The River of Difference: Rereading Heraclitus

Famous fragment B12 of Heraclitus has been translated has follows by Professor Jonathan Barnes, an international authority in Ancient philosophy:

On those who enter the same rivers, ever different water flows.

This of course can be understood as another way of saying that one cannot bathe in the same river twice. Because the river is changing all the time. But this translation is remarkable because it suggests more than the idea of universal change.

On those who enter the same rivers, ever different water flows.

This can also mean the following: if one is persistent, visionary, and passionate enough to stick to the very same belief without changing, this courage of holding on what you believe will produce multiple fruits. The water of Difference will flow upon you if you persist in entering the same river. Repetition will produce a state of exception.

Why crealectics rather than dialectics?

The following text is not meant to be read dogmatically, but as part of a process of thought. Feel free to engage with it, comment, specify, explore, criticise. Think with me.


One of the possible short definitions of dialectics, etymology-based, is: to think through.

This sort of process should not imply necessarily a dualism of the positive and the negative.

If one thinks through the Creal, through the invisible multiplicities that are the subtle stuff in which we are immersed, we are not only getting through the negative, but through all sorts of crealia, most of them probably indefinable in human language, because human language cannot express A and non-A at the same time. Crealectics does not objectify the negative nor the positive. At the level of crealia, nothing is positive or negative per se, not even only posinegative or negapositive, but infinitely charged in ways we cannot clearly imagine or formulate, although we can feel it confusedly.

I proposed to call crealia (rather than realia) the multiple points of contact between the Creal and the Real. The Real is made of objective realities, bodies, consciousness, objects, institutions. The Creal would then be the pre-objective and pre-conscious reality. Perhaps a proper definition of the Creal should include the Real. Perhaps we should posit that the Creal is the Real + the flowing immanent subtle potentialities that are not actualised yet, a.k.a. crealia.

To this we should probably add the desired idea of One, or unity.

Why do we need to presuppose a Creal? One way of answering is to speak of desire. We have in us humans not only the capacity to desire such and such thing but also the capacity to desire in general a reality that would satisfy our deepest aspirations. Perhaps we also possess the capacity to feel a desire without object at all, a pure desire which is not a desire of anything in particular. Whitehead speaks of appetition, a term he takes from Leiniz and the Monadology. He also speaks of unrest, a term he attributes to Samuel Alexander: “Every ultimate actuality embodies in its own essence what Alexander terms ‘a principle of unrest’, namely its becoming.”

Becoming as pure desire.

But if this is a desire without object, should we still call it desire? Desire seems to presuppose a lack, the idea that something is not fulfilled. I have hypothesised that the fundamental lack at the core of the Creal, is the lack of one. This would be a logical consequence of the idea of pure multiplicity. I often write that the cosmos is a love story between the Creal and the One, a story that is dynamic because the Creal and the One are two sides of the same coin: they touch each other yet they constantly miss each other. This point needs to be specified. But let’s postulate for the moment that the universal principle of unrest is the lack of one. Everything desires to be one yet fails to ever be absolutely one because everything desires to be multiple at the same time. Hence the process. In other words, desire goes in opposite directions, not just two directions, since the multiple is multidirectional. Crealectics supports at this point the idea that our fundamental desire is a desire of unity and multiplicity, therefore it is a tourbillon, aspiring to all directions and to unity at the same time or alternatively.

This does not appear to be a binary or trinary process involving the positive, the negative, and the synthesis.

To feel the potentialities of life as pure potentialities might be called a desire without object or a desire with an infinite number of objects. Which means that these crealia are good, because we can only desire what is good. It does not means that the object of desire is good in itself, it becomes good intentionally, by being qualified by desire. We have a “conceptual prehension”, to use a Whiteheadian term, of possibilities that are perceived as good, but not yet as possibilities of this or that.

Perhaps this is what a crealia is, a pure vibrating string, torn between the multiple and the one. In such case, all crealia would be infinitesimal zones of energy capable of playing a role in the actualisation of the Real and the virtualisation of the Creal.

In other words crealia would be like pluripotent spiritual cells.

I would not call them monads, like Leibniz, because I don’t think crealia “have no-windows”. Crealia have an infinite number of windows.

Crealectics names the actual method of description of the unfolding of the Creal because the Creal is the source, but also because dialectics seems too simple, binary or trinary. Obviously, this is reminiscent of Deleuze’s critique of Hegel, which I propose we now read closely.

Hegel is believed to have said just before he died that no one had understood him properly. Perhaps Hegel himself was a crealectician? This means we also need to read Hegel more closely. The fruits of these tasks will be the topic of future posts.



What is Deep Thinking? A Critique of Garry Kasparov’s Book “Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins”

Deep thinking is the title of a book by former chess world-champion Garry Kasparov. The subtitle is “Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins.”

It may seem like a good idea to read such a book, in a time where the word “deep” is increasingly used to qualify algorithmic software, as in “deep learning”. We are in a curious time of human history where machines are said to be “deep”.

There is very little about “deep thinking” in Kasparov’s book, which is a superficial piece of writing. The current myth of the “deep learning machine” with its mysterious and supposedly-new form of intelligence is in fact similar to the former myth about chess as a deep game. Since Kasparov spends most pages describing his former chess competitions and how he lost against IBM’s computer, the main benefit of the book is to confirm that there is nothing necessarily deep about being a good chess player.

In the introduction, Kasparov briefly qualifies what he thinks is really and deeply human, id est the mental characteristics that elevate us, such as “creativity, curiosity, beauty, and joy.” He does not however expand on this charming list, but rather goes on, chapter after chapter, describing: 1 – his resentment for having lost — in conditions deemed unfair — against a computer, twenty years ago, as is now well-known; 2 – suggesting we must surrender and collaborate with computers in the future if we are to survive.

Kasparov writes: “It wasn’t until I retired from professional chess in 2005 that I had time to think more deeply about thinking and to see chess as a lens through which to investigate the decision-making processes that define every second of our waking lives.” This sounds interesting but we wonder why the author has not included in the book the intellectual results of this realisation. In fact Kasparov here writes very little about decision-making and even less about deep thinking. His throwaway remark (which should have been the synopsis and content of the book) suggests two ideas: first, when you are deeply involved in work and producing results, thinking about your practice is difficult. Second, once you have time to reflect upon it, the impression of thinking might not lead to any tangible formulation: we might think that we are thinking or that we have deep thoughts while in fact we have just an impression of thinking (this often happens in dreams or under the effect of drugs). Since we believe Kasparov did not write his book after taking LSD, we must conclude that he wrote it in his sleep.

To play chess is to dream about big thoughts that never happen. In the meantime, still, you can win a few games and some money. Once you retire, you can win some extra money by writing books that capitalise on your fame while exhibiting dishonest and pompous titles.

It is particularly significant that one of the best chess players in the world calls his book “deep thinking” without explaining at all what he thinks is deep thinking, what is a decision, what is a thought. This is worrying because the author also suggests that the only reason why machines, robots and supercomputers won’t replace the human race is because we are capable of deep thinking. Given the failure of the book to show what deep thinking is, the unwilling conclusion is that computers will indeed erase us from the surface of the earth if we are all as dishonest and lazy with our thinking as Kasparov is. Robots might write on humanity’s grave, as an epitaph: “To the most pretentious, intellectually lazy, and blindly dishonest spiritual species that ever existed.”

Kasparov is pretentious. For example, he suggests that Americans “have become lazy, short-sighted, and unwilling to take the risks required to stay on the cutting edge of technology.” Apart from the fact that Kasparov’s pride or own laziness prevents him from seeing that his book is itself lazy and short-sighted, the chess player implies that staying at “the cutting edge of technology” is the paradigm of an ambitious nation. He does not write “the cutting edge of thought” or “the cutting edge of philosophy”, neither does he write “the cutting edge of joy, creativity and curiosity”, failing to be coherent with his introduction. Kasparov is blindly dishonest: his book fails to understand that, if serious chess is time-limited, serious thought takes time and patience. Apparently, one can be an excellent chess player and lack the patience to think.

There are a few more or less voluntary hints in Kasparov’s book towards the beginning of a reflection on the question of thinking. But most of the time, they are given as anecdotes in between too descriptions of chess-competition gossip. For example, the author quotes Picasso: “Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” And without reflecting on what Picasso might have meant, he quickly proceeds to quote Dave Ferruci, one of the creators of the IBM artificial intelligence project Watson: “Computers do know how to ask questions. They just don’t know which ones are important.”

What seems to be suggested by these remarks is the fact that human thought can be strategic, rather than only tactic. “It’s essential to first understand your long-term goals so you don’t confuse them with reactions, opportunities, or mere milestones.” This suggests that deep thinking is related to the future in general, and to future outcomes in particular. In fact, what is called “deep” or “depth of search” in the world of artificial intelligence is precisely the capacity of certain computer programs to evaluate probable outcomes and predict variations of outcomes as far as possible into the near future. Deepness in computer science is not about going down into the mysterious well of life or wisdom, like Orpheus looking for his soulmate in hell. “Deep learning” and deep software are tools that project probabilities into possible future events as far as possible, and then chose an action that has a high probability of producing the expected outcome. Strategic thinking is an attractive idea, but it is in fact contaminated by the logic of future outcomes, and the paradigm of competition or war. Not everything is about wining or losing.

“Long-term goals” is an attractive idea also, but what qualifies for long-term? Is it one year? Is it ten years? Is it a life time? Is it eternity? According to Kasparov, it is “the big picture”. But what is the big picture? “We humans, he writes, have enough trouble figuring out what we want and how best to achieve it, so it’s no wonder we have trouble getting machines to look at the big picture.” So this is the message of the book: deep thinking is about looking at “the big picture” and we have no idea what this is. Kasparov seems to suggest, very evasively, that deep thinking is a strategic thinking about our big picture goals, involving not only selfish preoccupations, but also the future of humanity. Apparently, anyway, we are not much better at it than computers. And the ideal of the big picture does not prevent one from writing fake books. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

A tactical way of thinking is concerned with the problem at hand. Somewhat in contradiction with his praise of strategic thinking, Kasparov explains that “we often do our best thinking under pressure. Our senses are heightened and our intuition is activated in a way that is unique to stress and competition. We often do not realize how powerful our intuitive abilities are until we have no choice but to rely on them.” Two different definitions of what deep thinking is start to emerge here: one that says that thinking is a strategic consideration for long-term goals. Another that says that thinking emerges from a sense of urgency when facing present problems in an intuitive way. Kasparov could have reflected upon these questions: Can we use intuition to think strategically? Are these two incompatible ways of thinking? He does refer briefly at the end of the book to Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow and the fact that his own faith in intuition has been shaken by the results of experimental psychology (Kahneman, Tversky, Ariely et al.), the field that suggests that what we call our intuitive sixth sense is often wrong in evaluating a situation. For Kasparov, the best way to overcome our limitations and combine strategy and intuition seems to be to create teams of computers and humans: “One of the many benefits human-machine collaboration is helping us overcome lazy cognitive habits.”

Deep thinking, the author suggests rather unwillingly, is thinking with the machine. Or not?

At the end of the book (p 244), Kasparov in fact confesses: “I have no universal tips or tricks for becoming a disciplined thinker, and what works for me might not work for others.” Let’s put aside the obvious question any reader might ask: “So Garry, why did you write a book called Deep Thinking?” By page 244, any serious reader has realised that Kasparov has no idea of what “disciplined thinking” might be. His book is lazy, self-absorbed, unstructured, and anecdotic.

In the brief and shallow conclusion, the chess player writes about the future of humanity in an AI environment: “The game is on the way and we are all on the board. The only way to win is to think bigger and to think deeper. […] We will need every bit of our ambition in order to stay ahead of our technology. […] If we stop dreaming big dreams, if we stop looking for a greater purpose, then we may as well be machines ourselves.” Well, Garry, do you mean market automatons that produce empty books for the sake of capitalizing on fame? 

In order to avoid becoming a machine, I suggest we now briefly paraphrase the book’s unintentional argument. It could be summed up as follows: “I, Garry Kasparov have played chess all my life. Chess is a good training in visualising situations that might happen not just one minute ahead but also a few moves ahead, say twenty minutes. This has been called strategic thinking or super-intelligence for a long time because we humans like myths about what we do (otherwise life would be boring). We cultivated for centuries a myth about chess being a game about strategic thinking and high intelligence, but the reality is that chess is a socially prestigious board game for people who have a very good memory, some capacity for logical visualisation, and like in most games, the ambition to win. Many talented people are in fact bored by chess [and contrary to what Kasparov suggests, Napoleon was a very bad chess player]. I, Garry Kasparov have been defeated by a computer twenty years ago, and today a common computer game in your phone is stronger than most humans at chess. Some people therefore conclude that computers or mobile phones are intelligent, but in fact this only demonstrates that chess playing was an over-estimated myth about intelligence. This is why I, Garry Kasparov, a former chess world-champion cannot tell you anything about what is deep thinking because chess has not more to do with deep thinking than cleaning the dishes.” Kasparov does not write this explicitly, of course. But it is what a serious reader can conclude. And now can we get our money back?

Any computer can play chess. Not anybody can think deeply. Now contrary to Kasparov I have to try and be intellectually honest and propose my answer to the question of deep thinking, although I would not dare write a book with such pretentious title.

I have written about the matter in my books in some detail. Here I will only suggest to reflect on the following sentence: “Be fruitful and multiply.”

“Be fruitful and multiply.” This is of course a quotation from Genesis 1:28, and a superficial reading usually understands it as an injunction to reproduce physically. For our purpose, it does not matter to assume that this is what god said, and I am not advocating a return to the Bible. I am a philosopher, not a priest. And here is my thought on deep thinking.

“Be fruitful and multiply”: We can assume that this is what Nature and life tells us. We can also assume that we are nihilists who fail to be fruitful, or “losers” who fail to multiply in a metaphorical sense. My suggestion is very simple, and does not take 300 pages, just a few lines: you will become a deep thinker if you spend the rest of your life reflecting on these four words: “Be fruitful and multiply.”

Are you a fruitful person?

How are you fruitful and how do you multiply yourself when you are not making children or money?

Think about it honestly and your thought will become your world.

“What Matters?”

What Matters?


As soon as we pause and start asking the question “What matters?”, we enter the antechamber of philosophy. We are not yet thinking per se if we are still thinking about something that would matter (a job for example) in comparison with something else that could matter (a relationship for example). Yet, as soon as we ask: “Does this matter?”, the philosophical leap is close. Such a leap happens when we pause a little longer and consider the question “what matters?” for itself. Not what matters when I compare my job and my family life, not even yet what matters when I evaluate my desires and my duties — but first and foremost what does it mean to ask the question of mattering.

“What matters?” is a question. When we have a question in front of us, we should always ask: “How is it phrased?” We could have asked: “What is important?” But in asking “What matters?”, we are partly led to think about material realities, as if we were pondering different existential weights, according to their gravity. “What matters?” not only means “What is important?” but also “What is it that I have to carry that is of heavier weight?” This is a metaphor: if such weight can be felt by the body, it can also be light as a feather, apparently imperceptible. Hence the difficulty sometimes to decide what matters existentially, for you, for me, for us, because spiritual realities, as opposed to material realities, can be forgotten, ignored, or appear to remain “out of the matter.”

We would not ask “What matters?” if what mattered was purely material, because it would be obvious as a thing. It would be more or less heavy and objective. The mere fact of asking “What matters?” shows that we are not sure, or that we forgot for a while. It suggests that our reality is not an obvious book that could be read like a recipe or a code of behaviour. Whenever we ask ourselves “what matters?”, we are re-enacting the Cartesian cogito. By asking, for yourself: “What is not an illusion?”, you receive a first indirect answer: “If I think about what matters, and if I ask myself the question rather than asking journalists, or professors, or friends, or enemies, or the social norms, then this means I am considering myself as the source of my thinking. I am therefore affirming that I do matter as a thinking being.

“I doubt for a while about what matters, therefore I am.”

At the same time, and this is the intersubjective aspect of the cogito which was so important for the existentialists (Sartre) and the phenomenologists (Merleau-Ponty), I have to admit that all beings that are capable of thinking about the question “What matters?” without immediately answering it with a pre-existing answer proposed by a given social consensus or ideology, all these beings should also matter to me in a similar manner that I matter as the source of my questioning. Philosophy, as a quest for what deeply matters, is not a solipsism, it is an intersubjective communion of minds.

Minds? Can we better determine who is this intersubjective cogito, this collective entity that asks “What really matters?” This, by definition, has to be answered collectively, in a dialogue of thinkers.

But I would like to offer you one possible answer, open for discussion.

Let’s start from the beginning anew.

And if there is a beginning, it is perhaps because there is an end. Would we ask “What matters?” if we were eternal? If our existence was infinite, we would eventually experience all there is to experience, the most profound and the most superficial. We would have a thousand lives. Everything and nothing would matter, because we would be caught in a story without end, where each event could turn out to be important or insignificant in the course of a million years. This is precisely the implicit moral of the current dominant Darwinism or Chaotism. An infinitesimal and often accidental modification can produce strong effects in several million years or in some other region of the universe. Conversely, the beauty of a poem is considered to be a negligible drop in the ocean of matter’s metamorphoses.

Today, matter matters too much.

But when we ask “What matters?”, we are positioning ourselves out of the evolutionary process where every thing is interrelated in a materialistic chain of causes and effects, and where death does not really exist, being a mere transformation of structures and matter. When we ask “What matters?”, we are aware that as an individual thinking being, we might very well be mortal and have one life only, as opposed to one billion chances. The question: ”What matters?” is a question for someone who needs to make choices (or not), to fulfil a destiny (or not), in any case to renounce a great deal of experiences for the sake of other experiences, beliefs, or values. This person may like to find an ultimate answer, the answer that allows her or him to say that “nothing else matters.” This desire can turn the question “what matters?” into a deadly weapon. History shows us that much blood is sacrificed over the idea that only one thing and nothing else matters, be it a God, a Nation, Money, Sex or Family. Because we believe we are mortal and that life is short, we tend to adopt universalist views of what matters, views that we can share with others without contradiction or doubt. We become afraid of stopping and asking if this absolutism itself really matters, because we believe we will be left behind in the race for social conformism. Fanatics of this-that-matters are often not satisfied with following the illusion for themselves, be it a religion or a social consensus: they want the contagion to expand, because they do not want anybody to ask them: “Does it really matter?” Therefore, they reproduce the illusion every day, they maintain it as a strong social reality simply by acting as if it mattered the most. “Get a real job!”, “Join our Church!”, “Join Our Party!”, “Put your family first!”, “Buy our new mindfullness programme!”

Beware those who tell you what matters! They share a common ideology: the idea that their reality matters, a reality that they call The Reality.

But when the intersubjective thinker has the courage to carefully ask: “What matters?”, she, he, we realise that reality is over-rated. Reality seems to matter because it seems to stand there in front of us, in the form of credit cards, buildings, institutions, television, bodies, rituals, loss, etc. But the being that asks what really matters is nothing of the kind, nothing material: it is a spiritual aspiration, and therefore can never be satisfied or troubled for too long with matter.

“What matters?” This that can never be matter: spirit.

Cosmology and Anthropology

“In Anthropology a cosmology is an analytical construct but above all it is an object of study, and it can be defined as a set of knowledge, beliefs, interpretations and practices of a society or culture related to explanations about the origins and evolution of the universe as well as the role and the meaning of humans, life, and the world, within the universe or cosmos. A cosmology involves explanations of the past, present and future of a society, and these explanations are part of its understanding of cosmo-eco-ethnogenesis, and it deals with the origins as well as with the finality and destiny of humans and of other forms of existence.
If cosmology in Physics and Astronomy is a science for specialized researchers who study the origins and evolution of the universe and these specialists construct an interpretative framework for what is called a scientifically-based cosmology, thus, when using the word ‘cosmology’ we are dealing with two different approximations, one from Physics and Astronomy that refers to cosmology as a science or as a scientific process, and another one from Anthropology that usually defines cosmology as an object and as a socio-cultural phenomenon produced by all societies. Thus a cosmologist from Physics studies the universe; and an Anthropologist studies a cosmology.”

Read the rest of the post here:

A Myth of Love and Creation Compatible With Techno-Science and Cosmology


It begins with the idea of scale. In English, the word scale designates a succession of levels of various sizes, often related within a set of homothetic transformations. A scale can also be a hard membrane, a form of fishy skin.

In my research, I have been interested in scales, from the individual to the cosmic. I agree with Nancy Abrams and Joel Primack, who argue in their book The New Universe and the Human Future that we have forgotten our relationship with the over-terrestrial cosmos, and that we lack a shared cosmology. We lack a global scale of belief or communion, one that would be non-anthropocentric.

The origin of my philosophical journey, which is not necessarily to be found at the chronological beginning of my efforts, is the concept of Creal. Creal, or Créel in French, or Kreell for my Swedish friends, is the name I have given to the Real with a capital R, except that I write it by adding a capital C, the initial of Creation, not primarily to indicate that there is an individual creator, but rather that the absolute Real is not a thing (res in Latin), but rather a creative flow of — perhaps infinite — virtual possibilities, some of them being actualised into a form of reality, some of them remaining un-actualised, or actualised in parallel universes, if any. The word Creal is new but not the idea, which can be found in several traditions, the Chinese Daoism, the Greek Chaos or Becoming, as in Heraclitus, and more recently in the philosophies of Whitehead, Bergson, or Deleuze, which have been called ‘process philosophies’. I proposed to call Creal the creative metamorphic multiplicity that is the ground of being — as Whitehead put it in his Process and Reality, ‘creativity is the universal of universals characterizing the ultimate matter of fact.’

I have proposed elsewhere, for example in my book L’Être et le néon (to be published in English translation in 2019), a slightly more detailed cosmology, and will not develop it again here. I simply wanted to present you with my primum mobile. I believe that even the apparently most sceptical and empirical researcher relies on an implicit absolute axiom, if not several. I try to keep the Creal intuition in mind (in body) — creation is an emotion, as Bergson put it — at the centre of my semantics or system-to-be, which I call crealectics.

Let’s now return to the idea of homothetic scales of being. We have at least two extreme limits, the infinitesimally small and the infinitely large: both, I would propose, are the same Creal. If the universe is coherent, the smallest microcosm and the largest macrocosm are of the same nature. This idea is not uncommon for us at least since the rediscovery of the tablets of Hermes Trismegistus which were so important for European Renaissance. The Emerald tablet was translated as follows by Isaac Newton in his alchemical papers: ‘That which is below is like that which is above, and that which is above is like that which is below, to do the miracles of one only thing.’ In short, ‘as above, so below’. This idea was familiar to alchemists, but is to be found since Newton and Leibniz in modern science, all the way to quantum physics and quantum cosmology. Newton’s translation continues thus: ‘And as all things have been and arose from one by the mediation of one: so all things have their birth from this one thing by adaptation. […] So was the world created.’

Micro-Creal and Macro-Creal: in between these two noumenal extremes, we observe different scales of actualization or materialisation — worlds. And this is where we meet the idea of cosmos with its Greek meaning: not only a world, but an order, a structure, a collective skin or, if we wish to use the terminology of Jakob von Uexküll: an umwelt. At the two asymptotic limits of the infinitesimally small and the infinitely large, we posit a pure becoming, a pure multiplicity, virtuality, possibility — and the logically connected idea of One, because we cannot speak of the multiple without suggesting the idea of its opposite, as already intuited by Plotinus in his henology (the science of cosmic unity). In between the two homothetic limit-scales, we observe the emergence of more or less ephemeral spaces of order, structure, and relative integrity. It is my purpose here to describe how these structures can emerge: I have written about it in L’être et le néon, albeit insufficiently, of course, as this is probably the hardest question of all.

My PhD is about one of these spaces of order, at the level of organised human groups, societies, institutions, social bodies. More precisely, it is about the kind of attraction that maintains these social and human structures in synchronised cohesion, a quality which in French and English is called esprit de corps. Between 2014 and 2017, I conducted a thorough examination of discourses relating to the phenomenon of esprit de corps since the birth of the expression in the eighteenth century until today. My monograph on esprit de corps will be published around 2019.

Esprit de corps designates the capacity of a human ensemble to remain strongly united, focused towards a common goal, and to keep its spiritual integrity or ethos over time. Its individual members, often working collaborators, are strongly dedicated to the maintenance of the group’s coherence, power, and existence. We find in French, English and American intellectual history, since Montesquieu, Diderot and d’Alembert, both laudative and depreciative evaluations of the phenomenon of esprit de corps. It has been compared to groupthink, a cognitive corset which undermines the capacity of the individual to think autonomously. But thinkers like Durkheim or Tocqueville thought that esprit de corps was — paradoxically perhaps for us postmodern individualists — how the individual could individuate herself, by belonging to a group that was constantly stimulating her need for intersubjective growth and maturation. A healthy esprit de corps is an ethos in which the more experienced members help the newcomers, and the stronger help the weaker against the corruption and attacks of the outer world. Academia, for example, is a structure where esprit de corps could be a virtuous one. Universities can be a space of epistemic solidarity. Yet, the individual members of a corps are not always brave enough to remain united in the face of the kind of atomised competition imposed by capitalism. My study of the history of esprit de corps shows how capitalism tends, since the seventeenth and eighteenth century, either to destroy esprit de corps solidarities, or to transform them into a standard bellicose form of group control. Because esprit de corps can also degenerate into groupthink, ideology, a form of cognitive sectarianism, or bureaucracy, it was the ruse of neo-liberal history to destroy certain spaces of solidarity in the name of freedom and equality. Tocqueville’s visionary descriptions of democracy in America are still very useful to understand the paradoxes of equality and liberty, and how these values can be the Trojan horses of capitalism. The ideology of humanism has developed an abstract version of fraternity in which the difference between human rights and client rights tends to be blurred. It is worth remembering that the Latin etymology of the word client means to serve and obey. A client was bound, attached, tied to a protector.

Speaking of obedience, if not slavery, the study of esprit de corps has led me to consider another neologism: anthrobot. I proposed to extend the meaning of this term, which was coined by a roboticist, Mark Rosheim, to describe cybernetic technologies such as robotic arms or exoskeletons. In the paper I wrote with Ramamoorthy and Rovatos in 2016 (‘We Anthrobot: Learning From Human Forms of Interaction and Esprit de Corps to Develop More Plural Social Robotics’), anthrobot is the recognition, in the spirit of Lewis Mumford and his Myth of The Machine, that humans, when they create organised spaces, do develop mechanical procedures and algorithmic protocols that partly automatize the spirit or the body of each member, and the social bodies of which they are a part. We are an anthrobotic species because of our capacity to and need for orders, protocols, algorithms, social machines, esprit de corps, but also because our minds and bodies, at the individual or social scale, tend to perform operations that are not conscious and yet are effective. Social and individual life is partly robotic.

Now, we are also daughters of the Creal, of poietic lines of flight, as I have described in my short monograph on Deleuze, Is a New Life Possible? We are constantly attracted by lines of play, novelty, rule-breaking, improvising, contemplating, creation in all its forms, including its explosive and apparently destructive aspects.

Let’s now look at an example of anthrobot in more detail. This is what I call the Shizuoka Case. In the 1980s, the first collaborative robots were introduced in Japanese factories. In his book Inside the Robot Kingdom: Japan, Mechatronics and the Coming Robotopia, Frederik Schodt mentioned in 1988 a story on ‘technostress’ published by the Nikkei Sangyo newspaper, entitled ‘The Isolation Syndrome of Automation’:

‘A state-of-the-art factory run by Star Micronics in Shizuoka Prefecture used […] robotized machining centres that ran unmanned during the night — a source of great pride to the older workers. But several of the younger, new employees began to complain that they “felt like robots” as they operated and programmed the automated machinery during the day; one local parent complained that all his son did all day long was push a button. As it turned out, there was a major perception gap between the old and new employees. The former, who had worked with the engineers to design the system, had a vested interest in it and a basic knowledge of its operation; they knew that pressing a specific button would operate the system in a specific way. But to the new employees, a button was merely a button to be pushed, and the total system was a technological black box that merely worked in unfathomable ways.’

We can distinguish here at least two groups, a group of belonging and well-being, let’s call it the well-belonging group, and a group of isolation and existential distress. The group of well-belonging is the anthrobotic system made of older workers and the collaborating robots. These can be called cobots, or collaborative robots, not only because they are part of the work process but also because the work or labour relationship with them is perceived in terms of a gratifying ‘vested interest’. The group of isolation or ill-belonging is the anthrobotic system made of younger workers and machines. The robots, whilst being the same machines we previously called cobots, are this time not perceived as collaborators, but as antagonists.

In this case, perhaps the machines could be qualified as the ‘dominant species’, since they are described as body snatchers: the young workers ‘felt like robots’. This is an example of mental and physical colonisation or alienation. For Sandra Silverman, a psychotherapist who works on the socio-politics of clinical work, ‘the colonized are not just invaded but occupied. […] Colonization is about destroying space, about crowding an other’s mind with the unprocessed contents of one’s own mind, about restricting the freedom to think. To colonize is to invade, inhabit, and alter.’

How can there be, on the one hand, anthrobotic systems of wellbeing and well-belonging, and on the other hand anthrobotic systems of isolation and de-humanisation? According to Schodt’s description of the Shizuoka case, an anthrobotic system of well-belonging would be a system that has been co-designed by its users, who have a ‘vested interest’ in its functioning, possess a ‘basic knowledge’ of how it works and how each part has a specific role. And they feel proud about it. Wellbeing and well-belonging in an anthrobotic system seems to be dependent on at least these four factors:

A) The workers did co-design the system: this is the praxical factor.

B) They are engaged in its success: we can call it the reciprocative factor.

C) They believe they understand more or less how it works: this is the epistemic factor.

D) They are attached to it, with good rather than bad feelings: this is the emotional factor.

The sum of these four characteristics constitutes a good esprit de corps, the workers’ cohesive and pro-active attachment to a system of production or community of labour that expands their agency, common sense, and self-respect.

I have distinguished four dimensions of systemic well-belonging: praxical (co-design, co-creation), reciprocative (vested interest), epistemic (knowledge of the system), and emotional (pride). The young worker’s feeling of ´being like robots’ is nothing like that. It is rather reminiscent of the phenomenology of automated labour that originated with Marx and his analysis of the ‘objectification’, ‘alienation’, or ‘estrangement’, in the Manuscripts of 1844. Let’s recall this techno-social equation, proposed by Marx in the following terms: ‘The devaluation of the world of men is in direct proportion to the increasing value of the world of things.’ The world of things is, literally, the synonym of reality. Work is a means of self-actualization by which a human being actualises his or her essence, which is the virtuality of the Creal. The capitalist mode of production tends to transform everything into reality. This is why effective anti-capitalist politics needs a concept of creality or Creal, as I have advocated in a published chapter entitled ‘On the Concept of Creal: The Politico-Ethical Horizon of a Creative Absolute.’

So a good anthrobot, a virtuous techno-social system, is one where each member has a sense of authorship and co-creation. Equally, a good anthrocosmic system is an anthrobot in which members and colloborators don’t forget that we are a part of the cosmic Creal. One of the questions behind my crealectics programme of investigation is: how are our actualisations and social articulations more or less alienated from our cosmological belonging? Such a question might seem esoteric, because science and capitalist individualism at least since Kant and the French Revolution have developed a narrative of analytic separation rather than synthetic belonging. I would like now to propose a thought experiment that will show, rather practically, how the anthrobotic question is entangled with the cosmological question.

Let’s assume that our species will colonize extra-terrestrial land, such as the planet Mars or a more distant planet, such as Kepler 186f. Science-fiction often describes this colonisation as a physical journey, in the model of the former colonisation of the United-States for example: we would build (space)ships that would allow us to travel physically out of the earth into space. This is not the scenario I find more likely to happen.

The scenario I find more likely is one that is already happening: we will probably explore interplanetary space not so much physically but more often than not through robotic avatars. Our human bodies will remain on Earth, perhaps, like in the movie Matrix, confined in technological bathtubs. A combination of virtual reality and robotics will take us out there in the cosmos. This anthrobotic scenario is already happening on Mars, on the surface of which the rovers Spirit and Opportunity for example were (in the case of Spirit) or still are (in the case of Opportunity) moving and acting, piloted by human drivers that remain physically on Earth (for example Julie Townsend, Scott Maxwell, Vandi Verma, or Paolo Bellutta). These drivers are the first cosmic anthrobots, developing more or less consciously a phenomenology of the robonautic future of our species.

We already are cosmic anthrobots or creal robonauts. And this is where the idea of a shared cosmology comes into play. Abrams and Primack wrote in The New Universe and the Human Future: ‘Astronomy appears to have little relevance. People think of astronomical discoveries as inspiration for kids or a great topic for five minutes of clever dinner party banter, but there’s no widely understood connection between what’s happening in distant space and us, right here. The truth is, however, that there is a profound connection between our lack of a shared cosmology and our increasing global problems. Without a coherent, meaningful context, humans around the world cannot begin to solve global problems together. If we had a transnationally shared, believable picture of the cosmos, including a mythic-quality story of its origins and our origins — a picture recognized as equally true for everyone on this planet — we humans would see our problems in an entirely new light.’

In fact we need a global social contract, as I have argued with Lacan, Deleuze and Guattari in ‘On the Concept of Creal: The Politico-Ethical Horizon of a Creative Absolute’. Lacan has shown how any discourse, any web of belief, revolves around a more or less invisible absolute signifier. To be sustainable, a structure, an order, a discourse, a tribe, need to rely on a totemic value or set of values sometimes virtualised by the chain of signifiers, sometimes expressed in god-like — or ghost-like — concepts. The universal or set of universals around which such-and-such social reality is constructed maintains the cohesion of the ensemble by playing the role of a slippery axis mundi, a master signifier. To avoid the ongoing modern naturalisation of war and conflict, and other forms of totalitarianism, I propose that communities and nations agree — through a Earth-scale social contract — on a positive absolute, one that cannot logically become the fetish of a form of totalitarianism: the Creal as an affirmative and generous politico-ethical value that constantly self-destroys and constantly re-emerges again, as is logically implied by the idea of ongoing creation. The Creal hypothesis suggests that reality never expresses all there is, and that it never will. Reality is over-rated, and this overrating is always dangerous. Reality is a bad master. And only the Creal can destroy its imperialism.

Our collaboration with reality-machines should always be viewed alongside our co-participation in the cosmic creative flow. Machines and protocols are unifying processes of objectification. The Creal is the Other of the machine. It is the Anti-Robot.

Yet, between the Creal and the One, between the multiple and the structured, I do not think there is a war, but a love story, a complex story of desire and admiration, a narrative of asymptotic union. Ancient cosmologies were in part mythical discourses of love; I do think we need today a new global myth of love and faith, one compatible with technology and science yet not reductionist, neither anthropocentric. How such a myth can create hospitable and plural worlds is the perspective of crealectics, which is the study of the actualisations of the Creal, an interdisciplinary perspective that I invite you to help me develop.

Luis de Miranda (link to my official site)


Modern cosmology and the theory of eternal recurrence, by Paul Steinhardt

“If you go back to the different theories of cosmic evolution in the early 1990s, the data we’ve gathered in the last decade has eliminated all of them save one, a model that you might think of today as the consensus model. This model involves a combination of the Big Bang model as developed in the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s; the inflationary theory, which Alan Guth proposed in the 1980s; and a recent amendment that I will discuss shortly. This consensus theory matches the observations we have of the universe today in exquisite detail. For this reason, many cosmologists conclude that we have finally determined the basic cosmic history of the universe.But I have a rather different point of view, a view that has been stimulated by two events.”