Art & our Digital World

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The crisis caused by the digitalisation of music, cinema and books, and the ease this creates for the pirating or free distribution of the artist’s work, should be accepted for what it is and what it indicates.

What it tells us is that the facilities offered to artists by the new technologies and the amount of people (artists, would-be artists, or even pseudo-artists) seduced into using these technologies to produce things, makes the traditional marketplace of the arts obsolete.

This is because there are too many works being produced to make them all profitable. And, in fact, the huge majority are not profitable at all.

Many artists are asking how this can be changed. But the truth is, it can’t be changed. What has to change is not the technological advancement, but the economic perception of artistic production.

If we look at this economy, we see that there is an abundance of artists creating abundant work that is released into the marketplace even though there are not enough potential consumers who could be expected to purchase this kind of work, at least not to the level that would enable the majority of artists to receive a life-supporting income from the sales. But this is not because of any restricting effects of technology, in fact it’s quite the opposite: technology has liberated artists and made artistic production more democratic. The problem is rather that the economy hasn’t been able to adjust itself in a way that can ensure that creators will be given proper compensation for their efforts.

The technological revolution has sparked a great wealth of work that is being produced for next to nothing in return. Art for art’s sake (some of it), but really, it’s material that is created for the pleasure of doing it, and because the one, artist or not, who creates it can.

Obviously, a civilisation, if it is worthy of being called a civilisation, needs to nurture this creative spirit, but: How can this production be measured? Although there are not enough paying customers to recompense creative work in the way it should be compensated for, production continues. This creates a glut of work that threatens the stability of the entire art industry, and the industry says that this is unsustainable, yet in fact, what makes a glut of art unfeasible economically is not the abundance of art, but the lack of creativity in the economy.

The industry throws out warnings to the glut of unpaid artists that threaten its economy: “Why waste your time, you fools?” it says. And yet, the production continues. And it should do, and it should be encouraged to. But the only way to do that is to restructure the reward-system – restructure the economy. If the marketplace can’t offer the rewards that artists deserve for their work, then a different kind of reward system has to be implemented for artists.

What we are seeing here is the real evolutionary impact of technology on our economy. The traditional scheme of labour being rewarded by money is challenged by technology. What the idea of technology implies is that that formula no longer has to be the case. Technology is, in fact, a human evolution away from money.

Of course, it is not in the interests of some to let this happen, but it is in the interests of the majority.

The digitalisation of the arts is only a first step. The digitalisation and mechanisation of the whole of society is technologically within our grasp and the only thing standing between us and that change is … money.

Nietszche and Nihilism

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Nietzsche made nihilism acceptable and reasonable, even respectable, for the neoliberal, capitalist society evolving: firstly, by exalting the selfish instincts of the desire to dominate he made heroes of the exploiter class of capitalists; and secondly, by ranting against decadence and equating it with a lack of instinct to dominate, he offered a moral justification (ironically enough) for the economies of continual growth.

Humanity and Nature

Humanity has been moving away from nature since the beginning of the Neolithic era. This moving away is essentially dangerous and it has brought us to the brink of emergency; an emergency that could very soon blow up in our faces.

Nevertheless, our alienation from nature has allowed us to gain a deep understanding of nature that could be used to bring us back, closer to nature again.

Like a married couple on the brink of divorce, there needs to be a lot of soul searching to rekindle the broken partnership, but also a certain amount of distancing from the all-encompassing relationship to be able to appreciate its relevance and worth, perhaps its beauty, again.

To gain this objectivity, marriage counsellors are often brought in. As for our relationship with the world, our marriage counsellor is science.

Nine short notes concerning Wealth

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Wealth is evil, it preys on its own.

Only when it is also benevolent can Wealth be logical.

Justice, and freedom, can only be achieved if Wealth is benevolent.

Wealth needs to be recreated in order to make generosity an essential ingredient of it.

Wealth can only be truly generous when it has no enemies.

Wealth needs to learn how not to be greedy and selfish.

The wealthy need to learn how to overcome envy.

Envy can only be overcome when there is no need to be envious.

Wealth can only be good if it creates admiration rather than envy.

Our Centuries

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The 20th Century

 

Nietzsche summarised the modern world by looking for the essence of each century and attributing a philosopher to each one[i]: The 17th century is aristocratic and ruled by Descartes; the 18th is feminine and dominated by Rousseau; and the 19th is animalistic and under the sway of Schopenhauer.

Following the same line of thought we could call the 20th century nihilistic and Nietzschean. The spirit of the 20th century is, above all, one of a paradoxical dominance: individualism rules, but so does the herd, and both are motivated by a dictatorial will. Because of this paradox, the 20th century is Nietzschean but also anti-Nietzschean: the Last Man has an ubiquitous presence whilst the Übermensch is a dangerous illusion that only appears in a form that has been perverted by the Last Man (Nazism). It is adolescent in spirit, greedy and neurotic.

But while the 20th century is Nietzschean, it is also Marxist and Capitalist and it is the century of economy more than anything else, one that is dominated by the god of money.

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The 21st Century

 

This century is yet to have begun for we are still immersed in the nihilist, plutocratic century of Nietzsche. Nevertheless, we can imagine what it needs to be like if we are ever to survive the internecine forces driving our lives at the moment.

If civilisation is to survive the 21st century, it must be a period of responsibility: ecological duties are pending, and these responsibilities are also linked to human rights and justice.

The philosophical will need to generate awareness and the transformation will only come about through the communication of that awareness. In that sense, the 21st century will have to be a new era of enlightenment. Likewise, it will be a time of maturing: the adolescent 20th century needs to become an adult. It will need to be forward looking, even teleological, and imbued with far-reaching teleological purposiveness. Everything must change, and it will be the most revolutionary era since the Neolithic.

The 21st century will see the emergence of a more consistent humanity that will start to identify itself as humanity instead of as a nation, religion, or race. Human nature will start to be perceived as the nature of the species – homo sapiens; homo habilis – rather than the manifestations of activity by the many kinds of social animal or the homo economicus.

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[i] See f. Nietszche, THE WILL TO POWER, #95 – The Three Centuries

Our Big Brother

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It seems easy enough to see the difference between the totalitarianism of a Stalinist or Gestapo political regime and the freedom-loving airs of the way-of-life enjoyed in Western democracies. Nevertheless, it would be pure naivety to assume that the liberal or social democratic systems are devoid of controls, and the fact that we don’t feel the sense that we are being brainwashed in a democratic system probably indicates that we are more ideologically driven than we dare to suspect. Big Brother doesn’t need dictatorships to imprint its pernicious ideology into the souls of its slaves, in fact it functions better under the veil of a seemingly democratic environment. In fact, our world of left-right politics is just another stage for Big Brother to perform in; a perfect stage perhaps to achieve its fundamentally oligarchical, plutocratic and megalomaniacal objectives.

Let’s look at this from the perspective of what is today’s biggest political, economic and ethical issue: the climate emergency. Because of its existential significance, disputing the veracity of climate change predictions is, at least potentially, deeply divisive in society and consensus needs to be reached, not only at the nation-state level but also globally, if an ecological disaster is to be avoided.

Given the high-stakes at risk here, reaching such a consensus would be the most logical outcome, especially in the democratic world where power is supposedly controlled by the popular mandates decided on polling days. Nevertheless, despite decades of warnings from scientists of the catastrophic future that is unfolding if radical action is not taken, political and economic change has been slow to come about, if at all, even in, if not especially in, the world’s largest and most solid democracies like the USA, Great Britain or Australia. In may cases it seems that the vast majority of franchised people are voting contrary to their own interests. But how can that be?

Because of this, it must be assumed that democracy itself is not functioning as it should. The divide between believers and non-believers in the climate emergency is to a great extent ideological, with most denial coming from the right-wing of the spectrum. Some of this is economy-ideology driven, with denialists tending to be libertarian opponents to state-interventions, who have little sympathy for the poor and an aversion to welfare. Another part of it, though, is found buried in evangelistic communities where beliefs and desires for the End of Days and its promise of spiritual salvation for believers, make the idea of an ecosystem collapse irrelevant, if not desirable. For both of these groups, the climate emergency scenario is a left-wing conspiracy, despite the fact that is ratified by objective scientific data.

The thought-control; the turning of a blind eye to the scientific facts in order to only believe the more comfortable counter arguments, may be laziness or a need to maintain one’s sanity by staying in the ideological zone, or it might be the result of a certain kind of brainwashing that is more usually attributed to totalitarian systems rather than democracies. Climate denialists’ construction of an alternative reality by cutting and pasting fragments of the whole picture, is a very similar practice to those carried out by the perverted logic of the followers of Stalin and Hitler, or Kim Jong-un. Of course, the Western democracies are not the same as totalitarian states. In democracy, different ideological angles are made visible, and the ruling ideology makes allowances for the other side of the argument to be expressed. But if we examine the bubble on each side of the spectrum, there are Stalinist tendencies on both sides. Through the power of ideology, democracy simply becomes a bicephalous Big Brother, even if the only thing it really hides is its own Big Brother nature. And this is because, to properly function and be effective, Big Brother has no need to hide anything else.

Globalisation and Humanity

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The global economy can only be possible if it rejects the national and embraces the human. To be truly global, it cannot be driven by Americans or Chinese, it has to be the work of humanity. In reality the nation state should already be a thing of the past, but, while the global economy has evolved rapidly and with enormous energy, the political globalisation of the world has stagnated or even regressed into separatisms rather than unifications.

Globalisation is, in fact, a great dilemma for a capitalism which has traditionally bred the segregation of nations and peoples in order to create the conflicts necessary for the kind of dynamic markets it loves the most. In fact, segregation is so embedded in the identity of capitalism that globalisation-through-capitalism itself becomes one great paradox and sounds like an oxymoron.

Of course globalisation-through-capitalism doesn’t really exist because while we know that a process of globalisation through capitalism is going on, we also know that in order to ever complete this process the world will have to become politically-one, in harmony with itself, and this scenario is anathema to capitalism.

So, the question arises concerning capitalism’s real desires for the globalisation process: How global can we really get in the eyes of capitalism?

Capitalism nurtures itself on rivalry – but: What kind of rivalry does it prefer?

To answer this question, we first have to consider how rivalry can be measured qualitatively. Perhaps it could be measured according to levels of complexity: the rivalry in Lebanon is not the same as the rivalry for the State of California. Lebanon is far more complex, as is all of the Middle East, compared to the U.S.A. When economists and politicians talk about needs for regional stability, they are expressing a desire to lessen the complexity of rivalries in certain regions. Paradoxically, this simplification, as understood by liberal capitalism, demands a totalitarian organisation that must be implemented by invasive war.

The question of the relationship between capitalism and war is a thorny one for capitalism; so thorny in fact that it should have been reason enough to look for an alternative to the system. It never has been, but that does no mean that the thorniness has gone away.

In order to grow, capitalism needs to open up new markets and expand its geographical roads. It also needs access to cheap new materials and regions where labour costs are lower as well. On a common-sense level, no one should want war, but underlying that common-sense there is another pragmatic field that knows there is a profit in war, and there is certainly profit in conflict. Investment in the military is a major business interest for large corporations – and not necessarily only for those that manufacture arms. Our contemporary conflicts generate inflation and create substantial profits.

Neo-liberalism might argue that peace is necessary in order to secure free trade and allow for the unfettered flow of capital, but, when they say this, we need to ask what are the consequences of the rivalry involved in the liberation of markets. Conflict is created through exploitation and the fermenting of inequalities and poverty that are an essential part of the fuel that drives the great engine of capitalism and its rivalry-driven economies. So, it is hypocritical for the capitalist to say it desires peace, for a capitalist-peace is a beehive of humming rivalry and implicit in the noise is an element of dissidence.

So, does capitalism need war to maintain its momentum? Probably not, in the short-term; probably yes, in the long-term. It is hard to envisage a capitalist-motivated universal peace movement, precisely because capitalism would have to change too many of its traditional practices in order to ensure such a peace … It is this essential need for war that makes capitalism profoundly incapable of driving the globalisation process.

In the world today, Power-as-Wealth resides in the dominant, capitalist corporations. If war does guarantee substantial profits and promises an increase in inflation then, especially in times of low-inflation or deflation, the companies may find themselves praying for a war just as, centuries ago, farmers prayed for rain. But, the difference in that analogy is that war can be manufactured whereas rain was beyond the farmer’s control. In short, war will constantly be a temptation whilst Power-as-Wealth resides as the pilot and chief-architect of the structure of our System. And wars need States to wage them.

A real globalisation that would absorb States is, therefore, by no means an objective of capitalism, simply because it is not, and never will be, an objective of the corporations wielding power. A real, global, human, stateless panorama would be useless for corporations because they would lose the pieces they need to move around the board; pieces which allow them to keep the game going.

As pieces of a game, the Nation States are not truly held in any authentically patriotic way by the corporate system, they are merely the pieces of the game that make it possible to play. The nationalist pride that is so prevalent around the world today is really one great farce. While our politicians espouse the virtues of patriotism, especially if a war or an election campaign is coming, the real allegiance in the capitalist-driven system is always a corporate one. Since the 1980s, the real value of wages has declined, whilst capital-gains have skyrocketed.

No, capitalism cannot be expected to be a driving force in globalisation, and with the pressing needs of the climate emergency and the urgency of global solutions to solve it, capitalism is equally powerless to act there.

Our Emperor is capitalism, and it is standing naked before us. We need to find a political force that can find global solutions to the existential crisis we are drowning in, and that force must come out of humanity itself. Humanity needs globalisation, and globalisation needs humanity to drive it.

A proper globalisation, political as well as economic, would be not just a political leap forward for humanity, it would also be a profoundly spiritual jump, allowing humanity to be properly born as a concept, allowing for the unleashing of the enormous creative and innovative powers of a human, Sapiens collective. In fact, the leap created by the authentic unification of humanity may be regarded as a transhuman one, whilst in fact it will merely be the liberation of what we really are, the first step for humanity to reach its home, the global world of humanity.

 

Final Aim

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God or no God, the ultimate aim for humanity can only be determined cosmologically.

This statement is as true as: “we must all die.” In order to overcome nihilism, we need to find a positive relationship between cosmological problems and the problem of finding a value and purpose for life.

The idea of a fine-tuned universe[i] offers a first step to the elaboration of a philosophical method capable of offering a value and purpose for sapiens entities. In a determined universe, fine-tuned by the self-same cosmos to create conscious biological entities, advanced, sapiens life-forms assume an integral and even necessary function for the universe. From a universal perspective, consciousness is an essential ingredient, lacking at first, and so created out of necessity by the non-sentient universe so that it can perceive itself.

If God does exist, we must imagine It to be blind.

The most thorny problem is the concept of will or determination in the universe. If fine-tuning exists, how can it come about accidentally?

To leap beyond this conundrum, cosmologists have come up with the idea of the multiverse[ii], or the idea that an infinite number of universes have to exist in order to make our precision-made, godless universe possible. In a dynamic infinity, everything is not only possible, it is logically necessary.

The multiverse is an attempt to justify fine-tuning without the presence of any hand of a Creator, but for us, the multiverse idea is equally troublesome because it immediately drops us once again into nihilism and thwarts our attempts to find a value and purpose for life through the cosmological nature of things. For us, the determining hand of the blind, cosmological creator is found quite simply in the evolutionary process of the universe, and in its sub-atomic nature, which is based on information sharing[iii]. Particles share information and learn. Nature is self-learning. As Vlatko Vedral says: “information is capable of explaining itself,” [iv] and this idea mitigates the need to find a Creator. In the beginning there was information, and that information has evolved into the vast expanse of the universe we know today, which is an incredibly intricate mass of information and communication. Physics orders itself into what we perceive to be laws.

Seen in this way, sub-atomic physics becomes a kind of epistemology. If the essence of everything is information, then the study of that essence is a science of knowledge, or a science of the essence of knowledge – which has to be information.

Sapiens entities, like humanity, are not only made up of information, as everything in the universe is, we are also capable of understanding that information, even of modifying it – and it in these capacities of comprehension and modification that makes us not only a desired result of the universe of information’s evolution, but we are also a valuable, perhaps even absolutely necessary tool, for the modification of the universe. Our understanding of the laws of physics tells us that the universe is destined to die. But what if an extremely advanced sapiens civilisation were capable of changing the nature of the universe itself, much as we on Earth have shaped our own environments through technology: could that be the Final Aim of the evolving universe? Could it be to create its own salvation?

If so, this gives us our own great value and purpose of life: Not to save ourselves, but to be the saviours of the entire universe.

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_universe

[ii] https://youtu.be/bf7BXwVeyWw

[iii] See Vedral: Everything is Information https://youtu.be/QfQ2r0zvyoA

[iv] Ibid

Knowledge as a Moral Imperative

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Where does society stand before knowledge? The State may have a ministry of science and education, but how often will the term knowledge come up in a political campaign or a parliamentary debate? Knowledge, and especially the consciousness of our knowledge, is a defining element of our species, and yet it seems we have forgotten that. However, because of this marriage between knowledge and the human, when we overlook the importance of knowledge, we are also taking our humanity for granted and run the risk of being less human, or even something that is no longer human at all.

Of course knowledge needs science, and it needs to be precise and have universal validity. Nevertheless, within all truth there is buried a paradoxical element, and knowledge must not allow that paradoxical nature of truth obscure it. But likewise, and paradoxically likewise, it must investigate the paradoxical, because it is the paradoxical in truth that allows knowledge to avoid dogma. For this reason, it must be constantly on its guard against the traps of scepticism and relativisms that lead to nihilisms.

Knowledge for human beings is a moral imperative. The primary clauses of any democratic constitution should remark on the assurances the State will make to encourage the search and acquisition of knowledge, as well as the guarantee of the distribution of knowledge and the promotion of its accessibility in the society.

At the same time, societies should be sceptical about the monopolising of knowledge, either by the state itself or by the media monopolies created by the marketplace. In this respect, information needs to be regulated via the concept of knowledge and protected by precision and universal validity, in order to defend citizens against ideological relativisms and misinformation. Censorship is an enemy of knowledge, except when it is used to censor misinformation and nonsense.

Knowledge needs science, but it also needs philosophy. It is through philosophy that all human activity is raised to consciousness, which also allows the discovery of universal validity that is embedded in science as well as the discovery of the great driving force of authentic purposiveness. Society needs morality to hold it together, and philosophy offers a quality control in the design and understanding of moralities. Education is a distribution of facts, but it is also an infusion of morality that is best imparted from the philosophical standpoint of discovery through questioning and the channelling of knowledge and experience into well-being.

As for the psychological paradoxes that grow into and undermine the façades of well-being and the impossible quest for happiness that has to be dealt with whenever welfare states are created, philosophy is the best investigator in the complex field of paradoxes and universality of masks and lies.

Philosophy, and knowledge through it, is a constantly progressive force that, striving to know, discovers through that striving that there is always so much more to know. This is one of philosophy’s many self-contained paradoxes and the value of not giving in to the constant dismay these paradoxes first produce. Discovering the beauty of them, though persistence, is the primary task of a positively progressive attitude to philosophy.

The Death of the Novel

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In his book of essays, The Art of the Novel, Milan Kundera discusses the death of that particular art form. Such a death, he argues, is brought about when the novel removes itself from history, as in the literature of the Soviet Union where novels could only confirm the official line of things and by doing so remain entrenched in the status quo. For Kundera, therefore, the spirit of the novel depends upon its historical position, a place that allows it to reveal the human condition to us from beneath the mind-numbing effects of the actual. Novels are, Kundera says, “part of a process which is the conquest of being,” participating in a “succession of discoveries” that are related to the historical process itself.

The idea of the historical process as a succession of discoveries that unfold and enrich humanity, is a humanistic perspective, and literature, and the novel, are without a doubt art forms driven by humanity-enriching purposes. Nevertheless, in our own analyses of the historical process, we have seen that history has never been a humanity-enriching progression. In fact, what we have discovered is that historical evolution has taken humanity further and further away from itself into the segregating tribalism of the national state or religious sects. History has been a process of dividing humanity instead of developing its potentials through unity. For this reason, we talk about the anti-human historical process – but if history is anti-human, what does that tell us about the novel’s role in that development? And, if we agree that our historical process needs to be redesigned in order to eliminate its anti-humanism and make it authentically human for once, what should the novel’s role in that revolution be?

In the first place, however, Kundera’s perception of the nexus between the novel and the historical process is a limited one. He is right to point out the way the novel’s evolution has reflected social changes, but he is mistaken in seeing that reflection as the means itself when the real nexus is the analysis of what it sees, and, through that analysis, its power of being critical.

What dictatorial censorship, like the Soviet one, must do is castrate the novel by chopping out its ability to criticise. Made impotent in its critical faculty, the novel is thereby rendered useless. Kundera’s argument, therefore, is that chopping in any form, even by well-intentioned capitalist editors, is potentially deadly for the novel itself. But a very dangerous question arises here: Is criticism only possible, therefore, because the anti-human historical process is so humanly flawed?

If this is so, then we have to ask ourselves if a truly-human process of progressive history would eliminate the need for criticism, which in turn would create a debilitating process for the mind akin to those created by dictatorship?

Or, in other words: Is the novel important to us only because the System (civilisation) we are immersed in is so defective?

We believe that Kundera, from his experience with Stalinism, would agree that it would. However, beginning an authentic-human historical process is not the same as completing the historical process, which was the purpose of communism.

By understanding the creative forces of humanity in a positive, universal way, guided by art, science and technology rather than ideology and religion, would be far more transformative than the evolutions and incomplete revolutions that have so far been produced by any anti-historical processes we have.

Rather than dying, the novel would be in the front line of this pro-humanity transformation: both as an analyser and a critique of the new process. The novel, therefore, will not die with authentic-human history, rather its current moribund prestige will be rekindled and rejuvenated as wider appreciation will be made of its essential role in human (Sapiens) evolution.

Kundera admits in his book that the novel itself could have had a different history. He points to the different callings that the novel makes: The call to play (Tristan Shandy and Jacques the Fatalist); the call to dream (Kafka); the call to think (Musil and Broch); the call of time (Proust). There are other calls: the call to freedom (Joyce’s Ulysses); the call for justice (Zola, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy).

But the novel, like humanity has been more fettered than liberated by the anti-human historical process and our novelists now need to imagine new callings that can transcend the anti-human and embrace the calling toward an authentic Sapiens humanity. Yes, an evolution toward human authenticism, centring  history as a process of human-progress, would imagine more callings as the abstract and conditional perspectives of individuals are opened up. One of the major victories that humanity would gain through an authentic-human historical evolution would be the liberation of minds beyond the actual and into the abstract and conditional realms of the potential.

Where Kundera is most definitely right and acute in his book, is when he speaks of the Spirit of the Novel, and that Spirit needs to be analysed and continually vindicated in opposition to the spirit of the market-place or the spirit of selling books. Novels are meant to be written, published and read: and this implies distribution and/or accessibility, but it does not imply sales. A novel’s success has to be measured by how much pleasure it has produced by doing what novels do best, which is … to stimulate the mind. But even here we need to be careful of over-simplifying success: A novel that can stimulate the minds of millions might be considered more successful than another which only managed to reach a handful of readers, but the quantitative degree of that success is no real reflection of the qualitative importance of the two books. A book that is never read may be qualitatively far superior than another that is consumed by billions. We see here the importance of accessibility and distribution: a great, human civilisation would be geared towards ensuring the accessibility of quality. An authentically human ethics would have to always prioritise the production of quality above quantity in art.

Kundera says that “the spirit of the novel is the spirit of complexity,” a spirit which is also antithetical to the reductionist spirit of the market-place and its demands for simplicity.

Biblioteca-de-Babel-Erik-Desmazieres