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Arguing that Bifo’s concerns over the ‘neurological mutation’ supposed to result from our use of technology miss the real implications of machinic intelligence, I argue in this essay that we might critically attend, instead, to the implications of cognitive disinvestment in human intellection. Here is an extract from the essay, full version in Volume 49.

Automation, argues Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, is turning us into automatons, roboticized beings made over in the image of our own technologies, now turned against us: “[T]echnology is changing the perspective and the format of cognitive activity.”1 Knowledge, now transindividual and externalized in the networked ‘hypercortex’ of the internet, effects a ‘neurological mutation’ that overwrites the singularity of the subject: “Singularity, the mark of conscious experience, is the victim of the hypercortex’s process of formation in which the individual mind gets more and more automated and interconnected, more and more uniformatted. When history is replaced by the implementation of a techno logical model, formatted by the networked machine, then singularity fades, and con scious ness is replaced by cognitive formatting of the interaction with the hypercortex.” The shift to electronic learning in education, for example, he contends, produces a ‘cognitive formatting’ of the brain so that it becomes the ready and responsive instrument of neoliberalism’s entrepreneurial imperatives. Computational technology supposedly robs the human of its own originary autonomy. Berardi’s use of the term ‘neurological mutation’ suggests some fundamental and perhaps irredeem able rewiring of the subject’s cognitive apparatus; an epochal shift in the very nature of the human nervous system. This claim is argued at some length in his most recent book, in which he writes that it is only now, with the rise of digital technologies, that “the insertions of neurolinguistic memes and automatic devices in the sphere of cognition, social psyche and life forms” is possible.2 Leaving to one side the vexed question of how, exactly, this ‘mutation’ purportedly effected within the brain occurs, we might question Berardi’s underlying premise that capitalism, and the techniques of automation in which it is invested, is now especially concerned with instrumentalizing the cognitive capacities of the human brain. Given that the calculative and processual operations of reasoning –  with which capitalism has always been concerned, as opposed to its more critical faculties – are increasingly delegated to computational machines, isn’t the issue of automation for subjectivity one of cognitive disinvestment rather than one of neu rological overinvestment? To suggest as much does not imply neoliberal capitalism’s disinterest in subjectivity as such, but that the subject is ever more excluded from the exercise of even the limited forms of reason with which capitalism is concerned, while being ever more conceived, valorized and managed according to an aesthetic regime of affect.3 The promise of this affective turn is to release us from the burden of critical reasoning and its putative negativity, and to eliminate the distance between ourselves and our world through the elimination of all mediation, including language. This, broadly speaking, is the thrust of the turn to affect in architecture, addressed here as a willing apparatus in the management of a postrational subject. From this perspective, Berardi’s own critique of language and mediation, and his affirmations of sensuous affect as a means to resist capitalist automation appear problematic, to say the least.

 

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