“This is an adventure story smuggled to school inside a textbook.”

“Valuing Experimental Literary Book Publishing as Non-Monetized Thought,” a conversation between Peter Dimock and Ian Dreiblatt in the new issue of The Quarterly Conversation:

From Dimock’s letter, which looks at George Dyson’s book Turing’s Cathedral and its relevance to publishing (and everything else):

I have read Dyson’s book as a novelist and editor who was trained as a historian. The book’s enormous gift to me is that it provides an intelligible interior account of the instrumentalization of the militarized forces of command and control implicit in both Alan Turing and John von Neumann’s understanding of computer technology and its potential enhancement of human thought. Dyson does this with a subtle insistence on the madness of the present, ever-intensifying magnitude of that instrumentalization, devoted to ever more effective, and exponentially increasing, applications of cybernetic techniques of command and control.

 Dyson, by intimately detailing the Cold War history of the development of new technologies’ uses for modern versions of ever-increasing domination, convincingly demonstrates that their present use for the maximum extraction of profit by corporations within a militarized global state system has nothing to do with any universal scientific “law” of value, optimal rationality, or “truth.” Rather, the generative capacities of mathematical language, of natural human language, and of nature itself suggest that today’s frenzied, universal monetization of value, tied to cybernetic algorithms maximizing efficiency in ways that lead their beneficiaries to use metrics as substitutes for ethics, may be better understood as the approaching dead end of a militarized Cold War civilization from which we have been unable to find any exit.

From Dreiblatt’s response:

I am talking about restoring to literature a kind of holy pugilism, a communitarian militancy for the reestablishment of the word—not as a chimerical, status-free discursive sphere, but as the crucial material through which these other forms of value will be created. The street and the barricade in it. And what I take this to mean more practically is that we need language to supplant the analytic engine as the central force in our daily determinations of presence in, and absence from, the world. The deliberative process must be returned to language because language, for all its failures and unbridgeable chasms, is the only formal symbolic system porous and flexible enough to reflect the complexity and unrealized possibilities of human social life. It is language that invented the question.

You can read the whole essay here.

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