By The Colonel
Now comes the final era of the Sibyl’s song;
The great order of the ages is born afresh.
– The Fourth Eclogue of Virgil
To the strains of Richard Strauss’s tone poem Thus Spoke Zarathustra, a hominid invents the first weapon in the history, using a bone to kill prey. As the hominid tosses the bone in the air, Stanley Kubrick cuts to a 21st century spacecraft hovering the earth, skipping thousands of years in technological development. This is the opening sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Godfather of Sci-Fi genre. At the time the movie was made in 1968, 2001 was a distant future; many had high hopes and great expectations for the 21st century, and imagined there will be an era of peace and prosperity, a time in which technology will unite people across the globe and improve their lives and livelihood.
Eventually 2001 came, and none of dreams became true. Instead, September 11 happened, invasion of The Middle East happened, and the global economic collapse happened. Technological advancements did not improve lives and livelihoods, but shattered them into pieces. Now as we’re heading towards the most dangerous, uncertain era of human history, perhaps it’s time to ask: When was the turning point; and what was the cause? I believe the answer is August 6, 1991, the day CERN, a pan European organization for particle research, publicized the new World Wide Web project, the day the internet as we know it was born. The day Pandora’s Box was opened.
Arthur C. Clarke once wrote: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. That applies to the internet. It’s such an amazing tool, a global cyber library where the entire history, culture and civilization of mankind is catalogued, categorized and stored; and everything is accessible by a click of the mouse. The internet changed things, and there’s no going back.
At the same time it united our consciousness, the internet obliterated any and all physical boundaries and territories: there is no such thing as privacy in the cyberspace, everybody is exposed to everything, and anybody can be anywhere and do anything.
For better or worse, this advanced magic-like technology is in contradiction with our primitive nature and our centuries long established habits and business models; and that’s how the internet is destroying the economy and hence lives and livelihoods. It’s hard to imagine 5 to 10 years from now anybody can earn a living by for instance being a musician or journalist or pornographer, because everything is available to everybody all across the globe, and everyday people feel less compelled to pay to listen to the music or read news or watch porn.
In fact, a human society is like a complex machine, with each and every individual as a cog in this giant machine. When somebody’s profession and livelihood is ravaged by the internet, consequently that will have effects on other parts of the machine and cause so much malfunction until the whole machine will eventually collapse.
Here is an example: imagine a guitar player losing his job, because people get his music from the internet for free and no longer pay for it. When that guitar player doesn’t have a source of income, he won’t be able to pay his mortgage and his house will be foreclosed. Consequently, the gardener who’s been mowing the guitar player’s lawn and the handy man who’s been repairing his house will lose a customer; and they will continue to lose more customers who lose their livelihood because of the internet until that gardener and that handy man won’t be able to provide for themselves and their families, either, even though their profession has nothing to do with the internet directly.
This is the unfolding tragedy: We’re in this together, everything is connected, and nobody’s safe. Whatever we do, will come back to us. We are at the process of globalization: One planet, one nation, one language; and inevitably one government. A new order of the ages: The New World Order.
Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku refers to this process as transiting from a level zero civilization to a level one civilization on a cosmic scale. Professor Kaku emphasizes on how dangerous this transition is, and theorizes that there have been many civilizations in the past, both on earth and across the galaxy, that have failed during such transition and eventually destroyed themselves; and there is a clear and present danger that we too are on the path to self destruction.
What goes against any opportunity for peace and prosperity is not an outside force, there is no Satan conspiring against mankind to take his vengeance on God, it’s us. We are our worst enemy; our greed, our selfishness and our ignorance will inevitably break us down and exterminate us.
As Jean-Paul Sartre so eloquently said: There are only two ways to enter the final chamber, free, or not free.
Looks like we’ll be entering not free; and I no longer care.