It is now abundantly clear that the information technology revolution did nothing but enslave the human spirit and a counter-revolution is all but inevitable
Across the blindingly white starched tablecloth in one of Tokyo’s most expensive restaurants, the distinguished Japanese businessman looked at me rather sadly. “You know, Baruch-san,” he said, “I often wonder what the heck we are doing here.” “How so, U..-sama?” I replied, rather taken aback. “Do you know, Baruch-san, that all the innovation in our field, in semiconductors, is driven by video games? That everything that we do, all the stress, all the 80 hour weeks, all the travel, is so that some guy on his couch can shoot some monsters on his TV screen?”. I didn’t know that, but I knew, then and there, that our age of communication technology, our post-industrial world was rapidly coming to its end.
In my youth, I was an avid reader of science fiction. It was my desire to read it in the original that led me to become fluent in English long before 12th grade. I even translated some stories from the English into the Hebrew for a long since defunct science fiction magazine. The stories and the novels, no one would be surprised to find out, were roughly split between the utopian and the dystopian, the brave new worlds of soaring human spirit and the human race working as one to make the world a better place and the wastelands of introversion wherein the human spirit had collapsed in on itself and the word of the day was sublimation.
In these sad places, the raw animalistic drives that make us go out there and conquer, the drives that gave us our art, our literature, our science and our technology, but also our death camps and our endless wars had all been sublimated by something else, something safe, something self-referential and self-absorbed. There was no need anymore to venture outside, to meet other people, to strive, to succeed, to fail. Usually, it was only a chosen few that had the means to enjoy this lifestyle. Others were servicing the robots that made it all possible.
My dinner guest’s comment made it clear to me where our world was going and the fifteen years since have sealed the deal. The silicon semiconductor, that piece of fused silica polished to a high shine and scored with an intricate network of tiny lines half the size of the common flu virus, lines in which nestle the conductive atoms of gold or silver or gallium arsenide, has not helped us develop our potential, it helped us to suppress it. It has not helped us go out and discover, it made it possible for us to stay home and curdle up like week old milk. It did so by making it possible to sublimate everything that makes us human; our sex drive, our curiosity, our need to communicate with other humans, to build meaningful and thriving communities.
Instead of sex we have pornography, instead of going out, we are staying in. Matrix-like, we are connected to umbilicals, but they feed us not the liquefied remains of our dead, much worse than that they feed us images and sounds that are finely tuned to get us addicted, to keep us subdued, to fill our heads with every false and perverse notion as long as it keeps us docile and keeps us working to produce more silicon and all the fiber optic cable and the ones and zeros that it needs to do its job: keeping us enslaved so we can keep producing more.
Of all the things or beings that our best minds have ever imagined enslaving the Homo Sapiens species from space aliens to viruses, no one as far as I know had ever imagined that we would be enslaved by a humble element, one of the most mundane and abundant ones in the universe, a simple crystal that is literally as numerous as the grains of sand which are made from it and in fact much more so.
Silicon, like all powerful rulers, has a caste of priests whose job it is to make sure that ever bigger quantities of it are purified, fused, polished, coated and painstakingly adorned with ions of far more precious elements like gold and silver. These priests, the folks we see on our LCD displays wearing blue jeans and black t-shirts that cost more than our bespoke suits, are very well compensated indeed, like all priests were throughout history. Truth be told, these priests are as much slaves as the rest of us. Their riches, like ours and perhaps more so are just ones and zeros that reside on, yes, slivers of silicon for as long, and only as long, as someone maintains a five volt electrical potential across its electrodes.
When I visit the great castles, cathedrals, and museums of Europe, these shrines to the once seemingly inexhaustible potential of the human spirit, I like watching the faces of the middle and high school kids that are being marched through the marble corridors and the cobblestone streets on their mandatory school outings. Over the decades, the kids are less European and more everything else, but the expressions on their faces have stayed the same. They range from boredom to a bit of curiosity; who were these people that built these soaring ceilings, carved limestone like it were lace, drew endless versions of a soulful woman with a baby in her arms? It seems to me that there is no recognition in those faces that these people, the people who built these magnificent edifices and the people for whom they were built had anything in common with them. For all they know and feel these might have been space aliens who felt so strongly about their God that they were willing to spend lifetimes lovingly carving out His images.
We humans need elites. We need concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few because that is the only way we can accomplish greatness. Homogeneous distribution of resources leads to nothing but tribal life, life that is short, painful, and exceedingly violent. How the resources get to be concentrated is less important than who gets to control them. Sumer, Egypt, Judea, Greece, Rome, Europe, India, China, Japan, all had at different periods elites who, with all their requisite corruption and power lust cared for something more than the lining of their own pockets or beds. They believed in God, or gods, or their own people’s destiny and in so believing they caused the greatest achievements of the human spirit to come forth.
Our elites today, the faithful servants of the element with fourteen protons in its nucleus, are not among them. They believe in nothing except the propagation and multiplication of their master the silicon and the necessary enslavement of the humans who they still need to make that outcome possible. Our elites today build no cathedrals, commission no art. On the contrary, they buy masterpieces of old and lock them up so no one but they can enjoy them. These jeans-clad aging nerds did nothing but make it easier for us to gossip, to get fat, to lose our divine image.
All elites perish from the earth because they all, with time, become too odious to be tolerated and too complacent to defend themselves. Some leave behind great monuments that still stir our souls. In Russia, nothing exists of any value that has not been commissioned and approved by the Romanov dynasty, a dynasty that ended over a century ago. In Western Europe, tourists do not visit the soulless monoliths of the Eurocracy, they flock to the palaces and the churches built by the Medicis and the Bourbons.
Our elites, the silicon priesthood of “high technology”, will be among the shortest lived. Their days are already behind them, though they don’t know it yet. Luckily, their brief and disastrous tenure, a tenure that encouraged nothing but the basest instincts of humanity, will be soon forgotten, gone without a trace. There will be no works of art, or literature, or music of any lasting value that will have been created when they had the means to commission their creation. Silicon will assume its rightful place next to its brethren in the periodic table, next to iron, and aluminum, and carbon, as the servant of the human race and not its master.
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