The Random Sabot

“As compared to the work done by machines, the work done by humans is nothing. This working at ‘nothing’, in the special sense that people do it today, which tends more and more to be merely a response to a machine — pressing a red or black button to produce an effect programmed somwehere else — human work, in other words, is only the residue that has not yet been integrated into the work of the machine.” — Felix Guattari, “Machine and Structure”, Molecular Revolution, p 113.

What if you wanted to sabotage the machine? If the effect is programmed elsewhere, then would you necessarily know how to sabotage the machine? Deleuze suggests that:

“One can of course see how each kind of society corresponds to a particular kind of machine—with simple mechanical machines corresponding to sovereign societies, thermo-dynamic machines to disciplinary societies, cybernetic machines and computers to control societies. But the machines don’t explain any­thing, you have to analyze the collective arrangements of which the machines are just one component. […] It’s true that, even before control societies are fully in place, forms of delinquency or resistance (two different things) are also appearing. Computer pira­cy and viruses, for example, will replace strikes and what the nine­teenth century called “sabotage” (“clogging” the machinery).”

The properly machinic sabotage will not know what exactly is happening because of the distribution of control across machinic networks. Does a virus-maker know what damage she causes? It makes me think of those scenes in bad action movies that feature a bomb and someone trying to disarm the bomb who has no idea what they are doing. Which wire do you cut – the blue or the red?

The person disarming the bomb is sabotaging the bomb-machine. These scenes are powerful displays of the arbitrary human-surplus in properly machinic systems. It speaks to the precariousness of the position of the human in the face of the machine. It doesn’t only speak to the stupid ‘heroic’ bravery of taking risks, but to the symbolic recuperation of the human surplus in the face of the machinic.

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