FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE ABOLITION OF MONEY

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And so we’ve arrived at the self-service airport with its do-it-yourself check-in. It should be easy, for we’ve already been well trained: we’ve all learned how to manage the tactile-screen world that we are ever so deeply enveloped by. Doesn’t it make everything so easy now? We used to speak metaphorically about having the world at your fingertips, but now it is a literal fact.

Nevertheless, the self-servicing of services at the airport, has definitely complicated rather than eased the consumer’s experience of catching a flight. The host at the check-in counter has been theoretically obsolete, although he or she seems to be just as busy as ever, and, perhaps even more stressed. Stressed, yes, because those of us checking in are definitely more stressed. Now, we must do all the work, and if there is an error … if there can be an error in the perfect self-service world … then it is we who are to blame.

The companies that have implemented self-service check-in will argue that by doing so they can keep ticket-costs low, but how much of that idea can we really believe. What self-servicing does indicate is that technology can effectively replace most kinds of customer-contact labour. There are restaurants that have made waiters obsolete by introducing tablet-app menus: just press the items you want and wait for the signal to go and pick your food up from the counter. Robots have automized industry: almost anything can be obtained from Amazon.com and the human-factor involved in the process of delivery is practically null.

Of course, Amazon delivers books, and the books are not (yet) written by machines. Did we say “not”? Woops. Correction: they already are,[1] and for the pulp-fiction editorial world the temptation to pre-programme a book with all the ingredients they “know” the readers want will be much more appetising than the traditional procedure of accepting manuscripts from cantankerous authors, that must be tediously edited in order to come up with the publishers’ needs.

Technology is destined to replace human labour – that is really part of its purpose – but what is the end-result of this process of “alleviating” labour? Surely, the ultimate goal is a society in which services and production-orientated work no longer has to be endured by the human members of society themselves.

Nevertheless, civilisation is still not geared toward, or even particularly conscious of this end-result. While the technological revolution unfolds, the political and economic fabric of the nation-states and the global economy enveloping them, remains the same. This is probably because the profits engendered from the tech revolution are immense for the few empowered with the control of that revolution. Whilst huge harvests can be reaped and the bubbling unrest from the non-privileged classes below doesn’t burst into revolt, Wealth has no intention of letting society develop into the technologically revolutionised Utopia that it should be evolving toward. Why would it? The self-servicing implied the complete technological redrafting of society suggests an evolution towards the non-necessity of money, and unto the abolition of Wealth itself. Of course, Wealth understands this. Technological progress is inevitable, but carries within it the seeds of Wealth’s own annihilation. We are governed oligarchically now by the empowered wealthy classes, but in that government lies a subliminal fear of this paradox. Only the creation of a Dystopia for humanity will ensure the existence of Wealth after the complete technological redrawing of civilisation has taken place. For Wealth, the only way forward is toward Big Brother. For wealth, survival implies absolute control.

THE ALTERNATIVE

 

For the moment, the revolutionary idea of a complex society that can function without money, is a sublime, if Utopic, one. It transcends any faculty of the senses. The idea seems like nonsense, or we are awestruck by it. We just cannot perceive it properly. Money is not just a part of the status quo, it is a seemingly essential ingredient in our own being. But this is a misleading perception.

The shadows we see flickering on the wall in Plato’s cave, are the shadows of the monetary system. In the real light that illuminates the human condition, money is by no means an essential ingredient. Rather it is a transitory phase that has enabled the development of technology but which needs to be abandoned at some point if technology is ever allowed to fulfil itself in its final purpose.

But the revolution is happening, and the point of abandonment from the control over our lives that money engenders can now be seen. Our politics can now be geared towards the technological revolutions complete realisation as a Utopia – the only alternative is the Dystopia that we are currently being shoved towards.

[1] SEE THIS ARTICLE FROM SCIENCE ALERT, 2016: https://www.sciencealert.com/a-novel-written-by-ai-passes-the-first-round-in-a-japanese-literary-competition

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The Will for Permanence

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A healthy person, well-equipped for achieving things in life, would not, under normal circumstances, want to die. The same should be expected to be true of a healthy civilisation or culture, or a healthy human outlook of itself.

The will for permanence has always been a powerful drive in the human psyche: it is the reason for religions, and it is embedded in all art and technology. It’s enemies are, what Freud called, the pleasure principle and the death drive.

From an aesthetic point of view, it could be said that the will for permanence brings out the best in us, and makes us beautiful. Permanence is our beautiful dream.

The Architecture of Air-travel

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The airport could be seen as a gateway to liberty, for, love it or hate it, air travel has given us the wings so many humans must dream of whenever they contemplate the freedom in the flight of a bird. However, the sensation when one is in an airport is not precisely that of being free. Technology has given us the power to fly, but not gratuitously. The freedom to fly comes at a cost: an economic one; a long flight is uncomfortable and expensive, and practicality and profitability demand the design of claustrophobic spaces for travellers. Jet-travel is cramped and stressful, and embedded in the experience is the implicit fact that it if the mechanism you are locked into fails, the metal tube you sit in will hurtle down and crash in a way that will annihilate everyone on board.

Statistically, we’re told, it’s the safest form of travel. Of course, we have to trust the airlines, and hope that their needs to ensure profits will not affect the safety and maintenance standards of the aircraft we are flying in. Nevertheless, each passenger airline is a potential bomb, a potential that was taken full advantage of by terrorists in 2011.

After 9/11 things became more claustrophobic for everyone … or everyone except Power with a capital P. Terror is a liberating force for Power and the latter took full advantage of the terrorists taking advantage of air-travel, to create an authentic space of absolute control in the airports. Rather than feeling that one is passing through a gateway to freedom, airports today seems like an ugly, if thankfully brief, passage through a concentration-camp.

For Power, airports are an ideal laboratory wherein to explore the extents of control that the citizens of the so-called democratic societies are willing to endure, because whenever you travel by plane you are being asked an implicit question: what price (loss-of-freedom-price) are you prepared to pay in order to enjoy the freedom (time-winning-gain) of flying to your destination?

Power knows that the inconveniences, both the excessive controls as well as the possible threats of a hijacking or the likeliness of an accident, gradually become absorbed by society as ‘the way things are’ – an expression which is just as progress-numbing as terms like ‘destiny’ or ‘God’s will’. And this is exactly how things have played out.

To make air-travel less stressful and liberate airports from the concentration-camp models that we have today we need to rethink the whole militaristic conception of air-travel architecture. But, is that possible? Can we make more enjoyable airports? Could flying be a less-claustrophobic and more beautiful experience? Or, does the paradox between the freedom of flying and the measures required to ensure the safety of that experience imply that the airports we have today are the only kinds of airports possible?

The resolution of the paradox is a deep, essential problem, for the paradox is not just a conundrum of airports, but a paradox concerning the human-condition. As with air-travel, so it is with life itself. As with airports, so it is with our cities. The question is the same: Does the conflict between the desire for freedom and the needs of safety imply that the architecture structuring our lives today is the only feasible kind of structure that can deal with that conflict?

Freedom becomes popular when it is safe and safety implies regulation which diminishes freedom. In order to gain anything, how much must be sacrificed? It is a question as old at least as the first magical rituals. But the question we want to raise now is: is there only one solution to the paradox? Might there not be a better architecture than the one we currently have? Why are all the airports the same? How can the best model be so imperfect? Can we design our airports (and hence the entire structure of our societies) in a more comfortable, pleasant, and human way?

On the Beauty of Humanity

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Kant says that there are two kinds of beauty: that which is free and that which is dependent.[1] Human imagination can develop beauty, seemingly freely through imagination, but the essence of human beauty itself is always coming from a condition of dependency, for it depends on the Universe that it depends on for its existence and in which it is contained.

In fact, human beauty resides in two absurd drives: a) the desire to be free in a Universe that it is ultimately completely dependent on; and b) the desire to find permanence in that same Universe which is destined to die.

To indagate in our beauty then, we cannot escape our absurdity. And yet, all great art is based on these two paradoxical longings: how can that be? How can something be great and absurd at the same time?

The answer to this dilemma lies in the same paradox, the paradox of freedom and its impossible relationship with its dependence on reality.

The key to the human soul is embedded in our impossible dreams: we know that we cannot be truly free or permanent, but that does not stop us from trying or stop us from believing in such things. And it is this ability, this sapiens skill of pursuing the impossible, that pushes us beyond all paradoxes. The fact that we can understand the impossible and yet at the same time believe in the idea that the impossible will become possible and real, is a liberation.

Or, knowing that we are not free and yet still believing that we could be, makes us free.

This paradox has been the driving force of all deep art and deep technology. In it lies the immense beauty of what we are; the awesome beauty that can believe it will one day conquer even its own most absolute limitations … as long as we keep focussed and trying.

[1] Immanuel Kant, CRITIQUE OF JUDGEMENT, Oxford World Classics edition, OUP, p.60

Pleasure and Preservation – the need for an Aesthetics of Humanity

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Pleasure gives us a purposiveness to preserve that which we like.

This idea is Kantian[1]. In linking pleasure with preservation, it also ties it to the will for permanence and removes it from pleasure as a hedonistic love of the ephemeral.

In this way, we find that there are two kinds of pleasure: the superficial (ephemeral) one and the deeper one that is tied up with this will for permanence.

Kant was investigating aesthetics when he brought this up, and in fact it is this double pronged idea of pleasure which explains the need for aesthetics as a need for understanding the pleasure that things can give us in order to understand the need to preserve them.

It there is a necessary purposiveness in preserving humanity, then perhaps this can be inculcated via the development of an aesthetics of humanity, a way of looking at ourselves that will foster the deeper pleasure instincts of the will for permanence.

By dwelling on the beauty that is humanity we encourage ourselves to strengthen the human and mould ourselves into good human-beings: a concept which can only be properly understood once we have learned to see the beautiful within what humanity is.

An aesthetics of the human would need to be disinterested in anything other than the authentically human. Any study of this aesthetic would therefore have to distance itself from the ugly humanity that we are, in order to find the beautiful humanity that we should be.

This concept should not be seen as Idealist, but rather as a kind of positivistic deconstructionism. The only way to know what we should be as authentic human beings, is to dismantle the errors that have shaped us into the monstrous form that humanity is today. Only by unveiling the ugliness of what we are now, can we see the beauty of what we should have become (and can become in the future). This unveiling demands a dismantling of all interests that divide humanity: all nationalisms; racial or religious divisions; as well as all economic interests and ideologies of class.

An aesthetics of humanity might not only be a way to ensure the permanence of the human race, it could also create an authentic design and composition for humanity or for human progress.

Technology, seen from the perspective of the aesthetics of humanity, is either an ornamentation that takes away from the genuine beauty of humanity, or it is an extension of the beautiful picture itself.

Objective purposiveness is either external, i.e. the utility; or internal, i.e. the perfection of the object,”[2] said Kant. But our line of thinking sees perfection coming through utility. Once we understand the utility of humanity in the cosmos, then we can begin to conceive where the road to perfection starts.

[1] See Immanuel Kant, CRITIQUE OF JUDGEMENT, Oxford Classics, OUP, p. 51

[2] Ibid, p.57

What we Forget

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Every living creature, and, of course, every human being, has a spiritual tie to nature. It is the cosmos that has created us, moulding us out of itself, and pre-programming us through our DNA to eventually return to it when our physical life deteriorates or is broken and dies.

All spiritual linkage, therefore, should be not with the land or with the country, or with the people who speak our language, but with the Universe.

From this stand-point, human culture has been a steady process of psychologically dis-possessing us from our authentic home, which is the entire Universe. This dis-possession begins with our parents and the immediate family that take possession of us immediately. An initial dis-possession that spreads itself out into the extended family, then our friends and neighbours, and little by little all this dis-possession through kinship dissolves into the great dis-possession by the cultural environment of the state.

Purpose

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Kant divided his critique of judgement between the aesthetic and the teleological powers of judgement. For Kant, the aesthetic side of judgement is that which judges formal purposiveness through the feelings of pleasure and displeasure: this is a subjective judgement. The teleological side, on the other hand, judges the real, objective purposiveness of nature by using understanding and reason[1]: teleological judgement is objective.

Our nihilistic, capitalist system has done away with the teleological side of judgement as its forward-moving impulse clashes with capitalism’s need for the cyclic. The system is therefore imbalanced, in favour of the feelings of pleasure (predominantly) and the need for displeasure in order to fuel the highs through their contrast with the lows.

This abandonment of the teleological has been our greatest mistake. By ignoring the teleological and, as such, the objective powers of judgement, we have pushed ourselves ever deeper into an apocalyptic scenario. By ridding nature of its purposiveness, we give ourselves free-rein to exploit it to the end, extracting the last drop of sense from the biosphere until there is nothing left to sustain us or any other life here on Earth.

Nature’s purpose has to become an object of concern again if we are to get ourselves back on the forward moving track, which has to be a partnership between us and the world. And, as in any partnership, the alliance must be based on understanding, which is precisely what the teleological judgement aims for: an understanding of the purpose of the Universe, beginning with an affirmation that such a purpose must exist.

[1] Immanuel Kant, CRITIQUE OF JUDGEMENT, Oxford World Classics, OUP, p.28

The Purposiveness of the Subjective

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Through the creation of sapiens life-forms, the Universe adopts a new external reality for itself, in which it becomes subjected to the subjective perception of individual consciousnesses. And these consciousnesses are themselves struggling to channel their own subjectivity in the most objectively meaningful form possible. Thus, in the external dimension of sapiens cognition, the Universe is basically an aesthetic phenomenon.

Our minds are the external dimensions of the Universe.

Each mind is a universe in itself.

Minds are layered. Language and memory, as well as imagination and feelings, seep into the mindscapes provided by perception. The mind needs the Universe not just to create it, but to inspire it and give its cognition something to think about or, in other words, to give fuel (and meaning) to its power and potential. Likewise, the Universe needs the mind to discover it and give it the Being, which comes through being known, and the subsequent meaningfulness that comes from the relationship between the subject and the object of that Being.

Once the meaningfulness of this interchange is unveiled, the result is pleasurable and liberating. Meaning is a tool for freedom. The sapiens entity finds its freedom in the universe itself has created, which is a subjective one, discovered through its own consciousness and which is its own subjective reflection of the Universe as a whole. Our universes are their own subjective cosmos in the vast space of multiverses created by the accumulation of all sapiens consciousnesses.

But this liberation is only felt when the sapiens is able to understand the meaning inherent in its own experience. It is not the thinking itself, but the meaning inherent in the thinking that is liberating.

Toward a Philosophy of Progress

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Kant divided concepts into those of nature and those of freedom[1], and now let’s introduce a third concept, lying between these two, which is that of nature which has been transformed by freedom.

With the establishment of this third category we can also now envisage a new philosophy between the philosophy of nature and the philosophy of morals that would be a philosophy of progress: which is concerned with what we can achieve through the alteration of nature and which would have an ultimate of creating eternity – because eternity has to be the ultimate aim of all progress.

This philosophy of progress has both technically-practical and morally-practical principles, geared towards that which is not yet practical but which should be, and hence, which should be the aim of freedom.

The existence of progress means that the practical itself is constantly evolving with the development of the technically possible. Or, in other words, the theoretical of today creates the practicalities of tomorrow’s freedom.

 

THE IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBILITY OF THE IMPOSSIBLE

The philosophy of progress takes, as its first assumption, that anything is possible and that the impossible is a temporary illusion: things are impossible only until we discover how they can be made possible.

Impossibility only exists while a) we are incapable of developing our technological skills enough to be able to render things we desire to be possible; or that b) we lack the desire to render certain things possible. This lack of desire can come about because of b.1) the condition in which the imagined possibility is morally undesirable (e.g.: the creation of a hard-core artificial-intelligence, by which we mean a super-fast, self-conscious computer that would have access to unlimited information instantaneously and the power to control all that information at its own will, should be considered impossible, not because we could never create it, but because it would very easily and likely destroy us if it ever were to be created. Moral undesirability, therefore, renders the theoretically possible a practical impossibility).

[1] Immanuel Kant, CRITIQUE OF JUDGEMENT, Oxford World Classics, OUP, p. 7

THE EXISTENTIAL NEED FOR NEW KINDS OF CRITICS

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How is an objective judgement of something so personal as art possible? Or, in other words, how is aesthetics possible? Or perhaps the question is irrelevant, for even if a truly objective judgement is impossible, the critic must try and make one. If not, without criticism what would art achieve? How would the artist know how to proceed in a critical vacuum?

Once again we find that something we take for granted rests on a very shaky paradox: criticism is impossible but we need it. In a sense, the whole basis of art is absurd and unsustainable, and yet we need it. In fact, we could not really conceive of being human without it.

Perhaps the most surprising thing is that we, or our artists, ignore the absurdity and the paradox and just get on with the job, and the critics keep on with theirs. Surprisingly, yes, until we start to consider that all activity in the whole of society and civilisation is based on this same paradox: How can any individual make an objective judgement of any human activity at all?

Of course, to most people the surprising thing would be that we are even trying to formulate such questions. Another paradox is that absurdity is so ingrained in our lives that we take it completely for granted and it doesn’t surprise us at all. We can’t even see the pointless nature of our lives. As Camus said, we are a kind of Sisyphus, condemned to push a huge rock up a hill, but a happy Sisyphus, unaware of the real absurdity of our condition. We just get on with the job; revealing or talking about the non-purposefulness of our lives does little to help. Or not at least until we realise that we can change things and that the most absurd thing about the absurdity is its repetitiveness which is completely unnecessary.

With an absurdity we have three choices: believe in it; not believe in it; or, ignore its existence and believe in something else. The fact that the objective system is impossible as a pure objective truth means that there are as many other impossible objective systems as we can subjectively imagine. The system as it is now, has most of us picking grass in a huge green lawn. This is not the best of all possible systems and neither is it the least worst, it is just one possibility that maintains itself purely and simply because it is geared toward convincing us that it is the only feasible possibility.

To find another possibility we need good new critics. Ones who are capable of inventing a purposeful aesthetic for the rest of us to follow. The grass on the lawn we are picking has already created too many bare and ugly patches of desolate, impotent land. A better system would be one that plants and grows much and picks little. In order to enjoy existence, we have to let it be.   

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