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<nettime> On the Genealogy of Machines
Alan Sondheim on Tue, 6 May 2003 14:01:08 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> On the Genealogy of Machines



On the Genealogy of Machines


Given that machinery is in general (and I am only speaking in general)
created from machinery, one might begin by specifying a chain A -> B -> C,
or, more generally, Mn -> Mn+1 -> Mn+2, of machines. Consider every such
chain a lineage, noting, again in general, that Mn is temporally prior to
Mn+1. Thus Mn "makes" Mn+1 and so forth. [Of course there are issues of
maintenance and repair, and the production of component parts for these
purposes. Before long, the formalism becomes a thicket; hence a beginning
direction is a consideration of a temporally-linear holarchy of fluid sets
and subsets, without contradictory feedback.]

First, -> is transitive; that is, given the series above, Mn -> Mm,
provided Mn and Mm exist within the same lineage, and n < m. [Is an
intransitive lineage possible? It depends on the meaning of ->. One might
consider, for example, an exploding-machine, or a machine whose implicate
ordering is permanently lost, or a stochastic machine. For practical
purposes, this would create a break or rupture in the establishment of
lineage; for theoretical purposes, however, the lineage, on a
practico-material level, remains intact.]

Second, note that -> is non-symmetrical; if Mn -> Mm, then not Mm -> Mn.
And third, -> is non-reflexive; Mn cannot build itself (self-bootstrapping
ab nihilo). [Of course Mm could build Mn at a later time - Mn is then an
equivalent, but not temporally-equivalent, machine. And just as genident-
ity is described by Reichenbach for states and objects, one might have a
genidentity of processes or chains of processes; a machinic lineage is an
example.] [Along with non-reflexivity, identity as a noticing or operation
also disappears. We are dealing with incipient industrializations,
typifications, and so on - see below.]

Now in general, every production is a splay, such that Mn -> {Mn+1}k,
where k references a set of equivalent machines. And further, {M}j ->
{M'}k. This is to be read - a group of disparate machines M operate in
series, parallel, or another holarchic configuration, to produce a series
of equivalent machines M'; the first are indexed by j, and the latter by
k.  Here again it is to be assumed that {M}j are temporally prior to
{M'}k. This formulation is a general lineage; the components j are
transitive as well as the ensemble in its entirety. The ontology is that
of the practico-material substrate of the world-order. [A splay, in this
instance, is a particulate emission. Thus the production of a new model of
camcorder is a splay of equivalent, but non-identical, machines. The
operations of the disparate machines collapse into the fuzzy singularity
of splay - the production of a particular model. Note that any one of the
disparate machines is transitive in relation to the splay and the
descendents of the splay, but this is all sub-set; no one of the disparate
machines produces the splay in its entirety. Every technological object,
every machine, inherits from numerous disparate machines, even if it
itself produces only a singular descendent (for example, a series of
videotapes of a particular format, from a camcorder).]

Given the potential for continuous production, it should be noted as well
that feedback loops of a sort may also be realized. Thus, if M'k itself
produces a component x that can replace a component Mj, then a new
collapse {M}j' is initiated, in which Mx occurs, continuing the production
of M'. Of course this contradicts the ontology of the practico-material
substrate, since we are now talking about a temporally later splay; the
feedback is negated as such in relation to the temporal linearity of the
production. [I see this as a red-herring, whose analysis, inordinately
complex, falls under the aegis of the social philosophy of technology, the
consumption and production of new models, issues of fashion and
functionality, etc. For the moment it is only to be noted that feedback is
never a-temporal, but always after the fact; in an operational amplifier,
for example, the speed of feedback - close to the speed of light in the
return loop - may appear to act synchronously upon events, but this is
only the result of the relative difference between the temporal magnitude
of events and looping - a difference of great magnitude.]

There is no first tool N1; every tool presupposes another. There is no
originary tool N0 as well. [The presupposition is, of course, as fuzzy as
everything else; one might carve a hand-axe with 'natural' elements, or
make a walking-stick by breaking a branch. But the machinic itself is part
and parcel of the body; culture is always technological. Likewise, just as
there is no origin for language, there is no originary tool; the
pointing-finger is a tool for direction, the turning-head a vision-tool,
and so forth. Likewise, there is no implied transcendence as well - only
an inchoate series of fuzzy shifts.]

There is no identity operation; equivalences are defined by models,
typifications, tolerances, and the like. There is forking which results in
equivalence, and collapsed forking which results in collapse-production.
The moment of production is always contains a parasitology of noise and an
energy input; the moment, in fact, plays/splays into issues of
thermodynamic and cybernetic entropy. [Thus the machinic is the self-play
or jostling of the world. And the world is a world of information,
encodings, ruptures, and dissolutions: The world is the aegis of the word.
The world is the aegis of the world.]

According to this model, the machinic is inseparable from the bodies which
augment, prostheticize, and catalyze it; technology and biology are
mutually emergent. [And both are mutually submerged as well - tacit as
well, within the originary non-existent moment of language. The
epistemology at work is one of elision, ellipsis, erasure, gliding...]

Who has traced back even a single lineage, for example, that of a
needle-nosed pliers, into its components, ancestors, materials, entropies,
production energies? After one or two generations, everything is lost; the
machines among us carry the signs of lineage, but these become quickly
inchoate, lost in the heat and fire of molding, forging, mixture, and so
forth. Every machine is an erasure, appearing as if born from nothing,
tending towards everything. Every machine is a stranger among us,
including our own flesh, our own bodies; the world is transformed into a
re/productive mirror. [Every machine cauterizes, eliminates, its ancestry;
in a sense, that is a major characteristic of machinery, whose domain is
that of functionality - a domain within which both history and memory are
intrusions.] [A memory machine is a contradiction in terms; a memory
machine reproduces the other. Within the chain A -> B -> C, every machine,
every term, is isolated; A operates and conspires in the production of B,
but A is already a withdrawal, a cleansing. B has entered another
sub-world altogether, another domain or phenomenological horizon. It is
always the case, and it is in this sense that the world is always the
case.]


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