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The Illusions of our Extensions

September 4, 2017

McLuhan and Voltaire

It seems McLuhan would deem Hume’s inductive fallacy an observation on the nature of the printed word. Hume’s calling out of an obvious element of literacy. Sequential fragments as causality is an artifact of print and literacy. The scientific method a cut and paste of moveable type, the Gutenberg press. McLuhan’s observation would be, then, like Wittgenstein and others, including Hume who chalked it up to custom. But focusing on the medium rather than the content of the language/content of the form of communication. Like Godel’s observation (to call it a critique acquiesces to a dialectic of the medium) about the language of logic for math, as attempted by Russell and Whitehead. Causality doesn’t really exist. Though it is an extremely powerful instrument.

Did the advance of math as a language foster Relativity and Quantum? What change in our media, or communication objects, what drive in electrification is driving advances in harnessing Quantum e.g. quantum computing or quantum for transmitting communication? What changes are driving Agile as a management technique or new patterns like Microservices, as organizing principles? Of Graeber’s anarchy getting play in academia?

Electrification itself seems to have changed. No longer a continuous flow – a vestige of mechanical linearity or romanticizing tribal, natural elements. But rather probability, constructively harnessed. Our conception of consciousness is instrumental, with Dennett (perhaps even passive with respect to the underlying organism hosting it?). Though McLuhan would perceive an interplay between changes in the meme and the organism, likely denying the passivity. Dennett likely as well. Decision making is instrumental with AI. Will the underlying hardware adapt to extensions of itself?

Time has changed in a social media world. Movies create time through linear sequence to a literate world. TV creates time and spreads it the same way. Social media is about moments. Static. Specialized. The communal elements of like/same and different resonate strongly in the static. It is more being, rather than becoming. There seems less other. The being of consciousness in this world starts with an expanded recognition of self, of an inside spanning multiple beings, all alike. Simplified signifiers of belonging to the same. Recognition of the other is easier. Telltale signs signal danger. The being of consciousness is less robust. The project seems easily threatened with choice in the hands of whoever categorizes information as being consonant or dissonant with the consciousness of being for those who belong. Remembrance, being spanning time, is maintained by the medium and shared across those who belong. The medium reminds of events, people, moments. Is it an implosion –in the sense of McLuhan or Baudrillard? Is it an advance (global consciousness) or a crime (the disappearance of reality)?

It seems instrumentalism outs in the human sphere (Popper’s question). But observing changes, naming new patterns, suggests we learn more. It is unclear, without introducing religion, that we learn more about something, that learning is other than naming/accepting new patterns. (Contrast against uncovering more about the truth, or getting to a greater understanding of reality.) If we ask are we going in circles or simply wandering about do we get to Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence and the primacy of individual feeling? There is nothing new under the sun, but the way we feel can be different. The way we can make people feel is different each time. There is a humanity rather than a predestination. A liberation of choice. We can surpass.

Movement as progress, and progress as a movement, seems an artifact of moveable type and telling stories that have endings. Like all good stories, progress, as a meme, can spread powerful ideas, aspirations, pathways for people, show doors that can exist and breaks from a pattern. It can positively impact how we treat each other. It can also blind us to the interpretive labor of human interactions. Pulling back from the myopic, progress is a moment in someone’s life. What we do with the information we receive. The way we treat other people. The medium of being human overcomes the illusions of our extensions. We can choose to tend Voltaire’s garden.

From → Philosophy

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