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01 November, 2016

The vicious circle of "zerovision"

by system failure

Adam Curtis gave recently an interesting interview to Jarvis Cocker on the occasion of his new film 'HyperNormalisation'. Curtis makes some interesting points about the nature of cybernetic world. He describes the dream of the Internet Utopians who wanted to create a parallel world that could achieve self-stability without political interference or any other type of authority.

Curtis explains that we have confused our dream of the internet. We have confused an engineering system with the dream of the future. As an engineering system, the internet is based on feedback. What it does very efficiently and brilliantly, is constantly reading the past and feeding back staff to the receiver.

Therefore, as he also explains, if you have a system that it constantly tries to manage the world by reading data from your behavior in the past, what it can't imagine, is a kind of future that never existed before. It's always reinforcing you, from what it knows you are. All the systems online simplify you and then they feed you more of that. But the main thing is, it cannot imagine another future because it always has to look into the past.

To expand Curtis' view little further, we could say that, in essence, Internet reflects society's inability to vision a different future. As an engineering system, Internet is only a tool in the hands of people, and can be used accordingly. In the whole human history, perhaps the most important thing that contributed to the generation of new ideas, was what we define as communication. Communication between different people and different cultures was boosting the cultural evolution of the societies.

Today, while we have a powerful tool which can be used to spread and develop new ideas between people across the world with tremendous speed, it is used mostly as a kind of "loop generator". The vast majority of people are using Internet to be organized in large groups who have the same short-term goals, the same desires, the same interests, without being able, however, to expand their ideas outside the dominant culture.

Curtis mentions the example of the generation in Egypt and the generation of the Occupy movement. There is no substantial difference between them. They are middle-class liberals who really want to change the world. It's a great and wonderful idea, but to do it, you got to have a picture of the future. We don't have a picture of the future. We have a system we are dissatisfied with, which sometimes is quite fake, but we have no other picture of the future. That's the problem. And the Internet, as an engineering system, does not supply it. It's beautifully organizing people, but we need a picture of the future somehow.

To cut a long story short, the fact itself that the Internet Utopians were dreaming a world of balance through an engineering system, proves perfectly that the societies have lost their ability to dream of a different future. In other words, people are not thinking 'dynamically', but 'linearly'. Although generally we are not satisfied with the current system of values, we tolerate it, exactly because we are unable to dream of a better one.

At the moment where the now well-known "bots" started to dominate the cyberspace, things became even worse. Due to the fact that they are programs that have been designed to search for "already there" information, they are generating more loops in which the human receivers are trapped more frequently. These programs are actually dictating the priorities inside the cyberspace, based actually, on low-level human needs and interactions. Anything different from this virtual reality, is actually being lost inside an ocean of low-level information, which is used, for example, from companies to sell products and services.

We have the most powerful tool of communication in human history. Yet, instead of using it dynamically, exchanging new ideas that could help us build a better future, we are spending ourselves in endless loops, which are actually mirrors of what we are, without any prospect for a truly radical development.

The more we are sinking inside this cybernetic world of endless loops, the more we lose our ability to vision a different future. Any remnants of this ability will be finally eliminated. This is the vicious circle of “zerovision”.

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