Machine Divinities

Read On // Nerd Alert

Machines in Between takes up the question of what is happening with every swipe and soft touch, with every shift in gear, with every ping and tender incentive, with every instrumental imagining and press of the pedal, with every future flash of apocalypse, with every glorious glitch and intimation of system failure, with every plaintive promise of perfection, with every rusty revolution, with every push of a button, with every spark and coiled caress, with every parallel processed itch, with every desire and dream encoded for dollars, with every primitive accumulation and speculative statistical stare.

For we find ourselves in a world that, in so many ways and on so many levels, is hell bent on integrating the defining characteristic of the human—indeterminacy, imagination, sociality, flourishing, empathy, love—with machines. By conjuring these characteristics in various acts of whimsy and critique, Machines in Between seeks to make sound and disturbing sense of a moment of profound technological incursion.

What do we love when we love our machines?

Or as Augustine confessed when he asked “What do I love when I love my God?”

On one hand, he declared that it had nothing to do with the abundance of the world. It was spare, abstracted from all that is human for it was “not the sweet melody of harmony and song; not the fragrance of flowers, perfumes, and spices; not manna or honey; not limbs such as the body delights to embrace. It is not these that I love when I love my God.” But on the other hand, this pure, immaterial principle, this otherworldliness corresponded neither to the laws of physics nor any human law whatsoever. But it was voluptuous, delightful and terrifying. It was deep in the bone and already in you. But it was not of you and never would be. It was nowhere in particular yet everywhere; neither now nor then nor when but forever and always. Such was the intimate mechanics of annihilation that precipitated whatever was real about this weary world. For “yet,” declared Augustine, “when I love Him, it is true that I love a light of a certain kind, a voice, a perfume, a food, an embrace; but they are of the kind that I love in my inner self, when my soul is bathed in light that is not bound by space; when it listens to sound that never dies away; when it breathes fragrance that is not borne away on the wind; when it tastes food that is never consumed by the eating; when it clings to an embrace from which it is not severed by fulfillment of desire. This is what I love when I love my God.”

What are the conditions of our time that generate the experience of divinity—all those experiences, practices, beliefs, affects, and institutions that are something like religion? This question keeps us up at night precisely because such conditions are not immediately present to consciousness and, of course, they structure more—much more—than matters of religious adherence. Which begs another impossible question of what, exactly, is present, as a mediating force, in our ever-intensifying hothouse of techno-modernity. What mediates the space between selves or, for that matter, the space between the religious and the secular?