The fun and the artificial spirit



In a world mediated by electronic images and digital networks, the existence of a spiritual substitute, more than plausible, becomes undeniable.

I no longer speak here of a paltry “artificial intelligence”, but of another category, of another state of matter – and of the spirit. I think that, expelled from the spiritual life tending to freedom, the subject has only one alternative: to make use of an imaginary device, it seems to me, that has been implanted in him by an industrially manufactured form of heteronomy. The spirit can only have become superfluous if a kind of substitute has already been constructed (without one or the other, the subject does not speak or access the speech of others). In a world mediated by electronic images and digital networks, the existence of a substitute, more than plausible, becomes undeniable.

The possibility of a manufactured substitute became historically possible with the emergence of the social division of labor in its most complex form, starting with the culture industry, as Adorno and Horkheimer described it. The cultural industry was followed by its direct extension, the Spectacle, according to Guy Debord, and its present outcome, the super-industry of the imaginary.[I]

Digital technology has fleshed out this surrogate spirit. Its functionality, however, had already been developed since before the much publicized digital revolutions. Its first appearances date back to the entertainment that spread throughout the XNUMXth century. We can find there the showcases of packages of assorted “states of mind”, which are insinuated in the void left by fading human faculties. The artificial spirit can pulverize itself into infinite individualities, more or less Taylor made, but the technical standard is only one.

If you want to imagine it, see it in space, think of linguistic toolboxes empowered by microclusters of signifiers cemented together, more or less like an integrated circuit. Equipped with such equipment, the subject joins the universe of social communication, enabling himself to assimilate the commercialized sensations that lurk him. To assimilate, in this case, means to drink in without having to think – to drink in order not to think. The technique thinks for him.

These same packages also serve – in my theoretical hypothesis – as an expressive arsenal, equipping the subject to enunciate evaluative opinions (almost always re-editions of speeches whose origin he is unaware of), in accordance with the standards adopted by entertainment. In short, such packages are nothing more than concentrated microsystems of pure ideology.[ii] They are constituted as a nexus of a purely linguistic, non-corporeal nature, a hub sign that plugs the individual psyche into the languages ​​of communicational environments mediated by image and technique.[iii]

They are imaginary connections that, in turn, trigger psychic operations, and are for the mind what receivers or decoders are for television sets. They are what make possible the reception of signals that arrive from the outside world and that later, recombined, return to the same outside world, in the form of what this market usually calls “interactions” or “interactions”.feed backs”. They are mental, not physical, applications that modulate the harmony between desire and merchandise – and between the gaze and the image of the merchandise. Without this gadgets abstract, desire would not be able to recognize in the synthetic aura of the commodity the lost object that it seeks incessantly. The imaginary components of these packages work as if they were algorithms.

Here is the artificial spirit: the manufactured being that occupies the void left by the spirit made superfluous, in Paul Valéry's vocabulary, or deactivated, according to the scenario envisaged by Martin Heidegger.

The “artificial spirit” is not a representation, but an agglomeration of prefabricated signifying circuits that process diverse representations. Within it are found the keys to decoding entertainment discourses and, by extension, those that are contiguous to them, such as political propaganda, consumption, religious proselytism and many other discourses that channel desire and justify the subject to himself.

The artificial spirit is a generic steppe, fast mind, in spiritdrugstoreTo ready-to-wear spirit: it is all the greater the greater the deactivation and cauterization of thought and imagination. The artificial spirit imagines the world in place of the subject devoid of imagination.

While the spirit that Paul Valéry and Hannah Arendt told us sparkles in freedom, the artificial spirit is inscribed in the world in which technology undertakes the colonization of culture and the replacement of freedom by hollow euphoria. While the human spirit thrives on difference, the artificial spirit vibrates on homology and narcissistic bubbles.[iv] The artificial spirit unifies the mass of solitary people and, at the same time, renders politics useless and discourages thought. He is the spirit of a spiritless age, far more than religion ever was, for he is the substitute for all religions.[v] It is the social form of disenchanted ecumenism, which takes advantage of the religions of yesteryear, which today have fallen into disposable enjoyment, no longer transcendent. The artificial spirit is the bastard cosmogony.

In the first quarter of the XNUMXst century, entertainment has become individualistic without ceasing to be totalizing. It orders the chains of meaning in all domains of social communication. It is responsible for establishing the basic notions on which the others will be based. These basic notions, which involve affections, take the form of dogmatic certainties. They are sensory and passionate semantic pillars, from which ready-made ideas are constituted to support the subject's discourse. Entertainment replaces autonomous reason and impoverishes thought, stipulating the meaning of essential notions for the subject to find his justification in the world.

What does freedom mean? What is love, virtue, honesty, work, compassion, faith? What is the spirit? All of this is answered in the domains of entertainment, and the domains that are fueled by it: cinema, all audiovisual platforms, the phonographic market, advertising in its endless variations, videogames, theme parks, tourism, gastronomy, concerts, raves, drug trafficking, churches, which are increasingly performing, and public demonstrations (in the style of the Gay Parade, or LGBT Pride, and the March for Jesus, both in the city of São Paulo). There is not a single form of social communication, not even that which is carried out on behalf of judicial institutions, which takes place without some communicating vessel with the vast fabric of entertainment.

The mass has learned to take advantage of the features of this huge machine, but it does not understand it, just as it has no idea of ​​the thought it was exempted from having. Time without spirit. Artificial spirit time. Playful, sensual, vibrant, competitive, mind-blowing and witty artificial spirit. The spirit of joy without reason, without origin and without guidance. Chemical spirit.

In a strange way, strange in the sense that Paul Valéry lent to that word, the artificial spirit is the most blatant incarnation of what we could call animal spirit, now no longer in the sense that John Keynes sought to give to the term (spiritus animalis), but in the most bloody, animalistic sense. Animal spirit in the openly crude, cruel and vile sense.[vi]

* Eugene Bucci He is a professor at the School of Communications and Arts at USP. Author, among other books, of Uncertainty, an essay: how we think about the idea that disorients us (and orients the digital world) (authentic).


[I] ADORNO, Theodor W. and HORKHEIMER, Max. “The culture industry: enlightenment as mystification of the masses”. In: Dialectic of Enlightenment, Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editor, 1985. See also DEBORD, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. Rio de Janeiro: Counterpoint, 1997. BUCCI, Eugênio. The Superindustry of the Imaginary – how capital transformed the gaze into work and appropriated everything that is visible. Belo Horizonte: Authentic, 2021.

[ii] As I have demonstrated in previous texts, ideology – or its counterfeit in the realm of images, the videology – is the glue that makes the signifier stick to the signified. No kind of meaning is produced in the order of the Imaginary except through the adhesive action of ideology. A synthesis of this proposition can be found in BUCCI, Eugênio. The Superindustry of the Imaginary – how capital transformed the gaze into work and appropriated everything that is visible. Belo Horizonte: Autêntica, 2021, in the subchapter “Colors, language and language”, part of chapter 8, “Videology, or image as language”. At the end of this section, I register: “This adhesive force (this attractor) is the furthest and most extreme abode of ideology and videology. All there is to that force is either ideology or videology. The two appear and appear in the manifest contents and in the expressed speeches, they can be perceived in the casting of the new Oscar winner, may betray themselves in the treble of the soprano who was most successful in the season, but they really live in the “glue” that makes the signifier stick to its meaning, to the core of language.”. About videology, a neologism, I recommend reading KEHL, Maria Rita and BUCCI, Eugênio. Videologies. Sao Paulo: Boitempo, 2003.

[iii] The communicational environments mediated by the image and by the technique that I am talking about here are precisely the “Instance of the Live Image”. BUCCI, Eugene. The Superindustry of the Imaginary – how capital transformed the gaze into work and appropriated everything that is visible. Belo Horizonte: Autêntica, 2021, p. 39 and later.

[iv] Let's note that such bubbles coalesce in a furious and passionate impetus. And, beware, the adjective passionate here takes the meaning given to it by Baruch Espinosa (1632-1677), for whom passion is a form of heterodetermination, that is, it is the external determination that dominates the passionate person.

[v] The obvious reference leads us to Karl Marx's famous phrase: “Religion is the sigh of the downcast child, the heart of a heartless world, as well as the spirit of a spiritless age. She is the opium of the people.” MARX, K., Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. Introduction. Introduction. MEW 1, 1844.

[vi] This article is a short excerpt from the lecture presented by the author at the “Corpo-Espírito-Mundo” Conference Cycle, organized by Adauto Novaes, in 2023. I am grateful for the observations of Octavio de Barros and Ana Paula Cardoso, who helped me to improve this text.

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