Mark Stahlman (via RadioMail) on Thu, 17 Apr 1997 18:27:05 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Is Reality Constrained?

Pit (Jon, et al):

Thanks for posting Hayles' fascinating strategic essay, which I take to be
at least partly a response to my recent call for strategic thinking within
the nettime community.  As is often the case, what is most interesting is
what is not said (implicit) as much as what is said (explicit).  What are
Hayles' constraints?  And, what are the strategic implications of these

The author's technique is to offer us a very limited set of options --
presumably because of the constraints under which she has placed herself. 
As she has indicated in the title, her own psychology is focussed on this
sense of being constrained -- specifically constrained by her membership in
the cult of de-constructionism.  Her attempt to rescue meaning while
holding onto her cult membership is heroic but, ultimately, a failure.  She
ends up, as is always the case under these conditions, merely
de-constructing herself.

Not being so constrained myself (since, apparently, I belong to the cult of
"re-constructionism"), let me offer a few other possibilities for your
consideration.  In particular, she says:

"Given that we are not God, we can only come in touch with the universe
through particular sets of sensory apparatus located within specific
cultures and times."

This is, of course, not accurate (or even honest) and seems to express a
profound ignorance of the entire sweep of intellectual history.  Could she
be so naive?  Or, is she merely constrained and, therefore, must feign

There are, of course, other options which have been articulated with great
import by people who do not share her constraints.  For most people the
question isn't whether we are ourselves God, but rather whether God (and
therefore unconstrained truth) exists at all and whether or not humans are
made in God's image -- as the foundation documents of our civilization
assert.  Presumably, she is aware that this is *not* a closed issue --
despite the constraints that she has so unfortunately placed upon herself.

As recent polling indicates, 90% of the American population "believes" in
God and a remarkable 40% of scientists worldwide profess to "believe" in a
very detailed corporial form of God's existence.  Her constrained position
on this matter and her pretense that all right-minded people share her
constraints is perhaps the core of the entire essay -- the implicit,
unstated message she has labored to express.  She concludes by stating,
referring to her own strategy:

"Renouncing omniscience and coercive power, it gains connectedness and
human meaning."

Again, this is highly constrained and thoroughly innacurate.  What she is
doing is equating belief in God with "coercive power" and implying that
lacking this belief she is affirming humanity (i.e. "human meaning"). This
is familiar manuever but one that is not upheld by even a cursory
understanding of the history of science or, more importantly, any
comprehension of our current predicament.  

She is, in fact, falling right into the arms of "coercive power" by looking
for liberation from the neccessity of God's existence and, thereby,
denouncing, not affirming, humanity.  She should re-read Leibniz's
"Monadology" and recall that Newton was an alchemist (or in Leibniz's terms
a "barbarian") and not a scientist.  Of all her personal constraints, her
apparently limited knowledge of the history of science might be the easiest
one to quickly remedy.  Focussing on the very social battle between Newton
and Leibniz would likely prove to be a useful "construction", in her case.

As C.S. Lewis detailed in his 1947 essay "The Abolition of Man", it is
precisely the *lack* of belief in the existence of God that threatens to
coercively end humanity -- not the reverse.  What could be more coercive
than unlimited genetic manipulation?  What could be more coercive than
total psychological conditioning?  These two overarching coercions are now
within our practical technological grasp and, without what Lewis called the
"Tao" (i.e. the moral order which she implicitly denies), the use of these
technologies will surely and irrevocably end all human existence.  Nothing
could be more coercive and nothing could flow more naturally from accepting
her cultish constraints.

On this, the most serious issue regarding science, knowledge and reality,
she is completly silent.  She must be silent; she is, afterall,
constrained.  She appears to be valient and vigilant when she is utterly
defenseless and without hope.

Jon recently described me as a technophobe and contrasted my apocalyptic
vision (which consists of my merely repeating other's descriptions) with
his own -- which he termed optimistic and a life-affirming.  My only
question for him is, "What sort of life are you affirming -- is it human?" 
Based on what I've written and my 25+ years in the technology business, it
does seem innaccurate to call me a technophobe. I wonder if Jon would care
to look closely again my "abstractions" to understand what I have been

I specifically indicated that technology will/could be turned *against* the
enemies of humanity and that I intend to do just this.  Nowhere have I
renounced technology.  I am, in fact, the one who is calling for its
strategic use in the war to arrest the abolishing of the human race.  I
merely noted that technology is being used by humanity's enemies.  I would
have thought that to be non-controversial.  If one were interested in
defending humanity, that is.

We humans are at war and, therefore, we need a strategy.  Optimism is no
shield against this assault on our humanity.  We must understand what is at
stake and how the various forces are aligned.  If we constrain ourselves to
renouncing the existence of truth and meaning (as so many have done,
including Hayles), then we have already lost that war and doomed humanity
to extinction.  The technology of genetic and psychological manipulation
will ensure that humanity will cease to exist and that it will be replaced
by an engineered android race of Borg-like "post-humans."  We cannot simply
affirm life if we wish to remain human.  We must understand what it is that
makes human life human if we wish it to remain human, afterall.  We are,
perhaps, the world's most endangered species.

To be human is simply to understand that reality is not constrained.  Truth
exists and knowing this is what ultimately makes us human.  Grasping this
truth arms us to defend our species.  Constraining oneself by ignoring it
actively invites our demise.

(I expressly forbid Bruce Sterling or anyone else from cross-posting this
note to the WELL or any related system.  Others should feel free to x-post
as they see fit.)

Mark Stahlman
New Media Associates
New York City
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