By Alastair Crooke,
Published on Strategic Culture Foundation, July 4, 2022:
With the G7’s political leaders off in orbit on some imagined ‘representation of the world’, they are seemingly unaware of what they wrought: They do not hear or see. They are in thrall only to the plaudits of peers in their credentialled bubble. i.e., the like-minded.
If we determine to imagine the world as machine, then ‘reality’ will present itself as a machine, Alastair Crooke writes.
For the last four hundred years, west Europeans have lived one very particular ‘vision’; one that stands poles-apart from that which went earlier. As Galileo pursued his experimentation in Italy, it was Francis Bacon who set out a clear theory of inductive procedure – to make experiments, and to draw general conclusions from them, to be tested in further experiments.
Bacon also pioneered the key understanding of the world as a machine, a development completed by two towering figures of western civilisation, Descartes and Newton. Descartes famously viewed pedestrians in a Paris street hurrying home as ‘machinery cloaked with a raincoat’. Drawn by the era’s yearning for certainty, Descartes perceived how he could “give the public … a completely new science which would resolve all questions of quantity, continuous or discontinuous”.
It made mind more certain for him than matter, and led him to the conclusion that the two were separate and fundamentally different. Newton complemented this paradigm by viewing the cosmos (again) like a machine, governed by immutable laws – a giant cosmic machine, completely causal and determinate.
This history may seem abstract and remote. Yet it is not. Many of us broadly still reside in the ‘new understanding’ outlined above. Yet, if so, we are dinosaurs. Because science has since mutated. The geo-political consequences plague us today.
This mechanical thinking may have made western Europe very powerful then, but taken to extremes (as it has been) and remodelled as a divisive ideology of radical human transformation, it is now taking Europe to disaster (The Fourth Turning). The recent G7 is a clear example. Faced by the innumerable and grave crises in Europe, its’ leaders obsessed about Ukraine, effectively ignoring their disintegrating House – implicitly making plain their indifference to the plight of the peoples’ living within.
What is so new and different today from four hundred years ago? The Renaissance manner of thinking and seeing essentially was conjunctive: the ‘eye’ and intellect, in this tradition, can be pointed towards a ‘something’ (the ‘eye’ and intellect emits its acies), and when it touches this other being, it was, as if one were to meet another person – though this being is what we would now term a ‘thing’ (in today’s world we express something of our self in the personal encounter, and yet, we somehow become transformed by the other’s presence, too. Both interpenetrate and alter the substance of the other.
Enlightenment (that is to say our contemporary mode) of seeing and knowing, however, essentially is disjunctive. The ‘eye’ or the intellect is separated and disengaged from the ‘objects’ under scrutiny. (The Wrong Turning that much of the world – the non-Western world – did not emulate.)
What is fundamental, therefore, is our attention, or put differently, our disposition, towards the world. The mode of attention we bring to bear on the world changes what kind of a ‘thing’ comes into being for us. In that way, it changes the world. And, in that way too, we create ‘our World’, (or at least our representation of it). If we determine to imagine the world as machine,then ‘reality’ will present itself as a machine.
This is how ‘it is’. With the G7’s political leaders off in orbit on some imagined ‘representation of the world’, they are seemingly unaware of what they wrought: They do not hear or see. They are in thrall only to the plaudits of peers in their credentialled bubble. i.e., the like-minded.
Moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre in After Virtue, makes the point of how these ‘chaotic’, disintegrative forces of today have very nearly obliterated moral inquiry from European culture. The contemporary characteristics of shrillness and interminability of debate stand as the direct outcome to this catastrophe (the Enlightenment) in our past, he writes. A catastrophe so great, MacIntyre notes, that the very vocabulary of moral inquiry has been very nearly exorcised from our language.
Any moral discussion today, given a group of sufficient diversity, has the potential of escalating into a shouting match … or worse (fistfight, cancellation, ruin …). But the more striking feature of moral debates is their tendency never to reach resolution: Lines are drawn early, and participants rush to take sides. But in taking sides they appear to render themselves incapable of hearing the other. “Everyone feels the heat, but no one sees the light”.
Well, one consequence, as Professor Neil Kutzman has noted, is the contamination of Newtonian Science. Science advances by questioning the current state of knowledge. Consider the fracas between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr on the implications of quantum mechanics. Einstein constantly peppered Bohr with a litany of objections. Eventually, Bohr and others were able to answer all of Einstein’s objections to quantum mechanics, but the field was immeasurably advanced by having to deal with the complicated and sophisticated issues raised by Einstein.
Science, by its very nature therefore, is never settled. The answer to any problem is not only subject to future modification, but it also invariably raises many more questions than it answers. Yet, many of the great scientific issues of today are governed by dogma rather than debate – and with the cancellation of those questioning “The Science”.
This is understandable because the ‘new ideology’ coming from Silicon Valley and Davos has turned the Newtonian world literally ‘inside out’. The ‘new wisdom’ which emerged in the wake of cybernetics revolution of the 1960s asserted that technology ‘grows’ with life, yet quite detached from it, as a synthetic and deterministic ‘elan vital’ without any regard for human thought or free will.
This will seem alien to the experience of most readers, but Science is, in this new vision, no longer at the service of humanity: The human mind, in an influential segment of the West, is viewed as nothing more than the sum of its’ non-living atoms; something apart from advancing technology as an autonomous evolving being, on the brink of becoming sentient.
If you have enough data, and you have enough computing power, you can understand people better than they understand themselves and then you can manipulate them in ways that were previously impossible and in such a situation, the old democratic systems stop functioning. We need to re-invent democracy in this new era in which humans are now hackable animals. The whole idea that humans have this ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ and have free will … that’s over”.
Well, it was in Afghanistan that such a vision was stood-up over recent years. This was to be a showcase for technical managerialism. In very real terms, Afghanistan turned into a testbed for every single innovation in technocratic project management – with each innovation heralded as precursor to our wider future. Funds poured in, and an army of globalised technocrats arrived to oversee the process. Big data, AI and the utilization of ever-expanding sets of technical and statistical metrics, were to topple old ‘stodgy’ ideas. Military sociology, in the form of “Human Terrain Teams” and other innovative creations, were unleashed to bring order to chaos.
The fall of the western-instituted regime in Afghanistan however, so clearly revealed that today’s managerial class – consumed by the notion of technocracy as the only means of effecting functional rule – birthed instead, something thoroughly rotten – “data-driven defeat”, as one U.S. Afghan veteran described it – so rotten, that it collapsed in a matter of days.
Professor Hariri again: The primary problem for the governing élite managing the world, will not be solving war, or hunger, but rather managing the emergent “new global useless class”:
I think the biggest question … will be what to do with all these useless people? …. My best guess, at present is a combination of drugs and computer games as a solution for [most]. It’s already happening … I think once you’re superfluous, you don’t have power” (i.e. you can’t answer back).
Professor Hariri continues:
Covid is critical because this is what convinces people to accept to legitimize total biometric surveillance. We need to not just monitor people, we need to monitor what’s happening under their skin”.
Once the understanding crystallises that Silicon Valley technocrats view humans to be ‘hacked’ and reconfigured – like some software product – many other things become clear
The U.S. social media’s enthusiasm for normalising the phenomenon where “people with normal chromosomes identify as the opposite of their phenotypic and genotypic sex becomes clearer”: These new reformers are quick to assert that foolish notions of gender, morality, God, patriotism, soul or freedom are abstract human-made concepts having no ontological existence in the mechanistic, cold and ultimately purposeless universe in which we are presumed to exist.
Permanently altering peoples’ sexual development is an “ethical atrocity”, but it accords precisely with this notion (Professor Hariri again): “Humans only have two basic abilities — physical and cognitive. When machines replaced us in physical abilities, we moved on to jobs that require cognitive abilities. … If AI becomes better than us in that, there is no third field humans can move to”. In brief, as we all proceed in this vision to becoming transhuman, gender is but one component that becomes an irrelevancy.
Wait a moment, you must be thinking, this is ‘off the wall’! It is – I agree. Nevertheless, elements of this thinking have proliferated from Davos and the WEF and are stealthily promulgated through cinema, music and social media platforms such as TikTok. Yes, there is a chain linking Silicon Valley, Big Philanthropy, parts of Big Business, and Brussels, and in think-tanks that see this as a way to re-set the apparent contradiction between more robotisation of work, and an excess in the unqualified labour force.
It is why the situation is so grave and dangerous. In his influential 1981 book, MacIntyre argued that the Enlightenment project cut Western man off from his roots in tradition, yet failed to produce a binding morality based on Reason alone. Consequently, we live in a culture of moral chaos and fragmentation, in which many questions are simply impossible to settle. This indicates that we are headed to a Fourth Turning.
Well … isn’t that the point (chaos amongst the non-elect)? So long as the anger does not turn on the élites?
MacIntyre’s argument is that it is cultural tradition alone, and its moral tales (which Jung terms our ‘archetypal narratives’), that provide context to terms such as good, justice and telos. “In the absence of traditions, moral debate is out of joint and becomes a theatre of illusions in which simple indignation and mere protest occupy centre stage”.
MacIntyre’s prescience is remarkable: Today’s EU leaders indeed have become actors in a ‘theatre of illusions’ in which any counter view is met with anger and unreflective rebuttal.
Not only has the absence of those earlier structures of consciousness destroyed the moral fabric, but as Gavin Jacobson notes, Francis Fukuyama’s celebrated End of History essay, “is ordinarily read as the apologia for rampant capitalism and Anglo-American interventions in the Middle East” – but it would be wrong to see it as such.
Rather, Fukuyama – widely regarded as the apostle preaching the arrival of the American-led New World Order – did not cry out ‘Hosannah!’. On the contrary, Fukuyama said that it would lead to popular revolt.
Eminent psychiatrist, Iain McGilchrist, has written in his book, The Master and his Emissary, that this (Silicon-cybernetics) altered focus to our attention has – literally – ‘created’ our changed world; it has literally changed the physical appearance of the world; shaped our art and architecture; and shaped how we ‘see’ the world. We find this today difficult to concede – that we have ‘created’ our own reality and that others have previously thought quite differently to us.
‘Surely we all think, and have thought, in a similar way’? We did – but that was centuries past. The new mechanical rationality literally has ‘created’ the way we ‘see’ the world, and in seeing it this way, has ‘created’ the world as it is now. That is to say, it gave us the ‘modern world’. This poses us with disconcerting proposition: Is the bland inauthenticity, loneliness and meaninglessness of the modern world not something which we somehow, unconsciously ‘chose’, when we opted for detachment, radical doubt and distance?
Can we still be ‘European’ in some way other than by being ‘Pro-EU’? Here Fukuyama’s dire warning is pertinent: It is centered on the point at which society, as a whole, “would tire of the tedium of their own existence” and of the artifice being staged for its’ authors’ benefit. A production – willfully being mounted – to put them to sleep. Only when they awaken to active awareness might they then understand that they have been living an illusion, all along.
The ancient notion was that a secure, ‘alive’ culture is the root to both personal and communal sovereign power. Its necessary and sufficient condition is to have, as its foundation, a people that is mentally ‘active’ and awake; one that is alive to the chimeric nature of the world; that may re-activate its vitality and its cultural strength, and thus prevail over the financially richer, and entrenched, forces of entropy.
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