Risk is not evenly distributed; we must gaze into the abyss and deal with it.


— “Speculation”: “a modern technology for the absolute actualization of potentiality with remainder, a modern apparatus for erasing the future by realizing it as eternal present.”

  • “affirmative speculation”: the project of the book: “modes of living that recognize the dormant energies of the quotidian and eventualities tht escape the imagination.” Another key phrase: living in common. Risk brackets uncertainly; affirmative speculation embraces it.
  • “firmative speculation”: the speculation that we’re used to, that translates the unknown into risk to be managed, rather than uncertainty to celebrate.
  • “the unknown,” “the latency [that] signals proliferating possibilities, a sense of the full abyss, darkness”

Quotations / Notes

1. Introduction

  • Speculation as a tool against the “pathologies of the present,” which are in turn created by speculation [“They are mobilized by the pathologies of the present”]
  • Financial speculation: “the future imported into the present, bundled up, sold off, instrumentalized”; speculation inimically tied up with the practices of commodity capitalism; the “distinct semantic-conceptual registers” of “cognitive and economic” see-sawing back and forth constantly.
  • Again: speculation, fully constituted in commodity capitalism, ties together “thought and money.” The bubble (think Sloterdijk) then need to be “managed”, financial risks “spread across the world.” The - The present “anxious speculating about speculation” emerging precisely from the imagined “bifurcation” of the semantic-conceptual field, which is in fact never cleaved.
  • Affirmative speculation as the denial of uncertainty as pathology, rather as potential multiplicatory site. But thinking positive/negative isn’t the way: potentiality, firmative types of speculation; affirmative.
  • There’s definitely a political tension in here wherein speculation seems to offer a way to live “radically” without having to commit to a coherent project: if the project of the future cannot be planned, what does it mean to “live in the future” and speculatively model futures?

2. Firmative Speculation

  • The four functions:
    • calculation
    • communication
    • socialization
    • globalization
  • Calculation: a statistical theory of risk necessary to make the enterprise of trading on speculative futures palatable to the general public; the drive to collect and manage data allows for more fine-tuned speculative calculation but also functions as talisman so that the user trusts the collector, whether or not they know anything; probabilistic thinking useful to the corp but rarely corresponding to reality; thus think data as a fiction that enables certain vectoral flows.
  • Communicates: visualization making particular regimes of data visible and invisible; aesthetics occlude knowledge; immersion as speculative world building (cartography); link from calculation is the “channeling affect”; again, speculative media foreclose possible futures for the one most advantageous to capital; “excess of analysis” overproduces facticity which then blends into opinion.
  • Socializes: the gentle nudge to opt correctly in benign liberalism; socialities of risk and fear inhered in objects themselves; increased security regulates to unsocial melancholia.
  • Globalizes: the global as an uncanny effect.

3. Affirmative Speculation

  • Affirmative speculation as sabotage against firmative speculation’s foreclosure.
  • The functions:
    • Potentiates
    • Virtualizes
    • Concatenates
    • Worlds
  • Potentiaties: potential to do is also potential for recalcitrance; a long section about gene editing that I honestly can’t follow; wildcat strikes as potentiality of past rather than just future; (which would seem a useful section for thinking speculation over and against history); different ways of sensing historical potential other than causality; intuition senses the networked materiality of all things; reclaiming intuition as a valid way of knowing; then what of technology?
  • Virtualizes: the virtual forwards a media thesis of always unfinished communication; virtual as play, free play from Huizinga to Derrida; breaking action from its financiality; again: sabotage; I continue however to be unsettled by the ease of this section’s pre-Trump politics, particularly when sticking up for Wikileaks; the virus and self-replicating worm.
  • Concatenates: embodied connection, a radical sociality against which the normative immunized; the queer, the love, the transgress; we live in common, in a distributed mode; (again I am shocked by how thing theory seems to pitch itself as beyond politics, not here but more generally); biopotenza (what the fuck is this?) as creative sabotage against networks of control; piracy as concatenation that maintains the flow of life against the deadening of capital; (really, we’re talking about parkour?some of these examples are beyond stereotype).
  • Worlds: the strange experience of encountering within and beyond the interface the “surrounding world” (Heidegger) or “world without us” (Thacker); general speculative world building stuff that’s highlighted throughout and you can more or less go from there.

Groundwork / Tensions / Questions

  • Thinking with Deleuze and Guattari: to what extent does this political project mirror the distributed control of their project? Why do we keep coming back to this situated revolutionary project?
  • Firmative speculation as “exploit”: both exploitation of the commons but also, in thinking w/ networks, the “exploit” of Galloway/Thacker?
  • Much of this presages The Stack, particularly how speculation both drives and constrains the vectors of planetary capital.

Connections to other sources

  • Writing in the anonymous commons as something like the Comité Invisible: a standard manifesto practice but that also here points back to the commons itself.
  • The technology section of the Potentiates section makes me think that nuclear semiotics and technologies might make a really interesting project for this course.