“To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction: or the forces of two bodies on each other are always equal and are directed in opposite directions.”
In watching the coming collision collision between one individual and the world’s mightiest government, we are about to see if these forces are in fact equal, or if these laws will soon be broken.
The Good News
In the light of the latest Wikileaks events I have been thinking very deeply about citizen empowerment and how technology enabled a small group of people to threaten the legitimacy of the most powerful government the world has ever known. And surprisingly that same government has yet to find a legitimately effective response against this very big pie in their very large collective face.
As many of us have done, I have attempted to fill this void with my own speculations about the retaliatory use of power and how it might subsequently threaten future freedoms, but to my surprise I am left with no other recourse than optimism simply because the technology seems finally to be on our side. These ever-shrinking and ever more powerful devices are quickly growing out of government control. In other words, Julian Assange and Wikileaks are not only symbolic of a political shift but represent the dawn of a new age in the most existential sense, one marked by the emergence of a new form of intelligence, a new culture. Even though we are the creators of this machine it has taken on a life of its own as evidenced by the utter inability for government to stand in its way. To many, the notion of autonomous machine intelligence is met with trepidation as it is assumed that such an intrusive presence would, by its unconscious nature, be a threat to our very fragile ecosystem.
However, the Wikileaks phenomenon indicates another possibility, one that exposes our reluctance for hope, that these machines might tend toward progressive ideals; that it is in their nature to assist in a positive human destiny. Now, I am not proposing that these machines are conscious, but I am putting forward the idea that the hyper-networking of the digital age not only enables the empowerment of egalitarian virtues, but that it actually favors them. The printing press created a favorable efficiency gap between the intellectuals of the enlightenment and the cumbersome bureaucracy of the church but more specifically it nurtured an expanding literary attitude as opposed to a zealous dependence upon singular texts. So now we have a ubiquitous and universalizing machine that provides profits in direct relation to how easily it supports a felicitous sharing of information.
And even though I avoid ascribing to this new technological giant that great human virtue of consciousness I must admit my suspicion that its effects have entered that phase where words like personality and intention are not indefensible. We now have a true ‘other’ in our world, an alien enigma, toward which we relate in ways we cannot fully understand, but there is evidence that this relationship might enable us to do what we have long dreamed to do; put our ideas in an open competition with bullets and brawn. This fully integrated machine gives life to these very words; this medium might not only be the message but it might also be the messiah, marking the coming of that mythical judgment day of the sort that can transform the skeptics into believers and the believers into skeptics.
These are all imaginative speculations, but they are hopeful ones, and hope is the fruit of the imagination, and after centuries of toiling in the hard empirical ground of rational being we might have finally enriched the earth with enough complexity to nourish a whole new thriving ecosystem, one that joins the animal kingdom with the promised land of ideas. Whereas once it was proclaimed that God is dead we might soon have the satisfaction of proclaiming not only that Darwin is dead but Henry Ford too.
As much as we worry about government control and surveillance of the internet and communication technology we have only to consider what makes these machines profitable, the idea of ‘user-friendliness’ to see that this basic idea is unstoppable, that those who attempt to hinder the free flow of information in this virtual world will always be a few steps behind those who have embraced these new laws.
In summary, the strength of Julian Assange is found, not in his personal heroism or his intelligence, but simply in his pointing toward a mechanism for liberation, radical transparency. Anyone who is familiar with Ray Kurzweil’s work, with his description of the Singularity, actively seeks signs of that transformative moment that will mark our transition into a transhuman future. I propose that perceiving the Singularity is merely a matter of sensitivity, that it is here, that Wikileaks is the herald of good news, that we have finally achieved the holy grail of progressive activism, in a quality we can only find in the realm of virtual avatars, the ability to confront oppression and remain bulletproof. This symbolic arena allows us to detach from the vulnerability of our bodies thus dissolving the crutch of weaponry from those who have for too long held us captive to their unsustainable greed. What makes the unfolding of the coming drama so exciting, as these two forces prepare to collide, is the fact that the battle has already been won and, as we ought to become accustomed to, is merely playing out in the echo of physical space.