The Third Culture
The Third Culture
The dogma I object to is composed of a set of interlocking beliefs and doesn't have a generally accepted overarching name as yet, though I sometimes call it "cybernetic totalism". It has the potential to transform human experience more powerfully than any prior ideology, religion, or political system ever has, partly because it can be so pleasing to the mind, at least initially, but mostly because it gets a free ride on the overwhelmingly powerful technologies that happen to be created by people who are, to a large degree, true believers.
Edge readers might be surprised by my use of the word "cybernetic". I find the word problematic, so I'd like to explain why I chose it. I searched for a term that united the diverse ideas I was exploring, and also connected current thinking and culture with earlier generations of thinkers who touched on similar topics. The original usage of "cybernetic", as by Norbert Weiner, was certainly not restricted to digital computers. It was originally meant to suggest a metaphor between marine navigation and a feedback device that governs a mechanical system, such as a thermostat. Weiner certainly recognized and humanely explored the extraordinary reach of this metaphor, one of the most powerful ever expressed.
I hope no one will think I'm equating Cybernetics and what I'm calling Cybernetic Totalism. The distance between recognizing a great metaphor and treating it as the only metaphor is the same as the distance between humble science and dogmatic religion.
Here is a partial roster of the component beliefs of cybernetic totalism:
1. That cybernetic patterns of information provide the ultimate and best way to understand reality.
2. That people are no more than cybernetic patterns.
3. That subjective experience either doesn't exist, or is unimportant because it is some sort of ambient or peripheral effect.
4. That what Darwin described in biology, or something like it, is in fact also the singular, superior description of all creativity and culture.
5. That qualitative as well as quantitative aspects of information systems will be accelerated by Moore's Law.
And finally, the most dramatic:
6. That biology and physics will merge with computer science (becoming biotechnology and nanotechnology), resulting in life and the physical universe becoming mercurial; achieving the supposed nature of computer software. Furthermore, all of this will happen very soon! Since computers are improving so quickly, they will overwhelm all the other cybernetic processes, like people, and will fundamentally change the nature of what's going on in the familiar neighborhood of Earth at some moment when a new "criticality" is achieved- maybe in about the year 2020. To be a human after that moment will be either impossible or something very different than we now can know.