Technology and intersubjective donation of meaning

Jose Carlos Cañizares

In this essay I will make an exercise in transcendental phenomenology in the manner of professor Edmund Husserl. My meditation aims to achieve, at least, two results. The first has to do with the philosophical foundations of science; therefore, it deals with methodological issues that I consider to be extremely relevant for a critique of technology as a scientific discipline. In short, I will stress the need to pose the conscious subject and his or her intentional objects as point of departure for any scientific treatment of technology. Further elaboration and delving into such critiques should allow us to intertwine different approaches or aspects involved in technological phenomena (for instance, economic or sociopolitical aspects, each of them bound to its particular analytical tools), but for the moment I will limit myself to the task of determining the safest ground for any science, in particular those who take human practical affairs as primary objects. According to this, it is easy to see why the technological universe, which is obviously the result of human action, will remain incomprehensible as long as its description and conceptualization are disembodied from a humanistic approach focused on dilucidating the manifold processes involved in the construction and attachment of cultural meaning onto technological objects. We are perfectly aware that our methodological stance is in no way innovative; although inspired in Husserl’s phenomenological turn, it has found echoes in a number of scientific theories born in the 70s and 80s, namely those conceived by cybernetists such as Von Foerster, Maturana, Varela or Luhmann1. In turn, late cybernetic theory influenced Latour’s action-network theory, which is now dominant in STS studies2.
Von Foerster’s mention of the so-called Humberto Maturana’s Theorem Number One complies undoubtedly with Husserl’s reelaboration of kantian philosophy. “Anything said is said by an observer” takes us ineluctably to a transcendental analysis of the intentional consciousness. Few lines after in the same conference, Von Foerster speaks about the actual possibility of incorporating, at least, some features of the observer into the analysis of any observed system. ”It is most gratifying for me to report to you that the essential conceptual pillars for a theory of the observer have been worked out. The one is a, calculus of infinite recursions; the other one is a calculus of self-reference. With these calculi we are now able to enter rigorously a conceptual framework which deals with observing and not only with the observed ”. 2 In Echeverria and Gonzalez’s accountance of actor-network theory (ANT), “ANT retrieves in a very emphatic way the materiality that had been lost in other recent sociologic approaches to


However, it is all too common to find that, when using a specific methodology, scientists adhere to it to the point that it prevents them noticing the fundamental principles to which it is tied, hence missing the full picture. This would be a dreadful mistake. Even though it generates ever more specialized theories, these theories become less miscible and more difficult to integrate, encapsulating knowledge within hermetic and esoteric disciplines, all of them progressively isolated from each other. The result is not only solipsism, but also the proliferation of academic papers that, far from narrowing the gap between the technical-productive activities and the cultural, academic world, tend to widen it. This takes us to the second and minor goal of this essay. Technological innovation, driven by market forces, develops at such a fast pace that the degree of intricacy in its actors and processes turns the process into something cryptic, almost ineffable. As a consequence, some of its ideological byproducts are highly unassimilable for society. That is the case, for instance, in certain versions of the transhumanist speech which are increasingly nearing fanatic conceptions of technology34. If I can
scientific kwnoledge, and this is one of its main conflict points with them. Where appeals to human interests were frequent for the sake of living account of the social modeling of theories and artifacts, ANT theorists narrated the ways in which different actors (human and nonhuman) conform mutually, defining and redefining their interests through interaction in reiterative processes of translation, enrollment and movilization, and obtaining stabilization of their networks as a (precarious) result. Thus, actors are undetermined before the network starts operating”. The dominant conception of ANT theory seems to dispense with intentionalities of the individual and the like: “An actor is defined basically for the effects of his (her) actions, in such a way that an actor will actually be any element with the ability of acting over some others”. This approach seems to be completely opposite to mine. However, I take it as a challenge for my next works to show both approaches can be conplementary, and that they should be so if we are intending to understand what is at stake in technological phenomena. (Echeverría, J. and Gonzalez, M. Actor-Network Theory and the Thesis of Technoscience). 3 Technomesianism usually derives into unconditional endorsement of technological development. Langdon Winner has recognized this feature in the transhumanist speech, and gives account of some disquieting assertions in his Are humans obsolete? Technomesianism finds a correlate in technophobic theories, which are another form of essentialism. Both stances should be categorically rejected as soon as the phenomenological approach is extended so as to give full account of sociopolitical issues that lay at the foundations of technological phenomena. This view tends to depict technological objects and sets as fields of forces that mediate between human beings and their constantly changing context. Therefore the technological phenomena is entirely practical and its materializations, merely provisional derivations (objectifications) of the heuristic process which is human politics. As such, technologies are subject to change in many senses and at many stages, and there is no Eye of God capable of foreseeing the Goodness or Evil that they bring along. 4 Similarly, Simondon says that there is a process of concretization of the technological object, but unlike human beings, who are fully concrete, in the technical object there always remains something abstract, yet to be concretized, and therefore dependent on further human action). “Culture is unfair to machines not only in its judgments or prejudices, but also at the very level


demonstrate that a comprehension of technological phenomena which is of a religious nature is rapidly seeping through popular culture; and that, if not self-aware, this conception is damaging both for technology and for society itself; then we will learn to openly reject fairy tales about technology eradicating poverty without undesirable consequences, or abiotic entities achieving consciousness, all of these I believe to be absurd. At the same time, some of the specific features of machines will have been established, such as their inherent ambiguity and their profound political implications, as well as the validity of the phenomenological approach I am presenting in this text. To illustrate this methodology, as explained above, I will need to address myself as an intentional consciousness that aims at an object, to which I give meaning. I will therefore make, as a starting point, the phenomenological question par excellence: what do we understand by donation of meaning?

Intuitive realism: the depreciation of the Kantian legacy.
The theories on the nature of the universe that we usually find in natural sciences (astrophysics, thermodynamics, biology...) are hardly accessible to the public in their full complexity. Perhaps for this reason, as they are reshaped to fit popular culture, they tend to get reduced to a more intuitive and comprehensible depiction of a universe that is fully real, objective and unequivocal in its pre-givenness. Basically, the universe is out there for us just as it is. Correlatively, we postulate the radical existence of matter; matter was somehow originally delivered to its diverse becomings, all of which follow the eternal laws of nature. Only after an amazingly complex arrangement of matter, consciousness emerges as the specific nature of living beings –or some of them at least. The human organism is capable of discovering those laws of nature; laws that pre-existed more or less in the manner of Platonic ideas, like some
of knowledge: the cognitive intention of culture toward the machine is substantializing; the machine is confined to the reductive view that renders it perfect and fully accomplished in itself, making it coincide with its present state, with its material determinations. Toward the art object, a similar attitude would involve the reduction of a painting to a certain extension of dry paint, cracked over an outspread cloth. Toward the human being, the same attitude would mean reducing the subject to a fixed body of vice and virtues, or features of a character.”See Simondon (On the mode…)


immaterial entities revealed exclusively to us humans. This is not to say that the human consciousness is disdained as the radical factum by which the explicability of the universe is made possible by the universe itself. In fact, this conception -which is commonplace in German Natürphilosophie, for instance, in Schelling’s cosmology- has been frequently advocated by scientists, remarkably by Carl Sagan when, in his book and TV series Cosmos, he said that « we are a way for the cosmos to know itself »5. However, if this sentence is disconnected from the metaphysical ground that it draws from, deeming it as merely incidental, it then becomes a sort of mystic-poetical nice wrap, which is quite appropriate for popsci propaganda (beyond complex equations, science can also be beautiful, etc..) but ultimately has no meaning at all. Dare we say, not only that it has become usual to estimate that the emergence of consciousness in the universe was some kind of anecdotic event, but even more, that we tend to dismiss the necessity and epistemological apriority of human consciousness. After all, given the yet too rigid disciplinary boundaries between positive sciences, if we take consciousness as a concept, we will find its place among the so-called social or human sciences –providing that we are lucky enough not to see it degraded to the status of a literary concept, barely acceptable except in political or psychoanalytical talk. For consciousness is not an entity whose effects we can measure or taxonomize directly or indirectly. Hence the referred allotment of the sciences casts consciousness out to the human mental sphere; its contents reputed as merely subjective, whereas the objective remains "out there" (also "in there" as patterns of electrochemical discharges); therefore excluding the role of consciousness in determining this very objectivity, while disregarding Kantian and postKantian (also Husserlian) critique of our knowledge; damaging, in consequence, the possibility of a true understanding of the universe. As Husserl argues exemplarily in his Crisis of Sciences, this movement has an epistemological effect which is doubly pernicious. On one hand, it tends to reduce consciousness to the psychological observable and measurable facts –and its external, material effects "out there"-, hindering us from a scientific study of the donation of meaning. The objective, meanwhile, is understood as "the observable, measurable and mathematizable reality", that explains both consciousness and reality

Carl Sagan, Cosmos. A personal voyage


itself6: the consciousness would then be the resultant of the complex interplay of electrochemical processes taking place in neural networks – which we can surely model and, very soon, build into machines-, never to be regarded as the source and origin of the world we call objective. Once the ontological status of consciousness is reduced in such a manner, we can easily study it as another ingredient in the system of the real world, to which consciousness became biologically tied some fortunate day. As such, consciousness inaugurates knowledge just as the switch turns on the circuit, otherwise preexisting, intact and identical to itself from conception; the circuit always was just alike it is today, only that it was obscure to itself for some time, and so it stayed until it was illuminated by our knowledge-switch. Thus, the universe does not need our questioning to meet its physical laws. The survival of man, like that of any organism, relies on ongoing adaptation to be secured heuristically. If mankind disappeared, the universe would remain impassive, and probably other beings would continue to inhabit it. Of course, man's existence presupposes that of the universe, for which the man is contingent. Not that we dare deny these claims, which are part of very solid theories or hypotheses, scrupulously confirmed. We consider them, therefore, part of a provisional epistemological legacy that, harsh as it may sound, should be assumed radically. However, we should qualify the validities of these theories and laws with the restricted value they have, and beyond which they reveal themselves as meaningless. To affirm this, we rely on Husserl's transcendental meditations. These, through an apodictic reasoning, teach us how both a given scientific explanation and the confirmation of the hypotheses and theories that validate it depend on a particular theoretical paradigm of which they are tributary: a paradigm that should be in turn explained, namely, by a consciousness able to explain itself.

Objective universe and consciousness of the universe
The universe is not simply a thing out there, "at hand", but a purely conceptual generalization. If the universe can be verified in the experience, it is due solely to the fact that consciousness can at all times turn to reality, and that reality is always there, again and again, in its particular ways of being. On the other hand, consciousness experiences

And thus falling into circularity, as Kant demonstrates in his Critique of the Pure Reason.


that this reality constantly exceeds its now-and-here, and it can call universe to the unification of the multiple times and places that it experiences as reality. Consciousness conceives the universe, then, as reality beyond its immediacy; that is, as the thought of an abstract totality that embraces this reality now-and-here. Totality that, in its diverse becomings, unifies from the present all the past and potential realities: this extension of reality is our actual concept of the universe. Therefore the universe can be verified in experience, but can never be selfexplanatory: first, because phenomena do not come up with causes7, and secondly, because I cannot grasp the universe as a unitary experience, now-and-here: hereby the universe is merely thought, and not real in an empirically unequivocal sense. The universe exists only for a human consciousness. Paraphrasing Kant, we will say that human consciousness is the condition of possibility of the universe8. From this reasoning it follows that we must convince ourselves that the universe has not existed for billions of years. Strictly speaking, the universe exists since there is a consciousness, a human consciousness, wondering about it. According to this trivial truth we can affirm -not less trivially- that the consciousness derives, from its experience of time and reality, a universe which is older than the very consciousness that had, for the first time, claimed its existence. Just as today we can observe stars which disappeared long ago, consciousness is able to recognize, beyond the manifold and ongoing changes in things, the existence of something remotely past, and link it with the expectation of things yet to come. Consciousness aims at the necessity of something that has not yet been experienced; there is, undoubtedly, continuity and, to an extent, identity between the unknown and the now-and-here present. The consciousness exceeds its givens by donating them something of its own: meaning. Just as Schopenhauer’s causality wanted, existence is subordinated by consciousness to what is permanent; but both the existent and the permanent are themselves products of the knowing will: the intentional consciousness9.

In fact, as Schopenhauer demonstrates, the cause is but one of the forms in which we experience phenomena. That causes are not inferrable from phenomena was the cornerstone of Hume’s critique of human reasoning, later assumed by Kant and reelaborated by Schopenhauer in his Fourfold Root… 8 Kant I., Critique of the Pure Reason 9 Husserl E. The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology



The universe, as an abstract totality or concept, can also be thought of by the individual consciousness as registrable in, or compatible with, the universe as explained by science or by any other tradition of thought. According to the above explained, we understand "science" here as knowledge that is achieved and settled through the ongoing application of a specific method, the scientific method. This knowledge is committed to a particular conception of reality that serves as a horizon of meaning, and that has to be continuously validated and revalidated by conscious examination. We note as well that, at a given moment, we always find a consciousness that is, or is not, interested in knowing, and that this consciousness will ultimately offer his critical consent: «this is the universe». Hence we gain nothing, but actually lose quite a lot, if we deem the universe as such, identical to the conception we have of it; and consciousness, correspondingly, as an alternative name for the simple reason or understanding. According to such a view, biological selection would have given rise to reason-consciousness as a mere tool for the human organism, the perfection of which, proven by our survival, takes us back to the old notion of knowledge as adequatio10. Reality is what we are shown: the objective is what is real. However, this statement is completely deceitful and unfounded, as Kant amply demonstrated in his The Critique of Pure Reason, and as most significant philosophies have claimed since the nominalist break up. The possibility of a science is not given by an identity between the objective and the real. «The realist forgets that the Object ceases to be Object apart from its reference to the Subject, and that if we take away that reference, or think it away, we at once do away with all objective existence» (Schopenhauer)11; whatever the «thing-in-itself» is remains completely unknown to us (Kant) 12. We can only know the reality in the particular way in which it manifests to us: through phenomena. Our appeal to the objective does not address what reality-in-itself is, but to the possibility of sharing a knowledge that can be intersubjectively considered as valid. Precisely that possibility is what needs to be explained: how phenomenic reality, intersubjectively mediated and methodically processed, may be reputed as objective, this is, how can it come to impersonate reality-in-itself? Indeed, how are communication and
I believe the 20th century has made sufficiently clear the panoply of absurd assertions and reductionist political doctrines to which a vague principle such as the « survival of the fittest » can drive us onto. However, the neo-realism we are criticizing here is yet another spurious consequence of this poorly defined principle. Indeed, there is nothing more dangerous than a vague and unespecific knowledge which presents itself as indubitable. 11 Schopenhauer, A. Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. 12 Kant, I, Critique of the Pure Reason


language made possible; and, more specifically, that portion of the contents of our communication that we call objective? How is a science possible in general? This is the question that Kantian philosophical criticism starts with, a question that does not only remain unsolved, but that has been, moreover, constantly neglected by scientists, and swept away from most of divulgative practices. It will then be said that we are obscurantists. How could anyone think that the universe would not exist once the man was wiped off the face of the Earth? However, this accusation would be completely unfair: we cannot fail to recognize that we have acquired, as a legitimate expectation delivered to us by science, the right to rely on the subsistence of something after our demise. But we cannot ignore that such «something» would not be either known or named. No witness could bear testimony of it. In general, nothing could be said about it. What would happen in the absence of a consciousness is a perfectly paradoxical scenario in terms of knowledge. In fact, we are forbidden to speculate about it in a scientific or philosophical sense; happenings in such conditions are darker to us than anything we can imagine going on inside a black hole. Any theory confirming the permanence of the universe beyond consciousness should, therefore, be reputed as mere speculative fiction of the human consciousness; fiction, again, that would express more about the transcendental conditions of our knowledge, than about the universe itself.

A justification of the originality of consciousness. Husserl's phenomenology
Until humans came into existence there was no such a thing as a universe, for there was nobody –at least, nobody that we know about- who could point it out and say «there it is». With us humans in it, however, the universe will exist as a generalization of our experience of reality. What we mean by this is that, the day humans become extinct, it could well happen that a group of machines continue their operation for a while; but they could not say «this is my universe». No; in all likelihood, these machines would simply continue to execute the operations programmed into them by humans, even if they were to do so indefinitely. Until they run out of power: they would then languish and fade gradually to their last wobbling beep, without ever abandoning the indifference that is inherent

to them. Even if these machines were able to identify a universe, they would do so in a merely nominal sense, in accordance to GPS, recognition, etc. algorithms with which humans had endowed them. Such algorithms would result in maps and databases, but never in feelings of belonging. Algorithms will never generate meanings and experiences (Erfahrung13): Wall-E requires a sentient and creative consciousness, for which Wall-E is significant as a fictional character. A machine’s universe will never be "my universe", in the sense that we understand this assertion: at best, that would be a mere analogy. "My Universe" as issued data, as the schematic result of certain operations, or as an operative point of reference, is not yet a universe of meaning, "my universe", an abstract concept that expresses genuine, personal and originary experiences (Ehrfahrung) and desires that refer to an intentional consciousness. Hence, we emphatically affirm that any knowledge about the universe is necessarily referred to a consciousness, as well as to its experiences and concepts. There is clearly a wealth of ways of experiencing reality, innumerable phenomena to be explained, universal laws and even other imaginable universes, but all these elements are logically subsequent to the consciousness that perceives, imagines and explains, a consciousness that we consider necessarily primitive, a priori with respect to its contents. To begin with, let us suppose that I stick to the presumptions I usually have, presumptions that I cannot question in order to manage myself in my daily life. Accordingly, I cannot pretend the universe does not exist, since the very concept of a universe implies the existence of a reality experienced by me through successive phenomena; a reality I will recognize as such in my awareness, the ways I relate to it, and so on14. Reality is the world of life (Lebenswelt15). However, I also have intense
Husserl E. The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology It is remarkable, however, the fact that a substantial loss in the intersubjetive praxis (like, say, lack of acknowledgment of the Other, or the death of a close familiar or friend) is frequently tied to signicant losses in the organization of subjective experience. This pragmatic view of the human knowledge(s) seems consistent with Lacanian’s theory of the Other, and also with Watzlawick et. Al “Theory of human communication” which draws on Gregory Bateson’s hypothesis of the Double Bind and extends this primacy of interpersonal relations over objective contents in the construction of contents of communication. Martin Harris’ (Liam Neeson) character in the film Unknown, and most notably Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) in Vertigo are also examples of the shock derived from the lack of intersubjective acknowledgement. Although fictional characters, they have otherwise many resonances with other real-life cases, as Watzlawick’s, Bateson’s and Lacan’s investigations demonstrate (see bibliography). 15 Husserl E. The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology.
14 13


experiences of my reveries and fantasies; I even recall imaginary memories that may turn out to be misleading even though I discover their falsehood only long after I experienced them. Eventually, I make myself aware that I can even recreate an entire universe of fictions in a space and time completely different from the here-and-now, which I do by evoking some images and concepts from the pure immanence of my intentional life. It is thus clear that a huge diversity of experiences is inherent to my streaming intentional life; therefore I am allowed, and actually compelled, to conceive doubts, both specific and general, about the existence or veracity of what I am given. Since reality is but one of the manifold intentional streams that I may be given. Hence these doubts lead our meditation to the point of wondering whether there is an indubitable principle in our knowledge, and which this principle might be. This is how Descartes proceeds in his methodical doubt, retrieved almost four centuries later by Husserl and briefly summarized here. Descartes’ conclusion is well known: I can doubt that reality, and the universe in general, exists; but there is something about which I cannot be in any doubt: that I doubt, I think, Ego cogito; and that I think thoughts, cogitationes. Both Cogito and its cogitata reign before any existence; the «streaming intentional life» is not necessarily explained by a supposedly objective reality. As we learn from Shutter Island’s hero, Andrew Laeddis, but also from literature, religion and even from the outbreaks of madness in the global markets, reality is subject to the intentional life of consciousnesses. This is the meaning of the Husserlian principle of all principles: the only indubitable thing, the ground of all possible experience, is an Ego open to the pure immanence of its streaming intentional life16. The content of these thoughts can, now, either be fictional or be referred to reality; they can be fantastic or affective, imply the experience of a particular temporality, and so on; but, above all, they must be aprioristically referred to as consciousness. The contents of these experiences are thus logically subsequent to a human consciousness, and rest entirely upon it. This

« No conceivable theory can make us err with respect to the principle of all principles : that every originary presentive intuition is a legitimizing source of cognition, that everything originarily (so to speak, in its « personal » actuality) offered to usin « intuition» is to be accepted simply as what it is presented as being, but also withing he limits in which it is presented there» (íbid).


originary consciousness is intentional, which means that it is always expectant, open and eager to experience intentional objects. Hence we can also call this consciousness Will, and establish, with Schopenhauer, «the identity of the knowing with the willing Subject», that is, the identity of the Ego Volens and the Ego Cogitans, as the metaphysical ground of any science.

The intersubjective-dialectic construction of objectivity Prior to the opinion that is given about an object, I need to find myself, Ego Cogitans, as consciousness open to "expressing opinions". This expression is then applied over a stream of memories, knowledge, experiences, etc. which are referred to some intentional objects, which I, as a consciousness, examine and validate. We now wonder about those streams of intentional life of which a consciousness demands, in varying degrees, what is generally known as objectivity. As we have seen with Kant, Schopenhauer and Husserl, an object is but for an individual subject. However, despite this consciousness constantly relates to its intentional objects, for which it takes responsibility to a certain extent, we often find that this consciousness, just by itself, cannot secure objectivity. This is so because objectivity does not correspond a priori to what the consciousness experiences of an object, but arises only as a practicalnoematic outcome of intersubjective praxis in a given community. We will thus consider objectivity as a structural element in the construction of intersubjectivity. Now let us explain this notion in more detail. An individual consciousness ordinarily adheres to the world of everyday life, to which it relates in a manifold ways. It often happens this consciousness is also related, either mediately or immediately, with other consciousnesses of this world. We find those consciousnesses may call each other and gather, eventually, around a specific phenomenical sphere composed of objects, words, signs, tools, and so on, all of which were selected among others by the consciousnesses for some particular reason. More precisely, we can say that such sphere demands the agreement of those consciousnesses with regard to the understanding, use or allocation either of that sphere as a whole, or of some of its parts. We cannot,

however, talk here about anything like a concrete existence of an object upon which all the subjects would agree, and so forth; for this would mean that we accept a form of naive realism, which is rapidly contradicted, as repeatedly shown above, by the fact that every object corresponds univocally to an individual subject. Let us then refer to this selected phenomenical area as the objective occasion, which those consciousnesses seek agreement upon. This objective occasion may be “called in”, or referred to, by a concept that is known to all the gathering consciousnesses: concepts make possible the selection of an objective occasion. Nevertheless, although the concept presents itself as univocal, its mediating role conceals its polyvocal essence, that is, the fact that the objective occasion -sponsored by the concept- embraces all the experiences and meanings that each of the individual, gathering consciousnesses had previously attributed to their intentional objects. We thus find that each of the consciousnesses access this interpersonal encounter by bringing along all the experiences and concerns of their intentional objects; through such operation, the objective occasion is full of intersubjective meaning. Here the concept is, on the one hand, a representative of the objective occasion and a mediator between the gathering consciousnesses; on the other hand preobjectivity, or primal synthesis of intersubjectivity and, as such, a first and necessary step towards objectivity. Whereby the individual concept contributes to building up the objective occasion, but cannot be explained exclusively by it. At this gathering, different meanings of the concept are discussed, as well as multiple uses and purposes of the objective occasion to which the concept is referred, and so on. During the gathering, a specific label is constantly invoked for the objective occasion and may be, eventually, imposed on it: that is what we call objectivity. The meaning, usage, or purpose donated to the objective occasion, provided with its distinct degree of objectivity, is the net outcome of the dialectical operation of the gathering consciousnesses. Dialectically and with respect to objective occasions, a given community expresses itself by determining what will, and will not, be considered as objective. Although that community has no intentional life, the arrangement and eventual attribution of the label «objectivity» somewhat implies the experiences that some, or all, of the consciousnesses had had of their respective intentional objects; expressing, likewise, not only the political, intersubjective relations as

arranged during the encounter, but also introducing pre-individual and pre-political factors that hereby are being attached to the objective occasion. We could thus speak of a history of the objective occasion well before of its very constitution. This history reveals the need that every community has to incorporate some linguistic or aesthetic factors to any objective occasion. Thus, the objective occasion is shaped so as to cohere with other objective occasions: it is determined by the consciousnesses in accordance with something external to it. As a result, objectivity is the product of a double synthesis: one individual, another intersubjective. Its inherently political nature is, thus, a constituent element of a given community: the intersubjective field of experience is for the community while it nurtures, at the same time, the horizon of streaming intentional life of every individual consciousness within the community. Hence the objective is locus of convergence for the wishes of all consciousnesses in the community: convergence that refers to what it is, should be, or should be done with a phenomenical sphere that had previously been deemed problematic. Tautologically, we will take to be intersubjectively problematic the fragment of phenomenality (the objective occasion) that we find at the crossroads of several consciousnesses. The occasion builds, or helps build, intersubjectivity with its appeal to the consciousnesses and their desires. The first of the above-mentioned syntheses is that which the individual consciousness makes of its intentional object. In this synthesis, which we may call experiential-conceptual synthesis, the individual consciousness connects its immanent experiences with the phenomenical diversity. This synthesis, which expresses the interest that consciousness places in its object, is an appropriation or apprehension of a fragment of reality, that is assimilated to a subjectual dimension of the experience –subjectual, here, refers to individual affections and experiences-. Examples of this second synthesis are the definition of a concept, the purpose or use that is ascribed to a thing, or the recognition of a sign or tool. The second synthesis, in turn, is a dialectical synthesis conducted by a community in the intersubjective sphere, and it seems to come to terms with what Husserl called representation or appearance of17. According to the above,

“If one attends to the distinction between things as "originally one's own" and as

"empathized" from others, in respect to the how of the manners of appearance, and if one attends to the possibility of discrepancies between one's own and empathized views, then what one actually experiences originaliter as a perceptual thing is transformed, for each of us, into a


no one can claim, alone by himself or herself, objectivity for the definition or utility of an object, but must first bring the outcome of the experientialconceptual synthesis to a second, dialectical synthesis carried out alongside the rest of consciousnesses. From now on, all the meanings donated by individual consciousnesses to their intentional objects will have to coexist with each other. However, they will be overlapped with the objective value imposed on the objective occasion, which is now indelibly marked as the constituent element of the intersubjective sphere, and is, thus, entirely for the community. All throughout their gathering, consciousnesses presuppose, if not objectivity in some degree (a shared purpose, a common language, some shared horizons of comprehension, and so on), the possibility of determining it at any time. This objectivity is much more difficult to achieve as the number of consciousnesses involved grows larger, and more desirable as the objective occasion is more problematic. The dialectic of consciousnesses provides, hereby, for the community, an organization of the phenomenical transcendence that the community needs in order to regulate itself in all the practical issues relating to the objective occasion18. These structures essentially consist of, thus, a modulation of the subjectual dimension of the individual «streaming intentional experiences» of all the consciousnesses in the community; modulation which presents itself, as can be readily seen, also as a coertion exerted over individual consciousnesses, that serves to suit both the dynamic and structural needs of the community. Intersubjectively and retroactively, therefore, consciousnesses determine what will be regarded as objective and what, instead, will remain merely subjective. Here, it is key to keep in mind how, in all cases, these operations are performed by an intentional consciousness (experientialmere "representation of" ["Vorstellung von"], "appearance of/' the one objectively existing thing. From the synthesis these have taken on precisely the new sense "appearance of," and as such they are henceforth valid.” (Husserl E. The Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology) 18 Up to here, we have dealt with pre-political aspects of intersubjective sphere. Of course, this analysis ought to be enriched by considering all the aspects involved in effective («real») settings, such as governments, companies, established procedures, formation of networks and so on. In short, everything that seems to concern an ANT theorist, but also a linguist or a semiotician. Thus, what we are doing is to establish a ground for our further investigations. Indeed, if we now make a question like “What issues should be taken into account when dealing with technology?”, this meditation should help us decide at what point we should be using this or that analytical tool.


conceptual synthesis) or some consciousnesses (dialectical synthesis). They are constituents of the universe; for the first time, the universe appears as such, only and exclusively, to them. Now we understand how it is necessary that every judgment about the world must be dialectically compared and validated by many before it is considered objective. Hence we wonder, as once Immanuel Kant did, why and by virtue of what transcendental structures of consciousness this is possible. We realize that not only does it seem legitimate, but indeed crucial to us, whether there is a valid and preeminent road to knowledge or whether, on the contrary, all knowledge is merely instrumental. We also question, hereby, the value of prejudice. Since prejudices are constitutive of every consciousness, affect the way it has its experiences, donates meanings, etcetera, we aim to know which prejudices and under what circumstances, should be allowed in a society so that public life be feasible; we realize how important morals, ethics and laws are in our daily lives. Due to all of the above, it becomes clear that, just as every person has its intentional life and every culture constitutes its world, we remain doubtful about the possibility of a universal objectivity –since this term is commonly understood as providing universal validity. If Kant came to believe that our objective way of knowing had been enlightened by Newton’s physics and Euclid’s geometry (which forced him to assume and demonstrate the existence of a priori forms of our knowledge), time proved him to be –at least partially- wrong, as both non-Euclidean geometries and contemporary physics ruined this part of his system – although leaving intact its core, as it has been shown-. We are forced to assume the provisional conclusion that the world exists in many forms, as many as there are consciousnesses. Following Deleuze and Guattari, who speak in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia of a « geology of morals »19, it seems to us fair to claim, as a hypothesis, that there might exist also a geology of the intentional lives, that it leads to the coexistence of many universes, and that, while some of them are mutually compatible, some others are not reducible or assimilable by the rest. We understand that this idea of communitary self-expression, made through the intersubjective determination of objectivity, is often made at

Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia


the expense of a subjectual dimension of the individual experiences, by which intentional objects become overlapped with, if not engulfed by, objective occasions. We affirm, accordingly, that objectivity is a label that a given community places in an area of (phenomenical) confluence of intentional objects. Now, the act of superimposing the label "objectivity" does not have an effect on the objective occasion, which is not "real", but rather affects the intentional object of each of the gathering consciousnesses; object to which each consciousness had previously donated a unique meaning. A determination of objectivity is made through a coercive transformation of the dimension of subjectual experience which every individual had at stake –for marginality is seldom the favorite option. Objectivity is, thus, a pre-political kind of consent that, almost irreversibly, modifies, relocates or voids dimensions of the individual20.

Intentionality and time. The clock as custodian of objective time.
Any description starts with a consciousness, and is retroactive: it is a testimony of what was lived some time ago. Hence the fact that the universe qua universe is ultimately referred to a consciousness: proving, moreover, that time does not simply go forward, but rather that a myriad temporalities coexist and that, although it is arguably true that human beings came into being after the Earth, we can accept that only according to a very narrow sense of temporality, the one considered objective for centuries by Western societies: the clock's metronomic time. This is a linear order, continuous and unidirectional which is composed of «atomic» instants that were artificially disposed with complete disregard to many other structures of temporality, structures which are of a very different order and intenseness. This notion of time was eventually

As suggested above, we could conceive intersubjective operations of many other kinds, all of which have their particular effects in the dynamic conformation of collective horizons of meaning. Hence, there would be extensions, rigidizations and reintegrations of meaning: heresy as a crisis of a religious orthodoxy is a loss, an open escape route in society; insanity or literature as the favorite counter examples of the objective (remember Andrew Laeddis). In any case, instead of the term “horizon”, we find “territorial” Deleuzian categories much more eyeopening, since they provide much more dynamism to our analysis. They also give account of processes beyond the conscious, thus allow us drawing, for instance, biological analogies, that might enhance our conception greatly. We are here evoking concepts that draw on the dynamics of the social construction of meaning, such us coding, recoding, overcoding, deterritorialization, reterritorialization and so on (all of them found in A Thousand Plateaus…).


conceived, and materialized in the clock’s time, by historically and dialectically built consciousnesses: the labels of «scientific», «objective» and «real» are all implied in the clock’s time. But here we too find that the consciousness also learns, develops interests, creates and recreates, recalls, longs for things, and so forth. All these operations amount to different experiences of temporality; all of them are referred to the intentional consciousness and its originary life. Therefore, efforts to reduce time structures such as the aforementioned solely to the objective clock’s time should be reputed as cosmologically absurd. These multiple temporalities interact with each other, they syntonize, dilute, repel or overlap each other, in a way that we cannot just speak of a before and an after, without doing so in a very restrictive sense. Hence the need for this notion of a perceiving consciousness, which gives meaning and has experiences, to be included in any conception of time that were to be admitted as scientific, this is, unadulterated by extreme reductionism. Time will never be simply one; instead, and notwithstanding the importance of the conservation and reproduction of objectivity, we hold that the here-and-now, nurtured by the intentional life of actual living individuals, is sovereign in all expressions of intersubjective processes. Any future determination of objectivity is thus largely practical, heuristic21; and that is also applicable to the objective conception of time. At least, if our arguments are taken into account, reductionism will be avoided, and we might be able to open our field of phenomenality, perhaps improving our science too. In fact, the universe is constituted only backwards, with time bending over itself after the inquisitive look of a consciousnesses. If not for the existence of consciousness, of knowing wills, there would exist no such a thing as the Second Law of Thermodynamics: therefore, the concept of temporality it features should be extended, or made compatible, with the multiple temporalities as experiencible by consciousnesses that made it possible someday and that, even today, accept that Law as objective. Furthermore, we hold that, if a consciousness takes a look at things and determines them retroactively, that is because this consciousness is expressing its willingness to learn, that is, it is an intentional consciousness that continually seeks meaning and explanations across time: this consciousness is, indeed, willing to attribute beauty, utility, and many other features to things –features that

However, it is obvious that past determinations intervene in future decisions; otherwise no tradition, as well as no cultural or mental scheme, would be possible at all.



it considers and assumes to be significant, that must be attributed to things "out there". It is the aim of a consciousness, too, to acquire and delimitate a horizon of temporal phenomenality, which we may call horizon of habits and expectations. These habits and expectations are peculiar to that consciousness, or rather shared or negotiated with (and also imposed by, or upon) other consciousnesses. A consciousness, thus, shows a faith or hope to achieve something else, something that is not just consciousness itself, or any immanent contents it had apprehended already. While these hopes are shared with other consciousnesses, we can say the intentional consciousness takes part in a collective endeavor: some outcome is also expected here; consciousnesses share and coordinate their hopes; hopes they put on something out there. This something is necessarily somewhat objective since, otherwise, consciousnesses would not be able to reflect, intersubjectively, their wishes and hopes in it22. Reversely, consciousnesses only act intersubjectively by reflecting themselves in something previously designated as objective. We might now apply our analysis of the superimposition of objective value upon the (subjective) streaming intentional lives of consciousness. The case of the metronomic management of time, materialized by the clock, seems quite explanatory and accurate for these purposes. We will then study the possibility of extending our reasonings, so as to bring us closer to a general definition of the technological object, based upon the notion of objectivity. The temporality of the rotation period of the Earth around the Sun is in no way similar to the temporality experienced by someone who, sitting in a marquee, waits for the bus to come. Even if both are measured by the same clock, each of them implies different and coexisting temporalities. Thus, the temporality experienced by someone who waits for, who expects something, manifests itself in a serenity, an anxiety or a restlessness. These are all subjective feelings and, as such, refer to an intentional consciousness and its psychological states. As an Ego Cogito,

For the importance that the operation of reflection bears in relation with habits and expectations, see Deleuze’s account of Humean philosophy. It is readily seen how this reflection is correlative to a donation of meaning. See Deleuze, G. Empiricism and Subjectivity: the Philosophy of David Hume.


this person will also have its specific contents, or cogitationes: he or she will take its desiring gaze at the landscape, to conceiving some story happening in a remote time, recalling an unfinished duty or imagining that the bus company concocted a conspiracy against him or her. Prior to the existence of the clock, we find that all these experiences belong entirely to the subjectual sphere, or subjectual streaming intentional life. In the case of the wait, every individual has its personal subjective contents assembled over this subjectual sphere, contents which he or she is responsible for; which he or she, only and exclusively, can give an account of, as they have been, ultimately, determined by this consciousness only. But as explained above, there comes a moment in which an objective occasion is selected by some gathering consciousnesses, and they determine the need to superimpose the clock’s time, as objective, on the subjective intentional life of every consciousness. As can be readily seen, the clock as a material device could have existed prior to the decision brought about in the encounter; however, if it were being used just by one person, that clock would have been regarded as a mere artifact. Fancy as it could appear, eventually it might have been reported as uninteresting junk. Nevertheless, since the very moment that the gathering consciousnesses select the clock as custodian of objective time, this clock will no longer appear to them as a strange thing, but rather as a familiar object in which, additionally, they must reflect themselves, and this is so just because the object has been provided with the label «objective». By reflection we understand here the calling that any objective occasion makes on every consciousness that is determined to check this objectivity and internalize it as its own intentional object. As recommended by the community, the clock’s time is going to replace every subjective contents of intentional temporalities, what will be done at the expense of the subjectual dimension of temporalities that shape the individual experience. Thus, any time-related content, except for the one objective, will from now on considered invalid, spurious and even perverse. The clock appears before consciousnesses as the new manager of temporalities; as corrective (from the Latin co-rigere), it co-rules, it is at community service. In some sense, the clock removes, as explained, the individual consciousness’ capacity and freedom to generate its own contents. And it does so quite paradoxically, since the selection of the objective occasion (the measurement of certain activities, like the arrival

of the bus) had been made possible because of the existence of this subjectual dimension, which is not only common to all consciousnesses, but also an enabler of all subjective experience of temporality. The custodian of objective time is from now on this device, the clock, which disables the subjectual dimension of intentional temporalities and is the enabler, in turn, of certain practices that a given community perceives as necessary. The clock does its service by measuring instants and centralizing and organizing rhythms. It also presents itself as coercion upon people, as it distorts the shape of their pre-political freedom, while forcing individuals to resonate with the pre-political shape that the community, as a whole, wants everyone to share. We say that the clock distorts or blasts, and not simply destroys, people’s pre-political freedom, because the clock certainly interferes with the individual’s capacity to generate his, or her, own contents regarding the multiple and overlapping temporalities23. At the same time, however, this capacity may well have been no longer desirable for the individual himself (herself), since it could happen to hinder his (her) adaptation to daily routines; in short, it made difficult his life within the community. For all the above reasons, we believe to have established sufficiently that the clock, like many other technical objects, appears here as contradictory in that it transforms and may even come to destroy a dimension of subjectual experience -that is, of independence and individual freedom-, while enabling, at the same time, new areas of phenomenality, that might be called intersubjectiveobjective. Unmistakably, the clock as a device represents a net enhancement in intersubjectivity, otherwise achieved at the expense of objects that are prior to it and, arguably, at the expense of the streaming intentional life of those individuals who assume it as objective and necessary. When the clock is brought about, intersubjectivity is benefited; the prize that every individual consciousness pays for the establishment of the clock’s metronomic time (as objective) is a non-returnable transfer of intentional life to the intersubjective praxis. This operation is definable, thus, as an act of pre-political or technical consent.

In this context, we talk about political freedom only in MacCallum’s restricted sense: “Whenever the freedom of some agent or agents is in question, it is always freedom from some constraint or restriction on, interference with, or barrier to doing, not doing, becoming, or not becoming something? Such freedom is thus always of something (an agent or agents), from something, to do, not do, become, or not become something; it is a triadic relation. Taking the format “x is (is not) free from y to do (not do, become, not become) z,” x ranges over agents,y ranges over such “preventing conditions” as constraints, restrictions, interferences, and barriers, and z ranges over actions or conditions of character or circumstance. “. In MecCallum Jr., G Negative and Positive Freedom (1967).


On the Eidos of technologies
In its apparition, a particular technology proves that the community needs build or adopt a physical object as objective: in the future, every consciousness should reflect on this object24. As a technological object had to be created out of «nothing», they manifest the need that human beings have of creating an object that contains some meaning. We realize that this meaning was already there as an objective occasion for the community; however, the meaning (and therefore the objective occasion) was such that it could not be attached to any other pre-existing object. The technological object is, thus, the realization of meanings that are perceived anew, meanings that need to be materialized by invention and production: it is the expression of emerging feelings, of fresh streaming intentional lives and of changes in social and political relations, such that they cannot be simply spoken or painted, but rather have to be technologically built. Again we may ask: why does a consciousness have to reflect the technology? Because, once that technology is assumed as objective (useful, beneficial, efficient, or even just fancy), this technology will, most likely, be disseminated and extensively used. It will mold working habits, leisure, procedures and preferences; laws and regulations may be additionally enforced upon its usage. That is why it made its apparition in the first place: it came to enrich the intersubjective sphere, and to be integrated with other technologies and objective occasions. Just as in any other kind of objective occasion, some elements of this technology will now force consciousnesses to go to their objects and come back to themselves: process by which some specific objective values (attached to the concrete technology as a creation of and for the community) are assimilated by individual consciousnesses. We can speak of an Eidos of technologies because the objectivity of technologies has some peculiarities that cannot be detached from technologies; the Eidos of technologies refers, thus, to those peculiarities, this cannot-be-absent, without which we could not speak of technologies being-there at all.

Again, that physical object is confluence of all the objects of the individual subjects. Therefore, it presupposes the existence of some conditions of the individual experience that are shared, to a certain extent, by those subjects. Additionally, it presupposes the possibility of communication between those subjects; communication which is not only between subjects, but also about things.



Every community labels some elements that were once problematic, or interesting for the community, with a certain degree of objectivity. These elements are now structurally constitutive and significant for that community. Among these kinds of elements we find the King, the Law, an anniversary, the horse as a means of transport, or the concept of God. All these objective occasions refer to practical uses, morals, social ideals and so forth. Thus, the King is the sovereign of the community and, as such, it must govern in a particular way; the law is a collection of words referred to what is considered good or inconvenient; the horse is an animal we use for field work and racing competitions; and so it happens with many other elements and uses perceived by the community as significant. Now, technologies have no intentional consciousness, while both the King and the horse have it (each of its particular kind). Technology, thus, demonstrates its superiority as a purely objective thing; that is to say technology is more objective in itself than any other type of constitutive objectivity. It has no desires, nor does it incorporate personal experiences. Within the King, however, subjective aspects do coexist alongside the objectivity that was imposed on him externally. These aspects are inherent to him since, before he became a king, he had to be a man. For this reason, we could say that the King has some sort of mixed objectivity, or a mixture of objectivity and subjectivity: accordingly, we will call this kind of objective occasion a mixed element. According to this, the King adulterates, to an extent and because of his subjectivity, the objectivity that the community expects him to put forward in the intersubjective field. On the other hand, and as opposed to the mixed nature of the King, the objective purity of a machine or a technology is eventually experienced by the community as an extra level of efficiency that adds up to its technical efficiency (its factual performance with respect to its social function). If a machine provides a substantive reduction of uncertainty in the behavior of my intentional object, it also ensures the permanence or stability of objectivity in its concept. As this stability is now desired as such by consciousnesses, the technology appears as its representative and most liable sponsor: its regulative value is, thus, a meaningfulness to the community. I believe that this preference of objective purity over (subjectiveobjective) mixture is a powerful reason behind most of the transhumanist speech. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly usual to hear people demanding either an AI government, or some other forms of technologybased governments. To some extent, this is a logical response of collective

indignation against massively corrupt rulers that only act in their own interests; and it is indeed quite understandable that citizens are seduced by the idea of streamlining goods and infrastructures, to fully manage them through either distributed (more or less democratic) or centralized (more or less technocratic) control systems. Yes, the citizen may even come to regard this system as inhumane; but, paradoxically, it cannot possibly be considered unfair or dysfunctional. He (or she) can argue -and how could we disagree on this? -, that it was technology, and not governments, that brought prosperity to Western civilization. Moreover, when a button is pushed on a control pad, the computer to which it is connected acts on command, while if the supported candidate becomes president, he (she) will often do just the opposite of that he was voted for. These are simple, yet unquestionable facts: besides, if citizens stick their political judgment to criteria of technological efficiency, machines' double efficiency (one, merely technical and the other, derived from its objective purity) is self-legitimating and indisputable. As a result, more and more people see technologies as infallible guarantees of social justice, and speeches of radical technopolitics are earning, little by little, greater and greater popular support. However, we forget too often that machine’s objectivity can eventually have some unwanted counter effects. In its objective purity, the machine doesn’t have intentional life. Although we first experience this feature as a second efficiency, the value of the machine ultimately lies in its ability to function as it was built, this is, its technical efficiency. However, those objective occasions where intentional life coexists with the objective label (those we called mixed elements) appear to allow, at all times, an odd game between intentional consciousnesses and the intentional life which coexists with objectivity in the mixed element. This game takes the form of a circulation of affects, replies, dialogue, incriminations, that can alter the overall outcome of the intersubjective practice on the go without abandoning either the subjectual sphere or the unmediated communication between individuals. Technologies, however, do not allow any dispute or questioning. Once technologies are introduced into the intersubjective sphere, they behave in an univocal role, their being-there is once and for all; instead, the King or the horse can eventually be harmonized with my wishes on the go, what represents a degree of flexibility resultant of his, or her, being-mixed (objective-intentional). For instance, if I think the intersubjective praxis is not going well for me, or I think it will not result as it was objectively intended to result, I can at

some point blame the King, urge on my horse, modulate or adjust his, or her, desires with my actions and requests, and so on. Here, by preserving my sphere of subjectual experience, I somehow hold to myself some power over such objective element. The uncertainty aroused by the mixed element becomes then living flexibility, enhancer of the intentional activity of consciousnesses, and the possibility of exercising this power, my intentionality, over the object, is directly translatable into some quota of political freedom. In contrast, technological non-operation or dysfunction leaves a sense of helplessness on the consciousness: by sticking myself to the fixed operations that a machine provides for me as a user, I put on the machine all my hopes, but I no longer hold the possibility of intersubjective dialogue. Thus, if my desktop computer does not work as I wish, I may get frustrated, but kicks and punches on the machine won’t make it work: I have to learn the technical skills to be able to repair it. Now, this might be quite a long and epic process for the individual. Thus we see how helplessness, as well as the correlative abandonment of my subjectual sphere, are both all the greater the more complex, massive and incomprehensible the technology is25. Evidently, because the saturation of the intersubjective-objective sphere manifests as an obstacle that hinders the individual consciousness from gathering with other consciousnesses in equal conditions, to the extent that sometimes the individual will not be even able to gather, as he cannot manage the particular technology, or perhaps he even is excluded of its use. Whereby we realize the magnitude of the distortions many innovation programs, public as well as private, constantly introduce in individual lives and social affairs. Frequently, technological innovation is driven by research groups that are isolated from each other, do not have any political skills or responsibility, and are funded with enormous amounts of money by scarcely transparent governments, if not by the invisible market forces. The major part of the innovation process is, thus, concealed from the public eye, what inflicts severe damage on the individual’s independence and increases his (her) feeling of helplessness. If there is a casualty at a nuclear plant, and it causes a physical catastrophe

From this paragraph and till the end of the chapter, I will no longer be analysing the technological phenomena in general, but the specific phenomena that has been called technoscience. For a definition of “technoscience”, see Echeverría, J. and Gonzalez, M. ActorNetwork Theory and the Thesis of Technoscience. Technoscience only depicts a kind of statelevel or market-levet technological phenomena; therefore, my analysis will not be essentialist, although it is true that it is too general and should require a further ampliation.


(economic, environmental, and so on), the dimensions of the casualty will be incomparably greater than if a bulldozer stops working or breaks. Similarly, the magnitude of the intentional and emotional efforts placed on each makes of the first accident a much more regrettable tragedy. Intentional activity of the individual, that was placed not only in the infallibility of the nuclear plant, but also involved the engineers in charge, political regulations enforced, is also extended to technology in general, as well as to the community of life to which the individual belongs. The individual had entrusted his confidence and hopes in all these elements: in the massive failure, all these hopes have been betrayed. The feeling of helplessness is then so strong, that radical decisions are required in order to restore social equilibrium. Here we find it fitting to recall how, shortly after the Fukushima catastrophe, the Honda corporation made a public and broadcasted presentation with their Asimo, a new humanoid robot capable of repairing damaged nuclear plants. Through such an event, the Japanese Government and the Honda corporation are not just making a contribution to risk and safety management in nuclear plants; they are, first and foremost, restoring both national stability and international confidence towards a technologically-based paradigm of life. On the other hand, their astonishingly quick response reveals the urgency of the issue. As we see, the climate of mistrust and helplessness that the Fukushima event had brought about had become so blatant and generalized, that it was extremely urgent to bring back the masses to serenity. Also, it is of utmost importance to notice that the dominant form of intersubjective construction of meaning –highly bureaucratic, putting together a class of experts and a mass of mere users- is such that the tragic effects of a massive technological catastrophe could only be handled by the public presentation of yet a more impressive and spectacular technology. Undoubtedly, we should look for similar motives in the upheavals that significant technological innovations usually bring into the market. Indeed, as the process of technological innovation gets a little closer to the dynamic patterns we find in financial markets, technological innovation shows itself as the predominant form in which our modern societies materialize intersubjectivity. No wonder, thus, technological innovation is ousting money exchange itself as the favorite sponsor of mutual confidence (at the same time that electronic currencies are more and more used). This correlation and mutual convergence of technological innovation and the dynamics of the global markets makes, also, something else clear about both our societies and their current handling of


technologies: that we have entered a generalized self-feeding dynamics by which, apparently, “more” has come to identify with “never enough”. For all the above reasons, we state that an unbridled increase in the excellence or complexity of any technology -as well as the unstoppable increase in size and centralization of innovation programs- can be regarded as conflicting with the responsibility, freedom and political power of the individual. Just as the neoluddite thinker Theodore Kaczinsky expressed sharply in his Manifesto, the proliferation of new technologies, as well as the replacement of old technologies for more efficient and farreaching ones, tend to saturate the intersubjective sphere of the community. While dependence on machines becomes less and less avoidable, it shrinks the individuals and their intentional lives26. This process is taking place, accordingly, with a form of intersubjective relation such that it requires instability, constant enhancement, exchange and transformation to produce more instability, enhancement, exchange and transformation. To sum up, technological innovation, in its actual form, is a form of meta-confidence, what means that it is not confidence in something concrete, which is here-and-now, but rather confidence in the financial sense, in the evermore, in an expectation that will never be fully satisfied. If, however, we paid some attention to studies about systemic stability, we should have to state the need for our societies to change their patterns of intersubjective praxis as soon as possible27. These changes could be attainable by slowing down and regulating technological innovation (qua technoscientific industry) so that it meets concrete social
Kaczinski’s example of the chess game has indeed become quite famous: “Since many people may find paradoxical the notion that a large number of good things can add up to a bad thing, we will illustrate with an analogy. Suppose Mr. A is playing chess with Mr. B. Mr. C, a Grand Master, is looking over Mr. A's shoulder. Mr. A of course wants to win his game, so if Mr. C points out a good move for him to make, he is doing Mr. A a favor. But suppose now that Mr. C tells Mr. A how to make ALL of his moves. In each particular instance he does Mr. A a favor by showing him his best move, but by making ALL of his moves for him he spoils the game, since there is not point in Mr. A's playing the game at all if someone else makes all his moves. The situation of modern man is analogous to that of Mr. A. The system makes an individual's life easier for him in innumerable ways, but in doing so it deprives him of control over his own fate”. See Kaczinski, T. U.N.A.BOMBER’s Manifesto. 27 The scientific law that gives account of this progressive convergence between the developmental patterns of technological innovation and those of the global markets is Moore’s Law. Bateson relies on the cybernetic language to call these self-feeding dynamics schismogenic. He believes these dynamics follow a very similar pattern to that of the selffeeding escalation of military weapons, and attributes intrinsic instability to a system which develops insistently these relational patterns. See Bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of the Mind.


and ecological constraints. As Stafford Beer, for instance, suggests in his Brain of the Firm, these regulations would not necessarily be centralizing but, on the contrary, they should rather tend to progressive decentralization of all the subsystems involved; this, in turn, could make the process compatible with the preservation and even enhancement of civil liberties. As part of the intervention, pressure both on manufacturers and on consumers should be lowered, so that technologies could be politically, scientifically and philosophically assessed before they pervade the social body, thus enhancing the user’s technological responsibility and empowering him, or her in consequence. If, however, technological innovation presents itself with the logic necessity of a one-way street, then it shall be clear that the age of politics is finished, and that we are incapable of choosing and deciding by ourselves. In this scenario, every new machine will be the disturbing proof that agreement among us humans is no longer possible. While the already existing technologies manifest patently the extraordinary power that humans are capable of accumulating and materializing into devices, it is also clear that we should learn to harness this extraordinary power before it simply falls out of our control.

Machine, myth and deception. Donation of meaning as consciousness of finitude.
In this paper we have made a methodological assessment of the technological phenomena. Although it is merely preparatory and clearly incomplete, it should also be helpful facing future analyses. This methodology draws on Edmund Husserl’s phenomenological principles, and allows us to stress key differences between human beings and technologies as key actors in a sociopolitical context. At the same time, it throws some light upon the peculiar kind of humanity that technologies bear: an intentional, socially mediating and subsequently pre-political feature that is not properly theirs, but that they rather get from the human beings that created them. On the other hand, we have paid little attention to many other interesting aspects of the technological phenomena, all of which demand our attention and foreshadow further and exhaustive analyses. Among them, for instance, we find the act of


creation (the apparition) 28, the process of concretization or development in its different stages29, the analyses of sociopolitical structures and ideologies determining technological varieties30 or a psico-eroticism that would take into account unconscious, pre-individual and pre-subjective elements found in technohuman relations31. We have but vaguely pointed out elements of these analyses. Therefore, for the moment all of them will remain more or less obscure to us. In the last section we have argued that, either through an explicit or an implicit consent, all consciousnesses in a community donate meaning to technological objects. This meaning is a plethora of intentional intensities, or intensities of intentional life, which derive from labelling the object as objective, and add up to the object as a second efficiency over the object’s primal, mere technical efficiency. On the other hand, this consent or agreement is an intersubjective gain for the community, a meaningful creation; it expresses the communitary aims, or needs, for mediation between individuals, as well as a need for the organization of transcendence (nature, or reality); organization which is to be attained both by mechanic and by symbolic means. However, this technological consent is double-sided and contradictory: it implies an attachment between all the individuals in the community and that technology. In order to participate in certain intersubjective activities, all the individuals will now have to reflect on this object, internalizing its objectivity, putting their hopes and trust in a power that is beyond them, and which perhaps is even inaccessible to them. Thereby, the technological consent means a loss of political flexibility, and may also mean a loss of individual freedom and power. We see how consciousnesses continuously have their desires

We can find a phenomenology of the apparition of the technological object in Dessauer’s and Simondon’s classical texts. 29 On the concept of concretization, see Simondon; for an analysis of the development stages in technological object, see Feenberg, A. Transforming Technology: A Critical Theory Revisited 30 An introduction to this kind of analysis can be found in Winner, L. Do artifact have politics? 31 This analysis would seek to illuminate the specific ways whereby subjectivities encode and express their wishes; wishes they shed, and they cannot stop shedding, about people and things, and yet all too often arise from processes unconscious and involuntary. The concept of preindividuality is thoroughly developed by Simondon in On the Mode… and also The individuation… For the attachment of organs and the formation of subjectivity by reflection on objects, Deleuze’s machinic fluxes or Rostrity could be quite fertile a starting points. In Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.


scattered and spilled over things, animals and over other people, and that they cannot stop doing so. Now, the necessity to reflect on things, to place hopes and desires on things, if not accompanied by a technical (prepolitical) empowerment of the individual, can in turn make a technology ineffable and mysterious for its user. In this situation, the consciousness establishes with the particular technology some animist, magical kind of relation; for the same reason, in turn, the expert (the engineer, for instance) becomes a new type of priest. Moreover, innovation programs don’t feedback society with information or accurate tools in such a way that people can reassess the process itself. This reassessment would have the virtue of empowering people and improving the use and understanding of specific technologies, promote technical expertise, rational reflection and so on. Hence, we would be promoting individual responsibility and encouraging social participation, while improving processes of technological innovation at the same time. However, both companies and political authorities appear to benefit from opacity and from the chaotic marasm of current innovation programs. These programs continue to be run in laboratories that are hidden from the public eye, funded with enormous budgets and out of touch with real public needs. This type of development results in the proliferation of machines of spectacular capacities; however, machines that are ultimately incomprehensible to their users. For this reason, they might not be able to repair them, appropriate them and transform them, and what could have meant an empowerment of the individual turns out to create helplessness and abandonment: the consciousnesses place all their hopes on technologies, and the technological environment becomes some kind of magical or sacred power (the God, the Emperor). It now bears a promise of salvation, not one that it will be attained in afterlife, but one that is immediately and visibly efficient. We see how, quite paradoxically, machines have ended up playing, in our days, the same social role formerly occupied by God; only that, changing the object, specific features and attributions have changed too. Thus, today machines ensure salvation to us through security, work, welfare or luxury, not through morality; not in the celestial world, but in the world of life; not ineffably, but patently and spectacularly. In fact, such is the resemblance between the intersubjective role of the machine and that of God, that machine’s objectivity shows itself more and more blessed with

the perfume of the Sacred Object. In my opinion, this is a conspicuous sign of irrationality that lurks under the too-easily assumed rationality and technical efficiency of the machine: irrationality that is manifest in the ever more grotesque projects and the ever more absurd remarks about machines. It has become, for example, rather commonplace to hear this dictum: «Had machines a God, this God would be Man». Nonsense! If we thought a little, we would rapidly point at our human essence as the ontological basis for the creation of gods. Creating myths, feeding them, donating meaning to them, that is what humans do. And just as some gods were created in our image and likeness -and part of this fiction was to pretend the truth was just the opposite-, we do exactly the same with AI, robots or computers today. We hear voices claiming that «the brain is a wonderful computer» and several gurus of technology do really hope to develop abiotic conscious entities. Naivety! If the brain was a computer, how could it deceive itself? Nowhere is this display of objectivity as myth of salvation-by-the-machine more explicit than at sport events, which are the contemporary transcripts of yesterday’s religious ceremonies. We could turn here to F-1 accidents. The fate of the competition depends largely on the technical efficiency of the car, this understood both as speed and robustness. But it also depends on circumstance; the car may have an accident or break at some point. Dozens of people have built and paid for the car, placing their hopes of victory on it; his opponents and fans bear similar feelings. The car, on the contrary, does in no way feel these anxieties and despairs. It remains the same, ambiguous, unable to make sense of its own failure. Rather than a transport vehicle, the car is a vehicle for many people’s hopes. A vehicle, however, that is inert, that does not care at all about our desires and affections, a bottomless pit of passions that tricks its creditors with treacherous indifference. In horse racing, instead, the horse and the jockey share interests and motivations, they suit each another, align their affections and intentions. As a mere machine, the car is just an object without a will, incapable of any desire, and thus of reacting to the driver’s wishes beyond its operational capacities. This eventually shows the car’s falsehood, for though it seemed to race, it was just doing its routine work, which is precisely to mimic a «being-racing», a «being-competing». But then a sudden halt on its «being-working» swiftly reveals the vanity of this appearance and the helplessness of the driver. In these events, we learn some truth about the Eidos of machines, as well as about our relationship with machines as the part-human entities they are. Eventually, we may

even realize how, after GPs with casualties, disputes spark off with the teams’ bosses accusing each other, eyes turned on the engineers, frustrated pilots, and so forth. All of which finally comes to nothing. It simply appears to be the mere manifestation of those peoples’ helplessness after they discover both the falsehood of the machine and how deceitful their relation with it was. When the machine does not work, my hopes are thwarted twice. The failure is the failure of the objective occasion: it is a failure of my community. On the other hand, the objective occasion refers, in the intersubjective-subjectual sphere, as I reflect on it, to the broken machine as my intentional object. I had put all my hopes on that machine, on the belief that it was capable of satisfying them. When the machine breaks, I find it nonsensical to retaliate to it since, although I'm frustrated, the machine will not feel my punches or insults, nor will it accept my complaints, just as it did not care for all the hopes and affections I had previously put on it. The myth then becomes a monster, a tremendous falsehood that uncovers our credulity and naivety. Due to all the above reasons, I have to conclude that the dogma « God created the world » is but a taboo or metaphor that expresses, though in obscure words, metaphysical principles similar to those that Kant, Schopenhauer or Husserl had once attributed to the Transcendental Reason, the Will or the Intentional Consciousness. «The Gathering Consciousnesses created the World» is the hidden truth of all creationist religions. Here, God would be the hypostasis, the phantasmatic representation of «Us»32. The tabooization of « Us » as creators of our representation of the world appears, in turn, as the ideological remains of a pre-political era. The need for ingenuity in the intersubjective praxis makes itself patent by forcing us to deny both people’s subjectivity and the intrinsically political nature of objective occasions: sadly, we see how these remains of pre-political eras pervade our societies today in several ways, seeping values through technologies as well. Here and there God appears as the eminence of moral values, Justice and Goodness; in some places, God is fully eminent, so that even his name is also a taboo. In the Modern Ages, many philosophers and priests invoked God as Pure Reason, as The Geometer; today, we speak of God as The Programmer. In this

A beautiful and exhaustive analysis of differences, but also of codependences, of both technicality and religiosity can be found in Simondon, G. On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects. However, it is impossible to give account of it in a mere essay.


operation we, as a community that donates meaning, substantialize our desirable values; what once was Eternity and Goodness, today is Objectivity and Efficiency. Just as The Word once expressed our admiration for the invisible, impalpable gifts that knowledge and language are, today Technology expresses our calculation power, our flexibility, our sociability and mobility. But we always take this operation much beyond: we need to mystify our models of virtue, which we repute as infinitely superior, eminent with respect to us. Each of us will necessarily be contingent, inferior to our intersubjective models of virtue: we cannot stop seeing men and women humiliated before their gods. And, interestingly enough, even though this operation has been repeated innumerable times over the centuries, we always show the same tenderness and ingenuity; although some pretend that we be alike our gods, we are always different, always creators of that which is more than any of us; that something to which we want, but cannot, resemble. Such is our precarious existence, that of the mere dressing, the contingent additive, the Spinozian mode that, unbearable for itself, needs to create a substance, a myth in which we can reflect and gain our virtue. For, only through the donation of meaning, the intentional life of consciousness seems to acquire a horizon of life: only thus consciousness justifies its finitude.


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