Autonomy and Automation

Here’s a talk I gave recently as part of the fantastic Future Shock Trauma Clinic, at the Workplace Gallery in Gateshead. I thoroughly recommend that anyone near Newcastle come along to future events.


Towards Computational Kantianism

The video of my talk on Computational Kantianism from the #Accelerate General Intellect event organised by Tony Yanick and the New Centre for Research and Practice at the Pratt Institute in NYC is finally available. Unfortunately, chunks of video are missing, the sound quality is not great, and the first 10 minutes or so are absent entirely. Luckily, those first 10 minutes cover much the same ground as my talk at the Future of Mind Conference. Technical issues aside, I’m mostly happy with the content of this talk, though it covers work that is still in progress. The only qualifications I would make concern the more speculative remarks on mathematics towards the end, which I can see probably don’t have enough context for most people, especially without video of the diagrams I was using to illustrate the connections between my reading of Kant and computational trinitarianism. Moreover, I can now see that what I was saying about co-inductive types is not quite right, because it doesn’t adequately capture the speculative duality with homotopy type theory I’m circling around, even though I’m still convinced that there is a significant duality hereabouts. These are ideas I’m obviously going to have to elaborate in more detail elsewhere. Till then, this will have to do:

Figure/Ground Interview

This is a short post to announce that I’ve been interviewed by Laureano Ralon for Figure/Ground.  The questions I was asked cover a really wide range of topics and have forced me to revisit a number of things I haven’t talked about in a while. However, I’m not known for brevity, and so some of my answers are rather in depth. I hope people enjoy reading it!


Prometheanism and Rationalism

Here is the video for my talk ‘Prometheanism and Rationalism’, which was given at Goldsmiths courtesy of Simon O’Sullivan and the Visual Cultures department in May. The same talk was given the previous week at the Dutch Art Institute’s Prometheanism 2.0 event, organised by Bassam El Baroni, alongside Patricia Reed, Yuk Hui, and Inigo Wilkins. The video for the DAI version is available here. However, as is often the case, I think the second version is better.

Here is the abstract:

The aim of this talk is to articulate and defend the connection between contemporary forms of prometheanism and rationalism. It will begin by defining prometheanism through its opposition to political liberalism and normative naturalism, as developed by the projects of left-accelerationism and xenofeminism. It will then show how the success of these oppositions is premised upon philosophical rationalism, insofar as it supplies the needed accounts of positive freedom and normative autonomy, and articulate the problems faced by alternatives to liberalism and naturalism that reject these conceptual resources. The remainder of the talk will be devoted to elaborating the account of rational agency through which these concepts should be understood. Positively, it will aim to explain what reason is, giving a minimalistic picture of the capacities its exercise involves. Negatively, it will aim to explain what reason is not, addressing some common objections to rationalism based on misunderstanding its relation to affect, embodiment, collectivity, and other issues.

I’m quite pleased with the talk overall. For those who would like to read the first half, it is available in written form here. If you’re having difficult reading the slides, they’re available here. It’s also worth pointing out that this makes a good companion to my paper ‘The Reformatting of Homo Sapiens’ (video), whose analysis of myth it borrows. Furthermore, the explanation of contemporary rationalism at the end has been developed substantially in my work on Computational Kantianism, which I’ll be sharing here eventually.

Finally, it’s worth noting that my positive thoughts on what is now more properly called Left-Accelerationism (L#A) haven’t been widely available till now. This is despite the fact that I organised the second Accelerationism Workshop at Goldsmiths, was involved in putting together #ACCELERATE: The Accelerationism Reader, and, weirdly, that my tumblr response to Malcom Harris’s confused review of the reader – ‘So, Accelerationism, what’s all that about?’ – which does it’s best to diagnose the usual errors in usage and explain the left/right distinction, is the first reference on the accelerationism wikipedia page. This talk doesn’t cover everything I have to say about the matter, and there’s still some controversy about whether the term is salvageable, given the aforementioned confusions, but it’s nice to have something people can refer to.

General Intelligence in General Terms

Here’s the video of my short talk at the Future of Mind symposium, given on a panel with Patricia Reed, Reza Negarestani, and the guys behind the New Centre for Research and Practice. It was a weird and wonderful event, with people from very different backgrounds and rather different opinions talking about a diverse range of things. Ed Keller of the New School and Ben Goertzel of the OpenCog Foundation did a great job bringing all these voices together, and I hope it happens again.

If the embedded link doesn’t carry the timestamp properly, my talk begins at 1:55:31 or thereabouts. The whole of the symposium is available on youtube for your viewing pleasure.

PS: The slides for the talk are available here.

#AGI: Accelerate General Intellect (etc.)

For those who don’t have easy access to facebook, here is the programme for the #AGI: Accelerate General Intellect event being organised by the New Centre in conjunction with the New School’s Future of Mind conference next week. As you can see, I’m first up on Monday morning. Advance Warning: I’m going to be pretty badly jet-lagged and coming out of a 22 hour flight from Johannesburg to NYC (via London) the day before. The abstracts and suggested reading for my seminar are available here.

I’m also going to be talking at the Miguel Abreu Gallery on the 26th of July, as part of an event titled ‘Images, Information, and Meaning’ kindly organised by Joshua Johnson. The details of this can also be found below. My talk will be developing some themes from my essay ‘The Artist’s Brain at Work’ in conversation with Claire Lehmann, whose essay ‘Color Goes Electric’ provides an intriguing contrast.

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The Joys of a Whiteboard

Photo on 14-07-2016 at 14.34

I’m not going to attempt to explain much of what’s going on here, other than to say it’s a taste of things to come. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the duality between intuitionistic logic (IL) and co-intuitionistic logic (CIL) over the last few months, after Lucca Fraser got me hooked on it in Berlin a few years ago. I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about its applicability to type theory, and this is the current state of my thinking regarding the relation between IL/CIL in the flavour of sequent calculus used in type theory and various logics in the flavour used in categorical model theory. There’s probably several embarrassing errors in here, but as with anything, it’s important to overcome the fear of embarrassment before you can do anything interesting!

Experience Points

Greetings from the Southern hemisphere! I have now arrived in South Africa to take up a position as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Philosophy Department at the University of Johannesburg. I haven’t met most of my colleagues yet, and I’m off to New York for some speaking events next week (see below), but I’m very much looking forward to being part of an academic community again. I’ve spent far too long in the wilderness. There is a lot I want to do in the year (or more) that I’m going to be here: from just generally getting my life in order and building up some positive habits, to teaching myself some more abstract mathematics and concrete applications thereof. However, my main focus is to convert as much of the unpublished work I’ve done over the last decade into things that can be published in journals and thereby converted into academic experience points. For better or worse, I’m on the professional equivalent of a dungeon crawl. At least I’ve got some fellow adventurers to come researching with me, and who is to say there won’t be some interesting loot to find along the way?

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Update: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

<insert usual apologies about lack of substantial posts>

Now that that’s out the way I can update you all about a few important developments.

Good: After several years of unsuccessful applications, I’ve landed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Johannesburg. In the long term, this should mean more writing (hopefully some of it here on the blog), but in the short term it means I’m busying myself with the ins and outs of moving to South Africa. There will be a chance to catch me giving a few talks before I leave Europe though:

  1. I’ll be speaking at Prometheanism 2.0 at the Dutch Art Institute in Arnhem on the 1st of May.
  2. For UK people, I’ll be giving the same paper a few days later in the Visual Cultures department at Goldsmiths on the 5th of May.
  3. I’ll also be speaking at the Continental and Analytic Kantianism conference organised by Fabio Gironi on the 15th-17th of June.

Bad: I have regrettably had to cancel my New Centre Course on Art and Value. I was looking forward to the course, and I’m sad I won’t have the chance to work through material with the wonderful students of the NCRP. Hopefully I’ll still get a chance to work out some of these ideas at some point in the future.


I don’t think I’ve said much about the book or its reception on here since the incident with Jon Cogburn a while back. Urbanomic recently put up a transcript of an interview I did at the book launch, which explains some of my thoughts on it. I’m still pleased with the book overall, both as a polemic and as a commentary on various issues in metaphysics and philosophy more generally. However, some might wonder whether I’m still happy with the tone of the book, given the seeming importance such considerations had in previous blog debates, and Jon’s visceral reaction to my use of the word ‘pathological’ in the preface.

One of the most interesting things about Jon’s reaction was his reference (in the comments) to “Brassier’s people”and their insidious influence upon me (presumably through the medium of dubstep). This shadowy organisation surrounding Ray Brassier has been around for a while, variously called ‘the neurology death cult’, ‘retroactive bootlicks of scientific work’, and most recently “sneering “dark” rationalists who are really only dark in the sense that a Grim Reaper Halloween costume is dark.” They also go by various permutations of ‘scientism’, ‘nihilism’, ‘eliminativism’, ‘pessimism’, in combination with sundry negative adjectives and faux-renegade imagery. Their modus operandi is to destroy all that is wholesome and good in Continental philosophy, through a combination of perfidious science worship and mellifluous brainwashing of impressionable grad students. Fortunately, Graham Harman has done his best to bring the tenebrous antics of this hidden cabal to light over the years, bravely divulging its secret names in various blog posts, and carefully warning students of its dubstep mind control…

…and that’s about as much sarcasm as I can manage for the moment. As the above link indicates, respectful tone has never really been as high on Harman’s list of priorities as he suggests. My book contains some fairly acerbic remarks, but at least they emerge from a serious philosophical engagement.

If you are really interested in insidious philosophical influence, I suggest looking into OOO’s ongoing penetration of the artworld (e.g., this recent overview and this recent piece by Tim Morton). If you want to see my most caustic comments on where this influence might lead, Urbanomic have generously made available the hyperbolic reading of OOP at the end of my book.