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<nettime> Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium,
Patrice Riemens on Fri, 8 Aug 2014 18:28:20 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium,

Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium Part III

The Freedoms of the Net

On counter-moves and survival skills (section 3, concluded)

Technophile luddists have a rather more schizophrenic attitude. They very
much like the ease and opportunities offered by technological gadgets,
especially those that bring them in contact with others. But they take
zero interest in the way these sociality tools actually work. They make no
effort to understand, self-manage or tweak these technologies, since it is
so much easier and less cumbersome to outsource these issues. They trust
experts entirely and call them up as soon as they encounter a problem.
Their careless behaviour contributes to the emergence of technocracy.
Which does not prevent them to fulminate that they understand zilch about
these diabolical devices, and to viciously attack the experts/high priests
when they realise that nobody is going to manage their instruments free of
charge, that freedom costs more than dependency, and that even experts are
not able to solve their problems once and for all.

The most common practice is to deliberately, consciously take the side of
technocracy and to take the one-way road to delegation dependency. It is
natural, when bombarded with contradictory messages, and losing one's
bearings in the information chaos, to think that the issues are so massive
as to be irresolvable in an autonomous (self-managed) way. The Net is
global (by nature) and digital technologies are more invasive than most.
The digital gloss covering everything makes one believe that the problem
is universal. To autonomously (self-) manage the skills required is too
dangerous, techno-enthusiasts (will) say, because human beings are by
nature selfish and greedy, ready to go at each other's throat. Thomas
Hobbes' famous dictum, that man is a wolf to his fellow man is their
motto. For the good of all, it is better to delegate to some competent
person, so as to bypass the idiosyncrasies. Technology worshippers believe
that it is necessary to set-up institutions and organizations responsible
for addressing these technological issues, and this preferably at the
global scale. This should vouch for the upholding of citizens' liberties
and rights, and of course, also uphold an adequate level of consumption.

Technocracy is inherently scientist and it is difficult to go against it
without being accused of obscurantism, hatred of progress, or of simple
naivety. Technocrats wish for an all-round regulation of the Web. They
believe that setting up controlling measures is the best way to achieve
this: they are hence in favor of the extension of the panoptic model.
Within the Matrix, users live under the guidance of experts forming the
disembodied Great Collective Intelligence, an assembly of total knowledge,
sort of fantasy replica of Theilard de Chardin's 'noosphere' [18].
Technocratic extremism finds its full realization in post-humanist
transhumanism; but even the moderates clamouring for a global regulation
of the Web actually contribute to the advancement of radical transparency
and global profiling projects.

The assumption underpinning the technocratic position is that technologies
are inherently good, not evil, and they are the outcome of objective and
selfless scientific research. Machines do not lie because they cannot, and
anyway they have no interest in doing so. It might be the case, but let us
not forget that machines are programmed by humans, for whom a lot of
personal interests are at stake, and who are perfectly able to lie,
including to themselves. Technocracy is based on the delegation of
technological knowledge power to others. In the absence of mechanisms of
shared delegation, hierarchies have a tendency to gel into authoritarian
structures and to lose any awareness of their historic background, the
outcome of compacts and social covenants. There is quite a difference
between the acknowledgement of someone's authority as a more competent
person in a precise domain, giving this person a collectively agreed upon
mandate, which is verified regularly and is at all times revocable, and to
blindly trust the supremacy of a technocrat. (In which case) The
experts-priests' power becomes unassailable and unquestionable: it will
always be presented as redeeming, and this often in millenarian
tonalities: if you do not choose the right technician, you are lost (my
son) [19]. The IT expert is, even more than a medical doctor, today's
shaman: will my computer recover from its virus infection? Is there any
hope for the data I lost? Will I ever find that file back, gone as by
bewitchment? There must exist some magic formula, some working exorcism,
even if it is of a (very) obscure kind. The expert authority leads to the
paradoxical situation in which every action becomes a request to the
(principle of an) external authority, and, by the same token, a statement
of self-disparagement. First one has to confess to one's ignorance and
cluelessness, make amend for past errors and humbly ask for assistance,
but then only to discover that experts are not at all custodians of an
objective knowledge. It then happens that disappointed techno-enthusiasts
morph into technophile luddists.

Technolatry is the inevitable consequence of technocracy. Technology is
transformed into an /idolon/, (the divinity) Moloch needs to be
worshipped. Confidence turns into faith, and into the belief that there
exist thaumaturgic (wonder) solutions that will solve social problems. One
expects technical solutions to a whole range of problems like pollution,
climate change and global warming, hunger, etc. and new, daring
mythologies are being devised: green fuels, clean technologies,
genetically modified crops, and further quick fix, painless solutions:
magic almost. Like all hegemonic apparatuses, technocracies defuse
critical approaches as they demand blind collaboration from people of whom
they pretend that they 'as a matter of course' come together as a
recognizable group, a social chain without apparent begin or end.
Everything is connected because everybody is concerned, there is no way
one could decide to stay out. All consumptive gestures, and especially
those inspired by techno-enthusiasm are as many tributes to technocracy.
They confirm that there is no alternative to the present dispensation,
since the latest gadget put on the market and extolled by the
advertisement agitprop as the magic key to happiness is immediately
snatched up by avid consumers. Personal(ly induced) desire has been
evicted: what remains has been prompted by publicity and as the level of
individual competences drop, they narrow down to a ferocious proficiency
to ferret out the sharpest deal. As it makes the individual ever more
transparent, technical mediation progresses in an increasingly opaque way,
rendering the elaboration of  knowledge power totally impervious to
inquiry. Technocratic society is an assemblage of mega-machines, in which
nobody is responsible, but where everybody is a (tiny) element of the
spiral of the global mechanism ? was it only as consumer. The top of the
hierarchy is just as elusive as its bottom, and to bail out of the system
is simply a no-goer [20].

Peter Sloterdijk affirms in one of his articles that (what he calls)
anthropotechnic humanism is in crisis [21]. The project to breed-and-train
citizens by way of (public) education has collapsed, mass literacy drives
might as well be replaced by eugenic fabrication of a more adjusted race.
No need for this to resort to genetic engineering: the social variant
amply suffice. We have already seen how the use of invasive social
technologies leads to automated forms of obedience which are then
portrayed as necessary and beneficial. Regarding this process, one can
easily detect the anthropotechnique of Facebook. This way, the biopolitic
control of both bodies and minds is decentralised as much as possible
towards the individual, who becomes answerable for her/his own subjugation
to technologies. The transparent individual already lives outside of
her/himself, bathing in her/his technological sphere, and has no longer
any secrets, shadowy side, or a place to hide. sHe increasingly loose
confidence in her/his autonomy because sHe has become less competent, and
throws the towel in the face of the extent of the Net that has grown
beyond understanding: no way sHe thinks she can make things work, which do
not work very well anyway.

Finance is a good illustration of this (particular) mechanism: at the same
time one mouse-click away for the hobby-investor and representing an
out-of-control power, apt at scuttling complete economic and social
formations, playball of an uncontrollable volatility. Technocracies are
portrayed as the rational solution to all these problems, but in fact they
are the most achieved illustration of the irrationality of dominant power.
The anthropocentrist background (that surrounds us) has blinded us into
believing in a rational intentionality present behind every event, and it
becomes thus obvious to see a correlation between the uncontrollable power
of technology and natural forces, something made near-explicit in everyday
language, with terms like 'financial tsunami', information deluge,
innovation waves, etc. Merging technology with nature begets attitudes
bordering on mysticism and produces absurd roller coasters between will to
power and desire to rebel. The perfect individual within a global
technocratic regime is willy and apathetic. Obedient to the rules decreed
and by her/his enthusiastic, naysayer, or passive attitude, sHe forces
potential rebels to conform. Such individual is neither a charismatic
leader nor an exceptional figure, but a supporter of technical banality,
(with other words) a little Eichmann of contemporary
techno-totalitarianism. In Leweis Mumford words:

"In every country there are now countless Eichmanns in administrative
offices, in business corporations, in universities, in laboratories, in
the armed forces: orderly, obedient people, ready to carry out any
officially sanctioned fantasy, however dehumanized and debased." [22]

(to be continued)
Next time: Beyond empty nodes: autonomous individuals and organised
networks (section 4)


[18] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Jesuit priest, geologist and
paleontologist: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Teilhard_de_Chardin ,
uses the term noosphere to describe the stage of human evolution wherein
earth will be enshrouded in a film of interconnected thought, which in
turn will happen shortly before the advent of Cosmic Christ, or Omega
Point. [aka 'the singularity' -transl]. Teilhard de Chardin's future- and
technologist mysticism has exercised great influence on transhumanist
movements. The Roman Catholic hierarchy were initially opposed to Teilhard
de Chardin, who was subsequently rehabilitated by Pope Benedict XVI
(formerly Jozeph Cardinal Ratzinger), who in a vesper homily at the Aosta
cathedral on July 24, 2009 said that "St Paul's vision is the great vision
that was also shared by Teilhard de Chardin: in the end we shall have a
truly cosmic liturgy, and Cosmos shall become a living Host" Eric S.
Raymond also feels at home in the noosphere and believes hackers are
simply colonizing it. Cf his essay /'Homesteading the Noosphere'/:
The spiritual noosphere is the radiant future convergence point of the
Roman Catholic Church and the anarcho-capitalists.
[19] We have seen a fine example of this taking place in Italy with the
phrase "a technical government", which describes the government that was
formed in November 2011, and made up of experts not coming from politics
and entrusted with the task to save the country.
[20] One can conveniently apply the criticism of techno-bureaucracies to
the domination by the IT sphere, which Donna Harraway denounces in "A
Cyborg Manifesto, Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the late
Twentieth Century" in /simians, Cyborgs, and Women: the Reinvention of
Nature/ New York, Routledge , 1991, pp 161, (also readable at:
Aggregative hierarchic systems have a tendency to develop coercive social
formats, whatever the epoch. The personal competences required to function
in such systems are inversely proportional to technical skills. See the
analysis of the Soviet power system by Cornelius Castoriadis in 'La
Societe bureaucratique', Paris, Bourgois, 1990. [Apparently large excerpts
can be found in Castoriadis, Cornelius. The Castoriadis Reader. Trans. and
Ed. David Ames Curtis. New York: Blackwell Publishing, 1997. -transl]
[21] Peter Sloterdijk, Rules for the Human Zoo: a response [to Heidegger]
to the Letter on Humanism (also known as the Elmauer Rede)(translated by
Mary Varney Rorty), Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, (2009)
volume 27, pp 12-28:  http://www.envplan.com/abstract.cgi?id=dst3
[22]  Lewis Mumford (1970). The Pentagon of Power: The Myth of the
Machine, Vol. II. New York City: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. p. 279


Translated by Patrice Riemens
This translation project is supported and facilitated by:
The Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences
The Antenna Foundation, Nijmegen
(http://www.antenna.nl - Dutch site)
(http://www.antenna.nl/indexeng.html - english site under construction)
Casa Nostra, Vogogna-Ossola, Italy

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