Bernard Stiegler has rightly observed that “we are now in the midst of a revolution in cultural and cognitive technologies, and in the very foundations of knowledge.” It is a revolution in which “intelligence must wage a battle for intelligence” against psychotechnological systems of psychopower which function as “attention control apparatuses” which destroy attention, and responsibility with it. One might reformulate Stiegler’s description of the revolution in contemporary cultural and cognitive technologies in Arendtian terms as “a battle for the life of the mind,” which would constitute a resistance against all forms of technological hegemony that seek to eliminate human spontaneity, as it is exhibited in the human capacities to think, will, and judge.
Stiegler has noted the similarity between psychopower and education. Education, according to Stiegler, is attention formation. As he explains, to “capture attention is to form it… and to form it is to capture it.” Attention formation has historically taken place through psychotechniques such as reading or writing. These psychotechniques form attention through “the play of retentions and protentions individually and collectively.” Here it is possible to map Arendt’s activities of the life of the mind onto Stiegler’s model of intelligence. Retention can be understood as judging, which is concerned with the past and relies on the retentive (hypomnesis) and productive (anamnesis) capacities of the imagination. Protention can be understood as willing, with its concern for future projects. Attention can be understood as thinking, the inner dialogue which interacts with the other activities. Stiegler explains how these capacities develop through the use of psychotechnics:
The formation of at-tention always consists of the psychotechnical accumulation of re-tentions and pro-tentions. Attention is the flow of consciousness, which is temporal and, as such, is created initially by what Husserl analyszes as “primary” retentions – “primary” because they consist of apparent (present) objects whose shapes I retain as though they were themselves present. This retention, called “primary” precisely because it occurs in perception, is then “conditioned” by “secondary” retentions, as the past of the attentive consciousness – as its “experience.” Linking certain primary retentions with secondary retentions, consciousness projects protentions, as anticipation. The constitution of attention results from the accumulation of both primary and secondary retentions, and the projection of protentions as anticipation.