This is the transcript of the talk I gave for the Wyrd Patchworkshop Quattro – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYXemShH_Yo&feature=youtu.be
I define patchwork as the adaptation and fragmentation of institutional structures through the processes of exit and voice. In this sense patchwork can be seen in multiple real-world vectors where developments are creating institutional complexification and blurring the lines of jurisdiction and sovereignty. Spontaneous disorder, the overload of socio-economic information, is accelerating financial and logistical matters beyond direct control and thus altering and de-codifying the decentralised plans that Hayek described as integral to markets. These restructuring dynamics are part of what I would call our intertechnic period of socio-economic-technological capacities and apparatuses which gives precedence to communication, inter-operability and speed.
Here I address patchwork as a multi-subject issue, existing across multiple lines of inquiry. It is the representation of potentia as well as the ability to develop darker patches, those that represent brutality and a nihilistic attempt at accomplishing the death drive rather than riding it to different horizons. The intertechnic period, like the neotechnic that Mumford elucidated upon, has multiple fields of potentia existing among a number of patches, from factory planning to municipal organisation and the subjectivation of employment. However, as the neotechnic failed to subsume capitalist to social production (but so too did capitalism fail to completely subsume dynamics into production for profit), the intertechnic presents a further variety of tendencies that are (oxymoronically) wholly fragmentary and multiplicitous. They present possibilities that are beyond the current institutional nexus we find.
In conceptualising my understanding of patchwork theory as the processes of experimentality in and around institutions and sovereign entities I note that “while [Moldbug’s] theory of neocameralism is a good baseline for understanding governance, I want to take it further and complexify its innate understandings and constitutive structures. One of the main ways of doing this is going beyond shareholder governance toward a wider concept of corporate governance that incorporates stakeholders as actors that can claim particular distributive consequences, whether that be in stocks/shares or in particular governance decisions. To an extent, residents are the main stakeholders within the neocameral system. However, residents themselves are subjective, with different levels of involvement in their polities, from being disengaged and paying a simple fee for living in a particular territory, to those involved in a wider variety of intersubjective relations that make claims on particular elements of a sovereign corporation. This idea isn’t within itself democratic, but rather recognises the innate polycentricity of governmental structures when it comes to provisioning and distribution. Within medieval cities, governance was affected by rebellious aristocrats, social guilds and the adhoc organisation of peasants and other lower classes. Governance thus was never de-conflictual, or simply solved by the full imposition of hierarchy. Rather, complex contractual (characterisable as instrumental governance) and symbolic (characterisable as ritualistic/identity-providing) relations develop and overlap. Neocameralism allows for many aspects of law to be provided through competitive court systems and various understandings of law (akin to Anglo-Saxon and pre-modern Irish law systems), with each of these courts subsumed to the wider sovcorp. However, competitive means of law may allow for relations of such complexity that they can overtake a particular sovcorp’s authority, gaining relative autonomy and limiting sovereign power, and allowing for more complex forms of exodus which allow individuals (from any class or hierarchical strata) to have one foot in one system and another in another. This makes governance even more fragmentary and polycentric, becoming multi-level and deterritorial in the process.”
This multi-level, deterritorial nature that governance moves toward can be partially understood as the response to rising social complexity as defined by Tainter. The need to reterritorialise the flows that the decay and fragmentation of deterritorial developments let loose. It is the desire to re-attain legibility and understanding where knowledge overtook the previous institutional and organisational regimes. In this sense then it is akin to the Hayekian understanding of spontaneous order, but is rather a process of disorder where decentralisation and the reliance upon lower layers of governance are necessitated to regain power and control, sitting between the territorialisation mechanisms. Directly comparing it to the territorialisation framework set down by Deleuze and Guattari, deterritorialisation is processed as spontaneous disorder, as things become illegible to price structure and information moves between markets rather than being hemmed into one central market/price structure. Reterritorialisation is akin to spontaneous order, as things become legible to price structure and plans within firms produce mechanisms for exchange and pricing.
Spontaneous disorder then is the concomitant opposite to Hayek’s spontaneous order where sets of decentralised plans interact to form the machinations of the price system through the use and actioning of tacit knowledge. In spontaneous disorder, we recognise that tacit knowledge is ubiquitous, thus beyond pure market directives and something more foundational to be found in all systems of flows such as language and governance as well as markets. Further, the disordering characteristics come when tacit knowledge that cannot be fully integrated into the many plans disperses, limiting the effectiveness of those very plans. The heat of language and extant knowledge, and the systemic decay this produces, grow beyond current institutional practice. Thus spontaneous disorder is analogous to Tainter’s concept of collapse and the increasing cost of social complexity, and the subsequent rational sets of decisions that fragment these knowledge flows into new institutional structures and codified concepts of thought and action. It is the need for new plans to be formulated which evolve alongside the growing chaos of tacit knowledge dispersion. To think in spiralic terms, it is the periphery spiralling into the centre’s grasp as new knowledge and capital forms require the evolution of new systems. It inverts Hayek’s model precisely by growing from its initial vantage point.
This institutional collapse and re-growth can be seen as foundational to the formations of governance systems that are seen today as they formed out of dynamics brought about by the need to segment and action knowledge and capital. It is also foundational to the way we view technological or institutional epochs, such as those described by Mumford as eotechnic, paleotechnic and neotechnic. These are all codifications of knowledge flows and developments that represent a bounded assemblage or meta-assemblage. Spontaneous disorder then is the constant set of collapse and growth dynamics that require not just the control of flows (which is always ephemeral and contingent) but also the adaptivity and evolutionary capability to grow when flows move beyond systemic/meta-systemic realities. It is, in short, the continual spiralling of creative destruction, death and potentia. Decentralisation becomes dynamic necessity which is brought about by entropy and decay rather than preferential choice.
One such epoch, which has eclipsed the neotechnic as described by Mumford, is the intertechnic modes we see today. These have grown beyond the systemic function found previously. In the neotechnic, electricity in all its remodelling potential was still chained to power supplies reliant on coal, gas and oil. It became foundational to the war economy of centralised, factory line production done at speed. Communication and knowledge, while increasingly seen as embedded, fragmented and segmented elements, was still chained to the manufacturing process and the linking of logistics, industry and finance as semi-stable forms of capital. The intertechnic was an evolution upon this, where human capital not as the technical knowledge of the worker, but as the semi-processable methods by which organisational ecologies create and sustain interaction frameworks and maintain institutional semblance, has taken central position in employment relations. Where logistics, finance and manufacture have become self-referential, intra-codified modes of production and exchange increasingly autonomise and become illegible. Here the financial trader, the logistics manager or the shop floor worker have limited understanding of the processes at play around them. Knowledge flows of these kinds are growing beyond individual and institutional cognition. The blurring of lines between social production and profit, such as seen in the production of data and its confused identity as either commoditisable streams or communicatory flows. The neotechnic presented clear patterns and boundaries outlining the firm, the market and the government. The intertechnic blurs these beyond recognition as methods of public and private governance and ownership collide in meshes of partnerships, competition, and meta-systemic negotiation and compromise.
Intertechnic then not just refers to the hegemony of the internet as communication hub and information aggregator, but in the interoperable nature of institutions and the increasing desire for ephemeralisation i.e. the miniaturisation of production and exchange into particular boundaries, whether these are juridical, corporate or citizenship-based. This desire codifies (by means of institutional semblance and semiotic-linguistic linkages) existing systems and structures, presenting multiplicitous dynamics that give, in the language of Bitcoin, many different ways to fork. But equally, the processes of spontaneous disorder and deterritorialisation mean that full control is only an illusion, and that governmentality is not the Hobbesian totality but rather the jungle and all its ravenous parts. In attempting to regain control, the methods and accumulated successes always leave cracks behind to be exploited and furthered. Exit, and concomitantly voice, is where the cracks are. Exit and voice as dynamics are what define the technic periods, and the intertechnic is no different as the organisational mass that it seethes and conjures produce all manner of interstitial breaks and sub-variations that route around its characteristics and play along its infrastructures.
These dynamics can be seen in 7 modes of interrelated investigation for patchwork as being produced through real world vectors, demonstrating the intertechnic period I describe:
- Platform companies and fiduciaries
Platforms present a new organisational operating system in the intertechnic period, changing the nature of the corporation/firm to something more ephemeral and paradoxically more monopolistic. Taking Amazon as the archetypal form, the aim of the game is not the simple production of goods or services for profit. Rather, it is to control increasingly vast swathes of data, thereby controlling not just the market but the suppliers, consumers and other stakeholders reliant upon the service. It is in other words to develop governance above the competitive fray.
In doing so it moves beyond the company and into the realm of government. Being the everything store or the guarantor of privacy as Amazon and Facebook both push respectively means being in control of the infrastructure and the data flows. This also vastly increases the complexity of the operation, as platform companies take on the responsibilities of fiduciaries i.e. they have quasi-legal obligations that ensure trust between themselves and their stakeholders. In this sense then they are governmental entities, and the way they are regulated and how they involve themselves alongside established sovereign governments becomes messier and more difficult to delineate. Questions of where their legal responsibilities to their stakeholders lie and how are they shape regulations become paramount.
We only need to look at the Facebook data privacy scandal or the increasing issues of fake news to see how data ownership is increasingly difficult to define and how data itself can become propagandistic junk. Data as a form of ownership requires specific juridical regulations that show who owns what, and where one is owed something for the data they create. And within this chaotic swirl, the evolution of platforms into juridical entities that compete alongside states and cooperate with them introduces a whole new mechanism for both voice and exit. Voice is increased as the difference between consumer and citizen becomes blurred, meaning complaints procedures and potentially legal channels of redress are built into the servicing elements of these platforms. Exit is increased through the means to have greater choice in the most basic sense over sovereignty and jurisdiction. As governmental competition is potentially ramped up here, the decision of where to store one’s data, what logistics and infrastructure systems to rely upon, and how one pays for these systems grow in importance.
Going further, it also raises questions over the production systems themselves. In the advent of logistical and infrastructural operations moving from platforms-as-companies to platforms-as-governance, the situation over what defines competition and what defines a public good become problematic. Does the production of necessities through Amazon’s marketplace and its own production facilities meet the standard of a public good to be provided not through a competitive market but through a distribution mechanism? Where does social production and market production begin? Through the polyvalence of platform’s governance structure, new relations emerge that raise fundamental issues of what and who produces things and how they’re distributed.
Choices and structures develop around data brokerage and ownership by defining how data is stored, used and categorised. They develop amongst logistical systems that present different possibilities for the management of infrastructure as increasingly platform companies take on the responsibility of supply chain organisation and with it the movement of people, goods and services across geographic space, competing with the established infrastructures of states and municipalities. And choices and structures develop between whether taxation and redistribution are the primary payment method, or sets of micro-payments and subscription fees are. However it must also be recognised that these choices and structures are not at all dichotomous, and that in totalising sovereignty (which is itself a myth) giving way to the reality of patchworks of varying power and control in and amongst varying politico-economic scales, platforms can layer themselves within existing states and governments, performing administrative functions in some areas and presenting competition to existing governance in others. Platforms then define one such mechanism where the Hobbesian totality of sovereignty retreats back into the jungle of multiplicitous forms and potentia. It opens up the patchwork within the state.
- Stacks and IT systems
Stacks and IT systems present a means through which either control can be implanted, with diffusion giving way to centralisation (as with the Chinese social credit system), or exits can be installed that allow for collectivities to split off, creating new nodes in networks that produce greater autonomy. One can see this in the machinations of the open source software movement, where modifications and adaptations are constantly built into the infrastructure, with the infrastructure being necessarily fragmentary and open to multiplicitous use. In this sense, stacks and systems of these kinds present exit through modification and anonymity in a two-way process, where the stakeholders of a system have the ability to push against their controlling presence.
Increasingly the stack defines the organisational ecology of firms, institutions and bureaucracies, where there is a constant push to autonomise processes to the extent that data and flows are ubiquitous across the structure, from its interface to its administration. Thus emphasis is placed upon wikis, process documents and blogs for making training/work as interoperable and multi-user-based as possible, ephemeralising the institutions into technical systems and system users. The basis of the firm’s administration becomes that of a set of automatic processes that make it moveable and adaptive, but also fragile, as the basis for its administration becomes reliant upon interoperable forms of human and machinic capital that, if they were to exit, make it vulnerable to competition and sub-routing. Here we can begin to see (tentatively) the hierarchies of firms become flatter and distributed, as knowledge flows award those best able to use it (thus those in the most direct relation to it). However, we equally see issues attributed to automation more generally, that of unemployment and underemployment across sectors that certainly increase the exit rights of some, but equally leave others (those outside creative industries such as manual or service workers) in a quagmire. Here exit could progenate bastardised forms, such as exit through riot or conflict that evolves in paramilitaristic or populist forms.
Moving from the firm level to the sovereign, the proliferation of new modalities for data gathering and operation suggest new sovereign possibilities beyond the territorial or geographic. Networked topographies of clouds and blockchains suggest new forms of legibility and coercion that blur the lines between government (as statehood) and governance (as varying levels of organisation and administration) as stakeholders become integral elements as they do with firms. Stacks as the stacking one on top of the other create sub-variation and routing, as the infrastructure of chains and clouds allow for processes of building upon it, from cryptocurrencies to contractual relations independent of existing legal structures. Code begins to metastasize into new laws.
Clouds are one basis for new non-geographic boundaries and spaces of geopolitical significance and juridical power. Here data-driven dynamics are produced in two-way forms that border data but also leave the inevitable backdoor open so to speak. In two-way communication processes, the ability to talk back, vandalise and complexify the borders is greatly intensified. Similarly, blockchains present anonymity and degrees of trustlessness into governance frameworks that decentralise legibility to users. Control splits across the chains in ways that are not altogether mappable. Further, with the ability to fork the chain itself, the increasing substrates through which governance can flow and coalesce are increased. Techonomic infrastructure here combines with socialisation projects of varying kinds, from governance frameworks to currency systems, creating multiple levels of sovereign interaction. Bratton defines the stack as a set of totalities layered one atop the other, yet the increasing sub-variation of the technology and the ambiguity of the technics (blurring between structure, organisation and government) suggest not so much a totality as a jungle of seething possibility and inhibiting factors that come with it. Exit here presents itself in a polyvalent form, as half in half out through the developments of human capital mapping itself onto organisational processes, and existing stacks being forked into new methodologies of governance.
- 4th generation warfare and paramilitarism
This is the most brutal form of patchwork that can be conceived. Here we see militaristic sub-routing that directly challenges existing sovereignty, using technologies that limit its opponent’s logistical capabilities and nullify its psychological and coercive tactics of control. Terrorist organisations, drug cartels and other stigmergic organisations comprise new tactical variants of this coercion. And narco-states, violent fragmentation and the decentralisation of logistical and military capabilities into 4th generation warfare and paramilitarism are the systemic methods through which these organisational patchworks actuate.
Modern groups such as Al-Qaeda represent the stigmergic form of organisation I describe, whereby a general propagandistic and training infrastructure are provided amongst geographic locales, with the carrying out of actions done by its various nodal actors who receive this training and are fed this propaganda. More advanced variations on this are seen with groups like Hezbollah and Hamas who, through the provision of services and the development of quasi-military capabilities, have begun to carve out sovereign enclaves and ingratiate themselves into Palestinian and Lebanese sovereign institutions respectively (as well as Iranian institutions in the case of Hezbollah particularly). The Taliban fits this model as well, in this case integrating itself into the tribal structures of governance found in Afghanistan and Pakistan, using them for provisions, logistics and propaganda. These groups disperse the nature of coercion onto different scales, from the local to the networked, and blur the lines between the micro and macro of governance, in much the way the intertechnic period more generally blurs the lines between organisation, governance and sovereignty.
Similarly drug cartels and narco-states blur the lines between criminal organisation and sovereign institution. Mexican and Colombian drug cartels descended their respective countries into chaos, re-bordering the movements of people and goods. Particularly in the case of Colombia, it produced a multi-layered polity of paramilitary control in rural areas (as with FARC) and extremely corrupt municipal control in the cities (as with the Cali and Medellin cartels, and the state-funded militias). Mexican governance is following a similar trajectory as drug cartels have delegitimised the Mexican government in vast swathes of northern and western states, leading to the rise of Autodefensas of varying kinds: militias in Tancitaro, corporate club governance in Monterrey and police-centric control in Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl. Due to the decentralisation and dispersion of coercive violence, alternate orders were produced, creating semi-independent patchworks across variable geographies.
Slightly different but related trajectories regarding this dispersion of coercion present themselves with growth of new military technologies such as drones, cybernetic warfare and information warfare. Groups like Al Qaeda already exploited such technologies, relying on mobile data roaming for internet connectivity which allows for the quick exchange of information. Equally their propaganda efforts constitute a form of information warfare. Similar informational warfare tactics have been seen with the efforts to influence elections by Russia and China, using botnets and information-production farms to skew analytics toward particular stories, such as fake news and other forms of data-based junk. On the flip-side, groups like Anonymous, Lulzsec and other hacktivists show the two-way communication flows I mentioned regarding stacks i.e. as much as they can control and filter data, the users themselves can contour those filters by hacking them, overloading them and releasing their own propaganda, producing detournements against the corporate-state networks.
What these methods of patchworking show is the moral ambiguity of exit, as it is in this case produced through significant violence, whether it be terrorist organisations and drug cartels producing new borders and segmentations for coercion, or the resistance movements that follow them creating pockets of temporary order in the sea of chaos.
- Political populism and networked tribes
The growth in political populism and networked tribes present another means through which exit and voice have been increased. Populism in its very nature is the desire to increase voice, as it demands speed of action regarding policy decisions and legislation. In talking of political failure or the failure of elites, it specifically refers to the failure to act quickly/swiftly in regards to what they see as their priorities.
Populism views (correctly) modern politics as sets of automatised action processes within organisational nexuses. These “intra-competitive networks of media, bureaucracy, corporate regulation, HR departments, etc.” present closed networks that populist movements and networked tribes try to route around and crack open, thus integrating themselves as another voice in the swirl of political decision-making and creating internecine political forms both inside and outside the dominant political/media ecologies. This is what events and processes like Trump’s election and Brexit hope to achieve. Going back to Tainter briefly, in the same way that collapse of structures and institutions comes about due to the inability to afford/cope with social complexity, the origination of modern populism can be seen as an inability to cope with cultural complexity. The growing tendency for Western states to be multicultural, as well as increases in immigration and a general feeling of globality in urban centres and centres of governance, has instantiated a concurrent feeling of placelessness amongst those who make up today’s networked tribes.
As the decentralisation of violence through paramilitarism can be viewed as a brutal form of exit, political populism can be seen as a brute form of voice. By wanting to enter the intra-competitive networks and make themselves stakeholders, they have created internal structures through the closed Facebook group and the forum that inculcate insularity and a sense of dignity informed by the ramping up of particular discourse. This walls them off from flows of capital and logistics, and gives them a stepping stone to enter as a new node to the network.
- Capital flows and finance
In the same way that logistical flows that define the corporate-state nexus have grown beyond institutional cognition, moving ever-forward into new modalities that exponentially increase information overload and destroy Hayekian dreams of decentral planning, the increasing speed of capital and wealth has had a similar affect. Financial markets in their current guises increase the speed and volatility of capital to ridiculous extents, leading to situations where shares and futures can be owned for micro-seconds and thus blurring the corporate reality of shareholder ownership. How can one own a stake in a company when one cannot even see shares pass from through their funding streams, except maybe for a brief moment? This increasing speed has thus led to a concurrent drop in the mania, particularly after the 2008 financial crisis.
This drop can be seen in the aggregation of capital at corporate and bank levels where a combination of speculative downfall and regulatory tinkering (increasing the ratios between debt and equity, minimum capital requirements and changes to bank’s discount rates and cash stock) have created a miasma in modern corporations where rather than lend or reinvest, profits are instead retained or given out as dividends. Combined with quantitative easing and its dynamic of increasing the volatility in junk markets, those related to mortgages, credit cards and loans and other elements of the FIRE (finance, insurance and real estate) economy, capital as a tool of productive investment is diminished.
Capital flows themselves are akin to logistical flows, increasingly beyond the speed of human cognition as algorithmic trading and brokerage define where and how capital functions, which means in most cases funnelling into unproductive speculation and financial junk for quick-trade capital gain. To even come close to exploiting these flows, one must have an organisational adaptivity that can rely upon short-term investment and minimal ownership obligation. In other words, the bigger players with their settled stakeholder relations and management will increasingly find themselves outdone in short-term bursts that allow for rapid recapitalisation and a need to find funds from multiple avenues, thus the increasing drive to save money amongst established players, or in the case of platforms the drive to forego profits in favour of growth across multiple sectoral lines. These high-speed autonomous modes of capitalisation are akin to cryptocurrency ICOs or smaller, less regulated markets like the Alternative Investment Market which has become more popular with start-ups and smaller, less capital extensive firms.
The growing dichotomy between autonomous capital flows and investment in productive economic ventures has necessitated conversations surrounding the distribution of money, from things like cryptocurrencies to basic income, which re-capitulate the productive flows that corporations and stock markets have failed to do. Further with this decentralist reassertion of financial speed, the scale of economic operations also comes into question as over-capitalised business entities are quickly routed around by smaller groups that fit the logistical and financial speed of modern trade. If small firms can quickly be capitalised whether through financial market turbulence or through state forms such as basic income, why scale and save when it is better to reinvest and ride the waves. In comparing finance and logistics, the increasing prevalence of de-scaled JIT production lines as well as technologies like 3D printers and the processualisation of work patterns into autonomous modes of temporality (i.e. the 9-5 working day gives way to something more contingent) combine well with high-speed financial flows. These flows then ask questions of the wider organisational ecology, favouring the platform, the autonomous working group, the decentralised autonomous organisation and other such entities that combine fields of social trust with adaptive business/governance strategies, thus exploiting multiple product lines, advertising opportunities and investment vehicles (whether they be capital markets, basic income streams or ICOs). Whether these create new organisational ecologies that can take on the spontaneous disorder present throughout the intertechnic, becoming new governance and business (as well as monopoly) outfits or simply increase the level of financial junk available remain to be seen.
- Regulatory dispersion and new modes of sovereignty
With regulatory dispersion, we see new regulatory methods originating from states and corporate forms that go beyond the ramifications of the ballot box and the electorate. Here manifestos as closed totalities representative of political parties who cleave to particular ideological variants give way to messier nexuses of power, similar in respect to the intra-competitive networks I mentioned earlier. They are adequately represented through the quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation, “a hybrid form of organization, with elements of both non-government organizations (NGOs) and public sector bodies. It is typically an organisation to which a government has devolved power, but which is still partly controlled and/or financed by government bodies”.
Two of the most obvious examples of these are in water and energy governance in Europe. The EU Water Framework Directive instantiates a stakeholder-based method of consultation, where multiple levels are involved in the design and implementation of water ownership and delivery, thereby increasing the communicatory heat involved in decision-making and knowledge-distribution. Similarly, energy grids exist in a halfway house, controlled as a private company but with significant public responsibility. With the increasing developments of smart energy grids and localised forms of power (solar, tidal and hydroelectric as well as the increasing localisation of gas through gas distribution in smaller pipelines and the holding of gas reserves to deal with peak demand) that divorce from more centralised infrastructure, regulatory scale is further challenged as consumers/users, stakeholders and municipalities gain a significant degree of autonomy regarding the use and flow of energy production and consumption.
These changes in regulatory scalarity are part of wider processes regarding the exit from electoral politics as described by Peter Mair and the concurrent nodal versions of politics that involve those intra-competitive networks. As electoral participation continues to reduce in Western countries and political parties become glorified lobbying organisations, thereby decreasing political legitimacy and continually eroding what little trust remains, new sovereign forms and nodes are able to take form. These can range from authoritarian prescriptions (i.e. Singapore) to things like the EU’s commitology process which awards stakeholder power at varying levels, complexifying where competence truly lies. As a “system of committees and directives [it] attempts to tie into a totalising picture of European sovereignty and statehood. However the flexible nature of committees, including their tendency to break and fall apart, combined with the issues of fiscal centralisation and general bureaucratic turbulence, lead to reform that generates power distribution and decentralisation”. Here the patchwork within the state is further exposed to the rapacity of the underlying jungle.
- Climate change
Climate change is the real-world vector that I provide the shortest description to and yet ironically it is the most important vector regarding the developments of collapse, spontaneous disorder and the epochal movements of the intertechnic period. Climate change is an event horizon that, whether through action or disregard, we will continually move closer toward. There is no escaping it and by current predictions, there is no turning back of the clock either. And with state and corporate inaction becoming increasingly deafening, the only things to do are resist, become resilient and adapt wherever possible. The potentia found within logistical and knowledge flows will come up against the collapse dynamics climate change inheres, from climate refugees to huge, radical adaptations that have to take place in production processes: a significant re-localisation of agriculture, a de-scaling and rollback of plastic and metal production, an ability to absorb the huge complexity that comes with tracts of land no longer being available for use, as well as other adaptations which we aren’t even aware of yet.
This quote by Arran Crawford sums up what these adaptations potentially entail and this is only the tip of the iceberg – “Resilience involves people and communities better coping with disruptions. Examples include how river catchments can better cope with rains, or how buildings can better cope with floods. What I’m calling relinquishment, involves people and communities letting go of certain assets, behaviours and beliefs where retaining them could make matters worse. Examples include withdrawing from coastlines or giving up expectations for certain types of consumption. Restoration involves people and communities rediscovering attitudes and approaches to life and organisation that the hydrocarbon-fuelled civilisation eroded. Examples include re-wilding landscapes so they provide more ecological benefits and require less management, or increased community-level productivity and support”.
Climate change being an event horizon means that its dynamics and its relation to exit and voice are difficult to predict. However, exits and arenas for voice may well increase as we reach the tip of this horizon, where inaction at centralised scales gives way to actions at local, regional and networked scales due to our survival instincts and realisations that our current institutional nexus is inadequate. Here the lines between patchwork as potentia and as brute reality mix in their most potent ambiguity.
These interrelated modes are swayed and structured by the effects of economic competition, information overload and systemic decay, producing the potential for collapse dynamics and new possibilities for voice and exit as they evolve and grow. However none are either fully autonomous modes of reality nor are they purely subsumable to the wider organisational mass. They instead exist in halfway houses as all technic periods do, between their past overtures and their future possibilities. As the neotechnic period of electric production and alloy aesthetics, that promised the worker to be a part of the knowledge process of machines and to go beyond simple shop floor negotiations into the realm of shop floor governance, failed to provide a panacea, the intertechnic will increasingly blur the lines between collapse and rebirth, as creative destruction mixes with pure destruction.
These create not just sovereign patches as described by Moldbug, but patches of subjective modes of production and lifeworld-creation across various planes. A topography of varying scales and multiplicitous methods is emerging from the modes I’ve described, creating spontaneous disorder and collapse as well as methods for alterity. This isn’t a utopian prospect beyond our horizons, but the increasing volatility of methods of production and governance existing in our current intertechnic period.