This is a post from one of Joan’s fantastic Sfakian reports in the Sfakia-Forum (https://www.sfakia-crete-forum.com/phpBB3/index.php): „Our next destination was Livaniana which hangs below a ridge of the lower Aradena gorge. The newly asphalted lower section of the road is a great improvement, but the long winding drive down the road with no safety barriers is still not for those who suffer from vertigo.
A boy and his dog were in charge of the Livaniana cafe (we could hear a woman inside the kitchen), and we spotted a new toilet below the cafe terrace.
We walked up through the village, past ancient and hollowed out olive trees, and admired the new stone and cement wall lining the extended and widened street which ends at the main church. A newer rough dirt and stone track leads beyond that to the old and new churches that lie on the footpath down into the Aradena gorge.
On the way back up we had to pull over carefully to the cliff side of the road to let 3 cars and pass which were loaded with Greek families who were probably on their way down to Finix or Lykos for the Easter holidays.“ Thanks a lot for this, Joan!!!
Ist es auch für Sie neu, dass die Rastlosigkeit von innen kommt und nicht aus dem äußeren Hamsterrad des Lebens?
Das ist der Zwiespalt der Moderne: Der Beschleunigungsdruck kommt nicht einfach nur von außen und das Resonanzverlangen nicht nur von innen. Sofern der Kapitalismus am Hamsterrad schuld ist, ist er auch in uns. Theoretisch war mir das klar, aber ich habe es nie so deutlich erfahren wie jetzt. Aber es gibt einen anderen Aspekt, den ich früh thematisiert hatte: Es entsteht nicht nur Aggressivität, sondern eine Art von Lethargie und Erschöpfung. Ich habe gerade ein Seminar gemacht über die Frage: Wo kommt Energie her? Ich beziehe mich da stark auf den Soziologen Randall Collins. Wir haben immer geglaubt, Energie sei eine individuelle und psychische Eigenschaft.
Ist nicht so?
Inzwischen glaube ich: Die Energie, die wir haben und in soziale Interaktion umsetzen, kommt aus der dichten Interaktion selber. Auch aus der irritierenden Interaktion, wenn mich zum Beispiel jemand anrempelt.
Genau. Wir sehen jetzt, wie sehr wir das Irritierende, das Überraschende, die erfreuliche oder unerfreuliche soziale Interaktion brauchen, um aus unseren Routinen, auch den gedanklichen, herauskommen zu können. Dieser digitale Austausch, den wir jetzt machen, ist gut, um schnell Informationen auszutauschen. Aber Kultur, sagt Hans Blumenberg, entsteht durch das Gehen von Umwegen – und diese Umwege fehlen jetzt. Ich kann nicht schnell auf einen Kaffee irgendwo hin, ins Kino oder jemanden treffen. Es ist nicht nur so, dass viele Menschen unruhig sind und ihre Resonanzachsen nicht so gut funktionieren, wie sie dachten, sondern dass ihnen eigenartigerweise – ich habe dafür keine empirischen, aber ganz gute anekdotische Evidenzen – sogar der Impuls zu sozialen Kontakten fehlt, wo sie sie haben könnten. Aber dazu fehlt die Energie, und dieser Energieverlust kommt aus der fehlenden sozialen Interaktionsdichte.
Siehe auch folgendes Interview in der Talkshow „Precht“ vom 30.1.2022:
Mark Zuckerberg’s manifesto outlines his vision for a centralised global colony ruled by the Silicon Valley oligarchy. I say we must do the exact opposite and create a world with individual sovereignty and a healthy commons.
In his grand vision for humanity, Mark keeps returning to how Facebook fundamentally “brings us closer together” by “connecting friends and families.” What Mark fails to mention is that Facebook does not connect people together; Facebook connects people to Facebook, Inc.
Facebook’s business model is to be the man in the middle; to track every move you, your family, and your friends make, to store all that information indefinitely, and continuously analyse it to understand you better in order to exploit you by manipulating you for financial and political gain.
Facebook isn’t a social network, it is a scanner that digitises human beings. It is, for all intents and purposes, the camera that captures your soul. Facebook’s business is to simulate you and to own and control your simulation, thereby owning and controlling you.
Where Mark asks you to trust him to be a benevolent king, I say let us build a world without kings.
I call the business model of Facebook, Google, and the venture-capital-funded long tail of Silicon Valley startups “people farming”. Facebook is a factory farm for human beings. And Mark’s manifesto is nothing more than a panicked billionaire’s latest sophomoric attempt to decorate an unpalatable business model grounded in the abuse of human rights with faux moral purpose to stave off regulation and justify what is unabashedly a colonial desire: to create a global fiefdom by connecting all of us to Facebook, Inc.
Avoiding a Global Colony
Mark’s manifesto isn’t about building a global community, it is about building a global colony – with himself as king and with his corporation and the Silicon Valley oligarchy as the court.
Facebook wants us to think that it is a park when it’s actually a shopping mall.
It is not the job of a corporation to “develop the social infrastructure for community” as Mark wants to do. Social infrastructure must belong to the commons, not to giant monopolistic corporations like Facebook. The reason we find ourselves in this mess with ubiquitous surveillance, filter bubbles, and fake news (propaganda) is precisely due to the utter and complete destruction of the public sphere by an oligopoly of private infrastructure that poses as public space.
Facebook wants us to think that it is a park when it’s actually a shopping mall. The last thing we need is more privately owned centralised digital infrastructure to solve the problems created by an unprecedented concentration of power, wealth, and control in a tiny number of hands. It’s way past time we started funding and building the digital equivalents of parks in the digital age instead of building ever-larger shopping malls.
Others have written detailed critiques of Mark’s manifesto. I will not repeat their efforts here. Instead, I want to focus on how we can build a world that stands in stark contrast to the one in Mark’s vision. A world in which we – individuals – instead of corporations, have ownership and control of our selves. In other words, where we have individual sovereignty.
Where Mark asks you to trust him to be a benevolent king, I say let us build a world without kings. Where Mark’s vision is rooted in colonialism and the perpetuation of centralised power and control, mine is based on individual sovereignty and a healthy, distributed commons.
We are (and we have been for a while now) cyborgs.
We must resist any attempt to reduce people to property with the greatest of fervour.
In that, I don’t mean to conjure up the stereotypical representation of cyborgs as prevalent in science fiction wherein technology is implanted within biological tissue. Instead, I offer a more general definition in which the term applies to any extension of our minds and our biological selves using technology. While technological implants are certainly feasible, possible, and demonstrable, the main way in which we extend ourselves with technology today is not through implants but explants.
We are sharded beings; the sum total of our various aspects as contained within our biological beings as well as the myriad of technologies that we use to extend our biological abilities.
Once we understand this, it follows that we must extend the protections of the self beyond our biological borders to encompass those technologies by which we extend our selves. Wherefore, any attempt to own, control, and trade in these technologies by third parties is an attempt to own, control, and trade in the constitutional elements of people. It is, in short, an attempt to own, control, and trade in people.
Needless to say, we must resist any attempt to reduce people to property with the greatest of fervour. For to not do so is to give our tacit consent to a new slavery: one in which we do not trade in the biological aspects of human beings but their digital aspects. The two, of course, do not exist apart and are not truly separable when manipulation of one necessarily affects the other.
Beyond Surveillance Capitalism
Once we understand that our relationship to technology is not one of master/butler but cyborg/organ; once we understand that we extend our selves with technology and that our technology and data lie within the boundaries of the self, then we must insist that the constitutional protections of the self that we have enshrined within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and implemented within our myriad of national laws are extended to protect the cyborg self.
It also follows, then, that any attempt to violate the boundaries of the self must be considered an assault on the cyborg self. It is exactly this abuse that constitutes the everyday business model of Facebook, Google, and mainstream Silicon Valley-inspired technology today. In this model, which Shoshana Zuboff calls surveillance capitalism, what we have lost is individual sovereignty. People have once again become property – albeit in digital, not biological, form.
To counter this, we must build new infrastructure to enable people to regain individual sovereignty. Those aspects of the infrastructure that concern the world around us must belong to the commons and those parts that concern people – that make up the organs of our cyborg selves – must be owned and controlled by individuals.
So, for example, smart city architecture must be in the commons and data about the world around us (“data about rocks”) must belong to the commons, while your smart car, smart phone, smart watch, smart teddy bear, etc., and the data they collect (“data about people”) must belong to you.
An Internet of people
Imagine a world where everyone has their own space on the Internet, funded from the commons. This is a private space (an organ of the cyborg self) that all our so-called smart devices (also organs) link into.
Instead of thinking of this space as a personal cloud, we must consider it a special, permanent node within a peer-to-peer structure wherein all our various devices (organs) connect to one another. Pragmatically, this permanent node is used to guarantee findability (initially using domain names) and availability (as it is hosted/always on) as we transition from the client/server architecture of the current Web to the peer-to-peer architecture of the next generation Internet.
The infrastructure we build must be funded from the commons, belong to the commons, and be interoperable. The services themselves must be constructed and hosted by a plethora of individual organisations – not governments or corporate behemoths – working with interoperable protocols and competing to provide the best service possible to the people they serve. Not coincidentally, this severely limited scope of corporate function marks the entirety of a corporation’s role within a democracy as I see it.
The sole purpose of a corporation should be to compete with other organisations to provide the best service to the people it serves. This is in stark contrast to the wide remit corporations have today to attract people (whom they call “users”) under false pretences (free services wherein they are the product being sold) only to addict them, entrap them with lock-in using proprietary technology, farm them, manipulate their behaviour, and exploit them for financial and political gain.
In the corporatocracy of today, we – individuals – serve corporations. In the democracy of tomorrow, corporations must serve us.
The service providers must, of course, be free to extend the capabilities of the system as long as they share their improvements back into the commons (“share alike”), thus avoiding lock-in. For providing services above and beyond the core services funded from the commons, individual organisations may set prices for and charge for value-added services. In this way, we can build a healthy economy of competition on top of an ethically sound core instead of the system of monopolies we have today on top of an ethically rotten core. And we can do so without embroiling the whole system in convoluted government bureaucracy that would stifle experimentation, competition, and the organic, decentralised evolution of the system.
Interoperability, free (as in freedom) technology with “share alike” licenses, a peer-to-peer architecture (as opposed to client/server), and a commons-funded core are the fundamental safeguards for preventing this new system from decaying into a new version of the monopolistic surveillance web we have today. They are how we avoid economies of scale and break the feedback loop between the accumulation of information and wealth that is the core driver of surveillance capitalism.
To be perfectly clear, we are not talking about a system that can flourish under the dictates of late-stage surveillance capitalism. It is a system, however, that can be constructed under present conditions to act as the bridge from that status quo to a sustainable, post-capitalist world.
Building the world you want to live in
In a talk I gave at a European Commission event in Rome recently, I told the audience that we must “build the world we want to live in.” For me, that is not a world owned and controlled by a handful of Silicon Valley oligarchs. It is a world with a healthy commons wherein we – as a community – collectively own and control those aspects of our existence that belong to us all and where we – as individuals – individually own and control those aspects of our existence that belong to our selves.
Imagine a world where you (and those you love) have democratic agency; where we all enjoy basic welfare, rights, and freedoms befitting cyborg dignity. Imagine a sustainable world freed of the destructive short-term greed of capitalism where we no longer reward sociopaths for finding ever more ruthless and destructive ways to accumulate wealth and power at the expense of everyone else. Imagine a free world removed from the feedback loop of manufactured fear and ubiquitous surveillance that has us spiralling deeper into a fresh vortex of fascism. Imagine a world where we grant ourselves the mercy of an intellectually rewarding existence where we are free to explore the potential of our species among the stars.
That is the world that I wake up every day to work towards. Not because it is charitable. Not because I’m a philanthropist. In fact, for no reason at all other than because that is the world that I want to live in.
“Ultimately, we are puppets of both pain and pleasure, occasionally made free by our creativity.”
A century and a half after James, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio picks up an empirical baton where Dickinson had left a torch of intuition. In his revelatory book Feeling & Knowing: Making Minds Conscious (public library), he makes the bold case that consciousness — that ultimate lens of being, which shapes our entire experience of life and makes blue appear blue and gives poems their air of wonder — is not a mental activity confined to the brain but a complex embodied phenomenon governed by the nervous-system activity we call feeling.
Trees travel in Salomé Jashi’s Taming the Garden, a jaw-dropping record of sublime beauty and gutted community. The Georgian filmmaker chronicles the pharaonic transport of massive trees — excavated from the earth, hauled overland (and upright) inch by inch, then ferried on the Black Sea — at the behest of billionaire businessman and politician Bidzina Ivanishvili. But this is no simple story of eccentric whims; Jashi’s expansive, wide-angle views let us feel the visceral impact when towns and villages must give up 100-plus-year-old trees, like losing some part of their hearts.
„When I saw it in reality for the first time, even though I was anticipating it, I felt dizzy, I felt like vomiting, which was a really interesting feeling. It meant that something fundamental was off, was shaken up. So I felt this metaphor that you just explained physically in my body. I don’t think the screen can actually convey the magnitude and the dimensions of what we witnessed there and what the people witnessed. But I hope that this meaning of taking away something fundamental, like uprooting something fundamental inside ourselves, is conveyed in the film.“ (Salome Jashi)
Some time ago, the entire country of Georgia witnessed a surreal scene – a large tree floating in the sea. That was when we learned that the most powerful man in the country had a new passion – to own century-old trees on his private estate. Witnessing this image was like seeing a glitch in the real. It was as if I had seen something I should have never seen. It was beautiful, like real-life poetry, but at the same time it seemed to be a mistake, a kind of discomfort.
I embarked on filming this process as Georgia’s whole coastline was involved in implementing one man’s desire. I wanted to explore what was behind this mesmerizingly strange image; to tell about the ambition of a powerful man, who alters landscapes, moves trees, leaves witnesses perplexed – all for the sake of his pleasure.
I am fascinated by environments and how these environments affect people. More precisely, how we perceive others, and ourselves, in specific environments. The contradiction between settings and the people in them is what often drives my vision.
To me, the film does not have a one-dimensional line as to what it is about. The material spoke of many different aspects of life, which found symbolic expressions in the film, such as the idea of manhood, or forced migration, or uprooting, which is not just a physical process. I also relate the theme of uprooting to my country, where values and a sense of stability is constantly floating. I see the film as an evocative journey into a surreal world, which paradoxically is also fact-based.
We were filming for almost two years. I would travel with my small team to the coast each month to try to capture elements for the film. It was a challenging process as nothing was properly planned. We were dependent on the natural elements like wind, rain, unexpected circumstances in the workers’ routine, even the general political situation of the day. The process of transplanting trees was very slow and key elements would happen very fast. But the biggest challenge was connected to the local inhabitants. Since the wealthy man behind the scenes is also the most politically powerful man in the country, they were often scared to even appear in front of the camera fearing possible consequences, the fear which we, like other fragile democracies, have in our blood.
Lanier writes how he was scared witless when he learned how humans could be conditioned and brainwashed through selective feedback responses. It was then it dawned on him, what he later referred to as “the Thought”, that VR is the ultimate technology for a skinner box; the perfect tool for human manipulation.
Lanier summarised an equation for the terrifying outlook of the ultimate Skinner box, and its reads as follows:
Turing^Moore’s Law * (Pavlov, Watson, Skinner) = Zombie Apocalypse
In other words: if we combine our ever growing computational powers with behavioural manipulation, shit will hit the fan. Those in power of defining the behaviour of the people in the box will have absolute power to bend the world to their will. The result, according to Lanier, will be catastrophic. In a recent Forbes article, Lanier is quoted:
„If you run [the metaverse] on a business model that’s similar to the one that Facebook runs on, it’ll destroy humanity. I’m not saying that rhetorically. That is a literal and specific prediction that humanity could not survive that. (…) VR can either be beautiful art and sympathy or terrible spying and manipulation. We set its meaning”
„I was most recently enlivened by a book, so I can’t think of anything more fitting for my return to this format than an account of it: 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows, by the great Chinese artist Ai Wei-Wei.“ (Edward Snowden)
Ai Wei-Wei writes:
„Under the pressure to conform, everyone sank into an ideological swamp of “criticism” and “self-criticism.” My father repeatedly wrote self-critiques, and when controls on thought and expression rose to the level of threatening his very survival, he, like others, wrote an essay denouncing Wang Shiwei, the author of “Wild Lilies,” taking a public stand that went against his inner convictions.
Situations such as this occurred in Yan’an in the 1940s, occurred in China after 1949, and still occur in the present day. Ideological cleansing, I would note, exists not only under totalitarian regimes—it is also present, in a different form, in liberal Western democracies. Under the influence of politically correct extremism, individual thought and expression are too often curbed and too often replaced by empty political slogans.“