CREA public Talk | Flourishing for the Future: Anticipation as Meta-Capability | Chris Groves – 25 April 2019

CREA Seminar

25 April 2019 – 13h | Bio – Forum Huset – Örebro Universitet



“Anticipation is not only an individual, cognitive achievement. It is a collective or ‘assembled’ one (comprised of social practices, institutions, technologies, ecosystems, etc.). Actively responding to potential futures and acting to realise preferred ones represent capabilities inhering in such systems, and ethical choices. What are the ethics of anticipatory systems? To answer, I will use the capabilities approach of Sen, Nussbaum and Alkire as a jumping-off point. The jump then is that anticipation needs to be treated as a kind of meta-capability, essential to any notion of a flourishing life, in a way that leads to a politics (not only an ethics) of anticipation, in which people exercise this meta-capability in concert with others.”


Dr. Christopher Groves

Research Fellow

Understanding Risk Research Group & FLEXIS Project

School of Social Sciences

Cardiff University

How Ubiquitous Are You?

What is the relationship between God and the computer? The second seems to have stolen the virtue of ubiquity from the first. The term comes from the Latin “everywhere” and means omnipresence. But today it is also a technical qualifier that refers to the fact that computers are more and more hidden, almost invisible, while all over the place in the multiple environments that make up our daily lives.

Divine omnipresence is the first scheme of all religions. The first human beings one day looked around and they saw stones, animals, trees, other men, women, children, stones again, the sun, the stars. The first question that is probably at the origin of intelligence is: what unites all these realities? What is common to all these phenomena? What is the same everywhere? Thus was born religion, then philosophy, then mathematics.

We enter a world where it seems that the common, the same, is the digital, computational language; zeros, ones, electrons and photons. It’s such a fascinating world that eminent researchers in cosmology, such as Leonard Susskind, have proposed that the universe is nothing but a hologram, a vast computer simulation. Everything would be information and bits. This vision unveils our current obsession with computers. The consequence here is the idea that a transcendence of the Same or the Other is an illusion. Everything is the same everywhere, say the apologists of informationism, and it is nothing spiritual. They choose to ignore the underlying contradiction of such reductionism: if we say that our values ​​and beliefs are illusions generated by information arrangements, we have not moved a step forward in explaining the phenomenon of cognition. Illusion and belief are not material data. The theory that the ubiquitous is merely digital or data-based contradicts itself because it cannot explain the mind, as a philosopher like David Chalmers among others has been repeating lately. One cannot deny the mind, call it cognition or spirit, even if it is only an illusion: illusion itself is a phenomenon that demonstrates the existence of mind, some form of subjectivity, the fooled observer, the deceived being. This is a logic that Descartes follows, roughly, to demonstrate his cogito: I have illusions that I question, so I think. I think, so my mind exists.

Spirit or mind is ubiquitous. Religion and philosophy agree on this. What mathematics and physics have added is that order is everywhere, regularities that can be quantified and predicted. Einstein thought that E = mc2 revealed that God “did not play dice” – no doubt God has a more interesting game at her disposal. The Creal – a word I prefer to God – is an oscillation between creation and order, between the multiple (the Other) and the One (the Same).

If it is true that the universe is a dance between the creative becoming that Descartes called “continuous creation” and the tendency to ordered unification that characterises the inertia of bodies when they are not jostled by this creation, then this dynamic tension is everywhere, in each of us too. This amounts to suggesting that the Same and the Other, the One and the Multiple are two sides of the same energy. Any tendency to favor one aspect of this polarity against the other introduces a deadly imbalance. Hyper-order is death by crystallisation – and that might be what awaits us if we let computers in charge of our destiny. Hyper-creation is death by constant reconfiguration, in the sense that Spinoza said that any determination is also a negation and vice versa, or in the sense that Schumpeter spoke of creative destruction. This leads to a wisdom that the Greeks, especially the Stoics, but also Aristotle, already advocated, and which was recently rehabilitated by philosopher Gilles Deleuze: the golden mean.

The middle ground or golden mean is this ubiquitous balance between creation and order, difference and repetition, which governs the stability of a living system. As equilibrium, it is almost nothing, it is an invisible, an infinitesimal point between two forces, a strange attractor, a “dark precursor”. When a system reaches this balance, a new reality can emerge: hence it is not necessarily the sum of the parts that generates the whole, but balance points of tense equilibrium (that elsewhere I have called, speculatively, crealia). Crealia would be those moments of vibratory equilibrium between creation and order that actualise a phenomenon. Theoretical physicists sometimes call them “strings”, which according to their vibration would generate a particular particle or sub-particle.

The man or woman of the golden mean will be ubiquitous; they will live in the universal balance between matter and spirit, where illusion and reality are one, and where everything communicates secretly within a body-mind relationship, an alchemical version of esprit de corps.

“What is Life?” Anticipation in Relational Biology, a public talk by Dr Aloisius H. Louie | 28 March 2019 | University of Örebro | CREA Seminar

“What is Life?” Anticipation in Relational Biology – CREA Seminar
Thursday 28 March 2019
Hörsal P1 – Prisma
13h – 14 h
An anticipatory system is a natural system that contains an internal predictive model of itself and its environment, and takes antecedent actions in accordance with the model’s predictions. An organism is the very example of an anticipatory system: Life is anticipatory. This connection ultimately explains how the mathematical biologist Robert Rosen (1934–1998), in his lifelong quest of general principles that would answer the question “What is Life?”, happened to write, en passant, many papers on anticipatory systems, culminating in his 1985 book Anticipatory Systems: Philosophical, Mathematical, and Methodological Foundations.  Robert Rosen’s systematic study of anticipation began in the 1970s, inspired by his interactions with social scientists. Dr Aloisius H. Louie continued his work by showing that deep system-theoretic homologies allow the possibility of obtaining insights into anticipatory processes in the human and social sciences from the fundamental understanding of biological anticipation. Relational biology is a study of life in terms of the organization of “entailment relations” in living systems, rather than any particular physical mechanism or material realization. Anticipation is the pivot on which the relational study of life revolves. This seminar is an exposition on the epistemological foundations of a comprehensive theory of anticipatory systems.
Dr. Aloisius H. Louie is a mathematical biologist living in Canada. His PhD thesis (1981) was on the abstract formulation of categorical system theory in biology. Robert Rosen, then Killam Professor of Biomathematics at Dalhousie University (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), was his mentor. Dr. Louie’s research subjects have encompassed abstract formulations, mathematical modelling, and computer simulations of various natural and physical phenomena, including dynamic behaviour of protein molecules, enzyme-substrate recognition, processes of irreversible thermodynamics, human-pollutant interactions, cell biology of senescence, electromagnetics, anticipation, and pathophysiology. His premier interest, however, remains the epistemological aspects of mathematical biology. His approach to the subject is called “relational biology.” He is the author of More Than Life Itself: A Synthetic Continuation in Relation Biology (Ontos verlag 2009), The Reflection of Life: Functional Entailment and Imminence in Relational Biology (Springer 2013), and Intangible Life: Functorial Connections in Relational Biology (Springer 2017).

The problem of mechanization: Craft, machines, and ‘centering’ in a Japanese Mingei pottery village, by Alissa Paredes

This article provides a conceptual basis for ‘centering’ the relationship between artisanship and mechanization as one would in pottery making. Critical theory dichotomizes handwork from machine-work, emphasizing the division between non-alienated and alienated labor, authenticity and inauthenticity, and experiential resonance and capitalist fetishism. The author demonstrates the theoretical shortcomings and social repercussions of these dualisms through a study of Onta, a Japanese pottery village associated with the mingei folkcraft movement. Tied to ideals of cultural authenticity predicated on the refusal to mechanize, Onta’s reputation came into question during the ‘Problem of Mechanization’ debate, when craftspeople announced a request to introduce modern machinery into their craft making patterns. Reflecting on the ways artisanal and industrial technologies have been imagined, this article poses the question: Do certain mechanical systems exert too much force to enter into centered relationships with humans?

Journal of Material Culture 2017

centering mechanisation craft

The Value of Integrity


True human integrity is not a given, it is a conquest. We are not born one, but multiple. And most people, throughout their lives, continue to manifest various traits of character, often contradictory or in any case disparate, mal-unified. Integrity is the virtue of the one who has made and continues to make the effort to be coherent, and to harmonize one’s tendencies into a whole whose purity is close to what Nietzsche called the self as a work of art: a personal symphony.

Sometimes we speak of a person of integrity as someone a little rigid and privileging morality at the detriment of personal pleasure. There’s something of Clint Eastwood’s character in the person of integrity. Hence the difficulty of most cheap enjoyers, open to easy gratification, to imagine themselves honest. The Latin root of the word integrity suggests a person or thing that has not been tampered with, that has remained intact, pure. But true integrity does not follow a Puritan morality imposed from the outside: it is rather a respect and desire for oneself, a conformity of oneself to oneself, a dynamic of integration of our existential drafts in successive and more homogeneous versions of ourselves. It is sometimes said that it must be boring to be a person of integrity. But what is more boring: the conquering pain of worthy maturation or spending days stumbling over multiple versions of oneself bickering to take the reins of the ego? By dint of wanting to be a little everything and everywhere, we are rarely grandiose and finally we do not enjoy life as much as we expected. One might wake up one day, late, filled with holes, stained by mediocrity and self-denial, with a taste of old chewing gum in the mouth.

The idea of integrity and the ethical idea of adulthood have much in common, if we accept the fact that being an adult is not only a question of age but of heroism. To become one and powerfully serene, it is necessary to give away certain aspects that we had identified as personal. Most people cultivate too many contradictory tendencies without privileging a dominant facet. Becoming one without becoming dull is an art of virtuosity that goes through some pain, but a chosen pain, sublime, and in fact joyful. It is of course important not to feel guilty about our contradictions, nor to try to overcome them too quickly or too violently: they are natural – after all we are the children of the Creal, the multiple and the possible. But it is also profitable for an admirable life to eliminate as many conflicting tendencies as possible. The question then is: What facet of my personal experience should I choose to be a person of integrity? Who am I?

Too many people, without renouncing integrity, tend to postpone becoming one, for fear of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. They would like to be more coherent, more faithful to themselves, but have no idea of ​​the principles of this higher self. Integrity begins with the desire to be honest. Becoming oneself is every day discovering a territory that expands, with trees that we had not imagined, unexpected creatures, activities that we would not have thought we would embrace, and other concretizations of our fidelity to values ​​or beliefs that one embodies better — that is to say durably — if one becomes aware of them.

Integrity is a puzzle of principles, with a centerpiece in the center, the principle of principles drawn by the sum of the secondary principles. It is rare to find directly the principle of principles that governs the highest version of oneself. But we can sketch its figure little by little, keeping the pieces of the puzzle that seem right, harmonious with our intuitive music. Integrity is not only difficult to achieve because we do not have enough pieces to make the right puzzle: it is complex because we have too many pieces, and we spend too much time trying indolently to make a puzzle from pieces that never interlock.

To create is also to eliminate. Richness will later return, more persistent, more unheard of, more intense, after a phase of voluntary — firm but loving — depletion.

Bergson, Esprit de Corps and Fabulation

The paragraphs below are excerpted from the manuscript of my forthcoming book, The Transnational Genealogy of Esprit de Corps (Edinburgh University Press). This is a draft, especially the English translation of Bergson’s quotations, which I am working on at the moment.

Henri Bergson was a world-famous philosopher in the early decades of the twentieth century. He was known for his concepts of creation and life, but esprit de corps became a fundamental notion in his last major book, Les deux sources de la morale et de la religion,[1]where it appeared closely related to the idea that one’s social self was like a ‘superior self’ [‘moi supérieur’]:’[2]

<EXT>If we accept the idea of […] a ‘primitive mentality’, in it self-respect will coincide with the feeling of such solidarity between the individual and the group that the group remains constantly present to the isolated individual, oversees him, encourages or threatens him, eventually demands to be consulted and obeyed […]. The pressure of the social self is exerted via accumulation of these individual energies. Moreover, the individual obeys not only by habit of discipline or by fear of punishment: the group to which he belongs necessarily puts itself above the others, […] and the consciousness of this superiority of force assures […] all the pleasures of pride. […] It suffices to observe what happens before our eyes in small societies that are constituted within the greater society, when men are brought closer to each other by some distinctive mark which underlines a real or apparent superiority, and who sets them apart. […] All the members of the group ‘hold’ each other; we observe the birth of a ‘feeling of honour’ that is identical to esprit de corps.[3]</EXT>

Bergson seemed to present here a synthesis of the ideas of authors like Durkheim, Tarde, Palante, or Terraillon: esprit de corps was a tribal process of collective self-glorification. But Bergson’s use of inverted commas was probably connected to the fact that for him, this ‘feeling of honour’ was not true or natural, but rather a necessary fiction, a ‘fabulation’.[4]

Fabulation was a cognitive capacity to manipulate symbols and fictional narratives in order to generate common beliefs. It functioned like a form of ‘virtual instinct’:

<EXT>It can be called a virtual instinct, because at the extremity of another line of evolution, in insect societies, we see instinct provoking a mechanical conduct comparable in its usefulness to the one that is induced, in the intelligent and free mind of man, by quasi-hallucinatory images.[5]</EXT>

In Latin, fabulari meant to speak and invent a story.[6] Bergson suggested that language, ideology and storytelling could help to create a mindset, a second nature, that simulated animal instinct to a certain extent. Esprit de corps was a form of collective hallucination, a contagious social fiction, a more or less permanent altered state of consciousness. This would justify the use of the term esprit as a form of spiritual possession. The apparent paradox here was that freedom and intelligence were interlaced with illusion and insect-like instinct. How could one be free and at the same time hallucinating? How could one be intelligent and model one’s conduct on a fable?

The answer, according to Bergson, lay in our plastic capacity to recreate new ideologies, to modify our narratives, to regularly redesign our evolving virtual instinct, to which we then gave our near-blind consent for a period of time, for the sake of social utility and mutual effectuality. Not unlike others before him, but more systematically, Bergson distinguished two interdependent and dialectical modes of human solidarity, one more conservative, the other more creative. It was the first one, based on obligation and social pressure, that was comparable with the instinct of eusocial animals like ants and bees. It formed in human societies an effective second nature via ‘habitude’, language, and social fictions.[7] In this case, the cohesion of the group was also maintained through its opposition to an outside territory, an outgroup. It was, when ripe, a circular force, hostile to the new:

<EXT>Between the society we live in and humanity in general there is […] the same contrast as between the closed and the open. […] Anyone can understand that social cohesion is due in large part to a society’s necessity to defend itself against others, and that it is first against all the other men that one loves the men with whom he lives?[8]</EXT>

In other words, esprit de caste and antagonism between groups was inevitable. But a more creative form of esprit de corps existed, if ephemerally; one that was about love and openness for mankind rather than agonism.

Bergson thought that the mortar that joined the bricks of a closed society was ‘discipline’, which prepared for an ‘attitude’ of ‘war’ in front of an ‘enemy’, a defensive mindset that subsisted even when covered by the ‘varnish’ of ‘moral duty’.[9] There was a collective pressure on the members to remain united in a hermetic corps and surrender part of their individuality to the obligations and discipline of the in-group, for the sake of battles won. But because life was dual, both structured and structuring, both spiritual and natural, because it was a process of ‘creative evolution’,[10] human societies, according to Bergson, also manifested a meta-historical flow of sentimental universalism, a slow and widening feeling of unity and solidarity that kept creating renewed and larger, more encompassing fabulations. This second tendency, representative of our cosmic freedom, was often manifested in spiritual figures who were at the forefront of the momentum of life [‘élan de vie.’][11] Life evolves towards the ‘ideal limit’ of a ‘mystical society that would encompass the whole of humanity’:[12]

<EXT>Privileged souls arose who felt akin to all souls and who, instead of remaining within the limits of the group and sticking to the solidarity established by nature, moved towards humanity in general in a spirit of love. The appearance of each of them was like the creation of a new species composed of a single individual, the vital thrust arriving once in a while, in a determined man, at a result which could not have been attained immediately by the whole of humanity.[13]</EXT>

The mystical hero, a mutant of sorts, was the key to the evolution of humanity. Nature is antagonistic and closed, while life is openness to a spiritual dimension, deeper and freer than instinct. Universalism and particularism, love and war, were for Bergson a process of dialectical humanism that slowly aspired towards a cosmopolitan form of solidarity, even if it was constantly limited by specific manifestations and norms. The pression of basic instinct was slowly overflowed by the aspiration of life, a virtual instinct that was more plastic, not completely solid or automatic, but rather carrying the energy of life as cosmic creative flow. This energy was incarnated by rare role-model figures that kept re-inventing humanity.

For Bergson, not unlike Durkheim or Palante, esprit de corps was not only a societal notion but also a biological one: ‘Any morality, of pressure or aspiration, is of biological essence.’[14] But Bergson’s biology was holistic rather than reductionist. For him the flow of life was a spiritual creative flow, a dilation, an expansive aspiration towards the creation of new forms of society and intelligence, a movement that was regularly obstructed but never stopped by matter, reality contracted into the robustness, solidity and solidarity of collective niches, but never totally rigidified because of the underground momentum of life. Our existence is driven by this double dynamic movement of, on the one hand, ‘dilatation’ and springing (inspiration, esprit), and ‘contraction’, solidification by ordering (incorporation, corps) on the other hand.[15] Esprit de corps is for Bergson the very dialectic of life, reflecting the original cosmic dynamic duality between the multiple and One, creation and unification.

There is such a dialectic at work in human social processes: one movement is of creation and aspiration towards freedom, the other regulates the preservation of individuals into safer cohesive groups. To achieve the latter, a simulated instinct was often more efficient than intelligence: ‘Intelligence would be an obstacle to serenity.’[16] The reduction of the unpredictable was the practical aim of esprit de corps as second nature: it had to somewhat contradict the impetus of creative evolution.[17]


[1]Henri Bergson, Les deux sources de la morale et de la religion (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1990 [1932]).

[2]Ibid. p. 65.

[3]‘Si l’on admet […] une ‘mentalité primitive’, on y verra le respect de soi coïncider avec le sentiment d’une telle solidarité entre l’individu et le groupe que le groupe reste présent à l’individu isolé, le surveille, l’encourage ou le menace, exige enfin d’être consulté et obéi […]. La pression du moi social s’exerce avec toutes ces énergies accumulées. L’individu n’obéit d’ailleurs pas seulement par habitude de la discipline ou par crainte du châtiment : le groupe auquel il appartient se met nécessairement au-dessus des autres, […] et la conscience de cette supériorité de force lui assure […] toutes les jouissances de l’orgueil. […] Il suffit d’observer ce qui se passe sous nos yeux dans les petites sociétés qui se constituent au sein de la grande, quand des hommes se trouvent rapprochés les uns des autres par quelque marque distinctive qui souligne une supériorité réelle ou apparente, et qui les met à part. […] Tous les membres du groupe ‘se tiennent’ ; on voit naître un ‘sentiment de l’honneur’ qui ne fait qu’un avec l’esprit de corps.’ Bergson, Les deux sources, p. 66–7.

[4]Ibid., p. 111.

[5]‘C’est de l’instinct virtuel, entendant par là qu’à l’extrémité d’une autre ligne d’évolution, dans les sociétés d’insectes, nous voyons l’instinct provoquer mécaniquement une conduite comparable, pour son utilité, à celle que suggèrent à l’homme, intelligent et libre, des images quasi hallucinatoires.’ Ibid., p. 114.

[6]‘Fabuler’, Centre National de Ressources Textuelles et Lexicales, <>.

[7]Bergson, Les deux sources, p. 23.

[8]‘Entre la société où nous vivons et l’humanité en général il y a […] le même contraste qu’entre le clos et l’ouvert. […] Qui ne voit que la cohésion sociale est due, en grande partie, à la nécessité pour une société de se défendre contre d’autres, et que c’est d’abord contre tous les autres hommes qu’on aime les hommes avec lesquels on vit ?’ Ibid., p. 27.

[9]Bergson, Les deux sources, p. 27.

[10]Bergson, L’évolution créatrice(Paris, Alcan, 1907).

[11]Bergson, Les deux sources, p. 56.

[12]‘société mystique qui engloberait l’humanité entière’ Ibid.,p. 85.

[13]‘Des âmes privilégiées ont surgi qui se sentaient apparentées à toutes les âmes et qui, au lieu de rester dans les limites du groupe et de s’en tenir à la solidarité établie par la nature, se portaient vers l’humanité en général dans un élan d’amour. L’apparition de chacune d’elles était comme la création d’une espèce nouvelle composée d’un individu unique, la poussée vitale aboutissant de loin en loin, dans un homme déterminé, à un résultat qui n’eût pu être obtenu tout d’un coup pour l’ensemble de l’humanité.’ Ibid., p. 97.

[14]‘Toute morale, pression ou aspiration, est d’essence biologique.’Bergson,Les deux sources, p. 103.

[15]Bergson, L’évolution créatrice, pp. 46–149.

[16]‘L’intelligence serait un obstacle à la sérénité.’ Bergson,Les deux sources, p. 219.

[17]Ibid., p. 147.

[18]‘Des exercices continuellement répétés sont nécessaires, comme ceux dont l’automatisme finit par fixer dans le corps du soldat l’assurance morale dont il aura besoin au jour du danger.’ Ibid., p. 212.

Anticipation and Causality (part 1)

There is a relationship between physicalism and anticipation, according to Burgers (1975). Physicalist descriptions usually follow the causality principle. Causality is a certain discourse according to which “objective facts” from the past affect an objective present state of affairs. “It is in this way that the ‘past’—that is, those aspects of past phenomena which are amenable to measurement—has come to appear as the ‘cause’ of the present. It is a concise statement summarizing the accumulated experience obtained by observing the behavior of nonliving bodies and systems, collected since the beginning of modern science.” (p. 194) To be fair, science does not claim to be able to predict all facts from the past and future: it claims less ambitiously that in order to predict certain physical states of material objects, we can look at some anterior similar properties of the system.

Causality is not the only mode of transmission between two realities. Moreover, humans apply metaphors of causality on a daily basis to their subjective experience: “She left him because he did not love her” is a sentence that seems to express a causal relation. Yet if we compare it to a sentence like: “The ball fell because she did not catch it”, we exemplify that causality itself is always far more complex than intended. The very idea of causality might have evolutionarily emerged from the mind’s desire to reduce complexity. In other words, there is a desire for clarity and actuality that causes causal explanations as operational narratives. If we focus on the material patterns that explain processes, we forget the original intention to understand, clarify and anticipate, which nevertheless was the motivation for a causal discourse.

Burgers adds: “There is no justification for enforcing this concept of causality on the entire Universe as the only possible form of relationship.” He notes that our experience of life is that of a temporal continuity between what happened and what did not happen yet. The search for causes is possible because we anticipate that a solution is possible, and such anticipation is possible because we reasonably trust the fact that we will still be here in the near future. “In our thoughts, in our feelings and actions there is not only a reminiscence of past events, but also a notion that we shall exist—that is, that we shall be open to experience and shall act—in the next instant and probably in the next after that, and so on. Even when one is aware of acute danger for one’s life, this is an expectation concerning the future.” (p 195)

Let’s consider the desire to eliminate uncertainty and reduce complexity. That desire itself is probably complex, enmeshed in a series of micro-desires—as in Leibniz’s micro-perceptions. Burgers notes that the fact that feelings and desires are usually left apart in physical and biological explanations is unsatisfactory. Living beings make “extrapolations”, not only about the future but also about the present and the past. This might be because the ultimate “motivation” of a living being is to generate “extensions of potentialities for action.” The problem with such an explanation is that is seems to presuppose innumerable forms of local will at work, cognitive if unconscious intentionalities constantly negotiating with each other. But if such a thing as will exists in the universe, how can it be quantitatively divided into subjective wills, your will, my will, the cat’s will, without being negated? The fact that ego can happen to be the negation of will is a paradox often debated in the history of psychoanalysis. If will emerges from individual beings, we would have to explain how localized matter can generate will, and in the end, we would probably need to presuppose a form of universal will if we don’t want to claim something problematic like: “This particular assemblage of atoms started to have a will as a part of their system.” Here we could look at Spinoza’s pantheism for further exploration.

I don’t believe we need to put too much emphasis on will. Burgers cannot imagine that determinism and what he calls “freedom”—which he equates with choice—can be one and the same aspect of the same process. But if we accept the hypothesis according to which “extensions of potentialities” is the state by default of the universe, that the primum mobile or first cause of all material causalities and realities is a creative and desiring Real, a Creal, an infinite and continuously dynamic soup of potentialities, then there cannot be such thing as zero potentialities for action apart as an idea. Even a dead body contains numerous potentialities for actualization, decomposition and recomposition, although these actions might not be perceived by the consciousness that once occupied the body. An actuality for a given reality is a potentiality for a not yet given reality.

The feeling of anticipation is the feeling of the Creal: potentialities that call for actualizations. Subjective wills are local manifestations of a universal will which is not really a will, rather an aspiration generated in all microcosms by their participation to the Creal hypercosm—and its double, the One. The dynamic and asymptotic horizon of a realm of potentialities is Unity, because Oneness is the primal condition for actualization. The dynamic and asymptotic horizon of a realm of actualities is Multiplicity, because Disparateness is the primal condition for potentiality.


This was a loose reading of the first 2 pages of the following article:

Burgers, J. M. (1975). Causality and Anticipation. Science, vol. 189, No. 4198, pp. 194-198.

To be continued…

Smooth Operator: Artificial Intelligence and the Agony of Personal Initiative

Human existence, as possibility and ongoing project (Sartre, 1956), is the anticipation, the expectation, the sentiment of what will be. The future is our fundamental existential dimension (Heidegger, 1962). Existence is always stretched out towards the possible of a horizon that death renders elastic. To attempt to escape the anguish felt before the power of a future that is our responsibility, we tend to apply a form of bad faith that transforms the future into an object, a determined thing that is happening without our consent. Today a dominant figure of this objectified future is Artificial Intelligence, a.k.a AI.

An ironical mise en abyme makes this moment of our technological destiny particularly significant: as an industrial tool, artificial intelligence is itself more and more used as a predictive, prescriptive and anticipatory media. AI is not only the fetishized future that allows us to surrender our responsibility, but it is also an objectifying tool itself, transforming uncertainty into probabilities and patterns into certainties. In anticipating an automated future, humans are attempting to automate anticipation itself. Rather than simply distinguishing what is fairer or less chocking in terms of choice between several objectified futures, the ethics of automation must question our nihilism, the subject’s “passion of abolition” or “great disgust” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987).

The disgust or discouragement of being human is one of the blind spots of our ethics of machine intelligence. Appeals to a human-centric and more humane technology are today unanimous, leaving a taboo in its shade in the form of murmured questions: are we humans, so much better than machines? Are machines not our other, because of our tendency to act in autopilot mode evidenced by psychology (Raichle et al, 2001). Worse, are machines not better than us? They don’t lie, they don’t kill, they don’t betray, they don’t get sick, and technology itself never gets old or vulnerable (only its applications do) since it is today the realm of the new. To cure ourselves from such nihilistic temptations, we need understand anew that being human-centric should not amount to a list of objective qualities that humans would have, because if any quality could be objectified then it could possibly be quantified, simulated or automated. Being human-centric can only mean, in the existentialist sense: open to the conscious subject as pure possibility of creation. Open to the Creal.

What the ethics of automation are about is this revelation and actualization of the subject as openness to creation, responsibility and freedom as personal initiative rather than choice between objectified and quantified options. In this sense, extensive automation, as the one permitted by AI can in fact be a global existential opportunity for humanity.

By revealing our future illiteracy (Miller, 2018) and vulnerability to objectification in terms of future predictions and data analysis, anticipatory media also puts us in front of the responsibility of our freedom, by suggesting we question once more the notion of personal initiative. Hyper-prediction and artificial anticipatory intelligence could mean the end of personal initiative, if automatic decisions and analytic prescriptions become part of our everyday experience. But precisely by placing the phenomenon of personal initiative under high pressure and menace, artificial intelligence might liberate human active intelligence at last. In the 21st century, humanity will need to choose between a) achieving total smoothness as in any dystopian novel in the manner of Brave New World (Huxley, 1932) and b) preserving roughness (Wittgenstein, 1953). Artificial intelligence and automation are very good at smoothing the world, eliminating complications, noise, favoring flow, effectivity, and creating user-friendly experiences: “We have got on to slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense the conditions are ideal, but also, just because of that, we are unable to walk, so we need friction. Back to the rough ground.” (Wittgenstein, 1953, §107).

Delegating the care for the future to machines in the form of analytic prediction and data-based prescription is tempting, but in the end it manifests the illusion of a non-mediated existence, one of pure smoothness: a world of inertia.


Deleuze, G. and Félix Guattari (1987). A Thousand Plateaus. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,

Heidegger, M. (1962) Being and Time. New York: Harper & Row.

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