We live in a world stuck on fast-forward.  In the digital age automation is non-stop as AI disrupts industries from advertising to finance.  The merging of the human and digital worlds draws ever nearer, political paradigms shift in the blink of an eye, and everything we thought solid melts into air. It’s a state of affairs that was predicted, theorised and even celebrated by a radical group of intellectuals: the Accelerationists.

Accelerationists argue that technology and capitalism should be sped up and pushed to the extreme.  Against conservatism, socialism or environmental concerns, they favour increased automation, deregulation, the shrinking of the state and the fusion of man and machine.  Are we in the midst of a technological boom time?  Go faster!  Are we ever more dependent on gadgets?  Bring on the age of the cyborg!

As a movement, the Accelerationists came together at Warwick University around rogue academic, Nick Land.  Influenced as much by science fiction as philosophy, they endorsed novelist JG Ballard’s view that, ‘what the writers of modern science fiction do today, you and I will do tomorrow.’   In the 1990s they formed the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU), which published texts with titles like Swarmachines that often stray into unreadability in their attempts to imagine the future:

‘Urban shock-out short-circuits alphaville eurobotics, jacking up non-organic intersentience – fluxing markets with riotswarm technix racing out of it’s face.’

Heady stuff.  By the end of the 90s, Nick Land had taken to living in his office and delivering lectures while lying on the floor.  The CCRU abandoned academia and for a time had its HQ in a rented room above the Body Shop in Leamington Spa.  The group eventually split and Land wound up in Shanghai, where he has since become an ideologue of the alt-right.

In recent years, Accelerationism has proliferated and gained in cultural influence.  The recent publication of Inventing the Future by Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek, authors of the 2013 Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics, has moved ideas initiated by Nick Land and the CCRU to the political left.  Inventing the Future looks towards a society where work has already been fully automated and asks how it can be made liveable.  ‘Demand full automation.  Demand universal basic income.  Demand the future.’

Accelerationist ideas have also been taken up in Silicon Valley where they have found a natural home amongst thinkers, programmers and entrepreneurs who believe that traditional politics can be set aside in favour of technological solutions to social and economic problems.  The movement has even found its way into music via the Hyperdub label and artists like Kode9 and Burial.

As we rush towards a world of intelligent machines, driverless cars, genetic enhancement and electronic prostheses, we can at least reassure ourselves that the Accelerationists got their first.  As one observer of the movement has pointed out, ‘Like it or not, we are all Accelerationists now.’