A cloud of soulless bots has devoured our grandest dreams. How do we live now?
Sacred Culture or Cyborg Rapture
Big Tech promises to scourge or salve our human nature.
“The following is an excerpt from Michael Walsh’s forthcoming book, Against the Great Reset: Eighteen Theses Contra the New World Order, which will be published by Bombardier Books and be available October 18, 2022. Walsh has gathered a series of essays from among eighteen of the most eminent thinkers, writers, and journalists—including the American Mind’s own James Poulos, as well as Claremont Senior Fellows Michael Anton and the late Angelo Codevilla—to provide the first major salvo in the intellectual resistance to the sweeping restructuring of the western world by globalist elites.”
The history of the Great Reset is a technological one. It is the history of the unfolding development of communication media to supplement, perchance to supplant, the republican form of government, wherein citizens meet face to face in their shared humanity and under God, to govern themselves at human scale.
The quest to replace this ancient arrangement with a new world government is itself nothing new. In 1928, the year of the world’s first color television transmission and the first appearance of Mickey Mouse, H. G. Wells published The Open Conspiracy: Blue Prints for a World Revolution, not a science fiction novel but a manifesto for the establishment of a “world commonwealth” with a “world religion” rooted not in any established Western or Eastern faith but in the “unending growth of knowledge and power.” From out of this infinity of collectivized, centralized effort, Wells predicted “universal peace, welfare and happy activity.” These, he avowed, could be the fruits only of a “responsible world directorate,” a construct built to replace “private, local, or national ownership” of everything from credit to transportation to industrial production, and empowered to impose “world biological controls” on “population and disease.” No true future awaited the West, Wells counseled, but one in which the imperatives of technology and ethics fused into one “supreme duty”—“subordinating the personal life to the creation” of the world directorate and its “general advancement of human knowledge, capacity, and power.”
Just how human such an arrangement could truthfully be said to be, however, has remained since then in doubt; in Literature and Revolution, published four years before The Open Conspiracy, Leon Trotsky announced that only the communist man was “the man of the future,” a being for whom his only possible future was to break down his humanity and build of its parts something new. “Man will make it his purpose to master his own feelings, to raise his instincts to the heights of consciousness, to make them transparent, to extend the wires of his will into hidden recesses, and thereby to raise himself to a new plane, to create a higher social biologic type, or, if you please, a superman.”
Since the first stirrings of planetary war between British globalism and Soviet communism for control over the founding of a new world theological order, the West has twisted in the grip of technoethical elites convinced that, since the beginning and in the end, the highest imperative on Earth—with ruin the only alternative—has been and will be to found a regime as pure as the consciousness that could only be freed to create it by coercively breaking the sacredness and authority of our given humanity.
This momentous wager emerged above all from the formative effect of electric technology on the senses and sensibilities of the West. If the medium of print ushered in an Age of Reason, the medium of electricity unleashed an Age of Occultism. Print’s promise was not a Babel-like reconstruction of our identity based on knowledge that empowered us to progress beyond our humanity but a congenially, horizontally distributed system of open exchange that took a variety of directions as it went along, even as ultimate knowledge accumulated in elite networks of libraries, universities, and scholars. The age of print was the age of not simply reason but reasonableness, a technological and ethical heuristic that harmonized at large but pluralistic scale the individual and the congregation, the conscience and the commonwealth, the nation and the marketplace.
Shattering this schema, the advent of electricity substituted instantaneousness and invisibility in an ethereal new realm of communications for the methodical, tactile, and grounded (or seaborne) realm adhered to by the communicative life of print. Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1871 vision of “a coming race” possessed of electricity and “the art to concentre [sic] and direct it in a word, to be conductors of its lightnings” seemed to unveil a deeper meaning of Melville’s 1850 claim, issued at the dawn of the electric age, that “genius, all over the world, stands hand in hand, and one shock of recognition runs the whole circle round.” David Bowie would reference Bulwer-Lytton’s vision a century afterward, at the peak of the electric age, in hit single “Oh! You Pretty Things,” in which he sings about the obsolescence of humanity—a conclusion fueled by the annihilating electric force Europe suffered in the twentieth century, from which the U.S. was almost mystically spared.
America’s moment of technological scourging came fast and early, in the Civil War. Lincoln, providentially, had grasped that America somehow had to be set on a new footing capable of seeing the country and its people through the electric age. He, for the first time, communicated remotely and directly with his generals in the field through the telegraph in the War Department; his Emancipation Proclamation went out over telegraph, striking abolitionists nationwide like the loosed lightning from Christ’s terrible swift sword in the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” America’s manifest destiny played out under and through the arc of electric power. So, it seemed, would the next century’s Pax Americana.
Convinced by its means of victory in World War II, secured in its sense that electric power had only strengthened America’s human way, the U.S. regime adopted limitless technological advancement as its strategy for world domination. Unable to defeat the Soviets by conventional or nuclear war, the scientific state embedded within the U.S. regime since the Manhattan Project had to develop technological weaponry of a new kind. Scruples and prudence had to be set aside: those in charge grew convinced America’s form of government and way of life could not continue to exist unless America, in effect, ruled the world; given the impossibility of all previous forms of large-scale conquest under Cold War conditions, the U.S. required from its scientific state an altogether new form of war making and control. This the military-industrial complex delivered in the form of computer technology.
At first, the Soviets advanced step for step with the Americans in the computer race, even using the devices (Moscow’s mainframe computer calculated Sputnik’s requisite trajectory) to beat the U.S. into space. But as the internet developed—and, with it, the military computer technologies such as GPS and the touchscreen that would soon be spun off as consumer electronics applications—America made a fundamental break with all prior research and development. The creation of a communications network of machines and programs, limitlessly scalable in theory, ushered in a digital medium distinct from, and more powerful than, any one computer or room full of computers. The functionally limitless spending directed to America’s scientific state within a state could not be matched by the Soviet political economy. While digital technology did not quite defeat Moscow, when the Soviets fell, it was digital technology that was victorious—first over America, and then, with blistering speed, the rest of the world.
Naturally those in charge in the triumphant West were certain that the historic and unprecedented devices they funded and created could be used just as well to establish world dominance and control amid the collapse of international communism as they might have been used to wage a kind of war against it—a digital war, which could, unlike conventional or nuclear war, actually be waged and won. Not only was digital technology useful in this way from a scientific standpoint, but also from an ethical standpoint, it appeared to be a kinder, gentler, and therefore more just form of world control.
Progressively onboarding the world into a networked system of constant communication—backboned by American strategic infrastructure and premised on American norms and values—would establish a new global order in a new way, one harmonious with peaceful economic activity and international law. Through this new and enlightened form of domination, individuals anywhere in the world could use benevolent technology to increasingly approximate the earthly paradise imagined—as in John Lennon’s “Imagine”—by the cultural utopians of the post-Christian West. Divisive feelings and identities would melt away as connectivity increased togetherness and transcended parochial fears and cares. New Age ethics seemed inseparable from the technology of the new digital age…
The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.