On the Introduction of ‘Alternative Facts’…

I live in a free country.   A part of citizenship of a free country is freedom of speech.  This is an essential component of a democratic system, and a subject not to be taken lightly, or in any way conditionally, by its subjects.  It is a cornerstone of a thinking society: without it, we are living in a new Dark Age.

When an issue of which we disapprove is placed before us, we must argue our case on the basis of reason, even if we find the opposing argument abhorrent.   Only by listening to views that outrage our own values can we put our case convincingly when we need to defend it.  Otherwise our point of view will degenerate into a hysterical mantra.  Manipulative people are always poised to feed from such narrow thinking, more than ready to change us from sentient human beings into sign-waving tools of their ambition.

Of recent years terms like ‘hate speak’, ‘no-platforming’, and ‘political correctness’ have become prevalent, depressingly mostly among the young, and unforgivably, embedded in university culture.  Any minor infringement of these ‘etiquettes’ is trampled beneath the twittering feet of  the appropriate zealous army.   Judgement by Facebook is rapidly becoming socially what the judiciary system is to the common law.

And this is dangerous.  Why?  Universities have been, historically, not merely places for the ingestion of scientific certainties, but for debate and the development of free thought; in short, forums for progress.   In today’s world they are arguably the only such forum.  There are none-too-subtle distinctions of meaning between developing and directing, so if university society sees itself in the latter role, our prospects for the future must be bleak indeed.

This is not new, of course.  Fear of the truth has always been a valid reason for concealing it, and nothing serves like a rabble-rousing, simplistic mantra placed in the minds of young idealists to achieve the thickest smoke-screen.   Witness the Hitler Youth of the 1930’s for the most powerful recent example, although there have been many other, lesser causes since.   It is why the thinking that withholds enfranchisement until the age of eighteen is entirely right – young minds need to seek maturity and balance before they make judgements.

What brings me to say this now?  I have lived long and seen much.  I have often despaired of the human condition, but never so much as I do today.  The proceedings of the last five years, especially, actually instil in me a real fear for my children’s future. If we are to proceed upon the great decisions of our future on the evidence of gossip, bias and malice, we deserve that doom which is closer now than it has ever been.

 

 

A World Inside my Head – and do I Want it There?

ImageI am not an ant.

I feel it is necessary to make this statement because I am being increasingly made to feel like an ant.  And this alarms me.

I am an individual, not part of a collective intelligence.  My motives, my thoughts, my deeds are my own.  Or are they?

If I look at my actions for the past, say, seven days, I would have to concede that individuality played very little part:  I worked for prescribed hours, performed prescribed, largely repetitive tasks, rested at set times.  I ate set meals before receiving my dose of TV indoctrination; I paid my bills, etc..

It was ever thus.

This measure of collectivism is acceptable just because it was ever thus – my necessary contribution.  I am playing my part in a functioning society.   But lately matters have taken a menacing turn.

Let me begin with a simple example.  Have you noticed how the scripts for TV advertisements are degenerating?   Words no longer seek to enthuse: they are merely a tool to fill the silence while your mind is visually attuned to the brand.  All you are required to carry with you is a final image.

If you’ve borne with me thus far; thank you for your patience.  Your place in the nest is assured.

Now let me tell you what really worries me.  VR.  Virtual Reality.

Ten years ago it seemed so improbable:   headsets for video games at best, a bit of a joke.  Then last week came news of a scheme to introduce VR on long-haul flights, as entertainment – to make the time pass more quickly we are told, and presumably divert us from the discomfort of our cramped conditions.   A good idea?  Well yes, with certain reservations.

But then from the same source followed the suggestion that aircraft so equipped would no longer need or have windows.   Whoa!

Suddenly we’re blind.  Deprived of the choice, the sight of that sensual sea of white cloud, we’re drawn into a world of someone else’s making – a visual drug unconnected to reality.

We sit in a featureless tube with no sense of dimension while a strange-looking helmet transports us to wherever we want to go – or wherever someone with a vested interest (and these investments are expensive so they will be thorough) wants us to go.

The thin end of a huge, gigantic, unstoppable wedge?   No?  Ten years ago prosthetic limbs were unsophisticated sticks with some degree of articulation, no substitute for the real thing.   Now we have bionic limbs.  Now we have Robocop!   (Well maybe not quite, but going that way and fast).

How long will take the geniuses who learned how to connect to the primary nerves that make these bionics work to do the same to a VR helmet?  How long before VR becomes more than a merely visual experience?

Easy, then, to pipe into our brains those key images we are meant to appreciate.  Clinging to a planet that is becoming increasingly hostile, our windowless houses will divert us from the raging of the storm. All of our world will be contained within a helmet.

Are we really capable of creating such a nirvana?  Can we exist in a space where nothing is real?  Ten years ago (that decade thing again) I would not have believed this.  Now I do.

And the specter we should most fear is that while we the people chew on our superficially desirable cud a small elite will be able to manipulate us without resistance.   We will all become one – a collective intelligence serving a ‘Queen’.   Democracy is already largely a key ‘ownership’, one step away from an elitist oligarchy.   This could so easily make it so.

It is worthy of admiration, this new communism – it is a beautiful thing; but do we want it?  Is there still a choice or is the future out of our hands?

Welcome to the nest!