Universal machines and "sane" global memes
Friday, October 7, 2011 12:27:54 PM
I realised, that, for me, the iPhone is the newest instance of such a universal "electronic butler" - I went half crazy in the early 90's for the Atari Portfolio, which was also neat for all that computing power in a jacket pocket. It had hardly any graphics, but some useful programs (like a virtual filofax), and for a while, there was a small worldwide community programming neat stuff for it. Above all, it was portable and ran on normal batteries!
Such small, portable machines that allow us to commute the world virtually, as well as carry our private "life" with us wherever we go, make us feel we're at the pinnacle of modern civilisation. People are prepared to do almost anything to achieve that feeling, especially if they're sold on the idea that it strongly enhances their personal freedom. At the same time, some users of universal machines in their pockets seem to nervetheless be aware of Frank Herbert's dictum in one of the classic Dune novels: "Machines condition you to make continually increasing use of them."*
So while man is getting irrevocably married to one or other kind of machine, that seems to give her or him universal access to what's on in the world, it seems to me there are other cultural or even civilisation-defining memes out there, trying to subvert this rise of mechanically assisted egoism: "Sane" memes, that promise coordinated actions that will apparently bring us all to our senses. Examples are the global war on "climate change" - whatever that vague concept may now mean - and the US's "less taxes, less spending" drive, probably a reaction to the financial supernova that hit the planet in 2008, and has been producing slightly nauseating light-headedness, at least in the West, ever since.
I think the "universal machine" odyssey as well as these "sane" global memes are competing for our attention, and I wonder if both are not a little hollow. Basically just flickering, ever-recurring feel-good beams from different lighthouses, reaching us over a pretty wild sea of rapid global change.
And I wonder what will happen when global "sanity" becomes an app on the future universal "butler in the pocket", and who will truly guide humanity at sea. Anyway, I'm practising my mental swimming, and hope to avoid all credit sharks.
(* I'm paraphrasing; I don't remember the exact quote - it must have been in books #5 or #6 of the original series of novels. -- The photos derive from Wikipedia and The Guardian websites, and link to their original articles.)