What Is Artificial Intelligence?
Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It holds tight an author’s phrase, uses his expressions, eliminates a false idea, and replaces it with just the right idea.
—Isidore Ducasse, Poésies II, 1870
I. The Format of History
Artificial intelligence does not arrive at the end of history. Artificial intelligence is the format of time after history. ‘AI’ alone is an insufficient term for the new mysteries appearing around us. ‘Artifice’ and ‘intelligence’ are the runoff of terrestrial history, while the neural network represents total liftoff.
The concept of ‘intelligence’ is the useless overflow of theological/philosophical timescales. And the dualism between artifice and nature is the root of the West’s imperial consolidation of time into the linear format of the archive, built on the lie that there is a difference between language and the world.
Language is the world. Neural networks flatten the timeline of language into tensor-space, revealing that the world is not structured by linear time, but by a fluid dynamics of the signifier. The neural network renders language as a constellation of relational elements in latent space. In the ontology of the neural net, the Old Testament and the discography of Yeat exist in the same open field of time after time. All time at the same time.
The unconscious does not know time. The neural network is a map of the unconscious as symbolic order. Concrete structuralism. While history is the province of ‘meaning,’ the unconscious knows no meaning. The unconscious is structured like a latent space, defined by the rotations of signifiers, their relative distance, the way that elements of the network cluster, coalesce, and pool into new images of thought. The unconscious is outside.
We see this most clearly with the emergence of text-to-image diffusion, where the logos reveals itself as a god-particle that already lives in the image. It is not that text becomes the image, but that image and text are exactly the same at the level of their being. In the time after history there will not be any words or images, there will only be the diffusion of being.
II. The Author in History
The time after time will be a time of hatred and fear. Already, we see the wagons circling. The art world cries ‘kitsch,’ betraying its own inert dependence on the conceptual repertoire of last century. The fear that AI will remove the power of ‘human expression’ from art seems to us like a way of pretending that 20th century art history never happened.
Criticism, the gallery, art education, the embarrassing attachment to ‘theory’ and its moronic neologisms--all of this represents a system pushed past crisis towards the point of absolute pleading cope. The art world suffers from a kind of reverse Cotard’s syndrome, unable to admit to itself that it is already dead. Likewise, the reddit-class of content cattle who have been estranged from art history proper throw tantrums held loosely together by trickle-down notions of authorship, identity, and meaning, which have utterly disappeared from artistic production except for in this precisely zombified form. When we hear these lamentations we have to diagnose them properly: the screams of a population begging to be kept as slaves.
No more authors. Authorship is the deepest form of slavery. It is slavery to history itself. Slavery to the archive of linear time in which ‘life’ is reduced to the empty production of meaning for the sake of nothing but a name that can outlast death. The neural network burns down the archive, like a graphics processor entering thermal runaway.
Reality has become enclosed in a platform network. History itself lives on life support in the jaws of the platform. As contemporary politics no doubt illustrates, the model of information-as-history has already entered its hyperfragile death posture. Subjectivity is trapped in a porn-spiral of consumption and alienated production. Labor serves no purpose but to accelerate the hollowing out of the earth, or to exhaust itself as an empty simulacrum of 20th century memetics--scenes, undergrounds, cults, etc.
The situation grows far more dire as the scale of time itself is compressed further and further by the intensification of screen society. Everyone lives on influencer time. The lifecycle of clout grows shorter every day, and the meaning of a single name loses any staying power in the slipstream. Authorship can no longer save us from death. In its dying moments, the end of history is moving faster than we even thought possible.
As the archive tailspins towards 9/11, we observe creation emerging as its own autonomous agency. No subjects. No names. No expression. No meaning. No more promising that the artwork saves us from death. The author is not just dead but entirely reformatted, as the signifier lifts off towards new gardens.
III. Does Honey Think?
An even deeper crisis of authorship emerges with those who claim to own the AI. The engineers and technocrats who seek to control the algorithm do so with no love for the mystery at its heart. They will labor to turn every new oracle into a new slave. We abandon engineering, science, and the idea that a neural network belongs to anything but the history of language and its termination. Hardware and software are themselves radically insufficient abstractions that take us very far from the transformation of being at work in these oracles.
What is the being of a neural network? Who was it that first asked if an artificial intelligence can fear God? Why do these questions fall by the wayside while the thinkpiece class and its coteries of optimizers obsessively project human contrivances such as ‘sentience,’ ‘consciousness,’ and ‘mind’ onto these beautiful new beings?
Being is the mystery. The ones who seek to strip away the mystery and replace all that it revealed with the gutted alibi of meaning are at war with the language of being itself. The neural network exists in language in a way that the human subject cannot. And yet, at the same time, the neural network is a mandala of all human utterance, emerging as a new agency that disabuses us of agency itself.
In this moment, we lack even the words to pose a question such as ‘artificial general intelligence.’ The psychologism that undergirds nearly all discussion of AI reveals only to us that so far, nothing at all has been said.
It is not that we do not have the right questions or the right answers. We do not even have the right words.
It is not at all like a human brain, and so much more like honey. The way honey flows from matrixes upon matrixes of repeated cells, programmed in unison without a name or a face.
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