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dystopia 2.0 anybody?
on 20 July 2011
Back in the 1990's, my friends and I would listen to Terence McKenna's spellbinding talks on the subject of the then embryonic information super highway. McKenna was convinced of the utopian possibilities of the internet. Cultural free for alls and other fun ontology's promised by the internet would free our minds from our Gnostic drudgery, awaken the collective unconscious, demolish the cultural pillars of Christian civilisation and kick the doors off heavens hinges; phew!. This brave new world was going to herald the cultural singularity and the new dawn; and finally, we were all to transcend to silicon light, (You had to be there I guess).
According to McKenna and indeed Jaron Lanier -and most silicon entrepreneurs at the time- the internet will allow us all an existence in the radiant afterglow of a post-western civilisation. Capitalist values will be swept away, along with adverts and 'male dominator' politics, "We'll go there and we'll leave the Earth and dance forever in the astral imagination" (McKenna)!
Jaron Lanier now admits this was foolish and he's trying to warn us all before 'lock in' will halt our humanness and turn us all into technological serfs.
Lanier is arguing that if we fast forward 20 odd years from now, then capitalism is indeed wobbling at the foundations (but not at the top you see). This means that we serfs are suffering down bellow; and it gets worse. While we work for nothing, like when we write unpaid reviews on Amazon or 'help' Wikipedia, the 'lords of the clouds' have monopolised the creative surplus and are squeezing the middle class until the pips squeak! Only the lucky few who control the means of production reap the money harvest, whilst we serfs toil away in cyberspace, unpaid and, more importantly, de-personalised in the gas of collective surfing.
Jaron Lanier is no luddite and he personally knew Terence McKenna and Tim Leary and all the movers from the idealistic 1990's, and this is why his book is essential for our future. It's a warning like Huxley and Orwell, but not as happy. Let us hope that Jaron Lanier will be as wrong about his negativity for the future as McKenna was wrong about his utopianism. Only time will tell.