Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Shrinking the Technosphere, Part I

[Réduire la techno-sphère, Partie I]

On September 28, while addressing the UN General Assembly, Putin proposed “implementing naturelike technologies, which will make it possible to restore the balance between the biosphere and the technosphere.” It is necessary to do so to combat catastrophic global climate change, because, according to Putin, CO2 emissions cuts, even if implemented successfully, would be a mere postponement rather than a solution.

I hadn't heard the phrase “implementing naturelike technologies” before, so I Googled it and Yandexed it, and came up with nothing more than Putin's speech at the UN. He coined the phrase. As with the other phrases he's coined, such as “sovereign democracy” and “dictatorship of the law,” it is a game-changer. With him, these aren't words thrown on the wind. In each of these cases, the phrase laid the foundation of a new philosophy of governance, complete with a new set of policies.

In the case of “sovereign democracy,” it meant methodically excluding all foreign influences on Russia's political system, a process that culminated recently when Russia, in tandem with China, banned Western NGOs, which were previously making futile attempts to destabilize Russia and China politically. Other countries that find themselves having trouble with the Orange Revolution Syndicate can now follow their best practices.

In the case of “dictatorship of the law,” it meant either explicitly legalizing and absorbing into the system, or explicitly outlawing and destroying, every type of illegal or semi-legal social formation, first by focusing on the criminal gangs and protection rackets that proliferated in Russia during the wild 1990s, and now expanding into the international sphere, where Russia is now working to destroy the products of illegal Western activities, such as ISIS, along with other US-trained, US-armed, Saudi-funded terrorist groups. “Dictatorship of the law” means that no-one is above the law, not even the CIA or the Pentagon.

This being a given, it makes sense to carefully parse the phrase, in hopes of gaining a better of understanding of what is meant, and this particular phrase is harder to parse than the previous two, because the Russian original, “внедрение природоподобных технологий”, is laden with meanings that English does not directly convey.

“Внедрéние” (vnedrénie) can be translated in any number of ways: implementation; introduction; implantation; inoculation, implantation (of views, ideas); entrenchment (esp. of culture); enacting; advent; launch; incorporation; adoption; inculcation, instillation; indoctrination. Translating it as “implementation” does not do it justice. It is derived from the word “нéдра” (nédra) which means “the nether regions” and is etymologically connected to the Old English word “neðera” through a common Indo-European root. In Russian, it can refer to all sorts of unfathomable depths, from the nether regions of the Earth (where oil and gas are found) to the nether regions of human psyche, as in the phrase “недра подсознательного” (the nether-regions of the subconscious). Translating it with the tinny, technical-sounding word “implementation” does not do it justice. It can very well mean “implantation” or “indoctrination.”

The word “природоподóбный” (priródo-podóbnyi) translates directly as “naturelike,” although in Russian it has less of an overtone of accidental resemblance and more of an overtone of active conformance or assimilation. It is of recent coinage, and can be found in a few techno-grandiose articles by Russian academics in which they promote vaporous initiatives for driving the development of nanotechnology or quantum microelectronics by simulating evolutionary processes, or some such. The gist of it seems to be that once widgets get too complex for humans to design, we might as well let them evolve like bacteria in a Petri dish.

Based on what Putin said next, we can be sure that this is not what he had in mind: “We need qualitatively different approaches. The discussion should involve principally new, naturelike technologies, which do not injure the environment but exist in harmony with it and will allow us to restore the balance between the biosphere and the technosphere which mankind has disturbed.” It seems that he meant that people should conform to nature in daily life rather than try to simulate nature in a laboratory setting.

But what did he mean by “technologies”? Did he mean that we need a new generation of eco-friendly gewgaws and gizmos that are slightly more energy-efficient than the current crop? Again, let's see what got lost in translation. In Russian, the word “tekhnológii” does not directly imply industrial technology, and can relate to any art or craft. Since it is obvious that industrial technology is not particularly “naturelike,” it stands to reason that he meant some other type of technology, and one type immediately leaps to mind: political technologies. In Russian, it is written as one word, polittekhnologii, and it is a common one. At its best, it is the art of shifting the common political and cultural mindset in some favorable or productive direction.

Putin is a consummate political technologist. His current domestic approval rating stands at 89%; the remaining 11% disapprove of him because they wish him to take a more hard-line stance against the West. It makes sense, therefore, to examine his proposal from the point of view of political technology, jettisoning the notion that what he meant by “technology” is some sort of new, slightly more eco-friendly industrial plant and equipment. If his initiative succeeds in making 89% of the world's population speak out in favor of rapidly adopting naturelike, ecosystem-compatible lifestyles, while the remaining 11% stand in opposition because they believe the adoption rate isn't high enough, then perhaps climate catastrophe will be averted—or at least its worst-case scenario, which is human extinction.

In the next part of this series, we will learn what political technology is, what sorts of political technologies we can see used all around us. Then we will move on to addressing the main questions: What does it mean for us to become naturelike, and, finally, How can we invent or evolve political technologies to bring about this transformation while there is still time (if we are lucky).


Alex said...

Oh, just stuff like passive heating and cooling, encouraging everyone who can to garden, keeping chickens which are very entertaining and love leftovers, really basic stuff.

You guys can pull it off!

Here in the USA, I guess we'll put some stupid flags on our truck and do donuts on the lawn of the salt of the earth Sikh family who would share the last of their dhal with someone in need.

Pray for us, Russkies!

Barrabas said...

Gday Dmitri
It strikes me that Putin will be remembered as a great leader because of his ability to distinguish abstraction from reality; he really is acting in the best interests of the russian people and increasingly , the world . Most of our anglo pollies are more intent on deceiving people into defending and advancing some abstraction or other which represents the interests of the usually filthy rich power that supports said Polly . Of course Putin is not perfect and i'm sure he has his own constituency , but to nowhere near the same degree as in the West .
Happy Sailing Cap'n. !!

Robert T. said...

Hi Dmitri, I think President Putin was referring to Biomimicry when he said “implementing nature-like technologies.” Biomimicry is a relatively new field when compared to the other sciences, but recent years have seen it pick up pace since its inception in the ‘80s, although there were many instances of its application even before that.

simon.dc3 said...

I can't wait to read your take on this, Dmitry.

I really REALLY hope what is meant is BIOMIMICRY. The concepts of which are well established by now in various fields.

POLITTEKHNOLOGII sounds like the indoctrination inculcated into "revolutionaries" like Pol Pot and Chairman Mao --and other sociopaths trained in Her Majesty's Colonial Regiment and yet others sponsored by the CIA. Who then are let loose to implement the indoctrination as they see fit.

Their sponsors always on the sidelines taking credit or disassociating from the sociopath.
Most times disassociating instead and/or having to fight their spawn as recalcitrant enemies (i.e. ISIS) while taking notes on how to go about indoctrinating the next one.
All the while almost always dehumanizing misery suffered by the local populations (mmm...like it's happened in the past year at the hands of ISIS for instance.)

Which brings to mind those posts on thaumaturgy John Michael Greer wrote about in the Fall/Winter of 2011.

With KSA's and USSA's polittekhnologii / thaumaturgy programs running full-on against limits and being shown for the failures they most always turn out to be --which is what you always get when implanting revolutionary ideas of social change in people with damaged souls--, the world certainly doesn't need Russia reviving that aspect of the USSR.

TH in SoC said...

@simon.dc3: We can also look at the political technologies deployed by the West against its own citizens, "technologies" which are increasingly just as destructive as any deployed by the former USSR. Why is it that most White evangelicals disbelieve in climate change or refuse to believe that the lives of the dark-skinned (wherever they are and wherever they are from) matter? Why is such a large fraction of the USA so rabidly, unthinkingly patriotic? Why has the successful creation of an idiotic "consumer culture" been so enduring? And why are so many Americans so unwilling to take on board any honest constructive criticism of their own nation?

Hopefully we can see the emergence of a "political technology" which makes people wise rather than turning them into idiots. But it won't emerge from the West.

jo6pac said...

Alex said...

As an Amerikan I would like to be offended by your comment but it's so true;)

9anda1f said...

"involve principally new, naturelike technologies, which do not injure the environment but exist in harmony with it and will allow us to restore the balance between the biosphere and the technosphere which mankind has disturbed."
Sounds like Mr Putin has been reading some Mollison, "live in concert with nature, not in conflict"

F Mat said...

Nature-politic, biomimicry.....sounds a lot like the principles of Bucky Fuller...I'll bet that Putin knows about Bucky's philosophy.

F Mat said...

Check out the work of Richard Buckminster Fuller ("Bucky")......biomimicry could be his middle name....His work reaches back to the early 1900s. I would think that Putin is on to Bucky if he is serious about this topic.

Manu Sharma said...

A thin but real chance that by "nature-like [political] technologies" Putin is referring to the back-to-the-land movement in Russia known as The Ringing Cedars movement started by Vladimir Megre's Anastasia books.

I understand that they have proposed a bill in Duma that calls for the state to allot lifetime rights of one hectare of land to every family for life. There are already over 200 settlements - possibly the largest transition movement of its kind in the world.