Friday, January 17, 2020

In a state

If my name still counts for something it is in the way it associates with my passport number and my license plate. Increasingly I get the sense that these details are less important than my location and credit card number. I am now less name more number. And on my mobile (number) a screen represents me as a pulsing blue dot on Google Maps. My number moves along the grid as I move. I imagine a data stream ballooning out of that blue dot, with strings of actions, preferences and all the footprints of my transactions. People like you went this way. Yes, I remember a time when I used to read texts, now they read me. This all begins to sound like the 'fear that people become readable pieces of data, without any recognised interiority' that William Davies writes about in 'Nervous States'. You might call it surveillance paranoia, neoliberalism, quantification or governmentality. It's the same thing. Read this against eco-disaster, cycles of poverty, mass migration and economic instability, and you can easily run out of hope. The slow advance of human civilisation seems like a big mistake, even golden ages are quickly dismissed as golden ages. The trouble with humans is that they are far too anthropocentric (exit stage left). This is the bitter fruit of several years reading post-humanism. On the other hand, no-one writes better about humans than Michel Serres. Reading 'Hominescence' is an antidote to pessimism. If anyone can write and think like that, there's something to live for. I've even started writing like him myself. Let's think slowly about where we are and how we got here and use this is a solid basis for action.