Andre Castro/research/1.3/annotation HolmesFutureMap

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Brian Holmes Future Map


In this essay Brian Holmes begins by introducing the initial developments of cybernetics with the intention to understand the 'God and Golem equation in the postindustrial information age'. An example of an early cybernetics' endeavor is Wiener's antiaircraft predictor developed during WWII. This predicting system had to be able to record the maneuvers of and attacking airplane, anticipate future movements based on pass behavior, and send information to the servomechanism controlling the gun. Interfacing information and action stood a human being, a gunner that would receive indications, steer the cannon and shoot. What emerged from this process that joined information, machine and human being was an a different form of human being, an infomechanical human being.

Holmes sees this 'unity of man and machine split at its heart by the ontology of the enemy' as essential in order to understand system of contemporary surveillance. According to the authors' thesis contemporary surveillance can no longer simply be seen as negative, but as 'multiple feedback loops of a cybernetic society devoted to controlling the future'. He then posses the question if it is possible for us to play a role within this cybernetic society which we are a product of.

[What is the ontology of the enemy?]

Cardinal Points

In this section Holmes offers examples of systems that employ data gathering in order to feed predictive algorithms, or in other words, that aim to 'configure the man-machine interface'. All the examples consist of systems sustained by a feedback loop between data gathered from the environment and the action over that environment.

In the examples we witness a shift of paradigm. They begin with airplane helmet which display information in the visor. In this example the human is placed at the intersection of information and action; he is the one, responsible for triggering the action, based on the incoming information. [We say he is the processor of information??] On later examples the human becomes both data source and subject of action, through the transformation of its environment. We see this happening the costumer relationship management system, where costumer's movements constitute the data based on which the shop environment is modeled, with the intention to conduct the consumer's desire.

'The environment is overcoded with an optimizing algorithm, fed by data coming directly from you'

In this shift we see the human subject moving from a proactive to passive position. 
He no longer stands at the intersection of information and action over the environment, but becomes information and environment. 
We could ask: what then stands as the interface between information and action??

'How ... do we understand the political economy of surveillance in a cybernetic society? '

Holmes sees both totalitarian and disciplinary regimes as outdated and asks how can then the current regime of surveillance be classified. Being it neither totalitarian or disciplinary, the current surveillance regime forms feedback circles around the individual in order to control and channel his future movements, while keeping his freedom of movements.

In such regime individuals privacy and public/private division tend to disappear . Electronic identification, statistical prediction and environmental seduction substitute political debate and democratic decision. And the society's major preoccupation is to shape the consciousness of the consumer.

The archive on the individual movements and behaviors necessarily plays a major role in the shaping to environment to this particular individual in seduce him, to shape is consumer consciousness. 

[Think more about it]

Security Devices / God Machines

Holmes introduces to his argument Foucault's notion of "security devices" - mechanism meant to prevent both economy and population against disruption. Liberal regimes aim no longer to punish, transform or save individuals, but '"to reduce the most unfavorable, deviant normalities in relation to the normal, general curve"'. Rather than transforming the individual, what is transformed his environment, in an attempt to stimulate certain behaviors of a population and minimize risks. 'intervening not on the players but on "rules of the game"'.

What then happens, in such a neoliberal society, is that different agents attempt to modulate the environment in their favor, while governments try to adjust the "security devices" and while maintaining a hand on the economy. It also becomes a society that shifts its conflicts to the future. In such an attempt to control the future, those who are bound to disturb the society normality, who are bound to challenge such future are removed from it.

Such policy was witness under the Bush and Blair administrations when arrest of potential criminals were made under the fight against terrorism claim. 
The attempt to control the future, to prevent future terrorist acts, made possible for the authorities to arrest individual based not on what they have done, 
but on what the might do in the future (portrayed in Adam Curtis "The Power of Nightmares").

Holmes writes that 'the cyborgs ... have learned to stop worrying and love surveillance. But through the magic of the computer media, their strange kind of love is now distributed much more widely through the population'.

Does it mean that through the wide use of computers, mainly of social media we are becoming more aware of the processes of behavior monitoring and data 
gathering happening in order to modulate our surrounding environment? Are we becoming more aware of such processes because through social media we are 
not only the surveilled, but also the surveillant? We see the processes of data gathering and environment modulation clearly happening around us?


Holmes concludes by asking how can artists, intellectuals and technologists constitute counter-movements that can challenge the effects of cybernetic governance. His proposition is that 'more precise images and more evocative metaphors of the neoliberal art of the government, in order to heighten the awareness of the ways that intimate desire is predicted and manipulated'. Holmes sees this happening only if artists and activists are joined by scientists, economists, sociologists and philosophers.