The Findable Cyborg

Heidegger’s terms Enframing and Standing Reserve, taken uncritically seem to imply a static state – a picture taken, or the stock in a warehouse.  Certainly, this is part of Heidegger’s meaning, but it is insufficient.  A quality of movement,of dynamism is also present.

The revealing that rules throughout modern technology has the character of a setting-upon, in the sense of a challenging-forth. That challenging happens in that the energy concealed in nature is unlocked, what is unlocked is transformed, what is transformed is stored up, what is stored up is, in turn, distributed, and what is distributed is switched about ever anew. Unlocking, transforming, storing, distributing, and switching about are ways of revealing. But the revealing never simply comes to an end. Neither does it run off into the indeterminate.

The revealing reveals to itself its own manifoldly interlocking paths, through regulating their course. This regulating itself is, for its part, everywhere secured. Regulating and securing even become the chief characteristics of the challenging revealing.

What kind of unconcealment is it, then, that is peculiar to that which comes to stand forth through this setting-upon that challenges? Everywhere everything is ordered to stand by, to be immediately at hand, indeed to stand there just so that it may be on call for a further ordering. Whatever is ordered about in this way has its own standing. We call it the standing-reserve.

The Question Concerning Technology, Martin Heidegger

So there is a sense of a kind of standing by and perpetual motion.  Haraway’s phrase “unhindered instrumental power” is relevant here..

Furthermore, communications sciences and modern biologies are constructed by a common move — the translation of the world into a problem of coding, a search for a common language in which all resistance to instrumental control disappears and all heterogeneity can be submitted to disassembly, reassembly, investment, and exchange…

The world is subdivided by boundaries differentially permeable to information. Information is just that kind of quantifiable element (unit, basis of unity) which allows universal translation, and so unhindered instrumental power

The Cyborg Manifesto, Donna Haraway

Coding provides the concept we need to unify this combined sense of staticness and dynamism.  Code, especially algorithmic code, allows objects, people and processes to go about their business while being instantly findable.  Indeed, from the perspective of code, the evolving coded shadow of something continually modifies the thing’s boundaries, and therefore the thing itself.

Computer coding and search technology produces a state in which things are not sorted, put into pre-determined categories, as much as found. This findability is what unites the static and dynamic aspects of Heidegger’s Enframing/Standing Reserve.

Perhaps the unease many feel about code enabled surveillance or souveillance is that it never comes to an end, that the regulating and securing code enables is always out there, that the Cyborg is always findable.

.

The Technological Horizon – The Cyborg Terrain System

An experiential horizon structures one’s gaze into the world.  Jodi Dean expressed this well in a talk on the Communist Horizon, which she asserts is the political horizon of our age.

The term “horizon” marks a division.

Understood spatially, the horizon is the line dividing the visible, separating earth from sky. Understood temporally, the horizon converges with loss in a metaphor for privation and depletion. The “lost horizon” suggests abandoned projects, prior hopes that have now passed away. Astrophysics offers a thrilling, even uncanny, horizon: the “event horizon” surrounding a black hole. The event horizon is the boundary beyond which events cannot escape. Although “event horizon” denotes the curvature in space/time effected by a singularity, it’s not much different from the spatial horizon. Both evoke a fundamental division, that we experience as impossible to reach, and that we can neither escape nor cross.

I use “horizon” not to recall a forgotten future but to designate a dimension of experience that we can never lose, even if, lost in a fog or focused on our feet, we fail to see it.

The horizon is Real in the sense of impossible—we can never reach it—and in the sense of actual. The horizon shapes our setting. We can lose our bearings, but the horizon is a necessary dimension of our actuality. Whether the effect of a singularity or the meeting of earth and sky, the horizon is the fundamental division establishing where we are.
The Communist Horizon by Jodi Dean

As much as anyting, the horizon is a boundry, but like all boundaries, it seems definite but turns out to be queer.

Standing on a shore perhaps, another shoreline about 2.9 miles across a lake exactly defines the horizon.  Boarding a suitable vessel, we set off and land on that beach, only to turn around and see the shore from which we left a short while ago defining exactly the horizon.

Whatever beach we see in the distance is the technological horizon.  Both beaches, the intervening water, sky, the boat and we, with our vivid perceptions, are all the cyborg terrain.

I take this phrase from the US military’s Human Terrain System which sets out to describe “the human population in the operational environment”.  The Technological Horizon creates the cyborg, not technological artifacts.  That is to say that Heidegger’s technological understanding of Being, the Enframing of the counted and measured components of the world [1] is also the Technological Horizon.

It is the Technological Horizon, not the cell phones, tablets etc, that converts the Human to the Cyborg.

It is the Technological Horizon that converts the military operational Human Terrain System to the planetary Cyborg Terrain System.

It is the Technological Horizon that evokes in Cyborgs Dean’s sense of loss of “the forgotten future” .

A horizon perhaps is not so much a division as an expression of the relationship among perceiver, figure and ground.   We can never reach the horizon but at the same time the horizon is where we live.  A version perhaps of Heidegger’s “splendor of radiant appearing.”

[1] The Question Concerning Technology, Heiddeger,

Scientific Brains Letting It Go

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche translated today’s  Lojong slogan as “Abandon Any Hope of Fruition.”[1]   Most other Lojong commentaries translate this slogan with simpler language such as “Give Up Hoping for Results”.[2]   I don’t know if Trunga Rinpoche meant to recall the Divine Comedy, but this translation seems to allude to the inscription at the entrance to Hell:  “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here”. Perhaps he was intending to give the slogan a greater resonance for his Western audience.

The Lojong slogan itself comes in the sixth (of seven) section of the slogans.  These specify a variety of commitments on how generally to comport oneself in the world with self-control and moderation.

The sense of this slogan is first, don’t hope for results/fruition from one’s Lojong practice, but also from one’s efforts in general.  Lojong is a set of mind training techniques to develop one’s’ understanding of, and living of, Emptiness.   It is in fact a technology, but one that short circuits instrumentality.

As  discussed in my previous post, Heidegger points out that the move from craft based technology to modern technology involves a move from Revealing to Enframing.  The mental technology of Lojong preserves the Revealing function, but adds what we might call a Deframing function.  Modern technology Enframes even its makers, Humans, into its Standing Reserve. Lojong however is a technology that deconstructs, Deframes instrumentality itself freeing us from the hope and fear of results/fruition.

Lojong is a piece of Tibetan Buddhism.  Robert Thurman has called the synthesis that is Tibetan Buddhism an “Inner Modernity” that created a rationalized “technology of life, death and reincarnation”.[3]

That is to say, the science of letting it go.

[1] Trungpa, Chogyam Training the Mind, Shambhala Publications

[2] Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche Enlightened Courage Snow Lion Publications (translated by Padmakara Tranlation Group)

[3] Thurman, Robert Essential Tibetan Buddhism Castle Books (p.37-40),

 ←    Scientific Brains Binging It Forth