Mashines

The radical indifference of Facebook & Co is deeply inscribed in capital

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9 Nov , 2019  

In her book Das Zeitalter des Überwachungskapitalismus Shosana Zuboff describes Facebook & Co as the masters of radical indifference. A new accumulation logic emerges in which the surveillance capital extracts human behavior and its seemingly useless surpluses, that is, absorbs data combined with other data to feed intelligent machines and produce predictions of behavior from their algorithmic processes that are sold as derivatives on behavioral futures markets. (Zuboff 2018: 125) In the process, the content evaporates into exchangeable material that is supposed to animate the consumer to somehow stay on the ball within the 24/7 clock by posting as much as possible himself and commenting, liking, exchanging and archiving posted material. There is a radical indifference on Facebook, which leads to the fact that “content is judged and measured exclusively by volume, diversity and depth of the surplus that accrues” (Zuboff 2018: 578), and that on the basis of the anonymous measures of “clicks, likes and duration of stay – and that despite the obvious fact that he (surplus) derives his profoundly different meanings from profoundly different human situations (ibid.). Thus the relationship between difference and consolidation/standardization has shifted. We still adhere to versity (equalization), an inversion and mutation of diversity that does not mean the elimination of difference or socio-cultural differentiation; on the contrary, versity uses difference as its real substrate to generate certain standardized organizational systems. New order systems and power technologies are constantly being generated that absorb or modulate differences. In radical indifference, on the other hand, there is no consolidation of the differences; rather, the differences, the most diverse contents, even the positive and negative, are regarded as equivalent. The differences that materialize in images, videos and texts are the meaningless raw material that is extracted and processed as a surplus of behavior by users. In this way, all differences are considered equivalent, or, to put it another way, each specific meaning dissolves in the stream of differences, which in turn means that there is a radical indifference towards meaning itself. Difference equals indifference, that was the formula. This kind of equivalence makes the visible, flowing text on Facebook generally susceptible to fake news, which the surveillance capitalists are happy to accept, as long as there are no objections, because ultimately every content counts for the black box or for the shadow text that the machine intelligence operates to supply sellable prediction products to advertisers on the behavioral derivative markets.

In the postfactual age, the incessant generation and interpretation of data is immanent, but this does not happen without the elimination of meaning itself. The liquefaction of meaning in the endless data pap as a result of the permanent search for patterns and correlations in the data sets produced does not mean, as assumed by Baudrillard with his simulation theory, that every specific meaning disappears and the signs circulate indifferently only in the Als-Ob, but that the extraction of meaning in itself is becoming more and more intensive, precisely because of the fact that it still has to be interpreted and interpreted, regardless of what is now meant in detail. This lies in the last instance in the future-oriented capitalization, which encompasses both money and bits in their exchangeability as well as an increase in capital that calculates the future, solely for the purpose of staging everything and everything as a financial investment, which, regardless of the underlying value to which it allegedly refers, is supposed to generate nothing but returns.

With regard to the exchangeability of bits, the computer proves to be a sign transformer that processes pure information, but not without content, but with arbitrary and exchangeable content. Just as money must be exchangeable for goods, regardless of which, bits must mean something, regardless of what they mean. Money and bits indicate communication exclusively under the aspect of the negation of a specific meaning. Or, to put it another way, to the exclusion of any meaning, except that it must be incessantly meant, so that the fact of being or the crossed perspective of meaning clearly comes to the fore here. For this reason, the current invasion of data does not lead to a loss of meaning, but to an overproduction of meaning that opposes the indifference of each specific meaning set by capital but it still has to be meant, otherwise the system would fall apart. This kind of overproduction of meaning constitutes the real loss of meaning.

So today the creative capacity of high-tech paranoia is less characterized by a lack of orientation knowledge than by the overproduction of meaning that results from the game that there is meaning at all. When meanings become interchangeable in multiple circulating artificial interpretation processes, out of which the struggles for interpretations first arise, then a mad search for meaning inevitably follows. While capital can certainly live with this kind of loss of meaning through the overproduction of meanings, this is not easily possible for the state, because as we have seen, with it the equivalence of all meanings is questioned if it is to be expelled as the point of view of all viewpoints.

One could say with Lacan that the unfiltered data stream is the realm of the real, while information and metadata represent reality, a world made intelligible by cognitive filters and technological infrastructures, which itself is composed of registers of the imaginary and the symbolic. Unwavering flow of data, information and opinions that react almost hysterically to each other, especially in social networks, as the same and different at every moment, in order to create delusional aggregates and illusions of any kind. But all this is by no means open in the sense that an observer sets the difference between before and after in such a way that he designates neither the one side nor the other, but the difference itself, namely the present, which in turn is itself a non-place

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