Monday, September 07, 2015

Myth Of Moral Technology


After the apocalypse, the entire narrative of human history will be re-written and clarified. Our vision of the past is rooted in the present - which needs to justify our present myths. To justify the delusions of the present one must warp history to feed that narrative. Many heroes and villains will switch places in the inevitable time of our rebirthing (one could argue it's our actual birth) as the wool is forever removed from our eyes (and woe be to the Egyptologist!).

But while it will be a great relief to be able to speak openly and objectively without the burden of some warped soul feeling offended you've denigrated his or her personal god driving them to acts of violence, the delusions remain precariously in place for now. The greatest running delusion throughout history is that those in power - whatever power that may be - are there by virtue of their virtue. "God must love me because I am king," whether it be in a household or corporation or nation. The reason so many are raised to power with messiah complexes is because so many of us have messiah complexes, quod erat demonstrandum.

After watching the wonderful "Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine" I was reminded yet again of the undeniable drive in the human heart for a moral purpose. In my book I had the Fizbot man, he worshipped his Fizbot because it brought him worldly success and thus it became his god. (What is Fizbot? Anything that brings worldly success.) And as our geek superheroes sit atop the mountain in today's clime, most then fall prey to the Fizbot god that put them there.

Some people equate this with a tech IPO

John Lennon set the standard for success, never matched since the time of Christ. He never held a job, didn't do anything he didn't want to do, and that personal integrity of "all you need is love" put the riches of the world at his feet. Now everyone wants to claim that mantle. How much is your life an act of love? That is yet to be revealed. In the meantime, pretenders point to the sky after every home run claiming it's an act of God.

Zuckerberg, as one example, is wholly ensconced in his Fizbot, completely convinced he's - and I quote - "Connecting the world!" Thus Facebook is a moral endeavor and any comrade who opposes the revolution is an enemy of the state. It's an awesomely uplifting feeling to believe your work serves a higher purpose, a greater feeling than any drug can ever provide. To hear that your purpose is not what it purports to be causes a religious reaction of murderous proportions. Hey, Zuck, you ain't on any moral quest, drop the fa├žade and you'll be a much happier person. Fizbots in the end always consume their followers until eaten alive.

This may seem trifling but is significant in its greater indication of the larger mentality: one can notice that places like Facebook (Yahoo/YouTube a notable exception) only allow an option to "Like" a posting. One is not allowed to register a No vote for the statement "Jews should be killed in gas chambers." (And equivalent statements such as that are made 24/7, 365 days of the year, though more veiled and politely.) I'm sure the rationale for no "Dislike" option is to provide a "positive environment" or some such bullshit all censors use. Truth is, to admit there is evil in the world destroys their moral authority; no authoritarian has a use for honesty - and no censor fosters communication.

Why yes, there is a substitute for morality: comfy cushions!

We hear these hilarious stories of these supposedly liberal Silicon Valley tech companies "changing the world for the better." But are they really bringing us to new levels of humanity? Is that not the domain of the human heart? Is not Uber as predatory as any robber baron of old? Does putting nicer drapes in the break room really make you progressive? Fuck no. In the end all these entities must operate under the rules of capitalism but this mythology encourages the ruthless behavior of an entity convinced it's on a moral crusade justified in any action it takes. Drone strikes by any other name.

As far as Jobs goes, I really, really, really want to like him. It pains me not to but ultimately I doubt very much that had I been presented with the same opportunities he had that I'd do much better than clinging to the myths he did with absolute desperation to the point of self-destruction. As the mother of his first child put it, "He blew it." At the end of the night we each have to live with our selves no matter how adored we are. That's what Steve lost over time, never becoming whole.

That said, there are those who conflate the good ruthlessness of a visionary with the bad ruthlessness of a capitalistic environment that puts money above all. Art without ruthlessness to its intent becomes warped and useless. Jobs knew this innately and I loved the clips in the film of him holding fast to what he knew was the way to go. Visionaries are ALWAYS attacked by lesser souls (as Einstein said) and were they to cave in to that they would be wasting their gifts. (Sowwy your wittle feewings got hurt.)

Thinking about masturbating later

The theme of the great "The Social Network" was that Zuckerberg was compensating for personal failings by making Facebook a success, ergo a king is a king by virtue no matter how rejected he is by girls. How true that is in Zuck's case is irrelevant as it speaks to a greater truth seen in the tech world of wanting to claim - like Jobs - of following in the footsteps of Gandhi, MLK, and Lennon by reason of their corporate success. That's a very appealing myth and when you compare a Steve Jobs with IBM blue suits or an unredeemed sociopath like Bill Gates, it becomes quite believable.

Work, in and of itself, has no meaning. God needs no computers nor the fields tilled nor the oceans explored. It's only as meaningful as it is to the worker doing it. So we all hunger to attach meaning to whatever work we do even if we know in our heart of hearts it can be misguided. To put it another way, a man put here to be an artist can never be fulfilled doing the work of a doctor no matter how many lives he saves. On the other hand, being the artist you were put here to be is no substitute for having the family you need.

A thousand trips to Kyoto temples makes you a not a monk to be. Steve Jobs fulfilled his visionary dreams and that's to be highly and unequivocally commended. In that sense he'll always be a hero of mine and a part of our fabric. That he thought that entitled him to shortcuts in other areas of his life, while understandable, is regrettable and robbed him of us before his time (while also ripping a part of that fabric he became). The Rise Of The Geek has been a fascinating story and the merging of creativity with technology is a great triumph. But corporations are not art and in the end must be (oh so ruthlessly) eliminated for real art to survive.



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