Monday, February 5, 2007

them internets... part II

Before I forget: YT wears dentata. There are no children in "Snow Crash".

Anyways, back to the topics at hand, which were supposed to have been psychic fetishization and the ultra-ADHD that practical omniscience might bring.

What I was trying to get at, was the ability of "THEY" to sell your own identity back to you. If we move towards a future like any of those we have read about, the notion of constructing an identity will be at once absurd and potentially life-saving. Absurd because pretending to be an individual in something which is very clearly a society-organism such as a Metaverse is like being a skin cell in denial (at best you're a freckle or a mole, and still part of "skin"). The only things that make these "other realms" possible are connections, ie a multitude of users/avatars/what-have-yous acting in conjunction to uphold the facade of another plane of existence.

You're part of a host. And pretending to be an individual with real world cybernetic modifications to your body, or via your expression/rendering/projection on the net, seems a little batty. However, the net brings a potential omniscience, and individual distinctions might be all that keep users from schizophrenia or sensory overload (as in a stroke). Mr. Slippery is able to extend his consciousness out to envelope nearly the whole world, vast networks giving him an almost tactile sense of how many jets are backed up on the runway at LaGuardia. This is what reminded me of hammerhead sharks. They have a seventh sense, beyond simply being able to pick up on electric currents projected by schools of fish like most other sharks. Hammerheads can detect a charge as small as a half a billionth of a volt, which means that something like a single impulse jumping a synaptic gap (3/100 of a volt) will set off their radar many times over. So, from miles away, a comatose brain might seem like fireworks. And they are just as aware of every little bit of their surroundings for hundreds of miles (potentially) as they are of themselves.

So, if we jack our brains into computers, will our sense of space shrink or expand? Will we be conscious of ones and zeros? If our scope of vision carries a kinesthetic component, would this necessitate a kind of neo-post-individualism? How does one experience proximity in a non-dimensional realm, and likewise time given the ever-increasing speed of data (or is it data transfer...)? I mean, practically speaking, giving cyberspace a 3-D visual interface or format akin to that of the real world might solve some of these problems. But at the same time, wouldn't that be cheating ourselves? A virtual world with millions of users is just meta-real estate. The pessimist in me fears that if people give a sense of scale, or any kind of dimensional parameters, to the internet, that there will be those who quibble and fight over space. Some are already calling it a series of tubes. So, if your access is controlled, then your presence has a dollar amount attached. The more money you bleed, the better you would be able to project yourself, or whatever version of yourself, you want.

It's like the varying degrees of quality among the different brands of Clint & Brandy avatars. At this point, you are living Marx's worst nightmare. Your indentity, your ability to be an individual, is predetermined by your capital. You are only as distinct as you are rich. I mean, there is some ridiculously slippery logic here, and a lot of hyperbolic generalizations, but at least in the real world there is an inarguable, uniform amount reality/humanity in each person. A cool cell-phone and an expensive hair cut may make you more attractive, but no thousand dollar logo is going to make anyone more real. There may be degrees of finesse in hacking, finer subtleties that otherwise deserve mention, but as far as basic identity construction goes: all these stories show a future where your ability to be true to your own thoughts and freely express them, not just to be what you want but to be yourself, have an absolute financial minimum.

Alright, so I clearly enjoy a good rant, and I'm not exactly playing my cards very close. Also, I've barely scratched the surface; there are issues regarding identity that I'd like to discuss later, such as the growing tendency to view culture as code. Grant Morrison kinda talks about this in the video I posted, you know, proto-language as magic. But enough for now.

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