We aren’t zeros!

Grinder symbol in Doktor Sleepless

In The Lost Cause of Rhetoric, David Metzger points out that Aristotle, when he defines rhetoric he calls it a dunamis, “a faculty for discovering the available means of persuasion.” This means (among other things) that rhetoric is not any specific act or performance, but is primarily the condition for any such act. It is potential. I wonder if it’s possible to talk about hacking in these terms. What seems to differentiate the hack from the prosthetic (that talk I linked to last note) is that the latter is a replacement in kind, a surrogate that may or may not live up to the standards or utility of the original (and may or may not appear authentic). The hack, though, is all about new functionality. So it might be that all hacks are prosthetic (though maybe they address a lack, not a loss?) but not all prosthetics are hacks? Is it wrong to maybe think this is a way of reading Ellis’s “the primary goal of my work has been to force outbreaks of the future” (in Shivering Sands)? Does the future mean potential?

Then the question would be how does one perform the future in a way that makes it available, palatable, “authentic” for others? I think it’s Shaviro’s talk on Doktor Sleepless that points out that we can’t seem to escape the cyberpunk future of the 1980s. Certainly, complaining that we don’t have jetpacks refers to the 1950s as much as now. If (also in that talk of mine) authenticity depends on a certain distance that is both necessary and hidden, can distance in time, both past-present and future-present, be read (or felt or whatever) as identical? Vladimir Nabokov (in his autobiography?) said something like the reason so many people imagine an afterlife is that they can’t deal with two voids (one after their deaths and one before their births; I think the occasion was seeing photos of his nursery taken before he was born; it was unsettling).

Anyway, I remember the simplest piece of powerful rhetoric I ever encountered was on the Long Now Foundation website in, maybe, 1998? And it was that the year was written as 01998. That “0” registers as potential in all the right ways. But it occurs to me that no one would write the date of a thousand years prior as 0998. Actually, that “0” is pretty horrifying, since it’s us.

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