David Mellor, University of Oxford
It can be argued that cybersecurity is a holistic form of security, the security enabling all other securities, given the digital realities and interconnectivities of the globe today. As the contemporary is full of technological powers and trends that are rapidly changing the world, the character of cybersecurity has profound implications. Moreover, we are in the midst of emergent digital-technical processes that are defining our futurability, that is, the cluster of potentials that shape what happens next. We therefore need a holistic perspective of this holistic security, one that sets the ground for considering cybersecurity as the basis of our societal and existential security in the world-to-come.
Building from the question ‘what is cybersecurity?’, this thesis argues that networked computing and global digitality has produced a ‘moral emergency’. It argues that cyber is always already security because these technologies provide fundamental resources and structures for defining how we ought to live, while significantly disrupting and metamorphosing our social and political lifeworlds. Much of this is currently speculative or in early development, so we must investigate how these potentials and possibilities are likely to unfold, asking questions about the effects of certain designs and desires. We therefore need a ‘general cybersecurity’ through which to consider the fundamental dynamics of this situation and, from this, how we might choose different techno-societal designs and compose alternative ways of acting to make these possible.
This is considered through the concept of ‘cybersecurity anthropotechnics’. Here, cyber means the totality of interconnected digital technologies and their effects, including our mythic relations with computers; while security means the stability, safety, and certainty of the ordering of the structures and processes of the social world. Anthropotechnics concerns the co-productivity of humans and technics, and the unavoidable spatial and symbolic technologies of self and community formation within which humans create secured domesticity. Crucially however, this is a dynamic process always in excess of itself, always causing further disruption and insecurity.
Employing a transdisciplinary approach anchored in social theory, philosophy, and cultural critique, and incorporating history, politics, and design theory, the thesis comprises a series of linked investigations that expand the concept of cybersecurity anthropotechnics. These are organized around four thematic chapters. The first concerns immunology, which draws principally on the work of Peter Sloterdijk and Bernard Stiegler to form an onto-political position concerning the formation of humanity through and with technics; the second concerns the android imaginary, looking at how technics flourish as aspects of modern social imaginaries, with particular emphasis on the figure of the android, or artificial person; the third considers the technosphere, examining the contemporary as historical period and planetary reality, and the resultant radical transformation in the possibilities for immunology; the fourth is about futurability, the politics of time, and engagements in the ‘imaginary reconstitution of society’, with the objective of designing anthropotechnical futures that prioritize human flourishing and technical health. The thesis concludes by arguing that cybersecurity anthropotechnics be seen as the grounds for fostering forms of sapiential design; creative spaces of ethical wisdom that enable the arts and techniques of living in the digital technosphere.
This section contains summaries of all the sections of the thesis. It outlines the different investigations and arguments.
PROLOGUE: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF THE QUESTION
- The Method of Perseus
The contemporary is full of technological powers and trends that are rapidly changing the world. We are in the midst of a specific digital-technical process that is defining our futurability, the cluster of potentials that shape what happens next. The contemporary is the progenitor of previously unknown and untested configurations of life and living that we need to come to know and to tame, such that the future as Derrida tells us, always arrives as a monstrosity. This tendency is exacerbated in the so-called ‘information age’, with the exponential rate of digitality, such that, as Stevens shows, cybersecurity practice is overwhelmingly concerned with foreseeing unprecedented futures. The contemporary, futurability, and monstrosity are concepts that are difficult to define and explain and therefore require us to, as Parfit puts it, think thoughts that use these concepts.
Throughout the thesis I adopt what I term the method of Perseus in order to do this. The method involves lightness and care rather than confrontation and argumentation, as it is about ethics and responsibility. This approach also draws on the Liberal Arts notion of encircling a problematic from beyond disciplinary confines. From Guattari I add the notion of chaosmic analysis, being an engagement across complexity that looks to establish a new rhythm for thinking. Practically, this culminates in my undertaking a series of trans-disciplinary investigations, drawing on diverse resources in order to think conceptually. All of which pivots around the research question: what is cybersecurity?
- What is Cybersecurity?
I examine biographically how I arrived at the research question, in the context of recurrent calls for a holistic approach to cybersecurity. From Rid we can see that cyber, like all technologies, is never just facts or operations but also a mythology. From Midgley we learn that mythologies are necessary cognitive maps for comprehending phenomena, but those we have regarding technology may be dulling or stilting our perceptions of their affects. A new mythology is possible, perhaps necessary.
Though cyber can be defined simply as anything to do with networked digital computing, this is a massive and potentially all-encompassing phenomenon. We cannot escape the captivating mix of realities and mythologies surrounding our contemporary machines. Their every existence generates forms of anticipation that can preoccupy and orientate us in all areas of our lives. The spread of digital technology is a ‘Cambrian explosion’; a proliferation and diversification so broad and deep that its impacts on major institutions and individuals will be fundamental. Because of this, cyber is prompting a ‘moral emergency’, as it swiftly evolves as the structural underpinning of today’s global reality, providing the context and resources from which we decide how we ought to live. We can argue therefore that cyber is always also already security. Building from Blumenberg’s theory of myth we can see this as a rational solution to our deficiency to comprehend the magnitude of global digitality, as we govern anxieties by rationalising technologies that have assumed characteristics once held only by natural forces and by extension the supra-natural anthropomorphised forces of traditional mythology.
Networks are an example of this, and as Jagoda explains, we can examine how our present political, social, scientific, and aesthetic preferences shape how we understand complex connectivity. Such network aesthetics are ways of thinking and knowing about networks, which present existing problems to us in a new light, without necessarily resolving them. McCarthy’s novel Satin Island artfully demonstrates how the network is a myth that both reflects and evades reality. Network aesthetics opens an avenue for work with myth not just work on myth, so we can follow Rabinow’s attempts at remediation; the provision of a new perspective and the act of setting something right, as we look at the contemporary, futurability, and monstrosity. Yet this necessitates going beyond the ambivalent questioning of network aesthetics.
- Staying with the Trouble of the World
To ask where we are going is to engage with ethical discourse. The legend of Quo Vadis reminds us of the importance of walking towards and staying with the trouble of the world, being present within the turbulence as it is unfolding. Our direct involvement in the dynamics and density of the contemporary provide the best way for us to meet our obligations towards the residents of the future; to confront monstrosity and activate forms of futurability.
INTRODUCTION: WE ARE ALL CYBERPUNKS NOW
- Free to Choose, Forced to Navigate
Comparing concerns in the late work of Deleuze and preoccupations of the NSA in the early 1990s we can see different perceptions on the meaning of control. This highlights a process of substitution where one form of societal fabric was being overlaid by another, through the parallel development of new machine and governance systems. Deleuze calls for new, radical modes of engagement for this emergent reality. The questions raised are fundamentally ethical because they are about public and individual goods: the possibility and potential for societal and personal flourishing, well-being, and liberty, free from anything that might cause harm. Such problematics were examined in the cyberpunk genre from the early 1980s, which challenged classical humanism through blurring the opposition between humans and machines influenced by the unfolding reality of digital technologies. In this frame, the essential tension of cyberpunk is the endless oscillation between utopia and dystopia, between liberation and oppression. Using artistic performances of subversion, which are network aesthetics, we can demonstrate the cyberpunk oscillation is embedded in our culture and subjectivity. As such, we are all cyberpunks now, in the sense that we both freely choose and are forced to navigate a world of ubiquitous digitality. We also see how cyberspace technologies are always understood through metaphor and symbolism that exceed, yet are integral to, the sum of their parts.
- On Technical Health
There is always a dynamic, imaginative aspect to ethical discourse. This is not a flaw in rational thinking but a product of the conditions of value that define humanity. Agamben defines this as existence as possibility or potentiality, which for him is what makes ethics effective. Working with Stiegler and Sloterdijk we can see that conditions of value are always-already enmeshed with technics, because technology is always a prerequisite and a component of human potentiality. And as with natural world in Blumenberg’s example, we are out-of-step with technologies, meaning that the rational function of myth is an integrated aspect of our technical-being and potentiality. Following the processes of informational globalisation and digitalisation we are in a situation where our technologies have become indistinct in their nature and magnitude, meaning that attempts to govern our anxieties about them proliferate. Cyber is a mythic construct that operates in myriad forms to rationalise and render comprehensible our densely complex, anxiety-ridden relationships with and within the contemporary world of digital technologies. Once again, cyber is also always already security.
It is a mistake to consider humans as the ‘subjects’ of history and technology as the ‘objects’, because in reality there is an undecidable relation between the two. The genesis of what we think of as ‘human’ corresponds intimately with the genesis of what we consider technics. It is vital that we comprehend the nature of technical evolution because in the current period technics have become highly complex and difficult to understand, and therefore it is uncertain whether we can actually predict or orientate the dynamic evolution of technology.
I interpret Deleuze’s call for ‘new weapons’ as an appeal for anticipation, the proactive orientation of speculation and imagination, and of care and craft, towards the more-than-now. This connects with Haraway’s mode of ‘staying with the trouble’, avoiding the cyberpunk oscillation through remaining active in the present as unfinished progenitor of futurity. Anticipation is a form of ‘staying with the trouble’ and engaging with ‘existence as possibility’ that is inventive and responsible.
This is a form of possibility that Stiegler captures in his use of the concept of the pharmakon. The pharmakon enables care to be taken and is that of which care must be taken; it is both cure and poison. Technologies in all their forms are by their very nature pharmacological, because they are what facilitates all human psychical and social being. Being both potentially poison and cure, we can see the anticipatory duality inherent in all technics. Transcending hopes and fears, anticipation is a form of pharmacological thinking that allows us to appropriately engage with the dual promise of technology. Based on this understanding, ethics as a matter of individual and public goods then become a matter of technical health. Every civilizational stage has an ethics of technics – of technical health – in some shape, as its core dynamic. Today we need an analytic capacity for dealing with the ambiguous complexities of the global problematic of digitality.
- Anticipation and Cybersecurity Anthropotechnics
High-profile declarations by technologists, scientists, and philosophers demonstrate the emerging challenge of digital technologies within what Schneier calls the world-size-robot. Though useful for setting the context, their claims need to be tempered with a historical perspective on how technology has defined the limits of what can be done socially and individually. We must maintain a strong perspective on how technology is put to work rather than imagine it has inherent or teleological power. Jasanoff reminds us to remain aware of the power and intent that designed our modes of living. Nonetheless the technological developments highlighted are substantially re-designing our modes of living, intentionally and through unintentional consequences. This means we are facing a moral emergency because cyber has swiftly emerged and continues to evolve as a vital component of the structural underpinning of today’s global reality and moral imaginary. The digital contemporary is pressing the question of how we ought to live.
Effective anticipation for the digital contemporary can be achieved through cybersecurity anthropotechnics. In this concept, cyber means the totality of interconnected digital technologies and their effects, while also representing the mythic relations that we have between ourselves and computers. Due to this combined material and mythic status, cyber is always already also a matter of security. Very broadly, security means the stability, safety, and certainty of the ordering of the structures and processes of the social world, and how this impacts the dynamics of everyday communal and personal lives. Security can therefore involve a multitude of different relationships through scales from individual psyches to geopolitics, but it is through the imbrication of security with the physical, communicative, symbolic, and imaginary systems of digital technologies that organize our focus. Security is not a static property, but something that needs to be understood as a multiplicity in relation to emerging occurrences of cyber. In all instances cybersecurity is taken to be about the necessarily open-ended questions regarding public and individual well-being with respect to digital technologies.
Anthropo denotes the human, while technics refers to technical. What is important is their conjunction, which illustrates three things: firstly, that humanity was yielded from pre-humanity with technics, and they are essentially co-productive; secondly, that humans are beings who domesticate themselves through technologies of self-nurturing and self-tending, thereby creating the spatial and symbolic relations of their own ‘secured domesticity’; thirdly, because the processes of domestication are unavoidable, humans must form opinions about the regulation of their self-maintenance while engaging in self-fashioning through inhabiting practices. Anthropotechnics is a form of ‘techno-mytho-logy’ that can be utilised in order to better comprehend our co-inhabitation of the spaces of the contemporary world, which are constituted by longstanding technologies, rapidly emerging technological forms, and techniques of self and community. Cybersecurity anthropotechnics is expanded through investigations in the following four chapters.
Successive waves of technology have changed how we make ourselves operable and domesticated. We need to comprehend the current ‘problem space’ of technology as pharmacological, where the pharmakon as the given truth of technics is a reality that generates problems. Given our essential potentiality this reality is also one of krisis and praxis. Krisis means a decision, a judgment, and therefore a turning point, a shift in direction. Praxis is the field of action where ideas and practice interlock in order for something to be realised in the conditions of human life. Cybersecurity anthropotechnics explores the grounds necessity for practical, ethical action.
CHAPTER 1. IMMUNOLOGY AND CYBERSECURITY
- Humanity as an Exercise in Historical Space
Jasanoff explains that science and technology have attempted to reimagine and reinvent human society for two centuries. The notion of sociotechnical imaginaries looks to understand how fertile ideas lead to fixed things and how the processes of this imaginary become embedded in national and transnational forms of governance, structuring our life worlds. This builds on foundational work on social imaginaries from Anderson and Taylor. We need not only study the dynamics of sociotechnical imaginaries, we can also be involved in their shaping. Here we can draw on Levitas’ work on the imaginary reconstitution of society. This is not unreconstructed utopianism but a recognition that modern human collectivity of all scales is the result of on-going exercise: the recurrent practical application of ideas in dynamic relations with and within space. Altogether, this provides the best heuristic context within which we can apply the term cyberspace.
With Heidegger and Foucault we can demonstrate how we can consider this as a matter of the politics of historical ontology, linked to Taylor’s notion of situated freedom. We therefore need an appropriate sociotechnical imaginary for the political-ethical orientating of life worlds in cyberspace. This is an integral aspect of cybersecurity anthropotechnics, which can be understood through the work of Stiegler and Sloterdijk, guided by an investigation of the sociotechnical imaginary of immunology.
- Stiegler and Technics
For Stiegler, the a priori separation between the technical and the human is a fallacy. The genesis of technics corresponds with the genesis of ‘the human’ and therefore with temporality as such. This co-genesis forms the dynamic processes within which the future of human-technical exists – technics form the ‘horizon’ of human existence. We can argue that humanity is by definition anthropotechnical. The paleo-archaeological record can be used to support this position. The arrival of the high-technicity of the digital contemporary therefore, indicates a change in degree rather than of kind, regarding current processes of human-technical entwining.
Prostheses are not an extension of the human body but what defines it as human; there will always be an undecidable relation between the human ‘who’ and the technical ‘what’. The indeterminability of human existence is generated by an uncontrolled cultural inheritance and an undetermined set of future potentialities. Technologies are pharmaka as they are always creating disequilibria in the societies that develop them and which they in turn develop. For Stiegler, we need to capture the inventiveness of technologies – the pharmacology of technics – and not be captured by them.
- Stiegler and Organology
From the industrial era to the present day there has been an increased awareness of the roles played by technical objects, yet this has commonly missed the irreducible and originary human relation to the technical, mistaking it for a new phenomenon. The retention and extension of memory enabled by technics – again originary – has become industrialized, something now digitized, as in the statistical relevance of search engine results. For Stiegler, the supplementation of human retentional finitude involves economic priorities, such that the automation of memory is political. Digital exteriorization of the human is producing one of the most powerful ruptures in the manner that human-technics have been co-constituted. There is no techno-destiny here because automation is a longstanding always-already process. The necessity, for Stiegler, is that this emergent epoch is met with the right kinds of political decisions about how our reality of co-constitution is inhabited. Presently, certain economic imperatives according to values about time and value are dominant, appearing destined yet requiring contestation.
Forecasts suggest sweeping changes in the labour market due to automation, with potentially negative or positive outcomes. Stiegler contends all projected relations of instrumental exteriority between human and machine will result in tragedy, as the constitutional processes of the human through prostheses will be radically altered in the world of work. Scientific management techniques, most recently the main source of profit, are in the process of being replaced with activities of consumption. Through digitality, the economy has a proliferation of technically enabled capillaries where monetized data can be produced via practices of consumption. This is emphatically not a process of alienation as processes of exteriorization are of course constitutive of the human – the question is how this exteriorization takes place and how resultant knowledge provides societal and individual benefits. For Stiegler there is the potential in this scenario for the liberation of work rather than the capture by algorithmic governmentality.
- Sloterdijk and Spherology
Sloterdijk contends that humanity is a spatial species. For humans to be spatial is to say that they create interiors, climates, dwellings or shelters, within which the species is constituted and continuous. Truth is therefore to be found not in metaphysics but in metabiology, meaning the forms of coexistence that humans create in order to protect themselves from the harsh realities of existence. Human being – Heidegger’s Dasein – is therefore domesticated in non-trivial spaces or spheres. Such spheres have climactic conditions with ontological consequences, affecting those who dwell within. So humans are never naked or alone as they are thrown-into-spheres; they are always escorted by things and signs, effects of domestication that precede them.
These anthropogenic islands are a ‘topological secret’ that philosophy has mostly ignored. But this blend of real and virtual is the reality horizon for the human world. All forms of anthropogenic island are immunological as they create the conditions for human togetherness and, therefore, for history to occur. Fundamental in this are technologies that are both material and psychopolitical, that is, moods of belonging and their resultant strategies. The sciences of modernity have significantly disturbed and displaced older metaphysical immunological structures, so we have been progressively replacing them with technical immune systems and strategies. Sloterdijk calls this a ‘wounding by machines’ as the processes of enlightenment dislodge humanity’s narcissistic paradises, resulting in a comprehensive house-building, immunological project. Waves of globalization and increasing global interconnectedness have further increased this process of humanity’s move from religio-politico-symbolic immunology towards efforts to achieve the status of technical titans. We therefore cannot help but be involved in the design of climates for human life, of atmotechnics.
- Sloterdijk and Anthropotechnics
Humans do not dwell passively in spheres; they are creatures of inhabitation who are always doing something that contributes to their own domestication. We are, in my terms, machine-metaphor-engineers. Anthropotechnics therefore concerns the unavoidable realities of self-fashioning and self-maintenance for humanity; the active role they play in concert with the technical things that result in their self-domestication. This operates at the level of the ‘human park’, a way of understanding communal spaces and their affects, in all aspects from bioengineering to architecture to information technologies to the ecology, and all their current and emergent interrelations. It also operates at the level of the individual, who for Sloterdijk is constituted through the exercise of particular habits, all of which occur within the atmotechnics of the human park. Sloterdijk warns that the global society, such as it is, does not have an efficient co-immunological system. Now, he argues, is the time to work concretely and consistently on building one, through encoding forms of anthropotechnics that suit existence in the ‘context of all contexts’.
- Immunology and Technical Health
The habitat and habits of human self-domestication and technical co-constitution are now those of the technosphere; at once, the global and everyday reality of digitality. The structuring of the technosphere is a matter of immunology – generalised cybersecurity – as it has fundamental implications for general well-being. Sloterdijk’s atmotechnics becomes the basis for ethics and politics, key debates on how we ought to live.
If we are to participate in this sociotechnical imaginary and re-constitution of society, the genealogy of immunology in political and biological discourse, and the development of such analogical reasoning and metaphoric borrowing, should be taken into account. This helps contextualise but does not damage the project. Further, we should consider technical health as a matter of dual pharmaka: from Stiegler, the ambivalence of technics; from Derrida, the co-dependency of defining what is ‘good’ and what is ‘harmful’, a system that has a self-referential frame. While we can deconstruct immunology like this, we cannot step ‘outside’ the technosphere, as our co-constitution with technics generates disequilibrium and therefore krisis. The undecidability highlighted shows that individual and public goods are a matter of metabiology and biopolitics, and therein our praxis.
From Luhmann we see that systems facing environmental complexity must enact strategies of self-selection. This can be regarded as a form of necessary pragmatism. In terms of a general cybersecurity we can view this in terms of Stiegler’s contention that we capture the inventiveness of technics, not be captured by merely apparent economic or techno-teleological imperatives. Working through Esposito we can imagine the possibility of an affirmative biopolitics. By seeing that the complexity of the technosphere undermines all political projects that seek to unilaterally define ‘life’ and ‘living’, we can open things up to what Foucault called ‘new schemas of politicization’. Yet we must also recognize our weakness to overdetermine or steer the autopoiesis of technological systems.
CHAPTER 2. THE ANDROID IMAGINARY
- Fallen Robots
Robots, particularly androids, are key to our imaginaries concerning the role of technology in our society-to-come; they populate our popular cultural cyberfutures as well as responses to real world engineering challenges. A case study of the DARPA robotics challenge demonstrates this, particularly public focus on the robots failures and falls. We can explore what laughter at the robots might mean in terms of bathos, krisis, parody, and soft landings in potential futures. Through juxtaposition with Gormley’s Angel of the North we can examine our imaginative practices as machine-metaphor-engineers. This is a process of imaginative futurability, as Tavares’s film Robots of Brixton illustrates, that is always built from the genealogy of our present psychopolitics. We therefore need to engage in careful wisdom techniques in order to appreciate this situation and the potentialities it opens.
I argue the android imaginary is a key aspect of our emergent domestication and co-inhabitation. To look at the android imaginary is to undertake an exercise that is similar in some respects to Foucault’s ‘history of the present’, as it investigates the heterogeneous elements that define the contemporary. What the anthropotechnical view does is take the inquiry further another step, so that it can consider the ‘history of the future’; the modes through which futurability is actualised across the contemporary. This can be achieved is through cultural analysis, describing what Geertz called our suspension in ‘webs of significance’.
- Should Robots Commit Crimes?
We are in the process of going about engineering our social spaces to contain forms of non-human, autonomous agents. They are agents because they do things and cause things to happen in social spaces. It may not be long before we have general purpose robots and for such machines to achieve something like legal quasi-personhood. For safety and security reasons, and for restitution reasons, we will need to hold robotic agents morally and legally responsible for their actions, especially when something goes wrong. We can examine this by asking ‘should robots commit crimes?’, in order to better understand the systems of categorisation available to define the actions of what Asaro calls ‘general-purpose robots’.
Such robots might be considered as material agents and fall within civil laws and product liability. Owners might have some form of legal responsibility for the actions of robots. Yet we must also consider if a robot can act criminally, that is, of its own accord in such a way that would normally be punished. The fundamental problems are questions of the applicability of moral agency and the possibility of reform and punishment for a robot. We must carefully consider these issues, as if no individual has responsibility we risk ending up with organizations and systems that are increasingly designed for irresponsibility. The design of a general-purpose robot is a mode of futurability that exceeds the technical and should be thought of across what Foucault called the apparatus; the broad conditions of possibility.
The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots works to achieve a pre-emptive ban on autonomous weapons that operate without human intervention. We can examine the campaign through the method of cultural techniques, which develops Foucault’s approach to apparatus. We can see how the debate around such machines produces representations of particular systems while simultaneously re-enacting a historical imaginary that these representations depend upon. Under analysis, the campaign can be seen not as about human vs machine but as an ethical claim about acceptable decision-making techniques regarding human life; it is therefore part of a far more complex field of techno-biopolitics. The singular act of ‘killing’ sits atop a dense apparatus concerning the technological practices of human life. Thus, the situation regarding robots and their participation in drawing and redrawing distinctions around ‘living’ is a complex one. We need a broader notion of robot ethics than individualised ethics generally permits. Disruptive digital technologies lead us to ask questions about morals and develop new social norms at a pace that struggles to match their development. Therefore we require working definitions of things that do not yet exist, a form of speculative moral design, and this a key aspect of cybersecurity anthropotechnics.
- Cyberjunk and Floating Leviathans
In working towards speculative moral design we need to consider the dynamics of the historical imaginary. We should do this through considering the effects of technicity in various modes: as media, artefacts, habitats, habits, and norms. One way of doing this is through comprehending robots as part of, while also constituting, our dominant economic science fiction, building from Chang’s work. The temporal disquiet of Stålenhag’s science fiction narratives allows us to comprehend this, as the economic apparatus, its operations and consequences take centre stage through his work. We see this through the socially fallen robot; excluded, marginalised, obsolescent cyberjunk. It is also apparent through the grand scale of homo-economicus, its vast silos and floating leviathans. These analyses allow us to appreciate the operative logics – cultural techniques – which forms of the android imaginary enable and through which they are in turn enabled.
- Have We Always Been Anthrobots?
Looking at Hobbes Leviathan and Neto’s Leviathan Thot as a further way of understanding the grandest scale of the ‘android’ or artificial person, we can consider de Miranda et al’s proposition of the anthrobot. The anthrobot is conceived as a human collective and hybrid system made from flesh and protocols, with a fluctuating zone of embodiment. This is similar in some respects to Munford’s megamachine – the ‘socio-technical crowd’ – and several exploratory applications are considered. The anthrobotic perspective aims to consider socially beneficial forms of robotics and automation. Anthrobotics and its antecedents can therefore be considered as a type of android imaginary.
CHAPTER 3. THE TECHNOSPHERE AND THE CONTEMPORARY
- Smog Above, Desert Below
Agamben introduces ‘the contemporary’ as a persona, someone able to see the obscurity and darkness of the present. We can use this to avoid being drawn to the ‘lights’ of specific or general technologies, instead considering how the present epoch of technics brings-forth the world in particular ways. Through a critical reading of Heidegger we can consider what he called the essence of technology, which is about the dominant modes and logics that underpin technology, and the manner in which these reveal or un-conceal the world. Technology is, fundamentally, poiesis, as similar to poetry it brings-forth the world in a particular framing. According to Heidegger the essence of modern technology is a challenging-forth, a negative process, yet we are equipped to choose a different approach. We must be aware of our capacities and carefully consider the dominant mode of domestication, something the method of the contemporary persona can activate. This is key for inquiring into the present as contemporaneity, a densely heterogeneous reality that neither a continuation or a complete break from previous historical periods.
The essence of the digital present can be brought froth itself in the manner of poiesis, which involves work on defining contemporary human existence by doing what Calvino calls ‘tracing its confines’. Smith’s work on contemporaneity in the field of contemporary world art helps map out this approach. Through this we can think the present in a substantive manner, as contemporaneity, which gives it a distinct historicity and does not position it as a cognate of modern. This is the context we must better comprehend for a general cybersecurity and as machine-metaphor-engineers who are currently re-making themselves as residents of the technosphere, a concept adopted and adapted in this chapter.
- Six Tempos for the Next Millennium
Taking inspiration from Calvino’s essays I re-compose ‘six tempos for the next millennium’. These tempos are artistic and literary fragments that can be seen to be creatively engaged with contemporaneity, exposing it for review. We return to the method of Perseus, the refusal to look directly at the monstrosity of current times while not denying the burden of this reality. In articulating this we can draw on the allegorical giants of Swift and Rabelais to suggest a balance between the abominable and the humane, developing an aesthetic methodology of the present-day. This is linked to Mouffe’s work on agonistics and the political dimensions of artistic practices. The six tempos are: Damien Hirst’s exhibition Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, David Mazzucchelli’s graphic novel Asterios Polyp, Isa Genzken’s Fuck the Bauhaus, Tom McCarthy’s novel Satin Island, Simon Stålenhag’s book The Electric State, and Tacita Dean’s film JG. Each tempo exhibits disquiet and dislocation, enabling us to think of concentric spaces of contemporaneity, which are familiar yet uneasy.
Such unease is developed though Foucault’s concept of heterotopia, which can be understood as a non-oppositional yet differentiated space where it is possible to think differently. Though Foucault describes heterotopia as ‘actually existing utopia’, the concept is not linked to a place of promise, hope, or liberation, as fundamentally heterotopias are disturbing places, which ‘draw us out of ourselves’ in strange ways, displaying and inaugurating a difference and challenge. In this frame, the density of the present can be seen as effectively a further pharmakon, as its heterotopian nature draws us to krisis; a challenge to the space where we feel at home, a challenge that allows us to consider the nature of our residence. Essentially the shared global techno-ecology of contemporaneity is ambiguous, yet this should not lead to ambivalence; it should result in efforts to better critically understand this shared reality and better efforts to carry to burden of monstrosity, born through the architecture of our domesticity.
- Technosphere and Metamorphosis
The concept of the technosphere can be employed and developed to better understand this architecture. The technosphere is situated as an extension of discourses about the Anthropocene. From Haff we understand the technosphere as the overlapping global communication, transport, bureaucratic, and other networks that metabolize fossil fuels other energy resources. The technosphere is modern technology viewed from ‘the outside’, a total mass and paradigmatic Earth System, resulting in a biogeophysical impact in recent centuries. From this we can see that modern human existence is entirely dependent on the technosphere. The technosphere is, using Morton’s term, a hyperobject; an entity of vast spatial and temporal dimensions that cannot be fully realized in particular local instances. Due to their nature, hyperobjects require a different kind of political and ethical engagement, noted in a link to Anders ‘inverted Utopians’. The hyperobject technosphere of the present exceeds singular definitional attempts. It is heterotopian and this is why futurability appears quite such a monstrosity. As such the digitization of the technosphere has produced a radical transformation in the possibilities for immunology.
The extent of this regarding a general cybersecurity can be seen through the work Rare Earthenware by the artistic collective Unknown Fields Division. This work illustrates the coming together of geopolitics, transnational production, limited natural resources, digitized subjectivity, and ecological toxicity: specifically I discuss these issues through the concepts of structural violence and dead zones of the imagination. Therefore the hyperobject Technosphere provides only one way of conceptualizing the Technosphere; there are also countless instances where we can conceptualize the ordinary technosphere, to draw on the usage in Puech, all of which further shifts the possibilities for immunology qua cybersecurity.
The ordinary technosphere is enabled through and enables communicative globalization. From Smith we see this is a necessary precondition of contemporaneity, this epoch being radicalized through digitalization. In this sense, the technosphere is the paradigm necessary for situating Beck’s hypothesis about the metamorphosis of the world. For Beck we are experiencing a metamorphosis that is not ‘social change’ but a mode of changing the nature of human existence, where old certainties subside and something quite different is emerging. Metamorphosis (like pharmakon) is non-deterministic and points towards the importance of political decisions. In metamorphosis ‘the world’ and ‘the individual’ are no longer conceptual strangers due to the spaces of spaces; cosmopolitanized milieus that are spaces of action potentially open to everyone, where actions and events can occur. This has the effect of disturbing previously stable distinctions and categories. Through Beck – recalling Stiegler and others – we can argue therefore that the ‘essence’ of digitality is cosmopolitan; the turning of any space into every space, through radical non-representationalism: speculatively, recalling Heidegger, a ‘mobile reserve’. More, the resultant disruption to society means that the experience of culture as contemporaneity is a consequence of the digital metamorphosis of the technosphere. As such, this is the dominant mode of domestication.
We can take this remediation further, following Tresch, by expanding Sloterdijk’s anthropotechnics-as-domestication as a matter of anthropotechniques, thereby viewing the technosphere as also being constituted by the techniques that are situated among humans and technics. The technosphere therefore combines and is constituted by forms of praxis. If we realise that this is the ecological reality of the technosphere then we may be able to develop better wisdom techniques, making the move through krisis to praxis, on grounds similar to Latour’s compositionist approach. Compositionist techniques should involve disciplined explorations into the potential capacities and consequences of current anthropotechnics. Modern science attempts something similar via the techno-scientific imaginary of control, but the aim here is to argue for the imaginary and contingent methods of wisdom. This is developed with reference to Guattari’s work on ecosophy: links are also made between the gazes of the ‘Angel of History’ and the Gorgon through Natterer’s The Witch’s Head. Such a poiesis of technology, knowing and ‘tracing the confines’ of the digital present, is positioned as a form of speculative planetology and the centre of the cybersecurity anthropotechnics perspective.
CHAPTER 4. FUTURABILITY AND SAPIENTAL DESIGN
- Between Ithacas and Amistics
Cavafy’s poem Ithaca reminds us that futurability is not found in projections but in the actions of the present. In the novel Seveneves, Stephenson uses the concept of Amistics to explore the choices that cultures make regarding technologies that are available to them. Taken together, these examples are used to raise the questions: What does it mean to act on the future in the present, and what does it mean to be selective about technology? From du Sautoy we see the complexities of making apparently simple mathematical predictions for physical systems, from which we can extrapolate the difficulties of technological prediction. From Lorenz we can see that the future is determined by the present, but that the ‘approximate present does not approximately determine the future’. Here we see the need to contemplate the materialization of the future through an agile balance between Ithacas and Amistics. We therefore need to work toward enabling a pro-anticipatory futurability within the context of contemporaneity. This is the objective of cybersecurity anthropotechnics, and this chapter sets out a series of investigations that aim to work towards a ‘superior description of reality’.
Through Urry we can explore the many ways that future thinking has operated in the modern West. This includes the necessity for imagining various kinds of social futures, despite problems with wicked and uncertain futures, unknown unknowns, and un/intended consequences. Such social futures – in all their forms, I argue – are necessarily types of sociotechnical imaginaries. Unlike many mainstream positions they are not overdetermined by techno-teleology or market logics but are democratized, participatory, and planned (agile). They are viewed as complex systems drawn out through space-time that involve social and physical systems that are powerful though potentially unstable and fragile. Futures must be examined as composed of complex, insecure, interdependent, adaptive systems. General cybersecurity, as immunology, must reside within such complex systems thinking; indeed the primary function of such thinking is anticipatory immunology.
Futures are always already contested and saturated with investments and interests. We can therefore enter this process of contestation of possibility. Urry raises and restores the notion of planning. We can also mobilize the discourse of design, a more pro-anticipatory approach, I argue, informed by Sloterdijk and Stiegler. This is particularly important with the non-linear innovation of technologies, which are generally non-determinable in their systemic organizations or effects. All futures need to be equally technological and social: they need to be civic potentialities of co-inhabitation. Further, we can draw on Levitas to use utopia as a heuristic device employed for examining and analysing contemporary societies, thereby enabling the imaginary reconstitution of society; a focus on normativity, the meaning of ‘the human’ and human flourishing. Through Levitas, utopia can be considered as a process involving circular iterations of archaeological, ontological, and architectural modes, with the objective of confirming the structural openness of the present. This is an integral aspect of cybersecurity anthropotechnics, one that is examined in the investigations in this chapter. Archaeology involves the examination and recombination of forms of future thinking in order to expose them to scrutiny and debate. Ontology concerns the way that common goods and human flourishing are posited in forms of futures thinking. Architecture is the imagining of a future world and its reconstituted structural and institutional forms.
- Chronopolitics and Cybersecurity Baroque
Berardi considers the composition of the future via three conceptual frames: possibility, potency, and power. Possibility is always inscribed and immanent in the present world, potency is the subjective and collective will and energy that transforms possibility into actualities, while power concerns the selection of certain possibilities over others through inclusion and exclusion. Therefore possibility is always plural and selected. Possibilities are not limitless but a plural field the constitutes futurability. From Innerarity we can see that this should be considered the grounds for a politics of time – a chronopolitics – within which we can cultivate a healthy relationship with the future, a matter I argue must be considered through the notion of technical health. Further, from Innerarity we also see the lateral possibilities of the present that so-called ‘realism’ elides.
Within contemporaneity the horizon of possibility is hard to distinguish due to the semiotic over-loading and technical ubiquity of the digital infosphere. There is an inverse relationship between techno-societal dynamism and knowing the future. Key too are the various and widespread modalities of acceleration in the present period, the ‘always more’ and ‘endless increase’ of the technological and economic. To work toward anticipatory immunology we must comprehend the temporal landscape of contemporary society, while attempting to build alter-synchronizations that configure a future that is stable and secure. The secure operations of digital systems – of cybersecurity – are key to this essential chronopolitics of contemporaneity. Stevens demonstrates how chronopolitics is an integral aspect of professional and strategic forms of current cybersecurity communities of practice. The temporal perspectives of these communities are fundamentally constitutive of the politics and practices of cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is openly promoted as a holistic form of security for our times, such that we must examine its operational and political logics, and this needs to be done in ways that go deeper than regular security analyses. We must understand the conditions through which contemporary regimes of security have emerged, and given the extending reach of cybersecurity operations and logics across the wider milieu this is a very important task.
Different conceptions of time – chronotypes – inform social existence and shape political behaviours. Periodization, revolution, speed and acceleration are key forms of chronotype at work in cybersecurity, which as Stevens demonstrates are linked to characterizations of post-modernity and the material realities of computational temporalities. More, the standard narrative of cybersecurity communities is that all forms of security converge and depend upon the global information-technological substrate, meaning that national, economic, personal or global securities are all facilitated by cybersecurity. Taken together this results in an atemporal and apparently open horizon, where the future exists as a present urgency. This is demonstrable in the slippage from ‘mundane insecurity’ to ‘global insecurity’, where existential crises and catastrophes overwhelm the sociotechnical imaginary of digitality.
From Dillon’s analysis of the biopolitics of security we can establish what I call the cybersecurity baroque. From Dillon (and Foucault) we see the baroque is not merely a fixed historic or aesthetic period but is a field of emergence, formation and problematization, which extends as a neo-baroque into the present day. The formation of problematics of governance and being in the historical baroque, brought about by the withdrawal of the Christian God, led to a profound lack in the intelligibility of human affairs. The dynamic manipulation of appearance and inventive modes of expression through the sciences and epistemologies that characterized early modernity were efforts to bridge this lack with radically evolving forms of human artifice. Thus the present is not defined by lack but by the problem space of the pluripotency of morphological inventiveness and capacities – the seemingly open possibilities for the creation of life and its governance. This biopolitics is necessarily chronopolitical because it involves the foundational chronotype of what Dillon defines as the ‘infinite government of finite things’. We therefore inhabit a political temporality defined by ‘factical finitude’ such that our exposure to the apparatuses of governance is dictated by the political operationalization of this chronotype, which Dillon contends is especially expressed in the politics of security. Simply put, life as continuous emergence means life as continuous emergency. Through the frame of cybersecurity baroque, we can examine two themes. Firstly, how digital and molecular revolutions have re-coded ‘life’ in the era of global liberal systemic interdependence, and of information and auto-animation. Secondly, how cybersecurity may be understood through the concept of the katechon; once the force of restraint against anarchy in classical geo-politics, now arguably a force for acceleration of the vital forces of being-in-formation, of control via digital powers in neo-baroque times.
- Prometheanism and Sapiential Design
Through a discussion of Agamben and Virno the overcoming of the logics of the katechon is considered. Via Agamben we can see that we require a different kind of chronopolitics where the katechon is ‘emptied back’ into the reality it has actually been constructed from and has only been assumed to transcend. Instead we should engage with the immanent processes through which we are necessarily entangled with technics and continuously compelled to be so. From Esposito we can see that it is possible to imagine a social immunology that is not self-destructive, where immunity is deepened towards the interests of community. This presupposes an openness to dynamic care and the enrichment of potential through encounters with the outside; specifically through the implanting of strangers, where the stranger is primarily technik (of technics and techniques). This notion of technical strangeness is linked to Stiegler’s organology and Sloterdijk’s atmotechnics. Here, it is claimed, we can move towards immunology as what Sloterdijk calls antigravitation, systems that raise our spherological being in ways that attend to what Stiegler calls neganthropology.
The notion of creative delay is then introduced. Such delays are chronopolitical interventions, where technologies can be viewed as unfinished artefacts of temporary crystallization that can be altered through debate and struggle. This requires a form of organization that is radically unfree, in the sense that it is socially participatory (a social futurability) rather than a progressive market, and following Vanderburg, an ‘order of sense’ into which creations must be placed. Although as previously noted we must recognize our weakness to overdetermine or steer the autopoiesis of technological systems, this cannot result in or excuse inaction. As Feenburg argues, we must debate the variety of possible technologies and pathways they could create. The specific immunological function of the creative delay is to guarantee that this debate can occur, through ensuring that all effects (positive and negative) of technological change are held up to enable different design choices: the recognition of lateral possibilities. I therefore argue for cybersecurity anthropotechnics as a ‘design philosophy’ with a focus on the compositional architecture of futurability. From Colman we can take the notion of ‘architecture as artisanship’, where it can be see not as a blueprint approach but a crafting of openness and sufficient flexibility in the spheres for living, making the important link to Sloterdijk. Therefore, we can see that architecture is not just a metaphor, or a heuristic as in Levitas, but the already-present spherological reality of our machine-metaphor-engineering. Latour makes the important argument that the time of ‘critique’ has passed with the ubiquitous unmasking of contingency, domination and power, and that a new form of engagement is required. He names this compostionalism, where the critic does not debunk but rather assembles: creates ‘arenas’ where participants can gather in order to care for ‘matters of concern’. The connection between compostionalism and katechon is therefore considered, with Berardi’s articulations of potency and power incorporated. This is enhanced through Rabinow and Stavrianakis’s work on ‘designs on the contemporary’, where they argue for a focus on the current arenas and struggles of innovation, transformation, and traditions of all varieties.
Drawing to conclusion it is argued that given the inextricable digital-materiality of our shared environments of future-making, the politics of humanity that Innerarity calls for will necessarily be a programme for cybersecurity anthropotechnics. Caring for technical health means attending to things at varying coordinates. Things that are intimately close, the technics and techniques that texture our lives and spirits; things that are proximately emerging, the remnants and challenges of the present common world; and things that are strangely distant, the Technosphere itself and the post-contiguous generations who will be the residents of the science fiction novel we are currently adapting for reality. Ultimately technical health depends on how we transmit spaces of possibility through digital potentialities across the ecologies of individuals, communities, and environments of the Technosphere-to-come.
24. The conclusion draws together all the major points from the foregoing investigations, while considering a move from the method of Perseus to the flight of Pegasus.