Saturday, September 30, 2017


Airport chaos 9-28 because of computer failure

Two forces are hitting broadside the prevailing argument about what is right and good in government and the culture that supports it.  So far they haven’t even gotten to the level of most public discourse, meaning the great sloshing body of print, media, vid, blog, and facetweet that passes for culture on one level, though most people ignore it.  The most interesting recent version of this is a piece on Uncouth Reflections, a blog I follow though I don’t fit their demographics and am not entirely welcome.  They are privileged, educated, male, sort of retired, and opinionated.  They are also cute and lovable, in that endearing old white guy way.

The Mistaken” (one of the bloggers: all these guys have pseudonyms) wrote a numbered list of points he draws from the work of a prof named Stephen R.C. Hicks. “Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault”  Actually, Hicks is deconstructing the category of postmodern, esp. the “Frankfurt School” which my Netherlands friend calls “Frankfurter Schule,”  It’s a hostile approach, trying to be an autopsy.  I don’t choose a side in this argument, because I’m thinking on totally different terms, new grounds, but I've always had trouble figuring out this stuff, so I appreciate the list.  His premise is that "modernity," which is based on the rational and logical was good, but post-modern is just an emotional and political pushback against it.

My own grounds of anthropology are three-fold.  One is the scientific study of the neurological feat that is human thought (including the subconscious and the unconscious bodily functions); another is the social phenomenon of the Internet which completely redefines and may replace “money” and certainly shifts "community"; and the third, more traditional, is the ability to handle concepts without words, subverbal concepts which some call feeling.  These are complexities upon complexities that do not yet have political responses.  Politics need to be simple and emotional or they won’t “play.”

Let’s stick to Hicks, or rather “The Mistaken’s” list.  The idea is pitting mathematical/scientific  against emotional/justice ideas.  That is, the first entwining is the result of “modernism” or the Enlightenment, the use of scientific inquiry and mathematical reasoning in the service of “capitalism,” which is the management of money, which presumably leads to progress.  At least, the industrial revolution.  Post-modern, in contrast, has a strong social justice/third-world Marxism component and reacts to the excesses, destructions and oppressions of capital.  (This particular argument usually ignores the arts dimension of capitalism.)

The corrective to Hicks in terms of the "felt" arts is beautifully explicated in an article poetically called “A Dark/Inscrutable Workmanship.”  The subtitle is “Shining a ‘scientific' light on emotion and poesis.”  The author is Maria Takolander, a professor at Deakin University in Australia.

I have yet to find a really comprehensive analysis of the impact of the Internet.  Most people are so riveted by social media that they don’t go beyond that.  But just the fact that Takolander and myself can think in such similar ways and make contact across the planet, thus endorsing and supporting each other, is highly significant and momentous in terms of culture and where "civilization" might go next as we hominins struggle to fit our circumstances, which are both old and new, cumulative and reconfiguring.

There is a stepping effect with electronic breakthroughs.  Radio was only sound; then comes the image on television but the providers were limited to "stations" and broadcast companies.  Next we went to video, cheap creation and broadcast, private home viewing on discs, etc.  Anyone can send the equivalent of what were once commercial movies.  Now bots and hacking.  Whole countries are shutting out the internet, but it finds ways to get back in.  Secondary businesses run things like block lists to manage spam, to search, to redirect, to disguise. 

Internet transmissions are roughly the equivalent of the sub- or un- conscious.  We are not aware of them affecting railroads, traffic signals, power stations, and so on.  Yet they control our lives according to “algorithms“ we don’t know, don’t understand, and that constantly change without our knowledge or permission.  It was a shock to find out that Facebook had a category of posts against Jews that they directed to Jew haters, fanning the flames.  There it was, on a list of hundreds of points of focus.

How was it that Russia could work in complex and organized ways to corrupt and break our communications?  But there is no satellite that can “surveil” messages from the sky the way we can see buildings and explosions.   Even when there are such monitors of email, real and entitled messages can be suppressed.  How long will it be before the Repubs repeal the Freedom of Information Act?  It’s 51 years old and has overthrown government and corporation oppression again and again.  The law says all government emails must be saved?  When you try to get rid of them, they come back somehow.

Post-modern is already past-modern.  Now we’re looking at “post-hominin” without any more insight than a monkey contemplating a keyboard.  Just chatter.  Every evolution includes or transforms what has gone before.  Even one’s appendix is still there, perhaps looking for a purpose which it may have found without us realizing.  We only pay attention if it's infected.

At its best, the video series called “Halt and Catch Fire”, a title which is a computer command meaning every program turns “on” at once so the machine locks up and must be rebooted to work, is demonstrating that human relationships give rise to the computer breakthroughs which then present new dilemmas for the humans.  I’m sure that at first all the sex was there to keep viewers, but porn was the impetus to developing much of the internet.  Like Wikipedia.  Research it.  "Halt and Catch Fire" is the state of our government.  Hugh Hefner is dead.  Our scandals are about money.  When lives are ended by natural disasters, we respond with bookkeeping.

We are not just blind to our own subconscious whirls and vortexes, but also to the newest forming dynamics of the world, like the consequences of accumulating carbon dioxide.  What else is out there that we didn’t see, taste, or feel?  

We are already inventing household-by-household creation or collection of energy: solar, wind, chemical reaction -- going off the grid.  We can barely think about the new cell phone grid forming in Africa, including the management of “money.”  We know the calving of Antarctic ice and the opening of the Arctic sea have begun, but we’ve just realized that the same forces are changing the food value of our crops and possibly melting old afflictions out of the ice alongside the mummified baby mammoths.  First the wonders, then the worries.

An undetected drone -- maybe quite small -- just “bombed” a munitions depot near Russia, only needing a “match” to start a huge spectacular explosion.  Rising water in Texas did the same thing just by counter-intuitively getting chemicals wet.

And all the while we’re tediously checking paper credentials at the airports.  But do you really want a convenient identity chip implant if it means that people with the means and motives can find you anywhere, anytime?  If it means whole categories of people can be made invisible and helpless?  Think about it both rationally (modern) and emotionally (post modern).  People are dying.

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