Noise, photos and agency

While walking around Vigeland Park (in Oslo) among many intense photo-taking tourists and a bit of rain, my friend António admires the strong desire of those tourists, walking around in a cold rainy weather to just take photos and the fact that there are lots of them. My admiration is somewhere else because the real agent behind that phenomena is an alien intelligence that trained those human cells to feed it through digital photos, videos and texts and feeds back the human cell happy feelings through likes, followers and comments. What an amazing feat, the xeno-intelligence called Instagram, convincing lots of people to go out in the rain in Vigeland park to feed itself.

Instagram as xeno-intelligence driving humans to go to a park on a rainy day to feed photos to its networks.

The insight that there are beings/agencies outside ourselves hijacking our bodies/souls/minds for an agenda that is (partially) unknown to us and that we are active part on the growth/feeding mechanism of those beings is not a new one.

This knowledge is (maybe) composed of three movements: the first one is to acknowledge human mind/soul/agency as something like a monad (Leibniz)/ autonomous things; the second step is acknowledging the role of desires, perception and incentives in shaping our actions, and the third one acknowledging the ability of Other(s) (xeno-monads) to sneak in through desires, perception and incentives. If we accept this triad then we start fearing the possibility of some Outsider agencies being even more powerful in shaping our own agency. Leibniz would create for example a hierarchy of monads both to explain our own internal structure, but also to describe the possibility of a God monad without a body (and the only one that is really necessary).

You can see also some of these from ancient religion tropes of spirits/gods of nature taking over or driving human agency. You can see this same thought phenomenon in Hegel’s phenomenology of spirit. Or in recent theories of objects agencies in cultural anthropology or archaeology. Even this post itself is part of that, since I was driven to write it from the desire of discussing more, but hijacked also by the many incentives that online social networks created for me to do this in this platform.

In this sense, if we, at least partially, accept this possibility, some tasks emerge. The first one in my mind is the (Aristotelian) task of categorization. The second one is the (Foucaultian) task of archaeological digging on the discourses around that. Both seem very engaging and fun, but maybe too serious for an amateur like me. What is left for me is something close to what the engineer (in relation to mathematics) and artist (in relation to art) do, and what Deleuze and Guattari advance in relation to this thought: engage with it in an informed but exploratory way (it is a complex multiplicity).

Maybe the only novel thing about our times is that there is too much more noise around us. (and I am part of that noise)

By Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash