Tag: technopoly

[dispatch] dilapidation and ambient fragility

Two things from 95 Theses on Innovation.

  1. Dilapidation

    As material milieu and spiritual environment, and its unexplored consequences on our imagination. Fruitful connection with the kenotic heart of Christian aesthetic and spiritual sensibilities. Connections between the dilapidated and the wasteland (an urban wilderness?) I guess its explored in post-apocalyptic literature quite a bit (McCarthy for me).

    “Every technology, then, embodies some distinct set of values, [expresses its own style].. If we look deeper, we see that our real technological style is Dilapidation. our technological values are best embodied by collapsing buildings, rotting bridges, and abandoned, trash-strewn lots. It is the physical and infrastructural outcome of “creative destruction.” Throughout the nation, deindustrialized, Rust Belt cities molder.. if you want to see who we are, go to Detroit… Infrastructure and the poor belong to a massive shadow nation that haunts this country.”

  2.  The Technological Myth = Fear = Sickness

The Age of Innovation is an Age of Anxiety… innovation-speak is a language of fear.. “basically it’s a language of coercion that implies to people that their lives are fragile, that is charged with that kind of unspecified fear that makes people… it’s meant to make people feel that they can’t get their feet on the ground” (Marilynne Robinson).. “In any case, the spirit of the times is one of joyless urgency.

Lee Vinsel then adds, “news outlets constantly run stories on prevalent diseases that share a major cause: stress”. The majority of people I know are chronically ill, especially young people, and it’s the same in their circles too. Anecdotally evidence is not evidence but what is going on? Something is. Chronic illness is in some sense a modern phenomena, but what can be be talking here mass unrecognised (or hidden) environmental pollution (micro-plastics, food toxins, MCS, EMF)? A-type personality character pre-disposition? Or here, perhaps, a part of the picture; a cultural environment submerged in ambient stress.



[dispatch] mumford, caesar, augustine

A: The Magnificent Bribe — Real Life

‘The Good Life’ vs ‘the Goods Life’ – 8/10

“the need to assimilate the machine to human values and needs, lest the machine’s values and needs be prioritized”

Q: can the machine be assimilated to human values? if not, was it ever possible? if yes, when did it stop being possible?

a split between “authoritarian” and “democratic” types of technologies – 9/10

Whereas rulers had long fantasized about observing every act of the populace, the computer actually made this possible; whereas rulers had dreamt of harnessing the destructive power of the deities, nuclear bombs now gave them this might.

Caesar the god

Kafka has a lot to say of use here on how rulers work. The desires of the will to power don’t change, the capacity to fulfil them does.
Technology has made Caesar into a god. He has “harnessed the destructive powers of the deities”—that connection was never lucid until I read this simple articulation. The all-seeing-eye-as-computer is in 1984, the atomic-bomb-as-Sodom is not. It’s like the ideological dreams of Caesarism have went from myth to fact in the 20th century. Which makes knowing what those dreams always were pertinent (see Kafka and Cochrane).

But there’s also something here in the delay; myth has definitively become fact already, we live in the fall out of that metaphysical detonation. Myth became fact, God became man and killed leviathan, and proceeded to eat imperial paganism from the inside out, but it took centuries to see the political reconfiguration. Leviathan became a god in the 20th century, but the Apocalypse didn’t arrive straight away, in fact a stagnation did. So technology has made Caesar into a god in a world where God has already made man into a god for millennia. This century; god games.

Walter M. Miller Jr.:

Always culminates in the colossus of the State, somehow, drawing about itself the mantle of godhood, being struck down by wrath of Heaven. Why? We shouted it loudly enough-God’s to be obeyed by nations as by men. Caesar’s to be God’s policeman, not His plenipotentiary successor, not His heir. To all ages, all peoples-“Whoever exalts a race or a State or a particular form of State or the depositories of power… whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God…”… But when Caesar got the means to destroy the world, wasn’t he already divinized? Only by the consent of the people-same rabble that shouted: “Non habemus regem nisi caesarem,” when confronted by Him-God Incarnate, mocked and spat upon…“Caesar’s divinity is showing again.”

“Non habemus regem nisi caesarem”

“Only by the consent of the people”, is the point DeBoer makes “every aspect of this is a product of human choice”, and I’m not sure where that fits. Some maxim like, “idols can only be upheld by the the people”, the human will is always a necessary ingredient in idolatry. “Non habemus regem nisi caesarem” then becomes some kind of human/state universal; the creed of idolatry.

The Bomb and the Computer

Symbolism here too, just how much of the best of modern American literature and art takes place in the bomb’s desert. The Mushroom (cloud and psychedelic) ties together consciousness and material divinisation, the Rocket ties together the bomb and the space frontier. Don’t have a handle on the symbolism of the computer.

time and again he emphasized that what needed to be confronted was not so much the machines themselves as the ideology that builds up around them and turns them into objects of fealty and worship.. “If you fall in love with a machine there is something wrong with your love-life. If you worship a machine there is something wrong with your religion.”

This frames the problem of technique as one of disordered loves, which is also a new insight for me and it connects with the state idolatry above. What is the Augustinian response to technocracy?
Is the defect in our love-lifes a human constant or is there something particular and pernicious that occurred in the West?  We who have the one true religion? New ways of framing old questions.

The Ghost Inside?

But further, if it’s the human penchant for idolatry and the subsequent ideology (the myth of Progress etc) that is the corrupting factor—that it is us not the machines that need confronted—where does that leave the ontological status of the machine?

Perhaps then in this framing the kind of story Kingsnorth is telling is guilty of rank anthropomorphisation? Projecting onto ‘the machine’ a volition and cunning that just simply isn’t there, there is no ghost inside. Is it possible that a pejorative picture of the machine is beginning to hold us anti-moderns captive? In all these claims about the machine its actual status, its capacity for volition and choice is never addressed head on. Its only way of getting it is to be hooked up to something sentient so far as I can see. An emergent sentience from humanity (like the internet might manifest) or from some other being (ie. a demon)

But even the existence of that question forces the question back off of that, the question at the heart of Christian demonology. So these themes are plugged in to something ancient. The ontological status of higher powers, with all its tendrils and roots in the history of (dis)enchantment. And that’s something I have no grasp on at all reallly, but Jacobs has recommendations. Like I asked in the sotu:

“What is the ontological status of the Machine and how does it relate to the Principalities and Powers? Is it one? How central is it in the history of human corruption?”

google’s earth

Landscape by Myfanwy Tristram
“Landscape with Stamps” Draft, Myfanwy Tristram.

In which I ask: why does my imagination have a map fetish?

The Convivial Society: Vol. 2, No. 17 :

..technological change not only transforms the texture of everyday life, it also alters the architecture and furniture of our mental spaces.. technologies of communication shape how we come to understand both the world and the self. They shape our perception, they supply root metaphors and symbols, they alter the way we experience our senses, they generate social hierarchies of value, and they structure how we remember..

Pretty standard tech critique phenomenology.. nothing standard about the implications though. Aside from historical implications, like technology probably being the most potent casual factor of modernity, each of us should (I think) be ever vigilant for how this cashes out in our own internal lives. Treating yourself like a computer is probably the most prevalent form. But while Postman,

would forbid anyone from talking about the new information technologies unless the person can demonstrate that he or she knows something about the social and psychic effects of the alphabet, the mechanical clock, the printing press, and television (to which we must now add the internet, the newsfeed, the smartphone camera etc.)

I think the same caveat might now be said about a basic self understanding, “Know Thyself” is more and more shaping up to practically meaning “Know the Technological History of Modernity‘, which is to say “Know the technologies which created the self you are and how you are being continually accelerated toward another yet-undefined and perhaps deleterious version of that self”.

Anyway, enough theory. But it’s context for my being struck recently by how dominated my internal “mental spaces” seem to be by the satellite-eye view. This shows up strongest with future-projection, especially w/r/t the search for meaningful community: would a life in that city doing that activity be fulfilling? could a life rooted here in this region be fulfilling? should I try to study in that foreign city? But with all these ponderings my mind was representing them in spacial, and explicitly cartographic, image reels—my imagination was completely in thrall to them.


sotu fall 2021

Eschatological Media Ecology

I’ve been thinking lately that if I had to summarise the themes someone would find here, “Eschatological Media Ecology” wouldn’t be a bad start. Some nexus of the History of Ideas, an absolutely serious engagement with special revelation’s dictate for history and the eschaton (with special reference to John’s Apocalypse), mixed with an uncertain but ever-growing conviction in the centrality of the Machine and the Antichrist (the metaphysical status of technocracy and institutionalised agape respectively).

The End at the Start of the 21st Century: Status Reports

Mostly how those themes cash out in the early 21st century is surveillance capitalism, system’s thinking, the status of the supposed ‘End of the West’, the Great Upheaval, the ever approaching cultural capitulation—the big something that’s supposedly just around corner and relates to all of the above—a serious questioning of the status of church critique (valid? if so how much, how far, and on what specifically?), bleeding into the felt need pervading Christendom to rehabilitate the body, just as much as our communities, the need for roots, to be sacramentally ‘plugged into’ this earth as it dies.

The current limitless insanity of economy, consumption, pollution, mobility and personhood ties the need for a New Erotics to the unfolding identity insanity (cf. Successor Ideology), mostly of the sexual kind. And is being a Christ-facist an insult or a high compliment, is being a Humanist heretical or the only defence against inhumanity? I still don’t know.

The Technological History of Modernity

A key fingerpost for all this is the technological history of modernity as articulated by Alan Jacobs, and it’s consequences for the history of ideas (or to put it in Taylorian terms: The Diachronic Question) and the stories smart Christians tell themselves about how we got here: buffered rootless gnostic techno-Mammon worshippers—you know the spiel.

The Ontological Status of the Machine

Principalities and Powers play a key role in whatever this story is, and they’re the link between a New Theology of the Antichrist (spawning from the extent to which the institutionalisation of the gospel has itself spawned modernities various idolatries/gods, Illich’s unnerving gift to the world) and the Machine, the reifying mythic name given to technology-as-god by R.S. Thomas.

How far back do the origins of the Machine reach, how implicated is language-as-technology, what does that mean for a linguistic special revelation, and chronologically for human flourishing, redemption, and Darwinian theory? ie. Is special revelation a response to the advent of the Machine? Did humans flourish best in the Upper Paleolithic1?

What is the ontological status of the Machine and how does it relate to the Principalities and Powers? Is it one? How central is it in the history of human corruption? Has something new, unique, manifest in our centuries? And what do all these themes mean for space exploration, digital humanism, the potential for transhumanism, the future of the internet, the church, the body, the Apocalypse?

And that leaves out dreams, altered states of consciousness, the status of psychedelics, the unreality of time, and ego death. Perhaps in a different post.