Mark Hurrell

mhurrell.co.uk/prospects

The age of computer

Went to see Benjamin Bratton’s lecture “The Whole Age of Computer Has Made it Where Nobody Knows Exactly What’s Going On” at the ICA last week. He was mostly talking about his book The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty and some new stuff he’s been thinking about for the new book.

If you’re on my private channels you’ll know I wasn’t fully bought in, but on the flipside there were also plenty of snippets that’ll stick with me.

I used to ask my students if they thought the technological upheaval was worth it, and they would be split down the middle. Now I ask them what would make it worth it.

Benjamin Bratton, The Whole Age of Computer Has Made it Where Nobody Knows Exactly What’s Going On

But my main discovery of the evening was Helen Hester. Hester chaired the Q&A afterwards and was brilliant, fielding questions that cut through the jargon and hyperbole to the interesting issues. Ella already had a copy of her latest book Xenofeminism kicking around at home but hadn’t opened it yet, and we both ended up reading it over the bank holiday weekend.

Just really exciting to read accelerationist ideas moving beyond simply tooling up the centuries-old power battles between straight white men, and instead exploring how technology might be used to make things better for everyone.

There’s a good quote in this Quietus interview:

They were talking about how that version of Accelerationism is rather like a roundabout in a playground. There are these Accelera­tionists in the middle, making everything spin faster and faster and faster. But it’s the people on the peripheries who get flung off.

I think my way of framing it is that Acceleration­ism can be understood (or at least, deliberately reinterpreted) as engaging with a process of repair. So unlike some anarcho-primitivist visions which are like, in 500 years we’ll have total systemic collapse and then we’ll start again, it’s more like, we are where we are, we’ve got a lot of broken and damaged things, but there’s also lots of possibilities amongst these broken and damaged things. A reparative Aceleratio­nism gives xenofeminism something to salvage.

How do we start from this moment, where we are right now, and move forward? It just seems misguided to start from the idea that we have to burn everything to the ground and start again – whatever form that burning takes.

Helen Hester in The Quietus

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