COMMENT: (Internet) Tubes, or Strands Braided into a Rope That Binds?

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

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A few days ago I finished reading a work entitled Pax Technica: How the Internet of Things May Set Us Free or Lock Us Up (2015).

According to the entry on Wikipedia, the author Philip N. Howard is a sociologist and communication researcher who studies the impact of information technologies on democracy and social inequality. Howard assumed a professorship in Internet Studies at the University of Oxford’s Oxford Internet Institute on 1 July 2016.

In a brief description given on the website for the project, pax technica refers to what Howard sees as:

a future of global stability built upon device networks with immense potential for empowering citizens, making government transparent, and broadening information access.

I plan to write a detailed decolonial / counter-racist analysis and critique of this work in due course, drawing attention to what I perceive as

  1. the author’s framing of his argument against a tacit backdrop of ostensibly colour-blind (un-raced, race-less, de-raced etc.) liberal political commitments – what critical race philosopher Charles W. Mills refers to as the ‘ideal (social) contract’ masking the ‘racial contract’ associated with Racial Liberalism, and
  2. the mobilization of Orientalist logics in constructing a binary of ‘open and democratic’ vs. ‘closed and authoritarian’ societies, the latter of which is exemplified continuously by China (but also Iran, Turkey, Russia etc). (In this connection, I should like to refer interested readers to the following essay: Sayyid, S. (2005) Mirror, mirror: Western democrats, oriental despots? Ethnicities 5(1): 30-50.)

Howard contrasts the internet of the pax technica with China’s attempt to create its own rival, alternative internet and extend it to other parts of the world, rhetorically suggesting that the internet of the pax technica is somehow a poly-centric / non-centric / de-centred global technological force for good insofar as it is open and democratic (sic) in contrast to the provincial, closed and authoritarian internet being created by the Chinese. Yet what is completely missing – or rather, elided (obscured, concealed etc.) – from his argument is the fact that the internet of the pax technica is, in fact, highly centric, i.e. it is structured in terms of a core and periphery; moreover, this centrism is specific, viz. Eurocentric / West-centric.

What is further elided is that the internet historically-emerged in the US in the context of the Cold War as a project of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military. While conceding that the historical origin of a thing does not necessarily determine what that thing might become, I want to suggest that we should not fall into the trap of ‘liquidating the historical’, and that at least in the case of the internet, its origins in Western military concerns is embedded through historically-sedimentation. One only needs to ask Who Controls The Internet? to gain some clarity on this point. For this reason, and notwithstanding decolonial (as contrasted with white / Western liberal) concerns about freedom, autonomy, censorship, surveillance, equality etc., I think it is interesting to consider China’s attempt to create a rival internet as a resistant intervention against US / Euro-American hegemony in the terrain of network technologies; in short a veritable ‘clash of (internet) civilizations’.

However, more on this in due course, God-Willing (insha’Allah).

For now, I want to turn attention to another work that I have just started reading:

Tubes - Andrew Blum I was particularly struck by the following extracts which appear on pages 6-9 in the Prologue which I reproduce here (with emphases added):

Thinking of the Internet as a physical thing has fallen so far out of fashion that we’re more likely to view it as an extension of our own minds than a machine. (p.6)

We seem to have exchanged thousands of years of mental cartography, a collective ordering of the earth going back to Homer, for a smooth, placeless world. The network’s physical reality is less than real—it’s irrelevant … [T]he Internet is a landscape of the mind. (p.7)

The Internet may seem to be everywhere—and in many ways it is—but it is also very clearly in some places more than others. The single whole is an illusion. The Internet has crossroads and superhighways, large monuments and quiet chapels. Our everyday experience of the Internet obscures that geography, flattening it and speeding it up beyond any recognition.  (p.8)

The Internet has a seemingly infinite number of edges, but a shockingly small number of centers. (p.9)

For all the breathless talk of the supreme placelessness of our new digital age, when you pull back the curtain, the networks of the Internet are as fixed in real, physical places as any railroad or telephone system ever was. (p.9)

I’m extremely interested to explore the physicality (materiality, corporeality, embodiment etc.) of the internet – and the internet of things (IoT) – from a decolonial perspective in terms of geo-politics (where) and body-politics (who) of knowing and being. I then want to explore such materiality of internet connections – or ‘tubes’ – in terms of how such connections might be used to maintain, expand and refine global systemic White Supremacy (Racism) under late colonial modernity, thereby binding ‘the Other’ (the non-West, the Rest etc.) into a technological dependency complex.

In the meantime, I invite interested viewers to watch the following short video which graphically illustrates the where of the internet:

I should also like to draw viewers’ attentions to the following talks by Blum:

Peace

The(ir) Future…

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Consider the cover of the latest issue of New Scientist magazine and think about the use of the definite article in the title which implies a collapse of possible alternative – and multiple – trajectories onto a single trajectory, thereby pointing to the linear re-inscription of time-space (history-geography) under contemporary conditions of colonial modernity / White Supremacy (Racism):

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Consider also the references to colonization (‘Mars Colony’), a purportedly impending emergence of the post-human ‘singularity’ (‘Super Intelligence’), the threat of (sub-)human destruction (‘population explosion’, ‘World War III’) against the ‘background’ / ‘backdrop’ of an entanglement of such developments with the long duree history of colonial modernity and its refinement / adaptation under increasing contestation of Orientalism / Eurocentrism / coloniality / White Supremacy (Racism) etc.

Peace

Islamic Counter-Racist Thought Food #36

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Consider this:

The apparent “disenchantment” of the world that accompanied the scientific and industrial revolutions would better be described as a transfer of “enchantments” from the natural to the technological order.

Extract taken from The Enchantments of Technology (2005) by Lee Worth Bailey.

Peace

VIDEO: Techno-Religions and Silicon Prophets

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Interested viewers are invited to check out the following talk by Yuval Harari, white male Israeli historian and author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014):

On his personal website, and consistent with Extropian / Trans-Humanist rhetoric and belief in a technologically-driven transcendence, Harari states the following:

History began when humans invented gods, and will end when humans become gods.

Although the lecture is rabidly scientistic, and despite tacit assumptions of a singular historical trajectory and somewhat uncritical engagement with biological evolutionism, the central point being made in the talk is important, viz. that a commitment to Enlightenment / ‘secular’ liberalism is a necessary, if not sufficient, enabling condition for the emergence of ideologies postulating the transcendence of humanism to post-/trans-humanist futures which will only exacerbate ‘gaps’ / ‘divides’ between people.

While it might be argued from an Islamic perspective that human reality is as it was, arguably this is not relevant in terms of understanding the mythic narrative that is the hegemonic / dominant weltanschauung (worldview) of the contemporary era – a narrative which presents itself as global capitalism, but masks an actuality of modernity/coloniality or Global Systemic Racism (White Supremacy). In short, what is important in this presentation is the discourse that is being constructed and the mobilization of this discourse in pursuit of certain ends.

I should like to suggest that if the existential philosopher Martin Heidegger was even partially correct in asserting that “Language is the house of Being; it is that in which Being dwells”, then sociologist Max Weber’s ‘iron cage’ of modernity (and/or coloniality) is being re-constructed – or rather, re-configured – according to an informational / computational hyper-techno-logic, i.e. a refinement / adaptation of the modus operadus of White Supremacy (Racism) for purposes of maintaining and expanding this globally operating system.

Interested viewers are also invited to check out the following talk by Harari:

Peace

(White) Skynet Ebbeth Closer

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

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Check out the following two articles by Nafeez Ahmed Mossadeq on the links between Google, the CIA and the NSA:

How the CIA made Google: Inside the secret network behind mass surveillance, endless war, and Skynet – Part 1

Why Google made the NSA: Inside the secret network behind mass surveillance, endless war, and Skynet – Part 2

Peace

Limitless, Transcendence and LUCY

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

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A few evenings back, I watched LUCY, the latest cinematic offering from white male French director Luc Besson starring white female [=Racial Suspect] and Ashkenazi ‘liberal’ pro-Zionist, Scarlett Johansson.

Initially, I had decided against writing a blog post about this movie on account of its ridiculous plot, dire acting and rather obvious / overt engagement of White Supremacist (Racist), feminist and post-/trans-humanist themes. My original intention was simply to point interested readers to online critiques of the film such as the following:

(1) Lucy: Why I’m Tired of Seeing White People on the Big Screen

(2) ‘Lucy’ and the Absence of the Black Race in Origin of Humanity Theories

(3) Fuck this movie: “Lucy” (2014)

(4) The Problem With “Lucy” And White Feminism

However, having discussed this film with another non-white person [=VoR / Victim of Racism / White Supremacy] who also watched it, and having thought about the relation of this film to a couple of others – specifically, Limitless (2011) andTranscendence (2014) – I have reconsidered my initial dismissive stance and decided to share a few reflections on this and related movies from a Counter-Racist / critical race theoretical / decolonial perspective.

Firstly, I should like to draw attention to the tag lines in the posters / advertising for the above three films, each of which centers on a white person as protagonist (nothing new there):

Limitless (2011) – “What if a pill could make you rich and powerful?”

Transcendence (2014) – “Yesterday Dr Will Caster was Only Human”

Lucy (2014) – “The Average Person Uses 10% of Their Brain Capacity. Imagine What She Could Do with 100%.”

Regarding Limitless (2011):

‘You’ (white people) are, as a collective / nation / group / family, already “rich and powerful”. However, in a “post-racial” (sic) world in which it is now possible for somenon-white people to become “rich and powerful”, i.e. to “catch up” somewhat (a phenomenon which results in what seminal Counter-Racist thinker Neely Fuller, Jr. refers to as “Racial Showcasing Confusion“), there is a need to consider how to re-establish one’s position as The Race in “the race”, i.e. to ensure that one “stays ahead”. One way to “stay ahead” is through “pill-popping”, i.e. technological-means – in short, the achievement of BLTC (Better Living Through Chemistry).

Regarding Transcendence (2014):

In this same “post-racial” world in which non-white people appear to have becomehuman, the future (of white people as dominant) lies in transcending or “going beyond” humanity, i.e. in becoming trans- / post-human. In order to MAINTAIN the globally operating system of White Supremacy (Racism), it appears to have now become necessary, at least according to the views of some white people, to REFINE ‘whiteness’ / what it means to be white along technological / cybernetic / informational lines. Whereas the issue was once one of differentiating (white) humans from (non-white) non- / sub-humans, in this “(neo-)liberal” and “post-racial” era the issue now concerns differentiating (non-white) humans from (white) trans- / post-humans. I refer to this phenomenon as ‘iterative’ or ‘algorithmic’ racism and hope to write about it in more detail in the near future, insha’Allah / God-Willing. (In this connection, I should like to point interested readers to the following blog post: VIDEO: The Cybernetic Refinement of White Supremacy (Racism).)

Regarding LUCY (2014):

Lucy isn’t merely a white female = Racial Suspect under contemporary conditions of global White Supremacy (Racism); rather, as she undergoes her (white female) transformation in this White Supremacist (Racist) post-/trans-humanist fantasy, she becomes the very embodiment of at least one strand within white feminist discourse, viz. the white female as goddess. As proof of this, consider her response to a question asked of her at the end of her trans- / post-human re-con-figuration, viz. “Where are you?”

“I am everywhere”

In short, like Dr Will Caster, the white male protagonist of Transcendence (2014), Lucy has become omnipresent (and also implicitly omniscient and omnipotent since it’s a “package deal” after all).

What interests me here is re-capitulation in the contemporary “post-racial” era of an idea associated with a key (European) Enlightenment philosopher, viz. René Descartes, viz. the transcendent “God’s Eye view”.

According to Latin American decolonial thinker Santiago Castro-Gomez, Descartes’ philosophy should be understood as based on adoption of a “zero point” position, i.e. a “view from nowhere” in the sense of a perspective (epistemology, way of knowing) that is not tied to a particular body situated at a particular place. This “zero point philosophy” has no body-politics (e.g. ‘race’ or gender) or geo-politics (i.e. location in the “world system”); rather, it is ego-centrically grounded in a way that is abstract, timeless and universal (thereby erasing / masking ego-political concerns informed by body-political and geo-political considerations). This ego is, in fact, a theo (god) since it transcends space (and time) and matter.

All of this leads me to think that it might be worthwhile considering technological shifts occurring in this contemporary “post-racial” era from a Counter-Racist / critical race theoretical / decolonial perspective that simultaneously thinks through the implications of another possible shift that might be taking place, viz. to the “post-secular”.

On this basis, I should like to ask the following:

Are films such as Limitless, Transcendence and LUCY, which are made against the backdrop of an ostensible Trans- / Post-Human “technological shift” [=REFINEMENT] taking place within the globally operating system of Racism (White Supremacy), informing us / them that a “post-secular” theological shift is also taking place; that white Catholic male Pierre Teilhard de Chardin‘s ‘Noosphere‘ is being realised as a “global brain“; that the ‘Alpha’ (beginning) and ‘Omega’ (end) of ‘race’ = Racism (White Supremacy) are converging insofar as this ‘project’ is considered in terms of its theological roots and branches; that the (colonial) ‘matrix’ (of power) is ‘re-booting’ so as to MAINTAIN itself.

Peace