Collapse VIII published
18 Dec 2014

We are delighted to announce the publication of Collapse Volume VIII: Casino Real.

Please visit our web store to purchase. A PDF preview of the editorial introduction to the volume is also available here.
Contributors: Sean Ashton and Nigel Cooke, Elie Ayache, Amanda Beech, Michel Bitbol, Jean Cavaillès, Milan Cirkovic, John M. Coates, Mark Gurnell and Zoltan Sarnyai, Steve Forte, GegenSichKollektiv, Nick Land, Jaspar Joseph-Lester, Sam Lewitt, Suhail Malik, Quentin Meillassoux, Jean-Luc Moulène, Anders Kristian Munk, Jon Roffe, Natasha Dow Schüll, Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, David Walsh, Fernando Zalamea.
Collapse VIII examines a pervasive image of thought drawn from games of chance. In order to survey those practices in which intellectual resources are most acutely concentrated on the production and exploitation of risk, and to uncover the conceptual underpinnings of methods developed to extract value from contingency – in the casino, in the markets, in life – the volume brings together contributors who extend the philosophical thinking of contingency beyond the 'casino' model, gamblers whose experience gives them the authority to considerably refine our understanding of what it means to master chance, researchers who analyse the operation and experience of risk in diverse arenas, and artists whose work addresses both the desire to confront chance and the desire to tame it by bringing it to order.
Contents of Volume VIII are as follows:
– The volume opens with Jean Cavaillès's 1940 survey of the state of the art in probability theory in the first half of the twentieth century. Through a technical dissection of the core concepts of a nascent probability calculus, he extracts some fundamental problematics that act as a guiding thread throughout the volume.
– One of the most intriguing ways to encounter the disparity between idealised models and actual instances of games of chance is from the point of view of those who attempt to pry open the gap between the two. Game protection expert Steve Forte granted Collapse a very rare interview to discuss his career as a player and as a consultant at the world's top casinos. Detailing a choice selection of exploits, Forte gives us an insight both into the skill and dedication necessary to beat the house, and that called for on the other side of the table to detect scams.
– In 'Engineering Chance', Natasha Dow Schüll describes a casino environment where automation and player control seem to be almost total, and where the very desire to win has itself morphed into something new and disturbing. Her research into the world of machine gambling reveals an industry specialising in the engineering of 'the zone'–a state of continuous, immobile narcolepsy–a case study in what Deleuze called the 'control society'.
Jaspar Joseph-Lester's photo-essay focuses on the Wedding district of Berlin, remarkable for its concentration of small casinos, documenting the situation and formal characteristics of these deracinated spaces for zoned-out gamblers.
– In an interview with David Walsh, whose sports betting syndicate The Bank Roll is one of the most successful in the world, he affords us some insights into his own system and reflects upon his career and his latter day role as art collector and director of the underground 'unmuseum' MONA, emphasising the vicissitudes of chance in life, and how selection effects colour our perceptions of fortune, success, and failure.
– With an overview of statistical flood modelling, Anders Kristian Munk brings us into the heart of the contemporary manufacture of risk enabled by such models. Here risk models emerge as a particular form of science-fiction, wherein the 'fictitious' capacities of physical modelling are cultivated and activated by the application of the probability framework.
Nick Land addresses the ascendancy of risk as a mode of thinking, and its seismic historical effects, in a grand synthesis that 'transcendentalises' the notion of 'casino capitalism': the inherence of risk to modernity makes of capitalism the system for which, at the (immanent) limit, the casino has become the stake, fully unleashing the disruptive capacity of the pursuit of risk via its effective commodification and unveiling a horizon of existential risk.
– In 'The Greatest Gamble in History', Milan Cirkovic also meditates on existential risk, from the point of view not of terrestrial singularity but of extraterrestrial diaspora, examining the prospect of what might seem like a 'reckless gamble' on the part of a beleaguered species — namely, a decisive collective investment in extraplanetary migration: Do we may stand more chance of surviving to take another turn if we risk stepping out of the planetary 'cradle'?
– Understanding risktaking behaviour in terms of our evolutionary inheritance, John M. Coates, Mark Gurnell and Zoltan Sarnyai provide a scientific context for 'irrational exuberance' in which it becomes evident that the mechanisms that drive these 'violations of rational choice theory' may be functional and optimizing in risk situations. Their experimental data reveals correlations between biochemical shifts in the bodies of traders and their performance in the market, and they invoke a 'neuroeconomics' that would provide the link between economic events and brain processes.
– Yet one might wonder for how long humans will play any role at all, considering the supercession of traders by various species of algorithmic 'black boxes', and the rise of high frequency trading. This increasingly inhuman ecosystem, an environment in which 'technology redefines the risk landscape itself' and 'the earth itself becomes an impediment', is explored by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams in an examination of the relations between intelligence, speed, and accelerationism.
Sam Lewitt visits the Mahwah high-speed trading datacentre, a 'disappearing monument' to a globalised automated financial network of abstraction. Taking the measure of the almost total withdrawal of finance from representation, his text reflects on the accelerated abstraction of the value-form and the forces that are mustered to defend its remaining physical outposts.
– The mathematical instruments used to price derivatives–classically, the Black-Scholes-Merton formula–are underwritten by a model that ostensibly consists in assigning numerical probabilities to future events. The work of Elie Ayache, who has spent many years dealing first-hand with the complexities of the speculative options and futures markets, presents us with a new thinking of the market entirely outside the terms of probability and prediction. In our extensive interview Ayache not only avails us of his expert knowledge of derivatives pricing technology, but clarifies and extends his critique of Taleb's 'Black Swan' model, and gives the most in-depth account yet of his pursuit of a 'philosophy of the market'.
Jon Roffe's review of the overall movement of Ayache's thought reiterates its movement 'from depth to surface, or from thought to writing', setting out the axioms of an immanent 'philosophy of the market', and taking issue with the expulsion of CDOs from the 'generalised surface of the market' it posits.
Suhail Malik's 'Ontology of Finance' supplements Ayache's understanding of the fundamental logic of derivatives with Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler's account of capital as power, drawing Ayache's thinking into the domain of the political by reading price as the medium of political order. Turning from the intrinsic logic of the market to the shifts in global power dynamics implied by the sheer volume and financial magnitude of derivatives trading, Malik seeks to combine the philosophical understanding of the nature and logic of the derivatives market with an analysis of the novel mode of capitalist power it expresses.
Quentin Meillassoux makes a welcome return to the pages of Collapse, opening a sequence of contributions that relate to the role of chance in the work of art by contextualising his recent work on Mallarmé, The Number and the Siren, in terms of his general materialist orientation, and positioning Mallarmé's Coup de dés as a materialist gesture that presents a unique solution to the predicament of the artist following the crisis of the withdrawal of all divine warrant.
Sean Ashton's short story continues the Meillassouxian theme, recounting the strange fate of a man who decides to 'put his body in the service of a philosophical notion'. This weird tale, illustrated by Nigel Cooke, describes a singular experiment that wavers undecidably between philosophy, art, and performance.
– Proposing a more violent study in the activation of chance, GegenSichKollektiv address the demand that the work of art itself must involve a risk on the part of its audience. Drawing on the work of Ray Brassier, GegenSichKollektiv's diagnosis of the current predicament of 'noise' suggests that only a dialectical articulation of the sensory and the cognitive can draw noise out of its safety zone and bring back the possibility of true risk.
– Continuing this interrogation of the relation between art and contingency are two artists&#39 works that cut through the entire volume: Jean-Luc Moulène's edition, made especially for this volume, consisting of a series of interleaved images, and Amanda Beech's enactment of the order of coincidence in a montage sequence that continually interrupts the pages of the volume.
– Three different viewpoints on contingency and probability, in philosophy, in science, and in the market, close the volume. Fernando Zalamea reminds us that the concept of absolute chance was introduced into philosophy in the late nineteenth century by Charles Sanders Peirce, in the form of his 'tychism'. As Zalamea argues, this makes of Peirce&#39s philosophy an impressively complex and subtle instrument that particularly deserves to be revisited in the context of 'transmodernism'.
Michel Bitbol demonstrates how the most recent developments of quantum theory do not escape but only deepen its extension of probabilistic thinking, further developing a 'metacontextual predictive structure' that confirms the inseparability of detection instrument, milieu, and phenomena. Once we comprehend the structure of quantum theory in this metacontextual fashion, he argues, it becomes possible to understand the quantum theory as a 'generalised theory of probability' whose potential applications reach well beyond the sphere of physics.
– In Elie Ayache's closing text, 'A Formal Deduction of the Market', he adds further precision to his concept of the market. Utilising the recent work of Glenn Shafer and Vladimir Vovk, Ayache demonstrates how the probability formalism can be stripped of its relation to concepts of repetition, time, and propensity altogether, delivering on Cavaillès's presentiment that 'it is to a more profound reform of our ideas about the real that probability calculus invites us, a reform whose magnitude we should not underestimate'.