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response to First Statement



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A E C  F O R U M - "F L E S H F A C T O R"
(http://www.aec.at/fleshfactor/arch/)
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I am an archaeologist, so I am interested in the present. After all,
everything we see and use now will someday be the stuff of archaeology.
When I think of technology, I think of it dead and dismembered. I don't
know, therefore, whether my thoughts are useful or appropriate, as this
symposium is a debate about the new world afforded by computer technology.

It is interesting that Gerfried Stocker writes that 'the future seems to
have reversed directions and is collapsing upon us'. We already know that
the death of God and the end of history came from the discovery of our own
deceit. J.G. Ballard, who physically joined the human body and the car in
his 1973 novel Crash, wrote about the results in 1995:  

"the future is ceasing to exist, devoured by the all-voracious present. We
have annexed the future into the present, as merely one of those manifold
alternatives open to us. Options multiply around us, and we live in an
almost infantile world where any demand, any possibility, whether for
life-styles, travel, sexual roles and identities, can be satisfied
instantly."

It is more than that. Technological change is now so fast that the
old-fashioned idea of the future as a human-centred techno-utopia appears
as it always was, an idle dream. Machines have never been able to wait for
human development. The sophisticated technology of the stone-tipped spear
existed long before anatomically modern humans, as we recently discovered
in a 400,000 year old bone bed in Germany. The death of the human as a
central metaphor comes with the shift from human space to technology
space, from human time to technology time. 

Seeing humanity with the same linkages as circuitry, as nodes in the
social network of communication, is irresistable. We can even claim
support from traditional models of the brain and nervous system. Are we
now beginning to leave our useless bodies behind and spread a new human
nature subjectively across the World Wide Web?

The Heaven's Gate cult was the first to test the promise of a disembodied
second nature. The Solar Temple cult beat them to bodily death, but they
used the time-honoured method of self-immolation. Wired to the Internet,
Heaven's Gate had already made the break with nature and only needed to
shed their bodies, which they did. Now they exist on earth as two websites
(and several they constructed, such as the Rancho Santa Fe Polo Club
site). In old, mythical terms, these persistent light effects would be
their shades, left to wander the earth.

But I wonder if we are just generating a new electronic humanism, of the
kind predicted by Marshall McLuhan. Computers demand an organization of
audience. We are rooted to the spot, no different than isolated commuters
or villagers clustered around the only television set. Transforming the
individual human into a global subjective body simply transfers authority
to a higher level.

I want room for natural anarchy. It seems there is anarchy now, with
everything available on the Internet, but the redundancy effect is
stunning. Cultural anarchists, after all, are merely members of their own
social group. The problem is that there is more to the world than the art
of human production and reproduction, the extended space of the human
brain. Where is the unorganized, nonhuman space? At least in the natural
world we can stumble on things that are not the product of the
imagination. 

Don't get me wrong, I think that the new second nature is a very real
nature. After all, it provides space to move around in, no more or less
than any other sensual representation. I myself have worked in the
wilderness and the urban world and now I work in the electronic world.
This gives me more nature to explore, more environments to confront,
inhabit and figure out. It's just that I can't wait until the electronic
world gets rid of the conceit of Biblical creation - its humanistic vision
- and has its own violent creation, with continents and animal species we
haven't dreamed of.


Brian Leigh Molyneaux, Vermillion, South Dakota, USA, April 15, 1997


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