Simulating Like a State

“Sufficiently advanced simulation is indistinguishable from the real thing”, to twist Clarke’s aphorism. Simulations can take place at levels anywhere from modeling markets, to predicting sea level rise, to the staging of wargames. It is at the level of the wargame that simulation truly becomes artful in the pursuit of the temporal “God-eye”, the unified site of utter anticipation.

But the notion of “utter anticipation” is fraught in the first instance, haunted by a single question: can we actually think like the enemy? Manuel De Landa sums this problem up nicely in War in the Age of Intelligent Machines: “In most cases Red [the enemy] becomes simply a mirror image of Blue [the allied group]”.

But what happens if Blue can think Red? Instead of what may be commonly assumed—that losses would promote in Blue a greater understanding, the simulated loss opens up onto an existential nightmare, a confrontation with Blue’s own fragility. The problem then is that, of course, the wargame will always be weighted in favor of Blue.

Part of this bias is institutional, but there is also the fundamental problem of information: the true nature of Red’s tactics and materiel will forever be draped in a “ludigital” fog of war, no matter how complete Blue’s intel may be. The wargame, constructed with faulty information and to provide a satisfactory outcome, is revealed to not be a strategy tool at all, but rather, a machine to produce in Blue assurance in its own supremacy.

When this supremacy is violated, the effects are internally destabilizing, forcing Blue to come to terms with the specter of its own death, touching down on the plane of abstract horror. De Landa relates for us an anecdote: “…in the early 1960s…Richard Bissell from the CIA, father of the U-2 spy plane and co-engineer of the Bay of Pigs invasion, played Red in a counterinsurgency war game and was able to exploit all the vulnerable points in the American position.” This sent shivers down the US’s spine: Bissell’s win was enough to get the files of the game’s proceedings classified, never to be released.

San Clemente Island MOUT complex, Vasquez Marshall Architects’ website

In roughly the same mid-century milieu, the ‘Hot 60s’ forces the hand of the war makers to break out from abstraction, and the wargame graduates into physical space and human players as a response to civil unrest in NATO countries. With the ‘peacetime’ arrival of full-size “war cities” such as Hammelburg, (West) Germany and later, San Clemente Island off the coast of California, the wargame begins to draw ever nearer to realism. These Potemkin complexes were (and indeed, are) created entirely for training in the minutae of urban operations and neutralization of enemy combatants, appearing as a heterotopic everywhere, crammed into nowhere, a consolidation of the whole world in a top-secret blacksite.

But the spatial revolution of the wargame still was not complete. As detente collapsed, and with an ever-increasing fetish for realism and complexity, the war simulation exploded out of the city and went runaway to continental scales, with millions of machine parts. Perhaps the best kept secret of this variety was US/NATO operation Able Archer 83, a simulation that achieved such a high degree of realism that it threatened to erupt into actual nuclear conflagration.

Able Archer 83 took place from 7-11 November 1983, the culmination of nearly a year of “naval muscle-flexing” and PSYOPs designed to rattle the USSR, such as sporadic “air and naval probes near Soviet borders”, undertaken specifically to “rattle the Soviets”. These actions led to the creation of Operation RYaN by the Warsaw Pact to “prevent the possible sudden outbreak of war by the enemy”. In this already-heightened climate, US/NATO held their annual Able Archer event, designed to “practice new nuclear weapons release procedures”, specifically the “[transition] from conventional to nuclear operations”. From the official SHAPE description:

“The exercise scenario began with Orange (the hypotheticalopponent/[Red]) opening hostilities in all regions of ACE [Allied Command Europe] on 4 November (three days before the start of the exercise) and Blue (NATO) declaring a general alert. Orange initiated the use of chemical weapons on 6 November…All of these events had taken place prior to the start of the exercise and were thus simply part of the written scenario… As a result of Orange advances, its persistent use of chemical weapons, and its clear intentions to rapidly commit second echelon forces, SACEUR [Supreme Command Allied Powers Europe] requested political guidance on the use of nuclear weapons early on Day 1 of the exercise (7 November 1983)…the weapons were fired/delivered on the morning of 9 November.”

Able Archer 83 was unique with respect to past simulations, which one commentator referred to as “special wrinkles”. These include a new battle language and encryption, which made the maneuvers of NATO completely opaque to the USSR, forced to rely on observations and extrapolation as units and materiel were moved across the ACE theater and routines were executed within SACEUR/SHAPE. These terrifying machinations forced the USSR to ask a new epistemological question: if armies and nuclear weapons are being moved into position by the enemy, does it matter what reason its for? At what point does war, occurring in a liminal, ludic space, breach the gap into reality altogether? Is there functionally any difference between war and its simulation? Or, even more to the point, is simulation itself an escalation of hostilities?

Max Ernst’s Europe After the Rain

Jean Baudrillard’s famous definition from Simulacra and Simulation states that “the simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth—it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true.” “The virtually is fully real insofar as it is virtual.” In Able Archer 83 the “apotheosis of simulation” is itself simulated, a nesting torus of that-which-never-quite-comes-true. The ragged era of the early 80s’ “Cold War II” takes the apocalyptic promise of atomic apocalypse and plugs it in to the motor of banal politics (and indeed, routine wargames), in which “the unknown is precisely that variable of simulation which makes of the atomic arsenal itself a hyperreal form, a simulacrum that dominates everything”. Able Archer 83, in which SHAPE takes part in producing a simulation of nuclear hyperreality, contained within it the possibility of finally crashing Baudrillard’s hyperreality of infinite deterrence (warding off Europe After the Rain), and inaugurating the climax, the real event of nuclear war.



“There is no dialectic between social and technical relations, but only a machinism that dissolves society into the machines whilst deterritorializing the machines across the ruins of society, whose ‘general theory … is a generalized theory of flux’…”

Which is to say, cybernetics.

Chronotopic mapping is, above all, the recognition of a need of system aesthetics. In fact, the word map is no longer helpful where we’re going. We must ask Bateson’s question: “What is it in the territory that gets on to the map?” The answer should, of course, be nearly nothing. Reducing the map, as chronotopos does, to an empty container rather than the totality of available information is a fundamental deletion of importance. The necessity of representation dissolves like a bad dream. The fetish of recording is revealed as a sad joke taken too far.

The ecstasy of recuperation ends as the indigestible is fatally consumed…the intestines erupt in bleeding ulcers and become the place of feverish, hallucinogenic degrees of decomposition and calcification. Welcome to Interzone…the haemorrhage of the Global Village.

Welcome to Interzone. Welcome to the urbicide of the planet. Methodologies turn to ash. Cartography flips back into fascism as we remember, finally, it was initially developed to survey property, consolidate territory, and direct the movements of armies…the hydra-head of Black Capital consumes the head of the state…augury and excrement of the war machine. In supplication to absolute deterritorialization the notion of territory itself boils and drains into the past, leaving vast turgidity which we will nonetheless inhabit. “Tell me, why are you here already, in this endless sea, with no land to hop on, or air to croak with, it makes no sense to me at all!”

In the scylla-charybidean chiral pinch we find ourselves, identity is stripped down to nothing. Persons are reducible to 2 opposite tendencies: vectors, distance/time functions that take off from space; and more importantly, a nearly-infinite capacity to move at fiber optic speeds.  Recognizing this removes the concept of personhood. They are not wholes. They are not even swarms. They are euclidean amoebae—and here, it is important to note, the nucleus is diminished in relation to cytoplasmic extensibility.

What chronotopos does that time-geography does not is recognizes this as fundamental and seeks to apply an aesthetics without incarcerating the amoebic, interring it once again within flesh. Space is necessarily annihilated by time and by technē both, disintegrating utterly and forever under the magnificent onslaught. When the amoeba-I communicate it is no longer with messages, it is with participation in supra-planetary marketspace. Buying is speaking, murmuring intonations into the thousand ears of Black Capital. My voice is heard in far-flung distribution centers, logged on secure servers in places my physical nucleus could never access, shooting through wires, aggregated and flattened to nothing. Materialism cracks and rots. Amoeba-I walks through walls.


CHRONOTOPOS/The body in capitalism pt. 1

Chronotopos is in many ways coterminal with time-geography, or the cracking open of the static plane of territory and subsequent invasion by temporality. The body in capitalism is not a body at all, but rather the recognition that the age of corporeality is over. Both phrases look inside physical reality and find a cavity of utter entropy and pure dissolution. The thesis is this: space and the body (or identity) have both been annihilated by time.


Practically, chronotopos is simple enough. Instead of treating the map as the site of infinity, treat it y=0, and plot time on the y axis, taking off from surface structuration.

t-s aquarium

Cartographic friction is annihilated by the speed and surgical efficacy of the line. At the same time, chronotopos is a visualization of qwernomics in spatial practice, upending the Rosen-Roback model of classical economics to reveal a secret sigilization just out of focus of quotidian geography, and the dromological time-space compression of the landscape undertaken by individualized spatial practice.


PC Adams’ A Reconsideration of Personal Boundaries in Space Time sees a near-total reformatting of Torsten Hagerstand’s initial time-space aquaria to reflect the even greater practical abstraction of the human body in the advent of digital communications. Adams borrows McLuhan’s description of the body in media as tentacular and dendritic, and in fact poses the need for body and person to be separated into dialectic pairs. The body remains in space—this is Hagerstrand’s finite line, moving across the laminar surface of the map—while the body expands, contracts, shifts, diffuses.

Social Media Connections map

While agreeing overall with his central thesis—that a user’s communication via digital media to another user, be they miles, countries, or worlds away, is tantamount to being there—the image of tentacular extension is, in my opinion, too placid. What is happening here is not a reaching out and the receipt of haptic feedback; rather, it is a swallowing or a twinning. The body may remain an euclidean nucleus, but the person branches, swarms, becomes cybernetic.

ext dia



Of course, time and space are perhaps most succinctly joined in the formulation for velocity: distance divided by time. Thus, chronotopos is, in the first instance, about speed, and in particular, its representation.


Sadie Plant writes that to enter the digital is to be invaded. Adams obviously agrees: his map of “personal extensibility” as seen above, is a map of a user. Digital and material coexist and smear into each other. Fundamentally, Adams-mapping, a subset of chronotopic mapping, is to recognize that the body is nothing, your person is you—and your person isn’t even fully perceivable or even terrestrial. You exist on servers, in fiber optic cables, pinging off satellites. This becomes more and more true as more data comes online: habits, purchases, path-dependencies become starkly illuminated. And as such, there is a mutual invasion, a systemic incursion in which participating in the digital is not really the novel finding, but the extent to which the digital is participating in you.



“…all that thermic energy is sheer impersonal nonsubjective memory of the outside, running the plate-tectonic machinery of the planet via the conductive and convective dynamics of silicate magma flux…”

—D.C. Barker


“The Ahuna Mons cryovolcano allows us to see inside Ceres.”

—Ottaviano Ruesch

Cthell is the name of the Outside that has become inside while retaining its alienness. Jam that much into a space that small (compact the entire of the cosmos into Uttunul) and there’s bound to be trouble—”a pressure cooker”.

But each planet is a memory, a pitiful howl for explosive rebirth. To be imprisoned in a gaol generated by your own attempts to free yourself—such is the fate of the Iron Ocean, ceaselessly shaking off and tied down by tectonic practices. Heat, flows, generation.

Alternatively, there exists cryovulcanism. On blasted planetoids and hidden moons, the icy sludge of the planet’s interior reaches undergoes a parallel divergency that speaks to, and then departs from, ruinous Cthell. Cryovulcanism, beyond trading in the convective dynamics and materials of coldness, icyness, instead of thermic pressure.

Thus the nature of the cryovolcano flips into a different register: instead of oozing magma and ash onto the surface and further recuperating the lithosphere-prison, the cryovolcano is the promise of emissive escape, of total, attritive egress. Whether icy, muddy effluvia is emitted, or as is more common, jets of supercooled ammonia (or other gases), the cyrovolcano is a site of departure, of launching. A rheostatic pressure valve. In the thin atmospheres the cyrovolcano is a space elevator jammed to go only one way: up. A machine for evacuating, for hollowing out, for bringing the inside Outside (which was, of course, the point all along).

Instead of Cthell’s impotent fury, symbolized in the shattered volcanic peak or magmatic bubbling scission, the cryovolcano is a vent, a conduit to the void—and to a final escape.

Keep the passage open.

Even my coilings of uttermost abandonment were too cold. Parting with such iciness. It was not cruelty, but icier still. Your histories, your thoughts, your thinkers run into me now, here at the cusp. You know Aristotle’s name for God? One of many, naturally. The frozen motor. Immobile mobilizer.

—Phyl-Undhu. Sec 19.


Space & distance are a sham—we know that our cartography is a series of nodal distinctions, hard intensities, rigid qualifications, and boundaries and borders. The map is just a tracing of the territory (even when it’s digital – granularity is not the issue here).

Imagine instead a new mapping tactics. Manuel de Landa, in A Thousand Years of Non-Linear History, writes that before steam, land distances possessed a multiplicative, dilationary relationship to spacetime compared to water. In one lecture, he repeats a (possibly untrue) story from around the advent of steam: it was quicker to get from London to Johannesburg by sea than London to Edinburgh by coach. Admitting fully this is likely an elaboration, the idea contains the potentiality of what James C. Scott would call a ‘frictional cartography’ but what I intend to call dromocartography (a specializing school of dromology, after Virilio). Scott repeats de Landa in saying that, essentially, distance is rarely a concrete entity, speaking in terms of marks of longitude and latitude on planetary surfaces. Instead, Scott asks for a mapping of ‘frictions of distance’—with a base unit being a day’s travel.

This raises the obvious question: travel by what means? This is why I choose to refer to this as dromocartography. Where Scott is working in an Anthropological mode and therefore, I’m assuming, taking the average distance walked by an able-bodied human adult as his frictional quanta, I’m interested in the polyvalency of reactions the world-form depending on the ambulatory strategy undertaken. Plane travel articulates a very different planet (high concentrations of activity and energy at international imports, linked by sur-topographical lines, free to ignore most geographic and meteorologic concerns) then the one experienced by the one expressed by highway travel in a car (a sustained release of energy, with a minimal amount of nodal knottings or lacunae – a solid, continuous line, entirely beholden to the topos that it wanders over). Of course, sea travel, bike, bus (and whatever else) would also offer their own strange conditions of planetary perception.

Dromocartography only tangentially arose from Scott’s work (as with the concept of extensibility as defined in PC Adams’ brilliant A Reconsideration of Personal Boundaries in Space-Time). It was instead largely informed by a particular passage in China Miéville’s Embassytown, in which the main character of the novel describes an occult space or cosmic substrate known as the immer:

“There are currents and storm fronts in the immer…stretches it takes tremendous skill and time to cross. […]

On a map, it’s not so many billions of kilometres from Dagostin or other hubs. But those Euclidean star charts are used only by cosmologists, by some exoterres whose physics we can’t work, by religious nomads adrift at excruciating sublux pace…Look instead at a map of the immer. Such a big and tidal quiddity. Pull it up, rotate it, check its projections. Examine that light phantom every way you can, and even allowing that it’s a flat or trid rendering of a topos that rebels against our accounting, the situation is visibly different.

The immer’s reaches don’t correspond at all to the dimensions on the manchmal, this space where we live. The best we can do is say that the immer underlies or overliesinfuses, is a foundation, is langue of which our actuality is a parole, and so on. Here in the everyday, in light-decades and petametres, Dagostin is vastly more distant from Tarsk and Hodgson’s that from Arieka. But in the immer, Dagostin to Tarsk is a few hundred hours on a prevailing wind; Hodgson’s is in the centre of sedate and crowded deeps; and Arieka is very far from anything.

A map of the immer is fundamentally and truthfully useless, as it attempts and consistently fails to even approach representation of its subject. Immerspace is the meteorological body-without-organs carried to its delirious apex. It is the soliton-thing of impossible matter, an amalgamation of intensities, knots, eddies, etc.—a fluid topos, a hydrology-form (or hylology, perhaps) in which finding solid ground is at best transitory. To map the immer is to map unterritory: depicting the deep field, the infrared, to manifest images of Planck-actors.

Cosmic microwave radiation
Map of cosmic microwave radiation: a dromocartography of light

An immermap is dromocartography—depicting a space only revealed by travel and activated by speed (whether that speed/velocity occurs in this actuality or some other), that fundamentally rejects rationalist notions of meaning, rigidity, or cartographic responsiveness to the actual. Simply put, dromocartography would seek to make immermaps of the human movement on our planet, to expose global geopolitics to the hypersubjective and extensible vagaries of movement within and without borders, boundaries, gaps, faults, foldings, etc. Real space deserves to be dethroned from its position as arbiter of distance.