I’ve been watching the Adam Curtis series “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace” on iPlayer this evening – have just had to break off at the beginning of the second episode in the interests of familial peace. I hope to catch the rest of it all before tomorrow’s cut-off date at 10 pm. As I just pointed out on Twitter:
Just seen first episode of AWOBMOLG. Now feel I’ve been a very stupid thoughtsmith.
We’ve been well and truly had by the financial elites, haven’t we? Lordy, how stupid we all really have been.
Though at the time of writing I’ve only had a chance to catch the intro, the second episode seems a fascinating second bite at what has clearly become an omnipresent apple. Wikipedia has the following to say on the thesis of this episode (the bold is mine):
This episode investigates how machine ideas such as cybernetics and systems theory were applied to natural ecosystems, and how this relates to the false idea that there is a balance of nature. Cybernetics has been applied to human beings to attempt to build societies without central control, self organising networks built of people, based on a fantasy view of nature.
And yet, interestingly, in their machine-like manifestations, those self organising networks the Randians of Silicon Valley have dreamed about for so long do actually work these days – at least in their most primitive manifestations: that is to say, as machines communicating with other machines. I can’t remember whether it was Roland Barthes who used the unicorn as an example of how human beings can create their very own intangible realities out of components of the real world – but in this case, it seems to me that in the machines Curtis so berates them for the Randians have manufactured latterday unicorns. They have taken parts of the real world and built absolutely tangible fantasies. An even more splendid oxymoron than the first.
The problem, as Curtis rightly points out, is that such tangible fantasies have a wild and fearful habit of overtaking their (tautologically) real realities. And I’m very afraid that what’s happening at the moment in our economic and political stratospheres is a process of tremendous self-denial which, in a very short timeframe, will end up leading to our total downfall. All these brilliant, bright and breezy thinkers – the real revolutionaries of the 21st century; those who, through their brilliance, have brought first the Asian and now the Western economies to their knees – will essentially be thinking:
“Hey, these ideas are just too good for us to give up on them just because millions of ordinary folk have suffered their inexact implementation. Why not let’s try all over again! But this time, let’s give them due and proper space to flourish exactly as they were meant to …”
All I can say is beware the latterday unicorns of the gloriously clever Randians who control and define our beloved web. A fantasy, however workable, can lead to other fantasies of a quite different nature – and there may come a time when the hubris of the singularly original might prevent them from being able to distinguish worldly fact from a very hopeful fiction.
In fact, I may yet be converted to the most traditional pyramid politics of all.
You never know. Stranger things have happened.
On the other hand, I might decide to up sticks and invent my own …