I recently watched ‘Trancendent Man’ a documentary about the futurist thinker and inventor Ray Kurzweil (on Netflix Instant), which talks about the future of technology, integrating with machines, the singularity, and a post-Digital-Revolution society, and ALL THE WHILE transfixed to both the televisor screen and the nearly intravenous flow of twitter on my phone, WHEN IT STRUCK; the hard jolting pause of realization that large majorities of people and societies around the world (and many in this country) do not have the slightest inkling, desire, ability, resources, freedom, or IO port to hang their digital hat on. It took hold of me like the cracking clear bolt of a metaphysical electromagnet coil, like billions of souls crying out for porn and pictures of cats saying stupid things, suddenly silenced.
With the unequivocally ever-rapidly snowball effect of technology (whether you agree with Kurzweil or not about some of the extreme implications this has on the future), society will be bracketed even further than it already has by divisive class policies and repressive economic imbalances. As we fully intersect with technology, many will be left behind. While those pre-borg immigrants will jump through every fiery hoop to lapse into digital escapism, the expendable income necessary is not available to large segments of the human race, still forced to face a harsh physical reality of hunger, war, disease and rape every day.
Three separate, earlier senses of foreboding combined into one bone-chilling premonition; the constantly recurring thoughts of dread for the starving and down-trodden of the world, the nagging wrecking ball of a mysterious and unknown future world, and the obvious historical tendency of those in power to abuse those viewed as below them. We have seen the brutal reality of war and genocide repeatedly played out over limited resources.
There may be a temptation in lazy thinking to assume that it will be primarily voluntary luddites of the future resisting this technology, but this is a reminiscent leftover of dogmatic Christian missionary mentality, and not everyone is able to join the wiry fray, nor does the trepidation of the unwilling-yet-able make them boorish peasantry, but perhaps there are a myriad of unfortunate circumstances or other considerations. As the singularity exponentially widens the chasm between the technocrats and the new order of plebes, does anyone really believe that those humans+ will have found some magical insight in the machine code that makes them suddenly retroact on hundreds of thousands of years (if not millions) of ingrained biological selfishness and power-mad despotism? That they will provide for the unassimilated as anything more than a slave class?
Ray Kurzweil, ever the optimist futurist, seems to hope so. Terence McKenna, too, when he speaks of a similar event in consciousness, Time Wave Zero, occurring at the crux of a historical quickening. A sort of critical mass, which he has proposed could be anything from the invention of time travel, some sort of mass awareness, or a finding and meeting with the ‘other’, deep from our inner shadows, perhaps the collective anima/animus or “soul image” from Jung. This is all well and good, but barring some actual social or political revolution, gas prices will rise, policy-makers will adversely affect markets, and companies will try their damnedest to price-gouge and choke-hold streams of “free” information.
But what of those unpredictable social ramifications? Will there be cyber-wars on a regular basis, will the hackers and terrorists be able to outpace the nth more well-funded forces of organizational infrastructure? (Who, incidentally, are still somewhat behind the game). Will the assimilated be able to or even care to break programming long enough to fight for social justice of others? As the borg grows and leaves humans further in the dust, how long before they are no longer equals, how long before the meatsacks remnants are expendable?
We haven’t left our emotionally-binding forms of flesh just yet, and a sense of freedom and human rights prevails as certain groups have already emerged and entrenched themselves for what will surely be a long and arduous struggle. Wikileaks, Lulsec, Anonymous, and countless other hacker collectives and rebels in areas even as restrictive as North Korea and Iran continue to fight with their particular electrons, 1s and 0s, for a totally free dissemination of information. Other violations of human spirit are coordinated, encouraged, and energized by digital social media as seen this year during the Arab Spring revolutions, UK riots and looting, and here in San Francisco more recently the Anonymous-led BART protests. For better or worse, humans all over the world are making it very clear to the cognoscenti of politics, authority, mainstream media and high finance, that censorship and restrictive policies can and will be met at some point with severe pushback.
These humans, I tell ya, you give them a little total freedom and it’s like they think they’re entitled to it or something.
This was all inevitable, no doubt. Some fires will rage, some systems will either crumble, alter, or steel themselves so furiously that their hollow insides dry-rot out. Our arrogant cliques of domineering world authorities will froth hard enough to lose all control at some point, furious of the hard fact that though the march of time may lead the universe to entropy, it also leads our species to a wider understanding of freedom.
Perhaps we will only settle into our proper and humbly sated nation-state period of equality, mutual understanding and dignity once the generations of globally-connected democratic-thinking individuals fully survive the repression of a resource-hungry egomaniacal post-WWII society.
XBox live digital natives notwithstanding.