Reza Negarestani: Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials
This looks really intriguing:
Cyclonopedia is a key work in the emerging domains of speculative realism and theory-fiction. The text has attracted a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary audience, provoking vital debate around the relationship between philosophy, geopolitics, geophysics, and art. At once a work of speculative theology, a political samizdat, and a philosophic grimoire, Cyclonopedia is a Deleuzo-Lovecraftian middle-eastern Odyssey populated by archeologists, jihadis, oil smugglers, Delta Force officers, heresiarchs, and the corpses of ancient gods. Playing out the book’s own theory of creativity – “a confusion in which no straight line can be traced or drawn between creator and created – original inauthenticity” – this multidimensional collection both faithfully interprets the text and realizes it as a loving, perforated host of fresh heresies. The volume includes an incisive contribution from the author explicating a key figure of the novel: the cyclone.
I suggest that we read TechGnosis by Erik Davis. The book is a classic inquiry into the uncanny paralleling of technological innovation and gnostic/mystical/contemplative motivations and results. It’s right up our alley. And Erik is an open and critical thinker who has been studying these ideas for a long time. His podcast is excellent.
I have not read the book, and am dying to do so in a collaborative community of inquiry. These are themes I have written about a bit and are quite meaningful to me. In particular my current questions (and work) include: 1. Can and how can technology aid in the realization of contemplative insights / the eudaemonic society (and what are their pitfalls)? 2. Can and how can technology aided depth work develop greater trust, autonomy, empowerment, flexibility, resilience, and effectiveness in corporations in such a way that corporate cultures transform and aid in the transition to a commons economy? And 3. Can and how can AI be designed to be emotionally intelligent and contributive to deep human values?
I hope we can read together.
Here’s the amazon description for the book:
“How does our fascination with technology intersect with the religious imagination? In TechGnosis—a cult classic now updated and reissued with a new afterword—Erik Davis argues that while the realms of the digital and the spiritual may seem worlds apart, esoteric and religious impulses have in fact always permeated (and sometimes inspired) technological communication. Davis uncovers startling connections between such seemingly disparate topics as electricity and alchemy; online roleplaying games and religious and occult practices; virtual reality and gnostic mythology; programming languages and Kabbalah. The final chapters address the apocalyptic dreams that haunt technology, providing vital historical context as well as new ways to think about a future defined by the mutant intermingling of mind and machine, nightmare and fantasy.”
Sexual Personae, by Camille Paglia, my favorite art book of all times!
From ancient Egypt through the nineteenth century, Sexual Personae explores the provocative connections between art and pagan ritual; between Emily Dickinson and the Marquis de Sade; between Lord Byron and Elvis Presley. It ultimately challenges the cultural assumptions of both conservatives and traditional liberals.
Simply on the face of it, this looks interesting:
We will be re-starting book club activity soon, testing a new experimental model. If you would be interested in reading a particular book with others in this discourse community, please post it below!
Following are two texts I am interested in reviewing, via Bonnitta Roy’s Medium piece on “Leading Change in Open Organizations.”
Why can some organizations innovate time and again, while most cannot?
You might think the key to innovation is attracting exceptional creative talent. Or making the right investments. Or breaking down organizational silos. All of these things may help—but there’s only one way to ensure sustained innovation: you need to lead it—and with a special kind of leadership. Collective Genius shows you how.
Preeminent leadership scholar Linda Hill, along with former Pixar tech wizard Greg Brandeau, MIT researcher Emily Truelove, and Being the Boss coauthor Kent Lineback, found among leaders a widely shared, and mistaken, assumption: that a “good” leader in all other respects would also be an effective leader of innovation. The truth is, leading innovation takes a distinctive kind of leadership, one that unleashes and harnesses the “collective genius” of the people in the organization.
Using vivid stories of individual leaders at companies like Volkswagen, Google, eBay, and Pfizer, as well as nonprofits and international government agencies, the authors show how successful leaders of innovation don’t create a vision and try to make innovation happen themselves. Rather, they create and sustain a culture where innovation is allowed to happen again and again—an environment where people are both willing and able to do the hard work that innovative problem solving requires.
Collective Genius will not only inspire you; it will give you the concrete, practical guidance you need to build innovation into the fabric of your business.
This text proposes a new integrative framework for understanding and promoting creatively adaptive thinking. The mind is not only cognition, narrowly construed, but is deeply intermeshed with action, perception, and emotion. This means that optimal mental agility is realized at the dynamic intersection of environment, brain, and mind.
Building on empirical research from the behavioral and brain sciences, from developmental and social psychology, and from neuropsychology, psychopathology, and allied disciplines, this book argues that understanding our agile minds requires that we go beyond dichotomous classifications of cognition as intuitive versus deliberate. When we are optimally creatively adaptive, we are able to adroitly move across not only a wide range of levels of cognitive control, but also across multiple levels of detail. Neither abstraction nor specificity, neither controlled nor automatic processes alone are what is needed. Contextually sensitive variation is essential, including rapidly intermixed modes of cognitive control, if we are to realize our fullest capacities for insightful innovation, fluent improvisation, and flexible thinking.
Written for an interdisciplinary audience, empirical findings are enriched with insights from the arts and literature. Mastering the many factors that can help to promote mental agility is important to each of us, both individually and collectively, as shapers and makers of our selves and our societies.
Some other possibilities:
Moby Dick… Don Quixote… The Divine Comedy… Gravity’s Rainbow.
The New Jim Crow.
Great works from Black America, Latin America and Africa… East Asia\Indonesia. Eastern Europe. The Indian Subcontinent.
The Invisibles – Grant Morrison
The Never Ending Story – Michael Ende
Just adding these two, and bumping NOVA and Delaney’s more hardcore scifi novel, Dhalgren, which William Gibson describes as “a riddle that was never meant to be solved.”
Desperately want to read this in a Cosmos reading group. I’m devouring it. It feels like the book I’ve always wanted to exist. I want to read and discuss it with y’all. Sometime in 2018.
I thought I’d list some short books that can potentially stimulate long and rich conversations. By “short” I mean that they can be read in three hours or less (and some on the list are much shorter than that).
Thomas Nagel, Mind & Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. A model of nature that can’t explain natural phenomena such as consciousness and value is probably fatally flawed.
Ronald Dworkin, Religion Without God. A commitment to moral realism issues in an intuitive religiosity.
Nathaniel Dorsky, Devotional Cinema. It’s difficult to summarize the thesis of this book, but it’s one of the most remarkable books on cinema I’ve read. It deals with how films, in virtue of their unique formal properties, express religious emotions and insights in ways that no other art form has.
George Steiner, Nostalgia for the Absolute. The problems of sustaining a commitment to truths when the truth is hard to face, especially for a whole civilization.
Eva Brann, The Logos of Heraclitus. Among the many wonderful things about this book is its demonstration that the theory of government on which the U.S. Constitution is based is an application of Heraclitus’ Logos.
Paul Boghossian, Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism. “Postmodern” claims of relativism and constructivism, when formulated in ways that are both consistent and non-trivial, are without merit.
Susan Wolf, Meaning in Life and Why It Matters. A meaningful life is one that includes passionate and sustained involvement in a project that is objectively valuable.
Francis Spufford, Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense. As cogent an explanation of Christianity as I’ve ever found and an absolutely terrific read.
I think the Nagel book would be a good one since it fits the themes we have already been circulating at the Cafe. Materialism is incoherent. Nagel created some friction with this little book among hardcore materialists. Another classic by the same author is _What is it like to be a Bat? Thanks for the suggestions, Frederick.
Thanks for the suggestions, Fred. I agree with Johnny, Nagel’s book would be a good way to move forward some of the themes we have explored in the Cosmos Café.
Devotional Cinema also sounds really interesting, and would complement a piece which I still think deserves some discussion; you may not have seen it, but do take a look:
You may also enjoy J.F. Martel and Phil Ford’s ‘Weird Studies’ episode on Heraclitus: http://www.weirdstudies.com/13 — is there some correspondence possible with Eva Brann’s book?
Lastly, I wonder if @KPr2204 would have some interest in Unapologetic.
If we discuss Nagel it would probably be a good idea to read some of the criticisms as well, though I suppose that could defeat the purpose of minimizing the prep time. In general it might be good to discuss some things that challenge rather that support our own dispositions/prejudices – the Steiner could do some of that work.
On a quick glance the Martel-Yates discussion looks very interesting, thanks for this. It mentions Kubrick: the best book on Kubrick I know (full disclosure: the author is a friend) is Phillip Kuberski, Kubrick’s Total Cinema: Philosophical Themes and Formal Qualities. I suspect many here would resonate with his approach.
And what kind of dispositions/prejudices?
And what would you like to have happen, Frederick?
What kind of support do you need to make this happen?
You have gift for clarifying difficult theory so I imagine you would find lots of support among our core group. New faces and voices are welcome and your ideas could open up the field so I look forward to what happens next.
What happens after the Aurobindo study?
We could go in so many directions. I get a feeling you are offering something contemporary and close to home?
My feeling is we already know a lot about the material eliminativists and AI. And Nagel takes them on in a direct way. But I dont know how if any of that gets too far outside of academe. So maybe the book about movies would be a better direction? I am open to the that.
You damn straight, Skippy! I would be honored to share a book study on Francis Spufford! Esp. as their is, currently, a huge movement in “Apologetics” in the Christian church. I love this particular branch of faith expression. This book would have a body of intertextual “Giants in Christian Apologetics”, incl. Ravi Zacharias’ “Let My People Think” ministry, where he confronts the post modernists’ ontological folly in their argument against “absolutism”; Dr. Albert Mohler, (Pres. of the Southern Baptist Seminary Inst.) did a prophetic and expositional sermon series in 2008 (which I relished), called “The New Atheism: The Endgame of Secularism”, where he boldly confronts Richard Dawkins’ “God Delusion” and Christopher Hitchens, and Samuel Beckett, (whom Dr. Mohler referred to as “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”).
George Steiner, Nostalgia for the Absolute . The problems of sustaining a commitment to truths when the truth is hard to face, especially for a whole civilization.
This one sounds great, too.
I was thinking that most people here are skeptical about materialism, so it might be healthy to read someone who endorses it, just as a matter of intellectual hygiene. But I’m not strongly attached to this. Devotional Cinema is a remarkable book and I’m certainly curious to see how people here would react to it. It might also be interesting to see some of the films the author draws from and discuss them.
I think that’s a great idea. There is also a case to be made for a kind of materialism which is not anti-spiritual or reductive, yet affirms the reality and value of material existence as foundational to the whole. Why does “materialism” get a bad rap in some spiritual discourses? Just as “spirituality” does in materialist ones…
Morever, there is also a lot to be learned from and appreciated about the interesting ways thinkers can be wrong.
Also, we can learn from a thinker’s style as much as from their arguments.
Further, one can take what one needs, and leave the rest.
For myself (in a future talk or other topic) I would like to clarify the difference between “physicalism” and “materialism,” and how these refer back to consciousness and the world as in some way irreducibly objective.