Digital Poetics #4 fragments from Munchausen by eproxy resin: Rob Kiely
'The notion that a car cannot be repaired seems impossible to some. If the car was designed and assembled by humans, shouldn’t humans be able to figure out what ails it? The biggest factor driving this is that cars have become so complex. Gone are the days where the only wires under the hood went to the distributor or the battery. Now, most cars contain more computing power than 1960s NASA had at its disposal. And all it takes is one or two of the control modules under the hood to go wonky before the resultant problems start confusing the technicians.'
– Steve Lehto
'It’s Mars at a certain time and it’s a certain time in the hills above the city, it’s a particular time in what was once the dole office and it’s a long lost time in all the old record stores and a far off future time in all your neat start-ups and an eternally moribund present in the pop-ups and it’s now and forever the management meeting now the meeting when we’ll discuss the monitoring mechanisms now the meeting during which we’ll discuss the new desks and the seating arrangements and the chain of command our positions will imply the schools merging the faculties merging departments divided now the meeting to implement the module evaluation questionnaires the meeting to respond to the tyrannical VP or to the tyrannical student reps [“executive furies of the robot lord of death”] while it’s 16.20 and school’s out or 18.00 and work’s all done but then what just other times the edifice unbending so find something to do with your time find some way to freedom or is it facilitating your freedom in your leisure hours or more likely your recuperative hours your spare moments they drag behind you bring no respite all your anxious hours are a working.'
– Richard Parker
'Robotic security guards are toppling into mall fountains. Computerized digital assistants can answer questions and translate documents, but not well enough to do the job without human intervention; the same is true of self-driving cars.'
- Aaron Benanav
Inductive reasoning reigns supreme. Those who experienced economic growth acted like and thereby imagined that this growth would continue unabated and undiminished. Maybe this made sense for awhile. But it no longer applies. Twentieth-century economic growth was a one-time thing, and the twenty-first century is a situation where economic headwinds are amped-up. What we’re talking about is SF in the headwinds. SF is not about imagination, not about the future. Just as it has a skewed relationship to everyday language, SF has a skewed relationship to temporality. For the people who wrote SF, it was about their contemporary time, though it looked like it was about a future time. This is originally Samuel R. Delany’s claim, and it’s absolutely right: SF was only ever about its own time. It is only ever now about the post-war boom. The contemporary popularity of SF is inextricably bound to nostalgia for that so-called golden age.
A smartphone is just a smaller computer sellotaped to a phone duct-taped to a camera vacuum-packed inside some international intelligence agency’s network. What was the last real invention? Shut the fuck up, inventions are counter-inventions. People are patenting and controlling access to what has already been invented. Invention is policing. The dawn of Web 2.0 was a counter-insurgency, then it flips, in which large areas of what was essentially functioning as a commons, full of piracy (Napster, Limewire, etc.), has been gradually replaced by paid services and increasingly controlled and screened access. The internet is no longer never could have been a wondrous commons but a segmented gated community. Underemployed scholars are daily bombarded by ‘Mentions’ that academia.edu withholds, teasing an update to their latest CV. This is less about innovation and invention than control and refusal. How do we slow this all down, everyone asks. The fact that some of those involved in Web 2.0 were the same individuals or came from their ethos – see Zuckerberg et al. – doesn’t invalidate this point. Obviously the two often work in tandem – Elon Musk wants to be an Edison of the space-age, and this is inseparable from his company’s petty bullying of the Tesla Frankenstein mechanic. What used to be software products and files are now services. I used to download a program or a movie or Limewire or buy a DVD and I had it, as an object in some sense, but now I subscribe to a service on which I can watch the movie if it’s available, or rent it on Amazon for a limited time. This seems closely related to the rise of importance of intellectual property. An ecology once made a bulb that lasts. Enter Phoebus cartel stage left. It is impossible to think of putative technological progress without a thorough understanding of the Phoebus cartel. Capitalist incentives lead to innovation, but not better technology. Most technology is increasingly an un-repurposable closed box, planned obsolescence on tap. Sorry, the clutch is gone, best get a new one. Drip fuckin’ drip. Most cars can now only be repaired by an approved vendor, and can’t be repaired too often. Not like in the good ole days eh? The effort put into slowing down technological complexification and quality by capital is immense. To acknowledge that, however, is not to say that once capital is removed the sky is the limit of technological complexification and quality - not on a finite warming planet it ain’t. The engineers inserting code into your printer to make it stop after a fixed number of pages are, from a certain vantage, slow-motion saboteurs deeply integrated into capital’s circuits. Sabotage itself has been stolen. We live on fumes.
The setting. No way in, go in.
The white tundra. Two bodies. One is
yours. Inside. It is, perhaps, a cybertruck.
The cybertruck is a satire of a truck, but it
is still a truck. It is very clever
like that. I’m very clever, says Elon.
He is in the space with you. Outside,
the tundra. Yes. You are very clever,
you say. Where are we going.
The closed space. His face is
so close. You could almost, but no.
Would you like to meet him? I’m
very well connected you know. The
nail speaks. It peeks out from a painting,
There is nothing outside or around, no tundra.
I don’t know about
or about the domes
intended for Mars
but due for
but not us
and some people are so tied
to the eroticism of competition
the city crawls
The Martian cycle of accumulation
is the happiest place,
the new frontier-fantasy. Be in the first hundred
have an impact
be useful, spontaneously
do what needs to be done
for survival, not profit.
There are no bullshit jobs anymore,
no bullshit jobs in space,
the metanats stalking the gravity-well.
You might find an angel-skeleton, Zubrin says. Which is a joke and not a joke
it is not a joke
insofar as he really wants you
to want to go to Mars
and start again, primitive accumulation
free from worrisome indigeneity
to kickstart a new American dream
in this interplanetary allegory.
would be hypersensitive, no possibility
of living off the land.
Mars is full of possibility
which is why we should continue
to work and fuck ourselves and the planet up
continue to feed our labour
for this dream, this profit.
It has all been leading here
in the autumn of the world-system
with a choice between Mars and China
there is no choice at all
it is Mars
which is the frontier
and we need frontiers
to continue to fuck each other over.
Just lie on the psych-test to get to go there.
This wasn’t an allegory
it was experience, which is allegory with only the literal level
which is a plane without edges
which is a mountain with no incline
and anything else productively paradoxical or tense
and the drone in the allegory is a fungus
I actually mean this
and Nooria is maybe growth maybe salvation
and the escape room is what
the escape room is Arthur C. Clarke’s
preface to Zubrin’s clarion-call.
The progressive deterioration of human physiology
in zero gravity.
Should I go on?
Violent strife bears us into the firmament,
to you, yanked up by you
are ones I will never understand
In the allegory, the animals are
a milky-way-clear sky
and LA is a horse
in the Baron Munchhausen’s adventures, and size keeps changing
he puts its’ hind legs
in his pocket in 1971
to stop it kicking.
In the allegory and outside it and under it David Bowie is planet X
and in the same allegory, the beverage Maulayresibutonack is I, birdflock but
am memory-crushed by
those claiming that prose
in 0.6 g is
growing in the mangroves
there are machines lukkan eftir machines lukkan eftir machines
and Tom is is oh what is it
to be unsung
is chemicals abstract
is how can a storm
Anyway there was no allegory
because we live allegory
without a level of meaning
social hieroglyphs we don’t understand
and this is only enacting
a scorched-earth policy
with regard to genre
that is all I intend
Robert Kiely is the author of simmering of a declarative void and Incomparable Poetry. Other fragments from Munchausen by eproxy resin, an attempt at a satire of Elon Musk, have appeared in Big Echo, No Prizes, and are forthcoming in WRITING UTOPIA.
This publication is in Copyright. Rob Kiely, 2020.
The moral right of the author has been asserted. However, the Hythe is an open-access journal and we welcome the use of all materials on it for educational and creative workshop purposes.