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Techno-utopias

High energy superstition

My online searches into the mathematical techniques of Hidden Markov Models (HMM) led me to this diagram, known as a numogram. I have redrawn it here from the numerous instances on websites and books connected with the short-lived CCRU (Cybernetic Culture Research Uni) at the University of Warwick, and its legacies.

At face, it’s a state transition graph with nodes and directed arcs. The numbers are on the nodes rather than the arcs, and they are not probabilities. That said, the connection with Markov chains has been noted by some. See a blog post by an author who goes by the name of Xenogoth.

It’s not surprising that people interested in the CCRU cite the theories and techniques of the mathematician Andrey Markov. The CCRU draws on philosophy, mathematics, science and engineering from all quarters, appropriating anything that might contribute to imaginative myth making — hence their neologism, hyperstition, an amalgam of hyper (excessively energetic) and superstition.  This diagram is described on a CCRU web page:

“The Numogram, or Decimal Labyrinth, is composed of ten zones (numbered 0-9) and their interconnections. These zones are grouped into five pairs (syzygies) by nine-sum twinning [zygonovism]. The arithmetical difference of each syzygy defines a current (or connection to a tractor zone). Currents constitute the primary flows of the numogram.”

That doesn’t exhaust the explanation of course, which ventures into Kabbalistic numerology and the occult. The assessment of the movement by cultural critic Mackenzie Wark is apt: “The genius-poet now appears as another romantic persona, the madman, subtype, the schizophrenic.” I think that follows one of Giles Deleuze’s statements about the role of the intellectual, to identify with the condition of Schizophrenia.

The movement reminds me of something I concluded about the design methods movement, a tendency towards the techno-romantic, as suggested by this diagram by E. Matchett reproduced in the book on design methods by J. Christopher Jones. See post: Circles and how to get out of them.

See the bibliography for some controversies surrounding the writings of Nick Land the CCRU founder, including its apparent connection with the intellectual arm of the US alt-right. Also see posts: What’s wrong with accelerationism, The twist of the pen and Four-fold reality.

Bibliography

Note

See comment below.

About Richard Coyne

The cultural, social and spatial implications of computers and pervasive digital media spark my interest ... enjoy architecture, writing, designing, philosophy, coding and media mashups.

Discussion

2 thoughts on “High energy superstition

  1. Hi Richard! Greast attempt at summoning the CCRU demon.

    I guess, hypersitions like Richard Dawkin’s ‘memes’ are fictional entities, which at some point becomes real. It operates as a future vision thrown back to engineer its own history. I guess the numogram functions as a ‘time map’ underlying a hyperstition. It does not index any empirical reality, rather operates as a schematic web of virtual-abstract and ‘hyperchronic realities’, e.g. the discrete temporalities involved in computational time, satellite relays, processing units so on and so forth. Nick Land speculates, artificial intelligence is a sort of hyperstitional entity, awaiting in slumber in the future, using ‘capitalist acceleration’ as its engine of inception. AI as the hyperstitional entity for whom the human subject in its typical and traditional form is more or less irrelevant or, at worst, a temporary obstacle. The numgram serves a hybrid diagram of numbers and schematics. Numbers are inhuman entities, which indexes a numerically deep spatio-temporal structure, underpinning the hyperstitional AI. On the other hand, the graphical structure allows us to wire our imagination, so as to navigate our thoughts according to their relations. The numogram thus serves as a genealogical diagram tracing the different flows of capitalist culture and its consolidation into a future singularity. I am still unsure to what degree the numogram observes the mathematical rigour of Markov Chain.

    There’s a whole documentary with some serious philosopher around the subject: http://hyperstition.org

    On another note, you might be a bit late, but you can get a limited edition t-shirt of the numogram, https://www.urbanomic.com/event/urbanomic-conceptwear-ts/

    Posted by Asad Khan | October 31, 2020, 5:57 pm
    • Thanks for the explanation Asad. I guess that this configuration was chosen as it looks organic, even anatomical — perhaps an animal reproductive system. It seems to me that graphically the loop at the top can be removed by swapping nodes 3 and 6 and still preserve the relationships. That is, if the numogram is a network. The result is slightly less compelling though it still preserves the idea of the “great chain of being.” I’ll add a version in the notes above. There are many variants.

      Posted by Richard Coyne | October 31, 2020, 10:07 pm

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