The ‘Known Unknowables’ of Quantification and the Paranoid Self.26 February, 2022 - 19:10 by felix
This is my contribution to "Digital Unconscious – Nervous Systems and Uncanny Predictions!” Autonomedia 2021: Eds: Konrad | Becker, Felix Stalder You can get a nice printed copy directly from the publisher, Autonmedia.
Driven by the need to manage large-scale, complex systems in real-time, the notion of rationality shifted during the cold war. Rationality was no longer seen as something that required the human mind, but rather as something that was requiring of large, technical systems (Erickson et al. 2013). While the enlightenment idea of rationality emphasized reflectivity (as in ‘know thyself’) and moral judgments (as in Kant’s categorical imperative), this new notion emphasized objectivity (in the form of numbers) and the strict adherence to predetermined rules (in the form of check-lists, chains of command, and computational algorithms).
The study of the self has long resisted this shift. Throughout the 20th century, psychology, with almost all its variants based on individual introspection, remained the predominant mode of learning about oneself (Zaretsky 2005). Within the domain of psychology, the exception, of course, was behaviorism, which was strictly based on external observation and disregarded all accounts of mental states. Its impact on the study of the self was rather limited, due to its primary use being focused on learning about others rather than oneself, as well as its methodological and political groundings having been quite controversial. Its main proponent, BF Skinner, was, as Noam Chomsky (1971) put it, “condemned as a proponent of totalitarian thinking and lauded for his advocacy of a tightly managed social environment”.