Are We Enslaved by Technology?

By on June 29th, 2017 in Editorial & Opinion, Human Impacts, Magazine Articles

The comments of Dr. Michael Eldred below, dated Sept. 27, 2014, were received in response to the IQ2 “Big Ideas” Debate held August 12, 2014, in Sydney, Australia.

What Rachel addresses as outsourcing and John as inversion (screening by screens, etc.) is an historical metaphysical destiny inexorably arriving as a counter to Descartes’ positing the ego as the supposedly unshakeable foundation. This positing in the first person singular of the ego encapsulated in its consciousness contrasts with the lead role of the third person singular in the Greek beginning of philosophy τι εστιv… “What is…?” Behind the positing of the ego as foundation lies the metaphysical will to efficient power that comes into its own with such positing.

In the 20th century, the ego becomes the observer in Einstein’s relativity theory, sensuously receiving electromagnetic signals at the speed of light. But the observer’s consciousness then has to be given the role of collapsing the wave equation of quantum indeterminacy in the motion of photons, electrons, etc. to get sensuously real, determinate, experimental data. This is a quandary that modern physics has not quite worked out even a century later. Quantum indeterminacy, upon which modern physics stumbled in the early 20th century, indicates that mathematical physics is losing its grip; in truth, its calculative grip on motion was a fudge from the outset, but the absolute will to effective power dictated it.

At the latest with Hegel (cf., die verkehrte Welt of the Ph.d.G.) and Marx (cf., the value-things that begin to dance on the table in a topsy-turvy world in the famous fetishism chapter of Das Kapital, vol. 1), the ego-subject loses its subject status (as underlying, zugrunde-liegend) to the objects that take on a life of their own. Had to happen, because the encapsulated ego is cut off from the outside.

Now ego-consciousness has apparently (in truth it was out there all along) externalized itself by outsourcing its clever algorithms to the electromagnetic medium of the cyberworld. The billions and billions of circulating algorithmic bit-strings now hit back at the supposed ego-subject, weakening its subject status even further. What was supposed to under-lie (subject) now becomes a plaything of copulating bit-strings directing its life-movements in multifarious ways.

The ego-subject, however – as the recent ABC Big Ideas debate shows – sticks to its delusion that it is still in control and can “choose.” It laments nevertheless occasionally that the artificial cyberworld is subsuming the “real,” physical world; the physical world is fast becoming the plaything of the cyberworld that, in turn, is the really real world running and controlling subjects’ lives.

With the realization that the cyberworld is algorithmically outsourced mind, the ego-subject could gain the insight that its encapsulation was only ever a power-fantasy of control and that consciousness was never encapsulated inside – in the cranium, in the brain (which serves as dogma in today’s neuroscience). “Mind” now becomes the cyberworld of circulating (algorithmic and data) bit-strings. So maybe “we” get closer to the insight that mind was already outside, never encapsulated, returning to Anaxagoras’ insight that mind (voυς) is out there.

Just one more step – or rather leap – and it becomes apparent that mind itself is the unmoving, pre-spatial, temporal clearing itself in which everything and everyone presences and absences. Each of us only partakes of the time-clearing (quivering, resonant, mindful soul) for as long as we’re alive, each in his or her own individual way. This partaking is the deepest, most primitive “we” (first person plural) we share. All further, more or less tenuous we’s presuppose this first, primitive we-ness of sharing the time-clearing.

A further inversion, long preceding the Modern Age: the soul does not depart the body when I die, but rather, my body leaves the time-clearing (mindful soul).


Dr Michael Eldred

Dr. Michael Eldred is an Australian philosopher, mathematician and translator currently living in Cologne, Germany. He is the author of several books, including Social Ontology: Recasting Political Philosophy Through a Phenomenology of Whoness (2008), The Digital Cast of Being: Metaphysics, Mathematics, Cartesianism, Cybernetics, Capitalism, Communication (2009), and co-author of Digital Whoness: Identity, Privacy and Freedom in the Cyberworld (2013).