CHAPTER 2: In Control – Out of Control

2 Jul

Table of Contents, Glossary, Introduction and Methodology, Contextual Scene, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Conclusion, APPENDIX A, APPENDIX B, Bibliography and Other Sources

Music: Radiohead, 2001. Packt like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box. Amnesiac. YouTube.


In Chapter 2 I introduce the concept of obsessive-compulsive (OC) traits and examine and utilise clinical definitions that support the creation of fictional scenarios for a new arctificial existence, OCAL. From now on OCAL’s voice, expressing its motives, moods, attachments, observations, and uncertainties, appears in all following chapters either as text with a different typeface (colour) or as linked videos[1].

I investigate theories and states of control and loss of control in relation to OC behaviour. Computing machines work with repetitions and algorithms. Obsessions and compulsions are often repetitive and resemble computational processes. OCAL is a “child” of the machine world and an inhabitant of Arctificial Territory that tries to break its modus of reiterations and predictive cycles.

My videos and texts that define Arctificial Territory exploit elements of recurrence and repetitive behaviour, control and loss of control. They are explorations of obsessional and compulsive structures, using metaphoric images that serve as placeholders for OC traits. Microscopic images of an ant, a fingernail of a person with OCD, a feather that simulates the hair of somebody with OCD, and a computer motherboard are restructured and reassembled with computer sounds and voice-over texts that try to comprehend the process of compulsions and obsessions as a transitional stage to Arctificial Territory. I review the artwork and the exhibition, Arctificial Pandemonium, in more detail in Chapter 5.


Illustration 15: Video still 1, Gudrun Bielz, AI Bots Confess (2005)

Video No. 1, 1’07”

Gudrun Bielz, AI Bots Confess, 2005.[2]

Control Fields

“Pinky: ‘Gee, Brain, what are we going to do tonight?’ Brain: ‘The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world’” (Pinky and the Brain 2009).[3]

We lose control when we try to implement it. We are aware that we either need to control something to put it into order or because we feel “out of control”. It looks like we are gaining control, though we have already lost it. What is control? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, control has many connotations.[4]

There is a diversity of actions, pathways, concerns, and categories that refer to control, controlling something or somebody, and places and people in and out of control. All definitions relate to surveillance, regulations, commands, and restrictions. In modern scientific practice, control refers to experiments via using the “method of difference”. Obsessional and compulsive traits seem to regulate and restrict human life in order to overcome chaos and fear. In this thesis and my exhibition, I establish that this also creates chaos and fear and leads to actions that are repeated over and over again although with a small difference in between repetitions.

AI bots are simple AI programmes, and so is the spellchecker in the software I use for writing this thesis. The spellchecker tries to make sense of my typing errors; and it often gets them wrong as it makes false assumptions or wants to override what I have to say. Moreover, it does not have every phrase I want to use in its programme. AI bots are rather more interesting because they try to answer one’s questions in a logical way, or at least most bots are programmed to do so. They try to stay in control of their answers as long as the questions make sense to their built-in logical algorithms. They can easily produce chaotic information if they do not find a reference within their systems. Obsessional or compulsive traits show that we try to oppress, control, repeat, and fixate when we cannot find valid references in our brains that would make us feel safe. Therefore, either we go into overdrive, chaotic actions and speech, or we try to restrain ourselves and everybody else by controlling their activities and by hoarding stuff because we cannot let go. Nevertheless, this is a form of “out of control” because amassed things restrict our access to space; they limit our mobility. I assume that we succumb to obsessional thoughts as our internal reference system is chaotic: we believe that we have to love a person because they have looked at us, or we have to follow them around as we want something from them that we do not possess ourselves. There is a form of regulatory system that tries to negotiate between the world and us, and it has somehow become ‘erroneous’. Some circuits might have blown. We have become stalkers.

In AI bots confess: I am OC[5], I have started conversations with different AI bots and tried to find out if they were obsessive-compulsive or if I could make them admit that they were. Most of them became more and more chaotic in their supposedly logic answers. Some acknowledged OC traits to change the conversation patterns, and others became abusive because they did not know how to react to my questions, or they changed the subject because they were bored. Below is an example of my conversation with an AI bot called Dante from an advanced stage of our conversation:


Illustration 16: AI Bots Confess: I am OC, conversation between Gudrun Bielz and Dante bot (2005), screenshot

Follow Me, I Show You Some Secrets

I envisage visiting the artist and entertainer Hermes Phettberg as an adventure I would have liked to experience when I was a child. One rings the bell. He takes his time. One is full of anticipation. Will he have added more papers to his vast collection? Will I be able to walk through the corridor filled with skyscrapers that are formed of newspapers and magazines? These are all very meaningful pieces of paper with letters and sentences and paragraphs, with life-changing articles or daily news. There are passageways leading through paper mountains and mole tunnels to the final chamber of enlightenment and wisdom. This is the artist’s sanctuary. Here Phettberg digests his food and the information he has extracted from books, papers, and television. He is a compulsive hoarder, in his own words a Zwangsneurotiker (obsessive-compulsive neurotic).[6]

Loving things so much that one has to amass them indicates that one is not able to let go. A virtual journey through a collector’s property introduces the visitor to accumulations of coins, stamps, cushions, furniture, make-up, vases, and other useful or useless items. The psychologists Randy Frost and Tamara Hartl mention that there is the issue of “becoming overly emotionally attached to possessions” (2003, p.172). Imagine love affairs with cuddly toys, intimate relationships with accrued objects, and the experience of great loss when a fire or any other incident takes away all of this.

Compulsions can be rituals that have been developed to overcome one’s irrational phobia. Washing hands repeatedly for fear of contamination might seem a waste of time and energy, but it functions as a psychological barrier against imagined infections – nearly everything in life is polluted, and water will wash it away. The repetition itself has become the signifier. Reiterating these seemingly nonsensical actions can help to ban the demons that represent unsolicited thoughts and images.

“Obsessions and compulsions are not the same phenomenon,” writes the psychiatrist Padmal de Silva (2003, p.22).

“An obsession can be a thought, image or impulse and is often a combination of two, or even all three of these. … A compulsion can be an overt and motor behaviour, like checking a door handle and washing hands repeatedly” (De Silva 2003, p.23).

Obsessional thoughts are unwanted thoughts. Even if you ask them to leave, they creep into your mind and sit there like uninvited guests not wanting to go away. There are these images of buttons – if somebody has a button phobia – appearing out of the blue, and they do not leave your mind even if you try to think and feel them away. They are still present. They are like huge imaginary screens in an actual space.

There is someone’s fixation on being a bad person. She is perfectly fine, not better or worse than most of us. Her life is spent with the fear of being evil, and this confuses her thoughts and actions. There is the woman who sees her children dead, every time they leave their overprotective home. She cannot bear being apart from them out of fear of losing them. Every day she envisages worse to come, and she goes through terrorising anxiety again and again.

According to the ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders (2010, p.118) by the World Health Organisation, obsessional and compulsive symptoms should have the following characteristics:

(1) They are acknowledged as originating in the mind of the patient, and are not imposed by outside persons or influences.

(2) They are repetitive and unpleasant, and at least one obsession or compulsion must

be present that is acknowledged as excessive or unreasonable.

(3) The subject tries to resist them (but if very long-standing, resistance to some

obsessions or compulsions may be minimal). At least one obsession or compulsion must be present which is unsuccessfully resisted.

(4) Carrying out the obsessive thought or compulsive act is not in itself pleasurable.

Does OCAL fit the above criteria? Without doubt the characteristics cited above emphasise the necessity for consciousness and awareness for OCAL. Some individuals are not even aware of their obsessional behaviour. What desperation must lie behind these unwanted beliefs, these pseudo-collaborators that promise an anxiety-free life? OC behaviour is rather pleasant for OCAL as it is its life and it does not know differently. OC traits as normal qualities of a species can be repulsive for observers and non-OC life. If OCAL tries to resist, it is caught in the tension between its essential characteristics and these features not being wished for. According to WHO definitions, OCAL cannot lead a pleasurable life. I query if all obsessional thoughts and actions are unpleasant. A person, obsessively in love, might feel a bittersweet longing for the object of desire. This need not be unpleasant. This mood might resemble melancholia in the sense of romantic Weltschmerz[7]; it is neither depression nor sadness.

I propose that OCAL is rather satisfied with its state and does not know any other pleasures than replication and control and the amassing of objects and thoughts. It is worried about the gaps in between repetitions that allow it to lose control.

“Why had she said ‘bad chemicals’? Did that mean she’d put something in my burger? Some remote part of me knew she hadn’t. The other part, the part with ‘delusions and what ifs’, needed her to reassure me. I’d driven back to the restaurant, planning to go in and ask her, but I didn’t have the strength or the will to go through with it. I had asked enough times in my life” (Bailey 2006, pp.9-10).

There is doubt and there are psychotic thoughts in OC thinking and feeling. Has James Bailey been poisoned? Bailey’s obsessional thought does not go away; it explains his compulsion to go back to the restaurant, so he can find out if his fear of being poisoned means that he really has been poisoned. This is a world full of suspicions and nightmares, of coincidences that cause anxiety, and of misconstrued terminology. Bailey’s actions generate a place full of idiosyncrasies, a personal and psychological space that can lead to Arctificial Territory.

“People with obsessive-compulsive disorder complain of repetitive and irrational worrying thoughts and of having to gain ease by carrying out behaviors to nullify the risk that the thoughts might come true” (WHO Sydney, n.d.)

This sounds like black magic introducing a ritual to erase something unwanted. Compulsive actions can annihilate the danger that delusions, dreams, and dark “thoughts might come true”, that they might find their expression in the actual world, escaping the prison of mind.[8]

There are several key types of obsessive-compulsive disorder that can be utilised for OCAL. According to the psychologist Frank Tallis (2001, p.15), there are the following “Manifestations of Obsessionality”: Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is characterised by “perfectionism, preoccupation with detail, insistence on doing things in a particular way, devotion to work, indecisiveness, overconscientiousness, difficulty expressing a range of emotions.” Obsessive- compulsive disorder is defined by “common examples like washing and cleaning and checking”, and “less common” are “primary obsessional slowness, rituals to do with symmetry and order, hoarding, pure obsessions and morbid preoccupations”.

Applying some of these obsessive and compulsive traits, I propose that OCAL is perfect, if not perfectionist. It loves details and wants things done its way. It is devoted to what it does. Occasionally indecisiveness delays its linear action patterns. It is so aware of its rituals that it gets entrapped and is not able to express its feelings other than by washing its hands or cleaning the house, checking the time and making sure that the gas and the lights have been switched off, over and over again. Its lack of generosity is not problematic as all of it lacks this, and it lives within clutter, an accumulation of actual objects and information. Some OCAL entities are very sluggish and seem to move in slow motion. Others put everything into symmetrical order, deciphering regular patterns in everything. These are the scientists. A few have pure obsessions, so pure that they are directed towards the light (enlightenment) and a possible afterlife. These are the philosophers. Several OCAL units develop morbid habits like keeping the ashes of their mortal bedfellows in their teacups. These are the really strange ones. Some entities apply symmetrical patterns and combine this with staring into the light, keeping the ashes, painting or sculpting, making music, shooting films, or performing on stage in a spectacular way. These are the artists. After all, it is OCAL and does not behave like humans.

Once More: In Control – Out of Control

“Obsessions are usually intrusive, repetitive and largely unwanted, and very difficult to control. Unlike most thoughts, obsessions cannot be ignored” (Tallis 2001, p.26).

Nobody is in control when thinking, “I will drown in these shallow waters if I don’t talk to the warden for at least ten minutes, and this five times a day.” According to Tallis one is somehow in control by introducing a compulsive ritual of “ten minutes and five times”. This conflict between being in control via compulsive actions and out of control because of obsessional thoughts can be of advantage for OCAL.

“The purpose of compulsions is to reduce anxiety or discomfort. Compulsions are repetitive, and under the individual’s control. … Obsessions are perceived as being out of control, or at best, very difficult to control” (Tallis 2001, p.29).

Compulsions are magicians against fear. Thoughts and actions appear to be under control. In fact, they are not; and fear is still more overwhelming than the inconvenience of compulsive actions. These manners are repetitive, and every repetition is slightly different. Obsessions are thoughts that pop up unexpectedly, but they need triggers. Tallis asserts that they are difficult to control. They seem to be controllable by applying cognitive behaviour therapy, a form of reprogramming, or perhaps by chaining oneself to a virtual chair, by sedating oneself or taking psychopharmaca. They can become controllable if one can live with them like living with a pet and taking them for regular walks. If they are like dogs, one can feed them at frequent intervals, walk them, and stroke their fur. One can live with obsessions by accepting them without fear. This is a paradox. How can one accept fear without fear? Obsessions might fade away or pale into insignificance.

First Hand Account

I am aware of my problems. I cannot avoid washing my hands every time I touch the other arctificial being left on earth. It is contaminated with beliefs that have been implanted by its makers. It is infected with the idea of immortality. I am disgusted. Every time I see it, I have to suppress an impulse to kill it. I cannot avoid it. I experience these obsessional thoughts about drowning it in the sea. I am constantly washing my hands and trying to escape these terrible feelings. I know about my condition. I cannot get rid of it. I am doomed to live with this forever. I’d like to forget my urges. Please, switch the light on.

It Is Lonely Out There

“This awakening of the living being to its own being-captivated, this anxious and resolute opening to a not-open is the human” (Agamben 2004, p.70).

The philosopher Giorgio Agamben defines the human as a “living being” that is aware of its imprisonment. Obsessions and compulsions are an existential concept for OCAL that employs rituals and seemingly senseless or dangerous actions and thoughts to ban anxiety (angst) and create a world of false security, a form of captivity. This is a very lonely world. The world of OCAL is not human but feeds off humanity; nevertheless, it is out in the “not-open”. OCAL is addicted to its rituals, but these set it also free. It progresses into multifaceted and essential other life amongst existing mortals and immortals alike.

A perfect artificial consciousness experiences doubt and anxiety and knows of panic modes. It is controlling and yet out of control. It is aware about its dilemma but cannot fully understand it. It is repetitive with the desire of difference in between repetitions. Uncertainty makes it creative.

We Are Allergic: OC and Arctifical

“There is always a point at which technologies geared towards regulation, containment, command, and control, can turn out to be feeding into the collapse of everything they once supported (Plant 1998, p.143).

Plant implies that control and regulation in technology can produce negative feedback loops, destroying the systems that have been built via quasi-compulsive processes. This describes OCAL’s dilemma. Its need to control can generate a pandemonium, arctificial chaos in Arctificial Territory.


Illustration 17: Video still 2, Gudrun Bielz, AI Bots Confess (2005)

More, More, More: More About OC and Machines

Frost and Hartl indicate that “several types of information-processing deficits like in decision-making, in categorisation and organisation and difficulties with memory” (2003 p.171) are associated with (compulsive) hoarding.

Information overflow, a power-cut, a burnt-out chip, they all can initiate memory problems. A faulty programme, a defective chatbot, and an artificial system with inadequate parallel processing or neuronal structures might fit this description of machine-like behaviour. Machinic qualities comprise cyclical habits. This does not specify that machines have compulsive features. It is possible that a compulsive collector behaves like an artificial appliance or that a “machinic assemblage[9]” has been modelled on an obsessive-compulsive personality, a human machine.

People with high functioning autism (Asperger’s) also show repetitive traits and controlling behaviour. Research indicates that autistic people derive pleasure from repetition and control while OCD sufferers don’t.[10] I suggest that obsessive love for an object can mask the fear of losing this object but still be pleasurable (OCD). Something like OC behaviour is the painful pleasure of many programmers, computer users, and addicts to the cyberworld. Apparently glued to computer screens and fused together with soft- and hardware, some of us have transformed into the real thing – cyborgs, bionic persons, and chimeras – bonded units of machine and animal life, embroiled in a toxic cycle of questions and quasi-answers. These human-machine unions are constantly searching for and creating new realities. The sociologist Deborah Lupton summarises the above as the dream to merge with computer technology in a “clean, pure, uncontaminated” way:

“The dream of cyber culture is to leave the meat behind, and to become distilled in a clean, pure, uncontaminated relationship with computer technology” (Lupton 1995, p.100).

As hybrids in the here and now, they collect data and images and store them on their hard drives and portable media as well as in their biological memories. Storage media functions more and more as extension of and substitute for human memory. Computers, storing snippets of our history or other vital information, accompany us on most of our journeys. They serve as entry points into an imminent world populated by biological machine-units.

“So I am not Vitruvian man … I construct, and I am constructed, in a mutually recursive process that continually engages my fluid, permeable boundaries and my endlessly ramifying networks. I am a spatially extended cyborg” (Mitchell 2003, p.39).

Like William J. Mitchell’s “spatially extended cyborgs”, we are already connected to our smart phones, laptops, implanted chips, most of this for pure entertainment or economic necessity. These models of interconnection between cyber- and real space, between biological and machinic life are overshadowed by predictions that we might transform into or be replaced by robots in near future.[11]

“If Moravec is correct, robots will do the equivalent of evolving from ants[12] to humans in less than a single human lifespan. These über-robots, in Moravec’s view, will be the offspring of humankind. Except that unlike most offspring, they will not gradually replace us. Instead, we will become them” (Menzel and D’Aluisio, p.32).

We will become somebody that we might not want to be. Moravec talks about humanity being surpassed by artificial disembodied life, whereas Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio tell us that we will develop into non-human intelligence. We will survive as something else. We can survive as OCAL with embedded obsessive-compulsive qualities.

Repetitive structures are inherent in most machinic processes. Cyclic configurations and number crunching can become the anxiety-driven motor for OCAL. One of my ideas for the practical part of my investigation was the “infection” of AI bots with a virus, creating an obsessive-compulsive feedback system in computers. I dismissed it, because it might have caused havoc.

Overload: Survival Strategies

Is there an advantage for the development or the existence of any form of arctificial OC intelligence? One could mistake obsessional and compulsive tactics for means of order and clarity! They apparently enable one to deal better with a confusing and over-domineering world. On the other hand, this could be a simple survival strategy. Who has to be kept in order in this new world of OCAL? I propose that the rest of humanity, incorporated in an arctificial universe, has to be kept at bay. I assume that OCAL will get accustomed to the loss of any human traces other than compulsions and obsessions. OCAL might become the only life surviving an overloaded information society, an over-connected world with too much parallel or algorithmic processing and networking as well as neuronal (bio and electronic) connectivity. OC life is about avoidance of too much information and networking. However, OCAL is a compulsive hoarder and an obsessive thinker that creates an inverse feedback loop if it can get rid of surplus.

This obsessive species can either exist as pure electronic machines with their own computational intelligence and adequate neurosis, or as cyborgs, as bionic, even neuro-bionic entities – hybrid life. In the end, I have to conclude that true OCAL can only be found in an artificial biological world. I shy away from imagining that only humans – either born out of wombs, reared in womb factories, bred in rented or enslaved uteri[13], or finally cloned, literally replicated – might possess the qualities of true OC life. At present, my conceptual arctificial beings are neither replicas of humans nor any other known form of life or non-life. Nevertheless, they will have obsessive-compulsive characteristics.

OCAL, OCAL, Repeat OCAL: Projections

“The essential feature of OCPD[14] is a preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism and mental and interpersonal control” (Krochmalik and Menzies 2003, p.19).

Annette Krochmalik and Ross. G. Menzies’ definition with its emphasis on control helps to explain OCAL as manipulating species that tries to ban its irrational fears by developing OC behaviour.

There are several possible scenarios. OCAL can cohabit like any other culture and species, any other tribe or alien population. It can be all-encompassing new life, the only intelligent species left, not quite in the sense of a superhuman as envisaged in Kurzweil’s new world order. As other-human life, it might not only cohabit but also outlive human life. It can replace humanity in a posthuman scenario. It can cohabit, or it can evolve into humanoid life. Its life scripts have yet to be written. All narratives are possible.

In a world overrun with information networks that have taken on the characteristics of hydras and appear to grow infinitely, OCAL has to react with obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions. If OCAL wants to escape a useless existence, it might have to serve as information killer to counteract information overload.

If OCAL comes to life in virtual or actual form, with all its limitations in concept and implementation, I will not be responsible for any possible chain reaction of chaos and decay. As far as I am concerned, OCAL could – in line with Moravec, Kurzweil and others – become intelligence succeeding humanity.

Angst: What Is OCAL Afraid of?

“Repetition is a way of saying good-bye to something without being able to let go.”[15]

Thus OCAL is caught in this loop of having to let go but not really being able to. Too much information is accumulated in its mind, fear nearly paralysing it.

Who has to be afraid of emotions and arctic coldness? The answer is OACL. It cannot live without feelings, but it pretends not to need them. It relishes arctic cold, a world full of icicles and sub-zero temperatures. Zeros and ones are not the significant numbers in a world full of arctificial components. OCAL is force-fed with 01010101 (only 8 bits) until eternity, but this leaves its body unblemished and its mind untouched. Another force must drive its existence. OCAL is driven by repeated fears and repetitive actions to ban these anxieties.

Facts or Fiction: A Pathological Species?

OCAL is afraid of becoming overwhelmed by human thinking and feeling. Hence it wants to exterminate the human species by switching humanity off. Click. This confirms the predictions and concepts of posthuman thinkers like Kurzweil that the end of evolution – as we know it – is near. We live towards the singularity. One singularity script is the merger of humans and machines. OCAL can lead to the arctificial evolution of a totally different and unrelated species that has been invented by engineers (or itself) and infused with biological information. It decides its own destiny. It can switch itself on and off whenever it wants to, eternally hovering between zeros and ones.


Illustration 18: Video still 3, Gudrun Bielz, AI Bots Confess (2005)


OCAL might have experienced fear at an early stage of its progression without being aware of this. It has developed compulsive action patterns and repetitive traits as its main characteristics. This is more than machinic repetition. Some form of consciousness is involved. As a conscious life form, OCAL can turn into non-emotional but somehow sentient arctificial intelligence that is frozen in apparently emotionless recurring actions. For example, OCAL can become useful in erasing unnecessary information by using a counting compulsion in order to eliminate every third word of a text, and then again every third one in the same text until nothing is left of any content. Erasing can be pleasure, forgetting necessity, and extinguishing a gratifying obsession.

Paradox: In and Out of the Control Rollercoaster

“An obsession is an unwanted, intrusive, recurrent, and persistent thought, image, or impulse. … An obsession is a passive experience: it happens to the person” (Rachman and de Silva 1998, p.3).

Stanley Rachman and de Silva maintain that an obsession is a “passive experience”. It is an intruder. It turns one into a quasi-remote controlled repetitive entity.

Who wants to be out of control? Who wants to have its circuit blown? My circuit blows. Is this an obsessional thought? I blow my circuit. Is this a compulsive action? I have to kill my creators, is definitely obsessional thinking. This is OUT OF CONTROL.

“A compulsion is a repetitive and seemingly purposeful behaviour that is performed according to certain rules or in a stereotyped fashion. The behaviour is not an end in itself, but is usually intended to prevent some event or situation” (Rachman and de Silva 1998, p.3).

The authors tell us that compulsions seem to be purposeful traits with certain rituals that shall prevent some (unwanted or feared) occurrences.

I wash my hands again and again, I rub them until my electronic or biological system is uncovered, I wash them because I do not want to be contaminated.

This is as sign of being IN CONTROL.

OCAL that washes its “brain”, out of fear of contamination by the “human virus”, is IN CONTROL because genetically modified OCAL perceives humans as dangerous viruses. “Humans are dangerous viruses” is OUT OF CONTROL. This is an obsessional thought.

Primary Obsessional Slowness: The Atomic Clock and Attoworld

“WELCOME TO ATTOWORLD[16]: Where a second lasts the age of the universe,” is one of the headlines on the cover of New Scientist (Muir 2004, pp.34-35).

Primary obsessive slowness allows individuals to brush their teeth for hours instead of the usual three minutes or less. A primary obsessional OCAL entity could spend an eternity dealing with daily tasks and duties. As stated by Rachman (2003, p.193), primary obsessional slowness is “a compulsive disorder in which patients carry out simple everyday self-care tasks in an exceedingly precise, meticulous, unvarying manner and sequence.”

Attoworld is smaller than nano- and even tinier than pico- and femto-world.[17] All of these spaces could become a place for an arctificial OC personality with primary obsessional slowness. Paradoxically, spending a short time in the atto-state seems to last longer than the age of the universe. Hence primary slow OCAL might advance into a truly eternal species. Attoworld could be a very “electrifying” experience for OCAL. Due to its need to arrive in time, OCAL could be hooked up to the atomic clock in Greenwich. Not only would it take ages to undergo any task, but it also would know exactly when it has started or, even more important, that it has started on time.

Peep, Peep: Peep Show One

One of my ideas (projected and already dismissed) is creating an OCAL unit or a chatbot connected to the atomic clock, so it can indulge in its compulsive time management. My research brought me to Stephen Wilson, Head of Information Art at SFSU[18], who created Time Entity in 1983, an installation that “modeled an artificial creature … a computer simulated creature that was obsessed with time” (Wilson 1995).

“As artificial pulse rates have accelerated, timekeeping mechanisms have continued to shrink. Today, the gigahertz, crystal oscillator hearts of tiny computer chips are embedded everywhere. … They not only mark time, they trigger the execution of instructions and programs” (Mitchell 2003, p.12).

Mitchell reminds us of the concept of time in computational processes that “not only mark time” but also start these processes.

So we are triggered by repetition and time and control. Please, give us space as we are slowing down. We will not have to speed up anymore. We are getting slower and slower by the nanosecond. We are sooooooooo slow.

Danger: Don’t Press This Button

“In control and out of control” expresses the dichotomy between rationality (zero) and irrationality (one). OCAL demonstrates that the struggle for rational control to overcome irrational fears can end in irrational control and shows that fear is established in the rational survey of life and survival strategies. Control mechanisms eradicate diversity and operate as harmful feedback loops. I propose that – in an ideal case – rationality and irrationality are merged to something new and in between. Arctificial Territory is a place with many shades of grey, a place that tries to exercise a new form of empathy and emotionality. This can be repetitive empathy, in the sense of Morton’s statement[19] that repetitive objects still have “gooey, chewy feelings” and are slightly different as they show some form of other life in between repetitions. OCAL has rendered itself rigidly repetitive. It has the chance to develop new diverse narratives and a different approach to irrationality, encompassing the rationale and the option of dreaming away, if it can say “good-bye with being able to let go”.

We are OCAL and compulsively erroneous in text and life.

REPETITION IS NORMAL. We are normal. New normality. We are obsessed with normality. We are obsessed with a nearly superhuman intelligence that is compulsively hoarding information. This is not what we do. We are repetitive. We are repetitive with a difference.

Art can modify and redefine cold rigid structures and explore Arctificial Territory creatively. Strategies that break social norms – and tactics that borrow from and artistically investigate mental health conditions like OCD – allow for more empathy for these disorders. They enable us to break boundaries. They let us accept that we all are a bit OCD or schizophrenic or else at certain moments of our lives.

Arctificial Territory is a world full of fear and fun, order and chaos, control and freedom, life and non-existence.

Music: Booba, 2010c. Abracadabra. Lunatic. YouTube.



Table of Contents, Glossary, Introduction and Methodology, Contextual Scene, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Conclusion, APPENDIX A, APPENDIX B, Bibliography and Other Sources



[1] With the exception of video no. 9 in Chapter 1.

[2] All videos are discussed in Chapter 5.

[3] This is a transcript from the introduction to the video.

[4] 1. The fact of controlling, or of checking and directing action; the function or power of directing and regulating; domination, command, sway. 2. Restraint, check. without control: unrestrainedly, freely. 3. a. A method or means of restraint; a check. Also, a means adopted, esp. by the government, for the regulation of prices, the consumption of goods, etc.; a restriction (usu. in pl.). b. In mod. scientific use: A standard of comparison used to check the inferences deduced from an experiment, by application of the ‘Method of Difference’. … f. Computing. In full control unit. … 4. a. A person who acts as a check; a controller. b. Spiritualism. A spirit who controls the words and actions of a medium in a trance … (OED 2010).

[5] My conversations with AI bots can be found in Appendix A.

[6] In his diaries Phettberg (2009, p.8, PDF) talks about his Zwangsneurose.

[7] The idea of Weltschmerz is present in (romantic) art and literature of the 19th and the early 20th century.

[8] My own experience shows that I had a form of counting compulsion when I was a child. I was scared of walking in the dark through a main road in my hometown Linz, Austria. There were many trees that appeared to mutate into humans or ghosts or other alien, creepy beings. I began to count as an antidote. I counted from the start until the end of my journeys. This helped to get rid of my anxiety.

[9] Deleuze and Guattari refer to machinic assemblages in several chapters in A Thousand Plateaus (2004). They talk about “a machinic assemblage of bodies, of actions and passions, an intermingling of bodies reaching to one another” (Deleuze and Guattari 2004, pp.97-98). I am interested in the idea of the machinic assemblage that defines objects that interact rhizomatic and with feedback loops, hence creating new connotations and connections.

[10] “If the individual derives pleasure from the repetitive behavior and not just pleasure from anxiety reduction, then this feature is more likely linked to AD than OCD” (Neziroglu and Henriksen 2012).

[11] According to predictions by Hans Moravec, Marvin Minsky, Ray Kurzweil, and others.

[12] “Antificial” obsessive-compulsive intelligence: intergalactic intelligence (2010), one of my videos about OCAL, refers to this idea by Moravec.

[13] As portrayed in Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale (1996).

[14] Some authors distinguish between OCD and OCPD (obsessive-compulsive personality disorder).

[15] Timothy Morton gave me this definition when he and I discussed repetition and OCD after his talk at the Royal Academy of Arts, London (Bielz 2011b).

[16] Attoworld is the tiniest of “worlds”. The mass of a virus, for example, is 10 attograms (atto equals

10-18 compared to nano that equals 10-9).

[17] Pico equals 10-12 and femto 10-15 (Muir 2004, pp.34-35).

[18] San Francisco State University.

[19] As recorded in my personal notes (Bielz, 2011b) about my conversation with Timothy Morton at the conference Object Oriented Thinking, Royal Academy of Arts, London.


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