Variant issue 27    back to issue list

The Chinese Challenge: Hallucinations for Other Futures
What can we learn from China that China is not teaching
“Interactivity is all there is to write about: it is the paradox and the horizon of realization.”
It is the paradigm of writing on which main cultures are depending. Their kind of rationality, their efficiency of technology, the way they of organize society and communication, arts and sciences, all are not to separate from their paradigm of writing. How people are involved in writing and scriptural practice is enabling their possibility of thinking and living. Main cultures always depend on their paradigm of writing. Writing in general is the most abstract mechanism and technology of cultural formations.1

European culture, the first hallucination

European culture depends on alphabetic writing and the Indian concept of Zero2 with its mechanism of positionality enabling arithmetic, a rational economy of calculation, formal and programming languages in general.3
Leibniz had a first European hallucination about Chinese writing. He conveived in his hallucination the idea of a Lingua Universalis as a base of negotational and calculable communication between peoples and nations.4 He proposed his idea in analogy to the Chinese hieroglyphs which are mediating between different spoken languages by their scripturality. To realize his dream he invented the binary number system as the most non-redunant concept for number representation and calculation. He speculated it as an European answer to the I Ching.5 Consequently, he invented on this base language-independent calculi, logic and a prototype of a mechanical calculator (computer).6
Modern European science and technology followed Leibniz’ ideas and produced binarism and digitalism in technology which is, today, the basic technological and economic force in the Western, but also in the Asian, world. But the development of technology in Europe stayed regulated and constraint by the framework of Old European theology, metaphysics and ethics.

The US-American dream

In America, European thinking and technology could get rid of its constraining metaphysical roots. Inventing “Ubiquitous Computing” , technically realized as Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Live, Cognitive Systems, Robotics, etc., it was able to realize digitalism without frontiers.7 Today, the US-American dream is exhausted.8 In its successful realization it has come to a closure. While Old Europe is still occupied with its Greek roots9, US-America, who got rid of these European limitations, now, is missing roots as inspirational resources to desing its futures. The necessary decline of America is rooted in its lack of roots. The total detachment from Europe, the lack of own grounds, culminated in digitalism and brought it to its extremes. A more radical technical speculation than the reduction of immortality of the human soul on the base of 1 and 0, as conceived in digital metaphysics, seems not to be accessible.10 All the following future USAmerican developments will appear as reiterations of its pragmatistic world-view of digitalism.
Thus, the European and US-American dream, based on Greek alphabetism, Indian number theory and Leibniz’ hallucination of a European adoption of the Chinese Model of writing has been dreamt out and lost its power to design planetarian futures.

Chinese Model of Writing

China, which didn’t develop similar philosophy11, science12 and technology13 because of the hyper-complexity of her writing, is now adopting the fruits of Western achievements. But China, for the next epoch, has an advantage to the West: it has its scriptural resources not yet exploited. China’s writing, which always was the base and guarantee of its culture and politics, is not limited by alphabetic linearism and digitalism. Linearity of Western thinking is easily mapped onto the tabularity of Chinese rationality. The process of mapping linearity onto tabularity is not producing any kind of identity-disturbance for Chinese self-understanding.
The Chinese concept of writing is tabular, multi--dimensional, embodied, open, complex and based on the experiences of the oldest cultural tradition of mankind.14 These characteristics of Chinese writing are exactly the criteria for a science, capable to deal with the problems of modern society and opening up new futures.
Hence, the challenge of China today is not its new economic power as the West is fearing and economically exploiting15, but lies in the possibility of a re-discovery of its own rationality as the base of a revolutionary technology for the future. Leaving everything American far behind.
The Chinese Challenge to the West is not economical, political or military. It is not the event of a re-awakening economic and technological China which is the Grand Challenge to the West but the possible re-discovery of the operationality of its writing system for the design of new rational formal systems, like new mathematics and new programming languages.16
Because of its occupation to adapt, at first, to the Western technology and economy, China is not yet, officially, aware about these possibilities of a new main culture for the future. Maybe, the 19th century was European, the 20th US-American, at least the 21st century will be Chinese.

Morphogrammatics, the second hallucination

Thus, my thoughts may occur, until now, as a second, post-European hallucination about the paradigm of Chinese writing. What I propose, as a first step, is to study polycontextural logic17 and morphogrammatics18 as a possible new understanding of notational systems for Chinese rationality and technology emerging beyond exhausted Western paradigms. This, with the knowledge of its risk, is a kind of an experimental hallucination capable of permanent self-deconstruction as a strategy to surpass Western, and Asian, phono-logo-centrism19 and metaphysical mono-contexturalism20 in thinking and technology. Morphogrammatics and polycontexturality as including and surpassing the Western design of thinking, computation and programming are satisfying the structural criteria of tabularity21 and complexity needed for the operative rationality of a new epoch. Hallucination always had been at the beginning of cultural revolutions. It always has been the job of cultural administration to deny it.

1. Gotthard Gunther, Villem Flusser, Arnold Gehlen, McLuhan
7. Mark Weiser,, G. Gunther, Die amerikanische Apokalypse, Kurt Klagenfurt (Ed), München; Wien 2000.
10., Moravec, H. (1988), Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence., see: Ed Fredkin, Stephen Wolfram, Holtzman
15., Andrew Neil, What China can teach the West
16. Han-liang Chang, Hallucinating the Other: Derridean Fantasies of Chinese Script
19. Archive for Derrida and Deconstructivism,
21. Gotthard Gunther,

Dr. Rudolf Kaehr, Glasgow 2006,