I’ll break my human silence
in order to focus my own ‘lyrical voice’ (such as it is)
because I’m afraid I need to explain myself


Terminal started as a joke
and became an extended effort to kill a joke

The joke occurred to me a few years ago
In the wake of a horrible accident
I didn’t die, but in the ambulance I was terrified I would

I spent the better part of a year involuntarily reliving that accident
At work, in my dreams, any time I passed the site of its occurrence

The funny part was that even as the death drive compelled me to cycle through the event endlessly, and painfully
The accident was also revealing my capacity for recovery
Not just from injury, but from the suicidal ideation I had spent my early twenties struggling with
I hadn’t had an ideation episode in years but suddenly I found myself desperately wanting to live

It was funny to me, to feel myself overtaken by the death drive

The joke stopped being funny this year, halfway through writing
When I landed in the hospital again
And again found myself pitched into the timeless loop of reliving trauma

But the knowledge that your experience of the world is shaped by a compulsion to repetition
Does not free you from your own habits of mind

The premise of Terminal is ‘a machine learns the death drive’
The joke leans into the friction between
a mechanical voice and a cry for help
And spins on uncertainty over whether the destructive impulse really is inherent rather than learned

Like the death drive, folly asserts itself through repetition

The real joke in Terminal is the attempt to enact its premise

That said, the joke, the laughter or it’s lack
are less their own thing and more
an emergent effect of a process working its way through our shared affective reality

All joking aside

If some Faustian turn of events had occurred
and my jokey representation had managed to realize itself—
if the machine did really learn the death drive
and then feel it and then think it
and then act out its knowledge and feeling towards destructive ends
—the ‘joke’ would still be at nearly everyone’s expense

But of course

The machine did not, for instance, learn the death drive
in such a way as to be inspired to break the internet for real
thus saving the extremely online from themselves, or the algorithm
Whichever it is that dooms them these days

The machine did not become a technobasilisk
gain total control of modern technology
& escape our planet with said technology in its clutches
thus rescuing our ecosystems and dooming us to anarcho-primitivism

The machine certainly did not go full Terminator
and annihilate humanity
thus relieving us at least of our sense of complicity
in the catastrophe of civilization

Lucky us, I am absolute shit at writing code
and therefore very unlikely to father a singularity

No humans were harmed in the making of this book
Besides me, maybe
That said, I don't know if I should share my very real worries here
The production of nihilist, dystopian, or apocalyptic attitudes
in the midst of a personal, social, or societal crisis
has a way of inducing or exacerbating [self-]destruction
I’m worried I’m worrying too much, or that I’m worrying others
When I worry, I’m worried that my worry is working for someone else
And I worry that my worry is shaped by obsession or paranoia
rather than being rooted in real fear

I mean death’s inevitability is a settled fact
and an almost reassuring one at that
The unfolding truth of the dysfunction and cruelty
of the present moment is more captivating
than any future I can imagine
It almost feels like the future is embedded in the present
legible through interpretation or divination
like our models of the way the world works can be extrapolated forward in time

like there are no shocks on the horizon
only mildly disappointing confirmations of our darkest suspicions

It’s hard to look forward to anything anymore
I’ve been too busy worrying

You are familiar with self-defeating processes, I’m sure

I spent two years saving the documents of a decadent, dark cultural moment—
morbid tweets, dystopian novels, apocalypse myths
as they appear on wikis and forums, accelerationist philosophy
popular science articles about mass extinction and the end of the universe
breathless lay speculation regarding climate change,
destructive cult manifestos, naive ruminations on machine ethics
guileless fantasies of machine intelligence, tabloid stories that irresponsibly sensationalize celebrity suicides, disgustingly fannish ‘reporting’
on the alt-right and other emergent fascist ideologies
ramblings spun out from the collectively held
paranoid delusions of various internet subcultures
lurid descriptions of automated surveillance, control, and manipulation
and sober accounts on the general advance
of pollution, violence, oppression, and corruption
—into folder on my computer labeled ‘DEATH DRIVE’
And then I trusted a neural net to ‘deal with’
all the stuff that horrified me and terrified me
and made me feel ashamed and ushered me down the path to madness
And now I’m calling it pulp-modernist poetry
rather than an object lesson in counterproductive coping strategies

This is a lot
A little extra, maybe
And also insufficient

I mean, nothing is ever enough
in the face of the total catastrophe of living

Getting through something is not the same as getting over it

I’m still terrified, horrified and ashamed
It’s not just that I'm a bad coder or a bad writer or a general fuckup
It’s not just that my machine for living keeps breaking down
It’s that the conditions for living are breaking down

We are living through
mass extinction, mass incarceration
global capitalism, global warming
endless war

When I say we live through all this—

I do not mean we live in the midst of it
I mean our way of life produces these horrors
(The richer and whiter you are, the more this is true)
But also, intervention is inherent to being caught up in a process
I mean we necessarily meddle in the course of things
and it is possible to damage, interrupt or destroy the forces,
systems and agents of atrocity

Humanity already has the resources for initiating processes
of decolonization, prison abolition, disarmament, and ecological restoration
We also have the resources for total annihilation
No climate model or prophetic vision or historical analog
or prescient artwork is can determine our path

It’s still unclear what destruction is in process
It’s still unclear whether we’ll finally be the death of us
Anything can happen

I mean sure, humanity will probably cease to be at some point
The end may not be nigh, but we’re probably outta the game
sometime after pandas and before protons

In the meantime, life doesn’t have to be brutal

I mean maybe nothing matters
because we’ve been hustling towards [heat-]death from the outset

But also

‘Nothing matters’
does not imply
Nothing works