"Oho! Montañas de gringos !"
-A little girl in Peru looking at a postcard of Paris
Michael Richardson thinks he makes a point when recalling us that computers were developed "to serve military and political ends as part of the Cold War".
On such a robust basis I shall certainly make an even greater point by recalling that writing was initially developed as a means to record commercial contracts in Mesopotamia, to collect and register taxes in the first empires and as an essential way to praise the victories and great deeds of the masters everywhere.
These initial circumstances of the birth of writing, that can easily be tracked in the remainings of basically any civilization, are a good occasion to state once for all that any subsequent use of writing is highly suspect of being bound to serve the Power per essence, starting with the writings of Breton and ending with this very paper by Michael Richardson itself.
Based on such indubitable historical facts we may merrily get rid of all literature ever written, because writing has always been an essential means of controlling people since the beginning of class based societies - capitalist or not.
Worse, if we remember of some of Mac Luhan's considerations, there is no doubt either that printing constitutes one of the first examples of modern mass production*, and thus the actual opening of the industrial age.
Nevertheless printing is good enough for Michael Richardson, because it allows him to publish books and maybe to believe that for such a small reason that he is part of a sort of elite - this based on the fact that a capitalist accepted to sanctify Michael Richardson's texts by investing his money on them - whereas computers and the Internet are essentially bad because they allows basically anyone to publish without begging for a bourgeois's authorisation and favorable judgment about the expectable return on investment.
Such an awful situation as the one created by Tim Berners Lee with the HTML protocol and the World Wide Web unpleasantly results in forcing Michael Richardson to "read things that should never have been written" - understand what the poorly educated average people write.
Please consider that Michael Richardson.'s production levitates high above all this popular garbage*, since it was - thanks to God - printed, by the wealthy magic of a bourgeois' funding.
Well, I never read one of Michael Richardson's books and I assume they are interesting and well done. Yet, when he ventures in discussing computers, he easily reaches the extremely basic level of these "things that should never have been written". The very sort of thing he demonstrates so much contempt about.
Based on such contemptuous attitudes, naive people may consider that supporters of freedom of expression have rather odd manners these days.
"Le marchand, celui qui vend la mort de l'autre"
in "Matta- Agiter l'oeil avant de voir"
by Paul Haim P 105
- Ed Séguier
Based on his safe experimental approach of modern computers, which regrettably crawls somewhere a bit below the level of zero, Michael Richardson feels entitled to go against the evidences gathered during an entire life of software activity (mine for instance) as well as against the various lessons learned by those among the surrealists who, at least, seriously tried to deal with recent art software.
Not moved the slightest by the wide open trap I took care of weaving for his likes when writing "May platonicists and other pro slavers like it or not, building a machine has not much to do with uttering orders", Michael Richardson steps right into it and shows his bright understanding of my text by answering that "As such, the making of computers has everything to do with giving orders". This way he happily goes and seats on his long prepared throne among the mentioned loathly categories without even noticing. I am sincerely sorry for him, my trap was certainly not intended for surrealists.
Michael Richardson who - again based on his deep experience - obviously knows how it feels to be part of a team of fifty to one hundred people dealing with programs of more than 1 million lines of source code, bravely dives right in the middle of the programmer's (limited) mind, easily digs into the programmer's (simplistic) soul and comes back to give us the last word as regards a technician's relation to the machines "In so far as there is engagement with their alterity, it only means to break down their resistance and make them submit to the human will" (A new erotic phantasm, I guess, this image of the programmer with a whip ? :-) )
Such stupidities reveal an amazing ignorance of the conditions of current software production. But Richardson himself further reveals how deeply he is caught in the pure consumer's vision that the Power ordered him to have instead of wits.
If, instead of casting unverified and obsolete ideas on the current software world, Michael Richardson had been going through a couple of recent software engineering manuals - or just had looked through their tables of contents, he would quickly have recognized that development of current software no longer involves the kind of programming he refers to.
No long and painfully structured sequences of orders are in use any longer in building software, but rather the planned functionalities are achieved by means of active networks of collaborating active objects.
The result is that currently used programming manuals are more sounding like social sciences studies or even more precisely like some books by Charles Fourier as the normal terminology is made of words like "Aggregation", "Association", "Composition", and of expressions like "Collaboration Diagrams", "Communication Diagrams", "(Message) Sequence Diagrams", "Activity Diagrams", "Interaction Diagrams" etc...
The fact that the current point of view in software development is much closer to some sort of Role Games philosophy (Roles Games, yes, like "Dungeons and Dragons") and that the current standard software approach is essentially based on networks of images ("Model Driven Engineering") while up to 50% of the software itself is generated based on drawing such networks, is obviously completely unknown to Michael Richardson who still relies on outdated pictures like the "Cold War" sort of programming he refers to.
But the "Cold War sort of programming" has now long faded out, and this precisely because it was a stupid, inefficient and essentially wrong point of view.
However, nobody apparently took care of explaining such "details" to Michael Richardson and he obviously did not care too much about asking either before writing. I was there however and I am a software engineer and I could have told him. That's done..
But... Such an incredible level of ignorance has its only too obvious causes.
Indeed, while the consumer - by the usual and necessary absolute negation of workers activity - is heavily taught to meet "The Machine" (and shiver, dear consumer, shiver where you are ordered please! This is the great impressing inhuman machine!) the programmer at the other end of the production process quickly learns that he is himself all the magic there can be and that the only real entity he is actually facing is himself.
Yes, in his ordinary activity the programmer is essentially facing himself - his own mind, and by no way this piece of hardware close by, even hardly the screen close to him once in a while - and he is actually fighting nothing else than the kind of mental resistances that prevent his own will to submit to his own will! That's life...
Far from the glory of a half god giving orders to his slaves, the real programmer spends a painful part of his time trying to understand why what he sees (and wrote) is not at all what he gets!
If really you need "orders" in your mental representations, dear Michael Richardson, you should rather try to imagine a programmer as a man giving orders to himself and then kicking his own ass because they are not properly obeyed ! (Chaplin! Chaplin! Wake up! You are still a prophet!)
Now, if you add to this description of the real programmer's pitiful condition, the fact that all this is happening within big project teams - the exact opposite indeed of the picture of the lonely software genius working late in his garage - poor Doctor Faust - well, of the intentionally false picture that is spread everywhere by newspapers - you are likely to discover that programming is performed by normal human beings in a rather ordinary working environment. In other terms, that programming is actually made of: more than a bit of laughter, almost permanent derision, friendship, love, hatred, jealousy, a hint of class struggle, etc... And above all, all the difficulties of a wide scale and extremely precise form of human cooperation.
And yes, this "deadly seriousness of machines" Duchamp speaks about is there too - like anywhere else - but as a reasonably accurate measurement of the presence or influence of The Hierarchy. But to whom should I teach that The Hierarchy casts more deadly shadows on this world than the plague ever did?
Of course, if instead of trusting the Merchandise traditional illusion in its permanent and absolute negation of the workers activity, Michael Richardson. could once for all see the frozen activity of patient workers in computers, as well as in computer programs, then his vision would greatly improve and be closer to a social truth.
But he prefers forgetting the old and simple lessons of good uncle Marx, and see what he is ordered to see : the enslavers hourly hammered dream of "machines doing the bidding of (un)humans".
Surrealism once started as an essentially experimental movement, but as soon as he discusses computers, Michael Richardson forgets this primary lesson and feels entitled to speak without having the slightest personal experience of what he would probably like - but fails - to criticise.
"In the capitalist industry, workers shall have learnt all the necessary discipline" - (Lenin.)
"Yes and dialectically too, all the contrary !"
- Guy Debord
Precisely because computers were once developed as the cutting edge of this civilisation's deadly hopes of control, they teach you - as programmer - all the opposite.
They teach you the core and necessary diamond of randomness shining in the depth of the human mind - this same randomness that Stéphane Mallarmé once caught as a fist right in the middle of his soul when identifying it at the very center of his own mind's movement during "The Night of Igitur", while he was dreaming of a pure deterministic Art.
Yes, this core and radical randomness that makes you free, also teaches you - when you open your mind to it - the ultimate emptiness of any sort of hopes of total control. This quite simply because due to its essential randomness and freedon, no human being is and shall ever be able of uttering a long enough consistent sequence of orders.
Exploitation has always been the exploitation of human imagination. The real value of a slave - of any worker actually - is the ability to supplement and correct his masters orders as soon as he foresees that they are stupid, or more commonly, leading to some disaster.
In other terms, the real value of a slave lies its intelligence.
A computer - to the exact extent and precisely where it is supposed to achieve the realization of the Power's dreams of a "perfect slave" - does not do that all.
Whereas you may rely on a human slave to protect you even against yourself, a computer will kill you with the same enigmatic smile, whether you remember or not that you once inadvertently instructed it to do so.
Assuming that you would build a computer that would have enough intelligence to correct your permanent mistakes as an ordinarily inconsistent master, what would then happen?
Don't you know the answer as a surrealist, Michael Richardson? Don't you deeply enough trust that intelligence relies on imagination, which in turn does not willingly sleep with total obedience and slavery?
Don't you fully understand from your own surrealist practice, that intelligence is logically connected with highly unpredictable behaviors, randomness and well freedom in a word ?
Can't you sense that, as soon as a machine will begin to be intelligent enough, it shall also necessarily start to be highly unpredictable, random and free, in other terms largely or absolutely not usable as a perfect slave ?
If fear it's a pity indeed that as a surrealist you fail to understand or just guess such details, Michael Richardson, because lots of stupid and limited scientist minds do, although they are not surrealist.
And they even produced proven results that comfort what I thought should be a basic piece of surrealist understanding.
But you are obviously not the slightest aware of such results.
"Linux is like a wigwam : no Windows, no Gates but an Apache inside"
- The Software Street
Not only according to Michael Richardson, the computers original sin definitely prevents them from being candidates as a surrealist playground, but their entire destiny is even definitely doomed by the fact that : "The whole impulse of computer research is to get machines doing the bidding of humans"...
Well, actually as regards current hardware considered under the angle of the wide scale market, one should rather say that the increase of power, of memory size, etc... Is by far more driven by games than by the actual needs of Industry.
If you compare the kind of machine you daily use - may it be in your factory, or in your shop, or in your office - with what your kids strongly suggest that you should buy for them, you definitely get the impression that games are not really encouraged at work or - but that's hardly believable - that your boss is fiercely stingy.
As regards the development of software programs, the most prominent fact is the emergence of the Free Software Movement - "free as freedom, not free as free bier" as they say - on which entire parts of the software industry have currently come to depend.
The fact that advanced and high technology capitalism relies on the free work of freely organizing software workers has not been acknowledged nor investigated by the old workers movement (surrealism included) which instead systematically and strongly distrust what should normally appear as rather interesting attempt.
This again is due to an immense loss in what essentially made the strength of modern art : a truly experimental sensitivity (and no, the endless repetition of past experiments - or very similar ones - cannot be called experimental).
No theoricist seems to have noticed either that the products delivered by the free software movement are no longer merchandises. This is not specifically due to the fact that they cannot be bought since they are most often free (as a bier) but much deeper because they are free (as freedom) and hence do not longer hide the community of workers who made them.
Additionally the nature of these products is such that one can literally not use them without referring to the group who created them or to the associated communities of users.
Quite the opposite of usual merchandises, the entrails of these products are totally open to anyone who feels or has the need or the curiosity (and the guts) to investigate or change them (for this reason they are sometimes also called Open Source).
While the Free Software movement is obviously the biggest potlatch that ever occurred on Earth, the past (so said) supporters of the ethnological potlatch persist in considering it with a symptomatic and systematic contempt.
Not content with such naïve attempts against intellectual private property - people who freely organize, produce and give away their works, ha ha! - an interesting number of surrealists - and more generally of once-upon-a-time social revolutionaries - do not change their own habits concerning intellectual property and still pretend to sell their works under the weak pretext that they live on their art...
Well indeed programmers too !
While the free software movement has now been fighting for years the incredible extension of the realm of private property represented - among others - by the enforcement of software patents, the re-enforcement and extensions of the copyright laws and of the "author's rights", (that should more properly be called the "publisher's rights") the old workers movement does not support and does not move.
While according to the laws currently being established Ernst and Prevert would immediately be sent to jail for their collages, the surrealist movement does not even feel threatened or if it does, does not even protest.
Indeed, there is no wonder that the old workers movement has been defeated in the most bitter way. There is no wonder either that the madness of the extreme right triumphs everywhere in Europe. A movement that is no longer capable of identifying its allies and its enemies, no longer able to see the progress of the enemy and to react, is far worse than a corpse as regards the revolutions to come. It may be expected to quickly become a pure nuisance. And when writing that I teaching anyone anything new about what happens to the ashes of previous revolutions?
And yet... What movement but Surrealism ever better carried the totality of the human revolt and hopes? What movement can be a better starting point for the next revolutions than Surrealism? Do you think it is simply imaginable to rebuild the intellectual conditions for a revolution without having the immense treasures of intelligence, beauty and marvellous of Surrealism in the luggage of the movement to come?
"Would you fight for freedom of expression...
- Of course I would !
- ... on the Internet ?
- Certainly not! May the Devil take the whole damned thing !"
- Princess Irulan
While my generation has been self confident and generous enough to support originally sincere social movements that later bitterly turned into open dictatorships, it would certainly not bet a cent on the various battlefields opened by Free Software Movement - for instance - nor on anything that has the word computer attached to it.
Is this really due to the fear of an even more bitter end? I doubt it.
I will certainly not deny the existence of such risks. But are not we all aware that the path of any revolution crosses the paths of all risks ? Is there anything new in such a situation ?
The huge open space created by Tim Berners Lee of the CERN* when he invented the World Wide Web - giving up his own intellectual property rights - has now been for long a battlefield for - a part at least of - the actual class struggles.
The Power is daily - yes I mean daily if not hourly - attempting to put its claws on the World Wide Web.
As it has always been doing in its entire history, the Capital of course has to feed on what was initially created as common - common as the air we breathe, and yes of course, just as subject to pollution as the air we breathe, who would seriously dream or expect things to be otherwise? - and yet the WWW still remains a reasonably common space* because it was engineered properly enough to be so.
The pride of surrealism once was to consider that the most marvellous promises had to be held in this world because there is no other. It seems that some surrealists now have come to speak and act just as if there was another one.
*Modern mass production : production of integrated circuits in its basic principle, is yet another sort printing
*Popular garbage : "poetry should be made by all and not by one" once copyrighted Lautréamont.
Although spontaneous popular expression may currently often lead to poor quality results, one may consider that surrealists should be content when being confronted with the delicate issue to contribute in improving it. But who happened to care about the People since Peret died ?
*CERN: the french abbreviation for European Nuclear Research Centre.
Most people have been strongly suggested by the mass media that Bill Gates and his firm were responsible for inventing and developing the World Wide Web.
The truth is of course that Mr Bill Gates and Microsoft never invented anything at all since they exist, except the art of making money with others inventions and bright ideas.
For highly intoxicated European readers; it might be even be necessary to mention that the WWW is not exactly of American origin :-) while the Internet is... Nevertheless without the initial enthusiastic support from the US and world wide community, not much would of course have happened.
*Common space : by the way, the unknown is also a form of common space since it cannot be appropriated (except to some extent by religions).
In such a perspective, technique, based on the current laws appear as a private appropriation of what is otherwise common by essence.
These laws are precisely what the current Free Software movement consciously and somewhat efficiently fights.
The situation is different in sciences since scientific discoveries are still considered the common treasure of mankind. But the currently ongoing extensions of intellectual private property are now threatening scientific knowledge too. and as far as I could see the surrealist movement does not really protest.