Modulo

I.

An axiom, we know well, is a police officer. The vagrancy law that no officer can abet is the identify of indiscernibles. This legal instrument regulates that which can be reasoned about; it demands that the objects of thinking are perceivable in their plurality — more simply, that two indiscernible things must be thought-of as one.

But humans, peckish and thieving, have a way around this. The law establishes identity from indiscernibility, but (in the generic case at least) leaves discernibility as non fingo. We can therefore use the up-to structure to commandeer and puppeteer identity. We can say “noon” up-to the day and never specify a date. We can reason about noons in general; we can, for example, invent longitude by measuring how fast noons are coming as we sail. This is how “applied” anything works.

In mathematics the up-to structure is available for integers in modular arithmetic. It is also available generically through equivalence classes and quotients (sets, groups, what have you). The theory of parity (odd/even structure) is ordinary arithmetic modulo 2; hours are arithmetic modulo 12 or 24: in the mod-12 style, 3 hours and 15 hours past midnight are both “three”. Each of these is an example of equivalence classes. Equivalence is a true upgrade from indiscernibility, one of those rare cases in which metaphysical conceit gets pwned by simple formal maths. Indeed, maybe there is no such thing as indiscernibility — maybe everything is indefinitely distinct, pantha rhei, and identity is a fully bogus idea.

This is immaterial — equivalence, a true gentleman, frees us from identity without undue punishment of its vanquished rival. We get a call-the-manager bell, a rape whistle, a get-out-of-jail-free card called modulo. Whenever in trouble, it’s always possible to scream it, modulo! The indefinite wealth of lived experience — each gust of wind, each passing wink — is safe and tucked away from mean cops.

II.

A good friend of asemic horizon counsels me on occasion to leave politics alone if I expect to make anything out of theory. He’s right — the political take space is way overcrowded and an interest in politics is an unwelcome signal of being chiefly interested in posturing about unactionable scenarios. Of course, asemic horizon emerges from politics originally; it emerges from the theoretical desire (the libido sciendi) of discussing the Brazilian situation modulo surface-level news events that obscure always-ongoing structural affairs. Improbably, this got us somewhere: everything worth discussing was worth something; structural affairs were always quotient affairs with axiologies.

[“Quotient” is very closely related to “modulo”; roughly, the quotient set of integers towards parity, or Z/2, is the set of integers modulo 2, or up-to-parity, or the set of equivalence classes of integers resp. parity; ultimately, the “set of parities”, an adjective having been wonderfully transmuted to a substantive. Political “affairs” are, of course, not sets; but every time “modulo” can be clearly used, so can “quotient”, wonderfully blinking between adjectival (theoretical) and substantive (actual-structural) form.]

This is not actually how theory was first discussed. Objects of discourse were declared not as actual classes, but as models of their quability conditions. Quability was akin to satisfiability in constraint-satisfaction theory. Everything was in the implicit solution to a (possibly unsolvable) system of equations, an inevitable consensus, a mad drift towards infinity. Talk of “quables” (which would be more or less amenable to the quotient form treatment) was sparse at first and died down entirely. There was, ultimately, a sense that this cosmic ambition — speaking only of the large-scale, inevitable conditioning factors, and the conditions on that, if needed – was the only way to build something that might, at some point, produce the vocabulary needed to say the unspeakable.

It can only follow that theory in the asemic horizon sense must be unintelligible. As forceful and overflowing with technicalia, the stuff of theory is in its minor inconsistencies. Theory is a mood. The mood sets the conditions for thinking; conversely, thinking must satisfy the mood.

III.

If I was to drop all pretense of quability theory to give a report on the ongoing situation, I’d have also to drop all of the sequence of quotients afforded by theory: I’d have to report on my city, on my neighborhood, on my street, on the birds and tree maintenance and emerging styles of leisurewear. I would need to become descriptive and colorful and convey an entirely new mood of exotica (not Colombian Magical Realism; maybe Structural Tropicalia) that set the conditions for understanding… something.

But it’s increasingly unclear that Structural Tropicalia holds any interest. All world politics has been suspended in favor of American politics, which sets the tone and the terms of (symbolic and monetary both) exchange. To the extent that politics away from the real world (i.e. America) still takes place, it does so in contravention of structural affairs. It’s reasonable to assume that even the Revolutionary Guard will lose its efficacy, that its gradual coup will lead to rule over empty cities.

The cosmic ambition that agitates quability theory can only grow in answer to this. Theory is waiting: therefore, it thrives in the despondency of the Real. The only real answer to stagnation and diminishing returns is to eat the sun itself. Given that theory is the theory of generic structure, and nothing at all can be meaningfully thought-about except if modulo generic structure, theory is the only means we have to prevent an ongoing symbolic (cultural, cognitive, hydraulic….) collapse.

Missing pieces

Tempo was a real coup — by all appearances the greatest act of technical hang gliding I’ve been able to pull off under all these (cognitive, time-budget, loss of single-minded focus and major themes) constraints. Diegesis was an still is an interesting concept; but isn’t it in some kind of tradition from Plato’s cave onto Baudrillard and beyond? Of course, diegesis manages to satisfy quite a few of my secret axiomata: it’s non-essentialistic, takes place in a membrane-like surface (rather than in the cave or in the grand dehors, and appeals directly to a dizzying cloud of technical tools. That these tools are readily recognizable by almost anyone in touch with mass culture is a bonus: theory’s scope of communicability surely needs improvements.

At one point, and not at all in the same vein, the overloaded Daseinwolke that writes asemic horizon came up with a set of notions it liked to shkrelishly call physics. I had actually been working on a note-taking/mind-mapping app (really for personal uses) that arranged information in freeform graphs (as far as “physics” goes, really best identified as 1-simplicial complexes that admit a Hodge theory). This is a typical case of “once unseen, can’t be unseen”: the mysteries of math are such that boundary operators can be identified in graphs with the “incidence matrices” that show up in pipe flow/Kirchoff’s law problems; and, with some more “Hodge star” trickery I won’t pretend to understand, the matrix Laplacian L=ITI corresponds to the Laplacian-as-in-sum-of-second-derivatives seen in potential theory. Then you can, given a graph that connects ideas, impose a graph-statistical “mass” concept and compute an “energy” function as simply as solving Lϕ=m. The bratty appellation of physics comes from the many actual physical problems (Gaussian gravity included) that are stated as Laplacian PDEs. Look, ma, technical stuff.

“Physics” actually worked — I use my own mind-mapping app, it’s really neat-o — but the mess of words that is asemic horizon jargon induced me to believe it a spatial counterpart to tempo — equally distributed, acentered (energy computations effectively destroying any semantics of global-ness in the use of graph statistics for “mass”), breakable in pieces. But it wasn’t. The relevant texts were retired as soon as I realized it — they were somewhat dreary with numerical examples and lacking in verve, anyway — and I’ve been acting like it didn’t happen at all since then. I mean, how many blind alleys is one supposed to meet while developing theory?

But as the anomie-fog of theory since the loss of Jairwave settles in, the wordmeaningcrash in “physics” becomes symptomatic of a lack — an incompleteness to the notion of clicky async tempo. Theory tells us that tempo clicks at an uneven discretized pace; that tempo at different sites also clicks to the beat of their own drums. The Situation is, therefore, identified the polyrhythmic pattern of clicking. Systemic constraints shaped like feedback signals weave their way through this chaotic symphony — death and sex themselves flowing as carried by packets of tempo, mounted on temporalities in such a way to giving way to the illusion of global time.

There’s more to this that has never been said: there must be a correlation between value systems and the sensitivity of this temps-supposé-global (found in your computer clock on the edge of your screen) to specific local temporalities. This is why the drums of war beat so loud, and why the game of “where were you when…” can’t be played with the death of Lisa “Left-eye” Lopez from commercial pop group “TLC”. The simple fact that people in serious low-level disagreement relate their temporalities to this ambient illusion tells us something empirical about axiology. In General Axiology we all know what’s going on

II.

I’ve been haunted lately by the word ambit. Etymologically it has to do with bodily movement, walking around, ambulating. It’s also a cousin word to “ambient”; both reach back to ambio — which does mean “going around”, but with particular tactical purpose: to walk around — to encircle. In current business parlance “ambit” means something similar to “scope”. The latter belong to the gaze (to scopophilia, not to ambulophilia); clearly some nuance is lost. Indeed, the ambit is as much related to marketing metrics as it is to mental partitions of the territory. Yes, yeeees, the incel scope and the Chad ambit, that’s how you do it.

There’s an implicit “spatiality” to tempo — but note the word, it’s not really there; at best it can be computed like we compute energy from mass; there’s also a temporality to the ambit (a matter of tactics before anything else), which is rather less (if at all) implicit. The ambit is real insofar it’s seen (scenarized as, etc.) as an implementation of tempo. The implicit spatiality of tempo is due to its polyphony: two things that click in unison must be the same. The polyphony is empirical evidence that at least two distinct things must exist; but to evince this distinction a strategic plan must be set in place. The fact that we perceive distinct things merely indicates that God or Natural Selection (or some joint-venture thereof) has already traced out the tactics of the ambit. Your pervert’s eyes encircle the world in saccades and circle around on body parts: yes, even scopes emerge from their ambit.

III.

We’ve seen that ambit, is at heart, a tactical notion. Can it ever “belong” to theory? Can we place ambit in our scopes? This problem catches me off guard. It’s likely what all the Lacan stuff had been building up to: theory can handle its scopic issues by conceptualizing them (scenarios, physique du role and so on), but the shortcomings of its ambit are not straightforward at all. If ambit is admitted into the diegesis of theory (in this mess of words you’re reading right now), will asemic-horizon.com’s traffic statistics come into play? If, in my capacity as a theory-maker, I have been a subpar tactician, does this put theory in question?

We’ve also seen that correlations in how the effect of temporality (not tempo, but the illusion that we ambulate in shared time) evince axiologies at degrees higher than our perceived value systems. This, too, has to do with the tactical dimension, and with the encircling motion that erects conceptual frameworks rather than declaring them. This is why theory, distanced as it is from any particular issue, often seems to bear on politics: there’s more than loose threads linking axiologies, diegesis, tempo to the large ambits of politics and ideology. Indeed, it often circles around them by deliberating on ambient conditions — quability conditions for the largest possible ambits.

This having become clear, it does feel that the credibility of theory becomes somewhat contingent on its own tactical success.

Nicht dieser Töne

I. 

What stands out the most about Grammarly, the style checker I’ve been using in hopes of writing intelligible text is its steadfast refusal to accept “Theory…” as an indeterminate object of discourse.

I’ve had, in casual conversation, many instances where theory is expected to be always transitive, and generally towards a specific hypothesis (“the theory that Polish jazz reflects a cerebral misunderstanding of its American sources”). On asemic horizon we say — everyone together now — theory is the theory of generic structure. Infinite recursion fixes the grammar (it is now “the theory” of something, namely “the theory of the theory…”). But it leaves much unsaid.

Despite all of its feverish juggling of neologisms (technical terms, each having a specific meaning), theory as practiced in asemic horizon is not an entirely new pursuit. We’re more inspired by Heino Engel’s Tragsysteme than by Adorno or Habermas; but it’s hard to deny their priority and their usefulness in making other people to understand what we mean by “theory”. I’d rather have you read Gilles Grelet, but what is he saying to an audience (even the freakish readership of asemic horizon) that isn’t in love with theory already?

The other thing was an attempt to communicate theory with “normies”. The risk of that venture is not being able to cleanly differentiate what K-Hole means by “acting basic” and “normcore” — roughly, the blend-in mimicry of leaf insects versus the outward movement towards “opportunities for strategic misunderstanding”. If theory is ever going to be valuable to normies, that’ll be because there are none. This is my standard case against incels and other such outcasts: STFU and dress normal. A beautiful paradox: there is no normalcy, just the ongoing awkwardness that makes us grab on the available equipment (and here we very literally mean what Heidegger means by das Zeug). This equipment produces an effect of tactical normalcy, itself an attempt to pro-duce (to bring into the world) the ambient conditions of prosocial connection.

II.

In the other thing we have at times claimed theory to be is: a praxis of intelligibility. It’s ultimately this that motivates the other thing — I sprinkle it liberally with notions that I can get paid for this if I play my cards right (and maybe I can, that’s none of your business), but the unlimited freedom afforded by asemic horizon is paid in blood with a descent towards irrelevance. We’ve explored the ways in which this descent ultimately leads to the switcheroo (ultimate genericity translated to ultimate generality at the critical moment) and to General Axiology.

Of course, the way out is through, but this is a very hard slog, and my repeated attempts to hang theory on some sort of formalism (SATPLAN, graph physics, Girardian logic) have produced more demands towards the formalism — this is like buying a clothesline and having to stand pulling on it until your shirts are dry. Theory only progresses by making little knots and little hooks — the points de capiton (faux lesbians, Crystal Castles, Misha the Bear, McKenosha yadda yadda). These have always had a calculated clickbait effect — I do want more readers; maybe these will have to come from the other thing — but they’re also fun and keep your spine straight as you fall down the great water slide that’s the genericity of genericities. 

III. 

Here’s a provocation: incels have a right to get laid. (I might have to freeze a definition that excludes people who have had sexual experience.)

The argument for this is twofold. First, incels have a right to get laid by whatever they imagine women to be (increasingly this takes a disturbing deantropic trend towards cartoons). Sex with imaginary women can be accomplished single-handedly, and for (physical, even) health reasons it’s often recommended (at least in the absence of real partners). The axiological trouble begins when real people are coerced in some fashion (deepfakes being a relatively nonviolent alternative to the old, worse ways) into pretend-playing to be imaginary women. Only then moral concerns come into play. This also neatly illustrates the difference between ethics and morality; inceldom is, to begin with, an ethical shortcoming. 

Second, incels have the right to get laid by real women — provided they’re able to connect with real women as such. “Consent” applies to a weaker formulation of this problem that we intend to sidestep altogether: forcing (or cajoling, blackmailing, etc) someone into sexual contact fundamentally disconnects you from them. The mystery of inceldom (particularly from the incel’s point of view) is that they can’t get women; but “getting women” means “being with women”. Seduction tricks are parlor tricks; attractiveness helps in seduction because sexuality can’t be unraveled from physical presence, but seduction is literally the subtractive counterpart of pro-duction — it means “to hide”. Typical incel blunders (at least as widely mocked on the internet) have to do with running directly into the attractive (and largely imaginary) thing, too much, too fast. “Negging” teaches them to do otherwise, but these people invariably overcorrect and miss their shot. Incels never really meet real women. 

The best advice for incels is, as above, STFU, dress normal. But this should recapitulate everything we’ve said about normalcy as a phenomenon of misinterpretation. Les non-dupes errent; what anyone wants is impossible; you misread it into them, they misread it into you. That’s how seduction works: you dress normal, then people misunderstand you.  Everyone is wrongly convinced that their ultimate value as humans lies in their agalma, but by virtue of feeling they don’t have much else to offer, incels are way too protective of the inner good person they think they are — and resent that others don’t see it. Thus the great virtue of attractiveness: people who are hot are able to signal their value in all sorts of ambiguous (and low-key) ways, while those who need to produce value-signaling effects that, paradoxically, hamper their ability to be ambiguous and get mismatches.

To be clear: this isn’t relationship advice. 

IV. 

Theory is seductive to the extent people misunderstand it. If I have to put forward a denunciation of, e.g. Austrian economics (which has happened), this loses some people. Of course, “just be more ambiguous” is about as useful as “just be more attractive”. There’s some constraints (the quability conditions of theory) that simply can’t be fucked with; and, of course, on asemic horizon you’re watching it happen live. Watching a nude wo/man taking showers over and over in a loop isn’t that erotic after a while. 

Going for “normies” in the other thing is a different affair. Dressing normal is challenging for a project that’s ultimately (however obscurely) revolutionary. There’s great sincerity in that project: we keep evoking Crystal Castles yadda yadda but theory needs a dozen Jairwaves to really emerge as a valuable pursuit in its own right. Everything that’s held to be valuable is already in/part of an axiological structure. And as much as we need to understand them, this process also has much to give back in terms of a clearer discernment of its structure, its dynamics, its tempo, diegesis, physics, scenarios…