Jun 02 2011

Because the present is too much stress; because the past is too much pain… it’s pedal to the metal until we get somewhere else.


We have been metamorphosed from a mad body dancing madly on a hillside into a pair of eyes staring in the dark.

-Jim Morrison.

Back in the early days of the automobile (that revolutionary “Personal Transporter” that changed everything), it often took a bit of time for the thing to really get going.

You’d hear a horrible loud “poot poot   brrrrr brrrr poot poot brrrr clang” for many moments until finally it would all come together.  The engine would purr and you could accelerate.  Oh sure, there were bumps. You’d run out of gas. There would be accidents and you’d have to wait while the chickens crossed the road. Still, in essence, you would have achieved a sort of functional homeostasis — in a personal transporter moving you around planet earth at speeds undreamt of by pedestrians and jockeys… 50… maybe even 60 mph!

I find myself thinking about the confluence of radical technological developments in similar terms.  As a species that is utterly coupled with our technology and, at this point, pretty much responsible for the fate of most of the species on planet earth, we’re sputtering along, making loud, awkward, ugly noises — blowing shit up, toxifying the environment, tormenting the animals and treating one another poorly.  But at some point, all these complicating evolutions in technologies may start to purr.  Post-industrial technologies like biotech, artificial general intelligence, intelligence amplification, molecular technology and others may make this entire barely-functional civilization thing actually functional.   Or even better than functional.

I have the odd presentiment that the purpose of futurism — the neophile drive to accelerate into our technological destiny, whatever it may be — is actually an attempt to get us closer to living in the present moment.  In other words, industrial culture and the early stages of post-industrial culture has turned us all, by necessity, into little corporations managing our bank accounts and households and jobs and companies; worrying the details of our personal five year plans; peering nervously out into the socioeconomic jungle for approaching dangers five days… five months… five years in the distance; all the while watching all certainties decay in the rapids of social change and dissolution.

But at some point, these mechanisms that reward us (some of us) with comforts and good health and cool toys and novel challenges may go cyber — they may become largely self regulating and we may find ourselves in a playful world that will permit us, as often as not, the fundamental sanity of being present in the moment that we happen to be in.

This then is my own idea of acceleration, at least in the moment I happen to be writing this essay  — an acceleration towards a type of spontaneity the loss of which, I believe, lies at the heart of civilization’s discontents.  Others see in acceleration the opportunity to live a quantified life, with every moment of sugary pleasure is tracked and recorded on the balance sheet against other more healthful pursuits with all medical results duly measured.

Which is fine, too.  To each there own acceleration.  See you there.  Watch for it here.