Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Every Step You Take: Closed Circuit Civilization

The critique of technology is, of course, imperative to a critique of civilization, for without it's ever broadening scope and tightly clenching fists, modern life would be not only unthinkable, but also unachievable. The mere numbers of people and the consumptive habits of civilized life are not only made possible by technology, but created by technology itself. It is arguable that pop culture today is the product not of the culture itself, but the product of the products of culture. Where would our daily conversations be without television programs and dead pop stars. One needs only to glance at a facebook "feed" (peculiar name, wouldn't you say? are we being fed? we certainly are suckling the teat of technology! not an accident) to see what the dominant forces in play are today. It is clear that we are slowly becoming the creations of the technology itself.

For nearly every critique of modern technocratic life, there is an apologist chomping at the byte to defend and uphold the positive uses of technology. Be it the presumption of communication becoming more readily available, while at the same time rising instances of violence being attributed to lack of communication. Text messaging has become one of the most used forms of communication in the U.S. today, showcased in a 2008 study from top wireless cellular providers that showed a daily average of 2.5 billion texts, a 450% increase from the previous year. This far dwarfs the average number of phone calls documented by the same providers. This means that the beacon of modern communication, the hope for transmission of information, is being used for the sending and receiving of shortened, voiceless, impersonal communications. That argument is not good enough though, as it touches on the personal and begs the question of who is to say what is good communication. Apparently the phone corporations are. So, how about this one. You are being monitored at every turn.

The NSA is the U.S.' largest, most costly, most invasive group you will never hear about. Sure, we all know the soundbite we get on the news about Jihadists and the vital role of security played out thanks to the Patriot Act, god bless em, but what do you really know about the surveillance state? I can give you some numbers. As of right now, the NSA takes no less than 48 petabytes a year of information to be stored away forever in supercomputers. This is the paper equivalent of one billion four door filing cabinets full of documents, all alphabetized and categorized according to the information YOU give them. Twenty four trillion pages of text are generated each year in the surveillance world of the NSA, and all without the expressed consent of a single person. Now, you may say this is indicative of the state and not a solid critique of civilization, and somehow, we could use this technology for good, if only it were in the hands of those of us with the enlightened intellectual grace and college education to understand power dynamic and economic blah blah blah, you know the rest. Soon, by the way, while we have this fruitless argument over the blatant destruction of our person, the NSA is moving to measuring information by the exabyte, which is the equivalent of 1,000 petabytes. 200 petabytes is the amount of storage needed to store roughly every piece of printed material currently on the planet. This could account for nearly every word spoken within 5 years. The amount of money and energy placed into the development of technology to serve the surveillance culture will surely send advancements far beyond. This is all from ONE agency.

This shows nothing of the vast amount of surveillance taken in daily by corporations, which may end up surpassing that of national security. With the advent of social networking, 700 posts a second on facebook clue corporate armies into our wants, desires and breaking points.  Compound that with 34,000 Googles searches per second and you got yourself the most widely monitored society in history. But how did this happen? Is is state terror, or corporate greed, or could it be the outcrop of surveillance technology itself?

Street cameras are so pervasive  that they have become a part of our natural landscape, escaping scrutiny not because they are hidden away, or even necessary, but because we have become used to seeing them. Television viewers (an historically rabid bunch, known to stand up from their couch to urinate or get more chips, at times) are now privy to the ways of the world and it's human parasites thanks to the advent of reality TV. No need for direct contact anymore, we can watch Cops beat black men from the comfort of our "living" room, and if that is not your idea of fun, then see what two rich white debutantes are fumbling over this week. Not good enough? Don't worry, CBS has it all worked out. Interactive billboards are now taking pictures of the public and broadcasting the picture for the world in a stunt to advertise a new show where the guy who played Jesus will be busting criminals BEFORE they commit crimes at the bequest of a billionaire in New York. Hmmm. Why not head out shopping and be part of the game today? The point is, surveillance is entertainment and entertainment uber alles.  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904265504576564763467046264.html

   The cable execs have even managed to extend the voting season to garner higher ratings by use of political candidates. More people watched the elections than voted, because clearly voting doesn't matter and the entertainment factor is far more relevant to their lives. The more we watch, the more we feel we have participated and the less we have ever done. The more they watch us, the more they get away with. See how that bit of Mede can enchant? The question though is begged where this drive towards self immolation is derived? Did we create the technology so we can watch ourselves all day? Or did the technology create a world where we must be watched? We know that a major loss in technocratic society is the hand to mouth experience of living by instinct. We no longer each have the ability to gather food, build shelter, find water and raise children without the assistance of technocratic rule. Food. Water. Shelter. These are basic aspects of every species of life, yet, we have evolved ourselves into a place where we, as a society, no longer have the knowledge of where these things come from! I can find a youtube video on my phone in traffic but cannot decipher an edible wild berry from one that will give me the shits for a week. Where did we go wrong? If you listen to the voice of reason, it says clearly that it is in our nature to progress this way....WTF?

There is little more unnatural than a bulk of a species propagating without even the most base knowledge of how to eat. We are truly insane. Of course, this is not the way of life for many in this world. Those who have not been subjected to the progress of society still have hand to mouth skills, and use them daily, as this is the way of life for the world without computers. Of course, they are now in jobs training courses so they can learn english and be forced to uproot their jungles to  bring us bananas for our vegan protein drinks. That program is coming next fall on NBC.

What purpose does the watchful eye of no one serve? The false sense of connectivity not only pales in comparison to true experience of connection, but actually stifles the ability to do so. The means by which we currently have to "connect" with friends and family, or mostly strangers, is the internet, and we all know how insecure that medium is. We have been driven to speak in code, or not at all, about our deepest desires, in fear of being placed on some federal schmucks' Google document the next morning. We are unable to slow down, but are begging for a stop. Perhaps it would be easier to roll the dice and jump from the train, tuck and roll, and rise up to bend the tracks out of commission.

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