Notes on Extinction: Accelerationism/Annihilationism

It’s a little too easy to say that doomers, those who subscribe to near-term human extinction, lack imagination. The optimist remains incapable of imagining anything ending. They talk about films but it is the image that does the work: I see it unfold, I have no need to conjure the end, and so catastrophe is tamed, domesticated, and my precious hopes, ambitions and affects are sealed off from contaminant of ruin. It is some else’s imagination that imagines or, worse, it is “culture” that imagines. When “culture” is mobilized as if it were a mind then you can be certain there is no question of feeling.

You can the sense that the optimist hasn’t registered the reality…she is bored by the idea or the image of the end of days because it is something that, all said and done, will be averted, and so isn’t even a real threat. The real of catastrophe is negated on the psychoaffective plane allowing for the nonencounter with we could call the voiding of catastrophe.

It is also too easy to say that doomers are really concerned about the state of humanity or the ecosystems…the world. When we talk about the near-term extinctionists we have to be careful to pay attention to the operation of faith and the construction of a community. There is something paradoxical in the conjunction of these two moments. The latter is a community bound together by belief that the human species will be wiped out in next to know time at all- 10; 20;50 years- maintained in the face of claims that the “evidence” they deploy is entirely spurious, bad science- that can only be categorized as religious, specifically eschatological, in nature.

It’s often thought that doomers are awaiting this end. Could it be that they are actually a species of psychospiritual accelerationism? Abusing that language, we could ask whether the practices that constitute the community of believers in near-term extinction actually comprise a series of hyperstitional rituals aiming at what Alex Williams, speaking of Nick Land, calls “a species-wide suicide as the ultimate stimulant head rush”.

This would betray a weird duality or even duplicity in the very designation and project of optimism. The optimist might be the one who can envisage a better world that is assembled in whatever way with reference to an always updateable utopian schematic. At the same time there is the deranged optimism of these Extinctionists- Annihilationists?- that is aims to utilize the dark grimoire of hope in the negative of salvation that is the “purification” of extinction.

Each position pivots on the centrality of hope even as they spin off in opposing directions. We could even question the degree to which they are in fact opposing: how often do we read in a utopian work of the new man, and aren’t we conceptually obliged to posit the dying off of the old? The separation might be understood as the degree of consciousness between the two groups. Accelerationists know what they’re up to…the Annihilationists mistakenly take themselves as bearers of bad news.

The accelerationists might also be seen as approaching a Marxism that rejects a vanguardism predicated on human cognition and doxical exigesis in favour of algorithmic modelling processes excessive of human limits, while the Annihiliationists move from (an abuse of) such (false) modelling processes in order to crystallize a set of fears indinstiguishable from desires as superior awareness.

Accelerationism is fully human in the sense that it reflexively jerks away from extinction like a hand from a flame. But Annihiliationism pushes forward…accentuating the risks, psychically accelerating the unfolding catastrophe beyond its own pace of actualisation. On the one hand there is a machinic optimism of human creativity coupled to technological innovation, on the other hand a misanthropic optimism that strains towards the end of everything organic.

The idea of Annihiliationism might serve to posit near-term extinctionist movement as both symptom and champions of a darker acceleration.

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