Sunday, July 16, 2023

A Sophomoric Philosopher's Dream

Undoubtedly like many untrained and unreconstructed thinkers, I have pondered for all of my life about how humans could achieve the glory of unselfconscious aliveness in the continuum of nature. I 'naturally' had in mind the life of a bird, or of a dolphin. It was about healing the rift that aspartame-fed mankind craves away from blood in tooth and nail.

Now and quite belatedly and accompanied by mild shock I realize that American capitalism has accomplished my dream. We are indeed wild predators now, feasting on the corpses of those we defeat, where Disney metaphor proves as bloody as a grizzly's mindless attack.

I had thought that this accomplishment would be accompanied by moral uplift and mental flight. Now I return to my roots; that it is civilization, cultivation and proper philosophy and mostly art which make up our proper living.

There is nothing on earth more beastly than a corporate low-level hourly spokesperson screwing fellow human out of the contractual obligations of, oh I don't know, say health insurance? Internet service? Honest news reporting? Our souls are now so cheapened that mere pennies, in inflation justified terms, are all that is required to purchase a soul.

My own return feels almost Christian, except that most Christianity as it is practiced now has died on the vine by an unholy identification of the individual soul to distinguish us from other animals; especially in our connection to a personal God. The vine connecting us to all of existence has been fully uprooted. It has proven less durable than the Deleuzian invasive rhizome I try to remove from what would be my garden; if I did garden.

We forget that moral uplift requires remaining connected to life as we aspire - to whatever god means. Just now, we do holy battle against all life. And like good bacteria everywhere, we sully our own soup. This moral law the only godly remedy to exponential math.

We meanwhile remain mechanically connected to the joys of soaring, in air and in the/a bathysphere. But mostly on the road, where we blithely bypass the mayhem of our creation, metaphorically and physically elevated from those who have no choice but to walk. Those we allow to sink to the bottom, while all effort is directed to recovering the remains of bathyspheric Everest climbers. Our earthly joys projected onto our betters. 

(Don't look up carhead, which is apparently a form of pornography. The Atlantic wisely chose "car brain." My lookup is what I hate about Google search. I'll return to that rant later.)

Walking migrants, huddled desperate free-floating masses deserve their fate. Who are the actual untethered? Not I! says the kite to the kestrel!

Well anyhow, we achieve our fancy flights by melding with machines, in a not-quite-Haraway-cyborgy connection. Hers was never predation. It would seem that the machinery needs to be more visible and tangible to make the real transition; digital machinery certainly screws the pooch. Ask Zuck. Nobodaddy cares to fly virtually, except as practice. Now he wants his physicality to be way more beastly than I could ever crave. He's not so very removed from ren-fair armored battling. Is this a way forward?

Now I read this fellow all the time, though I won't give him money to do so since I don't have any. My measure being that I have far less than he does, even though I live on the inside of empire. And the thing that bugs me about him is that he implicitly believes that humanity pulling itself from the muck is still a logic problem. He works to convince his readers of his point of view. You can lead a horse to water kind of problem.

I mean let me tell you he's way smarter than the rest of us, except that he still seems to think that he can talk (or write) us into doing the right thing. It reminds me of all my friends and relatives who, for a while, couldn't stop speculating about what's wrong with Trumpers' brains. Without ever talking to a Trumper. Back off! You look as scary as a tiger in the wild. 

We won't ever and never have changed by deciding to do so. Conscious evolution anyone? I have a bridge to sell you! Nope, nature is working on us as we speak. And we will relinquish the glories of rampant capitalism or perish as a species. Which leads one to wonder what the surviving species will look like. Or is humanity permanently identical with hubris?

Where is the dividing line between aspiring heavenly and flying too close to the sun? Well, for one thing, global community is only ever in the mind. Trusting and enjoying and cavorting with our fellow humans requires real community, which isn't exactly the sort which social media mediates. 

Sure, maybe academics in a certain field can from a kind of academic community, but it doesn't begin to approach the more intimate sort with which you share meals, music and boat rides.

I've always thought I wanted to be an academic, and maybe many of my teachers assumed I would be. The trouble for me was always that my reach exceeded my grasp. Like, I can't remember what my advisor called it, but whatever the term was I took it to mean something way over my head. I'd wanted to extend capitalist theory to cover educational credentials, which I thought constituted some sort of ownership of ascribed merit.

It's no mystery that our schools are also deeply embedded in capitalism.

We all know that the real value of attendance at the Ivies, for instance, has more to do with networks and social skills than it does with anything like knowledge. So human capital has always been a strange fiction, referring at least to the productivity of owned = credentialed, minds. A recent editorial even argues that legacy admissions are good becuase they give the diversity admits what they want; to rub shoulders with the landed elite.

What I am good at, if there's anything that I'm good at, is to assess the pieces of a built reality that I'm trying to make my own, and then to make it my own. I do this and have done it with boats and cars and houses and bicycles (the best!), and I come up with reasonable facsimiles of professional work, or in the case of bicycles, actual professional work. It's mostly about solving the money problem, which I can't seem to want to solve any more than I wanted to join the ranks for credentialed academia.

All those various commitments - academia and career - felt and feel life-ending, except for bicycles, which were, once upon a time, pretty easily comprehended without advanced anything. Next closest was the journeyman work I've done with computer networks. I lost interest when the cloud became the game.

Do I want to make the claim that my kind of work is closer to human than the kind that capitalism rewards? Maybe. In a way, I do undermine the system. But if I want to claim that capitalism dehumanizes - and I do! - then I guess that I believe that the system requires undermining for humanity to thrive. Like I'm pulling off a veil or something.

So yeah, it's still capitalism when profit/loss based on actual sales of actual stuff becomes subsumed in mindshare surveillance capitalism. It isn't exactly the theft of private habits which constitutes the crime, as Shoshana Zuboff might urge us to believe. I believe she remains firmly in the capitalist tent, if only there were better rules. Like Liz Warren - aren't they really coming from the same place?

No, mindshare capitalism gives us personal surveillance relinquishers from two of the most outrageously capitalized corporate entities in all time; Google, Apple take your pick. Like good organic farm goods, the representations against the reality of privacy protections are dubious at best. 

But now along comes large language modelling AI, and apparently people want to move their monetized by advertising digital production behind paywalls again to prevent the AI from scooping it all.

But really the nice thing is that all the capitalist imitations of human artistic production may also bring us back real news which isn't all a kind of disaster doom scroll of call it global warming and we will read it click bait.

I'm not saying global warming isn't real. I'm just saying I've lost my bearings among all the record breaks. I mean I actually remember 110 degrees in Phoenix in the dead of night. I was with small child. And global warming wasn't in the vocabulary. 

So I attended a sparsely and oldster-attended live music performance last night, which reminded me why I don't care for recorded music anymore. That magic won't be reproduced by AI, ever, because you need the fingers flying precisely over the fretboard and the drummer's athletic moves in synch with the grimacing neck stretches from the base. Not to mention the earth shattering female vocals. 

So yeah, bring on the AI to organize the Internet so that we don't have to waste so much time plowing through opaque and monetized keyterms. Blow the advertising monetization model out of the water. Like I know why housing contractors seem, to a man, to mistrust mainstream media. I lack the certainty of their vaguely Trumpian pronouncements, but I sure do know the frustration of people who actually enjoy diagnosing and fixing things being told what's what by digital authors who couldn't plumb a clogged drain to save their lives.

AI is already what they celebrate in the Academy writ large among the non-legacy admits. Put it in service to the AI of corporate decision-making and get rich. And then hoard the capital - mostly intellectual now - and own the owners. 

But those few of us who care to look through and beyond this veil of money will survive Neo-like beyond the Matrix. The Earth decrees it. 

Rock on I say, and scream the blues.

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