quote of the month


From Warren McCulloch, one of the founding fathers of cybernetics:

“I don’t particularly like people, never have. Man to my mind is about the nastiest, most destructive of all animals. I don’t see any reason, if he can evolve machines that can have more fun than he himself can, why they shouldn’t take over, enslave us, quite happily. They might have a lot more fun, invent better games than we ever did.”

quoted in Mary Catherine Bateson, Our Own Metaphor (New York: Knopf, 1972)

Techno-utopianism (dystopianism?) for the win.


The totalizers would happily follow Johnson in seeking answers to questions such as “So what does the Internet want?”—as if the Internet were a living thing with its own agenda and its own rights. Cue a recent Al Jazeera column: “The internet is not territory to be conquered, but life to be preserved and allowed to evolve freely. … From understanding the internet as a life form that is in part human, it follows that the internet itself has rights.”13 That is the kind of crazy talk to be avoided. The particularizers would not invoke “the Internet” to embark on a quixotic attempt to re-make democratic politics; but the totalizers, in their quasi-religious belief, would do so gladly.

A good account of the Internet would never need to mention that dreadful word at all. This stringent requirement might uproot most of our Internet thinkers from the plateau of banal and erroneous generalizations where they have resided for the last two decades; after all, it is the very notion of “the Internet” that has allowed them to stay there for so long. Now that Internet-centrism is not just a style of thought but also an excuse for a naïve and damaging political ideology, the costs of letting its corrosive influence go unnoticed have become too high.