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Presence and Intention in Sampling as Currency
Idioms as samples and samples as currency: that’s the marker I’m going to lay down here. Currency can certainly be organized around bets on the future: that’s what derivatives are, and there’s a lot more wealth in derivatives than there is in money. Without money providing the store of value for derivatives, the derivatives couldn’t be priced, but if exchange is carried out through data between teams on supply chains that include the supply of future team members, then money isn’t needed. Wealth is distributed in accord with promises—the promise to supply certain teams proximate in the supply chain and their successors, backed by the promises of those pledged to supply you. Give everyone a rank in the line of succession as options so that the field is saturated. Newcomers enter with a range of rankings and overlapping networks—even if the expectations aren’t high for a particular newcomer, individual or team (and people will be strongly encouraged to enter as teams right out of their schooling or apprenticeship), by giving them a rank, albeit a low one, an incentive is created to make them as fit as possible, if only to make the field of options as strong as possible all the way through. Derivatives can lose all their value if enough potential buyers lose faith in the eventuality of the exchange that will have taken place, but we can’t run out of the future itself.
That we will have always been on the same scene is in this way “thematized” by being made into currency—value is conferred by the prospective stacking of scenes that provides a measure of the distance from the originary scene that is simultaneously an affirmation of its sameness, of its presence as a sample from this scene and as this scene as sample. This means we’re directly working on language as the source of such samples through the creation of idioms—distinct parts of language that will always be better responded to than described. The most powerful way of examining and promoting the creation of idioms we have in GA comes from Eric Gans’s hypothesis of the succession of speech forms in The Origin of Language. To remind you for the nth time, Gans has to account for the generation of a wholly new linguistic form in a such a way that will be recognized as such, which is to say as an intentional speech act, while keeping in mind that a wholly new form could not be intended as such since no one could have had a model of it prior to its creation. Gans manages this through what he calls the “inappropriate” use of the existing linguistic form (what I’ve called “mistakenness”) plus the fundamental desire of any language user to maintain “linguistic presence,” or the continued possibility of some form of sign exchange lest the scene devolve into mimetic crisis. Finding a way to maintain linguistic presence in the face of inappropriate usage creates the new form, i.e., a repeatable speech act, without anyone having intended to create that act. So, when the ostensive is used in the absence of the object referred to, that object is retrieved, and we now have an imperative, even though no one meant to issue it.
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The maintenance of linguistic presence in the face of potential absence provides us with a general model of linguistic and cultural forms, and it also solves for us the much debated question of “intention” regarding textual production—a question which has come to the fore with AI-generated texts, or what a colleague of mine calls automated writing, where we have text produced by no one and yet which we read as if produced intentionally (this question even resurrected, in a recent forum held by the academic journal Critical Inquiry, a 1982 essay by Steven Knapp and Walter Benn Michaels, “Against Theory”). Paul de Man’s contribution to the whole issue of “intention,” sparked by post-structuralist theory and especially essays like. Roland Barthes’ “The Death of the Author” and Michel Foucault’s “What is an Author” that spoke of textual production in terms of enabling and institutionally sanctioned discourses rather than authorial intention, was to point out that “intention” didn’t mean, tautologically, that the author “intended” to write the words that ended up on the page but that the intention was for the text to be read. That the text is intended to be read situates intentionality in the kind of thing produced, and the kind of space in which that thing is recognizable as that thing, rather than as, I suppose, a presumed paraphrase of what the writer was “trying to say” in the text where he actually says something else. I will take de Man to be referring to something like the maintenance of linguistic presence, and the usefulness of approaching intentionality this way is that attempts to maintain linguistic presence must always draw upon the existing linguistic resources available to the author or speaker, what we can think of as an archive, in ways that must be at least in part improvisational and while available to the author in ways inaccessible to us simultaneously accessible to us in ways unavailable to the author. This, then, is how an idiom is generated, and we are ourselves attempting to maintain some form of linguistic presence in retrieving and forwarding that attempt. Since the writer rarely knows his reader, writing involves an expanded or replicable form of linguistic presence—Homer couldn’t have had someone like me in mind, but a space has been created, through the sheer preservation of his texts along with the histories of commentary and translation, that enable me to participate in the extension of the linguistic presence he created. We can say that when we write we intend to maintain a linguistic presence as replicable and extendable as possible, which also includes eliciting commentaries and counter-claims and misreadngs, etc., and examining what a text might do (or fail to do) so as to get us back to the text in a way irreducible to paraphrase and interpretation. That our texts now become part of the database chewed up and spit out by LLMs, i.e., that we donate our writing to the computation of average responses to prompts can now be part of our intention as well—an intention also informing, very indirectly, by not necessarily less so than the indirectness of Homer’s intention that I read his text, the AI generated texts (automated writing) we read.
So, in discussing the issue of idioms we are in a way discussing the question of an enduring style, style that is enduring because transportable and variable, given to parody as much as reverential citing. The maintenance of linguistic presence in perpetuity is singular succession and the scene is the same borne linguistically, and eventually as currency, bearing sufficiently intelligible and reliable promises. We’re thinking of declarative sentences that nevertheless operate performatively, as felicitous or not, depending upon how they are taken up—promises and, of course, prayers. This is not new, but thinking of the design of idioms with currency in mind is. As a model we could work with commonplaces, or formulas, those chunks of discourse that function as currency in everyday discourse, and that look, at least, like the residue of philosophical and wisdom literature. “Well, that’s the way it goes,” asserted when one has nothing more to say about a dismaying event, trickles down from Stoic imperatives to keep your mind free from the vicissitudes of life. Every commonplace, formula or cliché was at one time an epiphany—this observation is not supportive of commonplaces, formulas and cliches, but “intends” to make the production of originating epiphanies a priority. What we can say about these language parts that approach purely phatic effect (which is to say, maintaining more direct, face to face, linguistic presence) is that they contain accumulated deferral energy. If the phatic utterances are mass, we’re interested in the energy, This brings us back to the question of the thought experiment, or boundary utterances, the affordances of God and our programming language.
Let’s think in explicitly experimental terms: operationalizing a hypothesis regarding the conversion of existing modes of succession into singularize succession in perpetuity. The hypothesis includes a judgment, that is, a choice formalized as a dispute presided over so as to leave a trace of a dispute whose retrojected resolution has it never having happened. Anthropomorphic thought experiments must display a self-exposure that trails along the entire question of succession, and such self-exposure implies while cancelling the juridical. To invoke the reading of Hamlet I’ve mentioned on occasion, if Hamlet’s thought experiment, in which re-presenting Claudius’s crime back to himself implicates Claudius’s conscience and initiates a process of confession and repentance, could have worked, then not only would Hamlet’s revenge be unnecessary but so would any juridical proceeding as Claudius would then also submit to the judgment of the community without contestation, perhaps enacting a new mode of Lear-like inhabitation of the periphery. None of this would make sense without the boundary between the vendetta and the juridical while simultaneously rendering both unnecessary. Implicit here as well would be an orderly mode of succession, perhaps to Hamlet but perhaps not (this would be the matter of the thought experiment), operationalized scenically through some transformation of the kingdom. Such a narrative must then be reduced to an iterable idiom, through design rules, like staying as close as possible to the natural semantic primes or, going to the other extreme, maximizing scenic resonance through indirectness with the metalanguage of literacy. In almost any case, there will be a strong bias towards the present tense, and the boundary between declarative and imperative, which is the register of wisdom literature. Ultimately there needs to be a laboratory and even a start-up dedicated to this.
The generation of idioms as currency is always derived from idioms already circulating—that’s the significance of the model of cultural invention derived from the succession of linguistic forms. A thought experiment singularizing succession out of the entropic modes of succession currently on display would have to work with the entire stack of scenes processing those successions, beginning by the finding of the thread that gives at least some minimal order to succession through succession rituals involving the continual restarting of distribution from the center. It is a question emerging from some lingering or dangling imperative that is to be operationalized. It might involve working on one’s own mistakenness by learning to identify what one has invented inadvertently, simply by asking how could a particular figure at the center see to his own succession? We can use prediction and similar futurizing markets as models here: let’s say it could be made meaningful to predict who will be elected US President in, say, 2036. I think placing bets on individuals would be too tenuous, especially if we pushed the date back further. The problem of identifying specific characteristics of the winner of that election in such a way that all participants in the market would accept the decision is great, maybe insuperable; maybe it all depends upon whether there are trusted judges, in which case maybe that would be the thing to bet on—will such a potentially lucrative betting market find a mode of organization in which winners could be paid off and losers not only left with no recourse but continue to participate. And then shares in that betting market could be sold, and used to back currency, or as currency to carry out transactions in the present. We would be literally betting on the future, which means those who are best able to shape, and show they are shaping, the future, will be the ones capable of making those markets.
Idioms would then function as currency insofar as prospective arbiters and brokers on such markets would be revealed as most likely through the deployment of those idioms, by themselves as others. You’d be investing money or something approximating money now while hoping to be paid off eventually by a more or less succession proximate position on a team later. That formulation is itself already very close to idiomization: donate your money so that your designated successor can designate successors. There would already be something different in such an investment, even if on one level it looked like any other: you’d be investing in an attempt to make a market that provides the beginning of an exit from existing markets; once all markets are “made” with increasing explicitness, we will be approaching the transition from markets to the promise and pedagogy based mode of absolute donation to the center. All institutions and practices existing now are partially the elements for the operationalization of such market building and partially its entropic negative image, so the constant reading and conversion of the idioms constituting those institutions and practices by mistaking them logistically is the generation of sample idioms as currency.
The human takes on varying proportions in this stack of scenes, both miniaturized as the human is integrated as one more organic information system in a world of such systems and the physical resources they depend upon and recycle, while also handling the control panels of “spaceship earth,” perhaps on the brink of sending probes and colonies across the solar system. Of course, not every human will be equally positioned in relation to these possibilities, which is why speaking in terms of “humanism” is always a bit of a mystification. The most advanced AI systems still seem to need someone to tell whether a particular image is, in fact, cat, or whether a particular string of words is “offensively racist.” We will never be rid of the ostensive measure of things, and the gesture of pointing out “what we are looking at” is always what will confer value on an idiom, because that gesture, situated with the scene and stack of scenes which brings that thing we are looking at into view (also tacitly gestured towards ostensively) is what constitutes the data exchange that will increasingly govern our relation to institutions. The idiom you put forth, representing your bet on a particular option on the future and the liquidity of a particular spread in the present, is you composing yourself as someone proposing a preliminary labeling, categorization and archiving of data—as someone perfecting the imperative. The idiom is partly operationalizable now while also evading operationalization until some undetermined date, when as yet unknown conditions and unborn personnel further operationalize it with remainder. One place to begin is with a seat of judgment which takes on and frames cases with the slightest margin of fault on either side so that every judgment becomes a kind of arbitrage of justice where each side is at fault given the branching off into multiple alternate successions. The option of, say, one decision operating as a precedent more often or more “impactfully” (according to reliable judges) than others would be purchased, and the totality of such options would be currency, dependent now upon the preservation of the juridical, upon which everyone would want to bet, but differently because the juridical can never be certain, thereby creating the value of the currency. Operationalize the simultaneity of judge and witness and you will train your sites on succession.
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