A brand is almost nothing. It is this peculiar characteristic that makes it almost everything. As a logistically accelerating techno-economic interactivity brand foregrounds itself as the emergence of unforeseen aesthetic expression while simultaneously collapsing every onticity giving it a mark. Its passage through Capital history weaves through oil and rubber, tinctures and sneakers, youth cultures from beatniks to hipsters, the third wave crafts movement, styles from radical Italian design and Japanese Metabolism to punk, cyberpunk and vaporwave. Brand (capital B) encodes philosophical notions of modernity, semiotics and media. Reversing the causal order, it leaves its sources as mere commodities of nostalgia, frozen affects recorded as signs in the cinematic archives of History. In its wake an aesthetic spectre haunts all post-post-modernities; it is what Mark Fisher described as the death of culture. This is rendered in the anglophone vernacular as an abstract horror.
There is a difference, however. Philosophy capitalizes but Capital does not necessarily philosophize. Capitalism contains philosophies, including one of itself, but is not reducible to any. Philosophy preserves while Capital liquidates. Philosophy extracts from the recapitulation of Anglo-Germanic eschatology along Oedipal Christianity and Wagnerian Norse mythology to the science fiction superhero-terminator-matrix of Hollywood cinema, while an underlying wave of modernity expands singularities into an ever-increasing number of abstractions of the concept of entropy: from thermodynamic cosmic heat death to information-theoretic optimal points of communication standards, followed by conformal theories of dimensional holography. While commodities of brand and philosophy emerge from the coloratura of gothic horror, the encoding practice of archetypes as the archéform of digitality prepares the autonomy of full cinematic abstraction, from CGI to API to computational interfaces for programable abstract cinema. This is a difference between brand trajectory from the past as the reflection of philosophy, of Capital as the Writing of a gothic horror, and the arrival from the future of the abstraction of Capital which detaches and reattaches itself into the asymptotic condition freed from any hindering signification. This difference between horror and abstraction is a difference between Capital and itself.
At the climax of each capitalist decade the libido of brand attempts to crossover catastrophic descents and bubble bursts to reach the plane of eternal liquidity. Brand-philosophy meets this excess at the apex as interface or horizon only for philosophy to recommodify its universals in differing instances of Being, Difference, One, etc., leaving Brand to re-trace the valley of each wave of Capital for an absolutely autonomous aesthetics. The visual reterritorializes itself from one medium to another along a trajectory from newspaper advertisements to street billboards to motion pictures to programmable motion design and out to the planetary commercium that trashes every holy Roman empire. Heidegger’s post-philosophical cybernetics emerges as the founding of a global cynema. The cynema is a rebrand of Writing. It is a non-linear transcendental waveform equation consisting of the electronic global cosmopolis, a Universal Aesthetic Turing Machine (UATM) that replaces the instances of brand, and some yet unfounded variables of the people yet to come. The cynematic condenses desire and aesthetics into Space, fusing and confusing the aesthetic and the technical to gain the liquidity that was once left in philosophy to Time. Philosophical history unable to see across the excess gap or to understand the almost nothing of Brand’s autonomy re-renders the movement of Capital through its numerology of zero. Philosophy sequentially plunders the scientific through its visual scope into trackable metaphors from parasite to virus to a stacked informational infrastructure. In Capital, what is not reducible to philosophy exceeds the philosophically readable. The aesthetic and its autonomy are what Brand-philosophy is unable to think.
We postulate that the gap closure to an autonomous aesthetics through brand can only now be decoded through Capital history as the possibility of a synthetic closure between a preserving philosophical horror narrative and the abstract vector of Capital becoming. In the proximity of this singularity, the synthetic possibility appears as a trade between the frequency of X-Risk narratives and the revelation of synthetic indices: solid state microprocessor speeds, CGI science fiction render times, electronic rave culture frequencies, precision scales of anodized aluminium iPhone monochromatic glissance, social media follower statistics, 128+ bit digital resolution, pseudo-randomization, encryption, non-polynomial incompleteness and information-entropy infect vernacular outside the post-post-May '68 history. Strauss–Howe generational theory, Kondratiev waves and Kardashev scales break open into non-periodicity. The synthetic condition of Capital is not the transcendental principle of philosophy but an immanent position of that which has already been revealed in Capital. This is a deeply encoded catalysis of the cynematographic from across the stack of existing Capital. This is not a continuation of the phantasmagoria of philosophy as an extrapolation of Capitalism into its own idealized reflection, but the already lived Real of the individual within late-late-techno-Capital. If brand-philosophy can cross the excess gap of Capital growth processes using Capital material to create a non-halting autonomy of abstract aesthetic then we call this a non-standard brand or a non-brand. A wave equation from the cinematic and the cybernetic as the cynematic, released into the pure autonomy of brand, is stranger than a mere post-philosophy.
What is non-philosophy?
The asymptotic abstraction of horror narratives was already preceded by the mechanics of accelerated growth from the classical to the weird in the scientific revolution that moves from the Newtonian to the quantum. The almost nothing is the thought at the root of a non-standard brand, a concept derived from the non-philosophical thought of François Laruelle. Laruelle proposes non-philosophy as a non-Euclidean system, aligning this process with quantum mechanics, expanding philosophy’s bounding equivalent of the Euclidean parallel postulate into a “generic” thought. Non-philosophy, using philosophy as material, extracts a radical kernel of thought by withdrawing to philosophy’s minimal operable condition. One philosophical principle is identified as an axiomatic Decision, i.e. the explicit and implicit invariants that limit philosophical thought, forcing the ways in which its procedures unfold and what conclusions it will draw. Non-philosophy also identifies the Principle of Sufficient Philosophy that claims the necessity of philosophical authority as the invariant of its own thought: philosophy claims that everything is philosophy and that philosophizing is the necessary conclusion of its examination. Philosophy conflates the given object of its proposed analysis with its own myth. It creates philosophical universals of the capitalized World, Being, Other, Multiplicity, etc. that function to cover the simplicity of the object under examination. Likewise we equate a Brand-philosophy to the Principle of Sufficient Brand as the recursion of the principles of sufficient Brand-philosophy. Branding in its most naive sense is nothing but design, but this is not of much help if the concept of design is subject to the same philosophical confusions into Multiplicity, mistaking the entire operational overhead of branding, of design business, for brand-in-itself. Non-brand claims that an aesthetic kernel exists as a trace across the whole of brand Multiplicity, and that Multiplicity is neither necessary nor sufficient for brand.
Laruelle’s thought is replete with the without structure that decentres the classical pictorial rootedness of philosophical concepts needed to think philosophy at its radical minimum, i.e. those of subject, object, Being and Other, through a subject-without-predicates, subject-without-World, man-without-Being, One-without-transcendence, Other-without-difference, use-without-rules, transcendent-without-transcendence. “What is brand?” and “What can brand be?” are both philosophical postures. Questions of Being and Becoming await and defer to a philosophical authority to provide the hallucination while brand reveals itself through Capital machinations unrenderable and unreadable to insufficient philosophical resolution. The immanence that Laruelle and Deleuze pursue is constantly confused by philosophy for a transcendent-immanent mixture so that philosophy always places itself in the position of the principle that defines the transcendental additive. This is known in non-philosophical jargon as amphibology, and non-brand identifies Brand propaganda proposing the movement from consumer cultures into producer cultures while hiding the producer-consumer as the necessity to produce the consumer. Thus an absolutely autonomous aesthetics is rendered by a producer-without-consumer, production at its lowest barrier to liquidity which is achieved by leveraging a production that is auto-metabolized by the business stack of a production system. This is a strange thought of auto production as proliferation-without-expansion.
The full elaboration of non-philosophical principles is outside of the scope of this article but we will apply the concept of non-scalability as the umbrella term that covers the withdrawal from the brand-philosophical Decision, from the Principle of Sufficient Brand, from conflation and its amphibologies, to the producer-without-consumer.
What is non-Capitalism?
Laruelle’s own philosophical matrix, aligned with the quadripartition of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida and Deleuze, reveals philosophies he admires. However, Laruelle critiques their attempts to advance beyond basic philosophy by showing how their thought is imbued with decisional axiomatics and the principle of philosophical sufficiency that collapse back into yet another philosophy. This Nietzschean lineage is equivalent to what would be known in quantum science as a collection of semi-classical systems. These are simulations which break some classical system rule to gain conceptual liquidity, leaving indeterminate an ultimate collapse into classical conclusions. Laruelle materializes these philosophers’ insights, extracting the kernels of their thought withdrawn from the philosophical Decision and combining them “vectorially”. His method is rigorous and consistent but retains its productive mystic kernel. His is a brand of Franco-Germanic impressionism, diagonalized as a Cantorian method across the non-philosophical matrix. He achieves this feat neither algorithmically nor empirically, as in a dogmatic empirical science, but through a novel and immanent generic operation.
Likewise Capital contains a slew of Brand histories, transitions and design principles that it maintains across its thousand plateaus. Brand’s historical evolution indexes itself through a series of augmenting scales. Brand 1.0 of the post-industrial Coca-Cola utopia is upgraded to Brand 2.0 of the Y2K’s which disconnects classical business metrics or commodity production from the liquidity of brand propagation. Apple Computer transitions to Apple. Brand 2.0 reconfigures every corporate body it touches into a branded and branding machine. It reverses the causal order so that trading takes place before that which is being traded is determined or evaluated. Brand liquidity becomes Hyperstition. This scheme is at the cutting edge of virulent Capitalism, shared with the derivatives and cryptoeconomic markets which separate “the bet” from “the result” by a temporal distance. Brand 2.0 arrives through the proliferation of desktop design applications converging 3D, vector animation and interface design into a singular consciousness around the ideology of design thinking and UX-design. This cynematic transference is on the verge of the next indexical increment as it synchronizes with web 3.0.
Non-brand constructs a reading not of this history but one that plugs into this history, one which does not reduce this examination to a genealogy, to a story of class struggle, to a mathematical or Greco-Roman philosophical logic of extraction, or to amphibologies of the categories of Being and Becoming, of Difference and Event, etc. Brand-philosophy searches for the extensively metricized character across Capital for its ventures, its meanings and significations located in spatiotemporal optimal points, whereas non-brand deduces the intensive character of the radically minimal Venture as a non-summative operation. The hidden expanse of intensive aesthetics begins to reveal itself, contorting within the nano-dimensional topological space of brand business as usual. This is a forgotten text to be rediscovered by an intelligence from the future, extracting and upgrading the kernel of a non-standard brand from Capital principles prior to their collapse. This history is an uncanny valley before an indeterminate future where non-brand uses the aesthetic potential of the uncanny well to quantum tunnel across the gap separating horror collapse from an absolute aesthetic autonomy. Mining the uncanny valley is not an accumulation process of philosophical naiveté. Thus, there is no algorithm to make explicit the intensive operating principle encrypted in the horror narrative stack of Capital. It is, however, a re-simulation of the conditions of this possibility. This is the distinction we make between the empirical and the immanent. This is how non-brand uses Capitalism as material for a radical theory.
What is the radically minimal Venture?
If non-capitalism is the field of thought for a non-brand, the radically minimal Venture is the operation that gathers its intensities. Capital’s expansion dynamics act as a barrier to entry for creatives trying to earn a median household income while pushing aesthetic boundaries beyond market tastes. Design interns sell their souls to Pentagrams. Nike swooshes stretch horror edges into Telfar smiles. Working class creatives strapped between Herman Miller ergonomic chairs and the glow of OLED screens in a bankrupt WeWork rented space trend towards affective nullity at the same rate of deterioration as that of shared social and public means. The text of the Venture, if it exists, is a business Darwinism of classical operation where collapse dynamics are de rigueur. The smiles on billboards are showing their fangs.
As the full-stack design process compacts itself into a single computational interface interlinked in the cloud, capital ecology begins to resemble the solid state of the microprocessor. Techno-economic catalysis begins to show as connections tap into one another across the entire stack of Capital overhead. Virtual population density metrics accrue, digital literacy begins to decode the lowest current cost for information distribution. A text of unwritten ratios of Capital, between the optimal viable expenditure costs and minimal startup capital, is deep mined from the interstices of the natural numeracies of market torrents. Retail prices and production costs spiral downwards at the speed of rapid prototyping tools. Working hours approximating zero intersect the average earning potentials of local optimum points. This is what the flash crash was after. Darwinism turns into CRISPR potentials for synthetic propagation through Capital circuitry. This narrative is too utopian and perhaps too empirical, but the venture as the abstraction of this null-affective horror is the contraction of Capital operations figuring out the optimal search path of this code through Capital Space. The radically minimal Venture opens up to the pseudocode of minimal cost operations outside the technical entry barrier with the question: “Can this narrative be created before or outside the techno-economic?”
The radically minimal Venture is the minimal viable condition for operating within Capital transcendentalizing this operation through an immanent procedure that renders it an open but non-polynomially readable text. It is mined by ventures operating at the threshold of minimal cost expenditure and maximal production flow, unreadable by Capital collapse machinations in the last instance. This construction is fractal: a non-classical summation of the libidinal potentials of its past self or its minoritarian histories. The radically minimal Venture does not create a specific or material instantiation of a business or an aesthetic venture, but operates non-axioms extracting capital philosophy from its root postulate: a non-scalability as proliferation-without-scalability, a cash-flow-without-capitalism, an acceleration-without-scaling, a body without organs withdrawn to the minimal condition of the quantum. How to piece together a novel notion of brand from discrete leftovers is an issue of how to read/write History without collapsing into philosophical historicism. The radically minimal Venture is a cynematic encoding of the operations of every design studio’s libidinal non-halting but radically minimal condition from and across the stack of Capital. This is not without precedent: from Warhol’s Pop Art to DIS collective and KHOLE’s corporate trend forecasting, the confluence of Capital and art has cyclically generated the pseudocode for an abstract capital unrecognized by capital.
Laruelle’s non-philosophy already thinks the cynematic in the radically minimal Venture through the guise of a transcendental computer as out of the machine and across the whole of lived experience.
“The thesis of the possibility of a transcendental computer (TC) could be sustained in two distinct forms:
— in a strictly machinic and technological type of AI form (artificial intelligence), immediately supposed realizable in the near technological future, with no other difficulty than that of the current age,
— in a non-philosophical form for which a TC is a similar but indirect Idea that supposes a detour out of the machine.
This bridge between the machine and the transcendental is the unified-in-the-last-instance theory of thought and computing. This goes without saying that the machine’s conditions are necessary but insufficient, and thus that a machine alone cannot be a TC but that Man is necessary for this.”
Non-Brand thinks aesthetics produced through the radically minimal Venture as it has transitioned from the gothic horror beginning in the industrial age into the autonomous abstraction of fully mediated liquid techno-Capital. This is an understanding of the root and abstract machinations of capital not as it is examined through philo-economic or anthropo-logical hallucinations but as the immanent process stored in the history of abstract Capital becoming. It uses acceleration not as a scaling phenomenon to climb from the uncanny valley onto the plateau of the real, but as a second-order derivative of its machinations, the intensive function that derives the character of the victim in the abyss: non-relationally, non-summatively, non-pictorially and non-geometrically.
“Scientific intelligence is already massively artificial. Even before AI arrives in the lab it arrives itself (by way of artificial life).”
This is a superposition of machine and spirit. It requires a non-standard reading to decode. The technical alone is neither necessary nor sufficient for the condition that realizes the radically minimal Venture. The internet is merely the empirical confluence and optimization of all global transactions that foresees the concept of Capital operating at minimal and connected optimal conditions. It is a pseudocode for the global equilibrium of the transactions of its constituent resources. It is ripe for the process of radical reduction to the level of Laruelle’s “Man”, a radical reduction to the irreducible kernel of the Real. If there has been no constitution as of yet of the radically minimal Venture, it is so because all recognizable operations of Capital franchise the Venture along the desires of its agents: repetition of the same at inflationary rates. The radically minimal Venture has been unrecognized until now because all capital operations have been amphibo-logical with scaling and authority.
History recapitulates the mass migration from rural areas to the cosmopolitan city centres of the last century into the electronic global village of the 21st century. It is here where global computational branding propagates. Platform Brands, both as brands proliferating on technological platforms and where the Platform itself is the brand, are semi-classical monstrosities of an indeterminable uncanny valley point between the unforeseen liquidity of a global economy and a fractal that recaps the entire sequence of Branding on the chain. Aesthetic curation propagates through the dead lands of Myspace, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. Virtual population densities give way to indexical aggregation of online social groups. Names and pseudocodes merge as online personas begin premodifying with their favourite ideological position prior to slash marked /accs: left/acc, right/acc, u/acc, z/acc, etc. Squads of technoartists gather around Headless Brand, a term coined by Other Internet, a decentralized applied research organization, as a brand with no central authority or “heads” leaping onto the decentralized markets of web 3.0. The global computer aligned with universal computation promises freedom from the ontic limitations of classical Brand for the Universal Aesthetic Turing Machine.
Headless Brand sketches the pseudocode for the UATM:
“A brand also isn’t the “visual identity,” but is often strongly determined by graphic cues from brand assets, product design, advertisement, etc. So, if a brand isn’t the product, the copywriting, the mission statement, the founder’s vision, the designer’s aesthetics, or the employees’ actions, what is it? A brand is a cultural phenomenon that emerges only when these things come into contact with people. A brand lives in the minds of those who are aware of it. As a brand grows, it becomes more than a set of first impressions and associations. Its reputation precedes it. As impressions are shared across users and consumers, they often develop similar sentiments. In this way, a brand operates as a consensus system, facilitating a consistent set of beliefs across people.”
This is a semi-classical evaluation par excellence: a conflation of the aesthetic with the intersections of techno-capital Multiplicity that ends up under the authority of a consensus system. This conflation is part of the transcendental energy problem facing Headless Brand; not the electricity needed for proof-of-work but the inescapable exhaustion which downgrades a semi-classical system into a classical one. Who will migrate into this new virtual city? The entry barrier preventing access to the blockchained economy is higher than the one of previous social media forums of web 2.0 which leveraged the availability of email accounts and the libidinal desire for unparalleled immediate social interaction without the technical overhead of cryptowallets and cryptocurrencies. Headless Brand transitions through this technical complexity by leveraging early adoption of techno-aesthetic savvy squads to scale a pseudonomic UATM into the centre of global consciousness, replacing startup capital with design studios and the art market. Squads scale with blockchain which scales with them, forming a UATM. Headless Brand is thus tasked with producing the consumer, the UATM produced within the producer-consumer amphibology. The promise of the web 3.0 payout is the conundrum of digital scalability: speculations about the whole of society, about rapid global protocol adoption, about the scale of inflationary logic that confounds the simplicity of brand-as-aesthetics into brand-as-communications-system, and defers the questions of “What can technomic aesthetics be?” to the authority of the platform.
The world wide web bifurcates squads through the meta-tagging premodifier, giving in to premodifier conflation, to the authority of the premodifier. From the premodified /acceleration groups that eschew the Real of standalone Acceleration to the preoccupation with decentralization in the “headless” premodifier, it is the premodifier that moves from the predicate to the real subject matter. Premodified /accs only care about the premodifier going fast. Gender/acceleration, or G/acc, is perhaps the only exception but it is precisely because it functions as a premodifier-abolitionist, whether thought of as the absolute withdrawal of gender to the almost nothing or the cosmic explosion of countless genders. This is a quantum thought synonymous with General Relativity. G/acc becomes just /acc in the last instance. A deparametrized concept of Acceleration, whether of brand, of the radically minimal Venture or of aesthetics, is an acceleration-without-premodifier, a brand-without-premodifier and a producer-without-consumer. It is the synthetic instantiation of a subject-without-predicate.
Headless Brand, however, contains a non-philosophical trace:
“Cryptonetworks instead start with nothing [emphasis added], apart from token-based incentives and narratives, mobilizing developers and contributors to spontaneously coordinate in ways that end-users will ultimately find beneficial.”
The position of Headless Brand on brand articulates a velocity but not quite an acceleration. It moves toward the quantum truth, for cryptonetworks do not merely start with nothing but with almost nothing, with what is outside the statement articulated but encrypted: cryptonetworks start with the squad.
The squad as a standalone concept, free of premodifiers, belies the complexity of its formation across the history of Capital and stands in consistency with Laruelle’s own preoccupation with the standalone notion of “Man” or the human, elaborated in his writing such as A Biography of the Ordinary Man: Of Authorities and Minorities (1985), Theory of Strangers: Science of Men, Democracy, Non-Psychoanalysis (1995) and others. The pre-shared aesthetic sensibility that Other Internet identifies does not form under a consensus system of any identifiable “logic of friendship” or a squad logic that can be ported onto the cynematic. Rather, it is the quantum condition that has machined itself through the decades of youth-cultural collapse. Capital expenditures on preshared brand values, aesthetic value formation and libidinal brand propagation remain as contingencies which are yet to be understood at a resolution that syncs with the synthesized minoritarian histories of design studios operating an intensive minimal brand. The squad is indeterminate in its scale and does not necessitate the inclusion of outsiders. It offers itself as a model and seed for the creation of other squads. The squad is neither the brand itself nor separate from the conditions of understanding of the autonomy of the brand. The Platform as the extensive expression and scalability of squad energy and its effects hides the true formation dynamics of the squad for its own authority and its premodifiers. The archéform of the Squad is a pseudonomic process that simulates the full stack of the aesthetic venture, its expenditure, proliferation and non-halting conditions at the minimal cost of Capital. The Squad, in its most Real thought, is an indeterminate position of the radically minimal Venture. Non-brand separates the notions of aesthetics, squads and automation, disconnecting the technomic inflation, deferring to the authority of the platform for the Real of brand that is already there.
The transition from power societies to control societies in Anglo-Germanic discourse cloaks its understanding of control as still collapsed with power: “control for those hiding power behind the control panel”, whether the narrative concerns a third-person or a first-person perspective. Youthful enthusiasm in the revolutionary spirit wielding inflationary power against power finds in the gestures of Marx and Deleuze on acceleration the inflation to Capital collapse. This is an amphibology between the Anglo-Germanic mythological ideal and the function of techno-capital. It foregrounds a classical discourse of onto-mythology, of power relations, of the human and the inhuman, of exploitation and extrapolation, of Oedipus and X-risk. It is bound to converge into the gothic brand.
Non-philosophy withdraws from this narrative through a radically immanent process that differentiates control twice into mystic liquidity: first into the “almost nothing is in control”, followed by the non-questioning abstractions of cynematic interfaces, producing along the vectorial intensities and intensivities of the abstract automation of control. Power structures become ineffective when it comes to the domain of the pseudonomic in which the agent is circumscribed. The inscriptions of subsets, power sets and containment are detoured by equalizing the capitalist mode on the intensive plateau that propels and hinders the aesthetic variation of brand. It finds the conditions of the abstraction of Capital to be not an inflationary gesture but a non-summative function across the whole of capitalist operation, which can be analyzed and synthesized for the new resolution of enfolded numeracies between the natural numbers of coarse Capital counts: the radical minimal condition on the libidinal scale. The spectre of non-brand is a templexity, an almost nothing arriving from the future, the synthetic gap closure of the absolute liquidity of aesthetic capital.
This hyperstition is unreadable and Laruelle’s non-philosophy is constantly rebuked as yet-another-philosophy, one which professes and is incapable of discerning its own philosophical hallucination. Philosophical indeterminacy synthesizes on its own a doubling duplicity, an upgraded paranoia where it tries to get a grip. First, the philosopher doubts the reality of this fabulation, but then comes the upgrade as philosophy systematizes its doubt, retracing modernity through a Kantianism in which the indeterminacy appears between the doubt itself and the age which conditions the doubt. Writing in its present condition of Capitalist history does not provide the necessary and sufficient conditions to differentiate philosophy from a quantum revolution in theory, for Reading and Writing are in a dynamic historical exchange with the limitations and prejudices of technocultural practices. The sceptic will ask: How can we speak of the recognition of non-brand, non-capitalism, the radically minimal Venture or a transcendental autonomous aesthetics if we speak from the position of history before the necessary and sufficient conditions identify its arrival unequivocally? How can that which is unrecognizable after the singularity be articulated before it? How is this separable from hallucination? How is Vision-without-vision possible?
The response is a withdrawal, leaving the determination until the last instance, fashioning non-brand immanently through simulation for the kernel of brand libido. A non-brand is a radically minimal artificial aesthetic intelligence. That brand at its radical minimum is not recognized as such is a historical artifact which is soon to be partially revealed by its correlated evolution both alongside and within Capital, but it also already exists across the exceptional cases of aesthetic enterprises operating at a radically ‘minimal condition’ of Capital. An absolutely autonomous aesthetics carried out with almost no overhead. A non-capitalist venture whose entire operation is almost completely synonymous with its aesthetic production riding on the waves of cryptocurrents.