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View Diary: Noam Chomsky Breaks Down the Zombie Apocalypse (184 comments)

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  •  I think it stems from a fundamental anxiety (0+ / 0-)

    about the uncertain future.

    Chomsky typically interprets it in his framework of imperialism/anti-imperialism as a fear of an approaching rebellion of the repressed global underclass, a rebellion which he has claimed is imminent for decades. I think that is far too narrowly drawn a view of what is going on.

    We are sensing some kind of singularity approaching, a fundamental transition more profound than any we have experienced in centuries. We can't see clearly what lies ahead, we can't predict it or even articulate very well what the possibilities are, so we fear it. And what we fear, we imagine as an apocalypse--the end of everything we know, the mindless zombie hordes swarming over it all and devouring it. Nihilism, the ultimate end, is the only thing we can see now.

    In the last half of the 20th century, artists in the science fiction genre systematically attempted to imagine what the future would be like instance, the world of Dune, or The Foundation series, or that of Neuromancer, or Ghost in the Shell. They were often very prescient, their sophisticated and elaborate speculations proved highly cogent.

    But now our vision is clouded, the stress as we approach the singularity is so great that we can no longer see as clearly as before. The closer we get, the more inhibited our perceptive faculties become. The kind of bold fictional speculation I spoke of has ceased.

    The pace of technologically-driven change is moving staggeringly fast. Forty years ago, the typewriter was common. Now it's an antique. The desktop PC was introduced around thirty-five years ago, and now it's almost an antique thanks to notebooks. Notebooks are being rendered obsolete by tablets. And wearable computers like Google Glass will render the tablet obsolete soon enough. Pretty soon we'll start implanting computers in our children at birth, then before birth. I expect this will start happening in the next twenty or thirty years.

    (I'd be remiss not to mention climate change, the great issue of our time which none of our societies or governments are currently equipped to handle and which will put unbelievable strain on them).

    But we haven't really evolved to handle these kinds of changes well. We are used to slow transitions within a very narrow band of conditions, a linear (or at least polynomial) regime of change.

    We are faced with exponential change. The physicist Edward Teller was quoted as saying, "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to emotionally comprehend the exponential function." He was speaking of thermonuclear war, but his dictum could just as well apply to the kinds of changes we are dealing with today.

    We are not able to meaningfully process the surfeit of data, nor the torrid pace of change, we can't integrate it into a meaningful vision. So our brains are throwing up garbage--i.e., zombies.

    "In America, the law is king." --Thomas Paine

    by limpidglass on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 08:52:54 AM PST

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