Patrice Riemens on Wed, 14 May 2014 17:51:33 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium Part Two,

Ippolita Collective, In the Facebook Aquarium Part Two, section #3

(Section #3) Technological Darwinism from the Paypal Mafia to Facebook:
the resistible rise of anarcho-capitalism.

 It is therefore appropriate to provide information on these initiatives -
actually each of  them would warrant an enquiry of its own. The
Singularity Theory is futurologist Ray Kurzweil's baby and is supported
big time by Californian transhumanist movements, but also by scientists
like Marvin Minsky, one of the proponents of 'strong AI' (artificial
intelligence). Discussing transhumanism might sound weird to anyone not
privy to technophile Californian sects - but it is equally out to lunch
for the largest majority of human beings whose prime day to day concern
is survival, as they battle to obtain drinkable water and enough to eat,
and are not exactly enthralled about issues of technological immortality.
And although, generally speaking, the enthusiasm for post-human dystopias
is fortunately rather limited in Europe, few voices are raised against
the prevailing technomania. There are not a many people who question
their own dependance on all kinds of technologies, be it their car or
their mobile phone. In this regard, the absence, in the mainstream
political discourse, whether in Europe or anywhere else, of any
questioning of the myth of ever more efficient technology-based unlimited
economic growth - alsothe mainstay of post-humanist extremism - is very
striking indeed.

To sum up, Facebook is part and parcel of a set-up manipulated by the most
powerful anarcho-capitalist businessperson in the world. Radical
transparency is one of the component of a vast political project that aims
at controlling human relations through surveillance technologies.
(According to this creed) An information war is at hand, autarchic closed
communities are planned in the middle of the ocean, kitted out with the
ultimate in hi-tech, while research goes on technological immortality. All
this has been known for long time. Yet all we hear is the deafening
silence of the established media, of users, of activists, and (in general)
of all people who (should) have enough common sense to be concerned about
their independence and autonomy.

And for the remainder, most of the political positions espoused by Thiel
are fascinating, radical, and disturbing at the same time. The emerging
ideology is one of frantic, unbridled individualism buffed up by a
capitalism that is both techno-ecstatic and redeeming. Overtly criticising
the elitist curriculum imparted by American universities, apparently not
yet private enough to his taste, Thiel started in September 2010 a support
program for selected, aspiring under 20s who are willing to start their
own company without going through formal academic education. The '20 under
20 Thiel fellowship program' [#**] has thus funded twenty 'young promising
individuals', who will receive one lakh Us Dollars each for two years.
Free enterprise and meritocracy are the keywords here. Seen with Thiel's
eyes it is not the Internet which created a social bubble without depth;
it is the American education system which has become unable to create
value with true innovation. Hence only total privatisation will be able to
open the gates of a radiant technological future [23].

In a rather more theoretical text, very tellingly titled "The End of the
Future" [24], Thiel waxes eloquent about the stagnation we are living in
and fingers the fact that there is hardly any investment in leading edge
technology while nobody is prepared to bank on future projects. He sees in
that the root cause of today's social, cultural, and economic deadlock.
The United States, traditional defenders of runaway innovation, and always
on the look-out for /The Next Big Thing/, have shifted into standstill
mode. And since the USA are the world's leader, you can expect the rest to
follow suit into recession. Thiel sees the crisis of the West in terms of
the vanishing Frontier, the frontier that needed to be reached, and then
gone beyond, as essential prop of the American Dream.

He often displays his profound disappointment in Silly Valley's
entrepreneurs, far too much concerned about profits, and unable to do
anything to save the world. For Thiel, capitalism is a truly revolutionary
tool that, thanks to technology, will liberate the human species (if only
the best of it). But if capitalism has already triumphed, what then
remains to be saved?

Answer next time! (to be continued)

[#**]  motto (from Mark Twain): "I have
never allowed my schooling to interfere with my education"
 (Famous first words: "Fair warning: This article will piss off a lot of
you." -transl)
(October 2011)

Translated by Patrice Riemens
This translation project is supported and facilitated by:
The Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences
The Antenna Foundation, Nijmegen
( - Dutch site)
( - english site under construction)
Casa Nostra, Vogogna-Ossola, Italy

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