A Counter-History of the California Ideology

From California, Wired magazine has achieved global notoriety through its claims that the Net will create the sort of free market capitalism until now only found in neo-classical economics text books. Everyone will be able to buy and sell in cyberspace without restrictions. States will no longer be able to control electronic commerce which can cross national borders without hindrance. The Net will allow the whole world to realize the American dream of material riches. Coming from California, this neo-liberal fantasy has even acquired a mythic dimension. By releasing the supposed laws of nature immanent in unregulated capitalism, the information technologies will allegedly lead to the birth of a new race of ‘post-humans’: cyborg capitalist freed from the restrictions of the flesh.1

The complex dimensions of the debate of the transhuman began, for me, as an aside to the role of cybernetics and information technologies in megamachine of the neoliberal Control Society, but as time has gone on its taken greater form. If the interplays between the multitude’s capacities of General Intellect and [post-industrial] capitalist accumulation are forever producing higher and higher degrees of technotronic integration into the human being and its production of subjectivity, then the debate should not be something that is kept on the sidelines, relegated to the lunatic fringe and the utopian dreamers. It something, in my opinion, that must be collectively addressed, especially for those on the left who situate themselves against the current forms of command and discipline.

The above quote comes from Richard Barbrook, a social scientist specializing in the study of the political dimensions of digital technology; in 1995 he published a critique of Wired magazine in his paper “The California Ideology.” Wired, he argued, was the vocal mouthpiece of the California’s unique brand of technocapitalism, which drew heavily on both neoliberal dogmatics and post-hippy counterculturalism, collapsing the boundaries between the New Left and the New Right together in a heady stew of socially-conscious Randianism. The oppositions between the two are honestly not so far apart: both subscribed to a strict platform of anti-statism and an emphasis on the individual, and both privileged the triumph of knowledge over the dark stasis that Fordist-era power held over society. But the utopian dreaming of this amalgamation, argued Barbrook, was actually a reactionary and homogenizing technological determinism that saw the passageways to mass social change through a narrow, economic prism. Yet part of me wonders if Barbrook isn’t failing victim to the same accusation, in that he launches his critique from a narrow space (I’ll admit that I’m letting my biases show a bit here, as I can confess to hold anti-statist sentiments).

Wired may very well be deterministic, but we cannot approach the topic of the post/transhuman from such a vantage point: technology, like anything else in “history,” cannot be distilled down to simple progressions of linear casuality. The limitations of professional futurists (Kurzweil, etc) is that while statistical graphing of data trends can show overarching quasi-patterns, its the mistakes, slippages and chance happenings that are the real driver of the present. Control can only scramble to pick up the disparate pieces, and even so, control is fragmented, often expressing itself from contradictory viewpoints that themselves cannot produce total syntheses. On a more simple basis of the inability to establish concrete categorization, look at the transhuman – nobody can agree on even what this word means. Is it something that has already happened (as myself, Donnaway, Hardt and Negri agree) or is it a materialist-mystical state of being, an event still unable to be truly grasped? Maybe its both. Regardless, even the “California Ideology,” with its own neoliberal determinism, is the result of the complicated foam of time, a production of the most unexpected encounters and occasions. In some ways, the myriad of factors that contributed to its existence are none other the forces that continually frame nearly every debate on postmodern revolt – a history that needs to be drawn forth, if for any other reason, than to see how surreal the world we live in really is.

From Cybernetics to Spies


The cast of the Macy Conferences

In 1946 a neurophsyiologist named Warren McCulloch joined together with the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation to launch a series of conferences that brought together some of the best minds of the Cold War era; now simply referred to as the ‘Macy Conferences,’ this extensive think-tank sessions marked the point in which cybernetic theory would emerge from the corridors of academia and break into into the mainstream with its full, interdisciplinary force. Found alongside one another in the conferences’ canopies were philosophers, mathematicians, anthropologists, medical doctors, psychologists… these included Norbert wiener, himself the de-factor ‘founder’ of cybernetics; Gregory Bateson and his wife, Margaret Mead, both anthropologists; scientific visionary J.C.R. Licklider, one of the fathers of nuclear weaponry, John von Neumann; and cutting-edge social scientist Paul Lazarsfeld. Common amongst this individuals was the quest for a new way to view the world both scientifically and socially, as well as a distrust for the totalitarian currents that had in the preceding years in Italy (fascism), Germany (National Socialism), and Russia (the USSR): Brian Holmes recounts rumours that the participants themselves had more than a passing interest in a work titled The Authoritarian Personality, published by members of the Frankfurt School of critical theory (the intellectual home-base of radical thinkers like Adorno, who had been a co-author of the work, Erich Fromm, and Herbert Marcuse).2 Though Holmes points out that the evidence “for direct connections between the Macy Conferences and The Authoritarian Personality is slim,” there is certainly room for at least indirection ties between the two moments: Paul Lazarsfeld, nearly a decade earlier, had been a director of the Rockefeller Foundation-funded Radio Project, with Adorno playing a major supporting role.

Even if the curbing of authoritarian tendencies was a subtext of the conferences, many of the players operated in a fashion counter to this perceived goal. Von Neumann had worked at the Los Alamos laboratories during the heyday of the Manhattan Project, ultimately designing the explosive lenses that made the “Fat Man” bomb dropped on Nagasaki a functional weapon. wiener himself suffered a series of psuedomystical existential crises over his cybernetic model, which he perceived as both an inherent model of communication and as a form of control. Writing in his 1950 work The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society, he foreshadows these later thoughts by drawing the direction relationship between these two mechanisms:

When I communicate with another person, I impart a message to him, and when he communicates back with me he returns a related message which contains information primarily accessible to him and not to me. When I control the actions of another person, I communicate a message to him, and although this message is in the imperative mood, the technique of communication does not differ from that of a message of fact. Furthermore, if my control is to effective, I must take cognizance of any messages from him which may indicate that the order is understood and has been obeyed… society can only be understood through a study of the messages and the communication facilities that belong to it; and that in the future development of these messages and the communication facilities, messages between man and machines, between machines and man, and between machine and machine, are destined to play an ever-increasing part.3


Meanwhile, Gregory Bateson was playing a more active role in the foreign policy establishment, utilizing his anthropological work abroad as a cover for his activities with the OSS, the United States’s clandestine services organization during the years of World War 2. During a stay in Burma, he had watched as the bombs, developed in part by his soon-to-be colleague von Neumann, exploded over Japan, and realized that this sudden leap forward in technological warfare would generate a global shift in the methodologies of international relations. He promptly drew up a letter to spymaster William Donovan on his recommendations for covert action in the newly minted atomic age: no longer could the traditional branches of the armed forces, the Army and the Navy, be the single defense agencies, while economic and diplomatic pressure’s role, he argued, would crumble under the ability of country’s to wield the power of splitting the atom. Instead, there needed to be a new agency operating under the auspices of the State Department that would conduct “clandestine operations, economic controls, and psychological pressure.” Within several years, the OSS would be dissolved, replaced by the new cloak-and-dagger organization of the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA.4

Psychedelic Militarization/California’s Dreaming

It was in 1943 when Albert Hoffman, a chemist employed by the Sandoz Laboratories in Switzerland, accidentally absorbed a small amount of a drug he that called LSD, having synthesized it several years earlier. It had a profound effect: laying down, his perception of his everyday reality shifted to an uninterrupted parade of images and colors, swirling about in a kaleidoscope of shapes and designs. Three days later, he tried the drug again at a higher dosage. Feeling the sudden onset of change in his sensory perception, he left the lab on a bicycle for home. Anxiety and panic washed over him – am I going insane? he asked himself. But soon, in the spaces of his house and after a cursory check of his vital signs, he found that he “could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and play of shapes… Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux.”


A decade later Sandoz held contracts with the US Food and Drug Administration, providing large shipments of LSD that were in turn given to the CIA.5 The rationale behind this was the new paranoid climate of the Cold War: just as American spies were embedded within the Soviet bureaucratic apparatuses, there was ongoing hunts for communist agents in the US. LSD’s uncanny ability to deconstruct the normal doors of perception could possibly allow, given the right circumstances, the ability not only to gain confessions from those trained extensively not to crack under pressure, but to unmake the human mind and rebuild it from the ground up. Research into these avenues was green-lighted in 1953 under the code-name of “MK-ULTRA,” and money flowed through both secret cut-outs and private foundations for funding. Amongst these organizations was the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, which was by this time being headed up by the former OSS officer Frank Fremont-Smith;6 within several years, the foundation was to set up a series of conferences modeled on the earlier Macy Conferences (and complete with many of the same members) dedicated to the study of LSD.

Gregory Bateson reemerged into the fray of this psychedelic ferment. Psychiatrists had already latched onto other uses for LSD than clandestine shenanigans – the rearranging of the senses could given the otherwise sane individual a glimpse into the mind of the schizophrenic, which meant that the drug had plenty of legitimate clinical applications. Bateson himself was doing his own work on the causes of schizophrenia, arguing that the precipitating factor was the double bind, a confused mental state arising from contradictory messages in the familial environment. Thus, for Bateson, schizophrenia was first and foremost a social phenomena, foreshadowing the arguments made by Deleuze and Guattari in their two Capitalism and Schizophrenia books. Indeed, the layout A Thousand Plateaus is designed with Bateson’s work in mind: just as each chapter in the book is divided into “plateaus” that resonate harmoniously, the anthropologist took cybernetic living systems into a nearly holistic dimension with a model that linked together the mental and the greater ecological world in a series of intense, fluctuating plateaus. Its impossible to tell if LSD had any discernible impact on this turn Bateson’s thinking (though he occasionally hinted that it did), it is known that he did indeed receive LSD from none other than a doctor on the payroll of the CIA’s MK-ULTRA program.7

MK-ULTRA, by this point, had turned from vaguely sinister to the horrifying. Naomi Klein recounts much of the grimmer details in The Shock Doctrine, which traces a genealogy between the torture tactics deployed on prisoners during the War on Terror back to the CIA’s research, focusing mainly on the work that Dr. Ewen Cameron was conducting (on frequently non-consensual patients) at the Allen Memorial Institute, part of Montreal’s McGill University. Psychotropic drugs collided with electroshock therapy and sensory deprivation tanks in the psychiatric institute-turned torture changed; with agency funding, Cameron starved patients, bombarded their psyches with LSD and PCP, and with this cocktail, immersed them in the sensory deprivation tanks for upwards of a month. In one disturbing moment, one patient was put in a drug sleep for sixty-five days, only to be awakened from the drug induced comas to eat and use the bathroom.8 But yet the money continued to flow to Cameron, much of it through an agency cut-out called the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, a rather innocuous-sounding title for the actions conducted under its mantle; one the board of directors set Adolph Berle, a mainstay of the moneyed liberal elite. He too was disturbed by what he saw: in his personal diary he wrote that he “was frightened about this one. If the scientists do what they have laid out for themselves, men will become manageable ants.”9

Luckily for us, it didn’t turn out this way. In fact, the blowback of the operation would prove to be quite the opposite. Fast forward in time:

…someone came up to me and I shut my eyes and with a machine he projected images on the back of my eyelids… I was afraid, because I honestly thought that it was all in my mind, ‘and that I had finally flipped out.

I sought a person I trusted… he held me for a long time, and we grew closer than two people can be… our bones merged, our skin was one skin, there was no place where we could be separated, where he stopped and I began. This closeness was impossible to describe in any but melodramatic term… still, I did feel that we became merged and one in the true sense, that there was nothing that could separate us, and that it had a meaning beyond any that had ever been.10

This is the description of a journalist assigned to the first of the electric acid tests; against the backdrop of strobe machines and the bodies twirling and dancing to the Grateful Dead, she had consumed kool-aid that, unbeknownst to her, were spiked with high doses of LSD. These trip festivals, autonomous anarchic zones were psychedelics were consumed and bodily relations were freely traded, were the brainchildren of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, a nomadic band of aesthetic revolutionaries who were busy bridging the gap between the Beat Generation and the blossoming hippy counterculture through the dual platforms of individual freedom and the use of hallucinogenics. Kesey’s introduction to the world of LSD had not, however, been in the domain of the counterculture…

Lovell told him [Kesey] about some experiments in the Veterans Hospital in Menlo Park was running with “psychomimetic” drugs, drugs that brought on temporary states resembling psychoses. They were paying volunteers $75 a day. Kesey volunteered.11

Kesey was turned on to LSD by the CIA, Kesey then helped to turn on an entire generation. He wasn’t the only one: Allen Ginsberg took the drug on the advice of Bateson, and Robert Hunter, who was to become the songwriter for the Grateful Dead, ingested LSD and mescaline under the watchful eyes of MK-ULTRA scientists at Stanford University. In the beginning, the CIA’s search for a medical antidote for the Cold War transformed the agency into not only a drug dealer, but one of the most important influences in the rising counterculture that was coalescing into the New Left.


Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters

Meanwhile, other research was being conducted in the military establishment, in the insulated offices and labs of the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). It was here that the advancements in cybernetic theory were frantically being applied in search of a new platform of network communication – just as Bateson had foreseen ha ow political alignments would shift in the shadow of the atomic bomb, the scientists there and at the related RAND Corporation had realized that a nuclear attack on the homeland would shatter the nation’s ability to govern and share information. The adequate response would be to development other methods of communication; to establish it in a pattern of interlocking networks, it could continue on in such an event.

To assist, ARPA brought into its fold a former Macy Conference attendee, J.C.R Licklider, who in 1963 had already envisioned a systematic virtual complex that he had called the “Intergalactic Computer Network.” Licklider would do very little physical work on the creation of the network, but through his position as head of the agency’s Information Processing Technology Office, he hammered out ideas that would come to be the entire paradigm of contemporary computer usage: windows, graphics, the keyboard, digital information shared through packets over the wires, the mouse. ARPA absorbed these ideas, and by the end of the sixties the organization had created a very rudimentary method for the transmission of these info-packets – the ARPAnet. Licklider continued to took towards the future, and in 1968 he published a paper called “The Computer as Communication Device,” which foresaw a state where inter-computer communication would take place through regional networks that would in turn grow into larger, multiregional networks: the internet.


The work being done on many of Licklider’s ancillary was taking place at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in Menlo Park, California. There, with ARPA funding abound, Douglas Engelbart was developing early hypertext programs, forerunners to graphic user interfaces, and the technology that would become the modern day mouse. SRI was also a hotbed for government-funded LSD research – and Engelbart himself had been an earlier participant in the sessions.12 ARPA, however, was taking him in different directions. In 1967 he applied for a patent for the finalized mouse design, and the chorded keyboard was also nearly completion. Finally, in 1968, he put together a mass demonstration of these technologies and the others that were being developed by him and his colleagues: teleconferencing, bootstrapping (an idea he had conceived while on LSD), hypermedia, and real-time information editors. And assisting him by videotaping this conference, retrospectively called “The Mother of All Demos,” was a young countercultural entrepreneur by the name of Stewart Brand.

Commune Capitalism

Before he helped with the Mother of All Demos, Brand had cut his teeth in logistics work by assisting Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters in putting together the infamous Trips Festivals and Acid Tests. Before this, he had received his first experiences with LSD through government-funded research on the drug; the session was supervised by Jim Fadiman, later the head of the SRI division where Engelbart conducted his work.13 Under the care of Fadiman and a team of psychologists, the trip took place in a highly procedural environment: under careful monitoring, he was directed to observe paintings and eastern mandalas and experience the soundscapes of classical music. “Put off by the highly structured, psuedoscientific trappings” of the session, Brand drifted into the fray of Kesery and the Pranksters, who he saw as practicing a strange urban “techno-tribalism” that was articulating, in its own distinctive way, the man-machine relationships being probed by the government researchers. Writes Fred Turner:

Although Brand later recalled that Kesey and the Pranksters were unfamiliar with Buckminster Fuller’s writings and with cybernetic theory when he first read them, their technological performances suggest a deep sympathy with both. For Kesey and company, body and landscape, community and state, and sometimes even biological and electronic systems were mirrors of each other… If all the world was a stage, they were living here and now, in the real, material space of everyday life, and at the same time inside a movie, in media space. They were both themselves and characters in a scene – a pattern of self-understanding that they saw as congruent with the experience of self on LSD.14

Like so many other wrapped up in the zeitgeist, Brand was fascinated by cybernetics. He had devoured the works of Wiener and others, in particular, the experimental ecology being forged by Bateson. Brand’s own vision of environmentally sustainable, bottom-up communities where individuals could live in touch with one another and the earth they traversed was clearly rooted in a spiritual-spin on systems theory, and Bateson’s work “spoke to the ‘clear conceptual bonding of the cybernetic whole-systems thinking with religious whole-systems thinking.”15 The two quickly became friends, with the anthropological philosopher’s influence peppering the pages of Brand’s newly-formed Whole Earth Catalog.

435px-Wh-earth-69-coverThe Whole Earth Catalog had been launched in 1968, the same year of the Mother of All Demos. With the subtitle “access to tool,” Brand used the magazine to attempt to ‘liberate technology,’ in a way, in order to fuse its advancements with the countercultural desire for creative, sustainable, do-it-yourself living. Inside each issue were seven sections, including one on ecological cybernetics titled “Understanding Whole Systems,” and others on “Communication,” “Nomadics,” “Industry and Craft,” and “Shelter and Land Use.” These sections were complimented with advertisements for various tools and books to use them, conversations on different forms of living shelter and the environments that they could be utilized in, schematics, and the prices and suppliers for the items. Thus, Brand’s communalism was countercultural in the sense that it stressed individual liberty and that it promoted ways to effectively “drop-out” of the greater system and build up alternative; at the same time, The Whole Earth Catalog was still market based, though in many ways it reflects Manuel deLanda’s later division between markets-as-meshworks and antimarkets (corporations and states). Years and years later, Steve Jobs would discuss the intricate layout of the catalog as a forerunner to the creative uses of Google search engines… but in 1968, Brand was busy networking his communal idealism with the researchers being carried out by Engelbart and his colleagues at SRI. The symmetry was clear, as Turner points out: “The Whole Earth Catalog… would ultimately embody many of the ARC group’s [Engelbart’s unit at SRI] assumptions about the ideal relationship between information, technology, and community… the Catalog would link multiple, geographically distributed groups and allow them to collaborate – albeit not in real time. And like the hyperlinked texts of Engelbart’s system, the Whole Earth Catalog presented its readers with a system of connections.”16


In 1974 Brand took the proceeds from the Whole Earth Catalog and launched a secondary journal, CoEvolution Quarterly. While the basic model of focusing on D.I.Y living and the tool market carried over from its predecessor, this incarnation heavily featured complex social and environmental commentaries: articles ran the gamut from the Gaia hypothesis to transcripts of talks given by Lewis Mumford and poems by Allen Ginsberg to libertarian arguments for the flat-tax system. Importantly CoEvolution Quartely had been established in part as a “homage of Bateson”;17 just as Bateson sought to implode the binaries separating disciplinary research, one of the aims of the Quarterly was to unified ecology and technology by blending together the differing academic approaches taken in the sciences and the humanities.

The Techno-Utopian Digerati

Over the course of the next decade, the multiplicitous strands that had built up across the fifties and sixties triggered a major shift that dragged the world forward in its wake. 1976 saw the rise of microcomputer systems developed by kids who had grown up on the Whole Earth Catalog and periodic flirtations with LSD. In Palo Alto, California (where exactly twenty years prior Batson had lead his group of cyberneticians in crafting the ‘double bind’ theory of schizophrenia), Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built the first apple computers, while in New Mexico Bill Gates and Microsoft were gaining traction. In 1981 the government relaxed the military monopoly of the internet when the National Science Foundation set up the computer science network; a year later the TCP/IP internet protocols were standardized and mass access began to trickle in. Stewart Brand held his stance as part of the new internet vanguard: 1985 saw him leaving behind ink and paper for cyberspace with the creation of the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link (the WELL), in the beginning a dial-up digital bulletin board. Joining him as founder was Larry Brilliant, who would much later head up Google’s philanthropic arm.

As the internet transitioned in commercialized, public space in the late 80s through early 90s, the WELL began a hotbed of cyberintellectualism. The growing list of participants included the founders of Electronic Frontier Foundation (including John Perry Barlow, who years earlier had been a lyricist for the Grateful Dead), and Kevin Kelly, Louis Rossetto, and Jane Metcalfe, the brains behind Wired magazine. In other words, through Brand, the WELL and its offshoot publications and foundations can be viewed as a manifestation of a series of strange and contradictory turns in the byways of cybernetic history: the interchange between control and revolt, countercultural idealism and market pragmatics. The ideological underpinning of this assemblage, the “California Ideology,” can be found in often-quoted statements by Timothy Leary. The first happened in 1967, with the suggestion that the generation of the New Left “turn on, tune in, and drop out.” After the rise of the microcomputer and the internet, he changed his stance: “PC is the LSD of the 1990s… turn on, boot up, jack in.”

In 1996, John Brockman looked back at this time in his work Digerati: Encounters with the Cyber Elite.18 He bundled together the individuals of WELL, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Wired with techno-entrepreneurs like Gates, Jobs, and Wozniak; beyond being electronic visionaries, they were also manifestations of the “New Economy,” where free markets gained a new sense of urgency with the global proliferation of information processing technology. Wired‘s own “Encyclopedia of the New Economy” elaborates on this, revealing that at its core their approach is no different than that of post-Fordist neoliberalism at large:

When we talk about the new economy, we’re talking about a world in which people work with their brains instead of their hands. A world in which communications technology creates global competition – not just for running shoes and laptop computers, but also for bank loans and other services that can’t be packed into a crate and shipped. A world in which innovation is more important than mass production. A world in which investment buys new concepts or the means to create them, rather than new machines. A world in which rapid change is constant. A world at least as different from what came before it as the industrial age was from its agricultural predecessor. A world so different its emergence can only be described as a revolution.19

Of course, the fact that proper “free markets” are an impossibility in the domain of anti-markets is utterly glossed over, as well as the problematic of uneven development planes between the global North and global South. At the same time, the expressly right-wing libertarian belief that the free market can generate the transnational smooth space may be an indirect hold-over from the utopian longings of the New Left, indicating the ability of post-Fordist to grasp precisely these ethos and recast them in its own light. Whats left of the story is then a tangled near-myth of one of more unlikely passageways between modernism and postmodernism, from discipline’s rigidities to control’s flexibility. But the question is this: can reflections of narratives like this shed any light on exodus, on how the machine (in both a literal and Guattarian transversal sense) could potentially be liberated?


1Richard Barbrook, cited in Tatiana Bazzichelli Networked Disruption: Rethinking Oppositions in Art, Hacktivism and the Business of Social Networking Digital Aesthetics Research Center, 2013pgs. 31-32

2Brian Holmes “Filming the World Laboratory” Escape the Overcode: Activist Art in the Control Society http://brianholmes.wordpress.com/2009/01/19/book-materials/

3Norbert wiener The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society Avon Books, 1967 (reprint edition) pgs. 24-25

4“The Birth of Central Intelligence” Central Intelligence Agency website, https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/vol10no2/html/v10i2a01p_0001.htm

5Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond Grove Atlantic, 1985 (no page number)

6Alston Chase A Mind for Murder: The Education of the Unabomber and the Origins of Modern Terrorism W.W. Norton & Company, 2004, pg. 271

7Lee, Shlain Acid Dreams (no page number)

8Naomi Klein The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism Picador, 2007, pg. 43

9Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett Thy Will Be Done: The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil HarperCollins, 1996, pg. 265

10Tom Wolfe The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test Bantam, 1999 (reprint edition) pg. 274

11Ibid, pg. 40

12John Markoff What the Doormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry Penguin Books, 2005

13Fred Turner From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism University of Chicago Press, 2006 pg. 61

14Ibid, pgs. 62-63

15Andrew Pickering The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future University of Chicago Press, 2007, pg. 183

16Turner From Counterculture to Cyberculture pg. 110

17Pickering The Cybernetic Brain pg. pg. 183

18John Brockman Digerati: Encounters with the Cyber Elite HardWired, 1996

19Quoted in Stephen Kline, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Greig de Peuter Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture, and Marketing McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003 pg. 10

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10 Responses to A Counter-History of the California Ideology

  1. noir-realism says:

    As I was reading your post I kept thinking about a few books I’m reading in a circle at the moment: Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows, Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together, Jaron Lanier’s You are not a Gadget, and William Powers Hamlet’s Blackberry…. each in its own way describing the slow devolution of late homo sapiens into less than its own hype.

    The digitari are abandoning ship, running from the machine they built, and now wishing the storm the loosed upon the world would like any good magician just vanish before out eyes. But its too late for that, we’ve already bitten the fruit, and our younger compadres have slipped into the slipstream where they live dispassionate lives of psychopathy, oblivious of the world outside their empty skulls they’ve become the wires of a neoblip culture that forgets each thing the moment it is born before their hypergaze.

    Children of machines the have learned their trade well. They no the past just like the future no longer exists, that the only freedom is this dark fire in their hearts beating in the moment of its unfounded passion. Neither romantic nor classic they have lost the treasures of the Western Mind. The live in the temples of nothingness that we built. Temples without gods. Temples for the wicked pleasures of an aesthetic ape: they are the machine gods of collapsing thought, without hope because hope is no longer in the vocabulary of machines.

    • edmundberger says:

      The digerati are abandoning ship… such a provocative image, and a true one at that. Jaron Lanier is the classic example, with his countercybercultural image and his history in Silicon Valley – it took so much vigor and thought, the fusion of mechanic ingenuity and abstract intellectualism to birth the cybernetic contours of the control society. But is there, at this stage, the capability for events like the ones I briefly summarized in this post? Technical know-how and abstraction do exist, no doubt, but I wonder if these lines are simply becoming spread too far apart, unable to cross at critical intersections and drag the whole of society in its wake. Are we embarked, instead, on a journey that actually has made determinism a reality, with a singular state of being that is been hoisted upon us?

  2. noir-realism says:

    Reblogged this on noir realism and commented:
    Great post up on Deterritorial Investigations. As I was reading his post I kept thinking about a few books I’m reading in a circle at the moment: Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows, Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together, Jaron Lanier’s You are not a Gadget, and William Powers Hamlet’s Blackberry…. each in its own way describing the slow devolution of late homo sapiens into less than its own hype.

    The digitari are abandoning ship, running from the machine they built, and now wishing the storm they loosed upon the world would, like any good magician, just vanish before our eyes. But its too late for that, we’ve already bitten the fruit, and our younger compadres have slipped into the slipstream worlds of the net where they live dispassionate lives of psychopathy, oblivious of the world outside their immediate noospheres, blinded by their empty skulls, they’ve become the wires of a neoblip culture that forgets each thing the moment it is born before the hypergaze of their blank eyes.

    Children of machines the have learned their trade well. They no the past just like the future no longer exists, that the only freedom is this dark fire in their hearts beating in the moment of its unfounded passion. Neither romantic nor classic they have lost the treasures of the Western Mind. The live in the temples of nothingness that we built. Temples without gods. Temples for the wicked pleasures of an aesthetic ape: they are the machine gods of collapsing thought, without hope because hope is no longer in the vocabulary of machines.

  3. jkmhoffman says:

    Reblogged this on kjmhoffman.

  4. Pingback: The Ghost in the Machine | Deterritorial Investigations Unit

  5. Pingback: Machinic Oedipus, Machinic Multitude | Deterritorial Investigations Unit

  6. Brian Holmes says:

    As ever, fascinating stuff. Just yesterday I wrote what could stand as an answer, or the beginnings of one, to your last question:


    • edmundberger says:

      Hi Brian! Great post there, and I searched out the thread in its entirety… fascinating stuff, and I’m looking forward to Turner’s new book (for those interested, it can be read at http://www.mail-archive.com/nettime-l@mail.kein.org/msg01852.html).

      I think that this is one of the most complicated and vexing questions facing those of us working towards social change today – and it is something that deserves far more scrutiny. We do run the risk of reductionism in collapsing so many categories together – counterculture, cybernetics, neoliberalism, the ‘schizophrenication’ of the individual under corporate strategy… its critical to avoid any deterministic outlook that A will inevitably lead to B on a linear and totalizing trajectory, so on and so forth. But at the same time, you aptly point out, drawing on the nomad science vs. royal science, the potentialities for subversion active within the currents of the mainstream. And why stop at cybernetics? I think this exists across the whole of the entire social sphere – who knows where the line of flight will pop up? But can we count on these for a passage out? How do we break away from control when we’re so assimilated into our modeled environments, when the world that is being created by postmodern capital is like an ever-present appendage? You mention the “gender and culture-bending struggles for liberation” that helped shape the system, but also leave potentials for future change within them. Perhaps we can take a page of Elkaim, and look at these as singularities in need of amplification.

  7. gshowell says:

    Hello mate, glad to have bumped into this, check my one out…I started out from the acy Conferences and went down the rabbit hole.

  8. Pingback: John Brockman: Eminence Grise for a Globally Dominant Counterculture – AUTICULTURE

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