2020-04-26 | Subject | Matrix Batteries
I was laying in bed, drinking coffee, letting my mind wander around the news that people aren't necessarily immune after recovering. This, coupled with news of lockdown extensions and likely mutations, as well as a flurry of big company inc(s) making ventilators, made me think of waves of people getting set up on at-home ventilators via telehealth in between surviving waves - shipments of oxygen tanks, and food, delivered faceless to people as they holed up, their only connection to the world managed by large companies for communication, livelihood, entertainment, health, and food, the world becoming increasingly virtual. Then.... BAM, I realized that we are creating our own horror story. Humans are putting themselves in pods, just like in the Matrix. Apparently this is the moral and right way to exist.
What does it mean to be human? How can it be that this definition changed in nature so extremely in the last few hundred years? What are we willing to do to avoid death? What of the natural world are we willing to destroy? This goes beyond the current crisis. The first Matrix movie struck me as truly revolutionary when it came out, a brutal attack on consumer culture. The steak scene, for instance, can be taken in multiple ways. I feel more and more like we are treated like tiny batteries to keep the global machine running. We are dehumanizing ourselves and feeling good about it.
Sigg suggested that I look at the writings of Wendell Berry. After some investigation, I decided to read his Landscape of Harmony. Primarily I am interested in the challenges of human cognition, specifically: that we use models to understand how we fit into society, and this includes language and the vision of people like Wendell Berry. Models also include physical and psychological lenses, and interpretation challenges due to paradoxes of measurement. I am pouring my personal work into developing agile methods to generate models that can be quickly set up and queried. The models are simple enough that they can help analyze systems, even in Berry's case, as they can be laid out on paper if needed.
On the surface, my immediate criticism of Berry is similar to my criticism of Thoreau (and, for that matter, Sigg). The broader system, the global socio-economic-ecological system, is not taken into account, besides by the most surface analysis. All of us are looking at industrial civilization from within industrial civilization, and the conclusion that none of this is sustainable at all is not allowed in the conversation in preference for positive forward motion and a form of optimism. I still need to read more Berry, and my guess is, as Sigg told me, that I will bring some more color to the questions about what it means to be human for 190 thousand of 200 thousand years of being human.
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