[-empyre-] entropical -> reharsal of a network - [week 4]
jaromil at dyne.org
Tue Jun 26 08:49:18 AEST 2018
Many thanks for the inviation, enjoyable dialogues. Many familiar
voices: I love this way we keep communicating through the years, the
usenets, the MOOs, the IRCs, all despite the distance and the silly
human life that kicks in. Still we use plain text as a medium for our
ideas and visions, typed away into our keyboards.
Surely there is mycelia growing between the keys. Threads here make
me think sometimes they are the ones writing. As Lissette Olivares
put it "What kind of poetry could mycelium write?"
OK now, my intro. Simple: I'm a hacker and I'm following Shu Lea
everywhere she leads, because that's how I met the most special people
in my life. You all included. And I think I'll keep lurking here after
this event if you don't mind.
My artistic token to the discussion is a project made together with
Debra Solomon, whom was introduced to me also by Shu Lea and by way of
Caroline Woolard. The project is http://Entropical.org and it started
in 2015 (international year of the Soil) and composed of some
different artistic productions, with one in particular titled "REAL
BOTANIK". Entropical was last exhibited in Amsterdam by Zone2Source at
the Amstel Park Glashuis Pavillon two years ago, part of the works
were commissioned to Debra Solomon by the CCANW in UK.
Why talk about this? With Entropical we enquire into possible and
imaginary ways to bring very different value systems into a direct
productive relationship. We do so at a time in which intensive
computation is valued far more than ecological regeneration. In
REALBOTANIK we presented cardboard mats inoculated with oyster
mushrooms growing mycelia using the 'waste' heat released by a
computer producing Bitcoin. The installation references an approach
that was little know in 2015, but kept gaining enormous traction
within the industry: that of using heat as a byproduct of information
industry, recycling it to grow nutrients or warmth for living
spaces. The title 'REALBOTANIK' references the term 'Realpolitik',
reflecting on the different value attributions for resource exchange
between the different contexts of the soil organism and of financial
networks, as an embodiment of the notable differential between "use
value" and "exchange value" in Marxian economic theory.
We realised this installation almost as a beautiful yet grotesque
provocation, since its impossible to draw a meaningful relation
between the abstract processes of value creation in finance and the
material value creation of living processes. There is no more food
market, there is no more agriculture business. Its all completely
artificial. By promoting this perspective we focus our work on the
contemporary production of "entropy": a word that resonates for its
meaning both in the discipline of applied cryptography and in that of
physics, but also in the body of works commonly referenced as
"Bio-economics" by Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen which has the merit of
re-contextualising the Second Law of Thermodynamics in the economic
Did we ever understood what he meant with that? and most importantly,
is there anything among human-made value systems that can be shared
Let me graft this reflection into what has been discussed so far.
I'll start quoting Audrey of Fraud: "it is essentially cheaper to
pollute. Since the amount is governed solely by the laws of the
market, any target of raising the value is non-sensical unless
regulations would be implemented. In case anyone would want a quick
sight as to the (de)value of carbon we have it here:
http://carbonderivation.space (the salvaged wood mention is part of an
installation - unrelated). Carbon credits and the green economy are
not, /not helping fast enough/, they are damaging faster than can be
Again, Ricardo Dominguez: "Multiple networks are always being
rehearsed and it is always good to not only eat local but see what
poison shrooms are also being grown next door."
Spot on! wait and see when the waste of algorithmic computations is
deployed (soon on an consumer commodity scale!) to allocated its
liability -heat- as an asset.
Anyone remembers Schumacher? he once wrote exactly this: "when waste
is used, a liability becomes an asset" and yes that was a lesson for
the green-washing out there to "do no evil". The lesson is learned and
exploited, the computations stay: for what? Value systems won't
change. For them, "the rulers", the ZAD is still worthed nothing and
just because it doesn't want to play within their value systems it
represents a problem to be eliminated, even when no waste is produced.
As John Jordan puts it: "For the rulers of the world, such visible
alternatives shatter the sense of inevitability, that despite crisis
after crisis, the system must, necessarily be patched together in the
So, I know I'm getting long here and it was ages I wasn't writing such
a long mail. However the point I want to do is between Franz Xaver's
call, among the first very important emails here: "We need a opposite
to the algorythm. We need to sleep for regeneration our brain. I think
our Informationtechnology is wrong. It only want to generate truth."
and the problem Aud raises when talking of the "finantialisation of
nature through emission trading systems and green bonds." because
"there is an interesting tension between the incomputable, the
uncapturable, as a method of resistance and survival, as well as
disappearance/extinction from the network.".
Then let me draw towards an end for this mail and echo this quote:
"[P]ower is in fact grounded in the very ability to calculate, count,
measure, balance and act on these calculations. Inversely to make
oneself ungovernable one much make oneself incalculable, immeasurable
uncountable" (Eyal Weizman) plus another sentence by Franz Xaver again
"This is important, when the whole world is building a global world of
information with the algorithm rules of Claude Shannon. This is the
real dangerous thing of our present. With this Information technology
of pure rationalism we have a serious enemy."
This is where more or less this month started and also where I'd like
to conclude my first intervention, honoured to be part of week 4.
I believe we need to work through these ideas because even in the
green-washing vision of sustainable computing, the supposed
"neutrality of algorithms" is the real treat to nature. Even with 100%
green computing we'd be doomed by the way we are thinking and we are
augmenting our thought processess in a way that is not only hurting
nature, but what's most obvious since ages also most fellow humans out
there. And beware this is not about quality of samples we feed to
them, which doesn't changes the result as much as the very code.
Arguably, the "deep learning" techniques (and neural networks, and
AIs) for the way they declare to deal with data sample are an
instrument to disenfranchise algorithms from their responsibilities.
Pretty much as we humans use algorithms to disenfranchise ourselves
from the embarassment of decisions we take.
Ultimately all decisions about values.
So it's still about value systems and how they are inscribed in code.
I recall there was one embarassing decision made with an embarassingly
big project and one of the biggest "parallel" networks I've ever
participated into: Bitcoin. This project has responded well to the
call put forward by Brett Stalbaum here "If you want to resist, keep
focused on the possibilities for making something that might actually
work dangerously. No shame in failing. Trust us, the Transborder
Immigrant Tool (as big a fail as there ever was) actually and really
worked"... and so did "Crypto". It gave us even some positioning in a
financial battle on critical access to networks (at the time of the
Wikileaks blockade); but on the long term it is clear: it did not
change in any way our relationship to power, profit and nature - it
has in fact worsened it for the most.
And still, no mycelium has given a flying fuck about what we are
doing. Not even when the heat is produced by an imploding financial
industry whose value system is impossible to relate to anything
real. "Everything solid has melted into thin air", already a century
ago. Perhaps that's why is still worth to have spores flying around?
Denis Roio a.k.a. Jaromil http://Dyne.org think &do tank
Ph.D, CTO & co-founder software to empower communities
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