Erotics of Programming

art, consciousness, philosophy

I have talked about erotics for probably my whole adult life. It is probably because I read a lot of greek philosophy as an undergraduate at university.

But I was unclear about the meaning. Erotics for me was about love, sexual love in a particular sense, or love that gives rise to passion. But I never really thought about it.

I used to describe my feeling towards programming as erotic- that I found programming erotic. What did I mean? Did I mean it was embodied? Yes, yes but his would be somatic. Did I find it arousing? Perhaps, I do find find programming exciting in this visceral (somatic) way.

Then I came across that famous Sontag quote “We need an erotics of art.” What the hell does that mean?

This week I watched the 4th episode of the meaning crises by John Vervaeke, and there was a brief discussion of erotics that began to unlock this question for me. 

The discussion mentioned that erotics was related to care.  There is an ethics of care that arose out of feminist thought. It is a form of normative ethical theory (ie value ethics) that prioritizes interpersonal relationships and the specifics of individuals. This is not what is meant by erotics and care. Care here is what you care about, a person or thing. 

This jailbroke erotics for me.  We need a care of art – like people need to actually care about art, not use it for virtue/cultural signaling… But lets move even further. 

But care is not enough to understand erotics. Erotics for me is something connected to physical love, to embodiment/somatics, and to passion.  I think this is key to understanding erotics – it is an embodied care. 

What is passion?  I always think of the Passion of Jesus, which is Jesus’ anguish on the cross. And then I think of limerence, that feeling when you are (or think you are) falling in love and cant stop thinking about the beloved. But lets talk about the Passion of Jesus. The word passion, from latin ‘passio’, has connotations with emotion, and perhaps comes from the greek pathos. Pathos is related to suffering and death, but also any strong feeling. To think about this psychologically, passion is to be in the grips of an emotion. It was first used in relation to sexual desire I think by Shakespeare in Titus Andronicus, a very gruesome story involving rape.

I don’t know if we can connect passion to eros. These are in conflict, and from googling on the internet Socrates/Plato does discuss this in dialogues I have read and I have since forgotten. 

There is also the notion of libido, that Freud introduced for psychology. libido is more of a sex drive, and eros is more of a life force – vitality. In order to have vitality, to create, sex (biologically for humans) is involved.

Erotics is a vital caring, it is a generative caring, it is a participatory caring. I care with my whole self, not just with my mind. The passion of jesus is reinacted during the easter as a participatory ritual. Erotics as I imagine it is participatory. 

When I write code, I am participating in the code, I feel what it is to care about one thing verses another, it is more than just a product of my mind.  Part of that has to do with my body (somatics), because participation involves the body, but it is not only the body. For an erotics of art, it is about participating in an artwork, and feeling what it is to care. 

These videos I am watching with a group are about a so called “meaning crises.”  I can translate this as not knowing what to care about, which I definitely struggle with.  And if care is about eros, then that is something we need to reintroduce back into society.  Perhaps an impossible to do in world experienced through zoom.

Notes on Simondon and Technicity

philosophy, technology

I just read “On The Existence of Technical Objects” in a reading group and I wanted to jot down my ideas before I forgot them.

This is a book about technicity – which is sort of like tools and automation. How is technology created, what is the role of technology in society (and economics)? Spoiler – its central.

Some specific thoughts


The language of the book
The language of the book is theoretical. Simondon makes an assertion that something beings (either human society or tool making)in a unity that has the structure of “magic.” This then becomes bifurcated into technics and religion with their point of bifurcation being called aesthetics.  Technics and religion further bifurcate into practical and theoretical. The theoretical for technics is inductive reasoning, for religion it is theology. This type of thought is labeled – “scientific reasoning”.   The practical for technics is an implied (or perhaps deontological) ethics, and for religion it is a value ethics.  Some people interpret the practical as a distinction between applied ethics and normative ethics, but I disagree.  This is labeled ethical reasoning. 

So the language of technics is the language of religion  – likewise we could talk about religion in the language of technics. This is perhaps what is happening when we talk about about yogic “technology” (like certain breath work). 

Individuation

There is the notion that technics emerge through a process of individuation. This individuation process is based in work. This is opposed to the grounding of at least ancient greek philosophy in leisure and contemplation.  Through the process of individuation the technology becomes itself. 

I am really interested in the relationship between this – individuation and psychology because my favorite psychologist – Jung- is all about individuation. Jung is also influenced by metaphors of alchemy – who’s goal is “the work” the philosopher’s stone or something like that, not just the contemplation. I would at some point like to formally explore this. 

Science and Individuation

I am currently influenced by Owen Barfield, since I read him a few weeks ago. and the relationship between observations and science. I am also influenced by Vaclav Smil, and his history of technological innovation in the 19th and 20th Centuries. 

The interesting thing to note is that – per Smil – in the 20th century innovation happened based on scientific models. They were a reification of theory. Prior to that, innovation happened by trial and error, or tinkering, etc, by ‘working’.  So this 20C transformation, where is the work happening in technics? Is the work happening in the instrumentation that has us record the data that leads us to develop the models. The technics here are the the instruments. But then also technics are related to moments of rupture when the resultant technology breaks. The model turns out to be inadequate -as most models are – and we have to work, in a trial and error tinkering fashion to complete the technic individuation process. 

I am not going to talk about what Simondon does to place technics at the center of social and political thought – but I am going to note it and revist it.

There are other questions of alienation and economics that do not interest me that much – but I am going to put them here in case at a later point I want to revisit them.  If it is true that alienation comes not from selling our labor (per marx), but in not fully understand what our labor is doing via the black box of the tool (my interpretation of Simondon). Then instead of abolishing money or the market economy, we should just open source all tools and technics and make all related education free, accessible and integrated into society so that people that use the tools/technics. Perhaps we cannot release new tools/technics until people can understand how they work. 

A coda… fixing bugs and troubleshooting software and hardware systems to me is a process of tinkering. When I was a yeoman developer someone told me – a complete idiot and fool if you ask me- that if you write good software you dont need to test it. This is like saying all models will produce technology that always work. This is just not the case.  Software in particular is in a constant state of individuation (refinement through fixing defects), and this can be considered the beginning transindividuation. Yet another point for another time, but the notion that we should not relate to tools as mere use (contra Heideigger), but the creation of the world as interaction between technics and humans. (a little bombastic – but i cannot help some rhetorical flourish now and again(

Reading Ihde’s Expanding Hermeneutics took a while

philosophy

But this is what I think…

First let me talk about technology and the body. I have been thinking a lot about technology, tools, and instruments. There is an analysis Ihde does around technology and the body. Analytic philosophers make the body flexible, but continental philosophers are more firm about embodiment.

This made me think about what is the relationship between technology and the body. There are two movements the first is (I+technology)-> world. The i is bound up with technology like a telescope – the body is expanded by technology. Then there is the I-> (technology+world) where the world is created by the technology – such as with digital imaging or computer modeling.

But what is technology and how does it become core to thinking to metaphysics and ontology? What has changed with technology?

So here is my thought for the day. Technology creates bodies. Exercise technology or cooking or yoga or eye glasses. This is not that bodies are cyborgs (that may or may not be the case), but technologies shape bodies. Bodies become embodied through technology. That is how technology is world building.

We have the original mythos of metamorphosis – that bodies change. However in mythologies of metamorphosis, bodies do not change through praxis. They change through luck or magic. The truth of this myth is that bodies change through technology which is not necessarily technological but praxis and methodological. This begs the question – what is technology – but another time.

So this is the world building function of technology.It builds the world because it builds the body. Depending on what technologies build the body we are able to then build and use other technologies. So technologies are conditions of the bodies, but bodies are conditions of technologies and it is this bodily constructed technologies that create worlds. Bodily constructed technologies do not so much create worlds as reframe worlds. They are tools of metaphysical (or perhaps ontological) transformation.

There is a discussion at the end of the book which touches upon one of my long standing interests: translation. Once we construct a new world, or reframe the existing world, how do we map our findings back on to another world? Can we even do this? Why do we want to do this? What are the world invariants? Are there world invariants? Is the job of yet another technology to create mapping (I have called this transductions) between technologically constructed worlds.

Then there is the concept of construction – which is less interesting to me – this is that we can study the models of science itself – to me this is akin to Barfield’s notion of idols. Rather than saving the appearances of a phenomena we are studying the results of the measurements of the phenomena. But what is the relationship between the worldviews built by technology and worlds (ie models) built by technologies. Are models worthy of investigation and phenomenology? I would say no – but I have to think about it.

Finally in a different section there is a discussion of calibration. This is perhaps the sister to translation (or what I call transduction), but it is also the starting stage of model building. What makes different iterations of a model different are its calibration, a way to change measurements or observations is to calibrate the instrument. Bound up with calibration is the notion of truth, that there is right starting point. How do we determine what this truth is? How does calibration fit into the world building of technology and tools.

A few weeks ago I sent a newsletter out about creation. A first draft privileged vision. But I rewrote it because I did not like this perspective. In reading Ihde’s book I understood why I privileged vision. That is was actually all of western science that has done this. That we turn everything into something that is read, for example our creation of charts and graphs. Vision is privileged. The way out of idol worshipping in the barfield sense, for Idhe (in my interpretation) is to honor all ways of sensing and create a more phenomenologically complete instruments.
privileged

More Binge Reading of Theory of Lockdown

philosophy

I continue my binge reading and binge commentary on identities journal. I have discovered something interesting – I really am only interested in reading an article 1500 words or less unless it is amazing. Otherwise TLDR.

Lockdown Theory by Jonathan Fardy clocks in at around 675 worlds – refreshingly short! All these essays are called lockdown theory,  and this is just called Lockdown #13 so I really don’t know what I am going to read – but it looks short and my internet is out so I persist. 

One of the interesting things about binge reading all these essays is that many of the authors feel the need to justify the practice that they are engaging in. I wonder if people in most professions are now doing this.

But, here I am reading this stuff, and then commenting on it, when. These are not all necessarily essays, because its hard to write an essay in such as short period of time with the covid19 cognitive load, and the myriad of distractions like  watching a celebrity live feed on instagram.

So while I call these works, essays, the authors call them something else. Fardy calls this work spit-up. What does it mean to “lockdown”? Fardy says it means to fix in place to “lock down”. That coincidentally, is also the purpose of theory, to lock things down. We can fix them to a grid of intelligibility (a philosophical system), or if they dont fit, spit them up as literature. 

But what else is interesting about lockdown is the notion of place. That in order to be on lock down or to lockdown you need to be locked down to something to a particular location.  I am reading a text on the Nakshatra, the houses of the moon in Indian astrologer.  Not necessarily because I am an astrologer, but because I am interested in different systems of meaning making -in different worlds.

In any case, various astrological systems have this notion of house or location. The locations are static, the locations themselves are in primary lockdown. Which house an object (planet, moon, etc) lives has an impact on location. In the tech circles I run in, people are nomadic, there is a disconnection from place. They have lived their life in the opposite of lockdown, whatever that may be. 

But locations have an impact on the thing. Where you lock it down, is just as important as what you are locking down, or that you are locking it down in the first place.  To spit something up as fiction, or to bundle it neatly as a system is to create a place for it. And perhaps as the the idea is released from lockdown, to roam, it will move through other houses. What other houses are there other than traditional philosophy and theory fiction for the manifestation of ideas? What is the celestial wheel that undergirds the entire endeavor? What is the wheel that undergirds that? Turtles all the way down.

CovId19 perhaps operates outside the lunar mansions, it cannot be locked down yet, because it is operating in different orbit and not cross over the terrain that theory crosses over. We can lock down the theory, but perhaps a different set of tools are necessary to lock down the pandemic. 

 

Fardy does not really describe theory fiction but has some excellent quotes that I suggest you read if you are interested. 

OOF - Behar

Object Oriented Feminism – Objects and Subjects

philosophy

About 10 years ago Object Oriented Ontology and Speculative Realism exploded on to the philosophy scene. At a high level this thought machine is about removing the anthropocentric bias in post kantian philosophy (perhaps all philosophy) and treating all things as objects. Then there are a bunch of questions like how do objects relate to one another, how do objects learn about other objects and so forth.

Behar responded to this with Object Oriented Feminism, a queering of this mode of thought. When I think about subjects and objects and feminism I think of Simone de Beauvoir, and the idea that historically woman is defined in relation to man. Man is normative and everything not man, including woman is not normative. Man is the subject and woman is the object.

Men are, and have always been subjects in the kantian/post-kantian (and prior) thought. Women are objects. Perhaps it is radical for a man to say that he is an object like everyone else, but that is not the same for a woman. To be an object is a degradation in this context let’s all be subjects! A subject oriented ontology, or subject oriented feminism. Perhaps it is not catchy enough.

There is a portion of Behar’s introduction of OOF that responds to the stylistic quality of OOF.   This is the picture at the top of the blog post. And indeed SR and OOO has a style -theory fiction, the blog-o-sphere, and urbanomic.  There is a marketing or designed aspect to OOO and OOF.  Aesthetics matter – they are a consideration of how to connect with a possible audience.

Is Behar making fun of the white maleness behind OOO, she says no, but perhaps the design says yes. Would it be so bad to do? OOF is a reaction to OOO. Like oof- I cant believe you did that. The presentation problem of OOO is from one perspective the homogeneity of its proponents. But from another perspective it is about the rejection of the political dimension. 

OOO is the philosophy of people who have the luxury of metaphysical speculation. Objects do not have that luxury. They first need to become subjects, or as OOF wold say everything should be considered as an object. The F in OOF is a political dimension. It notices that there is a power displacement or reorganization in making all things equal (objects or subjects). We could call it OOP (object oriented politics) or perhaps OOE (object oriented ethics).

But OOF is not just political, it is also gendered and embodied. Perhaps we could call this aesthetic, that objects have bodies and that bodies have genders. Behar references Sarah Ahmed and Queer Phenomenology.  Objects have orientations,  that is the embodied part – we can only call something left or right if we are isomorphic.  Is ontology primary to bodies? Does beings come before bodies?  OOF puts action and physicality at the center of orientation rather than pure beings. Objects just dont exist – they exist as political objects in reaching for power to become other than objects – perhaps subjects. 

Technology and Technique

philosophy

I am taking a break from reading about the corona virus, taking my temperature, checking on friends and what not, to write this meditation on technology and technique that arose last week after a discussion with a bunch of Marxists on why we are are talking about technology NOW. Or why technology is something people only started really thinking about 150 years ago (I am not even sure if this assumption is correct, but I am going to go with it). 

Last week I taught a workshop on modern development tools and modern development practices. I think about this workshop in terms of modules. There is the technology training: Docker, Git, K8, CI/CD (Gitlab CI/CD), even GitLab the platform. Then there are the technique training: Modern Ways of Working (Agile), Instrumentation (metrics such as cycle time), Value Stream Mapping, User Story Generation.  One famous example between the intersection of technology and technique is the modern assembly plant. We have the Ford production line (technique) and modern machinery / the engine (technology) together optimizing the production of the car. 

The Interface Fallacy 

In Capital Vol 1, there is a great quote that I am not going to look for now, that talks about how the worker is transformed by technology, just as technology is transformed by the worker.   I always read this in terms of alienation, or modification. That in being forced to conform to the interface of technology. This is sort of my experience today when I fill out a linked in profile and all of a sudden I am turned into a sort of linked in commodity the same as everyone else, with a list of experience, education, certifications, recommendations. It is what happens when everything becomes input (an interface) for a database. (Read Hiroki Azuma’s Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals).  

This is one aspect of how a worker is transformed by a technology. It has to conform to the interface of the technology. How the technology works, how fast the technology works, how the technology integrates with other technology, how to fix the technology, and so forth.  And I do teach that, when I do a module on how to use a particular platform, what buttons to press, how to format a yaml file and so forth.  This however is an intra-personal skill. The worker changes her self in order to work with a technology.  However, there is a second aspect of worker transformation that I am focused on here: technique. 

Technique and the Reorganization of Society

Technique takes place on the network level, on the interpersonal or person-machine level. Lewis Mumford interprets this as a group of people becoming a ‘megamachine’  And this is it is possible to build things like the pyramids. I will discuss this later in  more detail. But I think it is more accurate to think of the interpersonal or person-machine, or organization of society as not a machine, but something you do in order to optimize the use of technology.   Ford’s assembly line is a technique. Agile or Kanban, is a technique.   How you merging Pull Requests on GitHub us a technique.

Optimization

You can have technology without technique and technique without technology. The marriage of both is in service of optimization.  Optimization is a relatively new concept. According to Manuel Delanda in the Age of Intelligent Machines it started with Napoleon and logistics and morphed  into academic discipline Operations Research. Where you look at particular operations and trying to improve some sort of metrics. 

Optimization Epistemology

Here we have a new sort of epistemology.  There is no longer the subject-object distinction of transcendental philosophy, or form-content of Aristotelian hylomorphism, but function-metric (perhaps this will change). You are optimizing a process in response to a particular variable. 

Optative Epistemology

The optative is an ancient Greek verb mood – like the subjunctive. The subjunctive: I would like to go to the park today.  The optative is for things that don’t exist, sometimes this is interpreted as a wish but I like to interpret it as a counterfactual. Like: I would like to go to ride a unicorn today, but unicorns don’t exist, so we cant. We can then expand this to Matrix Epistemology or Machine Learning Epistemology, where we optimize an entire process in response to a number of variables, according to a set of historical or prepared data rather than real world experience. But I digress.

Intermission

This is really just an introduction to these ideas I have been thinking about. I should probably call these things metaphysics instead of epistemologies. Since epistemology is more about how we know things, not what is knowable in the first place. 

But let me tie this back to COV19 – because its really on my mind.  We could perhaps think of the virus as technology, or purel as technology, an social distancing as  technique, for our goal (optimization function) – to flatten the curve.