Beyond Silicon Capitalism to the Individual as Integrated Genetic Circuit
| by John Stanton
( April 17, 2012, Virginia, Sri Lanka Guardian) “After the industries of death brought about by the gas chambers and concentration camps, the industries of life now offer the possibility of a genetically modified human race, calling into question humans born of blood and sperm and therefore the wild, the natural part of humanity. The “naturals” would become the new savages with augmented people leading a new humanity shaped less by political totalitarianism than bioengineering. And now we have entered the question of hyper racism. The deadly consequences of the great ecological fear are extremely disturbing. We are at risk of seeing not military dissuasion established between powers, but civil dissuasion between people.
What would be behind this civil dissuasion? The third bomb, which in truth has not yet exploded, already carries a name: the genetic bomb. It is the mutation of the human species by genetic engineering: the production of a human being with a smaller ecological footprint, consuming less air water and energy; the installation of a genetically modified organism to adapt to new environmental conditions, a new human being with a smaller ecological footprint because it uses less proteins water and oxygen, a creature made compatible with an Earth of dwindling resources…”
“The communism of effects is the privatization of communism. Communism has not disappeared from history; it has been privatized, creating a community of synchronized emotions. Something happened with progress and its propaganda to make us constantly preoccupied with progress and perpetually occupied by it. We are now in a situation of occupation in both the temporal and martial meanings of the word: we are under the pressure of permanent occupation. This occupation places us under surveillance, watching us, revealing us and it is increasingly present, increasingly accepted as a fate, a destiny. Promoting progress means that we are always behind: on the high speed Internet, on our Facebook profile, on our email inbox. There are always updates to be made: we are the objects of daily masochism and under constant tension.”
|In a ravaged world, where will the human as integrated genetic circuit find being-in-the-world, meaning, transaction, or work?|
The excerpts above are taken from the book The Administration of Fear. Inside is an interview with Paul Virilio conducted by Bertrand Richard. The book is part of the Semiotext(e) Intervention series and is distributed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The book is at once intellectually stimulating and terribly frightening. Virilio’s revelations appeal: he has diagnosed the human condition in the early part of the 21st Century with pointed accuracy and may have predicted its end during some century to come. The title Administration of Fear does not nearly capture the wide range of topics ecological, social and political covered in the 93 page learning experience.
His revelatory statements inspire a belief that it is time to move the focus, the critique past capitalism, particularly capitalism accelerated by the agent silicon. The speed of life—economic, political, and social—and the subsequent compression of time and distance is the reality of the day. Money/capital flows and accumulates. Who or what gets that money is decided by algorithms deep within the world of electronic finance. A human may be encountered in such transactions but only briefly. So, who or what is in front of and behind the electronic facade? The answer is everyone and no one.
There are no critiques of silicon capitalism that have not already been written. The “isms” should focus on silicon individualism and collectivism going forward. How can humanity avoid becoming an integrated genetic circuit or node? How can humanity avoid Virilio’s genetically engineered human?
It seems pointless now to rage against silicon based capitalism, at once perfidious and effective. Over the centuries, it has proven that it knows no ideology and, in fact, as Marcuse said, “It has delivered the goods.”. It is flexible enough to fit any form of politics/governance. Silicon capitalism comes in all flavors: communist, terrorist, democratic, socialist, totalitarian, Judeo-Christian, or Muslim. Perhaps silicon capitalism has been so reviled because its practice reveals human beings as predators one moment and cooperative gathers at another: it reveals innate human duplicity, looking in the mirror is painful. Or maybe its ability to absorb the most radical philosophies and ideas that humans can muster disturbs; yesterday’s radical song is today’s car commercial. Everyone relents, there is no space to hide anymore.
Silicon capitalism’s most triumphant product was the Internet and World Wide Web, and the computing and telecommunications devices that attach humans to humans, and humans to the Net/Web. In doing this, it has created non-reflective plug and play individuals and collectives around the globe. This dynamic threatens to erase being, thought, mind and self as proactive agents that filter incoming stimulation to reactive integrated genetic circuits prompted for time-restricted reflexive action. Virilio is rides exactly the right train of thought in stating that humanity’s survival may depend on the creation of genetically designed human beings built to last in a world of empty concrete spaces, depleted resources and recurring ecological disasters. He makes perfect sense. Privatized communism dominates.
In a ravaged world, where will the human as integrated genetic circuit find being-in-the-world, meaning, transaction, or work? Since she/he will be designed for survival on a ruined planet, human thought/emotion will have to be genetically treated and regulated and restricted from thought that may threaten the survival of other genetically modified human beings. Existence for everyone in such a world will depend on genetically engineered captive minds, blank slates that are easily programmed for reflex, not natural thought and reflection. There will be no “questions” in a genetically designed human being that merges mind and machine and whose motive is nothing more than survival. Humans will respond efficiently to prompts like conditioned pigeons in a lab experiment.
No Time Left for You: Unexamined Absorption
“Temporal compression, as it is technically called, is an event that concretely modifies everyone’s daily life at the same time. In the face of this acceleration of daily life, fear has become an environment even in a time of peace. We are living in the accident of the globe, the accident of instantaneous simultaneity and interactivity that have now gained the upper hand over ordinary activities…With the phenomena of instantaneous interaction that are now our lot, there has been a veritable reversal, destabilizing the relationship of human interactions and the time reserved for reflection in favor of the conditioned responses produced by emotion… ”
Virilio is not alone in his sentiments. There is a dedicated effort in some academic circles to bring the humanities into the sciences—neuroscience and biology for example. This action seeks to use the humanities to teach reflection in an era of speedy reflexive thought, and to synthesize best practices from seemingly divergent fields of thought. It is a necessary and laudable effort that may one day prove to have been a roadblock to the genetically horrifying world Virilio reveals. Who knows?
Writing in Bridging the Humanities-Neuroscience Divide: A Field Guide to a New Meta-Field, Barbara Stafford echoes Virilio.
“’She watches with the raptor’s eye, trained on distance as she is, and dark—so when she turns to what is close, so intimate and huge, she keeps the gift of sight beyond herself, neither sentimental or detached….’Who, indeed, watches the passing show with the raptor’s eye? Couple the quick tweet and modalities of social networking with the videoing and blogging obsession, immersion in video games, overtime on the Internet and the constant interruption of face to face interaction by the cell phone, and you have a recipe for attention deficit in the life world. What are educational institutions to do in the culture of online engrossment and the fast electronic update? The humanities might rearticulate its worth in a climate of unexamined absorption.”
Stafford cites Nicholas Carr’s downside of the digital world as being an environment where it is all about the speed of locating and reading data. Carr believes that “we are transferring our intelligence into the machine and machine is transferring its way of thinking into us.”
“We are beginning to process information as if we are nodes,” says Carr.
John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in national security matters. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org