Bernard Stiegler Keynote lecture Digital Inquiry Symposium Berkeley Center for New Media UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA April

27, 2012 1. Cognition, technics and knowledge I am a professor of philosophy. I studied at the EHESS where I wrote a thesis about the relationship between technics and time under the direction of Jacques Derrida – a work published in English by Stanford University Press. I began my academic career at the UTC in 1988 where I founded a laboratory dedicated to the questions of cognition, knowledge and technical systems, and which still exists. In this team, our project was based on the idea that the models stemming from the cognitive sciences, which were still very computationalist in these times, even if connectionist models complicated the hypotheses, and above all the theory of autopoiesis and enaction, the idea was that in cognitive sciences in general, there was a sort of huge paradox and misunderstanding due to the fact that these sciences used a technological artifact – the computer – as a model for explaining cognition without theorizing about technics itself. It is on the basis of this statement of fact, and of analyses founded on prehistory, particularly the theses of André Leroi-Gourhan, and on theories inspired by Georges Canguilhem, like the simondonian philosophy of individuation, that I created COSTECH (this meaning Knowledge, organization, and technical systems) dedicated to the development of cognitive technologies. We must distinguish between cognition and knowledge, and today I prefer to say knowledge technologies rather than cognitive technologies. Nevertheless, if we used this expression of cognitive technologies, it was mainly to claim that before we can think a science of cognition, we have to consider the technologies of cognition, that is, the technological condition of cognition when it has become not only cognition, but knowledge. There are obviously animal forms of cognition. And if it was one of the main points of the cognitive theories to claim after cybernetics that a science of cognition must apprehend this one in its unity though its diverse animal, human and machinic forms, we answered that here it remains the question

of what is the intrinsic role of technics in the human form of cognition. And this is here that we need to distinguish precisely between knowledge and cognition. When cognition stems from this technical form of life which the human life is for Canguilhem, cognition becomes knowledge, and not merely cognition, that is a social production and not only a mental or cerebral one. And this is also the reason for which here Simondon is so fruitful – when he shows that it is impossible to think the psychical individuation without thinking collective individuation (and transindividuation) at the same time. To think this, we must study prehistory and the role of technics as the beginning of a process of exteriorization of life, for speaking with the terms of Leroi-Gourhan, that is also a transformation of memory. Now, this expression, process of exteriorization, must be used very carefully because there is no interiority that precedes exteriorization, but to the contrary, exteriorization constitutes the interior as such, that is to say, distinguishes and configures it in the very course of what Leroi-Gourhan describes as this process of exteriorization. 2. Human memory as epiphylogenesis The Zinjanthropian was discovered in 1959 : it is an Australanthropian dating back 1,75 million years – and whose oldest biped ascendants go back 3,6 million years. It weighs about thirty kilos. It is a true biped : it has freed its front legs for motricity : they are henceforth essentially destined to make tools and to expression, that is, to exteriorization, which constitutes the humanity of the human, and which is a break in the history of life. That which up to then was a part of the living, namely conditions of predation and defence, passes outside the domain of the living : the struggle for life – or rather, for existence, and for acknowledgement and re-cognition, if we refer to Hegel – can no longer be limited to the Darwinian scene. The human conducts this struggle that we could say is noetic, that is a struggle for recognition, that is for ex-sistence, by ex-teriorization, that is by non-biological organs : by artificial organs that techniques are. And this is the beginning of what is called today the enhancement of the human as the beginning of the human – meaning that human doesn’t exist, but is always still to come : it is a idea for which the question is its consistancy and not only its existence, this consistancy being irreducible to this existence. We usually call this question the one of sense. This life is no longer simply bio-logical then : it is an existence oriented towards consistancies to come, that is, a technical economy of anticipation, that is also a technical economy of memorisation as well as an

economy of enhancement, and this anticipation founded on a new condition of memorization is organised as a desire, sustained by hypomnesic technical milieus, which are also symbolic milieus, in which one finds fetishes and tools, but such that the drives find themselves submitted to a principle of reality, that is, to a postponement of their satisfaction, and beyond the pleasure principle, to a principle of sublimation that is also a principle of idealization – all of this forming a libidinal economy whereby the energies of the drives are transformed into libidinal energy, that is, into desire, sublimation and ideas. Freud, whose theory of the unconscious is a theory of memory and of its censorship, nevertheless constantly worries this question without being able to formalize it, which will lead to a neo-Lamarkism in Moses and Monotheism. We owe to Leroi-Gourhan the thesis that technics is a vector of memory. From the Australanthropian to the Neandertalian, a biological differentiation of the cerebral cortex takes place which is called the opening of the cortical fan. But starting with the Neanderthal, the cortical system is practically at the end of its evolution : the neuronal equipment of the Neanderthal would be rather similar to ours. Now, from the Nearderthal to us, technics evolves to an extraordinary extent, and that means that technical evolution no longer depends on biological evolution. The space of technical differentiation takes place outside the biological dimension, and independently of it. The process of exteriorization is in this respect the process of the constitution of a third layer of memory. Since the neo-darwinism coming out of molecular biology, and in the wake of the research conducted by Weismann, it is held that living sexuated beings are constituted by two memories : the memory of the species, the genome, that Weismann calls germen, and the memory of the individual, somatic memory, located in the central nervous system, and where the memory of experience is found. This memory exists starting with the limnees of Lake Leman studied by Piaget, including the chimpanzee, as well as insects and vertebrates. Now, mankind has access to a third memory supported and constituted by technics. A shaped flint-stone forms itself by shaping in organized inorganic matter : the technician’s gesture engrams an organization that is transmitted via the inorganic, introducing for the first time in the history of life the possibility of transmitting knowledge acquired individually, but in a non-biological way – and which is precisely not simply cognition. This technical memory is epiphylogenetic : it is at one and the same time the product of individual epigenetic experience, and the phylogenetic support for the accumulation of knowledge constituting the intergenerational cultural phylum.

It is because his knowledge is a function of this primordial exteriority of memory that the slave boy in Plato’s Meno draws in sand so as to trace the figure where the geometrical object is found : to think his object, he must exteriorize it by organizing the inorganicity of the sand which, in the same stroke, becomes, as a plastic surface capable of receiving and conserving an inscription, the space and the support of the projection of a geometrical concept. However mutable it may be, the drawing in the sand can conserve more durably than the mind of the slave a characteristic of an element of the figure, because the mind of the slave is essentially fluid : his thoughts are constantly passing away and effacing themselves, he is retentionally finite. His memory constantly snaps, his attention is always attracted away from its objects toward new ones, and he has a hard time “intentionalizing” the geometrical object – taking it in perspective in its organic identity, its necessity, its innermost essence : its eidos. The drawing, as hypomnesic memory, is therefore indispensable to this potential philosopher, the slave boy, and to his passage into action, that is, from dunamis to energeia or entelekheia, that is, to his anamnesis : this drawing constitutes a crutch of understanding, a space of intuition entirely produced by the gestures tracing in the sand, at every step of his reasoning, the figured effects of this reasoning – the sand holding them as results that the slave, his intuition and his understanding have henceforth “in view,” and with which they can extend and construct the geometrical proof. Now, the platonic opposition between the intelligible and the sensible, that is, between logos and tekhnè, will make this literally impossible to understand, in the dialogues following Meno – and thus metaphysics will take shape as the denegation of the originary technicity of memory. 3. Grammatization, hypomnesis and anamnesis Now, according to Husserl in 1936, geometry is conditioned by the appearance of writing, and writing belongs to a new process of exteriorization : the one of mental contents by projection in space of temporal contents of mind – projection which is what I call a grammatization. Epiphylogenesis, in becoming the process of grammatization, engenders mnenotechnics. With the advent of mnemotechnics – that are technics dedicated to the conservation of mental contents of memory, that is not the role of flint stone tools for example – , the process of exteriorization that is technical becoming becomes concretized in a history of grammatization. The process of grammatization is the technical history of memory, where hypomnesic memory

repeatedly relaunches the constitution of an anamnesic tension of memory – in the sense of Plato’s distinction between hypomnesis and anamnesis. Jacques Derrida, in Plato’s Pharmacy, based a major part of his project for the deconstruction of metaphysics on his reading of Phaedrus by showing how the dialogue sets off a sophistic hypomnesis against a philosophical anamnesis, where it is impossible, following what was described in Of Grammatology as a logic of the supplement which the trace is, to oppose interior and exterior : it is impossible to oppose living memory to this dead memory that is the hypomnematon, and which constitutes living memory as knowledgeable. Where metaphysics sets up static oppositions, dynamic compositions must be rearticulated : one must think in terms of processes : Derrida calls the process différance. For all that it is clear that what Socrates describes in Phaedrus, to wit that the exteriorization of memory is a loss of memory and of knowledge, is experienced today in our daily lives, in all the aspects of our existences, and, more and more often, in the feeling of our powerlessness, if not of our impotence – at the exact moment when the extraordinary mnesic power of digital networks make us all the more sensible to the immensity of human memory, which seems to have become infinitely reactivatable and accessible. This anamnesic tension exteriorizes itself in the form of works of the mind, where the epochs of psychosocial individuation configure themselves : grammatization is the process whereby the currents and continuities shaping existences are discreticized : writing, as the discretization of the flux of speech, is a stage of grammatization. Now, with the industrial revolution, the process of grammatization suddenly surpasses the sphere of language, that is, the sphere of logos, and comes to invest the sphere of bodies. Grammatization is the history of memory in all its forms : nervous and cerebral memory, first linguistic, then auditive and visual, bodily and muscular memory, biogenetic memory. Thus exteriorized, memory becomes the object of socio-political and biopolitical controls through the economic investments of social organizations which thus retool psychical organizations by means of mnemotechnical organs, including machine tools and all the automatons, including household equipment. This is why a thinking of grammatization calls for a general organology, that is, a theory of the articulation of bodily organs, artificial organs and social organs.

4. From cognitive sciences towards digital studies, pharmacology and general organology What are digital technologies as cognitive technologies and technologies for knowledge – if not the last stage of writing ? Now, particularly after Nicholas Carr’s best seller, The Shallows, we can no longer ignore the irreducibly ‘pharmacological’ character of writing, in the sense of Socrates – that is, its ambivalent character, both poisonous, toxic, and curative, therapeutic – whether writing be alphabetical or digital, etched in stone or inscribed on paper, or in silicon, or on screens of digital light. This irreducible ambivalence, which applies to technology in general (medicines and drugs, nuclear power, financial robots, traceability, etc.) is what neither modern philosophy, nor ancient philosophy, was able to think both the two sides at once. But it is also what is ignored for example by Allen Buchanan, a professor of philosophy at Duke University, in his theory of enhancement presented in Better than Human. And it was ignored by the diverse theories at the root of cognitivism as well. Now, it’s what is at stake and thematised in the theory of the reading brain developed by Maryanne Wolf, referring to Stanislas Dehaene, himself continuing Jean-Pierre Changeux’s theory of the brain and of the relationship between brain and culture. But we will see that Dehaene himself doesn’t think the question as such. When Buchanan says that
it's part of human nature to strive to improve our capacities. Humans have done this in the past by developing literacy and numeracy, and the institutions of science, and more recently we've done it with computers and the Internet,

his claim is very close to my own theory of epiphylogenesis – even if I am surprised that Buchanan limits this at literacy and numeracy, and seems to ignore Leroi-Gourhan theory of exteriorization, or Ernst Kapp’s philosophy: enhancement begins long before grammatization. But above all, I consider that he doesn’t think the flaw which constitutes what I call the originary default of origin that is the beginning of the process of hominisation – which is also thought by Plato in Protagoras as the myth of Prometheus and Epimetheus. And for this reason, Buchanan can’t think the pharmacological question. When he says, about those who, according to him, share a
rosy and pre-Darwinian view

and express consenquently their concerns enhancement, when he says, then, that

and

reservations

about

in fact, it might turn out that the only way to prevent us from going extinct, or to prevent some great worsening of our condition, is to enhance some of our capacities,

I consider that claiming this, he completely neglects the pharmacological question : the question is not merely to enhance our faculties, but to struggle against the loss of knowledge, that is also the loss of capabilites in the sense of Amartya Sen, which is always made possible by a process of delegation of faculties in an artificial organ, even if this delegation is the reality – I agree with Buchanan about this – of the process of hominisation, precisely defined as a process of exteriorization by LeroiGourhan. For enhancement of capacities can be also the increasing of incapacitation : this is what is pointed out by Socrates as well as by Karl Marx, Richard Sennett or again Amartya Sen, who shows that
if we look at the black male populaitons in particular US cities …, we find that they are overtaken in terms of survival by people from China or Kerala at much earlier ages. They are also overtaken by many other third world populations; for example, Bangladeshi men have a better chance of living to ages beyond forty years than African American men from the Harlem district of the properous city of New York.

If enhancement is always opening the possibility of losing a knowledge and not to create a new one, the only possibility
to prevent some great worsening of our condition,

is not merely
to enhance some of our capacities,

as said by Buchanan, but to think the pharmacological questions as a dimension of a general organology – and I will now try to explain what I mean by this expression – and to enact the positive possibilities opened by the pharmakon, and thus, to limit the potential toxicity of all enhancement. 5. Pharmacology of reading This pharmacological question is pointed out and highlighted by Maryanne Wolf in Proust and the Squid when she says that

we were never born to read. Whith the invention [of reading], we rearranged the very organization of our brain, which in turn expanded the ways we were able to think, which altered the intellectual evolution of our species,

and that the new arrangements of our brains, resulting from an enhancement like writing, and notably when the alphabetic writing becomes a digital writing, is the question of knowing what we need to preserve, and of a possible destruction of circuits inherited from the reading brain that we should preserve – particularly for preserving a capacity of reading which belong to what is described by Katherine Hayles as a deep attention typical of this kind of reading itself characteristic of what is called by Walter Ong the literate or lettered species. In other words, what is at stake with the digital enhancement of the brain is a kind of poisoning of our faculties inherited from the reading brain by a loss of the knowledge produced through more than two millenia of civilisation. Here Maryanne Wolf joins Nicholas Carr’s concerns. Referring to Lev Vygotski, and explaining that Socrates’ prevention against writing was provoked by the fact that
Socrates could never have experienced [the] dialogic capacity of written language, because writing was still too young,

(and I tried myself to analyse this history with Foucault in Taking Care), Wolf nevertheless adds that
Socrates’s concerns become greatly amplified by our present capacity for everyone with a computer to learn very, very quickly about virtually anything, anywhere, anytime at an “unguided” computer screen. Does this combination of immediacy, seemingly limitless information, and virtual reality pose the most powerful threat so far to the kind of knowledge and virtue valued by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle? Will modern curiosity be sated by the flood of pat, often superficial information on a screen, or will it lead to a desire for more in-depth knowledge ? Can a deep examination of words, thoughts, reality, and virtue flourish in learning characterized by continuous partial attention and multitasking ?

Those questions are typically what I call pharmacological ones. We must notice that they are asked by a mother, which is may be more careful than a simple scientist like Dehaene or a simple philosopher like Buchanan :
Socrates’s perspective on the pursuit of information in our culture haunts me every day as I watch my two sons use the internet to finish a homework assignment, and then tell me they “know all about it”.

If Wolf refers to Dehaene, I do think that her analysis is much more “pharmacological” – and subtle – than Dehaene’s analysis. Before examining what could be a general organology, let’s see how Changeux and Dehaene apprehend the stakes of the question of reading for neurology. In his preface to Dehane’s book Les neurones de la lecture – a title very ambiguous, in a way completely contradictory with the content of the book because inducing that there was in the brain something which made possible reading before the invention of writing, and that reading merely actualised – Changeux writes that
in humans the cultural things can’t be thought without the biological and … the cerebral doesn’t exist without a powerful impregnation of the environment.

I must ask three questions here : . Why not say that the biological when it is biology of the humans can’t be thought without the cultural ? . Why speak here of the cultural and not the technical ? . Why not ask how the technical modifies the biological, and not only the cerebral? Refering to Leroi-Gourhan, I claim that during the paleolithic corticalisation, that is, according to Leroi-Gourhan, between the australopithecus afarensis until the neanderthalian, the brain is trans-formed (that is formed) by its relationship to techno-logically organised inorganic matter where it exteriorises itself as well as it interiorises the function of this matter for its survival, and this, not only at the cerebral or nervous level, but in its genetic equipment or germinal memory: the struggle for life is changed by the fact that the survival organs have become artifactuals, and not simply biological and physiological. For speaking with Canguilhem, the hominization is the appearance of the technical life which is a new kind of life – for which biology is not sufficient for thinking it. Canguilhem says that for humans, the normal, the pathological, and normativity are all in an essential relation to artificial organs :
Man, even physical man, is not limited to his organism. Having extended his organs by means of tools, man sees in his body only the means to all possible means of action. Thus, in order to discern what is normal or pathological for the body itself, one must look beyond the body. […] From the moment mankind technically enlarged its means of locomotion, to feel abnormal is to realize that certain activities, which have become a need and an ideal, are inaccessible.1

1

Le normal et le pathologique, pp. 200–1.

The normal and the pathological are not opposites. “The pathological is a kind of normal,” and in the experience of the pathological, life is normative : it invents states of health – inventions that Canguilhem describes as the institution of new norms:
Being healthy means being not only normal in a given situation but also normative in this and other eventual situations. What characterizes health is the possibility of transcending the norm, which defines the momentary normal, the possibility of tolerating infractions of the habitual norm and instituting new norms in new situations.

Life which has been technically extended opens a new experience of the pathological and thus of normativity. In a general fashion, the health of life as variability or changeability – not only for technical life – is the experience of “infidelities” of its milieu :
Health is a margin of tolerance for the infidelities [infidélités] of the environment [milieu]. … [T]he environment is inconstant [infidèle]. Its infidelitiy is simply its becoming, its history.

But in technical life, technicity must be apprehended as that which induces a new “infidelity” of the milieu, that is, a changeability where the normal, the pathological, and normativity develop according to a new logic. In this case, the infidelity of the milieu is related to what Bertrand Gille calls “disadjustment” in order to refer to gaps between the constantly accelerating evolution of the technical system (particularly since the industrial revolution), and that of the other human systems – social systems and psychical systems – all of which having to be thought in relation to natural systems (geographical, geological, meteorological, biological and physiological). It is only within this new organological context, insofar as it constitutes a pharmacological context and is, as such, newly pathogenic, that Canguilhem can conclude:
Man feels in good health – which is health itself – only when he feels more than normal.

The healthy human being is
normative, capable of following new norms of life.

And Canguilhem concludes with extraordinary audacity:

The power and temptation to fall sick are an essential characteristic of human physiology. Pathogenesis is essential to anthropogenesis which is itself a technogenesis of pharmaka. It is to this extent that for Thérèse Brosse,
the problem of functional pathology appears intimately tied to that of education. Consequently a sensorial, active, emotional education, if it is done badly or not at all, calls insistently for a re-education.2

What does that mean here, to fall sick ? What is here the role of pathology ? in which to feel in good health is to feel more than normal. Is this meaning merely to be enhanced ? I don’t believe it. 6. Conclusion To understand how to question and think human enhancement one needs to overcome darwinian biology, as it is said by Canguilhem here:
Is it absurd to assume that in the long run man’s natural organs can express the influence of the artificial organs through which he has multiplied and still multiplies the power of the first ?

Today, these issues arise in the double context of . on the one hand, the generalization of digitalisation of our existences in all their dimensions, digital technology being the last stage of grammatization and a new kind of writing, . on the other hand, the advances in neuroscience and particularly the neuroscience of reading. Here, the first question is to think the relationship between retentions as there play engendered protentions, that is anticipations, attentions and desires. Writing (ideographic, alphabetical, digital) is a kind of what I call tertiary retention. The brain is the site of secondary retentions, which are, in the sense of Husserl, memorizations of perceptions weaved by what Husserl calls primary retentions.
2

Thérèse Brosse, “L’énergie consciente, facteur de régulation psychophysiologique,” L’évolution psychiatrique 1 (1938), p. 107.

Retention refers to what is retained, through a mnesic function itself constituent of a consciousness, that is, of a psychical apparatus. Within this psychical retention, secondary retention, which is the constitutive element of a mental state which is always based on memory, was originally a primary retention : primary means retained in the course of a perception, and through the process of this perception, but in the present, which means that primary retention is not yet a memory, even if it is already a retention. A primary retention is what, constituting the course of a present experience, is destined to become a secondary retention of somebody who has lived this experience that has become past – secondary because, no longer being perceived, it is imprinted in the memory of the one who had the experience, and from which it may be reactivated. But a retention, as the result of a flux and emerging from the temporal course of experience, can also become tertiary through the spatialisation in which consists the grammatization (and more generally, in which consists any technical materialization process) of the flow of retentions. This mental reality can thus be projected onto a support that is neither cerebral nor psychical but rather technical. Michel Foucault spoke about the materialization of knowledge in The Archaeology of Knowledge when he was interested in the archives that make possible all knowledge. Knowledge is above all a collection of archived traces. Knowledge, modelled in this way, thus conserves the trace of the old from which it comes, and of which it is the rebirth and the trans-formation through a process that Plato described as an anamnesis. The conservation of traces of the old is what enables the constitution of circuits of collective individuation across time and in the framework of a discipline which governs the relations between minds, which individuate themselves in concert, and in the course of intergenerational transmission – through which a transindividuation process is concretized, producing what Gilbert Simondon called the transindividual, forming significations. Now, the conditions of this process are over-determined by the characteristics of grammatization, that is, by the characteristics of the archive supports that are tertiary retentions of different epochs : ideograms, manuscript texts, prints, records, databases, metadata, and so on. The archive is material, and knowledge is essentially archived, which means that its materiality is not something which occurs after the fact, for recording something which would have occurred before its materialization: this is the very production of knowledge. This materialization doesn’t come

after the form that it conserves, and it must be thought beyond the opposition of matter and form: it constitutes a hypermatter. We must situate the study of the hypermateriality of knowledge within the framework of a general organology which studies the supports and instruments of every form of knowledge. And in the contemporary context, this study of hypermateriality must be placed at the heart of digital studies, which must itself become the new unifying and transdisciplinary model of every form of academic knowledge. General organology studies the relation between three types of organs characteristic of technical life: physiological organs, technical organs, social organizations. Grammatization began thirty thousand years ago, with the Upper Paleolithic, inaugurating a specific stage of the process of the coevolution of these three organological spheres, which are inseparable from one another – as shown in an extremely clear way by the neurophysiology of reading where, as Maryanne Wolf puts it, the brain is literally written by the socio-technical organs, and where our own brain, the ‘reading brain’, was once written by alphabetical writing, but now is written by digital writing. Today, the question of knowledge in its relationship to technology as well as to brain, and as this relationship, must become the object of digital studies conceived as the general context for neurosciences and as a paradigm for transdisciplinary research according to the principles of general organology, itself addressing the pharmacological question – a new paradigm in which what is at stake is the role of the tertiary retention through the technological history of humankind, and here, no discipline has a privilege on others, computer science and philosophical engineering in an extended sense being the new producers of pharmaka as well as those who, like Asclepios, should take care of health not by opposing health and illness, but by inventing new forms of life (that is, new forms of societies and processes of collective individuation) from what appears initially as a toxic state of affairs. I left my first laboratory, Costech, in 1996, to become the general manager of the National Institute for the Audiovidual. There I studied the stakes and impacts of digital technologies for cultural industries and the digitalization of audiovisual archives: there I strengthened my theory of retentions in the phenomenology of temporal objects. In 2001 I became the general manager of Ircam, the institute founded by the composer Pierre Boulez where I began to think in terms of a general organology. And in 2006, I founded a new team, the Institute for Research and Innovation, based in the Centre Pompidou, where we try to prototype knowledge technologies according to the ideas I just presented you today. We will organize a symposium next

December at the Pompidou Center about our conception of digital studies, and if people are interested in participating, I would be delighted to discuss such possibilities.

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