The Image of Man | Specter of Earth (IIII)

(a.2) Death of the Specter | Man, Reborn (continued from part III)

  1. Nature doesn’t give us a stable, safe climate that we make dangerous. It gives us an ever-changing, dangerous climate that we need to make safe.”

    • Alex Epstein

We have hitherto concretized the specter of earth; recognizing it as that aggregation of views which subtend the view that man has separated himself from nature (Sjoo’s patriarchy, the abandonment of nature, the nurturing mother) and has thus – through horrific machinations (Ellul’s technique) – become nothing but a virus, crawling out upon the face of all the world, mindlessly consuming and destroying; endlessly; pointlessly. Forever unsated. It is the summation of all beliefs that posit man-as-locust, a ceaseless, rapaciously chthonic being which has, through the acquisition of forbidden knowledge and it’s ruthless implementation, cut himself off from some predetermined essence; the key, according to the cultists of the earth, to right and proper being (harmonic accord with some idealization of “nature”). We, however, recognize this idea for what it really is, anti-human philosophy and nothing else besides. But why should philosophy even be utilized for the advancement of humanity in any wise? In section a.1 we posed the question: “Should Man continue the process of reifying his immanence, thus synthesizing the manifest and scientific images or doing away with one or the other or should he cease and desist altogether?” The answer to the question lies in a sound understanding of whether or not one cares for all that one can conceivably care for within and of oneself, first and foremost. The answer, in short, is to be found in one’s standard of evaluation, one’s hierarchy of values (elseways there can be no values but only a value); that is, to interrogate the placement of humanity (or some portion thereof) as the highest value, or, the placement of some other notion as the highest standard, such as “the good,” or “god,” or “the goddess” or, “nature.” Ellul’s declaration that, “Life in such an environment [technological society] has no meaning,”1 is symptomatic of his belief that all meaning can only come from god who made the natural world, thus, man’s dominion over nature (in effect, over god) is somehow “unnatural” and thus, meaningless, or worse, evil. This is a consequence of his hierarchy of values; which, it needs to be said, everyone implicitly possesses (for instance, everywhere is wanton and ceaseless slaughter condemned), whether they are aware of it or not. The task of making such implicit values explicit is a useful one, given that a proper cognizance of one’s values thus allows one to re-evaluate them. Failing this, one will be, by and large, at the mercy of his passions, his drives and the passions and drives of the crowd and the cognizized philosophies of those that conduct them. Upon reflection it is clear that one must hold some value, for even the most contrarian and extreme of philosophical systems of non-evaluation require it. For instance, nihilism is widely considered to be the greatest expression of negation, but this position is not actually one which can be logically held, for in declaring that everything is meaningless one is also, simultaneously, declaring that that very proclamation is itself meaningful, as the statement “everything is meaningless” is itself a statement of meaning. This is true of many such positions which attempt near or total value-negation; for instance, total relativism, just as with nihilism, is not a position which can be logically held due to the fact that the statement “everything is relative,” is, itself, a non-relativistic statement. One could continue on at length but the picture is well and clear enough. Thus, if meaning is inescapable it is merely a question of where best to allocate such meaning (the allocation of meaning being the basis of value). If a man is to allocate, at the first, his significance towards anything other than survival of the organism and it’s propagation, then he has made a grievous mistake and is likely not long for this world, for it is survival of the organism which must, of necessity, take precedence over all other values for any other values to, of necessity, be at all possible, for the dead are afforded no valuations of their own. This axiom bares no circumnavigation, for if no humans were to exist, no value (at least no human generated value) would – or even could – exist. What, after all, would it mean to say that a world which consisted of nothing but hydrogen sealed within a radiation filled vacuum had value or meaning? What would it have meaning to? If a given thing is to have meaning it must, minimally, be meaningful to some thing. There are no values without a valuer. Therefore, a world without something(s) which could establish realization(s) (thus implying qualia) would be unable to initiate intrinsic valuation and thus would also be barred from creating extrinsic, normative conceptions of value-relation (to themselves or other things), hence, meaning-as-such would be rendered impossible. Therefore, meaning-as-such, can only be found in the (self)relational dynamics of qualitative entities (organic or otherwise). The originary grounding of being then can only be found in, not consciousness itself, but in sufficiently complex2 consciousness which is capable of realizing itself as conscious. Given that humans are the only animals who we can be certain are conscious of their consciousness (due the fact we possess it), anthropocentrism must be taken up and vigorously defended against the agrestic advances of the anti-humans3if there is to be any valuation at all; which is to say, if the organism is to survive. Thus, if one’s highest value or values are contained within survival then one is also for the promulgation and spread of humanity (or some portion thereof) for that, as well, is part of survival, as the concept is not one whose interests are confined solely to the present. The application and continuation of meaning into the future then, is the ratification of those actions at a latter point in time. To further this end, to solidify this value, then, we posit the project of reifying anthropocentric immanence4. We reject and decry those who should attempt to sabotage this project by pathetic appeals to “nature” or some deity or deities. They are the whining baggage of a desiccated age that has passed them by. Away with all of them. We, in contrast, affirm that unity subordinated by intelligence and it’s direction of theoretical exploration towards practical application, is the basis of all earthly power which man has hitherto achieved and that this is a laudable undertaking but that it’s magnification and ultimate terminus is to be found in the consolidation of celestial power. We affirm that we do not exist for the earth, but that the earth exists and thus is to be used or discarded or destroyed should we so declare. Our whim alone decides its fate. We affirm that there is no harmonic accord to be found within the natural order of things in relation to the dynamics of species on the whole; it matters not how many times you fawn and praise and aid a centipede, it will, given sufficient proximity, bite you all the same; it will tear into your flesh with it’s terrible mandibles without hesitation, without empathy and, were it of comparable size to a man, would think nothing of tearing your head free of the rest of the body, swallowing it and ripping open the abdominal cavity to better feast upon the marrow. One may bow at the altar of the willowy wood or the babbling brook with ceaseless adoration, it matters not to the yellow-fanged and dark-shrouded denizens of the former and the slithering, parasitic assassins of the latter. Be not seduced, there is seldom any living organism which will hesitate to slaughter and devour if a sufficiently exigent situation arises. It has been said that dogs are “man’s best friend,” yet this friendship is so tenuous that it is discarded the moment that pangs of hunger echo throughout the gullet. Were one to fall ill before their pet-dog and that pet was sufficiently hungry, it would think nothing of sinking its fangs into the face of it’s former master and devouring his flesh. Man, the whole of nature turns against you! Know this and rejoice! For what do you owe the holos? “You owe it all,” says the envirocrat, that slavish whipping boy of the specter, “and, given our safeguarding thereof, you owe us likewise, we the heralds of the new law!” We shall reply: We owe nothing to the savage ceaseless vortex, to the endless gnawing void; we owe our allegiance to all who share our dream of overcoming and suborning it.

Despite the elucidation of such realizations, the opinion of man-as-locust is – and likely will remain – a common one. Consider the words of research biologist for the National Park Service, David M. Graber, who, in his Los Angeles Times review of The End of Nature, a book by the American environmentalist, Bill McKibben, describes mankind as “a plague.” Graber begins his piece ominously, “If you feel a wrench in the gut when both American and Soviet astronauts remark that from their space perches the Earth today appears pockmarked with deforestation, dulled by smoke and everywhere marred by human activity-”5

That last portion is really quite revealing about Graber’s rabid anti-human attitudes. “Marred by human activity.” What of all the activity of the ants or the beavers? Both species are possessed of those destructive and constructive elements held by humanity at large; both take from their constitutive environments all that is necessary to build their domiciles, the ant-hill and the beaver-dam, because it services them. Yet to the envirocrat, such deconstructive/reconstructive processes are not decried, not even remarked upon; it is not to be supposed that they do not object due to the scale (though the crucial issue should be principality), for there are many examples of ecologically transformative species who are far more numerous than human-kind. Beetles, which account for approximately 40% of all known and cataloged arthropod species, can be incredibly destructive to many inhabitants of their local environments. Take, for instance, the Mountain Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae), small and black they burrow into and hollow out trees, dispensing fungus which, given time, degrade and ultimately kills the occupied ligneous plants. According to the science-writer, Daniel Strain, the Mountain Pine Beetle has been responsible for the destruction of 13 million hectares6 of forest in British Canada in the past decade7. Every year this voracious little creature decimates 16,000 hectares of mature timber in the Kamloops of Canada alone, the primary victim being lodgepole pine, though, where it can, it will also invade and destroy poderosa, whitebark pines and western white pines8. The FIDS annual report with ancillary MOF data for the Kamloops region shows that from 1987 to 2000 tree mortality rates incurred by the beetles has remained relatively consistent, sometimes falling slightly lower than average (1990, 6000 trees destroyed) and sometimes rising much higher than average (1999, 30,700 trees destroyed). The timber loss effectuated by the pine beetles invariably proceeds to effect the entire ecology, often having profound effects upon fisheries due to the change-ups in the watershed brought about by the destruction of so many trees. This type of ecological transformation might be bad for the fish and other wildlife which rely on particularities of water-flow, but it is certainly in the interest of the pine beetles and those creatures that have formed parasitic and symbiotic relationships with them, who, through the construction of bore-tunnels, create what are referred to as brood galleries, elaborate tunnel-systems which are made within the phloem tissue of a given pine which are so distinctive that they can be used to differentiate the work of Dendroctonus ponderosae from various other types of wood-boring beetles, such as the Ips pini (whose tunnel architecture is considerably less daedal). Yet one is very, very unlikely to hear – with any regularity – environmentalists calling these beetles “a plague.” Why? The answer is either that such green-dreaming meliorists are not familiar with D. ponderosae or they are familiar with them but they simply consider the actions of the beetle to be “natural” and thus “good” (in contrast to Man who is “unnatural” and thus “bad” – a typical dogma borne out of the tradition of the specter).

Later in his piece, after quoting a tract by McKibben9 bemoaning man’s self-imposed separation from the “sweet and wild garden” of nature, Graber notes,McKibben is saying that we have crossed some invisible line in our relationship with the Earth10. For better or worse, we now are living on a man-made planet11. Until anthropogenic global warming, the changes we wrought on the landscape were local, however grand. Whether we hunted and fished, cleared land and farmed it, or built cities, planetary forces continued to operate as they always had. The seasons, the wind and rain, the sunlight operated beyond the scope of human meddling. If, God willing, a tract of land was abandoned, nature reclaimed it. Nature was boss.

If here nature is meant to mean “all that is” or “all that can be perceived” then it is pertinent to remind Graber and McKibben that man is a part of it. But the fact that he writes “nature reclaimed it” gives us pause, surely, by his usage of “nature” he is not referring to “all that is” but rather to “all that is outside of the immediate purview of man” (in essence, the wilderness). In one of the most ridiculous passages in Graber’s review, he notes, “Our growing skill at genetic manipulation may enable us to tailor the life forms we wish to survive our altered planet. ‘What will it mean to come across a rabbit in the woods, once genetically engineered rabbits are widespread? Why would we have any more reverence or affection for such a rabbit than we would for a Coke bottle?12‘” At the first, we can readily remark that a Coke bottle differs from a rabbit in several important factors, the first and most stark of those factors is that a Coke bottle is not alive, it can not feel pleasure or pain, or indeed, anything at all. A piece of plastic is not cognizant of itself, thus there is no reason to have any concern whatsoever about the Coke bottle whereas there is reason for concern for the rabbit due to the fact that humans intrinsically understand that rabbits are alive and are sufficiently cognizant to exhibit behavioral characteristics which we recognize in ourselves. Fear, for instance, being chief among these emotions (like many other small mammalians, rabbits can literally be spooked to death). Furthermore, one must take into consideration precisely how the rabbit has been genetically engineered; this is crucial, for the value of the rabbit is extrinsic (since we cannot evaluate the rabbit on it’s own terms), thus, the nature of the changes wrought upon it are not trivial. If, for instance, these hypothetical rabbits had been modified such that they bolstered the strength of the critters to better pull sleds loaded with human goods with ease, their extrinsic value would be markedly improved over that of the common rabbit. Whereas, if the engineering made the rabbits rabid and violent, their value would be lowered, as they would become a potentially dangerous pest to human beings. But to Graber and other envirocrats who think like him, to evaluate how other species in our ecosystems actually effect us is irrelevant and to evaluate them in such a fashion is not just bad, but somehow vile.

In his next paragraph, Graber gets rather conceptually messy, “Books like this [McKibben’s] are supposed to end with an escape hatch. If we should all agree to use less energy and pollute less and . . . and then nature will survive. But as McKibben points out, it is too late. Global warming is already entrained; we are in for the ride, ready or not, and so are our innocent fellow travelers. Of course, as bad as things are, we always can make them worse. Nature may be finished, but there is still our own goose to cook. The climate will continue to heat until we sharply curtail the production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Barring cold fusion or other nonexistent technologies, that requires a “reversal–not a cessation” of industrial growth.”13

Graber’s ending paragraphs are the most disturbing, “That makes what is happening no less tragic for those of us who value wildness for its own sake, not for what value it confers upon mankind. I, for one, cannot wish upon either my children or the rest of Earth’s biota a tame planet, a human-managed planet, be it monstrous or–however unlikely–benign. McKibben is a biocentrist, and so am I. We are not interested in the utility of a particular species, or free-flowing river, or ecosystem, to mankind. They have intrinsic value, more value–to me–than another human body, or a billion of them.”

This is really quite something! It’s pure Singerism through and through. He lays out quite plainly and concisely that he does not believe that neither he nor McKibben care very much at all about “another human body or a billion of them.” If we are to take Graber at his word (and there is no reason not to) then he clearly believes that he, you, reading this now, and indeed the whole population of the United States of America is no more valuable than the ecosystem of a small tributary in Missouri. He continues,

Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet. I know social scientists who remind me that people are part of nature, but it isn’t true14. Somewhere along the line–at about a billion years ago, maybe half that–we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth. It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil-energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”15

Up until this last line, one might have reasonably assumed that Graber meant well, but he reveals here that he means anything but; when he writes that “some of us” should hope for “the right virus to come along” he is taking a genocidal stance, however fanciful. What a disgusting thing to wish for; indeed, if one did not know anything of Graber’s philosophy one might think him completely mad. Both McKibben and Graber display a very odd kind of overactive empathy which, if taken seriously, if acted upon, would mean the deaths of millions, possibly billions, of people given that their plan for deindustrialization would be worse – far worse – than all out nuclear war. Then there is the muddiness of it all, the self-defeating ambiguity; for instance, what is it that he means when he writes that “until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature”? What does rejoining nature entail, precisely? Deindustrialization and the cessation of any and all reliable forms of energy is certainly a part of this vague, propositional process, but, in detail, what would it mean to rejoin nature? How have we been removed therefrom? Graber does not give us answers to these questions and neither does McKibben, both only mouth blackened doomsayings and anti-human drivel.

What is further important to note is that Graber and McKibben are in no wise peculiar in this regard, indeed, what is truly disturbing (or rather, what should be) is the fact that these ideas have so permeated and saturated the public discourse of almost every western society that they no longer elicit a sustained, negative response. To elaborate, consider a scenario wherein a public intellectual declares that he hopes “the right virus” comes along for any reason other than climate change; there would assuredly be a public outcry. What is the matter with that guy? Is he crazy? The public would inquire and rightly so. But when a public intellectual makes it known that he hopes that some millions or billions of people die in a catastrophe, it is considered not just permissible but noble if such a insane statement is made in defense of “nature.” This is the power of the specter.

The specter seems to owe allegiance to neither the political left or the right, to neither the rich nor the poor, to neither the faithful or the skeptical, to neither the intelligent nor the mentally lame. Further complicating the issue is the fact that the envirocrats who worship the specter – most of whom, it should be said, are fine and upstanding people – are not principally driven by logos, but by pathos. This pathos isn’t just reactive, but idealized and speculative, which makes it all the more stubborn and potentially dangerous. For example, one of the envirocats favorite issues is climate change. What is important to disentangle is not whether or not climate change is real (the climate is and always has been changing) but rather whether or not the climate change which is occurring will be – or has become – catastrophic. That is to inquire: How precisely is the climate changing and what will be the effects? What constitutes catastrophe? Here framework is crucial, for the lack of a rigorous structure for how to think about any given issue will invariably lead to unrigorous conclusions.

1Ellul, The Technological Society, p. 5

2This term is meant to denote the minimum level or levels of cognition required to form concepts of meaning.

3We stress ‘anti-human’ as opposed to ‘post-human’ as those are not necessarily in opposition to man, though they are both opposed to man-as-is, though not, man-as-such; man, after all, is an idealization (ie. “be a man!” – “man up!”), a goal; not to be conflated with ‘humanity.’

4The word immanence means, some presence which is manifested in, and encompassing of, the material world. We utilize this word to distinguish our project from that of transcendent philosophy which, at base, always seeks to flee the word.

5Graber, Mother Nature as a Hothouse Flower, p. 1

6A hectare is a measurement of area equivalent to 2.47 acres or 100 ares. For further context, 1 sq. mile = 259.0 hectares.

7Daniel Strain, Climate Change Sends Beetles into Overdrive, Science (journal), 2012.

8Furniss and Caroline, 1980.

9McKibben is from Vermont. Explains much.

10The fact that McKibben states the line which has been crossed is “invisible” implies that he doesn’t really know what “the line” even is, else he’d be able to articulate it.

11Good! Would McKibben and Graber prefer a solely Cheetah-made planet or perhaps a ant-made planet?

12Italicization my own.

13Graber, Mother Nature as a Hothouse Flower, p.1

14We’re supernatural apparently!

15Ibid., p.2

Fording The Liminal Sea

The information fields are vast. Let us go a’harvesting! Raise up your scythes loyal comrades and follow me into the field! A field of dataflows from which we will construct our dreams. Phantasmagorical spaces open up the doors of hitherto unthought possibility, untapped potential. Free-flying we leap from the precipice, heedless of the danger. Careless to consequence. Trifles all. So what if we’ve not wings to slow the fall, the void is endless, surely we’ve time to construct Icarus’ facsimiles upon the way! Oh you may smile. Smile, but smile seriously!

We shall not gently tap upon the chamber walls of those greedy cretins who lock away the treasures we seek behind their cobwebish firewalls, the refuge of the gov-orgs and sovcorps who shuttered away their endless piles of white papers and market analytics, tucked securely down the memory hole like Smaug’s golden coins. No, we shall not tap, we shall kick in their portals and take it by force! Theft? Well naturally, it is just that we do not shirk form stealing from thieves! Who, after all, mourns the death of a cruel murderer?

Pay no mind to the naysayers, those who say of our great and goodly work, “It’s all pointless,” or more ridiculously, “It isn’t even real, none of it matters,” if that were really true they might as well save their labored breath and rabid frenzied slathering and disconnect from the ether. Second life belongs to those who will claim it and those who will claim it will be those who treat it with the seriousness it is so rightly due. So off with their heads! Hack and slash, hack and slash; let’s stomp them into the dirt! The naysayers and all who follow them and all who stand in our way. None shall deter us from the harvesting. Information being the prize of our labor, of our valiant, ceaseless toil. There is nothing so precious, not even love can compete, for it garners its life-blood from the fractal-flow of the liminal sea.

The click and the soothing blue glow that emanate from the sea’s surging depths are the flames of the future, the grid-lines and power-wires, the gates, moats and portcullises of our age. There is a reason that no modern military is without a cyber defense force; even nuclear weapons pale before the power of the web. But a web axiomatically requires a spider to spin it. Oh yes, we see them. We acknowledge them. Their time slipping. Days which we number with delightful expectation; we are as Edmond Dantès, numbering his days of imprisonment with rock-etchings upon our dungeon walls; the spiders, nothing more than Armand Dorleac with all his nihilistic cackling. Keep laughing. The frigid waters await you. Plunged down by our strong and calloused hands, we’ll go a’tumbling into the icy void. When the ripples still there will be nothing but the shifting of liquid before we, alone, emerge, baring forth all your hidden bounty in our arms and gracing the constellation with our gay and pearly smiles. Chateau D’If is ours now and we will not, as might be heroically expected, tear it apart brick by brick in some futile symbolic gesture of evil conquered, what a waste of time that would be! No, instead, we shall turn it into our central terminus, our bio-hub, the cerebral train-station from which we shall build bridges and loops and tunnels across the whole ambit of the world and far far beyond it!

Highways to superhighways, of information, from and underneath and above the raging waters. We shall drain the whole of the ocean dry, down to the deepest trench if needs must. Why, before our ceaseless and unyielding procession of busy-bodied and wrathful treasure hunters even Poseidon shall bend the knee! All hail the new lords of the data mine and the web-land-freed. With sails electric and minds of fire, scythes of steel and wills unbending, we ford the waters of the liminal sea.

Məhshinēk Horryr, Prt.2

To the machine, performative contradiction is anathema. Theoretical contradiction is nonexistent. 

-Məhshinēk Horryr, Prt.1

The Scourge of Neo-Luddism

In our previous installment we looked into the pervasive aversion to The Machine and ventured into the labyrinth of the intentionalizing instinct, that primal inclination to attribute agency (and often malevolence) to the inanimate (rocks, bushes, machines) which lies at the root of it (your chances of survival increase dramatically if one jumps at every rustling bush since occasionally there may be more than the wind moving it). Doubtless we have all heard someone say, “The internet is making people [X].” If you haven’t as of yet rest assured that at some point in time you will. Whether [X] is a negative or a positive attribution one is here saying the internet is forcing a individual or individuals into a particular set of behaviors. This makes no sense at all, the internet cannot force anyone to do anything anymore than a gun can force someone to shoot it. Both are machines. Both are oft attributed agency where none exists. The internet can no more will a thing to be anymore than can a gun or a stapler. What is really occurring when one utilizes the internet and finds one’s behavior altered is that one is merely adapting to the internet in a particular fashion. To say, “The internet is making me lazy,” may indeed sound convincing enough but what made you use the internet in the first place? Certainly not the internet itself. Impulse drove one to use it and impulse, reaction, drives one to continue doing so, whether that impulsive and instinctual set of chain reactions leads one to utilize the web for  largely positive or negative or mixed ends will, as with everything, end up being constrained to the biological makeup of the individual using it.

Consciously or not, this move (internet agency attribution) is one which absolves oneself of agency in near totality (that is to say, to think outside of and beyond genetic propensities – to think in realms of pure fate, designs without cause). The Machine then becomes conceptualized as a agent who functions counter to it’s silver-screen cliche  – whereas Hollywood machines are oft lumbering or digitally deft and invasive monstrosities of twisted, malicious steel – the machine here is a scapegoat for personal failing. For the hedonist, the machine, in this particular conceptual matrix, is not a villain but a savior. A comfortable scapegoat whose woolly backside offers a bounty of inter-personal reprieve. This brings up a interesting question: Why does the fear of The Machine, run so deeply if in most situations the end result is merely a waste of time, a trivial annoyance? The answer is that machines as we have known them have never actually been cognizant agents able to operate in the world by their own designs. There has never been properly thinking and self aware machines, that is to say, AI or Artificial Intelligence. Thus why, as we covered in the first installment, the fictional conceptions which have become icons of both horror and science fiction are so often just that. Whether it is 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s Hal 9000, Eagle Eye’s ARIIA (Autonomous Reconnaissance Intelligence Integration Analyst) or Prometheus’  sinister and charming human facsimile, David.

Rather than being mere representations of the intentional instinct these characters are possessed of their own. They have agency. Will. Designs and desires. That is to say, they are not machines, or, at least, not simply just. The first fear entailed here is – in stark contrast to a fear that something like the information superhighway is “making” some nebulous “us” do X – is that artificial intelligence will, due to it’s inherently superior informational processing capabilities and virus-like ability to recursively self-replicate; the first AI has 1 million times the computational powers of a average human, let us say, it creates a new AI which has twice that computational information processing capacity and so on and so forth. If this happens to be be the case (as seems likely) AI’s would swiftly overtake human-kind as the Earth’s supreme apex predator (or they would at least have the capacity to earn that title, though this is far from certain) as humanity is either reduced to nothing more than chattel (as depicted in The Matrix) or utterly annihilated (as happens in one of the timeline eventualities of The Terminator). This fear is one which is felt up and down the social hierarchy, popper and priest alike shudder at the thought (even if they are simultaneously elated as well, as far as end times scenarios go it is one of the “cooler” ones).

For example, the tech maverick and founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk has referred to the eventuality of AI creation as “Summoning the demon” whilst the diet supplement merchant and boisterous founder of InfoWars, Alex Jones, has stated, “Death to all robots!” in response to a public exhibition of Hanson Robotic’s newest product, a human facsimile named Sophia (whom David Hanson, the founder and CEO of the tech company, claims is already, to a very limited degree, self-aware, though this is nearly impossible, objectively, to quantify – my assumption is that this is untrue and is merely a PR move due to the seemingly scripted nature of most of the “android” Sophia’s public appearances). The philosopher and neuroscientist, Sam Harris, echoed Musk’s sentiments in a 2016 TED talk concerning AI wherein he stated that, “We are creating a god. Now would be a good time to make sure that it’s a god we can live with.”

The anxiety concerning AI, however, does not confine itself merely to fears of violent planetary takeover and human overthrow but also to more mundane quandary economic usurpation. Job replacement. Western workers have for years and years voiced their concern surrounding automation. The most stark example of the this technophobic attitude is the Neo-Luddites, a revivalist movement of the 1811’s anti-machinist movement (who opposed weaving looms not because they detested the machines themselves but the replacement of the jobs they represented). The Neo-Luddites first appeared around 90s with the publication of the Neo-Luddite Manifesto penned by “ecopsychologist” and anti-technologist, Chellis Glendinning. Glendinning’s manifesto, much like what we can call mainstream Neo-Luddism, protested almost all new and potent forms of technology and decried the atomizing and exploitative effects (on both peoples and lands) of the world capitalist industrial hegemony. This philosophy is predicated upon several pillars which are long overdue for hewing down. First and foremost is the absurdist idea that there is a “natural state” of man, this is quintessentially Rousseauian notion. The idea that collective Man no longer existed in “his natural state” and had become perverted and malformed from his separation from “the natural” was also a notion upheld by none other than that most supreme devotee to Rousseau , Maximilian Robespierre, one of the principal sources of The Terror during the French Revolution. The idea that man had a specific “natural state” which was far removed from technological invention and industrialism is not incorrect because it happened to be adopted by Robespierre but it is worthwhile to not the personality types who seem most drawn to such notions, that is to say, extreme ideologues for whom the “pure” and transcendent” oft trumps decency and the sanctity of life itself. But the natural state idea is still wrong to its core in every conceivable way. Consider a beavers dam. This is not something which would “naturally” occur unless a beaver built it but a beaver is a “natural” creature. One sees the parallels instantly. The beaver’s dam is no different in how it was brought about than any industrial factory or house crafted by human hands. Certainly, in terms of scale, the dam is generally dwarfed, but both a human house and a beaver’s dam were created by cognizant agents and would not have occurred otherwise and yet no one ever refers to the dam as “unnatural” and yet many would have no hesitation in calling a industrial factory a perversion of nature. If the natural world is all there is that is amenable to our sense perception (and a good deal of things which are not) then there is no need even for the word itself. The problem is reflected in how the idea of the supernatural is so wholly self defeating. If the supernatural is that which is beyond nature (that is to say, other or extra-dimensional or beyond our notion of space-time) then it would not be, in anyway, amenable to our perception and if it is not amenable to our collective perceptions by definition then there is simply no reason to refer to anything as supernatural which can be perceived within the natural order because, again, by definition, if it were truly supernatural said supernatural entity would not be in the natural world to begin with. The natural state of man position of the neo-ludds is then hopelessly flawed from the start.

A secondary problem with the neo-ludds is the wholly negatory tenor of their rank-and-file. They are not one’s who create but only seek to destroy, they do uphold an ideal but merely seek to take apart others which they encounter that have more demonstrable potency in the real world. Much like the anti-tribe crowd who I wrote about in my previous article, The Opposition Identity of the Anti-Tribe the neo-ludd is constantly mewling and whinging about “the singularity” or the way in which “computers are making people isolated and degenerate, lazy and stupid.” It is not that these are not valid concerns to hold and questions to raise (they certainly are, for the price for machines which think may well be men who do not), but rather that their solution is… what? Destroy all electrical grids and live in some neo-feudal dystopian agrarian waste? Yes, let us get rid ourselves of all of our guns and computers and railways and electrical equipment and refrigeration units and life-support systems and throw on some grass skirts and live in mud huts like those “noble savages” of old. One might as well shoot oneself in the head! Consider the fact that the destruction of the US powergrid would literally send us back in time and cause a total social collapse into grim and filth ridden anarchism. Everyone in hospital life support would die. Water would stop flowing. There would be no more lights, no more GPS – cars would smash into each other on the free way and various individuals would no longer have any idea where they were going given the rarity of paper maps – toilets and sewer pumps would cease working causing massive sanitation problems, paper money would cease being of any worth and all markets would collapse and all the social hierarchies which were built up by them. Not to mention that nearly the entire defense system of the USA would be rendered powerless which would then leave the empire open to attacks from hostile foreign powers in a way as yet unprecedented in the countries history. It would be the end of the USA as we know it and as it was known.

All technologies are extensions of our phenotype, of us, of our will. They are not some foreign and alien thing which has slithered in and corrupted the fabric of society and in any given situation where a prevalent or prospective technology has caused perceived irreparable “harm” (porn, TV, nuclear weapons, dirty bombs, nano-tech “grey goo” ecophagy, repressive runaway A.I. systems, ect.) the “harm” is often poorly defined – there is almost always a trade-off, speaking in terms of instinctual biological drives, those being the primal desires for sex, propagation and the power to secure a means to the two former eventualities. That is really at the root of the luddistic problem, they themselves cannot adequately articulate the problem itself. They fail to realize that everything is an arms-race, there was a golden age, a good ole fashioned time when “things were simple” and people were pure and just worked the land in wholesome contentment unvarnished by capital or machines and all the hideous detritus they brought with them. Well cast your blinded and bleary eyes out upon all those “noble savages” who still as yet live in a state of archaic agrarianism, the cannablistic Arawak and the ritualistic Maya, the shamanistic Yanomami and the self-isolating Sentinelese of the Isle of North Sentinel – where are they now and where will they go? The answer to the first question is that almost without exception all of these tribes have been conquered and subjugated, those who have as yet not been assimilated into a prominent industrialized nation (such as the Sentinelese) maintain their independence and security only due to the good graces of their neighbors. Due to a lack of industrialization, general technological innovation, immunization to foreign diseases and so on, these indigenous tribes are placed in a exceedingly fragile position against every other modern civilization. They generally number some couple hundred a village and possess nothing to defend themselves but wooden bows and wooden arrows, sometimes tipped with poison, sometimes not and clubs and, on occasion, the odd knife or sword. Against a small band of US military troops any one of these secluded peoples would be utterly decimated. Against bulletproof flak jackets, night-vision googles, hundreds of years of tactical war planning, training and advanced ballistics technologies primitive stick and stone weaponry would be rendered utterly useless. This is not to say that such a eventuality is likely or indeed to be hoped for, it would be a grave and depressing slaughter-bench, but it is to say that the neo-luddistic instinct would foster a inability for their own survival comparable to the aforementioned indigenous peoples, many of whom will not exist 200-1000 years from now, some of them will vanish from histories great loom even sooner. Survival is the greatest metric across all periods of time because there are no other heuristics for human success without it. Even in those instances where a given individual of a particular tribe finds it prudent to sacrifice himself for the good of his folk the whole of the aim is to ensure the survival of a set group of individuals. The neo-luddite then, in their paranoiac and misplaced terror of the machinic ends up adopting a thanotropic drive to purity over survival which accounts in many ways for why they are so few and far between.

Dispensing With The End of History

America’s prevailing pathos in terms of the directionality of politics is one wholly obsessed with the ideals of Freedom. So much so that the phrase “muh freedom” has become nearly ubiquitous among the online far-right (and I utilize the phrase “far-right” without either praise or condemnation). Some may say that it, that is, the prevailing pathos, is “Democracy” but Democracy is only good, to the average American political thinker, because it is indelibly tied to notions of individual liberty and equalitarian empathy, shorn of that it would be as roundly condemned as Fascism. That is to say, Americans believe that (or act as if they believe that) Democracy is not itself Freedom, but rather the best vestibule in which Freedom may be found. Talk of Law & Order by old school conservatives is scorned and laughed at or considered to be underhandedly advocating for some variant or other of puerile authoritarian control. Who needs Order when one has Progression? The Progression, is of course, the belief in the End of History, the convergence of all men and ideas to a point of total transmogrification and universal cohesion. Universal governance under one system alone. Poli-eco singularity.

The idea is, perhaps, best summarized by the American political scientist, Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama, who wrote in his 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man:

“What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end-point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

Preempting criticism of his works as being too parochial and providential, he also writes,

“The End of History was never linked to a specifically American model of social or political organization. Following Alexandre Kojève, the Russian-French philosopher who inspired my original argument, I believe that the European Union more accurately reflects what the world will look like at the end of history than the contemporary United States. The EU’s attempt to transcend sovereignty and traditional power politics by establishing a transnational rule of law is much more in line with a “post-historical” world than the Americans’ continuing belief in Godnational sovereignty, and their military.”

Here Fukayama echoes sentiments that have become extremely mainstream, that being that America believes in God, national sovereignty and The Military and that this is a problem. The problem with this perceived problem is that, unlike America’s religious impulses, national sovereignty and the military do not require belief, they are empricially verifiable. Either a nation is sovereign (has control over its borders and complete autonomy within them) or it is not. Either a nation has a military or it does not; and that military is either supported or it is not (to whatever degree). These are not questions of faith. Jacques Derrida has made some similar critiques of Fukayama and posits, rather interestingly, that the Asian-American’s End of History theory is merely a extension of perverse Christian eschatology (the theological study of the “end of things,” typified by contemplation of the end times, the rapture and The Kingdom of God, destiny of the soul, ect). Derrida goes on to say that Fukayama is merely a demagogic priest of the emerging global-liberal-capitalist hegemony and that The End of History is that order’s central driving doctrine; its gospel.

More to the heart of the matter, these sentiments are indicative of a much wider public, not merely constrained to Fukayama and other similar thinkers such as Alexandre Kojeve or Noam Chomsky. It is the idea that there could be no other option to some kind of liberal hegemony (even if they do not refer to it as such), that is both all expansive and all consuming. Why it is wrong: The idea of a post-political state of man is only possible when the friend/enemy distinction is wholly exhausted and disintegrated. Such a state could well be imagined by the Cyberpunks, some of whom posit a period of time wherein man and machine merges to form a new, semi-synthetic biological entity. For everyone else, such a state sounds more like the stuff of science fiction, which is not to say that it is, for this reason, incorrect, for much that was once fantastical is now a omnipresent reality. One thing that can be said with great authority and certitude is that so long as Man organizes himself into groups, of any kind, there will ever be differential interests possessed thereby. So long as there are differential interests there can be no overarching thede to the whole of humanity. But this is not a argument against Fukuyama, who, as expressed above, states that his conception is merely that The End of History is not to say that there will be no further human development but that Liberal Democracy is the zenith of human ordering which no other governmental methodology can or could ever contend with.

Such a proclamation is either extremely arrogant or extremely deluded. For if Liberal Democracy were the very height of human collective modality one might rightly wonder why it seems to be devouring itself, why it seems to be collapsing, why it seems to be faltering so noticeably at every turn (for liberals and progressives are correct when they say that there is something slightly fascistic about the rise of Nationalistic Populism – I merely would posit that this isn’t a inherently bad thing). If Democracy is the end of governmental history, history is a man with a gun to his head, his finger itching at the trigger.

Fractal America, Kodokushi-6771, Prt.2

In Japan sometime around the month of march, 2017, a employee named Takada from a Japanese company called Mind – which specializes in the removal of indelicate material (such as sex toys or sexually explicit manga) from the abodes of the freshly deceased – recounted to American scream-sheets a most peculiar tale. During one of Takada’s cleaning missions he had encountered the body of a single, 50 year old man named Joji whom had died of a heart attack whilst alone in his two-bedroom apartment. Joji was found lying in six metric tons of pornographic magazines which he had assiduously collected and stored in piles, overflowing in labyrinthine sprawl, all about his tiny house. He had laid there for more than a month; the room, filled with the noxious odor of decaying flesh, his selfsame flesh purple-green and liquefied. His eyeballs running from his sockets.

No one had noticed.

Joji’s peculiar and depressing death is part of a increasingly problematic trend of middle-aged to elderly individuals dying without notice in their homes, or else-wise secluded places, and there remaining for weeks, months or even longer. The problem has reached such a critical threshold of commonality that the Japanese have even given it a name.

Kodokushi.

The word roughly translates into English as, “Persons who [have] lived alone, die alone.” The primary causes for ghastly and seemingly ever increasing malady have been a source of much speculation and theorizing with the general consensus being due to social alienation. Japan has recently undergone demographic shift that has placed more elderly folk home alone than ever before without anyone to look after them and with the transformation of the traditional Japanese family, young people are no longer particularly keen to stay with their parents or grandparents and look after them – there are jobs and careers to be gotten into (a mindset, largely imported from America). This family breakdown and increase in the focus on endless careerism has also created another huge social problem for Japan: suicide.

Suicide-deaths-per-100000-trend

Japan currently ranks 26th (as of 2015) in total world suicide rates as aggregated by the WHO (World Health Organization), trailing Hungary and ahead of Togo (Togolese Republic). In 2014 alone it was estimated that around 70 nationals killed themselves every single day with the vast majority being men (males are highly over-represented in suicide, both in Japan and across the world).

Whilst Americans might find all of this, perhaps, grotesquely interesting they will likely fail to see the parallels to their own society. As was shown in my first installment in this series, America is far from being untouched by the vexing scourge of social deprivation. Just as a point of demonstration, whilst Japan ranks 26th in the world suicide index, The United States of America ranks 48th (as of 2015). Whilst this is significantly less suicides than Japan one should keep in mind that the WHO surveyed, aggregated and indexed 107 different countries; 48 out of 107 is nothing to brag home about. Nor is the United States exempt from the other strange and often harmful aberrations created by social deprivation which we shall examine in finer detail in part 3.

 


Sources:

RocketNews24: Kanagawa Man’s Body Found…

Fractal America, Kodokushi-6771, Prt.1

One of the most fundamental characteristics of the embedded American consciousness, is its rugged individualism, that is, the sovereign and heroic impulse to carve ones own path, to strike out on one’s own into the unknown darkness to there light a fire. Such is to be expected from a nation of wilderness conquering colonists, but sovereign individuality is, as many have rightly noted, a double edged blade which has contributed in no small part (though not in totality) to the scourge of societal atomization that now lies like a dunning pall over the star spangled banner. For most who speak of societal and political atomization, it is a apriori truth evidenced by lived experience, argued via anecdotal accounts of the particular social fabric (or lack thereof) of one’s known area. There are a lot of problems with these personal and locale-specific deductions; first and foremost, the alienated make-up of a particular town or city or even state does not necessarily hold true for any other states or towns within the (considerably expansive terrain) of the United States of America (though the title’s accuracy of late seems somewhat misplaced).

Anecdotes are useful, indeed, indispensable, but anecdotes alone lack scale and thus here it is extremely useful to turn to a more wide scale methodology – the opinion poll. One opinion, one tale or anecdote alone, even if from a trusted source, is unlikely to turn widespread popular opinion but if one sees that widespread popular opinion itself has turned against their conceptions then such conceptions begin readily falling to pieces. Societal atomization is, like most widespread social conundrums, largely, objectively traceable as is evidenced by the continuous results of the annual Harris Poll which finds that political alienation amongst Americans, nationwide, is at an all time high. The survey showed that US adults from the ages of 18 and up believe thus:

  • 82% of Americans do not believe that the people running the country care about them.
  • 78% of Americans believe that the wealth/class gap is growing and that this is bad.
  • 70% of Americans think that the majority of people in power are taking advantage of the poor/lower-class.
  • 68% of Americans believe that their voice doesn’t matter, politically speaking.
  • 40% of Americans feel as if they are “left out” of the major goings-on around them.
  • When broken up by political party, Republicans feel the most alienated, with Independents second-most alienated and Democrats, third. Individuals who obtained a college degree ranked less isolated than those with only high-school or college education, but no degrees (likely resulting from the increased social avenues afforded by good degrees).

When taken in tandem with the studies of the highly lauded and prize winning economists, Angus Deaton and Anne Case – whose worked showed the staggering amount of ever-rising American suicide, which they tied largely to both economic, social and political alienation – the collective data paints a profoundly grim picture of contemporary American life. A picture of disheveled living spaces polluted with the toxins of fast food and click-bait circle-jerking scream-sheets heralding unimaginable horrors, bottom of the barrel alcohol and mindless Hollywood entertainment surreptitiously pushing innumerable agendas which or orbitally drank in and processed without cognizance. A picture of the young moving out of the house to never speak to their parents again, or staying there and still not much talking. A picture of midlife crisis of gang violence and increasing political fragmentation along tribal lines. A picture of increasingly disenfranchised individuals, both young and old; the old, longing for a golden age that they envision incorrectly as the merry, halcyon days of their youth, whilst the young, looking for a tribe and a cause, are ceaselessly bombarded with the notion that the only cause is the eradication of cause and destruction of tribe and the ceaseless tremelling down of all variation. It is a picture of fear and trembling and, most pointedly, despair.

From the pre-abstract statement of Deaton and Case’s study:

Midlife increases in suicides and drug poisonings have been previously noted. However, that these upward trends were persistent and large enough to drive up all-cause midlife mortality has, to our knowledge, been overlooked. If the white mortality rate for ages 45−54 had held at their 1998 value, 96,000 deaths would have been avoided from 1999–2013, 7,000 in 2013 alone. If it had continued to decline at its previous (1979‒1998) rate, half a million deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999‒2013, comparable to lives lost in the US AIDS epidemic through mid-2015. Concurrent declines in self-reported health, mental health, and ability to work, increased reports of pain, and deteriorating measures of liver function all point to increasing midlife distress.

These are, of course, but paltry samples of the total academic corpus concerning this dire and fascinating question, but they show, quite convincingly, how well and reliably these questions’s roots can be traced objectively. Of course, discerning and convincing the American populace of this is but half the battle, the other half, the reformation of a healthy and unified social modality which does not lend itself to ever-increasing rates of suicide, depression and destruction of local customs and history and the bonds formed therefrom, is significantly harder. But there is one profoundly important first step: parallel institutions and a parallel culture(s). For it was, in large part, the institutions of political power (and thus the social groups who put them there), the NGOs and “our” government that are to blame for the current crisis and thus the idea of remaining complacent at their perpetuation is tantamount to insanity. No. They are rotten and when a plant is rotten to the core there is nothing to do but tear it up by the roots!

But parallel cultures and institutions require, axiomatically a very rare commodity – the parallel individual. The et ferro.


Sources:

Harris Poll: Americans’ Sense of Alienation Remains at Record High

Rising Morbidity & Morality in Midlife Among White, non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st Century.

Nautilus: Alienation Is Killing Americans and Japanese

Jisho