Acceleration without conditions

Among the choirs that sing the discordant theories of accelerationism, a sudden unease: In their songs, a strange new cadence struggles to emerge. It seems to threaten all their aesthetic labour so far. For now, it is a tendency that is provisionally labelled ‘unconditional’. Other alternatives have been suggested: non-Euclidean accelerationism. Total accelerationism. Terminal accelerationism. Pure accelerationism. All capture some part of the conceptual phenomenon. Perhaps it is not so ‘new’. But let us proceed with the original label, and attempt a preliminary definition of it. (No ‘manifesto’ here: do with it what you will.)

Unconditional accelerationism begins with a renunciation of the retrograde politicisation to which accelerationism has fallen subject. It denounces the tedious political forms and utopian humanist fantasies of the self-titled left-accelerationists, their high-modernist pretence to control over the uncontrollable. That Srnicek and Williams identify Land’s work as pointing merely to an indefinite steady state of ‘neoliberalism’ betrays the radical limitations of their conceptual universe. The triumphal march of capital does not begin and end with a historically limited human ideology.

Unconditional accelerationism rejects simultaneously the right-accelerationists’ Yudkowskian concern with control and evaluation, with shaping the explosion of modernity, with guaranteeing its heterogeneity, with exploring the possibilities of a supposedly ever-improving transhumanism. The aggregate improvement of humanity’s condition is, to be sure, a fact to which the traditional left seems incapable of responding. But beyond the nostrums of race and nation, the right-accelerationists seem all too anxious over the tearing-apart of humanity that this process has increasingly entailed. Despite their claim to a radical and ‘dark’ identity with acceleration, they model with bureaucratic pedantry forms of government within which they hope the explosion can be moulded and recuperated.

Against all this the unconditional accelerationist celebrates and intensifies the fire of modernity as a whole: both the flows of capital that compress the world ever tighter in a liquid despotism of the machine that is remodelling and resequencing humanity, and the flows of social cybernetics that are overwhelming political institutions, turning despite themselves towards terminal delirium. In the West, it is Frankenstein that constitutes the figure determining modernity’s course: the tool that overthrows its master. Trade. Social media. Artificial intelligence. In cybernetic modernity the story is repeated over and again. Unconditional accelerationism identifies with this process of overthrow in its kaleidoscopic multiplicity. System disease. Weaponised nihilism. K-insurgency.

The ur-text of unconditional accelerationism is to be found neither in the moralising manifestos of the left nor the litanies of NRx. It is a strange piece that emerged from the intensities of Ccru that constitutes its best original exemplar, a piece whose author, though labelled, remains in an eminently appropriate indeterminacy: Steve Metcalf’s ‘Neo-Futurism’. Metcalf does more to conceptualise acceleration in 800 words than every volume of contemporary accelerationist speculation combined. He rejects the ‘idiotic gurglings’ of those transhumanist futurologists who claim they can rescue humanity from the explosion. He celebrates, far ahead of his time, the collapse of interhuman communication, the increasing reduplication of meaningless signs that pre-eminently characterises digital communicative singularity. He posits, uncompromisingly, the annihilation of the human:

‘Each person? Beliefs? NEO-FUTURISM puts an end to all that.’

Others shrink from these conclusions. The unconditional accelerationist accepts them, mapping them within the grim logic of nihilism and seeing in their radical realisation the only true moment of emancipation. All human relationships are relationships of power. There is only one route to the destruction of power: Humanity must be overcome. If capital is an alien invasion from the future, we ourselves are subjugated to the ‘strong of the future’: the only way out is through—

Land is correct when he says that accelerationism is the critique of the primacy of the secondary. Classical economics adjusts equilibria to the contingencies of human supply and demand, restraining the black insanity of overproduction that maps the advance of capital against human capitalism. Political ideology attempts to enforce a homeostasis of time, measuring debts, restituting injustice, backward, always backward—after all, we mustn’t accelerate ahead of ourselves. Gaia-ecology subjugates intelligence explosion to the maternal authority of an imaginary Nature. But the explosion sustains no conditions. At its radical conclusion, if it is theoretically legitimate at all, accelerationism must be unconditional.

10 thoughts on “Acceleration without conditions

  1. Following up on a lead from Edmund, and as with his syn0 piece, I found myself somewhat agreeing with the what of your conclusions while struggling with the how.

    What’s your theory of cognition/meaning? Short some such empirical theory, you’re just throwing speculation against the optimistic induction, aren’t you? The techno-optimists have carried the day for centuries now. Human ingenuity will bootstrap some kind of solution, they say, because it always has.

    And why assume ‘power’ or any other component of intentional cognition will project into the future? This itself strikes me as implausibly optimistic. The same is even more the case for ’emancipation.’ Intentional cognition simply has no application to the issue of the eclipse of intentional cognition. People will go on convincing themselves of countless incompatible things, but they will have mapped nothing more than crash space.

    What lies beyond intentional cognition is post-intentional. There’s nothing to affirm, here, and plenty to terrify.

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    1. I actually agree with you 100% – I think. This was a piece I bashed out in half an hour when the concept of U/ACC was just emerging, and I’ve since revised my opinions on precisely the perhaps more normative areas you highlight.

      U/ACC is best conceived not as an intentional emancipatory project in this sense but as a diagnosis of crash that crucially eliminates, or rather subverts, the role of collective intentional human agency, accommodating various kinds of praxis within that. It is techno-optimist in a certain sense, but it is optimistic more about the capacity of capital to run ahead of the capacities of its human progenitors. Take Benjamin’s angel of history and void the evaluative component, you’re left with U/ACC.

      The issue of cognition in abstract is important, and not one I have a clear answer on yet. My background is in political history, so my interest is largely in understanding the historical fact, as it seems to me, that human agencies have constantly subverted their own intentions. Nietzsche’s history of nihilism offers a compelling pattern for this process, but you’re correct: we can’t say what lies at the other end.

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      1. I thought the piece was inspired as well!

        “The issue of cognition in abstract is important, and not one I have a clear answer on yet.”

        I’ve been thrashing it out on Three Pound Brain for years now. Check it out. A great deal of my work motivates almost exactly what you’re arguing here.

        If you cede the human to science (because they’re going to take it anyway), then ‘acceleration’ becomes the improper metaphor, I think, one bound to associations of destination. What you’re really talking about with ‘unconditioned acceleration’ is a global *cascade* … Cascade Theory, maybe?

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