extension of the the part 1
In the face of the discreet devaluation of territorial space which followed from the conquest of circumterrestrial space, geostrategy and geopolitics come on and do their number together as part of the stage show of a regime of perverted temporality, where TRUE and FALSE are no longer relevant. The actual and the virtual have gradually taken their place, to the great detriment of the international economy, as the Wall Street computer crash of 1987, moreover, clearly demonstrated.
Dissimulating the future in the ultra-short time of an on-line 'compunication' (computer communication), Intensive time will then replace the extensive time in which the future was still laid out in substantial periods of weeks, months, years to come. The age-old duel between arms and armour, offensive and defensive, then becomes irrelevant. Both terms now merge in a new 'high-tech mix', a paradoxical object in which decoys and countermeasures just go on developing, rapidly acquiring a predominantly defensive thrust, the image becoming more effective as ammunition than what it was supposed to represent!
Faced with this fusion of the object with its equivalent image, this confusion between presentation and televised representation, the processes of real-time deception will win out over the weapons systems of classic deterrence. East-West conflict in the way the reality of deterrence itself is interpreted will gradually be transformed with the first fruits of nuclear disarmament.
The traditional opposition between deterrence and self-defence will then be replaced by an alternative: deterrence, based on parading apocalyptic weapons, or self-defence, based on this uncertainty about reality, about the very credibility of means implemented. These include the famous American 'Strategic Defense Initiative', or 'Star Wars', whose plausibility is in no way assured.
Remember that there were, at this point, three main classes of weapons: weapons defined either by range or by function, and erratic weapons, the latter prefiguring the decoys and countermeasures mentioned above.
If first-generation nuclear deterrence led to a growing sophistication in weapons systems (enhanced range, precision, miniaturisation of warheads, intelligence ... ), this sophistication has itself indirectly led to an increased sophistication in decoys and other countermeasures, which is why rapid target discrimination is so important, not so much now between true and false missiles, as between true and false radar signatures, between plausible and implausible images, whether acoustic, optical or thermal ...
In the age of 'generalised simulation' of military missions (ground, navy or air) we thus land smack bang in the middle of the age of total dissimulation — a war of images and sounds, tending to take over from the missile war of the nuclear deterrence arsenal.
The Latin root of the word secret means to segregate, to remove from understanding. Today this segregation is no longer a matter of spatial distance but of time-distance. It has become more useful to deceive about duration, to make the image of the trajectory secret, than camouflaging explosives carriers (aircraft, rockets and so on). And so a new ballistics' discipline has emerged: tracking.
It is now more vital to trick the enemy about the virtuality of the missile's passage, about the very credibility of its presence, than to confuse them about the reality of its existence. This is where the spontaneous generation STEALTH aircraft come in, those 'discreet' weapons, 'furtive' carriers, virtually invisible to detection ...
At this juncture we enter a third weapons age, following the prehistoric age of weapons defined by range, and the historic age of 'functional' weapons. With erratic and random weapons we move into the post-historic age of the arsenal. ERW are discreet weapons whose functioning depends entirely on the definitive split between real and figurative. Objective lie, unidentified virtual object, they may be classic carriers, made invisible by radar by their smooth aerodynamic shape and special radar-absorbent paint; they may be kinetic kill vehicles (KKV), using only speed of impact; or kinetic-energy weapons, which are electronic decoys. 'Projective images', ammunition of a new order that dangerously fascinate and deceive the opponent in what is probably a forerunner of the enhanced radiation weapon, or neutron bomb, acting at the speed of light itself.
This equipment of deception, this arsenal of dissimulation, has way overshot deterrence. Deterrence can now only take effect by virtue of information, through the disclosure of destructive capabilities, since an unknown weapons system would hardly be in danger of deterring the other player/adversary in a strategic game that calls for announcement, for the advertising of means. Whence the usefulness of military shows and the famous 'spy satellites' that guarantee strategic balance.
'If I were to sum up in one sentence the current stance on smart bombs and saturation attack weapons', W. J. Perry, a former US State Under-Secretary of Defense explained, 'I'd say as soon as you can see a target you can hope to destroy it.'
This statement betrays the new situation as well as partly accounting for the disarmament currently under way. If what is perceived is already finished, what was previously invested exclusively in the deployment of forces must now be invested in dissimulation. So decoy research and development has come to play a leading role in the military-industrial complex, yet one that is itself discreet. Censorship regarding 'deception techniques' far exceeds what once surrounded the military secret of the invention of the atomic bomb.
That there has been a reversal in deterrence strategy is obvious. Unlike arms that need to be known to be genuinely dissuasive, 'furtive' weapons can only work if their existence is concealed. This reversal muddies the waters of East-West strategy considerably, since it undermines the very principle of nuclear deterrence in favour of a 'strategic-defense initiative' that no longer rests on the deployment of new arms in space, as President Reagan maintained, but on the uncertainty principle, the unknown quantity in a relative-weapons system whose credibility is no more beyond doubt than its visibility.
This makes the decisive new importance of the 'logistics of perception' clearer, as well as accounting for the secrecy that continues to surround it. It is a war of images and sounds, rather than objects and things, in which winning is simply a matter of not losing sight of the opposition. The will to see all, to know all, at every moment, everywhere, the will to universalised illumination: a scientific permutation on the eye of God which would forever rule out the surprise, the accident, the irruption of the unforeseen.
So, besides the industrial innovation of 'repeating weapons', followed by automatic weapons, we also have the innovation of repeating images provided by the photoframe. The video signal then takes over where the radio signal left off, with the videogram in its turn further extending this will to second sight and bringing with it the added possibility of real-time reciprocal telesurveillance - twentyfour hours a day. The last phase of the strategy will finally be ensured by the vision machine. The Perceptron, say, will use computer graphics and automatic recognition of shapes (not just contours and silhouettes) - as though the chronology of the invention of cinema were being relived in a mirror, the age of the magic lantern giving way once more to the age of the recording camera, in anticipation of digital holography.
In the face of such representational open slather, the philosophical questions of plausibility and implausibility override those concerning the true and the false. The shift of interest from the thing to its image, and especially from space to time, to the instant, leads to a shift in polarities from the old black-and-white real-figurative dichotomy to the more relative actual-virtual.
Unless .. . unless what we are seeing is the emergence of a mix, a fusion-confusion of the two terms, the paradoxical occurrence of a unisex reality, beyond good and evil, applying itself this time to the now crucial categories of space and time and their relative dimensions, as a number of discoveries in the areas of quantum indivisibility and superconductivity would already suggest.
If we look at recent developments in 'deception strategy', we find that currently when military staff talk about 'the electronic environment' and the need for a new meteorology in order to ascertain the exact position of countermeasures over enemy territory, they are clearly translating this mutation in the very concept of environment, as well as in the concept of the reality of events occurring within it.
The unpredictability and rapid transformation of atmospheric phenomena become doubly uncertain and ephemeral, but this time in relation to the state of electromagnetic waves, those countermeasures that allow a territory to be defended.
If, as Admiral Gorchkov claims: 'The winner of the next war will be the side who made the most of the electromagnetic spectrum', then we must consider the real environment of military action from now on to be not the tangible, visible, audible environment, but the optoelectronic environment, certain operations already being carried out, according to military jargon, beyond optical range thanks to real-time radioelectric pictures.
To grasp this transmutation in the field of action properly we have to refer back to the principle of relative illumination once more. If the categories of space and time have become relative (critical), this is because the stamp of the absolute has shifted from matter to light and especially to light's finite speed. It follows that that which serves to see, to understand, to measure and therefore to conceive reality, is not so much light as its velocity. From now on, speed is less useful in terms of getting around easily than in terms of seeing and conceiving more or less clearly.
The time frequency of light has become a determining factor in the apperception of phenomena, leaving the spatial frequency of matter for dead. Whence the unheard of possibility of real-time special effects, decoys that do not so much affect the nature of the object - a missile, say - as the image of its presence, in the infinitesimal instant in which the virtual and the real are one and the same thing for the sensor or the human observer.
Take the centroidal-effect decoy for example. The principle here consists, in the first instance, in superimposing on the radar-image that the missile 'sees' an image entirely created by the decoy. This image is more attractive than the real one of the ground target and just as credible for the enemy missile. When this preliminary phase of deception is successful, the missile's homing head locks on to the unit's centre of gravity - 'decoy-image', 'ground target-image'. The deceived missile then only has to be dragged beyond the ship, the entire operation taking no more than a few fractions of a second. As Henri Martre, the head of Aerospatiale, pointed out not long ago: 'Future materials will be conditioned by advances in components and miniaturisation. It is most likely electronics that will end up destroying a weapon's reliability'.
So after the nuclear disintegration of the space of matter, which led to the implementation of a global deterrence strategy, the disintegration of the time of light is finally upon us. This will most likely involve a new mutation of the war game, with deception finally defeating deterrence.
Today 'extensive' time, which worked at deepening the wholeness of infinitely great time, has given way to 'intensive' time. This deepens the infinitely small of duration, of microscopic time, the final figure of eternity rediscovered outside the imaginary of the extensive eternity of bygone centuries.
Intensive eternity, in which the instantaneity offered by the latest technologies contains the equivalent of what the infinitely small space of matter contains. The core of time, a temporal atom there in each present instant, an infinitesimal point of perception from where extent and duration are differently conceived, this relative difference between them reconstitutes a new real generation, a degenerate reality in which speed prevails over time and space, just as light already prevails over matter, or energy over the inanimate.
If all that appears in light appears in its speed, which is a universal constant, if speed is no longer particularly useful, as we once thought, in displacement or transportation, if speed serves primarily to see, to conceive the reality of the facts, then duration, like extent, must absolutely be 'brought to light'. All durations, from the most minute to the most astronomical, will then help to expose the intimacy of the image and its object, of space and representations of time. Physics currently proposes to do this by tripling the once-binary concept of the interval: on top of the familiar intervals of the 'space' type (negative sign) and the 'tome' type (positive sign), we have the new interval of the 'light' type (zero sign). The interface of the live television screen or the computer monitor are perfect examples of this third type of interval.
Since the time-frequency of light has become the determining factor in relative apperception of phenomena and subsequently of the reality principle, the vision machine is well and truly an 'absolute-speed machine', further undermining traditional notions of geometric optics like observables and non-observables. Actually, if photo-cinematography is still inscribed in extensive time, promoting expectation and attention by means of suspense, real-time video computer graphics is already inscribed in intensive time, promoting the unexpected and a short concentration span by means of surprise machine'. The production of sightless vision is itself merely the reproduction of an intense blindness that will become the latest and last form of industrialisation: the industrialisation of the non-gaze.
Seeing and non-seeing have always enjoyed a relationship of reciprocity, light and dark combining in the passive optics of the camera leans. But with the active optics of the video computer, notions like toning light down or bringing it up change completely, privileging a more or less marked intensification of light. And this amplification is nothing other than the negative or positive change in the velocity of photons - the trace photons leave in the camera as they pass through it being itself linked to the variable speed of the calculations image digitalisation requires, the PERCEPTRON'S computer functioning like a sort of ELECTRONIC OCCIPITAL CORTEX.
Don't forget, though, that 'image' is just an empty word here since the machine's interpretation has nothing to do with normal vision (to put it mildly!). For the computer, the optically active electron image is merely a series of coded impulses whose configuration we cannot begin to imagine since, in this 'automation of perception', image feedback is no longer assured. That being, of course, the whole idea.
We should also note, though, that eyesight is itself merely a series of light and nerve impulses that our brain quickly decodes (at 20 milliseconds per image), the question of the 'observation energy' that enables us to observe phenomena remaining unanswered, even now, despite our progress in understanding psychological and physiological blindness.
Speed of light or light of speed? The question remains untouched, despite the above-mentioned possibility of a third form of energy: kinematic energy or image energy. This fusion of physical optics and relative kinematics would take its place alongside the two main officially recognised forms of energy - potential and kinetic (active) - thereby throwing light on the controversial scientific term: observed energy.
Observed energy or observation energy? That is still the question, and it is bound to become topical, with the profusion of countless prostheses of computer-enhanced perception of which the Perceptron would be the logical outcome; an outcome of paradoxical logic, though, since 'objective perception' - how machines might perceive things — will be forever beyond us.
Faced with this ultimate in automation, the usual categories of energetic reality are no longer much help. If real time prevails over real space, if the image prevails over the object present, to say nothing of the being, if the virtual prevails over the real, we need to try and analyse the fallout from this logic of 'intensive' time on different physical representations. While the age of 'extensive' time continued to justify dialectic logic by drawing a clear distinction between potential and real, the age of intensive time demands a better resolution of the reality principle, one in which the notion of virtuality would itself come in for a bit of tinkering.
This is why I propose we accept the logical paradox of a veritable 'observation energy' made possible by the Theory of Relativity. The latter sets up the speed of light as a new absolute and thereby introduces a third type of interval - light - alongside the classic intervals of space and time. If the path of light is absolute, as its zero sign indicates, this is because the principle of instantaneous emission and reception change-over has already superceded the principle of communication which still required a certain delay.
Taking into account the third type of energy would therefore help modify the very definition of the real and the figurative, since the question of REALITY would become a matter of the PATH of the light interval, rather than a matter of the OBJECT and space-time intervals.
Surpassing 'objectivity' in this untimely manner, the light-type interval would spawn the being of the path, after the being of the subject and the being of the object. As the former would define the appearance or, more precisely, the trans-appearance of what is, the question for philosophy would stop being: 'At what space-time distance is observed reality?' It would become: 'At what power, in other words, at what speed, is the perceived object?'
The third type of interval thereby necessarily adds to the third type of energy: the energy of the kinematic optics of relativity. Accordingly, if the finite speed of light is the absolute that takes over where Newton's now relativised space and time leave off, the path now steals the jump on the object. Once this happens, how can we possibly locate the 'real' or the 'figurative' except through some kind of 'clearance' which becomes indistinguishable from an 'illumination' or 'clarification', spatio-temporal spacing being, to the attentive observer, only a particular figure of light, or more precisely still, of the light of speed?
And if speed is not a phenomenon but, indeed, the relationship between phenomena (relativity itself), the question raised of the observation distance of phenomena comes down to the question of the power of perception (mental or instrumental). This is why we urgently need to evaluate light signals of perceptual reality in terms of intensity, that is 'speed', rather than in terms of 'light and dark' or reflection or any of the other now outdated shorthand.
When physicists still talk today about observed energy, they are definitely misusing the term, and this mistake affects scientific practice itself, since it is speed more than light which allows us to see, to measure and thereby conceive reality.
Some little time ago, the review Raison presente asked: 'Has contemporary physics done away with the real?' Done away with it? Not on your life! But it has resolved it, of course — only, in the sense in which we now speak of better 'image resolution'. Since Einstein, Niels Bohr and company, the temporal and spatial resolution of the real has been being brought off at an endlessly accelerating rate!
At this point we should remember that relativity would not exist without the relative optics (physical optics) of the observer. Einstein was accordingly tempted to call his theory the Theory of Viewpoint in reference to the 'point of view' which necessarily becomes identical with the relative fusion of optics and kinematics, and which is another name for the 'energy of the third kind' which I propose adding to the other two.
In fact if every image (visual, sound) is the manifestation of an energy, of an unrecognised power, the discovery of retinal retention is much more than insight into a time lag (the imprint of the image on the retina). It is the discovery of a freeze-frame effect which speaks to us of some kind of unscrolling, of Rodin's time that 'does not stand still'; in other words of the intensive time of human perceptiveness. If fixing does occur, at a given moment of sight, this is actually because there exists an energetics of optics, the 'kinematic energetic' finally being merely the manifestation of a third form of power, without which distance and the three-dimensional would not apparently exist, since the said 'distance' could not exist without 'delay', (outdistancing only appearing thanks to the illumination of perception. Much as the ancients, in their own way, understood to be the case.
But by way of conclusion, let us return to the crisis in perceptive faith, to the automation of perception that is threatening our understanding. Apart from video optics, the vision machine will also use digital imaging to facilitate recognition of shapes. Note, though, that the synthetic image, as the name implies, is in reality merely a 'statistical image' that can only emerge thanks to rapid calculation of the pixels a computer graphics system can display on a screen. In order to decode each individual pixel, the pixels immediately surrounding it must be analysed. The usual criticism of statistical thought, as generating rational illusions, thus necessarily comes down to what we might here call the visual thought of the computer, digital optics now being scarcely more than a statistical optics capable of generating a series of visual illusions, 'rational illusions', which affect our understanding as well as reasoning.
In acquiring a closed-circuit optics, statistical science - the art of providing information on objective future trends as well as, more recently, an art of persuasion - will probably see its power and power of conviction considerably enhanced, along with its discrimination capacities.
Bringing users a 'subjective' optical interpretation of observed phenomena and not just 'objective' information about proposed events, the vision machine is in real danger of accentuating the splitting of the reality principle, the synthetic image no longer having anything in common with the statistical inquiry as it is normally conducted. They are already talking about digital experiments that will dispense completely with classic 'analytical reflection'. And aren't they also talking about an artificial reality involving digital simulation that would oppose the 'natural reality' of classical experience?
'Intoxication is a number', according to Charles Baudelaire. Digital optics is indeed a rational metaphor for intoxication, statistical intoxication, that is: a blurring of perception that affects the real as much as the figurative, as though our society were sinking into the darkness of a voluntary blindness, its will to digital power finally contaminating the horizon of sight as well as knowledge.
As a mode of representation of statistical thought today dominant thanks to data banks, synthetic imagery should soon contribute to the development of this one last mode of reasoning.
Don't forget that the whole idea behind the Perceptron would be to encourage the emergence of fifth-generation 'expert systems', in other words an artificial intelligence that could be further enriched only by acquiring organs of perception. ...
Let me end with a fable based on a very real invention this time, the calculator pen. It is very straightforward. All you have to do is write the computation on paper, as you would if you were doing the sum yourself. When you finish writing, the little screen built into the pen displays the result. Magic? No way. While you are writing, an optical system reads the numbers formed and the electronic component does the sum. So much for the facts. The fable concerns what my pen, a blind pen this time, will write down for you, the reader, as the final words of this book. Imagine for a moment that to write the book I have borrowed technology's state-of-the-art pen: the reader pen. What do you think will come up on the screen, abuse or praise? Only, have you ever heard of a writer who writes for his pen... ?
Paul Virilio/The Vision Machine/ Chapter 5: The Vision Machine
INDIANA University Press Bloomington & Indianapolis
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