So one will have to resist in the little ways, the day to day struggles of unplugging from the world grid, seeking non-electronic refuges, places of silence and meditation, ways of teaching one’s children to remember humanity; to remember the stories told by our ancestors, to create and invent new stories without machinic gods, and governments that work for the people rather than against them.
—The Book of Remembrance
Your data is more important than your body in the techno-commercial sector. Simulated avatars will activate your digital signature globally. What is left of substance is erased, only the data is of import. The world of the artificial has begun… you’re no longer a victim, but a commodity in an false infinity.
The ten thousand flowered servers in Utah, south of Salt Lake are even now grinding simulations on your data archive, recreating your life as an avatar, seeking answers to impossible questions. Ready to release data points to the highest bidder – whether military, or corporate. You’re virtual self – or shadow is more important to the electronic gods of the new machinic society, and will archive you for their twisted games of commerce till electricity is no more. Once your digital self is archived there is no turning back, they have locked you into an image that no matter how false becomes real for their modeling purposes, so that the fleshly being out of which it was born is lost among the data traces as ashes on a battlefield.
At a certain point, your Shadow Self will contain so much data that this unique packet of information will be placed in a cyber version of a particular environment or system so that the computer can run simulations that will predict your behavior. This “modeling” will be used to answer questions. Will you buy this product? Will you vote for our candidate? What is the lowest possible salary you will accept for a particular job? Each time you do something, information from your actions will flow into the database, and the Shadow Self will become more detailed and particular— more useful for predicting your future actions than the fleshly counterpart.
If our brains are predictive as Andy Clark (Surfing Uncertainty) and Jakob Hohwy (The Predictive Mind) show in their works, then the future of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) will be even more so. The AGI’s will predict and constrain all human behavior, simulate every move and counter-move, strategize and intercept your needs, wishes, and gulliblity at every step; drive you in directions you did not foresee, control your habits ubiquitously. You will be controlled without even knowing that it is happening till you wake up and realize it is too late, you have become enmeshed so willingly in the web of such worlds you would die trying to free yourself. This is not only P.K. Dick, William Burroughs, and Thomas Pynchon writ large, this is our world in the making…
As the novelist and figure in anonymity, John Twelve-Hawks tells us:
NSA’s Utah data center is nestled in the low hills south of the Great Salt Lake. It’s a cluster of large, windowless buildings attached to power lines on pylons and surrounded by a barbed-wire fence and security lights. Blueprints of the site reveal that an administrative center, a dog kennel, and a building with emergency batteries and backup generators are clustered around four identical “data halls” where the information is actually stored.
The data halls are huge, box-shaped rooms with exposed ceilings. When people aren’t in the halls, the only illumination comes from the blue and yellow LEDs set in the tall racks of servers and central processing units. Brewster Kahle, one of the engineers who designed the Internet Archive for the public web, estimates that the four halls hold approximately ten thousand racks of servers. There have been various estimates that the center can store five zettabytes of information or even a yottabyte (the equivalent of five hundred quintillion pages of text). This ocean of information has to be kept cooled and connected, so the halls are chilled by a refrigerator plant that uses a water-storage tank and a pumping station.1
Even now the Global Elite and hierarchy within both governmental and corporate spheres are seeking a system that emphasizes efficiency, calculability, predictability, control, and the replacement of humans with nonhuman technology. The gathering of big data by the surveillance states and the use of analytics to make choices that change people’s lives mirror these new normative rule-sets of the machinic gods. The new system depends on nonhuman surveillance and calculations made by machines. For those in power, big data results seem more controlled and efficient.
On Google.org, the company described its big data approach:
We have found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Of course, not every person who searches for “flu” is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all the flu-related search queries are added together. We compared our query counts with traditional flu surveillance systems and found that many search queries tend to be popular exactly when flu season is happening. By counting how often we see these search queries, we can estimate how much flu is circulating in different countries and regions around the world.
Much like a P.K. Dick short story our future will be policed by machines. One characteristic of the modern surveillance states is that people are going to be arrested, imprisoned, and killed based on computer-driven conclusions that the authorities won’t be able to explain. And if for some reason the wrong data has been placed in the system, it’s very difficult to challenge or change these errors. Much as in Identity Theft now, the future will look to your avatar data rather than you as a substantive embodied being for its information, and if it has been tampered, replaced, hacked the AGI’s running the show will not care on iota.
The above scenario may seem gloomy in retrospect, yet now that you are aware of it you can begin to rethink your situation in the world. Ask yourself how did we come to such a state of things? The truth is there was no plan, no secret organization behind it, no conspiracy, it is in the small accumulative details of a few hundred years of capitalism itself driving competition in towns, cities, nations, and the global commons. It was small innovations here and there that became part of other innovations and practices, and the slow transformation of society in gradual moves to govern and shape itself, and the environment around it. Some might try to say there is some dark telos behind it all, but they would be wrong. There is no dark intent, no intentional agency that has put all this into effect. No. It is the price we’ve paid for buying into a society and civilization of greed and profit. Profit has driven all the forces at work in the world today. Nothing so banal as a human was behind it all. Nor a God, only the intricate and blind forces of the market preying on humans and environment alike. We are the victims of our own success.
Yet, like some horror novel much more grandiose than an H.P. Lovecraft could ever imagine, we’ve allowed the beast of techno-commercialism to be driven by fear and terror, the need for security and persistence. The age old need to be safe, protected, and secure has driven the excess of power and force to invent devices of command and control to fight imaginary and real enemies of society. Once these were bound then the same tools have been turned back upon society itself to other more commercial ends, so that between war and peace we are enslaved to a circulatory system of profit that secures us like all other commodities within its data banks for future use.
Above all the assault on the notion of privacy has been ongoing for decades. The notion that your life is no longer a private affair, but is now completely transparent to all is seen both as a normative adjunct, but also part of this new trend toward machinic society in which everyone is digitized, stamped, traced, and recorded. Wearable devices are becoming prevalent in corporations that monitor every aspect of the bodily movement, temperature, conversations, and time-work aspects of one’s day. One is no longer free, but part of a plug-in world. Even on the drive home one is becoming more and more passive, fed into driverless cars and automated shops, banks, cafes. The human is being automatized along with her gadgets.
The Virtual Panopticon of the new surveillance states are no longer a dystopian vision but a prevalent path of the current Globalist Agenda: an interconnected system that is invisible, pervasive, automatic, and permanent. The humans who live within this system are increasingly responding to orders given to them by machines. In the future our children will no longer belong to us as private property, but to the State and it will suborn and control the education and behavior of these future children to the point that the past we share now will have been erased, vanished, expulsed. A new world of enslavement will have been assured then, because no one will remember what is and was…
The question now is: Will we continue to let this happen? What is a life that is no longer private, but is watched 24/7 by smart devices connected to a global grid? As John Twelve-Hawks reminds us:
Anyone who steps back for a minute and observes our modern digital world might conclude that we have destroyed our privacy in exchange for convenience and false security. That private world within our thoughts has been monitored, tabulated, and quantified. Our tastes, our opinions, our needs, and our desires have been packaged and sold as commodities. Those in power have pushed their need for control one step too far. They turned unique individuals into data files, and our most intimate actions have become algorithmic probabilities.
The possibility of living off the grid is near impossible for those without the wealth to do so. One cannot get far enough away from the electronic worlds anymore. Nothing is anonymous anymore unless one has the wealth to make it so. But for many of us this path is not an option, and all the protests in the world will not stop the system being put in place in incremental pieces day by day by day…
So one will have to resist in the little ways, the day to day struggles of unplugging from the world grid, seeking non-electronic refuges, places of silence and meditation, ways of teaching one’s children to remember humanity, to remember the stories told by our ancestors; to create and invent new stories without machinic gods, and governments that work for the people rather than against them. Maybe then we might begin to incrementally change the very function and structure of society not in some grandstand revolution, but in the small day by day incremental ways of being human rather than inhuman.
—The Book of Remembrance
- John Twelve-Hawks. Against Authority: Freedom and the Rise of the Surveillance States