Every morning the Scenopoetes dentirostris, a bird of the Australian rain forests, cuts leaves, makes them fall to the ground, and turns them over so that the paler internal side contrasts with the earth. In this way it constructs a stage for itself like a ready-made; and directly above, on a creeper or branch, while fluffing its feathers beneath its beak to reveal their yellow roots, it sings a complex song made up from its own notes and, at intervals, those of other birds that it imitates; it is a complete artist. This is not a synaesthesia of the flesh but blocs of sensations in the territory—colors, postures, and sounds that sketch out a total work of art. These sonorous blocs are refrains; but there are also refrains of posture and color, and postures and colors are always being introduced into refrains: bowing low, straightening up, dancing in a circle and a line of colors. The whole of the refrain is the being of sensation. Monuments are refrains. In this respect art is continually haunted by the animal. 


What Is Philosophy? Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and 

Graham Burchell. New York: Columbia University Press.


It is said that “data” is the most universal and the emptiest concept. But what if the past is data? What can we do about it? What if every past second is a material bit, a semiotic sign, a symbol in a text that needs — or needs not — to be organized as a whole, as a machine, a body, a corpus, a unit that will produce a certain range of effects.

There are many definitions of data. Data is another self-evident concept. I am in an elevator, I am about ten years old. It is early in the morning and I am going to school. Once again, I woke up too early. My brain flashes illogical images of people I know, uncontrolled words, and I feel I need to tame my mind. Why this imperative? Today I would like to imagine the articulation of every second of the past, every bit, into a coherent whole. Everybody understands “the sky is blue”. But how can existential data belonging to the past be understood?

The average comprehensibility of data is by definition questionable. Even if the world is a computer simulation, the feeling of what we call experience cannot be a simple line of code if interpretation and signifier differ. If data amounts to chemical particles, the enigma or singularity of self remains. The fact that we live already in an understanding of data and that the meaning of data is at the same time shrouded in blinding light proves the necessity of asking: what is “being data”? And what about “living in the era of data”? If we could transform a human past into data, how would we interpret and organize it, and who would do it? What would the first second of any existence look like if it could be universalized? An explosion of multiplicity that finds its limit in the emergence of the concept of one? One second. One multiplicity. One sense of feeling and observing around. We are, it seems, born as observers. I remember the first seconds of my daughter, observing around with apprehension and curiosity, her eyes wide open, perhaps the only part of her body that was not still made of folds.

I did not know if I were awake in that elevator, or to be more precise, I knew I was experiencing an intermediate and painful state between dreaming and being awake, because of the obligation to go to school. Hence the disparate mind-pops. Hence the need on the way to school for an imperative, a unifying principle that would organise and filter the uncontrolled data, not only as consciousness but as personality or character. Infinite regression of memories: me thinking of my young self in an elevator thinking of a previous familiar and supposedly anecdotic relation to another human, herself a consciousness filled with memories of memories, unified only in my disunified mind. I had gone on thinking, while I was awake, about what I had just been day-dreaming, and these thoughts could not be defined; it seemed to me that I myself, in that elevator — which was not elevating me but going down —, was not the subject of my life, or more precisely that this subject was not self-evident data, but a question and a challenge.

Regarding, understanding and grasping, choosing, and gaining access to, might appear to be attitudes of inquiry into data, but the acceptation that data is a given, almost imposed by the etymology of the term, can be questioned. Data is construed, it might also be elaborated as we consider it, perhaps — as often noted — invented by the observer. But invented from which material if not another form of data? What is the data of data? The being that has the character of datasein has a relation to the question of life as Creal itself, creation of the real independently of any creator. There seems to be a priority of data, but is it a primordiality? If infinite probability is the prima materia that I call Creal without being able to define it as data would be defined, is this a given matter (data again) or a process of giving (plenteous) meaning (sense creation)?

Can we go beyond impressions that persist or alternatively vanish after we awake, in a state of darkness, perhaps pleasant and restful, perhaps disturbing? I remember a photograph of a young boy socially defined as me at six or seven, siting in a field with a horse in the background. The grass is green, and I am smiling. I have no recollection of the actual day when this image was taken, and since the photograph itself has disappeared, it stands in my mind — and in the mind of a few others — as a bridge between two erased realities. I remember I looked like I was smiling, but I don’t remember how it felt to be smiling when I was six or seven, not even if my appearance of joy was authentic or a practical pose. I don’t remember if I could hear the whistling of trains or the note of a bird in the forest. But I am aware that the photograph, even in my mind, is bordered by rectangular limits, hiding what cannot be seen, what could not be heard. One photo. One moment. One person and one horse. Cuts or folds in the stuff of the Creal, folds — Leibnizian or not — in the prima materia, which appear like reality-cuts. Or cuts and leaps between multiverses that seem like existential folds to an active impression and experience of reality. A science of being (ontology) is a crealectic; it is also a henology, a science of unification.

I have proposed to call anthrobotics the perspective according to which human-machine assemblages are collective bodies that have historically been prior to their parts (see the paper ‘We, Anthrobot’, de Miranda et al, 2016). We are a symbiotic species made of flesh and renewable algorithmic protocols, language being the privileged tool of this dialectic between the anthropic factor and the robotic factor, each pole enabling the other. The anthrobotic ontology — which might bare other names, like cyborg (Haraway, 1984), megamachine (Mumford, 1967), or desiring-machine (Deleuze & Guattari, 1972) — has become aware of itself via the development and realisations of digital languages.

I wish to expand this thesis theoretically. One potential issue with the anthrobotic view as it was presented is that it might be understood as an anthropocentric position, stating that there is a qualitative difference between humans and other living beings and, incidentally, that machines are always and only human made. In fact, I’d like to propose a non-anthropocentric more general theory: anthrobotics as the human aspect of a wider biological and even cosmological tendency. Perhaps I should call this hypothesis the crealectics of proliferation and explosion.

Anthrobotics is the human-machine interaction aspect of a universal worldforming dynamic process. It is a moment of a larger epistemic and ontological sphere dealing with the production of lifeworlds (cosmos, Umwelt) — this calls for a cosmology. This cosmology relies on a non-dualist process philosophy which calls Creal its prima materia (de Miranda, 2008; Aristotle, Physics), defined as a flow of infinite probability and incessant production of alterity. As pure multiplicity, the Creal is never totally One, but it might be strangely attracted by its opposite shadow: the idea of unity. Since this is a non-dualist dynamic ontology —ideas are real, not more real than reality as in Plato but not less real than reality as in nominalism —, the concept of One is a cosmological given rather than a non-existing abstraction. It might work as a physical force.

The Creal is an absolute axiom which can be defined as the ever-going dissemination of difference, of infinite potentiality (Aristotle, Physics; Bergson, 1907; Whitehead, 1929). Conversely, proliferation is the ever-going reproduction or multiplication of a similar bioelectronical form. Biology has shown that a thriving organism is one that proliferates (Darwin). Proliferation is driven towards the production of the one and same. Crealization is driven towards the production of the multiple and the different.

The dialectic of proliferation and crealization, or rather their crealectic, is the metaquestion of several sciences: biology (how do bodies and organisms (re)produce their form?), physics (why are there cosmological mathematical laws?), politics (how do institutions endure?), psychology (how does the self and its self-consciousness emerge?). Recently the interesting biosemiotics perspective, Peirce-related, has proposed to explain this process in terms of production of signs, sign-relations, and interpretations (Peirce, 1892; Sebeok, 1989; Deely, 2001; Hoffmeyer, 2009; Deacon, 2011; Wheeler, 2016). Brier (2013) calls cybersemiotics his promising reconciliation of biosemiotics and cybernetics. It is not clear yet for me how signs are supposed to make structures, in other words how raw data becomes a discourse, and how this discourse functions as an ecosystem.

One way of looking at proliferation and disparation (Deleuze, 1968) is by equating the two terms with the concepts of syntropy (negentropy) and entropy (Schrödinger, 1944; Brillouin, 1953; Albert Szent-Györgyi, 1974). But proliferation is more than syntropy. It is not only the fact that a zone of the creal achieves an integrity-equilibrium but also about the capacity of this entity to expand by persistence of its structure over time, by territorialisation, and/or by reproduction.

“Cybersemiotics constructs a non-reductionist framework in order to integrate third person knowledge from the exact sciences and the life sciences with first person knowledge described as the qualities of feeling in humanities and second person intersubjective knowledge of the partly linguistic communicative interactions, on which the social and cultural aspects of reality are based. The modern view of the universe as made through evolution in irreversible time, forces us to view man as a product of evolution and therefore an observer from inside the universe. This changes the way we conceptualize the problem and the role of consciousness in nature and culture. The theory of evolution forces us to conceive the natural and social sciences as well as the humanities together in one theoretical framework of unrestricted or absolute naturalism, where consciousness as well as culture is part of nature. But the theories of the phenomenological life world and the hermeneutics of the meaning of communication seem to defy classical scientific explanations. The humanities therefore send another insight the opposite way down the evolutionary ladder, with questions like: What is the role of consciousness, signs and meaning in the development of our knowledge about evolution? Phenomenology and hermeneutics show the sciences that their prerequisites are embodied living conscious beings imbued with meaningful language and with a culture. One can see the world view that emerges from the work of the sciences as a reconstruction back into time of our present ecological and evolutionary selfunderstanding as semiotic intersubjective conscious cultural and historical creatures, but unable to handle the aspects of meaning and conscious awareness and therefore leaving it out of the story. Cybersemiotics proposes to solve the dualistic paradox by starting in the middle with semiotic cognition and communication as a basic sort of reality in which all our knowledge is created and then suggests that knowledge develops into four aspects of human reality: Our surrounding nature described by the physical and chemical natural sciences, our corporality described by the life sciences such as biology and medicine, our inner world of subjective experience described by phenomenologically based investigations and our social world described by the social sciences. I call this alternative model to the positivistic hierarchy the cybersemiotic star.”

Read the paper: Cybersemiotics: A New Foundation for Transdisciplinary Theory of Information, Cognition, Meaningful Communication and the Interaction Between Nature and Culture | CYBERSEMIOTICS

Terrence Deacon, Professor of Biological Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, gives a presentation as part of the University of Oregon Conference on Biosemiotics and Culture. This conference, organized by Visiting Professor Wendy Wheeler and Molly Westling, focuses on the cultural dimensions of this new interdisciplinary field that explores meaningful relationships and communication throughout the living world. This communication includes the whole range of behaviors from intracellular code exchanges to interspecies communication and human language and culture. This new field has enormous potential for reintegrating cultural studies with the life sciences and opening new perspectives on the evolution of language and the arts. “Biosemiotics and Culture” will be the first such conference in the United States.

Watch the video here