Deus ex Machina

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“There is apparently no limit in sight, no end, and so it is no wonder that our minds, dizzy with numbers, take refuge in a yearning for infinitudes of energy and materials.

And yet these works that so magnify us also Dwarf us, reduce us to insignificance. They magnify us because we are capable of them. They diminish us because, say what we will, once we build beyond human scale, once we conceive ourselves Titans or as gods, we are lost in magnitude; we cannot control or limit what we do. The statistics of magnitude call out like Sirens to the statistics of destruction. If we have build towering cities, we have raised even higher the cloud of megadeath. If people are like grass before God, they are as nothing before their machines.”

Technocratic Liberalism has promised us unending progress. We are told the technology offers to us the solution to any and all problems. Under the condition of this crazed optimism and the rapid powers it has wrought, there is now real question about the meaning of nature itself. A technological revolution which once remade landscapes and cities in the newfound powers of the industrial machine, now has set it's sights on the genetic structure of life itself. Nature is splayed, in genetic form, on the table of the technocratic elite. And here, we remember the warning of the Bard: O, that way madness lies. And yet many, and importantly those positioned in the seats of power, see "that way" not as madness but as the way toward "the objective" (see Berry's poem at right).

This series will explore the technological atmosphere we find ourselves breathing. It will question seriously the prudence of our current trajectory. We will do our best to ask with some specificity and care about what alternatives actually exist.

 

[poetry here]

A Timbered Choir (excerpt)

Even while I dreamed I prayed that what I saw was only fear and no foretelling,
for I saw the last known landscape destroyed for the sake
of the objective, the soil bludgeoned, the rock blasted.
Those who had wanted to go home would never get there now.

I visited the offices where for the sake of the objective the planners planned
at blank desks set in rows. I visited the loud factories
where the machines were made that would drive ever forward
toward the objective. I saw the forest reduced to stumps and gullies; I saw
the poisoned river, the mountain cast into the valley;
I came to the city that nobody recognized because it looked like every other city. I saw the passages worn by the unnumbered
footfalls of those whose eyes were fixed upon the objective.

Their passing had obliterated the graves and the monuments
of those who had died in pursuit of the objective
and who had long ago forever been forgotten, according
to the inevitable rule that those who have forgotten forget
that they have forgotten. Men, women, and children now pursued the objective as if nobody ever had pursued it before.

Every place had been displaced, every love
unloved, every vow unsworn, every word unmeant
to make way for the passage of the crowd
of the individuated, the autonomous, the self-actuated, the homeless
with their many eyes opened toward the objective
which they did not yet perceive in the far distance,
having never known where they were going,
having never known where they came from.

-Wendell Berry

Word from the Tradition...


...the universal law of the machine...

“If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man's ethical formation, in man's inner growth, then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world.”

"The Apocalypse speaks about God’s antagonist, the beast. This animal does not have a name, but a number. In [the horror of the concentration camps], they cancel faces and history, transforming man into a number, reducing him to a cog in an enormous machine. Man is no more than a function. In our days, we should not forget that they prefigured the destiny of a world that runs the risk of adopting the same structure of the concentration camps, if the universal law of the machine is accepted. The machines that have been constructed impose the same law. According to this logic, man must be interpreted by a computer and this is only possible if translated into numbers. The beast is a number and transforms into numbers. God, however, has a name and calls by name. He is a person and looks for the person.

— Pope Benedict XVI

...clouds of megadeath...

“There is apparently no limit in sight, no end, and so it is no wonder that our minds, dizzy with numbers, take refuge in a yearning for infinitudes of energy and materials.

And yet these works that so magnify us also Dwarf us, reduce us to insignificance. They magnify us because we are capable of them. They diminish us because, say what we will, once we build beyond human scale, once we conceive ourselves Titans or as gods, we are lost in magnitude; we cannot control or limit what we do. The statistics of magnitude call out like Sirens to the statistics of destruction. If we have build towering cities, we have raised even higher the cloud of megadeath. If people are like grass before God, they are as nothing before their machines.”

— Wendell Berry

...a future plastic age...

"For the myth of a past golden age, present day humanity substitutes the myth of a
future plastic age.”

"To hope that the growing vulnerability of a world increasingly integrated by technology will not demand a total despotism is mere foolishness."

"The secret force behind technology appears to be the intention to make things insipid.
The flower without fragrance is its emblem."

"Rather than humanizing technology, modern man prefers to technify man."

"Modern man fears technology’s destructive capacity, when it is its constructive capacity that threatens him."

— Don Colacho

 

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