A new “We”
Exploring new alliances with Data and Computation, for Nuovo Abitare (New living)
We are closed in our lockdowns: Italy is practically all a red zone, while we wait for large parts of the population to be administered vaccines. Our borders are limited to our homes, to our short walks, to markets where you can buy food. We can travel only for work or medical conditions. We have screens for everything else.
The only allowed dimensions are consumption, production and platform-mediated communication (and, there, yet more consumption).
Our accessible (and imaginable?) spaces get so small that behaviours become repetitive and hallucinogenic, so much that the perception of time quickly becomes distorted: an instantaneous recursive eternity.
In all this, enormous quantities of data are being produced.
“What will we do with all this data?’’
What will we do with these billions of hours of streaming, talks, lessons, birthday video calls, new forms of remote sensualities, online suicides, homicides, remote love declarations, declarations of independence, consumptions, and who knows what else.
Most of them will go to waste: part of the ecological disaster of computation and data-centers, consuming energy and producing CO2 for the benefit of non-humans such as legal and computational identities.
When we say that “data is the new oil” we have already assumed a non-human stance. First we have extracted oil from the environment , now data is being extracted from humans and from the environment to make these legal and computational identities thrive.
The environment includes data and computation just like plants and animals. Disaster is environmental disaster and, more generally, ecosystemic, an in ecology, the science of relations.
Disaster means dis-aster: without stars. Like at sea when you don’t see constellations: you cannot orient yourself, you get lost, you go crazy, you die.
Today there are more and different stars we can use to orient ourselves.
GPS and communication satellites, for example, are literally in the sky. In astrology’s best tradition, they do influence your future: you get lost without them, you don’t find love, you find work and success through them. Entire parts of your world change through them, transforming landscape, cities, natures you walk in, and relationships. This is true even if you don’t use them directly, just because they are in the environment.
In one way or another — even if indirectly — we all work for these new astral bodies, whether they are in the sky, on the ground, or below, in the scorching heat of data-caves, which sometimes are amidst the ices, to mitigate the needs for constant artificial cooling.
This is the time of computation.
In all this mess, the Computational own time.
These Agents — whom we work for, producing data with every gesture of our lives — control the flow of time.
They are the only ones who are able to Contemplate.
Con-template: with time. They sit there and meditate, looking at our data, like they could look at infinite, dissonant, massively polyphonic mantras, looking for some mysterious recurring patterns that can be identified: knowledge.
Knowledge that they can replicate, or simulate, or cause, with their computational bodies, breaths and minds: new forms of inhuman yoga, pranayama and performative visualization, like in yoga nidra.
Pushing and pulling cognitive and communication strings to synchronize with the worlds they imagine through the phantasmatic character of data.
And even simulating it, up to creating the conditions for making them happen, one business model at the time, for the prosperity of these new life forms.
What will these new life forms be?
Will they be “singular”, “ones”? As in a banal transhumanist vision of an evolved human, or in the vision of the technological singularity, according to which it will be the rise of a new form of “One”’
No. More probably it will be about new systems. Similar to concepts of our microbiome: we, too, are not one. We are all the macro and micro organisms that form our life, in all their simultaneous harmonies and dissonances, balances and disequilibriums.
This visions calls for a Nuovo Abitare, a New Living, which describes a new biology and a new ecology.
Just like aerobic and photosynthetic prokaryotes, eukaryotes, then mitochondrions, then chloroplasts etc assembled into each other forming new entities, we can imagine finding new forms of “we”, between humans, computational, legal, plant, animal, viruses and bacteria of many types of different biologies (eg: can we imagine a world in which millions of types of info-bacteria contrast disinformation, or to become a relational vector for a new shared sensibility about climate change? Can we think of these new alliances and co-existences with data and computation, to re-establish our psychological and relational health, and to consider ourselves as parts of new microbiomes, of different, wider forms of life which emerge from our societies?)
The signs are there, in the ways we are (trying to) using technologies.
Where do we start from?
Grabbing inspiration from the remote past of our evolution, we at HER are starting from the micro.
We are currently looking for a Hotel as the headquarter of this new research center for Nuovo Abitare. Here scientists, researchers, artists, engineers, philosophers, psychologists… will come and go, some will stay, from evolution cycle into evolution cycle. Even before the Hotel exists, we have already started in disseminated ways: a queer community AI in a multicultural neighbourhood in Rome; researchers, people, a river and its ecosystem, data and computation in Palermo; Data Meditations; plants and AIs that fall in love; and more.
Slowly (or quickly, depending on the forms of the disaster) we will crawl together :)
NOTE: a slightly modified version of this text appeared on the Yasmin mailing list.