oko journal


Against Web Panegirics

Promises and Reality of Virtual Knowledge


Photography PD, Courtesy of Pxhere

Contemporary Virtual Class by disregarding bleak techno-distopian views must have missed quite a big chunk of our written and cinematographic cultural background like growing in an atomic shelter for several decades and than suddenly discovering the Internet…

(Based on a forum argument against Internet panegirics, December 2017 on The Conversation)

People with background in information technology are well aware that politicians are in our time obsolete as far as democratic decision making is concerned. We know that infrastructure exists now. Consensus is just as simple as the press of the button associated with unique identifier (IP address). Online democracy can be implemented shortly by leaving only strictly limited executive power to politicians. On the other hand, we equally know that we are far from online democracy since there is no political will to implement it.

Virtual Class and knowledge power

Implementing Internet democracy would mean that political class would lose their power. All political donations would likely disappear overnight since there would be no reason for lobbying. Journalists would gain in social status since the power of social interpretation would increase in significance. People might again be happy to pay for information if it would allow more informed decisions. This was promised by techno utopian prophets of Silicon Walley; the argument was that the system based on the global network would enforce the will of the people and disempower oligopolies.

Now, this is where the problem is… We know that in our time and in our democracies it is not people who rule national states but corporations who control politicians. We just vote for politicians and give them legitimacy to do what corporations expect them to do: to maintain the political status quo and the upward direction of the flow of the capital. We can not imagine these corporations to be keen to implement something that might be against their interests, such as the will of the people. Now, we are also aware of the current global takeover of the Internet. The same corporations which habitually buy our politicians are gaining control of our Internet sources of information…

The idea that the public will be able to choose information from the common pool is also a concept promised to us by techno utopian prophets. We can certainly agree that in human communication information becomes an information when it is understood… There is no information in dead data… Dead data is not knowledge since only comprehension determines if something is information. It follows that one needs to have knowledge to be able to distinguish knowledge from dead data… It is clear that, subsequently, the burning question of our time is: who is controlling the access to knowledge in society and on the Internet?

The sea of dead data is not a sea of knowledge as some would want us to believe. Billions of Web pages without sense are nothing but dead parrots; they are clogging the space of representable. The search engines are supposed to be utopian algorithms promised by data class to provide a permanent access to omnipresent knowledge. Yet this access has a gate keeper and a key holder who do not share our interests. It happens that the doors to the promissed ultimate knowledge pool are controlled by the same big brother who pays our politicians and wants to keep the flow of capital in particular direction far from national interests, far from people who enjoy the temporary illusions of Internet empowerment.

We may agree that at this time bright people skip first pages of Google results for different reasons… How many pages we will have to skip in soon future? Who will have enough money to pay Internet trolls to shape our truths if the current trend of the capital flow continues… Who will feed the bias and alternative truths with the argument that, this is what you wanted, what you searched, what you have asked for. Soon we will not be able to speak in terms of the We, the public since it is becoming clear that there are many different publics with different interests and different little alternative truths… And the profits will determine skopes and shapes of truth commodity and ensure that profits keep flowing in the same direction…

Some time in future, when we decide to write something important, a bitter truth, so significant, something profound we all should know about, there will be no meaningful responses but many uttering: that is what you think, mate

Whims of Internet Gods and techno-optimism

According to the recent study of social mobility an average optimist in USA estimates the relation of average John's earnings to Avarage CEO earnings as 30 to one. The reality is that the ratio is 354 to one. Also, the reality is that Walton family owns more wealth than 42 percent of Americans. Currently 1 percent of the world population owns more than 50 percent of total world wealth.

About future predictions you can always Google. But, optimists rarely Google such issues since they are commonly not aware of the significance of such data. The results are commonly not appearing that clear without someone able to underline potential information between dead data. The trend is that search engine results will be less and less clear due to the lack of knowlwdge to distinguish the information.

Considering that current ruling systems protected with global surveillance technology and draconian Patriot acts intend to crash every possibility of dissent against the status quo and the top few, the obvious fact is that we live in the world where the top few dominate. It is not just some bleak vision of potential future. It is our present.

Regarding the Internet, hypertext and transparency I am following the issues for a long time… I red Vennevar Bush, Theodor Holm Nelson as well as Phillip K. Dick and was one between many young idealists asserting that information wants to be free before the time the proverb was hijacked by the people with desire to be wired. I was witnessing time when journalist on channel 9 news declared that NASA has launched a Hubble telescope satellite with main purpose to monitor small airplanes above earth surface. A moment in history of fake news...

I lived through time when techno prophets were promising future resurrection, possibility of uploading from the cemetery directly to computers and living forever ever after. I can remember that someone seriously claimed that his thermometer was alive. To remind you, this was years before the Patriot act and years before calculated collateral damages exposed cynical disrespect of human life by our psychopathic institutions as revealed by VikiLeaks.

When Hillary claimed that Satanic Verses were actually written by Julian Assange our journalists were forced to support it… We can remember 3 wise monkeys presented to us by one TV station, the individuals until recently referred to as tv personalities were calling themselves journalists and denying the same status to Julian Assange. At that time many people in Australian media openly appeared as wise monkeys instead of Journalists… I guess for the love of their job and status instead of the love for common interest and truth. Some will not forget…

No, I am not speaking about some distant future… I am speaking about our time. Behaving like a drone if not like a psychopath is a welcomed attitude in corporate world. Dehumanised superfluous people are pretext for disappearance of middle class . Both are consequences of ever increasing profits. Pure pragmatism before humanity is a subsequent principle of politics just as collapsing of the concept of knowledge to information. Or art to entertainment… Algorithm is often interpreted as an ideal communication - orders instead of negotiation. Middle class is pushed into the insignificance before disappearance. And the resulting confused precariat is voting brexits and Trumps.

After more than 20 years of witnessing the future unfold I can say that Virilio, Kroker/Weinstein, David Rokeby and Baudrillard were right when pointing to Bentham’s Panopticon, Orwell’s Big Brother and Gibson’s Neuromancer as possible futures. They were certainly more right than panegyrics to the Internet of the virtual class specific to articles around Wired magazine towards the end of the last century.

Contemporary Virtual Class disregarding bleak techno-distopian views must have missed quite a big chunk of our written and cinematographic cultural background like growing in atomic shelter for several decades and than suddenly discovering the Internet…

Guess what? I still consider myself to be an optimist. I believe in network subversion and in new strategies of resistance. I am just not happy rereading panegyrics to technology. Today’s data analysts and the Internet enthusiasts (particular porn fans) remind me on settings of the Pavlov’s classical conditioning experiments (you can Google the image with a poor salivating dog )… Regarding reading of technology it is wise to recognise that the principle of change has precedence over the principle of advancement. Or as Noam Chomsky has mentioned, Pentagon is not going to give people as a gift a technique for free communication which undermines the major media.

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