International Journal of Baudrillard Studies
 
ISSN: 1705-6411

Volume 3, Number 2 (July 2006)

Split or Die? The Innocent Fate of Humans
 

Dr. Louis Arnoux
(Managing Director, IT-Mondial Pty and Director of Strategic Development, IndraNet Technologies, Christchurch, New Zealand).
 

I. Introduction

 

In my mind’s eye, New York falls to ruins. Butterflies alight upon the stones and poppies spring out of the asphalt fields.1

 

…what will the earth be like when we are no longer on it? In a word, we dream of our disappearance, and of seeing the world in its inhuman purity…2

 

In order to exorcise this exponentiality, this aleatory capable of reducing this definitive uncertainty, the virtual remains – positioning a perfect double, virtual, and technological that allows for the exchange of the world against its artificial double.3

 

 

            True to form, Jean Baudrillard has recently made a number of pronouncements on the uncertain and undecidable character of the hyperreal world and “thought as impostor” without much grounding, so it seems, in evidence or theoretical elaboration. Part II of this paper begins with an examination of some facets of the epistemological context and possible grounds for Baudrillard’s pronouncements. Part III considers how one could possibly “go further”, in the face of the four major ways in which the negative effects of globalisation, or more specifically the westernisation of the world,4 are presently manifesting themselves, to envisage the impending fate of the current human species that profiles itself in the shadows of the imposture of thought – the death of the world of Homo sapiens sapiens, as that species has imagined it and instituted it up until now.
 

II. Baudrillard’s Imposture or the Death of the Real

            Discussing some of Baudrillard recent writings – in particular “From Radical Incertitude, or Thought as Impostor”,5 a colleague said: “Jean’s writing sounds more and more like songs by Leonard Cohen”. Cohen’s are deliciously haunting lyrics, with indeterminate meanings, and yet deeply stirring – always moving ahead and yet turning into a kind of mourning:

And Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water and he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower and when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him, he said all men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them.  But he himself was broken long before the sky would open, forsaken, almost human.  He sank beneath your wisdom, like a stone.  And you want to travel with him and you want to travel blind and you think may be you’ll trust him for he’s touched your perfect body with his mind… 

 

Or

 You ask him to come in, sit down, but something makes you turn round, the door is open, you can’t close your shelter, and as you watch his dreams to sleep you notice there is a highway that is curling up like smoke above his shoulder… The joker who is looking for a card that is so high and wild he’ll never need to deal another…6

 

            For as long as I can remember, there has been this tendency in Baudrillard’s writing, although it is more pronounced of late. Increasingly, there is a haunting scent to his words that for me, at times, bear echoes of remote mountain forests, misty and moist – secretive; the sort of forest that harbours lone Zen monks; the type of monks who evoke rather than say what is – and who leave it up to you to figure out for yourself what the case may be. For example:

This parallel, eccentric, and singular universe of the nothing no longer comes to us through signs, only through traces.  Our alleged ‘real’ universe is perpetually colliding with the universe of the nothing…7

 

One can almost hear the distant chant of the Heart Sutra,8 to the beat of an old wooden gong.  Baudrillard’s pronouncements can be as cryptic as Zen koans, those riddles Zen teachers give their students to challenge the imposture of their very thoughts, challenge them to let go of any form of dual thinking, and any form of “mono” thinking.  For that is the challenge, a challenge that has been with humans ever since becoming human has meant learning to think.  A challenge that most, relentlessly, want to bury under mountains of certainty; and yet a challenge that at each epoch a few rebels dare to pick up – forever thwarting the best efforts of the established “civilized” order. In both the East and West this reversion has been going on for millennia. 

            So what is it that might be, potentially, new in Baudrillard’s querying? What is that might be at stake in his positing that “the problem is how to give up on critical thought”?  And does he succeed in some way? Regarding the latter question, I would venture probably not; not to my liking anyway; and yet there is a hinting in Baudrillard’s writing that indeed humankind faces, has engendered, “extreme phenomena” that may pose a new and unique challenge, a singularity.  In saying this, I am mindful not to make Baudrillard say what he does not say or does not intend to say. I voice solely my own appreciation of his work, and offer a counter challenge to his. 

            Jacques Donzelot has recently evoked his fond memories of sharing, for some ten years, a lecture class with Baudrillard. Week after week, the Donzelot-Baudrillard pair ran a joint idiosyncratic and irreverent lecture at the Department of Sociology of University of Nanterre, each counter-pointing the other:

We used to begin by each rolling a cigarette, Baudrillard with a little machine, and I by hand.  Then there were commentaries on the events of the week, politics, cinema, etc., a way of delaying the beginning of the lecture, or, instead, a ploy to make the world enter it? Hard to say: once the habit set, it imposed itself as an evidence.  The lecture proper used to begin most often by me making a presentation.  Then Baudrillard used to follow, regularly saying that he was in agreement with me but that one could go further…9   

 

Donzelot concludes:

Worse than any sociologist-journalist or sociologist-expert are the avowed patasociologists, deniers of a sociological truth, of truth pure and simple, of the good in the name of evil, of reality to the profit of the simulacrum.  He does not disqualify his colleagues but manages to make all of them disqualify him.  He does not take up residency in an institution to say the true thought but makes himself institution of the negation of the true.  Does he have a system of thought?  Yes, if one wants to call it that, but like Nietzsche; a system of dismantling systems that seeks to see not their possible defects, but their absolute underside, that which will make it possible to annihilate them.  Irony is his mode of thought, and this is why his radicalism manifests itself in such profoundly liberating ways.10

 

For decades now, Baudrillard has gone further and further along his ironical path. Can he still? Or has he reached a chasm, standing there pointing at some indeterminate outline he can only guess at on the other side? Or, like some of the passengers of the “Heart of Gold” in the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy11, has he improbably reappeared on the other side, where he stands by the abyss, gesturing back enigmatically to his stranded readers?

            These questions are not trivial. In an attempt to convey the strange world of quantum mechanics, by way of a virtual thought experiment, Schrödinger once proposed the metaphor of a cat in a box. While inside, the cat is at once either alive or dead, neither alive nor dead, both alive and dead. The instant one lifts the lid the fate of the cat is decided; alive or dead. Similarly, can one say on which side of the abyss is Baudrillard on? What is he pointing at? What would happen if one dared to look? As I will go on to highlight, there is a twist to that tale, for in our case, it would not be Baudrillard, the trickster cat, who would be dead or alive. In all cases it would be the onlooker who would be metaphorically “dead” since attempting to determine Baudrillard’s position would be to totally miss the mark.

            The challenge is to go further, further than he. Can we, and if so, how? Let’s admit it, for most, reading Baudrillard is not easy. Unless one is thoroughly familiar with his prior work, his metaphors, his style of delivery, and one is equipped with a serious grounding in centuries of philosophical debates, a reader may quickly feel baffled and frustrated. What can it mean to “finally make an indeterminate analysis of an indeterministic society, a fractal, stochastic, exponential society of critical mass and extreme phenomena – a society entirely dominated by the relationship of uncertainty”?12 And yet somehow, with effort and critical reflection, it makes sense – to a point.13

            When Baudrillard observes that “our conventional universe made of subject and object, means and ends, true and false, good and bad – all of these regulated oppositions no longer correspond to the state of our world”, what’s new? Have any of these oppositions ever corresponded to “the state of the world”? Hasn’t this been known for centuries or, rather, marginally more than two millennia?  Rather than suggesting there might be nothing new here, I am asking in what way – this potential emerging awareness of the requirement, the challenge, to drop all attempts and to think the world and ourselves in terms of dual opposites – takes on a new significance at this particular historical moment? Why do I say “requirement” and what kind of challenge is this? I take Baudrillard’s stance to signal that the prevailing contemporary imaginary constitution of the world in terms of dual opposites is, on the one hand, relatively historically recent and specific, and on the other, that it can no longer order our (imaginary) universe. As I shall expand in Part III, I see “going further”, in the fashion so dear to Baudrillard, as a matter of “letting go” of the kind of dual thinking that is so prevalent in our contemporary post-modern world. This is a matter of survival for Homo sapiens sapiens (HSS), the species that somewhat arrogantly calls itself wise, twice!

            Never before has this species had the opportunity and faced the challenge to think its own imminent death.  We know that it went through a “bottle neck” some 100,000 years ago, when HSS dwindled abruptly from probably a million to around 10,000 individuals. All humans apparently still carry the trace of this near crash in their genes. One can safely surmise that at the time no one had much of a sense of what was going on; bare survival of lone groups scattered across what felt like a rather large terrestrial surface was the order of the day. Now, however, an overcrowding HSS on an overloaded planet that feels rather shrunken faces the challenge to think – like Schrödinger’s cat – what is our fate, alive or dead?

            What does it mean to face indeterminacy in the sense Baudrillard talks about it? How to think when, as he declares it, there is no longer a possibility of “a subject that explores the world from the privileged position of the subject and language”,14 that is, when there is no illusory external standpoint to think it from and make definite determinations? These questions have been raised systematically over and over for well over 2,500 years, with the obvious and rigorously reached conclusions that it is that very mode of thinking intent on a separation of a subject and an object that must give – and that it is perfectly possible to think in non-dual ways. 

            Dual thinking, the Aristotelian logic that is drilled into almost every HSS from the cradle onwards will never enable humans to answer the sort of questions raised by Baudrillard and others. Any attempt to think a non-dual world by dual means will fail. Considered from a dual perspective the world will always appear indeterminate. Experienced in a non-dual way the very notion of indeterminacy loses its relevance. While a few humans have discovered this systematically and repeatedly for well over two millennia, still the majority stubbornly keeps ignoring them. In recent decades that same ontological message, that dual thinking “won’t do”, has relentlessly come from all corners of science, from the confines of physics to that of ecology, from the depths of neurology to the radical reworking of genetics, evolution theory and ontogeny. 

            Yes, there is an imposture of thought. It has been around for a rather long time. HSS appears singularly lazy. Why bother when the going is easy?  Why change when there has always been an escape route, for some at least, those who thought of themselves as the clever ones, only too content to murder the weaker or leave them behind to rot if that could save their own skin, metaphorically or literally.

            Now things are different. In a globalized and overcrowded world, there is no longer any obvious escape route, neither in theory nor in practice. Hence the absolute challenge to death; the challenge to begin to think in other, non-dual ways, not just by a few lone individuals, as has been going on for quite a long time; the challenge is now collective, at the species level. Baudrillard acknowledges that “thought must no longer be considered metaphysically as outside of time, but physically in the cycle of the evolution of the cosmos, as a specific attribute and destiny of the species”.15  Baudrillard here goes further than the “critical thought” that had sought to replace thought in its historical context.  He recognises thought as “a specific attribute and destiny of the species”.  

            I fully agree, and yet one must go much further. That modality of thought Baudrillard refers to has nothing absolute to it. It is only the thought of a mere moment in the life of the genus Homo. There have been other modalities of thought, with other versions of Homo; think of Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, or as Julian Jaynes has pointed out, within HSS itself up to about 3,000 years ago, when what he called the bi-cameral mind underwent a metamorphosis and HSS’ modern, dualistic and egotistic mind emerged.16 Some 500 years latter, almost simultaneously, the thought of classical Greek philosophers, of Siddhartha Gautama Sakyamuni in India, and of Laozi in China blossomed.  The thoughts of Siddhartha and Laozi though were non-dual. While their resolute and compassionate non-dual stance endured through the ages, passed on from handfuls of students to students, everywhere it is the predatory dual thought of merchants and bean counters that has prevailed; me against you – will you do me in or shall I do you in?

            The difficulty of the present challenge, of going further, is obvious in Baudrillard’s writing as well. He asks, “Has the real ever existed”?17 A very pointed question. That the world would be a “fundamental illusion” is well known – for millennia Indian Rishis have called it Maya – except, that is, by those who have been immersed in and have let themselves be constructed for a few mere decades by the Western ethos. And yet, for whom would it be that the world would be such a “fundamental illusion” if not some resolutely Aristotelian dualistic mind? “One must go beyond this stage, get beyond identity… in order to reach the ultimate stage of the object that thinks us, the world that thinks us.18  The exhortation begins well enough, with echoes of Avalokitesvara, aka Kannon, Kanjizai or Kwan Yin, the androgynous bodhisattva of compassion exclaiming, at the conclusion of the Heart Sutra, “gate, gate, paragate, para sangate…” (let’s go, let’s go, let’s go beyond, let’s go altogether beyond to the other shore… referring explicitly to letting go at once of dual thought and its illusion of the world, not individually but collectively)… An exclamation that is some 2,500 years old. 

            Baudrillard’s ending falls flat though.  Why stop there, at an object that would “think us”?  As Sasaki Roshi pointed out years ago, this is sheer laziness; it’s to leave the job half done. That is still remaining stuck in duality. Whether duality be that of the subject or that of the object, what is the difference?  The imposture remains. Hence the “crime”. 

            Gleefully caught in duality, and I suspect with a wink in his eye, Baudrillard waxes lyrical and tries his hand at that pastime cherished by humans throughout the ages, engendering myths of creation. “We must return to the irruption of consciousness in the world as the original crime…  It is on this murder (not quite perfect, we hope) that the material universe is founded” he writes.19 Leaving aside for now the Girardian undertones, the metaphor is not good enough. What is there to murder? And what may be murdering? 

            Crime, etymology tells us, came to English through the Old French, from the Latin, crimen, meaning charge, indictment. It is derived from cernere, to distinguish, decide, with an original meaning of to sieve through. These words belong to a family derived from the Indo-European “krei” – to sieve through.  Closely related Greek words include krienin to separate, choose, decide, judge, and krisis, choice, action of separating, hence dissent and contestation.

            Is that the kind of “crime” Baudrillard has in mind? The crime of separation, of positing and sieving through entities, things, objects, subjects with separate fixed independent essences of sorts, instead of relating to what some call the “co-dependent arising” of the myriad entities in the universe – the “crime” of dual thinking; its imposture. “The second great fracture of symmetry, this one metaphysical, happens in the mass of the living, when consciousness in some way separates from it and inaugurates another form of transparency…”.20 One could hear a tantric chant; Shiva separating from his amorous embrace with Shakti, the spirit separating from matter and the universe coming into being… or the Tane of Polynesian lore separating Papa (the mother earth goddess) from Rangi (the father sky). Yes, foundation myths are full of crime, in both the Girardian or Walterian sacrificial victim and in the etymological senses.21

In this double peripeteia we can see the decisive moments of the cosmos’ ascendance towards total transparency, like a rising process of rationalisation, negentropy and redemption.  Against this we can see a process of loss… beginning first with antimatter, then proceeding with the dark continent of thought and the living.22

 

Teilhard de Chardin, the alpha and omega, versus the Manicheans perhaps?

            Notwithstanding the irony in Baudrillard’s endeavours at neo-creation myths, is this in any way rising to the challenge? Is this pointing in some way how one could go further? Baudrillard finds the idea that particles may be “what they are and at the same time not quite what they are” – “quite problematic” and muses with theory that would “destabilise particles”. However, particles are mere transient concepts invented by physicists at various moments in a long process of theorization. They have also thought of sub-particles, “quarks”, “gluons”, and worse, “strings”, and even “branes” (as in multidimensional universe sized mem-branes). They can make them and undo them as they please at the stroke of an equation or two. There is nothing here to worry about. 

            What would be amiss though would be to think for even one femtosecond that these theoretical musings and particle accelerator experiments, or any other kind of experiment or theory for that matter, may tell us in any way “what is” whether it be matter, light, the universe or any of its features.  Real physics has long left that silly idea behind. Physics, just like critical social sciences, knows full well the basic points of epistemology and hermeneutics – the socially constructed scientist is never outside her or his object of study. The point of science is not to tell in any way what is or what may be. While many individual scientists may well remain caught in duality, nowadays science, as a complex practice, is very much co-dependently arising with the world in its myriad manifestations. Praxis, Theoria and Poiesis form a joyous saraband where no amount of myth-making, ironical or not, will avoid the challenge to death, that of thinking beyond thinking (hishiryo in Japanese), non-dual.

            “The universe would be real without the presence of man” muses Baudrillard.23 Would it be then that a “real” would exist?  He is quick to note though that this “rather beautiful and fantastic hypothesis [would be] mildly disturbed by the fact that it is precisely man who created measure, instituting the only real world” and concludes that “whether the principle of incertitude is objective, cosmic, or bound to mankind, it remains total.” Baudrillard, the trickster cat, flits back and forth over the chasm, either here with the real or there with the nothing, neither here nor there, and both here and there at once, to leave his readers stranded, replete with incertitude. Is that it then? Is the journey at an end? Or can and must we go further? “Has the real ever existed?”  The question still haunts Baudrillard’s conclusion. That real that modern humans have learned to cherish is tenacious, or rather the modern egotistic mind is tenacious in its hold on it.

            In our hyperreal world, real/reality, technology, and knowledge are almost inextricably intertwined. The notions of “real” and “reality” as used by relatively well educated people of European descent (and by others educated by them) are very recent.  The word reality, as having the quality of being real, was borrowed from Middle French réalité during the 16th century. As for real, its meaning changed during the 14th and 15th centuries. Before 1325, it meant having a physical existence, being actual.  After 1448, it takes on the meaning of being genuine, authentic (i.e. relative to a referent guarantor of such authenticity).24 

            The current meaning emerges during the Enlightenment among a powerful minority. So historically, only a very small minority of humans have ever had a sense of the real, as postulated nowadays by learned people.  Even nowadays, in my experience, only a very small minority of humans understand this word in the way learned people use it (and for the present discussion it does not matter much whether this “real” they posit may be of the positivist, empiricist, realist, etc., etc., kinds or even the hyper-real version). My people in Provence, for example, do not; they have retained far too much of a sense of the symbolic, and they do “beliefs” (as most post bi-cameral people do).

            As for most non-European people I have met, (and I have met quite a few over the years from harijans/untouchables to hyper wealthy tycoons of one kind or another and all manner of petty people, consultants, merchants, financiers, farmers, industrialists, their employees and bureaucrats in between), when they have not been too westernised (and when they do, they often take up hyperreality with a vengeance), they also remain far too post-bicameral to “do the real” as learned western people do it. Instead, they do “beliefs” and still remain substantially steeped in symbolic exchange, which in my experience, generally makes for weird mixes, torn and conflicted, of hyperreal, hyperrealised “real”, beliefs and superstitions, and symbolic exchange of sorts.

            I view the real as largely an effect of the West's existential malaise, an effect that would have lasted only a brief moment, hardly three centuries, and only for a very few among the human masses. Once invented (in Castoriadis' sense of the Imaginary Institution of Society), it could not but flip relatively quickly into the hyperreal. It was only a matter of a short span of time. The counter-pointing of real and hyperreal, in all the possible manners Baudrillard and others (myself included) have written about is largely due to the transient fantasies of a very few about brief moments that were and no longer are, about some utopia that never was, and about a fast dying world. Transient fantasies that were not so much of the order of a sinking-of-the-Titanic while the orchestra keeps playing on the upper deck than a missing-the-boat of gigantic and global proportion. This real, the one that never existed except in the imagination of a few, has long been dead – and only a very few noticed that – the “perfect crime”?  Long live the real.

            At once, Baudrillard has challenged the imposture of contemporary thought, challenged attempts to ascertain and say what is, challenged dual thinking, challenged his readers to “go further”, and yet, while he recognizes that one must go beyond it, in many respects, his delivery remains dual.  Instead, faced with all pervading incertitude concerning an illusory real, he falls back on neo-creation myths.  The matter, though, is not so much where Baudrillard actually stands, rather, the challenge for all humans is to go further, and face the fate humankind has created for itself through centuries of action grounded in dual thinking.
 

III. Thinking the Unthinkable or Life at the Death of the Species

Overpopulation represents a kind of slow and irresistible epidemic, the opposite of plague and cholera. We can only hope that it will bring itself to an end once it has been sated with the living as the plague did when sated with dead. Will the same regulatory reflex operate against this excess of life as once did against the excess of death? Because the excess of life is even more lethal.25

 

            Nowadays, of course, as Baudrillard has exquisitely pointed out, the “evil trans-appears”, or rather perspires, oozes, from everything dual that humans attempt. In Part II, I pointed out that this transpiring has little to do with the real of many scientists, social critics, and philosophers, or even the hyperreal. Instead, for a large number of humans, the transparency of evil resonates with their experience of the “unbearable lightness of being”, their desires and existential worries. Many sense that something in their world is deeply amiss. Already in 1995, Anne Herbert, a writer and social change activist living at the time in Berkeley, California, echoed these feelings:

Sometimes it comes in a dream, and sometimes in one more newspaper headline.  And then you know.  With your cells and past and future you know.  It's over.  We are killing it all and soon it all will be dead.  We are here at the death of the world - killers, witnesses, and those who will die.  How then shall we live?26

 

            For this is the challenge that profiles itself in the shadows of the imposture of thought – the death of the world of Homo sapiens sapiens (HSS), as that species has imagined it and instituted it up until now, the death of the still prevailing notion of species and the death of that species itself, all at once. After nearly 8 million years of evolution, HSS is now in its “end-game”; “for real,” dare I say, in the old fashion sense I outlined in Part II, that of action, survival and living.

            Over the last ten years the message has become increasingly clear. In his acceptance speech for the Marsden Medal, the highest scientific distinction in New Zealand, Professor Peter Barrett pointedly stressed his view that humankind faces extinction “not in millions of years, or even millennia, but by the end of this century”.27 Previously Sir Martin Rees, Professor at Cambridge University, a Fellow of King’s College and England’s Astronomer Royal, had made it clear that in his assessment “the odds are no better than fifty-fifty that our present civilisation on earth will survive to the end of the present century.”28  In 2002 Michael Boulter, a world renowned palaeontologist put forward his conclusion that humankind is rushing headlong into rapid extinction.29  I have been warning about those prospects for ten years.30  As Baudrillard himself wonders:

...perhaps we may see this as a kind of adventure, a heroic test: to take the artificialization of living beings as far as possible in order to see, finally, what part of human nature survives the greatest ordeal. If we discover that not everything can be cloned, simulated, programmed, genetically and neurologically managed, then whatever survives could be truly called “human”: some inalienable and indestructible human quality could finally be identified. Of course, there is always the risk, in this experimental adventure, that nothing will pass the test – that the human will be permanently eradicated.31

 

            The above concerns of scientists, and that of Baudrillard, follows a long line of researchers extending all the way back to the Club of Rome reports of the early 1970s. What were concerns, hypotheses and early warnings then, have become solid scientific conclusions now. The data on which these conclusions are based is massive and expanding daily. Whether we end in extinction or not, there is no longer any doubt that humankind has placed itself in very serious trouble and to an extent it has never encountered since it went through an evolutionary bottleneck some 100,000 ago.

            The historical “business as usual” (BAU) trajectory so many have cherished throughout their entire careers is presently resulting in outcomes that are not BAU at all and distinctly unpalatable. To ignore this is to attempt to live in  fantasy. HSS is already undergoing what we could term four major simultaneous transitions induced by westernization: (energy, human ecology, health, and population):

Energy: The 20th century was the century of fossil fuels and the 21st will see the end of the fossil fuel era. Hydrocarbon availability per head of global population (i.e. oil and natural gas combined) peaked in 1979 at around 8bbl/head/year equivalent. Supplies are now down to around 7bbl/head/year equivalent.32 Absolute deliveries per year are peaking now and are expected to decline at over 2 per cent per year from 2007 onwards.33  The issue, as bluntly summarised by Matthew Simmons, is that “the world does not have a Plan B”, that is, the speed with which alternatives can be deployed is currently significantly slower than the speed of depletion.34  The same applies to global coal supplies. Past a certain threshold, it takes more energy to extract, process and transport the fuels than the energy they contain in situ; at which point extraction simply stops regardless of how much may be left underground and of costs. This threshold is expected to be reached globally around 2050. To quote C. J. Campbell: “it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the World is indeed facing a discontinuity of historic proportion”.35 It is not the case that energy is becoming scarce. Each year the planet receive orders of magnitude more energy from the sun than were contained in all the geological oil reserves there ever were. HSS, not nature, creates scarcity.

Human Ecology: The current media focus on climate change or its denial is misplaced. The reality as it transpires monthly from countless studies and analyses is much more sombre. It is the entire ecology of humankind as a species that is changing and those changes are no longer linear. In short, past a number of key thresholds that have been reached or will be reached over the next two decades, changes become abrupt. They take place in a matter of years instead of decades, centuries or millennia. All environmental factors concerning the viability of humankind are concerned: soils, surface waters, aquifers, ocean currents, glaciers, climates, and so on. What HSS now faces is rapid ecological change.36

Health: The above ecological changes are expected to result in a rapid worsening of health effects.37  One of the most immediate effects concerns “superflu”. Depending on the exact HxNy flu virus variants that engender one or more pandemics, superflu (for example, birdflu) may eliminate between a few million to a few hundred million people in a matter of a few months to a year. In spite of years of warnings, it is only now, much too late to directly contain the epizooty, that many countries are attempting to address the challenge. Add to this the health effects of environmental impacts like endocrine disturbing trace compound pollutants (EDCs) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs), the current expansion of malaria, TB, HIV, and a few more new bugs, combine it with the ailments related to global population aging, urban crowding, and malnourishment, and the challenges of the health transition are clear.

Population: The above are all closely interrelated. Most changes are likely to trigger other changes in chain reactions that substantially amplify each other’s effects. The combined synergistic effects are expected to result in a massive population crash. The twentieth century saw the global human population swarm by a factor of four, from about 1.5 billion people in 1900 to just above 6 billion in 2000. This growth was largely propelled by fossil fuels. It took about 0.5 tonne of coal equivalent per head per year (0.5 tce/h/y) to keep the global human population alive in 1900. By 2000 over 2.3 tce/h/y were required, nearly five times more.38

            By now the human population is heavily urbanised and few remain who know how to survive on less. The ongoing lives of most humans are entirely dependent on fragile, highly complex, remote, and often heavily centralised, support systems. On their own or in local communities, most humans no longer know how, and no longer can, feed, shelter, clothe, cure, educate, and reproduce themselves by themselves. Turn the fossil energy tap off even slightly, add some pandemic, and rapid ecological change to a global population that is fast ageing, and billions will be gone within a very few decades. There is a high probability that the global population will be down to around 2 billion by 2100 (i.e. down to about 1930 levels). Some of my colleagues now consider (in hushed tones) that 0.5 billion by 2100 may be much more probable, that is, around how it was back in 1300, in medieval times, just at the beginning of the Little Ice Age.39 Humankind will not go through the four major transitions already underway unscathed. That situation is real in the old fashioned sense I presented in Part I – a sense that makes it stubbornly refractory to the hyperreal and to any form of dualist thought:

[We can expect]…terrible droughts, crop failures and dying forests around the Mediterranean and in the US, South America, India, China, and Africa.  Sea levels are expected to rise significantly, drowning islands and possibly displacing hundreds of millions of people from coastlines, where more than a third of the world’s population lives.  Ground water supplies are set to shrink, reservoirs to dry up.  Wildfires and violent storms will strike more often and much harder. And much of this change is expected within the next 50 years.40

 

            Part of the irony in this real situation is that while HSS must now face the prospect of its own demise, there has never been such a blossoming of knowledge in the whole history of humankind. This emerging knowledge, however, is extremely unevenly distributed. Less than 1% of the global population is significantly involved, and among these only a slim minority is presently able to think the very prospect of the species’ imminent death:

The rate of change is outstripping the ability of scientific disciplines and our capabilities to assess and advise.  It is frustrating the attempts of political and economic institutions, which evolved in a different, more fragmented world, to adapt and cope.41

 

The present trend, reinforced by new technological means, is to accumulate fabulous stocks of data, but not to take the time that is necessary to use them to effective ends.42

 

            I regard the rapidly widening knowledge gap among HSS as the toughest of all the challenges the species has unwittingly created for itself over the last two centuries. This is a matter of cognitive failure, that is to say the cognitive and cultural inability of a society, civilisation or the species at large to figure out how to successfully meet the challenges it faces within the time frame that remains for it to face them. Cognitive failure, this failure by HSS to think its own world in such a way as to enable it to act, survive and live, is but another name for the  imposture of (dual) thought discussed in Part II.

            When cognitive failure happens to a given society, and it has happened many times historically in localised fashions, that society simply crashes and usually never recovers. Centuries later, archaeologists uncover its lost ruins in the jungles or under the sands.43

            Although the prospects are dire for HSS, it is important to recognise that humans are probably as hard to eradicate as rats, cockroaches, or viruses. The present high probability that HSS may not survive much past the next ten decades or so does not necessarily mean the end of the line for the Homo genus. This is thus an invitation to follow Baudrillard’s advice to go further than radical thought, further than radical incertitude and think the unthinkable. It is also an invitation to “follow me” for a while for a walk on the wild side of life at the end of the species, beyond the imposture of (dual) thought.44

            The build up of its global population during the 20th century and the four transitions it is now subjected to mean that HSS is under huge selective pressure, a pressure that is more than enough to rapidly split the species in two.  It happened to the Galapagos finches studied by Darwin, and to countless other species over the eons.45 There is no magical reason why it could not happen to HSS.  Let us assume, for the sake of a radical round of theorising, that it is happening now to HSS. The evidence for this prospect is mounting fast. HSS would have only lived for barely 200,000 years; lived hard, died fast. Let’s begin with the death of the old notions of species.

            We no longer live in that (scientific) world where phylogeny was being opposed stubbornly to ontogeny (the “gene versus environment” debate of old).  The requirements for a non-dual perspective are now rather obvious to many and have given rise to the notion of developmental systems as presented by Oyama, Lewontin and others, that alters radically the definition of species, and theories of evolution.46

            Since the late 1990s, it has become increasingly clear that in large measure evolution does not occur so much as a direct result of major environmental or geographic changes (as in two continents drifting apart splitting a species population into two – called allopatric speciation, as in different families) and instead often takes place within one interbreeding population sharing the same environment (called sympatric speciation, as in same family). 

            Ever since Darwin, no agreement has ever been reached as to what constitutes a species. As is often the case, the real issue was simply that the wrong questions were being asked concerning genetics, heredity, and phylogeny. In the mid 1980’s Susan Oyama began a crusade to point out that the dualism postulated between phylogeny (“the genes”) and ontogeny (the development of individual organisms in a specific environment) could not be substantiated any longer. Instead she promoted the notion of non-dual developmental systems, and defined species as developmental systems.47

            Symmetry-breaking, a phenomenon dear to mathematicians, physicists (and no stranger to Baudrillard’s unconventional thought), has been found to be involved in sympatric evolutionary processes understood as developmental systems.48 The focus is thus moving on the definition of species through degrees of similarity for a wide range of traits. In this perspective evolution can be interpreted as a process of symmetry-breaking among those traits. A stable species is a developmental system (including environmental parameters) that is symmetrical relative to a number of potential transformations. Speciation as symmetry-breaking involves three key features: First, a species evolves by splitting into two branches relative to a given set of differentiating traits; second, such splits occur very rapidly within a very few generations; and third, relative to the distinguishing traits, the two new species evolve in opposite directions. As Stewart pointed out about the Galapagos finches dear to Darwin: “if one evolves larger beaks, the other will evolve smaller ones”.49

            This view of evolution as symmetry-breaking within developmental systems must be related to the work begun by Per Bak and others in the 1980s.50  In the early 1970s, Niles Eldredge (American Museum of Natural History) and Stephen J. Gould (Harvard University) pointed out that the evolution of species takes place in steps separated by long periods of stability and called this phenomenon “punctuated equilibrium”. Bak and others made the link between punctuated equilibrium and the dynamics of complex systems.  This is where sand piles and avalanches come in as one of the simplest ways of studying punctuated equilibria is to study and model the formation of sand piles. As Bak et. al. pointed out when building sand piles grain after grain: “behaviour of a single grain affected that of all the others.  As sand was continuously added, the system evolved into a critical state characterised by large periods of static behaviour, or stasis, interrupted by intermittent bursts of activity” (avalanches).  Such as system is called a “self-organising criticality” and is described accurately by a power law.51 Bak et. al. have shown that self-organising criticality is highly relevant to evolutionary processes. Their work stresses that it is the least fit species that are the most susceptible to change by mutation and that the fitness of the various species in an ecosystem is low during mass extinctions, and high during the periods of stasis with low evolutionary activity.

            Bak et. al. further noted that the self-organising points that tend to prevail in large ecosystems are not particularly “nice places to be” for most individual species; instead they tend to be in states where they just “barely hang on – like the grains of sand in the critical sand pile”. This body of work also stresses that those species with many systemic interactions with others and their environment are much more sensitive to that environment, more likely to get caught in an evolutionary avalanche and become extinct, i.e. complex species are likely to have a relatively short life span leading Bak et, al. to quip: “cockroaches will outlast humans”. In this perspective, in the critical self-organising state, and particularly in the case of large evolutionary avalanches, all species involved and co-interacting in that avalanche can be regarded as a single “organism”: “As the ecology evolves from its original state towards its critical state, this kind of organism grows in size until the entire system is effectively one organism” – a conclusion clearly related to Oyama’s notion of developmental system. Let’s now consider the implications for Homo sapiens sapiens.

            In its highly urbanised state and with its high dependence on fossil hydrocarbons, HSS has clearly moved into a low fitness state in the course of the 20th century. It is also recognised that HSS has triggered a massive “avalanche” of species extinction, the first mass extinction since that of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago,52 meaning that beside HSS, countless other species, including many HSS depends upon, are now also in a very low state of fitness, which further reduces HSS’ long term life prospects. With the westernization of the world, and the four transitions it has induced, it is the entire HSS developmental system, including all the other species it has drawn into it that is moving onto the slippery slope of extinction.

            There a twist in this tale that is worth considering. The avalanches of Bak et. al. leads to new speciation through the types of symmetry breaking described and analysed by Stewart and colleagues.  Consider what happens to a stick under increasing stress: it breaks into two; the process is fast and irreversible.  As highlighted by Stewart: “species diverge because of an unmanageable loss of stability… an over-stressed stick must break.  An over-stressed group of birds must either speciate or die.”  And so it is of the finches in the Galapagos and so it is for HSS.  HSS has brought upon its developmental system huge selective pressure. It has become very hard to see what other fate it could endure but die or split in the course of the end phase of the fossil fuels era and related population crash.

            At issue here is the hyper-predatory character of HSS, a species displaying extremes of intelligence and mind-boggling stupidity, a bizarre ecological experiment of sorts.53 HSS became human by munching on humans over millennia. Although widely attested to, at least in systematic ritual forms and in myth, globally,54 and in the records of explorers (e.g. Captain Cook), the reality of cannibalism and sacrificial violence has been a hotly debated issue for decades among anthropologists, as it was hard to prove conclusively either from human remains or from direct observations among ethnic groups alleged to indulge in the practice. It now appears that HSS emerged as that sort of extreme predator, a species where groups can prey on anything and everything that suits them, including their own kind.55

            Westernization, under way since Columbus, is nothing but the latest form of HSS’ hyper-predation, one that has precipitated the four transitions and related evolutionary avalanches. Humans may be emotional about this. Paraphrasing Baudrillard, they may ponder whether “they think the world or the world thinks them”.  Ecosystems do not have existential worries or états d’âme. They just are and traits that do not fit are simply culled. While the earth’s ecosystems could accommodate a few million, even a few hundred million of hyper-predators, seven plus billion of us is another matter. If any member of the Homo genus is to survive, hyper-predation is “on the way out.” Conversely, an aptitude for thinking in non-dual ways becomes a basic survival requirement. In effect, predation and dual thinking on the one hand, and non-predation and non-dual thinking on the other, present opposite ends of a broad spectrum of traits presently under intense selective pressure.

            View a skewed bell shaped distribution of the HSS population with a predatory bulge at one end and a long non-predatory tail at the other. Since what is being selected against are HSS’ hyper-predatory traits, one can expect a hyper-predatory residue and a non-predatory branch to appear rapidly at opposite ends of that spectrum while the average bulk of HSS’ population dies off. In other words, from the same sympatric gene pool and as the result of the huge selective pressure HSS brought upon itself one can expect two new species to originate and their very emergence to be HSS’ extinction. I consider that this process is underway right now; I expect it to be quick and irreversible. 

Owing to the harmful characters of HSS that are being selected against, I designate the two new virtual or proto Homo species, Homo sapiens nocens (HSN) and Homo sapiens innocens (HSI). HSN’s fate is sealed – it knows only hyper-predation, and as should be clear by now, that is not sustainable. Only HSI has any chance of surviving very long after 2200, if it can avoid the predation of HSN. 

            The birth of a new human species has happened a few times since the advent of Homo ergaster some 2 million years ago. HSS has seen its cousin, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, die off but did not realise the significance of that event until some 30,000 years later. It is the first time any Homo is part of, as well as able to be aware of and reflect critically on, a new “die-off” and speciation event within its own genus; long live Homo!  Perhaps.
 

IV. Conclusion

Life in itself is not to be despaired of, it is only mildly melancholic. Something diffuse in the daylight, something impalpable as language, gives things an air of melancholy which comes from much further back than our unconscious or our personal histories.56

 

            I am only too aware that I have never been at ease with fellow HSS.  Among my earliest memories as a child are instances when I quickly learned to beware of HSS. I could feel predation by fellow humans through all my senses, a deep animal feeling of alertness that never left me. About 50 years ago, I remember standing in front of a strange piece of equipment. Relative to my child size it was huge; steel plates, steel doors; inside a kind of drum at a slight angle over the horizontal, with round holes in it, apparently still largely in working order. The thing stood in the corner of a large partly bombed out hall, the walls blackened with smoke, the windows and doors blown out, the roof more or less still in place. We children were told this was an incinerator where the Nazi used to burn the bodies of prisoners they had killed. It was just a few years after WWII. The building was in the midst of partly bombed out barracks that were my playground and home, about 300 metres from the one room flat where my parents and I were accommodated.

            On the blackened walls next to the incinerator were white chalk graffiti made by older kids with pictures of huge penises.  My parents were quite worried about me seeing those but seemed rather untroubled by my seeing the incinerator. As for me, the penises were neither here not there – I found them rather nonsensical and could not care less. What mattered was the incinerator and what it meant. For years its image and the horror of it haunted me. 

            Decades later, I understand that feeling in much sharper relief. I know in my bones that I am potential prey. Although I feel utterly human, and while HSS may be my cousin of sorts, this is not a species to which I feel that I belong.  I never have and never will be assimilated to the world of predation and there are, no doubt, millions like me. No doubt there are also billions of ordinary HSS who would not recognise themselves as hyper-predatory. As far as they are concerned, they lead our lives as peacefully as they can, minding their own business, happy to consume, and consume more – dreaming the happy eternally youthful life of the consumer – simply trying to “get ahead” (mostly legally), sometimes not quite; sometimes not at all.

            In May 2004 the world learned how ordinary US soldiers had mistreated, tortured and humiliated Iraqi prisoners, a country they had come overtly to liberate from the atrocities of Saddam Hussein’s regime.57  Dr Philip Zimbardo recalled how, in a 1971 Stanford University study he had conducted, 24 ordinary students had been involved in a psychology experiment. Half were randomly assigned the roles of prison guards and half that of prisoners. Within days the “guards” had developed sadistic behaviour similar to what US soldiers would display in Iraq three decades later. The experiment was promptly terminated.58  During WWI, WWII, and since, millions of seemingly ordinary people took part in the eradication of other millions.59 Such murderous activity is nothing new nor exceptional. People have short memories. Colonialism, and imperialisms of all kinds have eradicated masses of humans since Columbus stumbled upon the Americas.  Within decades several tens of millions first nations people of the Americas had been wiped out, and the slave trade did even worse in Africa.60 

            It has been like this for thousands of years, in many different ways. The death numbers have increased steadily with advances in murderous technology.  There is a continuum from the daily, seemingly benign, consumerist routine to the extreme forms of predation constantly shown in the media. The whole consumerist world rests entirely on the quintupling of energy use, mostly fossil, over the last 100 years, and the allied systematic hyper-predation of the entire planet. Those billions of HSS who seek to merely mind their own lives are content to ignore that their very consumerist existence entirely rests on the extremes of predation of the HSS species as a whole; systematic exploitation of others and the environment, abuses and violence of all kinds, rape, murder, terror, war, of course, mostly taking place somewhere else, in alien lands, or on the other side of the TV, “not here”, “not us”, “we are good”, “we are clean”. I recuse the lot; the sheer horror of it. There are countless others like me, mostly unknown, unseen, and untold, except maybe at the odd ritual anti-globalisation, anti-GM or other anti-something protests.

            It’s strange to feel oneself standing on a cusp, one foot at the end of the old, and the other at the beginning of the new. Many have stood at the end before, the end of their tribe, the end of their culture, the last to be able to speak their language; to speak it to whom, alone in the emptiness, when nothing is left? Over the last 50 years thousands of languages and associated cultures have gone for ever; many not even documented. Standing at the end is becoming sorrowfully commonplace. Standing at the beginning and being conscious of it is something radically new, full of irony, sadness, joys, and thrills. Sympatric speciation in the midst of the massive extinction avalanche that it has triggered presents HSS with an ultimate indeterminate challenge, and offers it a seductive fascination. The “real” world it had imagined and instituted is falling to pieces around it. Its notion of species as neat watertight little containers is shot through, and it is now forced to stare at the prospect of its own death all at once. There is no longer any certainty of “what is”. Since the Renaissance, HSS has had to endure numerous decenterings. It no longer lives on a planet at the centre of the universe. With Darwin it ceased being the “crown of creation” to become a (by)product of evolution. With Sigmund Freud and recent neurological understandings it had to concede that its mind is but a collection of side effects of complex unconscious processes; 2,500 years ago, with Siddharta Gautama and Lao Tzi, and more recently with Sigmund Freud, it re-discovered that “it does not have a centre whatsoever and none to seek any longer”;61 with Girard and Walter it learned that its deities are but an effect of sacrificial logics aimed at curbing its relentless violence62; and nowadays it is also forced to review some of its most cherished “laws of physics”, along with its notion of an original “big bang”.

            HSS has now also to confront the irresistible prospect of a younger proto-species that may be more intelligent, and gleefully and cheerfully able to think at a stunning speed in baffling non-dual ways that HSS can only dimly contemplate; a species whose birth may be co-dependently arising with HSS’ own vanishing.  What are HSS’ states, institutions, governance, justice systems, scientists, priests and philosophers to do with it?  How will HSS recognise it as a new species when it really encounters it? What “rights” may HSS attribute to a new non-predatory human species; one that is not a skeleton found buried in an Indonesian cave but very much alive; one that does not go by the Girardian sacrificial dictates of belief, crime and punishment?

            With the example of Sophie Calle, Baudrillard has written about the process of seduction involved in following others without their knowledge; “the sensuality of behind-the-scene power: the art of making the other disappear”.63  For over 50 years I have patiently and discreetly followed HSS not knowing where it was going.  “…the shadowing makes the other vanish into the consciousness of the one who follows…  it is not so much the death that one reads here, but rather the vanishing”.  However, inasmuch as HSS has been other to us, countless others and I have also been other to HSS. This is how we could all follow it. And now, it so happens that another game profiles itself, with another rule where the followed becomes compelled to follow. Strangely, secretly, HSS cannot escape following, and by following cannot escape vanishing by becoming this virtual other species that may indeterminably attract it by its becoming more human than it is.

            Baudrillard has quizzically highlighted contemporary thought as impostor.  Picking up his challenge, and “following him”, one can go much further than I think he does by letting go of dual thought and addressing critically the extreme selective pressure resulting from the four major transitions engendered by the westernization of the whole of humankind (concerning energy, human ecology, health and demography). In the shadows of the imposture of dual thought, beyond “good and evil”,64 appear at once the death of the world as that hyper-predatory and dual thinking species, Homo sapiens sapiens, had imagined and instituted it, the death of the still prevailing notion of species, the death of that species itself, and the virtual birth of new human species, at least one being non-predatory and non-dual thinking.

            While I postulate two virtually emergent species, this is no positivist dual, or dialectical, solution to humankind’s predicament.  The challenge I present here is rather utterly agonistic.65  Ecosystems and the like are neither good nor evil, they just are.  It befalls to each of us individually and collectively to face up to the predicament the species has created for itself.  As Friedrich Nietzsche  steadfastly pointed out throughout his work, humankind is now tragically at the cross-roads (“Kreuzweg”), its future is open, its past is long gone, and provided that enough individuals prove able to think it poetically, its fate is held in their hands.66


Dr. Louis Arnoux is an independent researcher and entrepreneur.  His background in engineering, economics and the social sciences is combined with over 35 years experience in industrial development; research and development; technology development, transfer and marketing; programme management; long range strategic planning; environmental and social assessment and communications.  His work has long been influenced by a critical engagement with Baudrillard’s writing on the contemporary world.
 

 

Endnotes

1 Erica Jong. Becoming Light Poems New and Selected. New York: Harper Collins, 1991:325.

2 Jean Baudrillard. The Evil Demon of Images. Sydney: Power Institute, 1987:26.

3 Jean Baudrillard. “From Radical Incertitude, or Thought as Impostor”. In International Journal of Baudrillard Studies Volume 2, Number 1, (January 2005): http://www.ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudies/vol2_1/baudrillard.htm

4 See Louis Arnoux. “West of the Dateline, Entrepreneurship as Poesy”. In Baudrillard West of the Dateline, Edited by Victoria Grace, Heather Worth and Laurence Simmons. Dunmore Press, 2003; and Serge Latouche. La Planète des Naufragés – Essai sur l' Après-Développement, Paris: Découverte, 1991; In the Wake of the Affluent Society – An Exploration of Post-Development, Translated by M. O’Connor and R. Arnoux, London: Zed Books, 1993.

5 Jean Baudrillard. “From Radical Incertitude, or Thought as Impostor”. In International Journal of Baudrillard Studies Volume 2, Number 1, (January 2005): http://www.ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudies/vol2_1/baudrillard.htm

6 From Suzanne and Other Songs by Leonard Cohen. Columbia Records, 1968. Full Lyrics for “Suzanne” available at: http://www.seeklyrics.com/lyrics/Leonard-Cohen/Suzanne.html

7 Jean Baudrillard. “From Radical Incertitude, or Thought as Impostor”. In International Journal of Baudrillard Studies Volume 2, Number 1, (January 2005): http://www.ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudies/vol2_1/baudrillard.htm

9 Jacques Donzelot. “Patasociologie à l’université de Nanterre”. In Esprit, Volume 5, May 2005 http://www.eurozine.com/journals/esprit/issue/2005-05-06.html (my translation).

10 Ibid.

11 Douglas Adams. The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  London & Sydney: Pan Books, 1979.

12 Jean Baudrillard. “From Radical Incertitude, or Thought as Impostor”. In International Journal of Baudrillard Studies Volume 2, Number 1, (January 2005): http://www.ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudies/vol2_1/baudrillard.htm
 

13 Editor’s Note: Baudrillard is aware of the difficulty his texts pose for readers. In a “cool memory” he mirthfully proclaims: “The Perfect Crime, the Radical Illusion, the Excess of Reality, the Continuation of the Nothing: the pleasure of shaking those branches to which the last readers are clinging” (Jean Baudrillard. Fragments: Cool Memories III (1990-1995). New York: Verso, 1997:68).

14 Jean Baudrillard. “From Radical Incertitude, or Thought as Impostor”. In International Journal of Baudrillard Studies Volume 2, Number 1, (January 2005): http://www.ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudies/vol2_1/baudrillard.htm

15 Ibid.

16 Julian Jaynes. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. London: Penguin Books, 1993.

17 Jean Baudrillard. “From Radical Incertitude, or Thought as Impostor”. In International Journal of Baudrillard Studies Volume 2, Number 1, (January 2005): http://www.ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudies/vol2_1/baudrillard.htm

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid.

20 Ibid.

21 See Rene Girard. La Violence et le Sacré (c. 1972) [Violence and the Sacred]. Paris : Grasset,  [Translation : The John Hopkins University Press, 1977]; Rene Girard. Je Vois Satan Tomber comme l’Eclair [I See Satan Fall Like Lightning], Paris: Grasset & Fasquelle, 1999 [Translation: Orbis Books, 2001]; Rene Girard, Jean-Michel Oughourlian, and Guy Lefort. Des Chose Cachées depuis la Fondation du Monde [Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World], Paris: Grasset, 1978 [Translation: Stanford University Press, 1987]; Jean-Jacques Walter. Psychanalyse des Rites, La Face Cachée de l’Histoire des Hommes [Psychoanalysis of Rituals, the Hidden face of the History of Humankind] Paris: Denoël, 1977.

22 Jean Baudrillard. “From Radical Incertitude, or Thought as Impostor”. In International Journal of Baudrillard Studies Volume 2, Number 1, (January 2005): http://www.ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudies/vol2_1/baudrillard.htm

23 Ibid.

24 Oxford English Dictionary.

The earlier meaning was borrowed from the French rëel, from the Late Latin realis, meaning actual. As the root indicates, the stress in on act, acting, action, things in the making, things having an author, and authoring processes (literally one who causes to grow; hence founder, author, backer; from augere to increase).  The old meaning was focusing on the outcome of actions within dynamic processes.  I venture to say that this meaning is also that of contemporary science when it is at its best, i.e. when it does no longer purport to say what is and when instead theory co-dependently arises with practice/action and poesy, the relentless invention of the world anew.

In the French, réel, appears during the 13th century.  It is a learned word, and réalité appears during the 14th century, also as a learned word, which means that from the outset, those words are the preserve of a minority, an empowered elite that acts and is the author of the world it creates.  Through realis both are derived from the Latin res, matter, thing.  Res is cognate with the Sanskrit rayi-s, possession, wealth, and derived from the Indo-European rei.  The foundations of the real in power and the wealth attached to it, and in the powerful as the doers, are clear in our very language.

25 Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories (1980-1985). New York: Verso, 1990:141.

26 Anne Herbert. “Handy Tips on How to Behave at the Death of the World”, in Whole Earth Review, (Spring 1995):88.

27 The Press. November 17, 2004:3: http://www.stuff.co.nz.

28 Martin Rees. Our Final Hour. New York: Basic Books, 2003.

29 Michael Boulter. Extinction, Evolution and the End of Man. London: Fourth Estate, HarperCollins, 2002.

30 Louis Arnoux. “West of the Dateline, Entrepreneurship as Poesy”. In Baudrillard West of the Dateline, Edited by Victoria Grace, Heather Worth and Laurence Simmons. Dunmore Press, 2003; Louis Arnoux and Victoria Grace. “Critical Futures” a paper given at the International Conference on Environmental Justice, Global Ethics for the 21st Century, University of Melbourne, Australia, October 1-3, 1997.

31 Jean Baudrillard. The Vital Illusion. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000:15-16.

32 Jean Lahérrère. Forecast of Oil And Gas Supply to 2050. Petrotech 2003 Conference, Hydrocarbon Resources, New Delhi, 2002.

33 See: Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO): http://www.asponews.org); Second International Conference of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO), May 27, 2003.

34 Matthew Simmons. From a transcript of a presentation made at the Second International Conference of ASPO. May 27th, 2003. Simmons is a former Advisor to the Bush Administration on Vice President Cheney's 2001 Energy Task Force and the Council on Foreign Relations. He is head of Simmons and Co. International, which handles an oil and energy investment portfolio of approximately $56 billion.

35 C. J. Campbell. Oil Depletion – Updated through 2001, http://www.hubbertpeak.com (2002).

36 Will Steffen, Meinrat O. Andreae, Bert Bolin, Peter M. Cox, Paul J. Crutzen, Ulrich Cubasch, Hermann Held, Nebojša Nakicenovic, Robert J. Scholes, Liana Talaue-McManus, and B. L. Turner II. “Abrupt Changes: The Achilles Heels of the Earth System”, in Environment, April, 2004.

37 A. J. McMichael. Planetary Overload. Cambridge University Press, 1995.

38 Louis Arnoux. “West of the Dateline, Entrepreneurship as Poesy”. In Baudrillard West of the Dateline, Edited by Victoria Grace, Heather Worth and Laurence Simmons. Dunmore Press, 2003; Louis Arnoux and Victoria Grace. “Critical Futures” a paper given at the International Conference on Environmental Justice, Global Ethics for the 21st Century, University of Melbourne, Australia, October 1-3, 1997.

39 Lester Brown. Outgrowing the Earth, Earth Policy Institute, 2004.  Brown is one of a growing number of authors making the point that global population is likely to shrink back to pre-oil age levels during the course of the present century.  See also, Stanton, William, 2005, Number 573 “Reducing Population in Step with Oil Depletion”, in ASPO Newsletter No. 55 (July):10-13; James H. Kunstler. The Long Emergency – Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the 21st Century, Atlantic Monthly Press.

40 S. Julio Friedman and Thomas Homer-Dixon. “Out of the Energy Box”. In Foreign Affairs. Volume 83, Number 6, November-December, 2004. Friedman is a scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, USA, and Homer-Dixon is Director of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of  Toronto, Canada.

41 World Council on Economic Development. Our Common Future. Oxford University Press, 1997.

42 Serge Latouche. La Planète des Naufragés - Essai sur l' Après-Développement, La Paris: Découverte, 1991; In the Wake of the Affluent Society – An Exploration of Post-Development, Translated by M. O’Connor and R. Arnoux, London: Zed Books, 1993

43 Jared Diamond. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive. New York: Penguin, 2004.

44 Sophie Calle. Suite Venitienne, and Jean Baudrillard. Please Follow Me. Seattle: Bay Press,  1988.

45 Ian Stewart. “Did the phenomenon responsible for sand dunes and magnets also rwigs to elephants?” in New Scientist, October 11, 2003.

46 Susan Oyama. The Ontogeny of Information. Cambridge University Press, 1985 [reprinted and augmented: Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2002]; Susan Oyama. Evolution’s Eye, A Systems View of the Biology-Culture Divide, Durham, N.A.: Duke University Press, 2000; Susan Oyama, Paul E. Griffiths, and Russell D. Gray. Cycles of Contingency, Developmental Systems and Evolution. Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press, 2001.

47 Ibid.: Susan Oyama (1985, 2002).

48 Put simply: pump energy into an open system and symmetry-breaking will take place.  For example, wind blowing on a flat sandy surface will cause sand dunes to form, breaking the symmetry of the previously flat plane – the symmetry of an object or system is defined in relation to specified transformations that preserve its structure, here the wind breaks the symmetry of the plane; it now looks different depending on the angle of observation.  Although in the case of evolution matters are more complex, the notion of symmetry breaking has been found to be highly relevant.

49 Ian Stewart. “Did the phenomenon responsible for sand dunes and magnets also help create everything from earwigs to elephants?” in New Scientist, October 11, 2003.

50 Per Bak, Henrik Flyvbjerg, and Kim Sneppen. “Can we model Darwin?” in New Scientist, 12 March, 1994.

51 Editor’s note: For an excellent discussion of “self organizing systems” see: Manuel DeLanda: 1000 Years of Non-Linear History. New York: Zone Books, 2000.

52 Richard Leaky and Roger Lewin. The Sixth Extinction. New York: Doubleday, 1995.

53 This summer the London Zoo has set up a live display of humans as a plague species of global proportion. See: http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_1514740.html

54 Jean-Jacques Walter. Psychanalyse des Rites, La Face Cachée de l’Histoire des Hommes [Psychoanalysis of Rituals, the Hidden face of the History of Humankind] Paris: Denoël, 1977.

55 The “smoking gun” in this case is the high proportion of heterozygotes for the gene that codes for the prion proteins involved in CJD, vCJD and kuru in all human populations. In short there are two variants of that gene, and people having one of each (i.e. heterozygotes) are significantly more resistant to prion diseases. The ongoing persistence of two gene variants, known as balancing selection, is infrequent, and is usually found when it confers some beneficial survival trait. The acquisition by the whole of HSS of a resistance through balancing selection points at exposure to prions over long periods of time, i.e. through extensive and sustained cannibalism during the hominisation process (John Collinge. Nature, Volume 352, 2004:340).

56 Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories (1980-1985). New York: Verso, 1990:133.

57 For Baudrillard’s take on this see: “War Porn”. Translated by Paul Taylor. In International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, Volume 2, Number 2 (July 2005): http://www.ubishops.ca/baudrillardstudies/vol2_1/taylor.htm

58 The Press. May 7, 2004:B4. http://www.stuff.co.nz.

59 Editor’s note: The epidemic of slaughter became so pronounced that by 1944 humankind invented a word for it: genocide (see Oxford English Dictionary). We have interestingly, been highly reluctant to use it to describe exterminations prior to the 20th century, such as the Indians of North and South America.

60 As a relatively modest example, consider the plundering of the Congo.  It began in 1491 with the slave trade.  Between 1884 and 1906 Belgium continued the plundering for rubber, ivory, minerals, and so on.  The death toll is estimated at over 10 million people for that period alone, and nowadays the massacres continue, around the timber, diamonds, and mineral trades, with several more million deaths (New Internationalist, 367, May 2004). The war-traded commodities are essential to the consumer trade of industrialised and industrialising countries alike.  How to manufacture cell phones without the coltan mineral, for example, that mostly comes from the plundering of Congo?

61 Paul-Laurent Assoun. Introduction à l’Epistémologie Freudienne [Introduction to Freudian Epistemology]. Paris: Payot, 1981.

62 See endnote 20.

63 Jean Baudrillard. Please Follow Me. Seattle: Bay Press, 1988 (see endnote 44).

64 Friedrich Nietzsche. Beyond Good and Evil (c 1886). Translated by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Random House (Vintage Books), 1966.

65 In my engagement with Baudrillard’s work, I find the agôn as a ruthless, key trait of his approach. His way is one of challenge and seduction.  It is up to you to find out by yourself.  He has too much respect for you to try and indoctrinate you. He knows how close social theory can be to ideology and totalitarianism. He leaves you on your own. You might reach similar conclusions in your own way, following your own path, or you might not. There is only you and the deafening silence of whichever of his books you are reading.  The ambivalence of symbolic exchange. There is no one to tell you if your understanding is correct or not, no tools, no apparatus, no machinery of knowledge either. There is only you and your own experience of life versus his. Agôn.  In the silence of your critical reflection, this is a challenge to death.

66 As recently stressed in a lecture by professor Philippe Granarollo (Lire Nietzsche Aujourd’hui – A la recherché des invariants [Reading Nietzsche Today – In search of invariants], 24 January 2006, Peiresc Socio-Cultural Centre, Toulon), at the close of the 19th century, Nietzsche had highlighted the importance of individuality in dynamic relationship with the whole of being and with respect to the poetic fate of humankind. That is, the challenge for humankind is to keep inventing itself anew through countless individual initiatives.  See also, Louis Arnoux. “West of the Dateline, Entrepreneurship as Poesy”. In Baudrillard West of the Dateline, Edited by Victoria Grace, Heather Worth and Laurence Simmons. Dunmore Press, 2003.
 

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From:  http://www.ubishops.ca/BaudrillardStudies/vol3_2/arnoux.htm

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©International Journal of Baudrillard Studies (2006)