September 2019

from David Berman to Wallfacers

In a very abstract frame today, I tried continuing with my writing and realised I would rather be talking to you. Whoever you are … wherever you are …

I have a lot of tabs (1, 2, 3 …) open I’ve been meaning to close once I wrote something about David Berman, David Cloud Berman I read in one of them. It was to be an RIP piece. Beside me I have the notes from when I heard he had suicided. They go like this:

this is coming

I’ll explain how

we’re all going to get through it

and “rebuild” society

Video after the jump

The last is from one of the links.

Then there is the line with the typo: The meaning of the world lies outside thw world. It’s from a Silver Jews album, the song ‘People.’

“Video after the jump” links to Berman’s blog, mentholmountains: arc of a boulder, which doesn’t link anywhere, but has links to writers, Thomas Bernhard, for example, and Robert Walser, and pictures and videos. It is not too dissimilar from squarewhiteworld.

An arrow directs on the kokuyo paper from the line “Video after the jump” to a reference to Cixin Liu’s Three-Body Problem. It reads:

Become a Wallfacer.

Humanity faces extermination, the extermination of a species of bug, coming from the stars, from the planet Trisolaris. It will take four light years to arrive. Meanwhile every human effort is directed towards defending itself, not the earth, but doing whatever it takes to defend itself.

400 years would seem to be sufficient time to prepare, however, the Trisolarans have sent an expeditionary force ahead to spy on human efforts and to limit them to what can be achieved from a current understanding of the fundamental laws of physics. The technology of Trisolaris far exceeds this limit, since the expeditionary force itself comprises AI supercomputers shrunk down to the size of subatomic particles, protons, quantumcomputers called Sophons. (The word for proton 质子 (zhì zǐ) is the same as the word for Sophon .) The lockdown on scientific research imposed by the Sophons is something that I was writing about in view of the comparable lockdown or limitation on paradigm shift, on fundamental advance, in the sciences–and more generally, in political economy–that is self-imposed in neoliberal institutional systems of governance where the pursuit of science is becoming the performance of science through representative means. (This source, considering the science of Three-Body misses the potential for critical diagnosis Liu’s fiction contains: note it contains info you might want to avoid if you intend to read the novels: it has the strangely phenomenological name, Exposing the structure of how we got our answers: Poetry in Physics.) (The diagnostic criticism implicit in Liu of the Sophonic lockdown as science fiction is explained by Philip Mirowski as the neoliberal fact of Open Science, ironically, at 56’57” in Hell is Truth Seen Too Late.) (I recommend reading Three-Body for its clinical diagnostic potential–and equally I recommend watching Mirowski, even if just for the part about Open Science.)

The Wallfacer project is undertaken by a humanity under threat of annihilation because of the lockdown on science imposed by the Sophons–which is described as being their ability to falsify experimental results from research in fundamental physics (note the Popperian line on falsification). The Trisolarans have a vulnerability: they communicate with each other through thought-reading, thought-hearing, thought-speaking. But they can’t read the thoughts of humans. Neither Sophons nor Trisolarans can see what is going on inside human minds. The notion of lying, of misrepresenting one’s true thoughts, of misrepresentation through speech and language is alien to these aliens–as is the notion therefore of representation. The Wallfacer project is to take advantage of this vulnerability. Wallfacers are selected to help save humanity through indirection and misdirection–through not representing their intentions. Besides the mental freedom to dream up plans and projects the use of which they need neither justify nor defend–in fact the Wallfacer project depends on their doing neither–they have all the world’s resources at their disposal to carry out their plans and projects.

They would be artists, poets, revolutionaries, for not having to answer to anyone for their freedoms, but for the fact that they are so and unquestioningly so resourced. Perhaps this is the link I wanted to make to David Berman: Become a Wallfacer.

The diagnostic import of the Wallfacer project can be seen when placed in relation to the lockdown on science. If, as I tend to think, neoliberal systems of institutional governance entail of the sciences a comparable lockdown–and we can see evidence of this in the shutting down of labs in the ‘hard’ sciences (those without direct application in technology and commercialisable IP) and see it also in the decrease in institutional support for intellectual labour, whether in fundamental theory in the sciences or in philosophy–then the Wallfacer project serves as critique of the view that it is to science, to scientists and to scientific research we must turn to find solutions to the problems facing life, to overcome the threat from earth.

Earth has this vulnerability: it doesn’t know we make it in our own image.

To overcome the threat from the earth, first undo the image we have made of it. The meaning of the world lies outside the world

[R.I.P. David C. Berman, 4 January 1967 – 7 August 2019]

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