still. Today the nucleus accumbens and its allied mesolimbic structures don't consist of raw pleasure circuitry. Certain biomolecules (e.g. the dynorphin which accumulates during chronic psychostimulant use and participates in the craving characteristic of cocaine withdrawal), are unpleasant and dysfunctional. They can be genetically edited out. There is a much more exciting possibility as well. Most cortical neurons have no inherent capacity for well-being, let alone autonomous hedonism. As noted, they rely on innervation from the monoaminergic etc neurons to lend an affective tone to whatever functional role and flavour of subjectivity they express. But once the precise molecular signatures of experiential ecstasy are isolated in the pleasure pathways, then their metabolic reactions can be transplanted to other types of neuron too: hedonic democracy. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1.14 Post-Perceptual Consciousness? Many future intentional foci of delight (i.e. what we're happy "about") will be embedded in types of consciousness qualitatively as well as quantitatively alien to Darwinian humans. It is chastening to reflect that a seemingly minor molecular variation in neuro-protein generates types of experience as disparate as sight and sound. Heaven knows what further incommensurable modes of what-it's-like-ness ("qualia") will be disclosed when much more far-reaching changes in the architecture of excitable cells are engineered. For the Darwinian status quo, based on natural selection acting on random genetic variation, is poised to crumble. All but a trivial volume of (what one may abstractly conceive as) experiential weight space has hitherto been physiologically out of bounds. There's nothing unnatural about it. But until now, DNA coding for the structures that got us there would have involved crossing genetically maladaptive dips in the fitness landscape. Desert-hopping across maladaptive dips is a process which neo-Darwinian evolution precludes. There's no mechanism that allows it. Natural selection has no foresight. Once such new kinds of consciousness are finally accessed by design, however, their different textures need not be deployed in a traditional role of tracking, or responding to, extraneous environmental patterns. They can first be hedonically colonised; and then artistically explored and reordered, woven into rich narrative structures and wild adventures, awarded new functional roles in the mind/brain, or perhaps just savoured for their intrinsic fascination. Old definitions of self and reality are likely to fall apart in unpredictable ways. It's worth recalling how, at present, occurrent thought-episodes are typically decomposed into their nominally cognitive, affective and volitional aspects: "thinking", "feeling" and "willing". The mysterious trinity may prove just trifling variations, each with their own minor nuances, of a much wider phenomenological family of "serial" streams of consciousness. These new serial modes await discovery or biotechnical invention. Some of the new modes may eventually function computationally as quasi-virtual machines spun from massively parallel cerebral consciousness; but the rest needn't play any distinctive functional role at all. Other than to describe all such subtle kinds of what-it's-like-ness as generically delightful when suitably innervated, their nature can't be intelligently speculated upon here. We're just kidding ourselves when we brag about what a rich language we've got today. For it is easy to be seduced by the indefinitely large productive capacity of the early human language-generating mechanism into making a pardonably false assumption. This is that syntax enables one to think and speak about an unlimited variety of things. Yet lying latent among previously inaccessible and maladaptive neurochemical pathways are bound to be immense reaches of experiential hyper-weirdness which - shallow semantic paradoxes aside - can't be properly thought of at all. Their alien exotica will still be cognitively closed off for a long time to come. In the case of unknown hell-states and worse, it may be hoped they will remain impenetrable for ever. Such hypothesised new categories of experience will be empirically discovered, generated and decently emotionally encephalised only with the aid of first-personal exploration of their intrinsic properties. Observation without experimentation is not enough. Systematic experimental manipulation of consciousness via psychoactive agents will complement the third-person perspective of physical science. Exploration will be most prudently conducted by ecstatics, native-born or otherwise, rather than by gene-disordered Darwinian minds. This is because genetically undoctored savages like ourselves are liable to go off on worse trips than we're on at present. At any rate, a priori philosophising on psychedelia's possible nature, using our old neurochemical legacy hardware ploughing away in the same old conceptual ruts, simply won't work. Contemporary experience and linguistic description lack the necessary semantic primitives to do the job. Only semantic primitives drawn from the new modes of experience - not mere inference-churning using our present limited repertoire of concepts - will conceivably allow a subsequent theoretical understanding of the psychedelic cosmos. New semantic primitives will be needed as well to express genuinely novel emotions, sensations, modes of introspection and reflexive self-awareness. This isn't yet consensus wisdom. In mainstream academia, any study of consciousness as a true experimental discipline rather than as a topic of scholastic disputation is nearly impossible. Accounts of systematic first-personal manipulation of its only accessible instance is generally reckoned unpublishable and discreditable. Ironically, we mock the obtuseness of Galileo's clerical opponents for refusing to look through his telescope. Yet we treasure our own peace of mind no less dearly; so there is little reason for intellectual complacency. In our repressive drug laws we, too, outlaw and penalise forms of knowledge truly disturbing to the established order. Psychedelics trigger changes of mind which are radically subversive of the existing social, political and academic power-structure and its definitions of reality. The severe penalties for publicly advocating and spreading such dangerous knowledge are not notably more merciful than those of the Inquisition - our prisons are brutal places - though likewise public recantation and penance can sometimes mitigate the full rigour of punishment. The psychedelias of post-human ecstatics are too hard to contemplate. Predictions for the more distant future of even affective states in the universe are liable to get wilder too. Not merely are we ignorant of the newly synthesised and discovered emotions that biotechnology will deliver. We can't possibly know what neo-cortical "cognitive" processes they will saturate and enrich. Will consciousness in its current guise of phenomenological and quasi-computational mind take on post-cellular or prosthetically enriched forms? Or, in defence of carbon chauvinism, is there a micro-functionalist argument that the unique structure of the carbon atom and its valence properties means that only organic experiential manifolds and their infused emotions are feasible? Will there come, eventually, a post-personal era in which discrete, gene-generated superminds choose progressively to coalesce; or will the fragmented island universes left over from the depths of the Darwinian past continue in semi-autonomous isolation indefinitely? If consciousness is ontologically fundamental to the cosmos, rather than a tacked-on "nomological dangler", do superstrings [or branes, etc] vibrating at energies orders of magnitude higher than ours support modes and intensities of experience correspondingly greater than those of the current low-energy regime? Or do they really lack what-it's-like-ness altogether? Needless to say, we don't know the answers to such questions one way or the other. All that will be predicted here with any semblance of confidence is that one ancient, soul-polluting type of experience, the generically unpleasant, will soon go the way of the proverbial dodo. 2. Why? "What right have we to be happy?" (Ibsen) 2.0 The Psychology Of Armchair Hedonism. So technically, in principle, it can be done. Paradise can be biologically implemented. Ubiquitous well-being is neurochemically feasible. Yet is it really worth having? What's wrong with suffering, anyway? What's so good about happiness? What is the link, if any, between moral value and maximising personal well-being? Are the transcendentally happy states advocated here really any more valuable than the Darwinian status quo? Or are value-judgements intrinsically subjective and truth-valueless? There are both practical and ethical reasons for planning a global project to abolish aversive experience. The practical reasons will be tackled first. The ethical case will be argued next, followed by a [skippable; life is short] defence of an ontology of objective values designed to redeem the ethical stance adopted here from the charge of idle subjectivism. The instrumental rationality of the biological program derives from nothing more abstruse than some hard-headed means-ends analysis. This analysis is best introduced via an examination of a biologised variant of the theory of psychological hedonism. We all dance away our lives to the tune of the sovereign pleasure-pain axis. It will be argued that for all the complications and anomalies the theory brings in its wake, psychological hedonism contains a substantial core of truth. The point to be kept in mind throughout the qualifications and elaborations to follow is that even goals found worth pursuing only intermittently or inconsistently are still worth pursuing rationally. As it is at present, we pursue the many faces of happiness avidly but with frighteningly irrational, and not infrequently murderous, levels of ineptitude. Fortunately, all the severely sub-optimal little local minima of ill-being in which genetic vehicles get stuck can be replaced by a global maximum of happiness and well-being. So what is this alleged inbuilt drive which the biological blueprint finally allows us to achieve? Psychological hedonism has been variously regarded as a simple truism, an obvious falsehood, and as so completely vacuous as to be not even wrong. Here it is assumed to be a hypothesis which, properly formulated, is both substantially true and important in its implications. If it were even broadly correct, and if we were all constitutionally motivated by the pursuit, albeit typically under other descriptions, of a generic type of mesolimbic core state that our competing diversity of intentional objects only disguises, then the practical answer to the question "why?" would in essence be simple. Whether or not we should genetically reprogram the hedonic treadmill reduces to a straightforward issue of means-ends rationality. What is the most effective, and more pertinently the only, way to achieve what constitutionally we're already seeking in a multitude of guises? How can these emotionally ideal sorts of meso-limbic mind/brain states we're striving for be achieved and, more importantly, sustained? Of course, even if some variant of psychological hedonism were to be in substance correct, it is always open to the sceptic next to ask "but then why be rational?" He might then even (ir)rationally advance (ir)rational arguments to support(?) his (in?)consistent position. Yet the self-defeating nature of irrational behaviour, and the variably camouflaged incoherence of irrational thought, means this option will not be explored here in any depth. More subtly, it is always open to a critic of the biological program to acknowledge that psychological hedonism may be substantially true, but to hold that there are countervailing moral considerations why it would be good if we failed to achieve what we were [sometimes only unwittingly] after. Hence, on this view, it would be morally preferable for us to continue on a selective basis to act irrationally and ineffectually. In other words, given that the thought that one is a moral agent is psychochemically satisfying, and the proposals canvassed here are found, paradoxically, to be unpleasantly immoral, it would be morally better if the rational biological program outlined in this paper were not adopted. All the above, however, presupposes rather than argues the case for the broad accuracy of psychological hedonist hypothesis. The chain of argument to be presented here for its substantial kernel of truth is, at least at face value, extremely weak. This is because one link is going to rely on an appeal to introspection. Since the very word sends a shudder of distaste down many fastidious scientific spines, a few very brief reflections on the nature and epistemological status of the suspect faculty are first in order. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.1 How To Contemplate An Introspective Void. Does introspection reliably tell us we're pleasure-seekers and pain-avoiders? If so, is there a better way of achieving what our mind/brains are up to? Exteroceptive, so called "perceptual" data are crucial to the empirical method(s) characteristic, and arguably definitive, of the natural sciences. Introspective evidence is generally disparaged by the scientific mandarinate as cognitively worthless. The curiously named "third-person" perspective rules. Yet a distinctive and potentially fitness-enhancing faculty - so central to so many ordinary people's mental life - has presumably been selected for, and not just adventitiously selected, in the course of evolution. Even an unreliable and highly fallible system of neuropsychological self-monitoring could still have conferred differential adaptive value. Any insight, however incomplete, into the underlying causal reasons for one's behaviour can also, by analogy, logical inference or simulation, help one partially to understand and anticipate the behaviour of conspecifics and genetic competitors. Methodologically, it is admittedly unclear how introspection can be studied or even defined scientifically. Moreover, though it is an intrinsic part of the natural world, an unfortunate conflation of the two senses of the term "subjective" often leads to its being ontologically downgraded as well as methodologically discounted. Of course, it can't be denied that in trying to offer introspective reports subjects sometimes confabulate. They can demonstrably deceive both themselves and others. The different functional modules of the brain, however tightly integrated, do not simply interpenetrate. Hence the merely locally distributed neuronal ensembles of one particular module can't always know about what's going on in the others, nor report on it if they can. This means verbal sincerity is no guarantee of veracity. Worse still, in initiating some of one's actions, one just doesn't seem to have much in the way of (even illusory) introspective self-insight at all. We've got access to much of the product but very little of the process. Moreover a lot of our nominal actions would appear to be mainly automatic. Many more are not preceded by any notable introspective musings or a hedonic weighing of options and possible consequences. So how can we be said to be "really" seeking happiness? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.2 The Importance of Banality. In spite of all the above, it is still worth making a crashingly banal but cardinally important observation. It relates to the implicit criteria one uses in deciding consciously to act in a certain way rather than another when more than one option is perceived to be available. For at face value one performs, at the very least, an extraordinarily large number of actions because one's image or concept of what they will notionally bring about makes one apparently more satisfied or less dissatisfied, however marginally; and because one's notion of what not doing so would entail is either less satisfying, affectively neutral or more aversive than acting otherwise. There are other, probably more felicitous, ways of formulating the idea, but their gist is essentially the same. Banal or otherwise, a knowledge of the existence and nature of this difference in affective tone when one contemplates, and then carries through, alternative courses of action can be derived only from introspection; but is nonetheless important. From a third-person perspective, it is true, biological science can elucidate a physical counterpart to this subjective motivational impression. By experimentally enhancing or attenuating meso-limbic dopamine function, neuropharmacologists can use stimulants or neuroleptics to show the system's pivotal role in determining how the higher vertebrates behave. Neuroscience can even christen certain brain areas "pleasure centres", wire them with electrodes, and then demonstrate their irresistible potency. Yet it is only through correlating, and then identifying, particular types of physiological function and structure with particular modes of subjective experience that biology can attempt to explain how a person acts, rather than just physically behaves, at all. Endorsing psychological hedonism as a theory of action - and compulsion in need of biotechnically rationalising - is not the same as saying that one always acts selfishly, or at least not selfishly in the sense of serving only one's own notional interests at the expense of other people's. Selfish genes can sometimes flourish by throwing up unselfconsciously selfless phenotypes. Imagining the happiness of friends and family, for example, can serve as a powerful source of motivation. So, too, can satisfying an idealised self-image of oneself as a moral person. More radically, there is a sense in which even sacrificing one's life for one's family or country isn't anomalous in the context of the hypothesis either. In certain circumstances, the image of living may afford less satisfaction than the image of oneself notionally acting and dying for the sake of others. Hence one opts for (one's emotionally encephalised image of) oblivion. What the hypothesis of psychological hedonism doesn't even begin to answer is why the meso (cortico-)limbic dopamine system has the extraordinary and uniquely addictive phenomenology from whose encephalised inspiration, in a sense, our civilisation has been built. Why does it feel so irresistibly good? This question is simply too deep to answer here. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.3 Vacuous Desires? Even if it were true for the most part as so defined, might psychological hedonism be tenable only because it is effectively vacuous - "not even wrong"? For what test could possibly falsify the hypothesis? With what states of affairs could it ever be inconsistent? I don't think the charge of vacuity can be sustained. There is indeed a close conceptual connection between the theory and our notion of action itself, yet this is a reflection of the theory's empirical adequacy rather than vacuity. Two examples and potential falsifiers may be noted here. First, psychological hedonism helps explain why one can never tire of having one's pleasure centres stimulated, naturally or otherwise, and why the standards of even the most priggish paragon of moral rectitude can deteriorate under the action of drugs such as heroin. The junkie and the total abstainer, whatever they may suppose, do not occupy two ontologically separate realms of being or chemical motivation. We are all dependent on opioids to feel physically and emotionally well. Opioids bind to receptors in the ventral tegmental area of the mesolimbic dopamine system, the mind/brain's final common pathway for pleasure. Here are the cells that call the shots. If they're not happy, the whole organism will be miserable as well until they've got their psychochemical fix. For their cellular processes infiltrate the rest of the mind/brain. The junkie derives his opioid supply exogenously; while the release of endogenous opioids in the rest of us is triggered, and not always very reliably either, by stimuli such as food, sex, exercise and social interaction. We're all still seeking the same core states of psycho-chemical well-being under one description or other. Hence even "psychologically" addictive drugs can lead to criminal and compulsive drug-seeking and -taking behaviour if supplies run out, even in formerly high-minded and saintly souls. This is because the over-intoxicated brain re-regulates its cellular receptors and reduces its production of the relevant pleasure-chemicals; this in turn increases the user's reliance on the exogenous route of administration. Strong-minded individuals who are sure they can safely indulge "recreationally" may misunderstand the psychochemical roots of their behaviour. The results of such ill-judgement can of course be disastrous. Fast-acting euphoriants such as crack cocaine can potentially corrupt even the most vehemently moralistic opponent of the hedonistic hypothesis. Getting hooked on heroin or crack may provide, indeed, a most illuminating empirical insight into the nature of human motivation; though there is a strong case to be argued that this is carrying the experimental method too far. As a second response to the charge of vacuity, it is worth considering the following thought-experiment. It is (purely epistemically) possible that, keeping the laws of physics constant, the commonly supposed closed causal sufficiency of physical events meant that we found our bodies just behaving, but with none of the phenomenological concomitants of willed action which do in fact accompany much bodily behaviour. If such were the case, then many of the behavioural options one found one's body pursuing might be in one's mind's eye be far more unpleasant in their envisaged consequences than those of their notional alternatives. One wouldn't in this scenario be surprised at what was going on: bodily behaviour might as now be viewed as ultimately a mere product of the playing out of law-like physical interactions. It's just that in this setting any incidental phenomenology would just be along for the ride. Given that we do experience a distinctive phenomenology of willed action, however, it doesn't seem consistent with our current understanding of the concept or the experience that one could consciously, phenomenologically act in one way in preference to another simply because one's image of the chosen action and its effects seemed less satisfying than the alternative(s). Even more dubiously coherent would be the notion of someone whose pleasure-pain spectrum was inverted and who acted in the conscious expectation of securing the outcome (s)he least desired. This is not to say that the practical effects of some people's actions don't frequently defeat their intentions. Certainly, too, a person may act in a superficially less satisfying way if (s)he has a more satisfying long-term goal in mind; this is the deceptively puritanical-sounding principle of deferred gratification. But this is a principle which tends only to corroborate rather than undermine the hypothesis at issue. The point here is that psychological hedonism presupposes that we act as distinct from merely behave. Its distinctive focus is of course on how we do so from the pleasant, less unpleasant etc occurrent image or concept of the act's anticipated consequences. Yet from the outset there does seem to be an intimate, if often only implicit, conceptual connection between something remarkably like psychological hedonism and our notion(s) of action itself, and in particular of our acting on one perceived choice in preference to another. Now even if, implausibly, it were deemed to be analytically true that all action was motivated by desire for anticipated happiness etc, whether overtly or under another description, this wouldn't prove that psychological hedonism was correct. "Paradigm case"-style arguments in the manner of bad old ordinary-language philosophy certainly can't settle the matter. Our terms, "analytic" or otherwise, may simply fail to refer. One can't just define anything into existence. What is definitionally stipulated to be analytically true in one era may be treated as empirically, or even analytically, false in another. So undoubtedly at least as useful as armchair psychology is an empirical investigation of the links between the brain's reward mechanisms and the dopaminergically innervated, pre-frontal motor cortical regions subserving experientially voluntary action. Yet if it weren't for the deliverances of introspection, there could be no notion that even one single creature in the world ever consciously acted, as distinct from insentiently behaved, in the first instance. Behaviourism is intellectually dead, and its grave should be danced on as vigorously as possible. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.4 A Dirty Window On The Soul. With this in mind, all I can say is that, most disappointingly, I have never been able introspectively to catch myself acting in one way rather than another when the thought of the rejected alternative was unequivocally more satisfying, or less unsatisfying, than the option chosen. Were this universally the case, then the biological program would be instrumentally rational. Could some variant of the pure pleasure-principle be true of anyone, let alone everyone? Now one can easily be in the grip of a false theory which colours one's sincere introspective reports. So there is no need to get hot under the collar if those reports are challenged; one may be genuinely mistaken. But if so, one is mistaken in very distinguished as well as very numerous company. Furthermore, there is no behavioural evidence to suggest that people whose introspective avowals corroborate the hedonistic hypothesis are more likely than anyone else to behave in ways one's culture deems selfish. The deep and subtle conceptual connection between the concept of action and the pleasure-principle may reflect an important feature of the world. For if sceptical worries about the Problem of Other Minds may be set aside here as idle, it is natural to assume that in one's core mental attributes one is a representative member of the species. On the unverifiable but cognitively indispensable principle of the uniformity of Nature, it would seem that something so fundamental as the affective coloration of willed action is unlikely to be sporadic, but biologically innate. Given the irreducibly personal nature of subjective what-it's-like-ness, there is no way that natural science can prove that certain causally efficacious decision-making states actually have the differential hedonic tone one's introspection suggests. But there is at least strong presumptive evidence that they do, and that our genes have biased our hedonic encephalisation accordingly. Indeed, it is the substantial overlap between sociobiology's technical genetic definition of selfishness and less formally defined behavioural and psychological usage which suggests, yet again, that one's defining attributes are a reflection of one's status as a disposable genetic vehicle rather than an autonomous moral agent. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.5 Let's Get Rational. What is crucial in the context of the biological program mapped out in this paper, however, is not to lose sight of the central and relatively uncontroversial proposition about human motivation. We spend a lot of time trying to make ourselves happy, whether "vicariously" via our emotionally encephalised concepts of other people or from more transparently self-regarding motives. Often, in fact, we are quite candidly explicit about our motivation. "I want to be happy - without hurting anyone on the way" is an astonishingly widespread secular sentiment. Instrumental, means-ends analysis is extremely useful in general as a way of helping us to pursue more rationally and intelligently all kinds of titular goals that we seek only some of the time. So possible counter-examples of people under weird self-destructive compulsions, of weakness of will, and problems caused by the lack of any unitary self are at best a diversion from the practical rationale of the biological strategy. Such anomalous phenomena are certainly intellectually interesting complications for the hypothesis of psychological hedonism if it is construed strictly as a universal generalisation about human motivation. They don't challenge the large-scale instrumental rationality of the intra-cranial strategy as the only way to get everyone happy. Thus the practical case for some variant of the biological program, stripped down to its essentials, is as follows. Convergent evidence from realms as disparate as introspection and neurobiology suggests that we all spend (at least much of) our time acting to try and satisfy the insatiable hedonic demands of the meso-limbic dopamine system, albeit under myriad nominal descriptions which spring from the different ways our emotions get encephalised. Everyone likes, if not only likes, the kind of experience which accompanies electrochemical excitations in the mesolimbic dopamine system, even though the idea of "electrochemical excitations in the mesolimbic dopamine system" is not one which is normally accompanied by any great mesolimbic pleasure (cf "the paradox of hedonism"). The earlier arguments of this paper have, I hope, substantiated the claim that what may be dubbed "Peripheralism" is hopelessly less effective than the direct biological route in achieving what we're not always wittingly after. Environmental reformism of any conceivable kind fails, and will invariably fail, to overturn the hedonic treadmill. We've tried it for ages, and it doesn't work. Given our (sometimes) nominally disguised purposes, and given that irrationalism is not a live option, the only countervailing reasons against pursuing the biological program's rational strategic course of action will be moral considerations. So are there any countervailing moral reasons why we shouldn't do what instrumental rationality otherwise dictates? Or instead are there cogent moral as well as practical reasons for adopting the all-out biological panacea? Is universal happiness a bad thing? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.6 The Morality of Happiness. It requires an effort of the imagination to conceive how a Universe in which all humans and non-humans alike led richly fulfilled and joyful lives could be a morally worse place than where we are now. If we were to discover an alien civilisation of ecstatics, would we try to introduce a bit of suffering into their lives to stiffen their moral fibre? I fear the critic, however, is likely to find this remark of only autobiographical significance. The question, (s)he would presumably reply, is where do we go from here, not how would we go from there. And at this point there might seem a danger that this paper will run into an all-consuming quagmire of subjectivism. For whatever other functions they may perform, the hard-headed scientific rationalist will argue, value-judgements don't have propositional content and thus aren't truth-evaluable. The universe may contain some extraordinary things, but objective values aren't among them. After all, what in the world could make such judgements true? In the remainder of this section, the course of the argument runs as follows. I shall first define and set out an ethical negative utilitarian case for abolishing all forms of aversive experience. It will be argued that only the apparently extreme overkill of the biological hedonist program can realistically achieve this. Hence the practical consequences here of the negative-utilitarian ethic will not significantly differ from standard utilitarianism in which maximising pleasure is accorded equal moral worth with minimising pain: both variants of the doctrine mandate implementing something akin to the program advocated just as soon as it becomes biotechnically feasible. The intimate links between both moral and non-moral value and happiness (construed here in the sense of generically pleasant experience), and between "disvalue" and misery, are noted. It will be argued that the mass-production of happiness will correlate with the production of actions and experiences empirically found valuable too. Hence the biological program will yield results which its beneficiaries will find vastly more valuable than the neurochemical status quo. Will they be right, or ultimately is this mere opinion? In misguided support of the latter, the orthodox physicalist and neo-Darwinian case against the objectivity of judgements of value will then be spelt out. This value-fictionalism will be countered by a form of value-naturalism. It is argued that value, no less than, say, redness, is an intrinsic feature of the world. It is so in virtue of being a unique quality of experience which is itself a spatio-temporally located and causally efficacious property of the natural world. Value judgements, it will be contended, are in fact truth-evaluable because they truly or falsely report the presence or absence of this property of experience - irrespective of their ostensible objects of reference. Several apparently devastating objections to this view are stated, not least charges of ignoring the fact that moral values may conflict, and of equivocation. These objections are then rebutted. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.7 Why Be Negative? But why negative utilitarianism? Ethical negative-utilitarianism is a value system which challenges the moral symmetry of pleasure and pain. It doesn't deny the value of increasing the happiness of the already happy. Yet it attaches value in a distinctively moral sense of the term only to actions which tend to minimise or eliminate suffering. It is counter-intuitive, not least insofar as the doctrine entails that from a purely ethical perspective it wouldn't matter if nothing at all had existed or everything ceased to exist. No inherent moral value is attached to pleasure or pleasant states. Indeed, if the option were humanly available, the logic of the position morally obligates bringing the world to an end were this the only way to eliminate the suffering endemic to it. Following through the logical implications of this seemingly bizarre and perverse perspective is clearly not for the faint-hearted. Negative utilitarianism nonetheless stems, not from sublimated self-hatred or a nihilistic death-wish, but from a deep sense of compassion at the unimaginable scale and dreadful intensity of suffering in the world. No amount of happiness enjoyed by some organisms can notionally justify the indescribable horrors of Auschwitz. [And the Universal Schrodinger Equation (or whatever) entails them both. Its solutions don't allow one without the other, albeit in disparate bits of space-time/Hilbert space.] Nor can the fun and games outweigh the sporadic frightfulness of pain and despair that occurs every second of every day. For there's nothing inherently wrong with non-sentience or [infelicitously] non-existence; whereas there is something frightfully and self-intimatingly wrong with suffering. This manifesto was written, and will typically be read, in a relatively "euthymic" condition. One doesn't feel too bad. So it isn't difficult to dissociate one's feelings from a mere printed litany of frightfulness. It's easy to convince oneself that things can't really be that terrible, that the horror I allude to is being overblown, that what is going on elsewhere in space-time is somehow less real than the here-and-now, or that the good in the world somehow offsets the bad. Yet however vividly one thinks one can imagine what agony, torture or suicidal despair must be like, the reality is inconceivably worse. The force of "inconceivably" is itself largely inconceivable here. Blurry images of Orwell's "Room 101" can barely even hint at what I'm talking about. Even if one's ancestral namesakes [aka "younger self"] underwent great pain, then the state-dependence of memories means that much of pain's sheer dreadfulness is semantically, cognitively and emotionally inaccessible in the here-and-now. So this manifesto's rhapsodies on the incredible joys that do indeed lie ahead tend to belie its underlying seriousness of purpose. For the biological strategy is propounded here in deadly moral earnest. Negative-utilitarianism is only one particular denomination of a broad church to which the reader may well in any case not subscribe. Fortunately, the program can be defended on grounds that utilitarians of all stripes can agree on. So a defence will be mounted against critics of the theory and application of a utilitarian ethic in general. For in practice the most potent and effective means of curing unpleasantness is to ensure that a defining aspect of future states of mind is their permeation with the molecular chemistry of ecstasy: both genetically precoded and pharmacologically fine-tuned. Orthodox utilitarians will doubtless find the cornucopian abundance of bliss this strategy delivers is itself an extra source of moral value. Future generations of native ecstatics are unlikely to disagree. Of course, there's only any need for morality if there is anything wrong with the world. If there isn't, and suffering becomes biologically impossible, then morality - in any sense we understand it - becomes redundant too. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.8 The Moral Panacea. A built-in biological warranty of happiness undercuts three standard critiques of utilitarianism. First, the utilitarian ethic is often contrasted with agent-centred moralities and charged with making impossibly onerous demands on people. According to the impersonal felicific calculus, one should, for instance, give away perhaps 95% of one's money to feed the starving in the Third World. Most people just aren't capable of such generosity to anonymous strangers: our genes wouldn't let us. Thus utilitarianism may be a useful sovereign principle for legislators but, it is claimed, not much use as a personal moral code. The effect of the biological program is to transcend such practical difficulties. There will come a time when saintly altruism can always be fun, albeit largely superfluous. Our genes can make it wretchedly difficult in the meanwhile, and much more necessary. Second, utilitarianism seems to justify, on occasion, various types of behaviour e.g. lying, murder or even torture, that in most agent-relative moralities would be reckoned wrong or even wicked, if the net result is greater all-round well-being. Many critics have argued that this flexibility would, on balance, lead to a worse society. They have then gone on to develop their critiques of the principle on covertly utilitarian grounds of varying subtlety and sophistication. The biological program sweeps these difficulties aside too. Its effect is to eliminate odious evolutionary hangovers such as murder and torture altogether. Lies, too, will become simply pointless. Third, utilitarianism seems to demand, in effect, the ceaseless use of hand-held felicific super-computers to calculate the consequences of each of one's actions. This might prove quite exhausting. Worse still, the distant long-term effects of what one does might seem incalculable; possibly, on the likely assumption chaos theory applies to human affairs, even incalculable in principle. So, ultimately, there can be no way of knowing at the relevant time whether a course of action is right or wrong on such a strict consequentialist ethic. One is reminded of an observation of Mao Tse-tung who, when asked for his opinion on whether the French Revolution had been a good thing, said that he thought it was too early to tell. The biological program dispels such worries altogether. If it is carried through systematically, human action need never cause suffering again. The long-term effects of genetic engineering will predictably be the abolition of this category of experience. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.9 The Significance Of An Empirical Correlation. Now the effect of this sort of genetic enhancement and pharmacotherapy will be states of mind that are not merely overwhelmingly more pleasurable than anything physiologically conceivable before. Empirically, subjects will apprehend such states as self-evidently more valuable as well, again by a vast margin. At humanity's current stage of development, countless actions and states of mind, and not infrequently life itself, are judged to be, truth-evaluably or otherwise, worthless and futile. After the post-Darwinian transition occurs, then every single state of consciousness in the world may be conceived as self-intimatingly valuable by its very nature. Futuristic biotechnology of a sophistication we can today only gesture at should enable the prolific mass-manufacture of states all apprehended as intensely valuable by their subjects. So in phenomenological terms, if no other, the quantity and quality of valued experience will skyrocket along with its biological substrates. Every moment of the day will be far better than the best sex anyone's ever had anywhere with anyone to date; and a lot more productive. Again, in an empirical sense at least, there is an extremely large overlap between actions and experiences that are found valuable and those found generically pleasant; and of those found pleasurable but not valuable, most are accounted as such because they are reckoned to endanger or diminish the likelihood of future pleasurable experience, whether in oneself or as imagined in others. All kinds of caveats, refinements and exceptions spring to mind at such a pronouncement. Yet in a secular age, this generalisation has extraordinarily wide scope. It would be wider still if the different intentional guises in which such judgements may be cloaked are included too. Some utilitarians, notoriously, have gone on to identify value with happiness. This is untenably simplistic. Too many plausible counter-examples present themselves for such a claim to be defended here. A far more modest position is all our purposes require. If an experience, either imagined vicariously as notionally undergone by others or unequivocally personal by self-ascription, is found to induce feelings of happiness or satisfaction, or reduce feelings of unhappiness or dissatisfaction, then it will be apprehended by its subject as valuable in the absence of any countervailing reasons. Less long-windedly, happiness is found valuable as the default condition. Now this might serve as the cue for a heavy-duty treatment of the relationship between value and pleasure. All that's needed for the argument to follow, however, is to note that the biological program will generate, both quantitatively and qualitatively, immensely more experiences found at once pleasurable and valuable than those characteristic of the neurochemical status quo. The program's therapeutic strategy will eliminate a whole host of states that even today are thought worthless or obnoxious. With time, the correlation between states found valuable and states found pleasurable should get ever closer to 1. So if, first, value judgements are also truth-evaluable, and if, second, subjects were normally capable of reliably apprehending their truth, then the biological program would indeed prove ethically mandatory. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.10 A Tough-Minded Scientist Replies. Yet so what? The contemporary critic will not be impressed. Just as not everything that is more desired is more desirable, surely not everything that is more valued is thereby more valuable. Only if the valued were indeed also valuable would the biological program be vindicated in an ethical sense. It can't be, because its defence attempts to derive, or somehow smuggle in, an "ought" from an "is", which is logically impossible. To argue otherwise is to commit the naturalistic fallacy. For is value supposed to be some property of the natural world over and above the ontology sanctioned by physics? Physical science, the scientific rationalist may freely go on to admit, has not yet definitively settled on the ultimate ontological furniture of the universe. There is plenty of theoretical and experimental work to be done investigating whether its ontological primitives are particles, fields, probability waves, loops, superstrings or whatever. The relationships between these primitives still tantalisingly awaits a complete and unified mathematical description as well. But whatever really exists e.g. macroscopic objects, itself supervenes on mind-independent configurations of these ontologically basic primitive entities, events or properties. Values, on the other hand, are merely mind-dependent subjective fictions. We don't read them off the world, but project them on to it. The scientistic hatchet-job on the status of objective values is often supplemented with a neo-Darwinian account of their genesis. If one claims that something is illusory, then one wants to explain how and why the illusion occurs. Pro-Darwinian polemicists oblige. What might seem to be eternal moral verities are ritually unmasked by their debunkers as mere instruments of the genes. People's devoutly-held personal convictions, we learn, are just another means by which competing alliances of information-bearing self-replicators - genes - manipulate their throwaway vehicles at one remove to promote their own inclusive fitness. Admittedly, genetic predisposition does not equate with genetic determinism. Sociobiologists, evolutionary ethicists and their ilk aren't claiming that our genes directly code, rather than bias, the development of each idiosyncratic set of cultural values. Yet independently-arising cross-cultural universals e.g. religious and secular incest-taboos, can nonetheless best distally be explained by positing selective pressures which act over many generations to shape our moral fetishes and phobias. We would dearly love to believe that our subjective values are somehow objectively underwritten by the nature of the world, the scientific rationalist concludes, generally in tones which suggest he bears their absence with remarkable fortitude; but they are epistemically unserious verbiage. To believe otherwise is to fall victim to wishful thinking or the toxic mind-rot of New Age mysticism. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.11 The Selection of Mysterious Reds. I shall now defend a version of value-naturalism, and consequently the objective ethical rationale of the biological program, against this indictment. Is talk of objective values just claptrap? For it is ironic that at a time when the scientifically-informed current of analytic philosophy is witnessing an embarrassed scramble to "naturalise" everything from epistemology to consciousness, any similar bid to legitimate value should still widely be held to commit a logical fallacy. So it will now be shown how, and in what sense, moral judgements can and can't have truth-conditions; and how the existence of objective values could be consistent with the apparently austere ontology of physical science. An analogy is drawn with phenomenal colour. It is argued that, appearances to the contrary, moral judgements in fact report, truly or falsely, a distinctive quality common to the experience of those who avow them. What such judgements express is mind-dependent, and on an identity theory thereby brain-dependent; and thereby value is as much a natural, intrinsic and objective feature of the world as phenomenal redness. The proposition that it is otherwise is unnaturalistic, the legacy of a dualistic perspective which sees mind and its experiential attributes as distinct from the physical world rather than as objectively existing features of it. We don't simply "project" our values onto the world. For we are literally bits of the world itself. Four objections, each on their own apparently decisive, are levelled against this sort of value-naturalist position. So to begin a value-naturalist defence, it is worth drawing an analogy with, say, redness. On a mind-brain identity theory, redness is a phenomenological property intrinsic to certain patterns of neuronal firing. The presence of light of a particular frequency impinging on the retina, or indeed of any light at all, is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for the production of red experience in a subject. When dreaming, for instance, one can inwardly see or instantiate red phenomena. Conversely, when one is awake and in darkness, then a sufficient condition of one's having, say, a brief punctate red experience in front of one's body-image is that the relevant cortical area is electrically stimulated. On the assumption that one is wholly a part of the natural world, then phenomenal redness, too, is one of the properties of the world. It is predicated of, and appears to inhere in, many macroscopic objects. Yet it is an intrinsic property of certain mind/brain states, and is not some relational property involving the interaction of light from intrinsically colourless objects and the mind/brain. The presence or absence of red phenomenal experience can be truly or falsely reported by the subject, whether the subject believes it is a property intrinsic to mind-independent physical objects or otherwise. Given the above, it is worth noting the sense in which redness can, and more importantly can't, be explained within the current conceptual framework of the natural sciences. Natural selection has stumbled upon psychophysical phenomenal colour states. These states are not inherently representational. But natural selection has harnessed them so they now tend, in the awake brain, to track certain causally co-varying patterns in the organism's environment. The capacity to recognise these patterns (simplistically, differential electromagnetic reflectancies of macroscopic objects) bears on the differential reproductive success of the genetic vehicles in which phenomenal colours are periodically instantiated. This explains why such states have been selected. It doesn't explain their intrinsic phenomenal nature. So natural selection doesn't in any but a shallow sense explain states such as redness (or, it will be argued, value). It explains why some such states have been selected rather than others. It doesn't explain why any kind of experience has the phenomenal properties it does. Nor does it explain why experience exists at all. If telepathy had existed, evolutionary psychologists would doubtless offer excellent explanations and mathematical models of why telepaths had been selected over non-telepaths. Telepathy, we would tub-thumpingly be told, could thus be explained "naturalistically", not as some divine gift of God. Yet the phenomenon itself would still be utterly mysterious. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.12 The Formal Successes Of Scientific Triumphalism. Physics and, derivatively, the rest of the physical sciences can in principle provide a complete account of the natural universe. It is (potentially) complete only in the sense that the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics is correct and isomorphic to the world. The equations themselves are topic-neutral. The intrinsic nature of the stuff they describe, what "breathes fire into the equations and makes there a world for us to describe" is, as even Hawking concedes, unknown, and perhaps unknowable. What can be known, however, since one is oneself a tiny fragment of the "fire in the equations", is that the experience of phenomenal redness exists as a matter objective fact. This is so even though a (mathematically) complete physics on its own has nothing to say about it. This should be stressed because in conceptualising the contents of the world, it is tempting to defer, not merely to the unreasonable effectiveness of the equations, but also to one's ill-defined notions of the basic physical stuff those equations describe. And these notions don't include e.g. redness, or tickles, or happiness, or moral values. But, crucially here, the physicists' potential candidates for the status of brute ontological primitives e.g. superstrings or fields etc., are defined, ultimately, in purely mathematical terms. So if particular phenomenal colours, say, were to be identified with the particular numerical values of a set of occipito-temporal cortical fields, this is in no way inconsistent with the physical formalism. Redness would in this case be just one spark of the "fire in the equations". Likewise, if one identifies particular phenomenologically valuable states with a finite set of numerical values of intra-cranial fields, this is likewise consistent with the mathematical formalism. For they too are part of the fire in the equations which makes there a world for us to describe. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to muddy the ontological issue here by confusing the two senses of the word "subjective". It is the case, objectively, that the world contains subjective, experiential states such as redness with its unique, nameable, but ultimately ineffable what-it's-like-ness. This property may be identified with complicated, occipito-temporal cortical patterns of cortical fields. Redness is a distinctive mind-dependent property. It lacks any mind-independent existence, since neither electromagnetic radiation, molecules nor their macroscopic object patterns are red. This doesn't challenge its objective existence. When one experiences, or is presented with, or instantiates, redness, one can apprehend what colour it is and report the experience, sincerely or otherwise. This judgement has truth-conditions. Since red is mind-dependent it is also, on any mind-brain identity theory, brain-dependent. It is as such an objective property of the physical world. So what judgements of redness express is both mind-dependent and objectively true (or, if one's avowals are insincere, false). -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.13 The Naturalisation of Value. Now moral value itself will be examined. It is going to be suggested that value, and conversely disvalue, are distinctive features literally inherent in the world no less than phenomenal redness; and thus there can be objective, truth-evaluable judgements of value. This property is mind-dependent, hence brain-dependent, hence a natural and objective property of the world. In consequence, the states of mind of our ecstatic descendants are inherently more valuable by their very nature than the relatively worthless psychiatric slumlands of our own era. Of the finite, potential 101 000 000's of interestingly different types of conscious state of the human mind/brain, some are subjectively apprehended as experientially valuable and some aren't. Some states seem essentially neutral; some are merely pleasurable but not valued; some are found complex and ambivalent; some involve the mere parroting of received wisdom in the absence of the relevant experience; and the fuzzy boundaries of what the concept of finding something experientially valuable entails are an added complication too. Some valuable qualities strike one as intrinsic to the very nature of (one's emotionally encephalised virtual simulation of) the mind-independent world. Some seem to be local to one's body-image. Yet the presence or absence of any particular mind/brain-independent state of affairs is in principle neither necessary nor sufficient for the experientially valuable states to occur; whereas a necessary and sufficient condition for those experiences is the occurrence of the relevant pattern of neuronal firings. Once proto-utopian neuroscience can identify the biomolecular substrates of experiential value, or redness, or pleasure etc, it will be feasible to mass-manufacture redness, pleasure or value. Value can be biologically synthesised in extant organisms or in mind/brains-in-vats. [Hence the derisive tag earlier of "biological program for Cosmic Value-Maximisation".] Futuristic vats could contain colours and values in virtue of containing brains. This sounds odd; but no category-mistake is involved. So analogously to redness, then, value should be construed as a property of a delimited class of mind/brain states. In future it can be both quantified and synthesised. Certain forms of experience are indeed often said to be unquantifiable: happiness is the most commonly cited example. But if particular types of chemical (or perhaps, ultimately, relativistic quantum fields, or modes of vibration of 10-dimensional heterotic superstrings etc) embedded in the relevant neural state, are either identified with, or found to be invariantly positively correlated with, phenomenologically valuable states, then scaling up or down the number and size of the relevant states by the relevant number and disposition of molecules increases or decreases the level of happiness, redness, value etc in the world accordingly. Problems of vague concepts with fuzzy boundaries, and of ill-defined criteria of usage, complicate but do not change the issue. In an ideal taxonomy of the mind/brain, experiential states would be as quantifiable, and their exact texture as mathematically precisely defined, as any other feature of the natural universe. The notion that what-it's-like-ness can be described by a set of equations is indisputably counter-intuitive; but this is what any scientific mind/brain identity-theory entails. And given such a theory, the biological program can vastly increase the amount of both happiness and naturalised value in the world. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.14 Four Deadly Objections? Now for four potentially devastating objections that can be levelled at the position sketched above. First, when people express value-judgements, they frequently refer to states of the world. They're not alluding to some distinctive quality of their own experience. They may indeed frequently project aspects of their experience onto states of the world. Yet it is the world they are referring to, not their own phenomenology. Second, surely values can conflict. They are sometimes violently contested. We even go to war over them. If two putatively truth-evaluable judgements of value are mutually contradictory, they can't both be objectively true; or perhaps they don't, and can't, have truth-conditions at all. Third, by taking value to be an intrinsic phenomenological attribute of certain mental states, the value-naturalist position apparently makes some singularly obnoxious prejudices morally valuable, even immensely so. After all, Hitler found persecuting Jews extremely morally valuable. Given that, by every indication, Hitler was sincere in reporting at least this aspect of his mental states, albeit under another description, then from the value-naturalist perspective persecuting Jews would have to count as valuable: not as valuable as the exalted states alluded to in this paper, admittedly, but morally worthwhile nonetheless. This is surely a pretty conclusive reductio of the position. In any case, the above example exposes the argument's internal inconsistency. Hitler's value-judgements contradicted those of his victims. Therefore it is logically impossible for them both to be right. Fourth, does not the value-naturalist case rest on an illicit equivocation? Not everything that is desired is desirable, a slide from the factual to the ethical. Likewise, surely not everything that is valued is valuable? Even if it were objectively the case that value-judgements obliquely reported, truly or falsely, a distinctive experiential state or family of states, this wouldn't mean that such types of state actually ought to be valued, or that one ought to strive for their maximisation. The reply given here to these seemingly knock-down rejoinders to the value-naturalist is highly counter-intuitive. For it depends for its key premise on what might appear to be a completely different issue altogether, the nature of what we optimistically call perception; and in particular the falsity of any sort of direct realism. The answer to be given is arguably consistent with several non-direct realist theories other than the one set out below; but the account, and the heuristic fable it contains, is designed to highlight as starkly as possible the falsity of a presupposition common to at least the first three charges above. The position defended here as a basis for the argument to follow is a radical selectionist account of perceptual experience. It contends that the difference between "dreaming" and "being awake" lies essentially in the mode by which states intrinsic to the mind/brain are selected. The most that the extra-neural environment can ever do is partially select which of a finite menu of mind/brain/virtual world states is instantiated at a given moment. Subjects can never, directly, do more than apprehend their own mind/brain/virtual-world states. The values they appear to find in the mind-independent world are instead intrinsic features of particular states of their own brains. And insofar as future ecstatics are capable of truly reporting this quality of experience, their states are objectively more valuable than anything existing today. So the world really will get better and better. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.15 Alone Amongst The Zombies. These rather dogmatic and elliptical pronouncements may first be illustrated by use of the following case study. There is a rare sleep disorder in which the victims lack the muscular atony which, ordinarily, functionally decouples the bodily musculature from a dreaming brain. This decoupling is in the normal way highly adaptive. For it stops the rest of us from unwittingly acting out our dreams. In the absence of a functional decoupling of the musculature, all manner of dream-scenarios will be acted out. In such circumstances the external vocalisations and other forms of bodily behaviour of the dreamer are uncorrelated, except by chance, with the rest of the world outside the mind/brain. Within the dreamer's virtual world, however, nothing will seem amiss. The meaning and reference of terms used by the central body-image are grounded purely internally in its pseudo-perceptually apprehended environment. Inside the neural dreamworld, a conscious, unwittingly private language of thought masquerades as public speech. The dreamer's body-image uses it to converse with the behaviourally intelligent homunculi his visual cortex intermittently activates. These noisily animated zombies, and other ostensibly perceptual experiences of macroscopic objects in a macroscopic world, are purely autobiographical. The whole virtual world flickers in and out of existence as its instantiator passes in and out of dreamless sleep. For it is not just the dreamer's non-occurrent beliefs and desires which are dispositional, but the macroscopic dreamworld itself. Its episodes are nonetheless readily reactivated. This is because its features lie latently encoded in the connection and activation weights of the dreamer's brain. The difference between us and a victim of this sleep disorder is that his extra-neural body acts out, obliviously, the actions performed by his body-image internal to the dream; whereas when we are asleep our bodies are effectively paralysed. Now, counterfactually and for heuristic purposes, imagine a possible world in which this sleep disorder is both chronic and ubiquitous. Dreamers never "wake up". Nor do they have any notion of what such a familiar if ill-understood expression might mean. Natural selection goes to work over millions of years. It differentially favours the genotypes of organisms whose dreamworlds, initially just by chance, serve as though they were akin to quasi-real-time simulations of certain patterns in the extra-neural world. For genetically selfish reasons, each differentially selected genotype spawns an egocentric virtual world. It is a virtual world centred physically and affectively around one focal body-image. More proximate selection of dreamworld events comes into play due to a bombardment of patterned sequences of electro-chemical impulses from various afferent proto-nerves. These extend to what serve to become peripheral transducers in the organism's bodily surfaces. Over the generations, the fitness-enhancing correlations between the behaviour the extra-neural body unwittingly acts out and macro-patterns in its environment tend to get tighter and tighter. With the passage of time, many dreamworlds quite regularly become, so to speak, thoroughly undreamlike. Normal infant dream-worlders will learn, over several years, pseudo-public criteria for language use from their virtual mothers. A maturing dreamer may discover that his body-image's surroundings show a good deal of coherence, law-like regularity and even predictability. He may discover that his body(-image) can intelligently manipulate and re-engineer, within sharply constrained limits, aspects of the (neural dream-)world beyond itself. Obliquely and obliviously, dreamworlds will tend in some degree mutually to select each other's contents. With time, the unwitting behavioural by-products of purposeful actions internal to billions of dreamworlds spin off an ever more elaborate material culture. The collective result of these by-products is that the eternal sleepers' host bodies act out the construction of everything from skyscrapers to computer networks, particle-accelerators to jumbo jets. The resultant artefacts enjoy a dreamworld-independent existence. They themselves serve thereafter partially to select what kinds of dreamworld are neurally activated. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.16 The Perils of Idle Scepticism. Should an overly-lucid dreamer ever doubt the ontological integrity of his particular virtual world, the consequences may be grave. Dreamworlds can be refractory and inhospitable places. His virtual body-image may be mauled by virtual lions or, in a later era, knocked down by a virtual bus. Thanks to millions of years of selective pressure, such agonies correlate highly with parallel, mind-independent events befalling the organism whose skull encloses the dreamworld brain. So any genes notionally predisposing to such idle philosophers' fancies tend not to be passed on to the bodily vehicles of potential baby-dreamworlds. Instead, each dreamer strives to re-order his emotionally encephalised world so that its unsuspectedly mind-dependent states more nearly match his desires. Some dreamworlds are chaotic and schizoid; some are seemingly well-ordered and amenable to quasi-scientific investigation; some are happy and suffused with spirituality and magic; and some are violent and nightmarish. None of these gargantuan psychochemical extravaganzas is inherently about anything external to itself on the other side of its skull. Yet evolution has differentially selected genes which predispose to the self-assembly of a very particular range of phenotypical dreamworlds. These are the world-phenotypes which serve as effective vehicles for the propagation of more copies of the genes that made them. One of the properties of a successful vehicle is that periodically some of its patterns causally co-vary, albeit on a highly selective basis, with other patterns beyond itself. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.17 The Price Of Inner Demons. How is this relevant to a value-naturalist defence of an objective warrant for the biological program? The fable's significance may be illustrated by envisaging a counterpart to Hitler, say, in the dreamworld scenario. In his dark and sinister virtual world, his body-image fights against terrible inner demons/neuronal firings. He spends his whole life pitted in a struggle to exorcise once-and-for-all their malevolent and conspiratorial presence. The evil occipito-temporal homunculi lurking beyond his somato-sensory body-image are of course mindless phantoms. But their hostile intent appears frighteningly obvious to their host. Tragically, Hitler's dreamworld brain is fully coupled to the bodily musculature of the organism which houses such nightmarish neurochemical patterns. There is no muscular atony to prevent the microcosmic horror story from being acted out in the mind-independent macrocosm by the extra-neural body. Natural selection has ensured that many types of event in his dreamworld causally co-vary, albeit in a grotesquely selective manner, with the wider world, its organisms and the dreamworlds they host. In consequence, over fifty million people die in a brutal war. Now this fable is all very well as a thought-experiment, it may be said. Even in our own world, there are rare and tragic cases of people who blamelessly and unwittingly kill their partner while asleep, whether during "night-terrors" or in the course of an exceedingly violent dream. But the real Hitler wasn't asleep. He was fully awake and acted quite deliberately in full knowledge of what he was doing. He perceived real, flesh-and-blood, sentient people. They were wholly innocent of the monstrous crimes he imputed to them. And herein lies the crux. If real-world Hitler did directly apprehend or perceive his victims, or alternatively if certain neurochemical events in his mind/brain/virtual-world were, somehow, inherently about Jewish people in the world outside, then the argument shortly to be presented is false. If, on the other hand, Hitler was wrestling with horribly emotionally encephalised inner demons, apparitions of his own (involuntary) creation whose foul behaviour really did blight his early virtual world, then his behaviour in trying to banish such sources of negative value amounted to an epistemic rather than evaluative failure. Likewise today, in billions of other egocentric virtual worlds, desperate and often ineffectual attempts are being made by each genetic host's central body-image to exorcise all kinds of obnoxious phenomena. Unfortunately, in the absence of the biological program and the presence of naive realism, the net results are frequently tragic. In the case of Hitler, profound sources of objective experiential "disvalue" did indeed neurochemically transmit and present themselves to the functional modules mediating his sense of self and neural body-image. It wasn't the case that he somehow "projected" such experience onto his virtual world; instead that quality of experience was intrinsic to it. Natural selection ensured that Hitler, in common with all but a few philosophically and scientifically-minded humans, was implicitly a naive realist about a perceptual world. So when he apprehended great evil, a quality of experience located in what he couldn't know was only his emotionally malencephalised virtual world, he tried to destroy it in the only manner he knew how. By his lights, he was trying to make the mind-independent world a better place. Had he been a brain-in-a-vat, he might temporarily have succeeded. Tragically, he wasn't; and a mere epistemological error turned into a moral catastrophe. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.18 Can We All Be Really Good? Now if the human predicament were akin to that of a dreamworlder, a very big and controversial "if", admittedly, then the following answers may be given to the four objections to value-naturalism levelled earlier. First, yes, people certainly believe many of their value-judgements refer to the world and its properties rather than to some distinctive quality of their own experience. But both the philosophy of perception and quantum mechanics suggest that what a person treats as the mind-independent world - and to whose properties he linguistically refers - are toy, data-driven simulations his mind-brain is running. If so, then he is referring in a direct way only to aspects of his own neural experience in another guise. What his value-judgements express is still an objective property of the natural world. But it is mind-dependent. Experiences found valuable, whether by brains-in-skulls or futuristic brains-in-vats, have a distinctive, nameable, but ineffable what-it's-like-ness about which physical science has nothing to say. Second, people's value-judgements can mutually contradict each other only if they succeed in referring to the same thing. Hitler's internally-issued value-judgements couldn't really contradict those of his extra-neural body's inadvertent victims. Those same judgements accurately reflected the character of the emotionally encephalised bestiary of monsters that populated his mind/brain; and against whose machinations he fought, at terrible cost. Third, what is morally wrong on a consequentialist ethic is the effect of the unwitting behavioural spin-offs of Hitler's attempts to extinguish his inner foes. He wasn't mistaken to find certain phenomena obnoxious, sources of profound objective "disvalue". Mein Kampf is testimony to their horrible phenomenology. He just mislocated their distinctive properties and origin as external to his composite self. The effects were of course catastrophic. Now to what extent the dreamworld fable above does capture an aspect of the human predicament is, to say the least, controversial. Aside from certain details included for reasons of expository convenience, I would argue that the account is empirically indistinguishable, at least, from more familiar approaches to perception. To explore in any depth, however, the perceptual and semantic minefields into which the question leads, not to mention the paradoxes of self-reference it might seem to entail, would take us too far afield. The account does nonetheless offer one programmatic way to naturalise value, albeit at a price that may be considered too high for comfort. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.19 Equivocal Values. The fourth charge was one of equivocation. The valued is being confused with the valuable. Even if it is granted, the charge continues, that value-judgements are true or false reports of a distincti