Attention as Capital
A preliminary theology of money and care
Walking by the market I saw an old Vietnamese guy with a rope in his hand. Beige suit, red tie; visor cap and bucket both with paper taped on, red and black text bolded with a word processor. Look at me. No, I see what you’re doing, no. Then I realized- this is really what it’s about, huh? Eyes. He wants my attention1 so he can show off his cut-and-restore illusion and guilt me into tipping him for the effort, and if I don’t pay I still pay but my guilt is the price, or something like that. Then my friend’s girlfriend sidles up to him, effectively making us oblige. He does his trick, we pretend to be surprised and maybe she does too, surely it can’t be her first time seeing this? She’s also Vietnamese. Pays, thanks him, off we go.
And then I suddenly notice the dozens of tourists here looking around, at whatever. True, it is so mundane to say that people see things… and yet to look at something, or really to direct one’s attention2, not only involves the entire precarious homeostasis of maintaining life in a body, but is in no uncertain terms the capstone of its metabolic pyramid, what some would unreservedly call consciousness. The proper scope of such terminology is beyond our purposes here, but in this light it’s hardly extreme to equate attention, that culminating moment ever frothing on the wavecrest of time, with life energy, or energy simpliciter. What you attend to is what you nourish, hence why indifference is chillier than hatred and it’s bad on purpose to make you click.
Yet attention alone is insufficient to ensure the continuation of the entities that vie for it. It is merely the prerequisite; you still have to part me with my dollars. Regardless if it’s that magician or TikTok, if they are to survive, money must flow. But what is it really, and how does it relate to attention? Have you ever noticed the picture on the back of a one?
Annuit Cœptis means favored undertakings, revised from Deo Favente, God’s favor. Capital means at the head, here the Eye of God as pyramidion: attention as Capital, no cap. Like so, the dollar- itself an abstraction of Capital- insinuates to be a quasi-Eucharist through which God communes with Man, thus to have one- so it goes- is to have, arguably deserve, God’s attention Mandate of Heaven style. The dollar is then a sort of realized metaphysics wherein that which possesses it really does attain to greater permanence in concrete, traceable ways. Very convenient for the accelerationists, who (through Spinoza) equate God with Nature3 (qua Capital); Lloyd Blankfein was indeed “Doing God’s work” insofar as he facilitated capital flows, for what desireth God more than His own increase4?
The error is twofold: mistaking money for Capital, and then, through the dollar’s suggestion, mistaking Capital for God. Really Capital is only one aspect of God (even were entropy the totality of Nature), and money is always only an image of Capital. More formally, Capital is the ideal money strives asymptotically towards representing. Just as representationalism in painting strove towards the photograph, money- as cowrie shells, rai stones, Roman coins, gold standard, paper fiat, credit cards, digital banking through SWIFT- can be seen attaining towards Capital.
But money, as hypostasis or hyperstition, is also Capital, and Capital, to the extent we can speak of entropy anthropically, indeed seems to “want” to be free- of what?- of human interest, among other things, like how metric standards replaced imperial measure and how trustless ledgers threaten to obsolesce fallible flesh. Marx’s “All that is solid melts into air” prefigured a money every bit as ethereal as its production process is material: burn atoms (earth) to make bits (cloud). A sublimation, a transmutation, a transubstantiation, in any case a leapfrogging (one might say miraculous) of the mediate, “liquid” state characteristic of e.g. crude oil (industry’s “black gold”) or behavioral data (web2’s “digital oil”). This relative immediacy, whether in trustlessness or (im)materialization, renders Bitcoin in principle superior5 to previous currencies because currency, qua presence, is precisely immediacy.
By the same token, we can also say that money attains to attention. When you PAY attention you must SPEND time, so it goes, “Time is money” as Franklin coined; so intuitive is the similarity that it was adopted into colloquy as metaphor of best fit, and there remains as money attains: a timeless expression. Where attention is the sheer presence or immediacy of experience, money is its avatar, frozen in time as crystallized presence. And attention- qua Capital; time; entropy- as liquid presence, may be captured with money, crystal presence. Which every employer, political campaign, and social media platform knows more intimately than the tail knows its ouroboros.
James C. Scott went very far to prove how the political form of representation is control. Once something is represented, that is rationalized, it can be mobilized, hence the Judaic taboo against uttering God’s True Name and why Christ-qua-λόγος may be crucified but God the Father may never die, and why managerialism took to intersectionality and personality testing like Narcissus to his pond.
Yeah I’m an INTP, why can’t money buy me love?
Well you see, unlike the dollar, attention is absolutely infungible, nonrenewable. Presence is present only once, every moment forever “burned” into the Akashic Record if you will but more importantly for most into the coins and bits and bills that govern their daily survival. “Crystal presence” like “walking dead” is an oxymoron yet nevertheless an immanent paradox, suffice it to say an abstract generalization of specific life energy can only be exchanged for other abstractions even in concreto; the spectre of fungibility remains. And thus, all services- waitstaff, prostitution, therapy, you name it- conducted under the aspect of Capital are fundamentally inhuman: simulacra of relation afforded by a simulacrum of attention. Which begs the question of whether any relation nowadays escapes money-mediation, but here even the starkest pessimist must concede that there obtain degrees of obscurity for its entanglement with given interpersonals, at whose extremes can Kantian imperative or Buberian ethos still manifest, if finally patina.
But Capital is far from done with us. If attention is ideal monetary Form, its modality of representation is the hologram. Ever increasingly resolved, the apotheosis of Capital-qua-money is Urizen compassing, as the Porteño harbinged, a perfect cartography of immanence. Imagine the most minute bodily process being attended to by some Proof-of-Metabolism stillsuit that near instantaneously translates homeostatic differentials into derivatives to be arbitraged on automated actuarial markets, then extend “metabolism” beyond the human corpus onto microclimatic weather patterns and deep ocean tectonics and, why not, the movements of heavenly bodies, divination no longer the astrologer’s dream but a simple predicate of adduced probability triaged through a decentralized- emphasis on the pan- opticon. In the mechanosphere, all Dasein is rendered Homo economicus; Midas is thermal destiny.
“Ok, nice, but how does this help me make money”
First of all lol that that’s your takeaway, but you know what, more power. If you can’t have faith now maybe you will once you’re a millionaire. So making money, is fundamentally inserting yourself as disintermediary in capital flow. If your restaurant has customers they’ve decided your food or the chance to try it etc is worth more than their dollars, and a small groove on some entropic well is dug with every paid bill. Which by the way in German is called “die Rechnung” that is the reckoning, a term baring the true gravitas of this supremely complex reinscription of value6 on the metaphysical orderbooks whereon the universe informs itself regarding what ought exist. In the most inhuman of senses is your restaurant then an arbitrageur between thermal gradients, cutting to the extent of its success a desire path through the lack-encrusted thicket of affection in which all dwell.
But you’re not here to make tasty food, you’re here to make money yes? “There’s no alpha left in restaurants.” Bataille never knew the hipster but tastemaking has been always in vogue, and there is always taste, in food, or art, or coin, always taste. To capitalize on alpha, info disparity, is finally and precisely to accelerate thermodynamic process, but like a hipster you have to spot it first. Good news terminally online brainworm infested infoglutton, “If you’re reading it,“ you’d deduce the closer you are to Capital, that is the more you care about Capital, the more Capital… will care about you. #finance.
Note well: the Book of Nature has its own Trinity. “War, trade, piracy,” instructs Mephisto, “not to be separated.” Where and when have these aspects reigned? The New World. The Wild West. California Gold Rush. 1980s Wall Street, 2020 DeFi Summer. All new markets are Temporary Autonomous Zones where the old rules don’t apply and the balance of fate is thrown into disorder for a fresh breed of misfits to claim their seats on the musical chairs of nouveau régime. First as history, then as farce, of course, but the principle never changes: you need to see and be where Capital is flowing if you wish to drink of its chalice, better if that’s your sole aim, think of all the mediation involved in service work, all the attachment involved in building something. “Be like water,” yes? Like currency. On the trading floor all that separated you from the dough was a baker- it got pretty heated in there huh- on Uniswap you don’t even need him, on Neuralink you won’t have to click, at the bottom of the ninth where even are you? Disintermediation, remember that.
But there are layers yet, adoption curves within adoption curves, highest leverage at the fulcrum of the fulcrum so if the world revolves around finance (it does) be there, if finance is to revolve around crypto, be there, if crypto revolves around dApps and then within dApps, decentralized exchanges or synthetic derivatives or NFTs, thence within NFTs… be there. One consequence that few see (and fewer discuss) is that by the same fractal, each newly minted freshman class is more insecure than its forebears and necessarily so, because Capital accelerates; alpha gets harder to find and edge harder to keep as the intelligence required to eke it out ramps up on ever-shrinking timescales. Gini out the bottle means rich get richer faster, the sooner you make your money the longer it’ll last. Lindy. It’s not a rat race, it’s F1. No it’s not F1 it’s F-Zero and we’re all speedrunners now, QED; and if nobility’s doom is an empirical guarantee then so is your stakeout on the latest rim of Babel 27.
Let’s say you’ve “made it”, congrats king, “What's your endgame?” In 2022, the philosophical question par excellence. Instructive to observe how the old guard behaves, winners of past upheavals who’ve managed to preserve their wealth. The WASP aristocracy, the British royal family and their networks, these all have alpha on one thing, keeping money, and they’re not sharing, neither is the old nouveau riche, the heirs to multinationals and their post-New Deal ilk. Regardless, you’ll need to find a way to, shall we say solidify your gains, because- why?- defer that, it’s what your peers are doing and you’ve got to keep up, surely you didn’t think having money would free you from having to fuss about it? Ortolan bunting is a Faustian bargain and in Marlowe’s version he doesn’t go to heaven, most don’t take the trade that’s why they let it go. “If only I hadn’t--” No. It’s always a choice, and yours was wonder.
Heavy is the head, shall we take a peek inside? The homunculus of the ultrawealthy doesn’t run on clockwork, steam, electricity or digital. “Gradient descent?” Jokes, it’s a bean counter and their souls insurance firms. The key is realizing what it is they’re insuring against: infinity. In a warped funhouse mirror of the Wager, they are insuring against infinity. So every dollar counts, infinitely. How this came to be is not a story for us here, but know it didn’t just happen, each step thereto was perfectly rational and each they scried and seized, alone never straying from the warpath of usury since time immemorial. The sheerness of will, can you even begin to imagine8? So too is their behavior rational now, in these times of “indeterminate pessimism” when the zeitgeist feels the future can’t be predicted concretely and that whatever’s in store’s likelier worse than not.
But this is already Hell. Capital is distracted, it’s lost the plot, it can’t let go. And so, the cold, hard grasp of rigor mortis extends a finger from the abyss, brinicle to freeze every cute little starfish and sea urchin still scuttling around the seafloor into mock shells that shall bear their forever forms. Hoarding immanentizes Hell, Hell trickles down through the firmament because the cash sure ain’t, the cash is dammed up behind tax havens offshore; currency has forgotten itself. Qua money or presence nicht mehr eine Quelle, and quelle surprise: inhuman sums to the inhuman accrue, fate of the cosmos embodied. Do look. Vampires don’t reflect but their victims do, physiognomy can’t hide, one glance at the stewards of our system and you know them for hollow men: walking portraits of Dorian Gray whose real vitality lies crisp as lucre in the coffers of Geneva. In the last reckoning, what it is they are insuring against, is presence. “We live in a society,” its name is absence.
What the conspiracists get wrong is how much agency they attribute to these bloated abyss gazers, the so-called global that is worldly elite- who, granted, are the most visible architects of the encroaching biopolitical control schemes Foucault first meaningfully excavated- instead of to the éminence grise- there is always an éminence grise- “playing them”, so to speak, just it might not look, or be, human, even reptilian, it might just be, hey, thermodynamics, and the Davos crowd just descending their gradients of least resistance unpalatable as that may sound. Sure you’d do better were you in their shoes but that’s why you’re not and they are. What the fragmented left- who’re at least more Capital-conscious, if only for their dearth thereof- gets wrong is that this process can be resisted in any meaningful way on any anthropic timescale; the depth of mechanism involved in Capital’s domain expansion is not human-parsable and there is real humility involved in conceding this. Ask if Capital could speak, would it even deign to thunder.
Every valley raised up, every mountain made low, rough ground become level, easy come, easy go. Onetime wallstrait oldparr babbleth now down riverrun because the sins of the father are the sins of the… nothing personal kiddo, just
karma business mean regression. Will anyone pray for the failsons and faildaughters squandering fortunes on wild benders in ritzy nightclubs to assuage their affluenza (real btw), to feel- no, not alive- stimulated, galvanized, never alive, will anyone pray for these the children of Capital? For Capital is no country, no place: utopian, it displaces, deterritorializes, its only tradition annihilating tradition, escaping itself then escaping itself again kein Blut kein Boden; to be its progeny, then, is to remain ever unknown unto yourself, alien in thine own skin, and given such existential dysphoria wouldn’t you, too, desire escape, escape, escape? But alas. Louis XIV, Galerie des Glaces, Versailles 1684. First as history.
Sounds like a bad trip, not to be envied yeah? And some really choose this, maybe you’re one of them. Ever read Dune? Herbert was goated with the sauce. Luckily unlike Paul, you don’t need to down sandworm spit to behold all time laid out before you, hell you don’t even need to trip; revelation, apocalypse, it’s here in the present and plain to see if you
at all the choices people made and where it landed them and where you and your descendants would land in time if you followed in kind, you would see where the logic of accumulation leads, you would see where the logic of reaction leads, you would see all consequence inherent in the moment of choice and know without knowing that none of these is it, and you would forgive them for having chosen thus because it only made sense given what they knew then, how they saw then9, and you would see for the first time if only dimly why still others devote their lives to chanting 南無阿彌陀佛, 南無阿彌陀佛, or Κύριε ἐλέησον, Κύριε ἐλέησον fifteen hundred million times, and know that’s not for you either. So maybe you don’t need to be a millionaire after all, others to think you clever after all, and only want these things because you forgot you drank from Lethe to have another spin of the wheel? That’s not on God, you know.
Ach, forget me, don’t even listen, all I even think I have are little glimpses, little darkling glimpses caught through a clouded eyepiece of thirty years’ wear but I can’t help myself, so fun to ramble. Maybe there’s something to it, maybe not. But this is about as far as I go, time we start wrapping it up.
Assume the holos is holographic in toto. You can attempt what is at face a ridiculous notion, namely empathizing with Capital. What’s it trying to feel? Et tu? The dollar wasn’t wrong about attention being (or being part of) Nature- recall the metabolic isomorphism- and if Capital desires replication and attention nourishes and fractality holds, we can not only deduce but enact as entelechy the expected eschaton presently through the movement of, meditation, whose displays do vary by tradition and practice but a common gestalt10 may be formulated thus: attention attending attention, or in process vernacular, attending attending attending. The proposal goes: attentional autorecursion presages as microcosm the phenomenal affect of macrocosmic telos11. No you can’t just do this. There’s so much distraction, so much media, such avidya maya tilakkhana barring the kenotic unio mystica that smells like teen spirit and I’m no perennialist but you’d have to be blind and that’s also besides the point point being, you shouldn’t snap your fingers to be done with it and neither should you want to and neither do the meditators who all understand, if not now then eventually, that the medium is the message, or better, that the medium is the message, or, at its most anagogic zenith, that the medium is the message. And once you’ve got the message, you’ve got to hang up the phone, see.
Less than a minute after writing that I realized what it meant and got very sad, it stunned me. I had to step away for the night. But on second thought, it’s more of a choice than the truth and not only do you not have to hang up, that’s actually when noninstrumentality can begin. No not RETVRN, begin, again but not again. Anew. Better. But there is a lot of catching up to do and I’m almost out of coins.
DEUS EST SPHAERA INFINITA CUIUS CENTRUM EST UBIQUE, CIRCUMFERENTIA NUSQUAM.
Liber XXIV philosophorum
What could it mean. I spent so long stewing over this pesky medieval cipher, like years, but alas videō videō… to understand we’ll need to reconsider the moment, this one here yes? The peak of not a mountain but an iceberg whose bummock is the entirety of the past, from your own genetic history on down to the birth pangs of the first stars, though iceberg’s not quite it either, as the entire future too is sieved through this angel pin or camel’s needle to arrive delivering now. That’s time alone. Space also conspires to occasion this occasion, the sun obviously but I mean all space, the black holes and spinning dwarves and inert rocks on countless planets within distant galaxies accelerating beyond sight into the nethermost nether, yeah they need to be there doing what they’re doing for this to be happening, no I can’t explain let’s say a little birdie told me. Thought, too, every one, from these words (duh) to the dolphin’s papillon reverie as mycelial networks sub Oregon terra buzz in tandem a Chennai cabbie’s wedding anxieties you get the point, lastly experience itself: the haptic feel of the keys on this Asus, your intellection or lack thereof on reading their output. So everything adds up to this, this moment, which simultaneously is also everything. “It’s all one.” But it’s not just for you or me, though you’ve your center and I’ve mine; it’s ubiquitous, omnipresent - for all.
What does one do with presents? Reject them? Smilingly accept then stash? Pile up? Collapse spacetime. Observe, attend, decide: how will you spend this summit of summits, this moment diamantine? You could, say, be a king and waste it out of joyous profligacy, because it’s overflowing, everflowing, or rise to its calling with utmost purpose, because this once upon a time is the only one you’ll ever know. And death; what happens thereafter isn’t the question, isn’t a question, because what dies isn’t us and never was, we live in eternity and always have. So, encore! How will you live today? Lowest ice or highest pyre, absolute zero or Empyrean fire? Both present, immanent, forever, eternal make no mistake at all, but only the one is a place and not merely a place but a hearth. The Kingdom of Heaven is a status of heart, so it is written; and when it is written, I am the Alpha and the Omega, perhaps you should pay attention.
And I want yours so you donate, yeah? Except you can’t, because I don’t let you. “The grift must be elsewhere.”
Sight, of course, is not precisely attention, but it’s our closest metaphorical proxy.
Plato points to the sky, Aristotle gestures at the earth. Medieval theologians distinguished what they called the Book of Scripture from the Book of Nature but considered both forms of God’s revelation. In contrast, accelerationists regard the Book of Nature, which concerns common sense- the intersubjective, the verifiable, the empiric (what we now call Science)- as sola scriptura. But while thermodynamic processes, because semi-predictable, can appear teleological, they are not thus ipso facto. Teleology is borrowed from the Book of Scripture, which teases endlessly from beyond the observable horizon; the Outside is precisely the God of Job whose machinations escape human reason. So to intentionally- that is, rationally- seek it out is ironic, futile; as Gauss and Ramanujan knew, one must await inspiration with patience. In any case, coldness is no way to live a life and the repressed always returns. That many former accelerationists have come (back) to Christ is no surprise.
Being formed in God’s image, there is no facet of existence that does not “desire” its own increase, including Mammon. Crucially, choice, which contains preference, entails pruning and thus decrease. You can choose between, say, selflessness and self-sacrifice, which mirror God’s abundance and are ultimately, paradoxically, life-generating; or miserly hoarding: of goods, narratives, capital, which by the same paradoxical movement are world-affirming, life-denying. Put simply: life begets life, death begets death, begetting begets begetting.
Unfortunately its transaction speed is far from timeless so widespread point-of-sale adoption will have to wait.
Endless debate over the term value. But try this: value is what enables an entity to perpetuate. It’s always relational: value to, value for, valued by, etc.
You might not speak German, or Swahili, or Cantonese, but one thing’s for sure: money talks.
What’s in the mirror? IYKYK. And you do.
So, the caste system. I think the data preceded the theory. Metaphysically valid? Dunno. But damn is the induction convincing.
True, one may “meditate” on love, on death, the nature thereof and so on, but we disambiguate this sort of focused cerebration with the act whereby the attentional process concentrates recursively on itself, as itself.
What, evidence? Kidding, kidding. If Nature and Scripture weren’t companions I wouldn’t dare a word, so. Onanism, psychedelics, and suicide are (intensity-ordered) shortcuts to the maximally entropic brainstate coextensive with physiological death, and finally cosmological death. Carhartt-Harris & Friston 2019, “REBUS and the Anarchic Brain”.