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Recursivity and the supplement

 Yuk Hui has the merit of showing how complex the cosmopolitical issue raised by Nietzsche (at least read by Heidegger) really is. Complex in the sense that it is perhaps not the end of a road – neither because the will to power is the fate of everything after the world is rendered fully commandable nor because metaphysics has reached an end concerning which only a new beginning can save thought from a dead end. Hui hints at different possibilities that follow from the completion or quasi-completion of the project of turning the world into a Ge-Stell. If the world is rendered commandable and everything is put at whoever controls it disposal, the commander still acts in a sovereign manner. This sovereignty could stop someone to make use of what is in standing reserve but also could make someone come up with a different use of it. In any case, the relation between what is available to be done (or ready to be controlled) and the sovereign agent is cosmopolitically open. In other words, not only free spirits struggling for power and a tamed world turned mostly into a standing reserve will inherit the nihilist cosmic transformation of things. There could be what we can imagine as Nature 2.0 that would develop organically around the fragments left by nihilism. One can imagine that Nature 2.0 is not even more than the outcome of a spiral movement that has been happening as a consequence of the organic movement of what is natural. Hui claims that once we have an organic (or organologic) understanding of how things interact, we stop thinking about the ultimate nature of things and start thinking, instead, in terms of thriving and sustainance. That drives our attention towards post-nihilist organisms capable of built themselves from the nuts and bones of the assassinated God.

That attention to the organic capacity to survive nihilism is based on the power of recursion. Actually, on the capacity recursion has to integrate contingency. What is contingent then emerges as what is not yet part of a systematic (and recursive) account. Contingencies bring about diversity, and if there are different recursive organs (or machines), then the contingencies that will be met by them are different and the emerging system will be then different. Within the system, nevertheless, there is thoroughly immanent: contingency is nothing but what is not yet part of the system. In other words, the incorporation of a contingency is going to make the recursive empire different, but contingency once incorporated is a colonized territory. Plurality, to be sure, ensures that there are recursive colonial machines attached to each incorporated contingency and the recursive colonial machines that didn’t incorporate the contingency in particular are exterior machines. There is an outside, but the outside is always fated to be incorporated.

Recursion is a drive towards completion, even if it is multiple. Multiple recursive procedures are not challenged by their plurality, rather, they are corroborated in their steadiness facing the recursive expansion. It is as if we had a Dutch, a French and a British colonial recursive machines expanding their empires – tacitly, it was established that no dispute in the colonies would disturb life in the metropolis. Recursion depends crucially on operations of addition repeated systematically; incorporating contingency is facing it as something add to an existing system. Classical addition is monotonic. In contrast, a supplement-based addition – and a supplement-based system – is such that addition demolishes instead of growing. Likewise, a supplement-based computation is one where additions erode previously amassed conclusions.

Additions come in important varieties. Consider any a as what is added to any A. If something was lacking in A that is found in a, we can call it a completing addition. There are also additions that require no specific lack but a general lack, so that there is space in A for a without eroding A. Perhaps because A stands on its own with or without a – call this an addition in completeness – or because A doesn’t stand on its own with or without a – call this addition in incompleteness. Both these last kinds are neutral additions as the added element makes no difference to A. There is, however, another kind of addition in opposition to the previous three kinds: eroding addition, or supplement. Here A is complete, or saturated, or exact: the addition of a makes it collapse. An eroding addition is pursued not as an expansion, but as a self-erosion or self-fragmentation. A supplement is something that changes the previously existing system and eventually makes is stop functioning.

In a recursive procedure there is a systematic addition. It is a conquering addition. Take the general recursive structure: 1. X(1) is the case; 2. If X(n) is the case, X(n+1) is the case. It stacks a pile – accumulation without erosion. Recursive addition is completing or neutral. It is unlimited growth. There is nothing but growth – there is no risk involved because sooner or later the annexation is completed and no price has to be paid. Once, for instance, things are seen as having a nature (or a nature for us), the technological annexation is inevitable.

What emerges from the idea of a critique of recursive colonialism put forward by Luciana Parisi and Ezekiel Dixon-Román is that the recursive backbone of technological expansion is crucial to make an idea – such as that of a physis with a noûs extractible into a Ge-Stell – colonizing and prevalent. It is not only to Ge-Stell tas what can act as (an) essence of technology that we should cast our eyes, but also to the recursive mechanism that makes sustains it. A radically different computational technology is one that processes not in a technological manner – and perhaps can proceed through eroding additions.


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