The Net and Ancient Intelligence

In the accelerating age of information technology, infinite speed is the finite key to survival. This requirement of speed may be opposed to practical (or metic) intelligence, typical of the ancients (Detienne and Vernant 1991: 44). Metis is the standard worldview of pre-cybernetic antiquity in dealing with a crisis, for instance, in the form of a trap. That is to say, to become the trap itself in the sense of the ancient connotation of the many diacritical uses of the term apeiron:

Being without direction it cannot be crossed, is impassable, but at the same time, for those who find themselves in this place which in a sense is the opposite of organised space there is no way of ever escaping from it. (Detienne and Vernant 1991:291)

Let’s suppose capitalism, which is concentrated in the city, may one day become its own trap, the city as ‘the opposite of organized space’. Notwithstanding, the city can also escape from its becoming a modern-day apeiron by practical intelligence  This means ‘repurposing’ pre-cybernetic intelligence to the objective of reversing acceleation, to de-couple it from its self-becoming-into-a-trap. Curiously, Detienne and Vernant also made mention of a diacritical use of the ‘net’, which resonates in contemporary cybernetic age:

The net, ‘an endless mesh’ (apeiron amphiblestron) can seize anything yet can be seized by nothing; its shape is as fluid as it can be, the most mobile and also the most baffling, that of the circle. To catch something in a net can be conveyed in Greek, as is well known, by the expression ‘to encircle’, enkuklein.(42)

So, how do we entrap capitalism inside the cybernetic net? There is no hard and fast rule. Detienne and Vernant, however, offers an example, citing a practical approach in antiquity:

There is no difference in kind between the metis of the fox and the cuttlefish and that of the fisherman. The only way to triumph over … an adversary endowed with metis is to turn its own weapons against it: the fisherman’s ‘cloud’ is the unyielding answer to the ‘cloud’ of the cuttle-fish. It is only by himself becoming, by means of his net, a bond and a circle, by himself becoming deep night, endless aporia, an elusive shape, that the man of metis can triumph over the most cunning species in the animal world. (42-43)

This example from antiquity is quite telling. The way to catch a cunning species (the capitalism we have in mind) is to become the net itself, a trap, an aporia, by encircling its boundaries like a net. That is to say, to be caught side by side with that cunning species called capitalism.

In essence this is the paradoxical reality of the anthropocene  – to love your monsters (Shellenberger and Nordhaus (eds.) 2011).


Detienne, M. and J.-P. Vernant. (1991). Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society, trans. J. Lloyd. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Mackay, R. and A. Avenessian. (2014). #Accelerate: Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics. United Kingdom: Urbanomic.

Shellenberger, M., and T. Nordhaus. (2011). Love Your Monsters: Postenvironmentalism and the Anthropocene. Breakthrough Institute: Kindle Edition.

One thought on “The Net and Ancient Intelligence”

  1. Where can I find “the Schelling post”, because I’m enjoying this and I want read more about this stuff?

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s