Techno-Logical Individuation

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Bernard Stiegler:

"There is, therefore, a process of a triple psychic, collective, and techno-logical individuation, a recap of which can be found in my On Symbolic Misery: Vol. One: The Hyperindustrial Epoch.

  • The I, as a psychic individual, can only be thought in relationship to a we, which is a collective individual: the I is constituted in adopting a collective tradition, which it inherits, and in which a plurality of Is acknowledge each other’s existence.
  • This inheritance is an adoption in that I can very well, as the grand-son of a German immigrant, recognise myself in a past that was not the past of my ancestors, but that I can make my own; this process of adoption is thus, structurally factical.
  • An I is essentially a process, and not a state, and this process is an in-dividuation (it is a process of psychic individuation) as the tendency to become-one, that is, to become indivisible.
  • This tendency never accomplishes itself because it runs into a counter-tendency with which it forms a meta-stable equilibrium (it must be pointed out how close this conception of the dynamic of individuation is to the Freudian theory of drives, but also to the thinking of Empedocles and of Nietzsche).
  • A we is also such a process (the process of collective individuation); the individuation of the I is always inscribed in that of the we, whereas conversely, the individuation of the we takes place only through those individuations, polemical in nature, of the Is making it up.
  • That which links the individuations of the I and the we is a pre-individual milieu possessing positive conditions of effectiveness, belonging to what I have called retentional apparatuses. These retentional apparatuses arise from a technical milieu which is the condition of the encounter of the I and the we: the individuation of the I and the we is in this respect also the individuation of the technical system.
  • The technical system is an apparatus which has a specific role (wherein all objects are inserted: a technical object exists only in so far as it is disposed (agencé) within such an apparatus with other technical objects: this is what Simondon calls the technical group): the rifle and more generally the technical becoming with which it is a system are thus the possibility of the emergence of a disciplinary society according to Foucault.
  • The technical system is also that which founds the possibility of the constitution of retentional apparatuses, springing from the processes of grammatisationi growing out of the process of individuation of the technical system, and these retentional apparatuses are the basis for the dispositions between the individuation of the I and the individuation of the we in a single process of psychic, collective and technical individuation (where grammatisation is a subset of technics)[1] composed of three branches, each branching out into processual groups.

Several points must be added to this list:

  • this process of triple individuation is itself inscribed in a vital individuation which must be apprehended by a general organology as the vital individuation of natural organs, the techno-logical individuation of artificial organs, and the psycho-social individuation of organisations linking them together;
  • in the process of individuation constitutive of general organology wherein knowledge as such emerges, there are individuations of mnemo-technological sub-systems which over-determine, qua specific organisations of what I call tertiary retentions (I will specify the meaning of this term below), the organisation, the transmission and the elaboration of knowledge stemming from the experience of the sensible.

Techno-logical individuation strictu-sensu implements what Leroi-Gourhan called technical tendencies, in which the technical fact is the expression of a tendency (which the fact represents with more or less accuracy) and which is the result of two evolutive logics: that of the laws of universal physics, and that of the laws of human physiology. This result is not just an addition or conjoining of bio-physical forces: it is a transductive relationship, transforming and in the same stroke constituting the terms it places in relation to one another through the entity which is the ontogenetic product, the technical object: the latter is an interface between the inorganic domain treated by physics, and the organic domain studied in biology; and, in being both inorganic and organised, it is the site, in its morpho-genesis, of the original process of individuation, whose laws of evolution technology (meaning here the object of a science of techniques) aims to establish.

Now, this evolution transforms the human milieu and is in fact that evolution’s driving force. This does not mean that technical becoming determines this evolution, but only that it individuates itself in strict co-individuation with the psycho-social and vital structures themselves issuing from individuation. The concept of the technical system, invented by Bertrand Gille, opens up a thinking of this becoming qua co-individuation. This concept sets up laws of evolution at the level of technical systems (equivalent to Simondon’s technical groups) within which loops of retroaction can be schematised, as well as diachronic and synchronic processes described, as in Saussurean linguistics, but above all, within which interfaces between the technical system and the other systems making up the total social fact can be conceived. General organology would then be the account of these diverse dynamics as constitutive of the process of global individuation, wherein, as for all dynamics, conflicts are played out, conflics that general organology as praxis and not only as theoretical model, can tend to solve or to potentialise, especially at moments when the technical systems and the other systems constitutive of the social fact, due mainly to the speeding out of control of technical individuation, encounter the movement out to their own limits, following the description of this expression by René Passet in L’Economique et le Vivant (The Economic and the Living):in a movement to a system’s outer limits, every system undergoes a modification of its mode of functioning:

  • the limit of a saturation of needs
  • the limit of the reproducibility of a natural resource
  • the limit of rhythms of self-disposal.

The defining axioms of the system itself must then be modified. This constitutes what I will call a revolution—meaning here what points to and overcomes that which has run its course." (