Saturday, July 7, 2012

Techno Triumphal Cornucopianism

Meanwhile, Apple Inc recently pulled out of the EPEAT, a registry of “green” electronics. A non-binding certification process that tech manufacturers have largely agreed to adhere to, a baseline set of agreements that pretty much amount to whether or not the gadget can be taken apart to be fixed, and recycled. The only word Apple has given as to why they will no longer submit their products to the EPEAT for certification, is that the guidelines are no longer consistent with Apple's design direction.

What is that direction? To make smaller and smaller products that can do more and more, but can't be fixed, or recycled, because they can't be taken apart, and so are destined for the trash. Why is that a problem? Because consumer electronics are highly toxic, comprised of a myriad of chemicals and base metals that are anathema to the health of the biosphere. Not only that, many of the rare earth metals necessary to a functioning computer or phone are called rare for a reason. These rare earth metals in Apple products will now be destined for the landfill even more than they already are, where they can never be recovered. Apple is widely acknowledged as a design leader, and other electronics manufacturers are likely to follow.

You are free to call this evil, if you like, this kind of thinking that “designs” the ill health of the biosphere, while eliminating the ability of future generations to build such things as electronics. But you will be in the minority, as nary a soul will stop buying Apple products because of this news. Most Homo sapien with access to high technology are convinced, the resources of the earth are infinite, and technology is making the world cleaner and safer. If that sounds Orwellian to you in a most 1984 kind of way, then take heart, you are not an idiot.

Perhaps the Apple people are convinced that James Cameron, Larry Page, Eric Schmidt, Peter Diamandis et al, are going to start mining asteroids soon, and the fact that China has a lock on the few remaining rare earth metals won't be any kind of issue. Never mind, as I have mentioned before, that these are supposed to be the good guys, and the bad guys in the Cameron franchise Avatar at least, are the ones going to other places in the universe to mine things, because the earth is dead, because we poured toxins into the biosphere for profit, without limit. That these guys can't see the irony should give them (and you) pause, if they truly gave a damn about the earth, but when you are a master of the universe type, your words have to reflect the opposite of your actions. And it's not like Avatar fans, the majority of them, have critical thinking skills enough, or the will, to put the pieces together.

I haven't read Diamandis' new book, Abundance, profiled in the video above. The computer lady says, "We will soon be able to meet the basic needs of every man, woman, and child on the planet. This bold, contrarian view backed up by exhaustive research..." Contrary to what I said above, I do believe Diamandis believes what he is saying. His TED talk is particularly enlightening. I also readily admit, his attitude is abundantly more attractive than my own, at least as it appears in this, and my latest post. I too believe humanity will live a glorious techno existence someday.* I just don't think the current crop of geniuses and their mostly as yet imaginary tech are capable of overcoming the crop of greedy warmongers controlling things, and we're going to have to pass through a threshold first, which isn't going to be pleasant, at all. And Daimandis is simply saying that everything is ok, nothing to worry about, and Jesus, I mean aliens, I mean technology, is going to save us from our global predicament.

We are seeing this same sort of thing coming from the energy industry. America is to become the new Saudi Arabia, they are repeating endlessly (sort of reminiscent of Dick Cheney in the polar op., "Terror, terror terror terror...") Again, with the irony, that Saudi Arabia is a major oil producer, and also a repressive Monarchy with 28,000 members of the Rich-as-God royal family, lording over an illiterate, unskilled, poverty stricken populace of 28 million (all hail the .001%!) Never mind that the idea America is going to be the world leader in fossil fuel production is a transparent lie, to anyone who understands the definition of EROEI, or is paying attention to the coming collapse of the natural gas bubble - because the media are pumping peoples heads full of bullshit 24/7, and the people are utterly hypnotized.

It's possible these guys don't even believe their own bullshit. When TransCanada built the first Keystone pipeline, the damn thing bust open a dozen times in the first year. Word is, they didn't care that they were building a POS product even when they were building it, as if saying everything is hunky dory after the fact when the damn thing is spraying cancer causing benzene and heavy crude all over the place, is sufficient enough to make it not a problem. Besides, if Obama has his way, and this turncoat Congress is sure to capitulate, foreign nationals will be able to build shoddy pipelines spilling toxins, or things like sulphuric acid from copper mines, into the water supply, and no American law or court will be able to do a damn thing about it.

It's like Enron all over again, and again, and again, and again, ad infinitum. The smartest fucking guys in the room. Do you begin to wonder why in my last post, I was like, off with their heads! I'd be lying, if after reading about the Michigan spill, I wasn't thinking like, line up the entire executive staff of Enbridge and Bechtel against a brick wall, ratta tat tat. But let me be clear, if the scenario I painted last week were to actually happen, say a million Americans descending on the Beltway with rolls of concertina wire, pitchforks and AR-15's, the Department of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, the military, would just haul out some Apache gunships and start spreading .50 caliber rounds with all the compunction of those goons at that university in California with their pepper spray. And Americans would be outraged for about three days, and then they'd go back to their wage slave jobs and wonder about things like whether or not Top Gun Tom Cruise is going to have to choose between Scientology and his daughter Suri.

Blah blah blah. I'm preachin' to the choir, aren't I? Well, let it be said, it's easy to be drawn into the story of the techno triumphal cornucopianists, that we are on the verge of a new day in the life of Humanity, not a collapse but a glorious new techno heaven on earth, utopia for the geek wanna-be-a-cyborg set. Take the Higgs Boson chatter lately. You might think it was like the first time anyone ever saw E=MC2. Confirmation of the standard model of physics, yeah (pump fist)! Except, the standard model of physics contradicts the law of gravity, and it can't explain why anything in the universe spirals or spins, or why quantum physics tells us empty space is denser than matter by an order of magnitude running to infinity. That's a very big deal. Really. For all their talk – and look at all the fancy shit they can do with all those bloody millions and billions! - they don't yet know shit enough not to spoil the damn planet they live on.

Be wary of the masters of the universe, no matter what their specialty. And remember, the calls that everything is fine are always loudest and most shrill, in the weeks and months before meltdown.

* As to a glorious techno future, I'm of the opinion that the "prime mover" so to speak, that is responsible for things spinning and spiraling in this universe, is contained in the vacuum, the empty space that quantum physics tells us is denser energetically than matter by an order of magnitude running to infinity. If the brainiacs ever figure that out, it's a whole new reality. But we aren't even close, and given another 200,000 years, we might figure it out. Maybe.


Justin said...

Apple is out? Dire news for the Story of Stuff-undy crowd.

Luciddreams said...

what about the amount of slave labor Apple uses to make their gizmos available for consumption? It's clear to me that their moral compass has a magnetic north of profit.

William Hunter Duncan said...

What moral compass?

Anonymous said...

A lot of that techno-utopianianism stems, IMO, from the myth of American Exceptionalism and its caped adolescent assistant, Yankee Ingenuity. futurists like Ray Kurzweil think we'll live forever, mediated by technology, while ignoring the stark realities on the ground where the boot of contemporary politics meets the face of the citizen.

William Hunter Duncan said...


I think too it stems from the will to dominate. Kurzweil and his ilk don't just want to live forever, they want to become the techno-singularity, the machine that devours the whole of the physical universe. They want to download their being onto the main-frame, and thereby take it over, in the way of colonizers, tyrants, imperialists, etc. They are disgusted by the human form and it's limitations, and would destroy us all and all life on earth, in their idiosyncratic search for immortality - which IMHO they already have and don't know it.