Being an irregular round-up post featuring quotes from the awesome recent writings from the Top Secret: TechGonzo Official List of Allies.
The beauty of this show is in the intricate, subtle interplay of the characters–human and cyborg/machine–and how what they learn, what they know, and what they don’t know that they’ve learned…all play off of each other and create lives and a world, while they are all in the midsts of seeking to not just save but literally create and sustain their futures. Now, the show is ostensibly about the human element: human reactions to robots, robots impacting the lives of humans, OMG Uncanny Valley, blah blah blah. If you can’t tell, by now, let me put it simply: I think that’s boring. I’m not saying that there isn’t useful, interesting fiction there, mind you, just that I’m bored by it, because it has been done to death. Yes, human psychology is a fascinating thing. Yes, the end of the world (personal and collective) is deeply affecting. Yes, stress and change and madness all take their toll on the mind living in the constant glut of it, and watching that can be deeply jarring, on an emotional level. But I know all that, already. What I don’t know is: what is the psychology of a created intelligence? Why does Skynet persist in viewing us as a threat to itself, seeking to hunt us down to the irrational end of self-fulfilling prophecy? What does a machine that is programmed to feel… feel? There are some really interesting tastes of this in T:SCC and I would now like to talk about them, at length.
You see, I had a minor revelation on the way to Tesco the other evening, in which I realised that part of the difficulty with, say, writing reviews of books or music in a networked world, is that you cant isolate any one cultural artefact from the world in which it exists, or from its creator (not entirely), or from its consumers and detractors. To review effectively to critique is an act of comparative cultural anthropology, performed in a room lit only by a Maglite velcroed to ones own forehead. Context is everything. The character and intellectual history of the critic is crucial to your understanding their understanding of the subject of their critique. The critics greatest insights (and, by the same token, greatest blindspots) are necessarily invisible to her. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, the critic cant see her biases for the same reason that a tourist stood in Trafalgar Square cant see England.
Well, say youre a marketer for fashion brands (or for a new author, or an advocate for a new school of transcendent philosophy). Making your own brand/author/philosophy look good is incredibly hard to achieve reliably even more so nowadays, with the memetic flux swirling so fast. Yesterdays viral sensation is todays lingering and sniffly common cold. So what to do? Instead of giving your brand to cultural icons that reflect the aspirations of your target subculture, you give your rival brands to cultural icons who embody the opposite of those aspirations [via BoingBoing]. Couture-marketing psy-ops. Sounds ridiculous, a possible indicator of the end of civilisation (wring hands, mutter about the Romans, miss point entirely). But with clarity born of hindsight, this mornings revelation, triggered by the two articles linked above and prompting the rapid-fire unedited writing of this little screed:
William Gibsons been writing this stuff for years.
How does he keep doing that?
So here we are in 2043 and, like all of our history, so many things have changed and so many things have stayed the same. But this time its the really big things that have changed, and while all change is difficult were arguably much stronger and much more independent for it all. Sure, not everybody can afford these sweet Ray Bans. And the federated state bodies that kept us mostly safe and mostly employed are no longer the reliable parents they once were. We live in a complex world of great wealth and great disparity, as always, but security & social welfare is slowly rising with the tide of human technological adaptation. Things are generally much cheaper, lighter, and designed to reside & decay within ecosystems. Product becomes waste becomes food becomes new life. Our machines are more like natural creatures, seeking equilibrium and optimization, hybridized by the ceaseless blurring of organic & inorganic, by the innate animal disposition towards biomimicry, and by the insistence of the natural world to dictate the rules of human evolution, as always. After all, we are animals, deep down inside, compelled to work it out and adapt.