asemic horizon continuously hesitates to comment on salient, event-like anomalies because it cultivates a particular conceit called “theory”. The intellectual import of this conceit is that, in theoretical work, an all-consuming effort is placed on making sense of salient structure-like anomalies. The philosophical import of this all-consuming effort is that systems thinking implies there is a single structural anomaly — that salient structure-like anomalies must always/continually reproduce themselves in a system-like anomalous homeostasis.
At this point, the patient reader should react with skeptical reflexes: how can something that is so stable and wide-encompassing be characterized as an anomaly?
Baudrillard famously says that “the secret of theory is that truth does not exist” just as “the secret of gambling is that money does not exist”. Surely enough, there is money, but anomalously so — which is to say, without nomos, without law. Under “ambient conditions of gambling” money is fully disconnected — not only from the wide system of value that makes it money-like, but also from local continuity laws. In gambling, money is savage.
A common objection (at least from the nonrandom input I occasionally get from readers) to asemic horizon’s signature approach to temporality is that physical simultaneity is a thing — it appears in the fundamental ontology of nature with meaning and consequence. This is very true, but not a substantial objection: we’re citizens of physics by force of metaphysical necessity, but also citizens of Uruk and economic systems and human systems of many sorts.
Classical physics (and note that the relevance of post-classical physical theories is contingent on them reproducing certain classical structures, at least at mesoscales) is the theory of phase spaces, and in the setting with the most metaphysical weight, spaces in which phase flows are reversible. This is terrible! Of course, since physicists are among the smartest apes the species has bred, they’ve managed to proliferate “arrows of time” in mathematics-drenched models of increasing abstraction and unintuitiveness. Which is to say: physics gambles with abstraction and occasionally makes bank, reaches empirical validity and even woos our metaphysical hearts with tales of worlds utterly unlike human experience. We should have great reverence for the sheer cleverness and power of these models — but not mistake them for theories of the world.
On the contrary, the pure irony of the topsy-turvyness worlds of post-classical (and especially quantum-based) physics trying to restore the nomos should be evident from the vantage point of our phenomenal, lived-in experience. Science cannot “drain the swamp” of anomaly. And heavens know that we are drowning in anomaly.
If physics was the enemy of theory, it would be an extremely — almost to the point of indeterminate might — powerful foe. But theory does not aim nor dare to challenge it. Science lives in the realm of the Symbolic, after all — its goal is not to break through the order of the Real (much like the gambler’s goal is not to produce a sustainable cashflow), but rather to make sense of the natural world. Theory dwells on the Symbolic order as well, but in mad, anomalous fashion, alternating listlessness and euphoria. Theory is grand conceit: it proliferates entities and arguments founded on phantom hypotheticals in hopes of breaking free — on sucking the marrow of the Real, feverishly gambling episteme to win big. Contrary to Baudrillard, the secret of theory is that truth exists, but it does not exist in theory.
Theory is a bet on the glitch. It obsesses over structural anomaly because of the widespread perception that most of the world is anomalous. Most of real temporality is clicky tempo xor weather/uncertainty/kairos. Most of the agency in the world is contingent on axiologies over axiologies over axiologies over… Most meaning is in seduction and withdrawn enjoyment. Most communication happens through orchestration of extradiegetic technologies to make diegesis happens. Most of salvation and deliverance is third-order soteriology. And if killing is sex, it is so due to a paradox known as physique du rôle.
At some point, we should find ourselves gambling (metaphorically) with usefully complex market derivatives rather than crappy polymer-acryllic roulette in ersatz river-boat casinos. Then hedging operations. Then whatever comes on top of that. Eventually, general axiology.
So what of the coronavirus disease of 2019/20? It surely appears to be a glitch — while at the same time being clearly a cog in the machine, a region of the system, Dasein borelians and all that bebop. This is, again, because much of the system is glitchy. You’re sitting at a computer right now: notice how uneven its temporality, how unknowable in its automatic orchestration of archeological piles of cruft. Software engineering assumes glitchiness and occupies itself with mitigation. Interact mindfully with your computer, notice its near-organic unreliability, its incorrectness. The motto of our era is that “software is eating the world”: this means glitches are eating the world.
Search your hearts. Or ask any software engineer.
The core anomaly of computers is that they’re actually useful. The core anomaly of the 2020 coronavirus disease is that its mostly harmless — while also being deadly almost at random. The mot du jour, “asymptomatic carrier”, expresses this incredible paradox: being sick — and contributing to the systemic illness — while not being sick at all. And this is a terrible glitch, one that careens us to a full-blown once-every-five-generations meltdown in the span of three weeks.
Theory is not particularly helpful in dealing with this particular anomaly. Tools (PCR testing) have been developed by science, but they’re being used incorrectly — testing the known-sick instead of random sampling the population to actually know what the hell is going on. At a higher level of axiology abstraction this might actually be thinkable — but the goal of theory is to shoot meteorically toward ultimate abstraction to deal with ultimate anomaly — in warfare, in chrematistics, in wisdom — hell, in seducing women, if that’s really what consumes you (it appears to be a common theme with my readers).
But we have to assume the anomaly.