The Man/State/Machine


gist: I suspect that determination of human being terms of man, of ontology in terms of machine, and of community in terms of state are inextricably intertwined. Particular forms such the state-machine, man-machine, and the state as machine, are iterations of this mutual determination. The internal logic of these determinations is that of command/control, impulse/reaction, and of the discrete and orderable sequenced according to manly dictates. It runs through all of modernity (even tho not all enlightenment thinking is thoroughly subordinated to this framing), and it is driving us into madness, xenocide, mono-mania, and other bad stuff.

Who will thrive and predominate in a world thoroughly dominated by the ideology of the man/state/machine? Whoever is most able to embody the qualities of man that enable calculating the state and driving the machine: i.e., fortunate, masculine, technocrats, who can internalize the combinatory problems relevant to tracking the state transitions, who can work the levers effectively, or find clever and self serving ways to throw wrenches into the machine.

The opening passage from Hobbes’ Leviathan:

Nature (the Art whereby God hath made and governes the World) is by the Art of man, as in many other things, so in this also imitated, that it can make an Artificial Animal. For seeing life is but a motion of Limbs, the beginning whereof is in some principall part within; why may we not say, that all Automata (Engines that move themselves by springs and wheeles as doth a watch) have an artificiall life? For what is the Heart, but a Spring; and the Nerves, but so many Strings; and the Joynts, but so many Wheels, giving motion to the whole Body, such as was intended by the Artificer? Art goes yet further, imitating that Rationall and most excellent worke of Nature, Man. For by Art is created that great Leviathan called a Common-Wealth, or State, (in latine Civitas) which is but an Artificiall Man

I think the essay would make the case that the origin, essential logic, and ultimate destiny of the the state-machine concept is the subordination of the human being to the man/state/machine.

Turing, in the “Computable Numbers” paper begins his description of the “Computing machines” thus:

We may compare a man in the process of computing a real number to a machine which is only capable of a finite number of conditions q1, q2, …, qR which will e called “m-configurations”.

And immediately preceding, he notes the justification for this comparison:

the justification lies in the fact that the human memory is necessarily limited.

What makes a man/machine fully determinable (fully controlled?)?

If at each stage the motion of a machine is completely determined by the configuration, we shall call the machine an “automatic machine”.

Turing also names another kind of machine, the “choice machine”:

For some purposes we might use machines (choice machines or c-machines) whose motion is only partially determined by the configuration … When such a machine reaches one of these ambiguous configurations, it cannot go on until some arbitrary choice has been made by an external operator. (72)

Hobbes (for whom “Imagination and Memory are but one thing” (89), also maintained the finitude of memory:

Whatsoever we imagine, is Finite. Therefore there is no Idea, or conception of anything we call Infinite.

And rendered Imagination as motion from mechanical impact of bodies on sense organs. Reason is the orderly and deterministic sequencing of such impressions in a train, after the impressions have been encoded into words:

When a man Reasoneth, hee does nothing else but conceive a summe totall, from Addition of parcels; or conceive a Remainder, from Subtraction of one summe from another: which (if it be done by Words,) is conceiving of the consequences of the names of all the parts, to the name of the whole; or from the names of the whole and on epart, to the name of the other part. (110)

For Reason, in this sense, is nothing but Reckoning (that is, Adding and Subtracting) of the Consequences of generall names agreed upon, for the marking and signifying of our thoughts.

He casts Science as the knowledge of consequence revealed by this right ordering. (See p. 115) Essential to scientific reasoning is the elimination of ambiguity:

The Light of humane minds is Perspicuous Words, but by exact definitions first snuffed, and purged from ambiguity; Reason is the pace; Encrease of Science, the way; and the Benefit of man-kind, the end.

The destiny of a redemable human being, in Hobbe’s view, is only via the subordination of everything, both human and nature, to the man/state/machine, via linguistic programming (or, as he calls it, “Science”):

The only way to erect such a Common Power, as may be able to defend them from the invasion of Forraigners, and the injuries of one another … is, to conferre all their power and strength upon one Man, or upon one Assembly of men, that may reduce all their Wills, by plurality of voices, unto one Will

TODO re: Lacan

There is nothing here, however, that contradicts the vast dialectic that makes us serfs of history by superimposing its waves on the brewing of our grand migrations, in what attaches each of us to a scrap of discourse that is more alive than his very life, if it is true that, as Goethe said, when “that which is without life is alive, it can also produce life”.

For it is also true that, having been unable to proffer this scrap of discourse from our throats, each of us is condemned to make himself into its living alphabet to trace out its fatal line.

(Lacan, “Psychoanalysis and Its Teaching”)

TODO re: Longo’s letter’s to turing

In a letter addressed posthumously to Alan Turing, Giuseppe Longo laments the conceptual and technological cul-de-sac into which the state machinsts are driving us:

To this we have to add the madness, as I mentioned, of the “everything is computational”, starting from the analysis of the living, the opposite of what you [Turing] were able to offer, and creating the myth of the Universe as a Turing Machine, against your very precise observations. These colleagues, who are using the only technique that they know, and applying it to every possible phenomenon, flattening it onto a universe that is witout meaning and made only of formal calculations, act as if yours is the last machine that [humans] will be capable of inventing: it is coterminous with the world! I am convinced that we shall invent others, but these prophesies risk becoming self-affirming: piling computational techniques onto computational techniques, always in the same theoretical universe, to grasp the complexity of the Universe (or the brain, of DNA …), in increasingly and abstrusively difficult ways without the very simple purity and depth that mathematical invention requires – all of this prevents us from being able to think about the … next machine, which humankind will certainly find ways of inventing.

TODO Etymology

State is derived

directly from status “a station, position, place; way of standing, posture; order, arrangement, condition,”

and then figuratively a

“standing, rank; public order, community organization,”

Consult the hypothesized PIE root to see that state is rooted in the notion of a static standing, a set arrangement.

State as in stasis, position, a standing. The notion of a state as “political organization of a country, supreme civil power, government” dates from c. 1300.

Concretely and primarily, status conveyed a gradient of senses from physical posture, appearance, or stature, to position in space. Only figuratively and derivatively did it come to mean one’s social position, i.e., social status. And by this route, finally, to mean “of countries, communities, etc., the condition of society, or the state, the public order, public affairs”.

Note that this determines sociality and the being together of community through static positionality and arrangement (this will become state in the sense of situated and configured resources) in a field of relative power or influence. Status still has this sense. The concept of the state has always intended an ordering of people based on static accumulation and hierarchical positioning.

Positioning: pro-civilization/anti-state

As per Bookchin, the state is opposed to, other than, and imposed at the expense of the urbs/city. Civilization as understood as a social order organized around the life of the civilis “relating to a citizen, relating to public life, befitting a citizen; popular, affable, courteous” (etymonline).

Models matter

Rewriting vs. state

TODO State Machine

TODO Genealogy

School as a machine that should belong to the state

We confront the whole programme, as an aggregate and all in all its parts, with the generic proposition that the public school should be made neither a Catholic nor a Protestant machine, ay more than it should be made a Jewish, a Mormon, or an infidel machine. It should be a State machine …

Samuel Thayer Spear ยท 1876

TODO The State of Man

Jean Bodin’s “Six Books…”

A COMMONWEALTH may be defined as the rightly ordered government of a number of families, and of those things which are their common concern, by a sovereign power.

Manly hierarchical control as founding principle

A FAMILY may be defined as the right ordering of a group of persons owing obedience to a head of a household, and of those interests which are his proper concern.

But this wasn’t even consistently used as the organizing principle. Only certain males were allotted the defining role of head of household.

From the moment a marriage is consummated the woman is subject to her husband, unless he is still living as a dependant in his father’s house. Neither slaves nor other dependants have any authority over their wives, still less over their children. They are all subject to the head of the family until such time as he shall have given his married son his independence. No household can have more than one head, one master, one seigneur. If there were more than one head there would be a conflict of command and incessant family disturbances… wherefore a woman marrying a man still living in his father’s house is subject to her father-in-law. …

Control and command as the foundation of the state:

The government of all commonwealths, colleges, corporate bodies, or households whatsoever, rests on the right to command on one side, and the obligation to obey on the other, which arises when the natural liberty which each man has to live as he chooses, is exercised subject to the power of another.

TODO re: Leslie Lamport’s definition of computation as clock

TODO “Social Media” is a schizoid leviathan