BOOK REVIEW, NONFICTION:
by Noche Kandora
Demon in the machine – The Internet and cyber activities of all sorts would likely be in big trouble if the “humanist” Mark Slouka ever won state or federal office. Slouka, sounding an Orwellian tone in his 1995 book War of the Worlds, makes virtual reality out to be solely a money-making proposition. The upshot, he says, is that the Internet and synthetic environments pose a detrimental threat to individuality.
Slouka claims in his homily to the herd that after the digital revolution has “run its course,” human beings will be so interconnected with cyber interaction and existence that they will have consequently become mere adherents of a centralized entity sometimes referred to in certain circles as a digital hive. He also argues that the more involved we become in the aphysical realm, the more that community and face-to-face interaction will suffer, a common argument often posed in the pages slotted under nonfiction VR literature’s apocalyptic genre.
As far as Slouka’s mention of the hive, he says that under this collective identity, “we will quickly and gladly relinquish our will, our intelligence, and our beliefs to the glory of the hive.” After all, the cyber world is easier to manipulate, Slouka says. But whom exactly does Slouka refer to as he generically bandies about the word “we”? Obviously, like a presumptuous politician in a government chambers who believes he is serving the better interests of his clueless constituents, Slouka is glancing down his nose as he cries out for caution.
“Reduced to its barest essentials, the metaphor of the digital hive argues that in the very near future, human beings will succeed in wiring themselves together to such an extent that individualism as we know it today … will cease to exist,” Slouka writes. “What will take its place? The great truth of our collective identity, made clear and apprehensible through the offices of that ‘global mind,’ the Net.” He adds that the hive “threatens to destroy the individual’s ability to feel compassion, loyalty, love for others.”
As an example, Slouka cites the violent activities players could engage in with video games, which allow experiences that are becoming more and more enhanced and lifelike concurrent with advancements in technology. He says this bolsters the prospect that players may very well become “attached” to the violent personas that they exercise on surrogate victims via simulation games. “Will the realistic screams … become cries of real pain, real fury, as the quality of the illusion grows? There’s no reason to think they won’t,” Slouka writes. The bottom line would be that reality will have lost its “authority” under such a scenario, he says. “As the virtually real becomes good enough, the dividing line between what is and what appears to be, what was and what might have been, will be lost,” he writes.
But whom exactly does Slouka refer to as he generically bandies about the word “we”? Obviously, like a presumptuous politician in a government chambers who believes he is serving the better interests of his clueless constituents, Slouka is glancing down his nose as he cries out for caution.
Calling today’s society a “culture of illusion,” Slouka states that the boundary between fact and fiction is already blurred among the public, who are hopelessly swayed by television and other outlets, such as radio and computers. He also points to what he perceives as pitfalls of cyberspace, where users can sprout new personalities with avatars, and live out separate lives in abstract communities that are rendering cultural constructs such as gender obsolete.
Slouka says the solution involves re-connecting with the real world. He writes, “Unmediated reality, after all, is a profoundly democratic thing; we experience the world, each of us, in subtly different ways, and this diversity is both the foundation of our independence and a bulwark against authoritarianism. Representations, on the other hand — particularly the mass-produced, electronic kind — limit diversity. However great the range of ‘personal options’ they afford, they are a homogenizing force; they turn us, in other words, from individuals into an audience. And this is a dangerous thing. Not only does it raise the specter of manipulation — the more homogenous the group, the easier it is to manipulate — but it suggests that at some point we ourselves, increasingly unaccustomed to the rigors of individual judgment, may come to mistake mass opinion for our own.”
Although it’s only wise to take some of what Slouka says under advisement, he remains a preachy fanatic thinly veiled beneath what appear to be the trappings of a pseudo libertarian.
|Book: War of the Worlds
Author: Mark Slouka
No comments yet.
Leave a comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.