Richard Thieme wrote:
> Islands in the Clickstream:
> A Vision of Possibilities
> It is one thing (some would say the only thing) to apprehend that clear
> focus inside our own field of subjectivity that enables us to aim our lives
> with greater precision and another thing to begin building a different
> construction of reality based on the modular building blocks provided by
> our society. But that construction - ultimately defining a very different
> universe - will still be animated by our intentionality. The ghost in the
> machine will still be a ghost.
> Three domains that currently converge in a way that radically redefines our
> possibilities are (1) the transformation of our perceptual field by virtue
> of our interaction with technologies of information and communication; (2)
> the redefinition of what it means to inhabit a "human space" as we begin to
> genetically engineer our field of subjectivity, affective states, and
> modalities of being; and (3) the evolution of a trans-planetary
> civilization including our designed descendents and other intelligent
> species in our galactic neighborhood.
> Those of us old enough to straddle the icebergs of rapidly diverging
> paradigms know that sooner or later we have to jump and live inside a
> relatively consistent model of reality. The digital model, the model
> enabled by digital interaction, is becoming dominant. We internalize a view
> of the landscape by internalizing first the forms of the media that convey
> images of that landscape to our brains. The medium is the message, as
> McLuhan said. Both the eye and our extensions of the eye define our field
> of view. We can see this because we still live near the terminator on the
> moon, where the contrast between light and darkness throws mountains and
> rills into sharp relief. When the moon is full, its features dissolve, and
> when it's all darkness, there's nothing to see. Liminal vision is razor-sharp.
> The digital landscape is interactive, modular, and fluid. So how we
> construct reality is too.
> This is noticeable when people complain about the loss of security that
> they once felt. A friend said last night with some resentment,
> "Organizations used to be loyal to employees and employees to
> organizations. Not any more." What he meant, I believe, was that the
> construction of reality he used to share with others in an unexamined
> consensus sustained the illusion that cultural artifacts, including
> organizational structures, were more permanent. Our organizational
> structures - including nations, world religions, and "the earth" as a point
> of reference for our thinking - are top-level consensual constructions
> fused with the media that filter the data of our lives. The media create
> the infrastructure of our collective thinking in their image.
> But so do our genes. We are discovering that thinking and feeling are
> expressions of our genetic code.
> A consumer society in which we swap simulations like children trading
> baseball cards has long conditioned us to accept the "manufacture of
> consent" in every domain of our lives. A generation before Chomsky wrote
> "Manufacturing Consent," Edward Bernays, the "father of spin," wrote
> "Engineering Consent." Bernays understood that creating a particular
> context always generates a particular content. (He assisted book publishers
> whose sales were declining, for example, by soliciting testimonials on the
> importance of reading, then took the affidavits to architects who agreed to
> build houses with built-in bookshelves. New homeowners, not even noticing,
> stocked those shelves with books).
> The use of images to collect individuals in groups, then move those groups,
> is an ancient practice. But now we will engineer the kinds of human beings
> available for binding and bonding in the first place.
> The practice of genetic engineering will dovetail with refined practices of
> social engineering. Most of it will go unnoticed. Subcultures that pride
> themselves on independent thinking, for example, are a good gill net in
> which such people can be collected, observed, or manipulated. That's much
> more effective for social control than repression of such tendencies and
> their social expressions. We may find it desirable to build larger
> percentages of people amenable to such manipulation.
> That practice would simply extend what we call "education" onto the
> practical level of biomechanics. Fractal levels of self-control by the body
> politic will manifest in whatever media are available. Ethicists will
> object, but the cries of ethicists always follow the emergence of the
> practice they decry.
> Last but not least, our identity as "citizens of the earth" - which
> intensified as a point of reference when the first photograph of the earth
> seen from the moon became part of our collective awareness - will be, in
> the not too distant future, a historical memory, much like biblical tribes
> in the memories of Jews, Christians, and Moslems. Whether we persist as a
> distinct identity, like Jews, or vanish in the gene pool, like Jebusites
> and Perizzites, is impossible to predict.
> Our constructions of reality will change when we couple our current modular
> thinking with the modules of beings who have different genetic structures
> and reference a different cosmology. The challenging process of negotiating
> realities as we engage with the perspective of other species will reveal
> what it means to be human-on-earth. If a "human" point of reference
> persists, it will be profoundly altered by that encounter.
> My experience in Hawaii taught me that the Hawaiian construction of reality
> shattered when Captain Cook sailed into Kealakekua Bay. Nearly two hundred
> years later, in the nineteen sixties, when consciousness-raising activities
> became pervasive in the dominant culture, their descendents reconstructed
> Hawaiian culture, but as it was seen through the prism of the dominant
> culture. Hawaiian culture today is a reflection in the eye of the
> assimilating culture, a simulation built to the blueprints of archeologists
> and imagineers.
> The moment we see ourselves as we are perceived by another, we become
> someone else, neither who we were nor who they think we are.
> How we design the reality factories of our genetic structures and link them
> in digital simulations in a trans-planetary context so much more vast than
> the thinking life of our little planet has imagined - well, at the least,
> life in the next century will not be devoid of interest.
> Islands in the Clickstream is a weekly column written by
> Richard Thieme exploring social and cultural dimensions
> of computer technology. Comments are welcome.
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> Richard Thieme is a professional speaker, consultant, and writer
> focused on the impact of computer technology on individuals and
> Islands in the Clickstream (c) Richard Thieme, 1998. All rights reserved.
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