Thursday, March 13, 2008

People immersed in tech+Return to anarchist primitivism= Hostile Eugenics?

This video is emblematic of a highly evolved and contingent culture. The audio is generated from a software called "Japanese Schoolgirl Watch", an AI program that converts a user's submitted music notes and lyrics and makes a resulting music track using a simulation of Miku Hatsune's voice. The fake Miku Hatsune voice will perform any Bach or Van Halen notes you are care to give it. This video adds layers to that cultural complexity with formulated video game action and pop singer iconography.

My point in referencing this video has to do with layers of mediation, layers of technology, and layers of subcultures.

  1. A pop music business generates a career vocalist, Miku Hatsune.

  2. A programming subculture ( voice synthesis programming ) generated a program, and chose Miku Hatsune's voice.

  3. Users of the above voice synthesis program form into subcultures, maybe some into mostly classical Western symphonies, and in this case a fan base of both video fighting games and pop iconography.

  4. The resulting audio/video file is uploaded to youtube, a forum which enables a fan base of the video itself.

  5. Wired magazine notices the software phenomenon, and the youtube presence, and does a Lifestyle report.

  6. Google reads my email, uses smart targeting to guess what online articles or products I would want to see, and shows me the Wired Lifestyle report.

  7. If you have read this far, also watched the video, and especially if you favorited it in your youtube account -then you are part of the upwardly spiraling cultural complexity of parasitic memes founding themselves within a media.

While it takes the sun's heat, the Earth's atmosphere, and human physicality to make all the above to happen, the "media" levels are what I call "non-biological semiotic universes".

I chose a cute, funny, and maybe brilliant or maybe absurd example. What about the 100's of mediated levels, each a parasite within the other, that are more militaristic ( e.g. jet fighter culture, the Ted Nugent gun nuts )?

There are many subcultures that believe the biological world is going to do something truly big that will crash all this mediated culture, and soon. Whether is it simply the depletion of oil economy, or deconstruction of the State by some emergent social force; there are many who sincerely believe a return to less technology and media is upon us.

There very well may be sudden shocks to the 'complex cultures' coming soon or coming someday. If these shocks do take out some parts of complex culture, I've written in other entries at length that I do not see a return to primitivism. A decline in industrialization, State power, or technology would be a boon for the most malevolent forces and either wholesale extermination or enslavement of pacifist-localist cultures. This would happen due to an enduring metal culture (read : swords ) after all the battleships, cell phones and web servers die.

But what about the wish that people who want a return to primitivism have? In their vision of the future, where have all the people gone who spent hours writing voice synthesis software?

They are gone. And you know how a class of people are "gone"? They die via a methodical targeting.

An instance of hostile eugenics.


The Serpent Lord said...

The primitivists are almost certainly right that biological factors can overpower technology and slow or stop the recent exponential growth, but they look at past interruptions of biological and technological evolution with blind romanticism, reacting to the moderns contempt for the "dark ages" of the past.

The worst case scenario is a geophysical breakdown on the order of the greatest mass extinctions of deep time. This would wipe out civilization and most species of life on earth. Our species could be one of those which goes extinct, but technology is our best hope for survival. We don't know what tools would enable us to survive, so developing as much technological diversity as possible (including but not limited to primitive and nature-based technologies) is the only smart strategy. In the long game it is also possible that we will eventually develop new life forms which will help the world recover faster than leaving everything up to nature.

A much more likely scenario is that we will revert to more primitive types of society and economy as scarcity and violence become dominant factors again. We may be seeing this mentality in the Republican party which uses tax refunds and economic stimulus packages like a monarch trying to boost his kingdom's economy through largesse rather than the more modern approach of consistent, permanent fiscal conservativism you would expect from the party line. The gradually sliding value of the US dollar (or the "peso" as some of us now call it) could be a permanent trend if this really is rooted in problems like peak oil rather than just silly politics.

In this scenario we won't see a return to primitive technology. Primitive lifestyes would result in many deaths as primitive ways of living are not sufficient to support the current population. (See pollution from burning wood, or the massively polluting and cruel exploitation of horses.)

Instead we'll see society crystallize the technologies that exist now, and elevate them to the status of high arts and noble professions. Nuclear power, semiconductor technologies and so forth will be treasures preserved with great care by all but the most disconnected barbarians (and these barbarians will not be as disconnected as the barbarians of the past.) The most successful neo-medieval cultures will even continue to push technology forward, while sustaining the maximum population and diversity of technology possible.

And then again there's always the possibility that us optimists are right, and improvements in efficiency, evolution of processes and relationships, and new technologies (perhaps even fusion energy) will turn the tide away from a biological shortfall.

Ryan Hawkes said...

Hey Friend. Who are you trying to scare? The computer geeks from the nature hippies? Even for you that is a big giant leap of presumption.

"In their vision of the future, where have all the people gone who spent hours writing voice synthesis software? They are gone. And you know how a class of people are "gone"? They die via a methodical targeting. An instance of hostile eugenics."

Um, Lance. Just because there is no longer a post office one day and so the postal carrier doesn't have a job (no gas, no power, no paper etc), doesn't mean he was killed in an instance of hostile eugenics. Some things become obsolete in time even without the collapse of civilization.

You discuss a modern phenomenon, making interesting connections and points and then leap into an anti-primitivist come?

LanceMiller said...


I reread my post, and yes there is a less than graceful leap of some sort in the last paragraphs.

I am not saying there will be mass killing of techies at the hands of marauding anarcho-primitivists who sweep through villages setting any house with electricity on fire.

I'm not referring to any real acts of violence in the action movie sense. I am referring to is what the Putnam framework calls bonding, and how ideologically anti-technology groups may perpetuate their Earth footprint by mating within the ideology, and a sympathetic media that helps expand their base.

Even if the above does not happen ( which is very likely since Europe and Central East Asia are largely
uninspired by USA subcultural grassroots politics,
the US's avant garde or countercultural credibility to the rest of the world ceased several decades ago,
now US intellectuals cross pollinate with ideas from Northern Europe and Japan more than US folk movements. ) my point is simply about a group with contempt for the wider society.

Sudden change: Now I'm thinking the post is really clunky, and what I really wanted to say is in the parenthesis above.