Self and Society of the Networks

Society that was organised on linear models of hierarchy is fast breaking down.[1]  One can clearly see this shift from the traditional mass media to a system of horizontal networks organized around AI, wireless communication and the internet. Atomist view of both the individual and society is dead. Cartesian self has mutated and a self in an assemblage or an actor in a network that is continuously mutating by shifting networks or assemblage is born.[2]  Such a mutating and entangled self is called as dividual[3] by Deleuze to bring home the simultaneous mutations of the self in all directions on wings of networks or assemblages.  This horizontal mutations in all directions have given birth to what may be called a multitasking self. But it is a dividuum.[4] Humans have become partible.[5] It divides itself to link and delink to several assemblages. Thus society has become assemblage of networks that are assembling, de-assembling and re-assembling continuously. The endless possibilities of expansion and reconfigurations available to the self have converted the society of networks to pulsate to equally great lengths, breaths and heights in its expansion and configurations.  Self and the society of networks have its benefits and malaise to humanity and our planet earth because it both includes and exclude at different levels each of us. This inclusion and exclusion has unhomed humanity everywhere.  As a result of this and other factors, we can see political right wing popularisms  having a sunshine almost everywhere  in the world.

This study strives to understand the self and society of network. It is growing on the wings of technological convergence of computation, internet and wireless communication.[6] This growing network system is interactive and hence exponentially powerful. Internet has become a platform for all forms of media that is digitizable. Both print, radio, television, books-magazines, films have all migrated into the internet. We have now platforms of mass-self communication like the youtube, facebook  etc which allow individuals to create content . New apps have allowed us to access as well as offer services to people across distances.  These user-generated and managed platforms have all migrated into a smart mobile phone and enable the self work to simultaneously enter into several networks. These networks allow both individual and groups to co-function and symbiotically establish liaisons, relations and assess services as well as offer the same. These changes have led to the transformation of our experience of time and space. Space has multiplied on the web and time has shrunk.  This is why it is important and urgent to understand the self, the internet and the network. Technology is dismantling and re-assembling the world that we inhabit  we are living in a world that has become digital. We have smart homes, smart cities and smart cars. Changing conditions of our living are transforming and amplifying our human experience and are also mutating us tremendously.

We take up assemblage thinking in this study. Assemblage thinking is embraced in humanities today to a large extent.  Having tried to understand assemblage thinking, we then take up the study of agency of the self in the society of networks animated by AI. Next we take up the challenge of ethics to open and mutating self in a world of AI generated networks or assemblages.  This study makes three different proposals for a possible ethical route that we can take to face the world of AI, wireless communication technology and the internet. Finally, we take up reflexivity as we find that in an accelerated society, we do not have time to process our stimuli and often response to them become spontaneous or even machinic. This is why, letting metis or cunning become our habitus or habitual response an urgent need to face the dynamic, mutating and accelerated society.

Towards Assemblage thinking

Assemblage thinking shuns aside anthropocentric thinking and is replaced by creative capacities of matter and energy. It avoids all shades of totalization and reductionism and stays open to dynamic relationism.  Hence, emergence, non-linearity, openness, adaptation, feed-back, path-dependency becomes very central to this form of thinking.  Assemblage thinking leads of privileged thinking of immanence and change. Such a thought enable us to understand human condition in a network society that is surrounding us today.

 

Assemblage thinking and Relationalism

Assemblage thinking is a relational thinking. It does away with ossified essence-centric abstractions and takes us into a dynamic pulsating realm.  It is not concerned with arche or the origin of things but begins in the middle of things which are the centre of ongoing process.[7] Therefore, it is never complete but always in a process. This is why it is not representational thinking. It opens us to an ongoing  productive process that constitute the world that we inhabit. We and all things around us are in a state of becoming. Nothing is in a static state of fixation. Everything is in relationship from clay of pot to the city. All things are assemblages.  Objects, ideas, rituals, families, economy, politics etc., can be viewed as assemblages. Assemblage thinking can give us a deep insight into the AI world that brewing around us. AI can bring everything that is digitizable into networks of relations. We already have an  inter-net of things. Today we cannot understand our life and our would outside the relationships of networks forged through the internet and wireless communication technologies. Our world  is collapsing into a global village.  We are fast becoming glocal.  This new scenario cannot be thought adequately with old modes of subject-centric thought. The subject/object dichotomy is steadily breaking down as we have a new subject entangled into a network processes everywhere.   New assemblage thinking that stays in touch with the dynamically changing and networking processes enables us to understand and respond to the changed conditions of being human  in world of AI.

Anti-representationlist Approach of Assemblage Thinking

Assemblage thinking is anti-representative thinking. Respsentative thinking is platonic and prefers images/ copies of things to the things in the world. This means it does not see things as standing in the world but as standing for human ideas and is fundamentally anthropocentric. This anthropocentric approach put humans against the world that they inhabit and becomes the foundation of several binaries like subject /object, nature/culture, society/culture, culture / material etc. assemblage thinking on the other hand brings human in relation to the world. As beings- in-the -world, we humanize ourselves by relating to the world. Human dynamism in the world in terms of assemblage thinking is ongoing and continuously unfolding. Thus if representative thinking maybe viewed as people’s belief about reality, we may say that assemblage thinking is people’s reality. Actually representative thinking is a meta-otology as it is a copy or picture of reality.[8] It asks the question: what is reality? On the other hand assemblage thinking is ontology. It asks: how things are? Therefore, it is a productive hermeneutics while the former is remains imprisoned to the semantic matrix. Thus representative thinking may illumine us about what is AI. The meaning of AI remains in adequate as it does not deal with the question: what it does?  Being a productive hermeneutics, assemblage thinking is concerned with what AI does to humanity, society and  our world. Assemblage thinking frees our thinking from homogenised frames and opens us to the dynamism of emergence. This is why assemblage thinking is always in the making.

Humble Epistemology and Assemblage thinking

All philosophy so far was anthropology. Assemblage thinking enables us to break the shackles of anthropological moorings of our thought.  Thinking in this way frees things from their essentialized forms and focuses on set on relations acting upon them as well as those relations that they activate on others. This new focus on active and emergent relations opens our minds to the unpredictable, the different and the multiple that is arising out of the networks. This thinking stays open to the fact that single position that we identified at a time has reached a closure while leaving out multiple possibilities and the singularity that we have identified  is only provisional and stays open to multiple paths in the future depending on the kind of assemblages and networks that a system opens up. This means reality is does not have a closed future. But says open to multiple paths. Essentialist thinking closes the future of reality and is always haunted by lost future.  Reality is emergence and we cannot capture emergence into our fixed categories.[9] The future of humanity in its interaction with the AI cannot be closed bounded. It stays open and can be both bright and dark. Instead of being prophets of doom, assemblage thinking assists us to stay hopeful and opens possibilities of actualizing a humane future for humanity into the world of AI. This humble approach to knowledge is radical. Assemblage thinking teaches that knowledge emerges from way we set up our assemblage. This is very true at quantum level. The manner we arrange our apparatus, nature shows as waves or particles.

 Self, Assemblages and Agency

Self and its agency cannot be thought without structure. Anthony Giddens has driven home this point with great force.[10] Unfortunately, Deleuze and Gauttari nor DeLanda exhibit any interest in agency. But being Human in a world of artificial intelligence challenges us to take up the issue of human agency.  Some theorist teach that the notion of affect in them assist us to arrive at the notion of agency while the self may enjoy riding several networks simultaneously. This networks open new ways of becoming in the world and human migrate to this networks let by aesthetics, emotion and reason.

Multiple Strucutration  and the Society of Networks

Structuration theory attempts to find the middle between those that think that structures produce human societies and those that hold that human agency produces structure of the society.  Anthony Giddens taught that structure and agency were not to be viewed as independent and conflicting elements but as mutually interacting duality. [11] This means social structure influences humans beings while at the same time humans beings also shape and reshape it. One can clearly trace a relation of mutuality as an operative principle in the structuration theory.  Social structure thus   is not an external restraining force but a resource deployed by humans to produce their social world. There are both enabling and disabling sides to social structures. Structuration breaks the dualism between structure and agency and attempt to manifest how a copoesis[12]  between the structure and the agent. This means self making takes place within the limits of the structures. The structuration theory has to be amplified and expanded to our society of networks. The fact the self can simultaneously structure and be structured by several networks or structures it complex.  Our changed condition requires us to affirm possibilities of multiple structuration  operating simultaneously shaping our society and agency. This means a society of networks or assemblages offer simultaneous multiple possibilities for self to shape oneself as well as our society.    But within the multiple  structuration, there are both enabling and disabling possibilities.

Affective Maturity , Self and the Society of Networks

Within expansive yet bound condition self of a network society creates itself and its societies. The possibilities that opened for self making in this expansive networks and assemblages is mainly growing in the aesthetical realm and one can already view that it can undermine human reason. Others may point out that this growing aesthetic sphere that is impacting/ structuring the self is leas to a new level of aesthetic rationality.  Deleuze and Guattari think that assemblages or networks that the self aligns to augment the self through generation of affects. They think that affects link the past and the future being both the result and generator of action.  There is no doubt that affects do have cognitive dimension. But they produce immediate emotive responses and hence what is called emotive intelligence seem to be central to save human agency and freedom in society generated by AI and  its networks.  These new networks produce affects that produces motivation to human becomings[13]   in these societies.  But hold on to freedom of choice to opt for this becomings  we would have to have affective maturity. Within assemblage thinking a think can be multiple depending on its position in the network. Thus, a simple stone can be weapon for violence, raw material for building a home or road, and caving of a statue.  Depending on the kind of the network the self chooses the stone gets it place, value and function in the society of networks.  Therefore, we need to let a society grow in its affective maturity to enable the self to opt for emancipative and therapeutive networks.

Distributed Agency, Self and the Society of Networks

The actor network theory has positioned a notion of distributed agency. It teaches that things within a network are vibrant and exhibit agency.  This agency is of course thought to be secondary to human agency. This notion of distributed agency is important for a world generated by AI. Distributed agency primarily locates agency not to persons or things but sees it as a relation between things and the persons. May be we require to invest in this notion of distributed agency in a world where humans and AI will interact side by side. This issue raises the all important question will AI require ethics and morality to guide its conduct like the way humans need? If so who will generate it? the fact that AI can write on AI as shown by Jaspreet Bindra in his book, the Tech Whisperer, where he publishes a biography of AI written by AI[14] , may lead some of us to think that AI will generate an ethics, morality and even theology for itself.  This may not be our immediate concern. What we need to reflect for now is on the problem that faces us immediately. In a society of networks, where we will have distributed agency teeming everywhere, do we need new ethics for humanity to work side by side AI. This seems to the urgent need of the hour as  humanity is already living side by side with AI and this condition is only going to expand. Although some AI enthusiasts wish to uncouple human intentionality from human action that is augmented by artificial intelligence, this study cannot agree with such a proposal. The fact that AI is largely working in a aesthetic realm and our society has stepped into an economy of experience on the wings of AI and big data human intentionality is already weaken and we mindlessly opt to ride networks opened by several assemblages available to us, makes it a compulsion to invest into human agency and mindfulness in a world of AI.

 

Ethics for a Society of Networks

The emergent conditions of assemblage thinking as well as dynamism of society of networks render it a challenge to develop an ethics that relies of unchanging fixed principles. These fixed principles stand in danger of being irrelevant to the changed conditions of our society. A society that is generated by humans alongside AI does require a new ethics. The changing conditions seem to giving a death blow to what Deleuze and Guattari may term as molar ethics. We need today a new molecular ethics that considers    individuality of self seriously.  This is so each individual today enjoy countless options to align to networks or assemblages that create one self and society.

Individual Uniqueness of the Self and the Society of Net work

To map and appreciate the possibilities that are available to the self to shape itself and the society, we need to open ourselves to the notion, body-without-organs as developed by Deleuze and Guattari and relate it to the notion of haecceity constructed by John Dun Scotus.[15] One of the easiest ways to arrive at an understanding of difficult notion like body-without-organ[16] is to view it as semiotic black hole. Black hole is a term in cosmology which is understood as  a point of extreme gravity where light is absorbed and not reflected back. This is why it is called black because we do not get light from it, though Stephen Hawking has manifested that it does give out some radiations. Taking our analogy, from a black hole, we can think that every human has tendency of transforming all things, meanings, institutions, cultures, etc., into a blank slate and then re-map or re-arrange everything to suit ones perceptions/interests/tastes/ jouisance.  This means haecceity or uniqueness of every person leads the re-drawing of the map in which one finds one’s place.[17]  This re-drawing of social map is unique to each human person but may not be always done in a conscious manner.  Besides, this is not a single re-drawing of a map; one redraws several maps as one migrates simultaneously or separately to several assemblages or network society. Thus, an ethics that is attempting to respond to pulsating society of networks energized by AI will require an ethics that considers the responsibility to individual seriously.  This quest to generate an ethics that considers unique use of one’s freedom may take us to the ethics of responsibility as developed by Jean Paul Sartre or to the one that is development by Emanuel Levinas where the individual is not just responsible to the self but to the other human who is along his/her side.

Ethics of the Singular and the Network Society

Humans continue to be moral agents in a society of networks. In these dynamic societies we need an ethics of the singular or wholly other.  Maybe we have to opt for obligation rather than ethics that are allied to dharma[18] in Indian traditions. The society of networks powered by AI puts every individual into inescapable responsibilities as he/she enjoys expansive freedoms as well as become vulnerable to unforeseeable contingencies. This suggests the self responds to the stimuli that it receives from the AI world of networks in an unique and unprecedented way. Hence, ethics of singularity of John Caputo might be an adequate response that a society of networks need. Basing himself on the work of Jacque Derrida, Emanuel Levinas, and Kierkegaard , Caputo  develops the ethics of singular or the wholly other.[19] Every person is unique and acts a wholly other  in an AI animated world of networks or assemblages. Hence, ethics that relies on universal principles alone will remain inadequate. This is why each singular person cannot be totalized nor be guided by a totalising ethics. We have to deal with singular situations in a society of networks where humans will act alongside AI. There is always an excess or surplus in to the context as well our own grasping of the human action alongside AI. This is why a singular ethics as developed by Caputo might provide us a way of finding an ethical guide into network society that fundamentally marked by an unbridgeable openness.

Fidelity and the Event of Societies of Networks

Alain Badiou’s philosophy and ethics might assist us to seek another path to ethics that would respond to the society of networks. The notion of fidelity is central to the new ethics of truth developed by Badiou.  Fidelity for Badiou is a response to an event. He teaches that human is a subject of an event and is called to fidelity by an event. Event convokes us all into being. Our response of fidelity to the event becomes a path to the new ethics of truth positioned by Badiou. Event for Badiou remains undecidable and cannot be fully understood. Both the event and our fidelity to it is peformative. Both make us what we become. One doe feel the pull of the event and is pushed to fidelity. We can respond favourably on unfavourably to the event. We can feel being seized by an event. We live our life into an event. Event forces us to suspend our certainties and consumes our mirages. It opens us to the truth of the event. As the world that we know crumbles, the event places a demand of fidelity on us.  This demand of comes from the radical break that the immanent event makes with the world we once knew.[20] We can easily see that irruption of the AI , internet  and wireless communication is indeed an event that calls us all into being. We experience this pull to fidelity to the event differently. Some may feel more intensely while other may fell it less intensely. Just like falling in love with a beloved becomes an event that invites us to lifelong fidelity to the truth of the event, the eruption of network society is shaping our being.  We have all migrated into this new society out of fidelity to the event of the emergence of society of networks.  Badiou reminds us that event opens us a subjective space that can be negative. Hence, fidelity to the event can also be evil. There is space for infidelity and loss of true self in Badiou. This is why the event of the coming of the network society in full force is not all blessings as the power death is also hovering over it. Badiou’s fidilty tothe event can only explain why we so much chained to the network society and do not seem to show a path of truth to guide our way.

 Need of Reflexivity in Society of Networks

The need for reflexivity has grown greatly in a society of networks. As the cognitive dimensions of humanity given in to an over excited aesthetic side, a reflexive distantiaiton appears to be the need of the hour.  Reflexivity allows us to become aware of our own pre-dispositions ,  inclinations , preferences or habitus and enable us to win over our enslavement to our aesthetics inclinations excited by the various networks powered by AI

Opening a Reflexive Space for the Self of Network Society 

There is a difference in kind between reflection and reflexion. The latter is second level reflection. Our engagement with the world of network powered by AI and allied technology requires us to enter into a second order reflection. We need to find a pause between the stimulations and excitation of the networks or assemblages that we connect continuously in our network society.  Reflexive task lead us to do a meta-reflection not on the AI world and our society but on the question what it does to us and our society. Today we need more reflexivity rather than reflection on the dynamics of network society.  Reflexivity necessarily involves self-referenciality[21] and becomes a distantiation that opens us to our own involvement several opportunities created by the net work society.   what we need is to trace a reflexiveness into the different plays of the self opened in the network dynamism in our society. Just like the a religious rituals opens a reflexive space where by one become both passive  object and active subject through participation, the self of network or assemblage  is challenged to open a reflexive space so that one stays aware what one does and experience in the new dynamic mutating network world. The opening of reflexive space within the dynamic play of the self in a network society can re-modulate and assist the self to re-align with new emancipative assemblages.

Metis and the Generation of Emancipative Reflexive Responses

Opening of the reflexive space requires us to immerse integrative wisdom into practice of self who is an actor in a network or assemblage.  Maybe we have to let mental attitude and behaviour which combines flair, wisdom, forethought, subtlety of mind, resourcefulness, cunning, vigilance, opportunism deception. The ancient Greeks called it metis. It is ambiguous. It was also used to refer to the skill of the sailor or the farmer as he responds to the formidable forces of nature.[22] Metis was also viewed as resistance to control systems in society.  Hence, metis as resisting wisdom becomes an important reflexive response that we need to develop to society of networks. A self in a network society requires the resourceful metis to bring about a skilful navigation as its rides the networks powered by AI. This means formal knowledge and skills may not help as the accelerated society does not offer us the luxury of time to construe our calculated response. The response time is almost instantaneous and the self has to be act spontaneously. Therefore, it requires to be armed with metis. This means we need stratagem, guile, wile and degree of trickery to bring about emancipative responses to dynamically mutating society of networks. We need to adopt a cunning that mixes shrewdness with sly intelligence to face successful the pulsating world of networks and assemblages.  It is metis that will enable us to creatively develop responsible responses to the self that shapes itself in relations to the dynamic networks generated by our AI, internet and wireless communication driven world.

Reflexive Habitus and Network Society

The self that rides the dynamic world of net works requires us cultivate a habit to transform all its becomings into emancipative adventures.  In this context, Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of habitus might assist us how a habit becomes an unlearnt natural response to a stimulus. It is as spontaneous as a tribal learns to dance without being taught to dance. We can see habitus being exhibited in the manner our children manifest skill with our smart phones.  This mean habitus becomes an embodied disposition for an action.[23]  Our body immerses into our world. These dispositions to act in a certain way coupled with reflexivity can fire emancipative responses in the self.  In a profound way habitus becomes an epistemic reflexivity that has the power to assist the self in network society to emancipatively shape itself and the world.  Although there is an unconscious aspect to habitus , when linked to reflexivity it can bring a awareness of our pre-dispositions and thus enable us to choose our response. This is why what we need to face the dynamic pulsating network society is reflexive habitus. Such a reflexive habitus will generate productive and therapeutic responses to a world generated by AI, internet and wireless communication technology.

Conclusion

Self of a  society of networks rides several networks simultaneously. There does not seem to be a substantive anchor  as several avatars or larvae selves co-exist in a multi-tasking mode.  There is no way we can reverse this process. The network society is going to intensify and extensify as days go by. Therefore, humanity has a great challenge to  learn to live alongside AI ,  Internet and wireless communication technology. The stand alone self of philosophy is already dead. We have now an entangled assemblage that forms the self and its network. Philosophy that has been so far has been only anthropology is dying and a new pluriversal post-anthropocentric philosophy is steadily arriving on the scene.

[1] Our societies are complexly organised around the net and the self.  See Manuel Castells, The Rise of  Network Society (West Sussex: Whiley-Blackwell, 2010), 3.

[2] Manuel DeLanda, Assemblage theory (Edinburg: University of Edinburg Press, 2016).

[3] http://taeyoonchoi.com/poetic-computation/control-society/accessed on 29/Feb/2020.

[4] Gerald Rauning, Dividuum: Machinic Capitalism and Molecular Revolution ( South Pasadena: Semiotext(e), 2016).

[5] https://nomadit.co.uk/conference/iuaes2014/paper/19838accessed on 29/Feb/2020.

[6] Manuel Castells, The Rise of  Network Society, xvii-Ivii.

[7] Manuel DeLanda, Assemblage theory, 9-10.

[8] Manuel DeLanda, Assemblage theory, 80.

[9] Manuel DeLanda, Assemblage theory, 88.

[10] Anthony Giddens: The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration ( Cambridge: Polity Press, 1986).

[11] Ibid, 5-34.

[12] Greek word for  making or creating is poeisis. Copoeisis is creating together. See https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/copoiesis accessed on 29/Feb/2020.

[13] https://www.euppublishing.com/doi/full/10.3366/dls.2016.0215, accessed on 29/Feb/2020.

[14] Jaspreet Binbdra, The Tech Whisperer: On Digital Transformation and the Technologies that Enable it (Gurgoan:Penguin, 2019),  265.

[15] https://arete.unimarconi.it/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/ARETE-Volume-2-2017-10-Transcendental_Philosophy_in_Scotus_Kant_and_Deleuze.pdf accesed on 29/Feb/2020.

[16] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11007-016-9406-0 accessed 29/Feb/2020.

[17]  The continuous re-drawing of maps by a self in a network society can be also be understood with the term diagrmatics used by Deleuze and Guatarri .

[18] Dharma is a force that obligates us.

[19] https://www.academia.edu/7743765/Caputos_The_End_of_Ethics_-_Our_Individual_Inescapable_Responsibilities accessed on 29/Feb/2020

[20] https://www.academia.edu/936118/Badious_Fidelities_Reading_the_Ethics accessed on 29/Feb/2020.

[21] https://philpapers.org/archive/BARRAS.pdf accessed on 29/Feb/2020.

[22] https://www.joycerain.com/uploads/2/3/2/0/23207256/dolmage_metis.pdf accessed on 29/Feb/2020.

[23] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314242377_Bourdieu’s_habitus_and_field_implications_on_the_practice_and_theory_of_critical_action_learning accessed on 29/feb.2020.

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