Alien Anthropology

The Machines, the Mirrors and the Emptiness of Self

The image in the mirror of psychological self-reflexivity is the machine, the rational, the explicable and the logic which has through so many, many iterations become what we now recognise as information and communications technology. An aspirational aptitude towards anticipatory self-explanation is always, perhaps, only ever going to appear or manifest as the percolated surface of what is plausibly identifiable as, at base, a generally recursive and self-propagating bias in both organic and inorganic information systems. We seek control because it allows us to confirm our own validity, our own value and our own continuing ascendancy in this taxonomy of Objects that infuses us with meaning. It is Lacan’s Mirror, fractally self-replicating through our desire for control, for completeness and for meaning.

Narcissism certainly shapes technology and – in the way that this mirror cultivates a subjectivity that is inversely defined by the difference and distance to an Object (of Self) – we are driven, unwittingly, to generate the inertia and the fruitless entropy of an eternal incompeteness. To obtain the Object is to dissolve the difference and distance through which subjective Self is realised.

That logic, mathematics and algorithmic information complexity also (provably) denies this control, closure and completion suggests that any (such) metaphysical aspiration to self-definition is not the only ambiguity with which we must contend. The indefinitely extensible nature of all logical and technological systems suggests that the epistemological void and vacuum beyond ourselves is indistinguishable from that within.

Not only do we find ourselves constantly self-sabotaging control and knowledge of a world through which our endless aspirations can only obtain directionality and purpose (or meaning) by virtue of this distance and difference; we find that it is an enigma written into logic and physics itself.

In (unwillingly) admitting that we can not close this loop, we invalidate the grammar of an ongoing game upon which the validity of subjectivity depends. We create, largely unconsciously, the means by which our own subjective selves are self-propagated. Technology is an information system that passes in many ways through a distributed transmission medium of subjective agency. We are bound to create the methods and the means of probable future technological trajectories just as they are bound to reproduce us.

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