It is rather nauseating, beyond tiresome, to read and constantly hear the drivel over the dangers of globalism, the dislocation it has wrought, and the alliance between Big Tech and the managerial bureaucrats of the fiat welfare state. While I do have sympathies regarding the danger posed by Big Business, Big Government, and Big Welfare, the fear is often misplaced as it is largely the pet issue of a handful of armchair intellectual wannabes talking to themselves about the dangers of things identified nearly a century ago from the Southern Agrarians to James Burnham. Erstwhile, they are missing the present crisis by ruminating on a past issue only now rediscovered.
Marshall McLuhan, in the 1960s, predicted the post-New Deal and Great Depression states and societies would be dethroned by the coming electronic revolution. Perhaps we’re living in that decade right now, if not, undoubtedly we’re living in the century when it will happen. We might amend it to be the digital revolution with the continued progression of technology since McLuhan’s time.
Science Fiction filmography was, ironically, the first medium to unconsciously deal with the troubles posed by our technological future. As I’ve written elsewhere, much of science fiction filmography is a dialectic between dangerous technology on one hand and imperfect organicism (humanism) on the other hand. From 2001: A Space Odyssey, to Star Wars, to Terminator, Avatar, Interstellar, and Ad Astra, this is the principal governing spirit of so many films. Other films, which take a more positive approach to technology’s alliance with humans, still play with these themes: Independence Day, Armageddon, Deep Impact, and more.
Technological tyranny, if it is tyrannical, doesn’t offer many paths of engagement. Even the most ardent critics of tech are not neo-luddites who would wish to see us return to the pre-internet and pre-digital world. How many of these neo-traditionalist Catholics, rightwing populists, and primitivists, would really want to live in the eighteenth century? My guess is not a one. If they claim so, they are only blowing hot air. Moreover, humans have always been shaped by technology and technological transformation, from the Neolithic Revolution to the Printing Press to the Industrial Revolution. Undeniably these moments in human history and consciousness caused a lot of dislocation and change too. Furthermore, those on the left who opine for socialism and a new, New Deal (like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren) are ancient boomers so backward and incapable of seeing the future that their policies would equally stunt are movement into the new century that has left the industrial, work-related, world of the 1940s behind as we move into the digital, technological, and remote world of the present and future. They too are “reactionaries” in the sense of reacting against modernity (who many of these same folks constantly assail technological companies) and want to go back to an FDR or LBJ style politics that was appropriate for the mid-20th century but is no longer applicable in the 21st century.
If the outright destruction of technology is unfeasible and a mere fantastical intellectual phantasmagoria dreamt by the heirs of Manichean struggle, the alliance of big business, big government, and tech-critics seems a much more plausible alternative. But that ship has likely sailed. Our slow, burdensome, and technologically impaired governments and bureaucracies are far behind private developers who have also captured the hearts and minds of the digital warriors on reddit and other online forums where the free exchange of information and ideas is mostly intact. These parties are not going to be quite willing to surrender their emancipatory freedom they currently enjoy. Furthermore, the assault against the coming digital revolution will only serve to stunt our current evolution into the digital future. Not all countries will take the same path. Countries that do will find themselves like Bronze Age civilizations being superseded by their more technologically advanced and savvy neighbors.
This leaves one remaining course open to us. Accommodation with the digital revolution. And in this accommodation two paths emerge: a unity of the best of humanistic living and life with our technological future or the transhumanist theoria of the complete technological transformation of humanity.
While I have been worried about the consequences of our current technological epoch, I have given up worrying about it and being a critic of it. We’re living, contrary to the critics, in the most exciting time to be alive. Never before have we been more interconnected with open access resources right before us. Those who complain about atomization are those who lack the fortitude to ensure actual human bonds. They have no church, no bowling league, and, perhaps harshly, no real friends in the classical sense of the word. Their friends are all online. They never see them. They don’t do anything with them.
Yet there are those who are real friends, who we have met in real life, who we continue to meet in real life, who utilize all the blessings of the digital revolution to stay in contact with each other. The divide isn’t solely negative as the digi-tech critics proclaim ad nauseum. I for one take great pleasure in talking to old friends, classmates, and colleagues on Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, and Discord every week. Remaining human with technology is the struggle, complaining about human declination because of technology is tiresome and a recipe for eventual myopia. We need not fear techno-humanism. It is, in fact, the great call and struggle to embrace in the 21st century.
Hesiod, Paul Krause in real life, is the editor of VoegelinView and a writer on art, culture, literature, politics, and religion for numerous journals, magazines, and newspapers. He is the author of The Odyssey of Love and the Politics of Plato, and a contributor to the College Lecture Today and the forthcoming book Diseases, Disasters, and Political Theory. He holds master’s degrees in philosophy and theology (biblical & religious studies) from the University of Buckingham and Yale, and a bachelor’s degree in economics, history, and philosophy from Baldwin Wallace University.
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