The Net and Ancient Intelligence

In the accelerating cybernetic age of information technology infinite speed is the finite key to survival. Incidentally, this requirement of speed may be opposed to a more mundane but still relevant kind of practical (metic) intelligence, typical of the ancients (Detienne and Vernant 1991: 44), especially, in light of the pressing reality of climate change. Needless to say, the present climate crisis demands a more practical, which means to say, decelerated, albeit, measured approach to a crisis, in order to withstand, or deflect a shock effect, or live through the shock itself. (In essence this is the paradoxical reality of the anthropocene  – loving your monsters [Shellenberger and Nordhaus (eds.) 2011], at most city-monsters). Metis is somehow the standard view 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)

Incidentally, isn’t capitalism most ever-present in the city, the city that may become its trap, the city itself as ‘the opposite of organized space’? And while capitalism is mulling planetary expansion, realistically a planned exit from the city, in terms of privatizing global space program, the city still holds a promise, assuming it can transform itself into a modern-day apeiron through metis or practical intelligence, the cunning type. This means ‘repurposing’ (not in reference to #Accelerate: Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics) the pre-cybernetic intelligence, and not radicalizing its goal to re-engineer, for instance, its pseudo-multiplicities back to their supposed real immanent multiplicities (an essentialism that still lies concealed in rhizomatic ideals), hence, bending the type of intelligence dear to antiquity to a familiar modernist cause of revolution, by any means an historical type of arborescent ideal. Curiously, Detienne and Vernant also made mention of a diacritical use of ‘net’, which may prove relevant to the 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, perhaps the most cunning type, inside the cybernetic net, the city, without having to fall for the rhizomatic persuasion? There is no hard and fast rule. Detienne and Vernant, however, may offer 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) which is presumably much creative and innovative, especially, with technological power, not to mention the global infrastructure that relays this power on a massive scale through militarization and the media invasion of the human sensorium, all at its disposal, is to desist from creation, from extending the plateau, etc. (In the time of the ‘geologic now,’ the metaphorical use of the plateau is somehow problematic but more of this in our future post on Schelling). The way to catch a species is to become the net itself, a trap, an aporia (from poros which means passage, hence, with the negative ‘a’, inescapable, once one is caught inside the mesh); to encircle like a net, to desist from the horizontal push along a contour, to ‘restrict being’ in order to belong in darkness (a Schellingian motif with which we would like to associate the ‘repurposing’ we mentioned), to become deep as the night, deep night (more of this again in the Schelling post), hence, to be caught side by side with that cunning species called capitalism.


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.


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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s