Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Demiurge and the Banality of Evil

During my recent book tour to promote my book Shrinking the Technosphere there were several occasions when I found myself hard-pressed to answer a simple question: “But what is the technosphere, really?” Calling it is an “emergent intelligence” sounds highly intellectual but doesn’t answer the question of what physical entity, if any, possesses that intelligence. Saying that it is a generalized property of human minds bolstered by such things as internet servers and robots again misses the mark: how can a property have an agenda—which is to pursue an abstract teleology of infinite growth and total control? At one point I ventured that the technosphere could be conceived of as a spirit, and that its influence on the human minds it holds captive could be characterized as a sort of demonic possession.

Let’s keep in mind that however we choose to characterize it, be it as “emergent intelligence” or as “demonic possession,” we are still completely reliant on metaphors. And since one metaphor may very well be worth another, it seems worthwhile to ask which metaphor happens to be more effective and accurate. This is bound to vary by audience: those who are cerebral, agnostic and try to find out about the world by reading nonfiction (and perhaps science fiction) probably find the term “emergent intelligence” more palatable than “demonic possession” while those who feel their way through life might think that things invisible are all of one nature whether they sound scientific or unscientific.

And so, following on the last post, which explored the confines of what is known about “the guy who created the universe” in this one we test the limits of what can be achieved by considering the technosphere as a demiurge. We will again do our best to adhere to anaphatic theology, which relies on what can be observed and reasoned about rather than on the creative outputs of revelation, prophesy, imagination, wild fancy or plain old lunacy.

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