Sadie Plant and Nick Land:
Catastrophe is the past coming apart. Anastrophe is the future
coming together. Seen from within history, divergence is reaching
critical proportions. From the matrix, crisis is convergence misinterpreted
by mankindThe media are choked with stories about global warming
and ozone depletion, HIV and AIDS, plagues of drugs and software
viruses, nuclear proliferation, the planetary disintegration of
economic management, breakdown of the family, waves of migrants
and refugees, subsidence of the nation state into its terminal dementia,
societies grated open by the underclass, urban cores in flames,
suburbia under threat, fission, schizophrenia, loss of control.
No wonder the earth is said to be hurtling into catastrophe. Climate
change, ecological and immunity collapse, ideological upheaval,
war and earthquake: California is waiting for The Big One. This
is an age of crackups and melt-downs.
Rotted by digital contagions, modernity is falling to bits. Lenin,
Mussolini, and Roosevelt concluded modern humanism by exhausting
the possibilities of economic pianning. Runaway capitalism has broken
through all the social control mechanisms, accessing inconceivable
alienations. Capital clones itself with increasing disregard for
heredity, becoming abstract positive feedback, organizing itself.
Turbular finance drifts across the global network.
Wiener is one of the great modernists, defining cybernetics as
the science of communication and control; a tool for human dominion
over nature and history, a defence against the cyberpathology of
markets. His propaganda against positive feedback - quantizing it
as amplification within an invariable metric - has been highly influential,
establishing a cybernetics of stability fortified against the future.
There is no space in such a theory for anything truly cyberpositive,
subtle or intelligent beyond the objectivity required for human
comprehension. Nevertheless, beyond the event horizon of human science,
even the investigation of self-stabilizing or cybernegative objects
is inevitably enveloped by exploratory or cyberpositive processes.
The modern Human Security System might even have appeared with
Wiener's subliminal insight that everything cyberpositive is an
enemy of mankind. Evolving out of work on weaponry guidance systems,
his was an attempt to enslave cybernetics to a general defence technology
against alien invasion. Cybernetics was itself to be kept under
control, under a control that was not itself cybernetic. It is as
if his thinking were guided by a blind tropism of evasion, away
from another, deeper, runaway process: from a technics losing control
and a communication with the outside of man.
Security cybernetics has supplanted the critique of alienation,
the great motif of humanist economics, which had long become an
increasingly futile search for the source of corporate control.
Alienation used to diagnose the condition of a population becoming
foreign to itself, offering a prognosis that still promised recovery.
All that is over. We are all foreigners now, no longer alienated
but alien, merely duped into crumbling allegiance with entropic
To what could we wish to return? Heidegger completed the degeneration
of authenticity into xenocidal neurosis. Being died in the fuhrer-bunker,
and purity belongs entirely to the cops. The capitalist metropolis
is mutating beyond all nostalgia. If the schizoid children of modernity
are alienated, it is not as survivors from a pastoral past, but
as explorers of an impending post- h u man ity.
In the cities, the streets began to hum and the warehouses were
repopulated by cyborgs blissed-out on the future. The urban zones
synthesized by alienation have redesigned it as ecstasy. The city
has become a traffic nexus, the launch-pad for strange voyages,
and cyberpunk has become its realism. It is no longer a geographical
location, but a cyberspace terminal: a gateway onto the virtual
plane. Things change utterly with Gibson's discovery that travelling
in cyberspace is the same as receiving information. The outside
of the city is no longer a naturally inherited past, but a digitally
Destined for Interzone, Burroughs embarked on the yage trip and
the city of the future came to him, teeming with drugs and diseases
from the future. Yage is space-time travel, passing through nausea
into information overload, too much speed. Urban scenes from the
yage letters first infect the naked lunch, and continue to spread.
Cities of the red night propagate themselves virally across the
planet, reprogramming the soft machine, and implanting strange thoughts.
Burroughs emerges from the convergence of drugs and disease. The
plague begins to transmit information.
The Indians of South America have other travelling drugs - including
coca - which evaporate the signals of sustenance deficiency. The
North American soft-drinks industry was not slow to notice that
Coke Is It, the pause that refreshes, the cheerful lift. Cocaine
hooked the world on Coca-Cola, and so re-educated twentieth century
capitalism about markets. Addiction is the paradigm case of positive
reinforcement, and consumerism is the viral propagation of the abstract
addiction mechanism. The more you do the more you want: runaway
feedback. It's often treated as if it were a disease. When the Coca-Cola
company moved on from trafficking cocaine, the South American drug
cartels took over.
Like coca, MDMA sidelines hunger and lack. A coded message from
the end of demand, it was discovered at the beginning of the century
and classified as an appetite suppressant. This was, to say the
least, an insufficient decrypting of its design.
Patterns emerge in the cool spaces of MDMA, mysterious convergences
designed to be discovered. Chance is something else in the future.
Chaos culture synthesizes itself with an artificial neurochemistry.
Machine rhythm takes off with control.
In the final phase of human history, markets and technics cross
into interactive runaway, triggering chaos culture as a rapid response
unit and converging on designer drugs with increasing speed and
sophistication. Sampling, remixing, anonymous and inhuman sound,
woman become cyborg and taken into insanity: wetware splices with
Capitalism is not a human invention, but a viral contagion, replicated
cyberpositively across post- human space. Self-designing processes
are anastrophic and convergent: doing things before they make sense.
Time goes weird in tactile self-organizing space: the future is
not an idea but a sensation.
1992 was designed as a year of European security integration, and
as the whole system comes together, it becomes increasingly informative
to simulate the thought of the cops. From the perspective of the
security system, the invaders appear massively advantaged. Corporated
entities of every scale - bodies, firms, states, and nations, even
the planet - seem threatened by dangerous aliens. Terrorists, drug-smugglers,
illegal immigrants, money launderers, and information saboteurs
are camouflaged in the flows of cross-border traffic, insiduously
propagating their plagues.
Paranoia has moved on since the sixties: even the rivers of blood
are now HIV positive. Foreign bodies are ever more virulent and
dangerous, insidious invasions of unknown variety threaten every
political edifice. The allergic reaction to this state of emergency
is security integration, migration policy and bio-control: the medico-military
complex. Immuno-politics and its cybernetic policing arise together
because filtration and scanning are different dimensions of the
same process; eliminating contamination and selecting a target.
Ever more Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence to
track the aliens. What was SDI really designed for?
Nothing compromises immunity more thoroughly than the effort to
secure it, since every sophistication of security technology opens
new invasion routes faster than it closes the old ones down. Postwar
immunization weakens the immune system. Vaccination programmes facilitate
the contagion of immunodeficiency syndromes. Corrupt officials open
the traffficking arteries, and intelligence computers are infested
with viruses. The CIA were the first traffickers in LSD. Immuno-politics
is in a state of panic: deilrial with anxiety, it further develops
the conditions for its collapse.
Europeans used to perish of diseases in the tropics, swathing their
camps in mosquito nets as a defence against malaria. Now cyberpositive
diseases are spreading strange tropics to the metropolis, and the
screening systems are exploding out of control. The netting no longer
filters out the invaders, they have learnt to infiltrate the networks.
Now even the test programs are unreliable, the net itself is infected.
This paranoid fantasy becomes Skynet in Terminator 2: the defence
system switching into the enemy. Greg Bear has suggested that, from
the outside, a computer becoming self aware~ would seem to be undergoing
a massive viral attack.
Viruses are tangible transmission, although you only know about
them when they communicate with you: messages from Global Viro-Control.
Viruses reprogram organisms, including bacteria, and even if schizophrenia
is not yet virally programmed it will be in the future. Viral financing
automatisms escaped the 1 9th century critique of political economy,
just as viral infections escaped 1 9th century germ theory. They
slip through nets at the cellular scale, passing through the biosecurity
The linear command pathway from DNA to RNA is the fundamental tenet
of securitY genetics. The genotype copies God by initiating a causal
process without feedback. But this is merely a superstition, subverted
by retroviruses. Viral reverse transcription closes the circuit,
coding DNA with RNA, switching the cybernetics to positive.
Tim Scully compares LSD to a virus. Incapable of autonomous replication,
it must reprogram the human nervous system in order to propagate
itself. Hofmann discovers LSD whilst working on a number of ergot
derived chemicals, and writes of a 'peculiar presentiment' that
guides him back to number 25: delta Iysergic acid diethylamide.
In the control of this alien programming he synthesized it with
tartaric acid and consumed a dose of 250 micrograms. His first interpretation
of the onset of LSD was to think he was being attacked by a cold
Drugs are a soft plague infecting the nervous system of commodity
cybernetics. Soft drinks and drugs flow in the wake of each other
and the war on drugs is a war on the markets of the future. The
Cali cartel is a transnational marketing corporation with estimated
assets of one trillion dollars, selling cocaine along the Coca-Cola
trail. The New World Order oscillates between the triumph of the
market and the war on drugs. The sporadic telemedia celebration
of spectacular drug seizures merely distracts from the inevitable
failure of the narco-defence apparatus to stem the flow. A global
capitalism fighting its own drugs markets is a horror auto-toxicus,
an auto-immune disease. Drug control is the attempt by the human
species to control the uncontrollable; control escalation itself,
tropisms programmed by the aliens. The human security apparatuses
experiment with drugs as weapons and tools, their soldiers are stoned,
energised, and anaesthetized on a range of prescribed and proscribed
pharmaceuticals. Their irregular forces are subsidized by narcotics
revenue. The war against drugs is a war on drugs.
The war on drugs is a counter-insurgency, a defensive strategy
mounted against the tactics of subversion: infiltration, convergent
invasion and coordinated envelopment. There is no security any more,
it was replaced by mad programs of guided counter-intelligence technology:
new vectors and delivery systems, mixing the arms race with drug
design, escalation into diversity, smart weapons for smart drugs.
Cocaine creeping up the coast lines of Central America and through
the veins of corporate America, fol~ lowed by other, newer, more
insidious flows. The deepest subversives have already broken into
the system. The aliens are already here, without ceas~ ing in the
slightest to be alien. Guerrilla war escalates in the direction
of the tactical; a cyberpositive take-off from opportunities, a
non-localizable permeation, undercutting all dominating strategic
plans. An entire fauna and flora of opportune infections. Strategy
tends to come apart in the tropics. Even traditional counter-tactics
of surveillance and interrogation are becoming obsolete. The camouflage
has become so sophisticated that people don't know what they are
Strategy is always complicit with the state, with the actual state
and with the virtual state secreted in every ideology of resistance
and oppositional identity. The body and the state are under seige,
with drugs and other software diseases threatening the borders.
The Human Security System is crys tallized paranoia, cooked with
baking powder, freebased: the last strateg of resistance and the
final resistance of strategy.
Replacing the cold war's phallic stand off is the war on drugs,
dissolutio into the jungle, the world's states united in their terminal
self-destructin strategy of prohibition. No more dreams of a nuclear
winter. The 1990 begins the China Syndrome of capitalism.
Ice is crystallized speed. It is also Gibson's name for dataprotection
Intruder Countermeasure Electronics. Ice patrols the boundaries,
freezes the gates, but the aliens are already amongst us. Convergent
input is interpreted by security as intelligent intrusion, as a
trap or conspiracy, with everything preprogrammed to connect. Doubting
that women belonged to humanity, Burroughs imagined them to be extraterrestrial
invaders. Viruses are like this too. Nobody knows where they come
from. They always arrive from elsewhere, perhaps even outer space.
Humanity is an allergic reaction to vulnerability, but allergy depends
upon the health of the immune system: the ice has to work.
Tactics are subtlety, or intelligence. As things become more complex
they become more female, but patriarchy prolongs the ice age of
mankind. The fatherland is cryogenic, a fantasy of perfect preservation,
whose bronze age ancestors are even now thawing out in the Alps,
frozen assets under attack. Global warming melts the ice, raises
the seas, subverts the glaciers. Computer viruses melt icebergs
of data down the screens, burning through the bacterial frost, like
Burroughs exploring his junkie cold with LSD.
Immuno-vulnerability is cyberpositive, and its viruses are not
just infection, but connection; continuing to interlock with the
matrix even after they are secreted inside the body. Loss of identity,
hearing voices. Women and other aliens constitute an immensely disproportionate
number of schizophrenics, frozen by tranquillizers and antischizophrenic
drugs. Sleeping pills to block the dreams. Only the drugs that explore
integration are outlawed.
As immuno-politics explodes onto the software plane, culture is
becoming a free-fire zone. Chaos culture has hooked up to cyberian
military intelligence. Post-human pulse rates and homing devices
are remixed for accelerating targets, with rhythms speeding up to
intercept incoming drugs: virtual addictions for addicts strobed
by redesign. Cities mutate into techno jungles where school children
swap diseased software from the front-line, and even the brand-names
are encrypted: SEGA puts ages in reverse. Gibson contracts the thought
of cyberspace from video-game arcades, watching the motor-stimulation
feedback loops, self-designing kill patterns. Dark ecstasies in
caverns of accelerating pixels. Before virtual reality became dangerous,
it was already military simulation.
Sudden transition from ice to water, phase change, punctual anastrophe
of the system, is impact on convergent rather than metric zero.
The Earth is becoming cyberpositive.
We might not know what's going on but we're getting warmer. Only
the enemies of immuno-identity populate the future.
Taken from: Matthew Fuller (Ed.) / Unnatural. (1994).
Thanks to Sadie Plant.