Albert Camus Reads Richard Morgan: Unsaid Existential Absurdism…(Abstract/Blurb)

For the upcoming conference on “The Intellectual Geography of Albert Camus” on the 3rd of May, 2019, at the Alliance Française, New Delhi. Watch this space..

Imagine the real world extending into the fictive milieu, or its mirror image, the fictive world territorializing the real leaving it to portend such an intercourse consequent to an existential angst. Such an imagination now moves along the coordinates of hyperreality, where it collaterally damages meaning in a violent burst of EX/IM-plosion. This violent burst disturbs the idealized truth overridden by a hallucinogenic madness prompting iniquities calibrated for an unpleasant future. This invading dissonant realism slithers through the science fiction of Richard Morgan before it culminates in human characteristics of expediency. Such expediencies abhor fixation to being in the world built on deluded principles, which in my reading is Camus’ recommendation of confrontation with the absurd. This paper attempts to unravel the hyperreal as congruent on the absurd in a fictitious landscape of “existentialism meets the intensity of a relatable yet cold future”. 


What I purport to do in this paper is pick up two sci-fi works of Richard Morgan, the first of which also happens to be the first of the Takeshi Kovacs Trilogy, Altered Carbon, while the second is Market Forces,  a brutal journey into the heart of conflict investment by way of conscience elimination. Thereafter a conflation with Camus’ absurdity unravels the very paradoxical ambiguity underlying absurdism as a human condition. The paradoxical ambiguity is as a result of Camus’ ambivalence towards the neo-Platonist conception of the ultimate unifying principle, while accepting Plotinus’ principled pattern or steganography, but rejecting its culmination. 

Richard Morgan’s is a parody, a commentary, or even en epic fantasy overcharged almost to the point of absurdity and bordering extropianism. If at all there is a semblance of optimism in the future as a result of Moore’s Law of dense hardware realizable through computational extravagance, it is spectacularly offset by complexities of software codes resulting in a disconnect that Morgan brilliantly transposes on to a society in a dystopian ethic underlining his plot pattern recognitions. This offsetting disconnect between the physical and mental, between the tangible and the intangible is the existential angst writ large on the societal maneuvered by the powers that be… be continued

The Chernobyl Herbarium


Some images in Anaïs Tondeur’s Chernobyl Herbarium are the explosions of light. Others are softly glowing, breathing with fragility and precariousness. The explosive imprints are, in effect, reminiscent of volcanic eruptions at night, hot lava spewing from the depths of the earth. Even assuming it is not an actual trace of radiation (which the specimens in the herbarium have received from the isotopes of cesium-137 and strontium-90 mixed with the soil of the exclusion zone) that comes through and shines forth from the plants’ contact with photosensitive paper, the resulting works of art cannot help but send us back to a space and time outside the frame, wherein this Linum usitatissimum germinated, grew, and blossomed.

The images are the visible records of an invisible calamity, tracked across the threshold of sight by the power of art. The literal translation from Greek of the technique used here, photogram, is a line of light. Not a photograph, the writing of light, but a photogram, its line captured on photosensitive paper, upon which the object is placed. In writing, a line is already too idealized, too heavy with meaning, overburdened with sense, nearly immaterial. In a photograph, light’s imprint is further removed from the being that emitted or reflected it than in a photogram, where, absent the camera, the line can be itself, can trace itself outside the system of coded significations and machinic mediations. The grammé of a photogram imposes itself from up close. Touching… It endures: etched, engraved, engrained, the energy it transported both reflected (or refracted) and absorbed. Much like radiation, indifferently imbibed by whatever and whoever is on its path – the soil, buildings, plants, animals, humans – yet uncontainable in any single entity whose time-frame it invariably overflows. Through her aesthetic practice, Tondeur detonates, releases the explosions of light trapped in plants, its lines dispersed, crisscrossing photograms every which way. She liberates luminescent traces without violence, avoiding the repetition of the first, invisible event of Chernobyl and, at the same time, capturing something of it. Release and preservation; preservation and release: by the grace of art.

The Chernobyl Herbarium


The Silicon Ideology


Traditional anti-fascist tactics have largely been formulated in response to 20th century fascism. Not confident that they will be sufficient to defeat neo-reactionaries. That is not to say they will not be useful; merely insufficient. Neo-reactionaries must be fought on their own ground (the internet), and with their own tactics: doxxing especially, which has been shown to be effective at threatening the alt-right. Information must be spread about neo-reactionaries, such that they lose opportunities to accumulate capital and social capital….

…Transhumanism, for many, seems to be the part of neo-reactionary ideology that “sticks out” from the rest. Indeed, some wonder how neo-reactionaries and transhumanists would ever mix, and why I am discussing LessWrong in the context of neo-reactionary beliefs. For the last question, this is because LessWrong served as a convenient “incubation centre” so to speak for neo-reactionary ideas to develop and spread for many years, and the goals of LessWrong: a friendly super-intelligent AI ruling humanity  for its own good, was fundamentally compatible with existing neo-reactionary ideology, which had already begun developing a futurist orientation in its infancy due, in part, to its historical and cultural influences. The rest of the question, however, is not just historical, but theoretical: what is transhumanism and why does it mix well with reactionary ideology?…..

…..In the words of Moldbug

A startup is basically structured as a monarchy. We don’t call it that, of course. That would seem weirdly outdated, and anything that’s not democracy makes people uncomfortable. We are biased toward the democratic-republican side of the spectrum. That’s what we’re used to from civics classes. But, the truth is that startups and founders lean toward the dictatorial side because that structure works better for startups.

He doesn’t, of course, claim that this would be a good way to rule a country, but that is the clear message sent by his political projects. Balaji Srinivasan made a similar rhetorical move, using clear neo-reactionary ideas without mentioning their sources, in a speech to a “startup school” affiliated with Y Combinator:

We want to show what a society run by Silicon Valley would look like. That’s where “exit” comes in . . . . It basically means: build an opt-in society, ultimately outside the US, run by technology. And this is actually where the Valley is going. This is where we’re going over the next ten years . . . [Google co-founder] Larry Page, for example, wants to set aside a part of the world for unregulated experimentation. That’s carefully phrased. He’s not saying, “take away the laws in the U.S.” If you like your country, you can keep it. Same with Marc Andreessen: “The world is going to see an explosion of countries in the years ahead—doubled, tripled, quadrupled countries.”

Well, thats the the-silicon-ideology through.