Chapter 15

I will now try to summarize what I've written so far, and synthesize this with a number of modern philosophical ideas about people and our society. A cybernetic society is a society of people who live in symbiosis with machines. To understand a society, I employ a simplified concept of an individual, in which he or she is viewed as a construct of information, communicating with the environment by means of symbols.

In the figure, memory stands for the stored patterns in the brain's neurons, thought is the reflections and dreams (daydreams included) that we all have, and the symbols are those chunks of information we exchange with the environment, which can be single individuals as well as the entire family or society that we live in. Such symbols can be human language, but also other conventions that we don't think about much, such as pieces of paper with numbers on them perceived as possessing value, or a certain type of clothing perceived as indicating a certain status. For natural reasons, science uses well-defined symbols called paradigms, which define:

  1. What to observe

  2. What questions to ask

  3. How the questions should be asked

  4. How the answers should be interpreted

(I'll take the opportunity to state that I interpret the sociological-scientific concept of a symbol, as well as the concept of a paradigm, in a very pragmatic and personal manner - raise a hand, whoever cares. This is high-level hermeneutics. Pardon the ten-dollar words).

It is these concepts that the hackers, with Zen and Gödel behind them, contest in their motto number 4: Hackers should be judged for their hacking, not according to suspicious criteria such as academic performance, age, race, or social status, and in 3: Distrust authority. It's an attempt to break out of a system that is perceived as wrong. Marvin (the guy with the telephone cards) spoke in a radio interview of his dissatisfaction with companies hiring people with degrees instead of caring about their real skills and in this way pointed out the shortcomings in our formal social system. Burroughs thought that society would try to increasingly control the thoughts of its citizens, whether its public servants wanted to or not. It is said that an enlightened individual must have the ability to exit the system to see the real patterns behind it, which can't be described using words, paper, or clothing. At the same time, the symbols are vital to our communication as well as our society as a whole. An intelligent individual can, using symbols, detect intelligence in him- or herself as well as in other individuals. We can now view society from a similar perspective:

But what's this? It looks just the same! That's right. In this case, memory is the collective memory in the form of books, films, CDs, or computer programs, stored in libraries or in our homes. Thought is the same as culture, the ongoing process that continuously affects our living conditions. Note also that the symbols, in this case our relationship towards other societies or aggregations, is not the same as our culture. Sociologists often refer to this model as the collective consciousness. As for myself, I've nailed together the concept of superindividual for this model.

The symbols show only those parts of our thoughts, culture, that we want to show. As is well known, this is also how an individual works. An intelligent society detects intelligence in other societies and individuals. The individuals that make up society can very well endeavor to analyze the thoughts that society thinks, but the task is virtually insurmountable, like if the individual neurons in our brains were to try to understand the thoughts of the entire brain. (These arguments originate in research of artificial intelligence in non-formal systems and sociological science). This model is not limited to describing societies and individuals as intelligent organisms, but can also be applied to corporations, military organizations, and others. It is this formal system, the complex society, which sociologists study as scientists, William Burroughs criticizes as an author, and Zen debunks as a philosophy

Now that we've agreed on a common view of individuals and societies, we can start defining cybernetics. I said earlier that cybernetics means people or society in symbiosis with machines. To illustrate, here's a practical example:

We see two individuals, A and B, communicating by way of symbols. So far there's no problem. If we, for
example, suppose that these individuals communicate by sending letters to each other, a problem could occur if one of them has a slight vision problem.

Since people are so ingenious, they naturally find a way around this problem. They attempt to improve their natural conditions. I will illustrate this with an invention that was created around 1290 AD:

We have here one of the very first cybernetic innovations. Reality has been improved by a small opto-mechanical construction that we take for granted in today's society. All people that wear glasses are therefore cyborgs, people who live out their days on Earth in harmony with machines. We're so used to this that we hardly ever think about it. If you're a little more vain, you can get contact lenses, and then you invite the machine into your own body. Glasses constitute one of the modifications that are meant to improve our ability to communicate with the rest of the world. Other cybernetic modifications are aimed at making life more comfortable and bearable for the individual: the wheelchair, the cane, etc. Some are vital, like the pacemaker. Of course, now I've just listed inventions that "correct" human disabilities. Naturally, you can "improve" regular people too, with the aid of binoculars, electronic devices for night vision, etc. The telephone, for example, improves us so as to allow us to communicate over enormous distances. We can also establish hyper-communication.


One such medium is hypertext, which is better than normal text. We can also improve our possibilities as a society to exchange and distribute information with the help of transaction systems, satellite TV, etc. Yet another improvement of our perception - and the most revolutionary - will be Virtual Reality. There are, however, a few uncanny aspects of this society. Like, for example, the previously mentioned NetNanny, or when Aftonbladet on July 15, 1995, reassuringly announced that TV sets can now be fitted with a chip that is programmable by parents who don't want their children to watch excessively violent, pornographic, or otherwise unsuitable programs. When the kids try to tune in to a blocked program, the screen turns blue. Fantastic. The question is just who is being programmed: the chip or the children? One of the parents interviewed by Aftonbladet wants to prevent the kids from watching, among other things, SOS - På Liv och Död (cf. the American TV show Rescue 911), which is a program that shows films of real accidents and rescue efforts. What's next? Isn't it just as well to turn off those terrible news, so that you can raise your children in a protective bubble, as far removed from the world as the Russians ever were under Stalin? The risk of abuse of this, and similar, invention is terrible and great.

And this was only an example of what a relatively stupid chip can accomplish. We are already forced to note that our society is no longer formed solely by people, and that not even people are formed solely by other people. When almost every store has electronic anti-theft systems on every product, there's no longer a need for honesty as a virtue, because it becomes impossible to act dishonestly - and thus, moral limits are turned into real, physical limits with the help of technology. We are so singularly obsessed with the public good provided by these machines that we don't question what is happening. A store alarm is nothing to complain about, since it only concerns itself with thieves… One fine day, we'll be hanging around with machines that automatically inject sedatives into all individuals with violent tendencies, naturally only to prevent them from committing violent crimes. That's no concern of yours, is it? You're not a violent criminal. Or?

Just to give an example from a few years ago: in 1984,(1) the computer at Värnpliktsverket (the Swedish national military conscription administration) experienced problems with the result that orders to report for rehearsal training were not sent to all personnel that were obliged to do so. These people received phone calls from authoritarian military officers that interrogated them as to why they hadn't reported for duty. The authorities had received information from a computer, presumed to be reliable, that orders to report had in fact been sent. What's interesting here is not so much that a computer could experience an error, but that it could really control a large military organization. Some of our most respectable military institutions therefore have names that could be used as product labels for various computer brands.

Then, there's artificial intelligence. When intelligent agents enter the picture, complexity increases. We may be forced to ask ourselves if it's perhaps the case that we interact with digital individuals, seemingly possessing their own free wills. A digital individual is created when a computer system becomes so complex that it gains a consciousness, similar to that of humans. This probably hasn't happened yet at the time you read this. The most disturbing example I can think of is a program from Hectare Ltd, which can generate trashy novels for women, i. e. stuff similar to Barbera Cartland's, in a never-ending stream. If you ever suspected that a computer could generate mainstream fiction, your fears have been realized. The program really works, and it's not even very large and comprehensive. Similar programs can reformulate pre-written passages to infuse them with a certain style of writing.

One of the most dangerous power factors with AI is that it can easily produce an endless flow of seemingly intelligent bull, which diverts attention from real problems. To coin a conspiracy theory, I'll propose that there are already publications whose content is wholly or partially computer-generated. Those who wrote the programs are probably mostly concerned with making money and don't care whatsoever about the moral aspects. Wouldn't you? The public doesn't notice. They think they see a human, but it's really a robot. But then again - what's the difference? Curtains.

This is just one of the many possible applications of artificial intelligence. It is the case, however, that the digital individual will one day become so intelligent that it can produce a dialog without any input from one of the persons speaking. The established authorities can then control the individual in any manner they choose. Imagine calling the utility company about having no hot water. You think you're speaking with a human, but you're actually talking to a computer. Everything you say is turned into statistics, with no need for the responsible parties to react to any criticism. The powers that be can filter out your complaints in order to make independent, emotionally neutral decisions… and right about here the argument becomes so fuzzy that I might as well leave it to the reader to finish. (I'm not really a philosopher, just a dabbler in the art). It is at least an amusing thought experiment.

Cybernetic Society vs. Copyright
It is obvious that the cybernetic social model entails changes in our way of viewing information and its role in society. Some things that we now take for granted may become fundamentally altered. An example: copyright. Copyright is the right to own information, or in the case of a patent, the right to own knowledge and make money from it. In jargon, it's called intellectual property. Copyright was created in conjunction with the art of printing, since before that time it wasn't very important to know who owned information and the right to publish it. All knowledge and ideas were in those days considered public domain, and not property. Information was free. Th possibility of owning information is inseparable from the presence of machines like the printing press, fax machines, or computers. Without these, the book, painting, etc., become unique works of art as opposed to a mass of reproducible information. Thus, copyright is an attribute of the early cybernetic society that associates information and knowledge with economy. This applies to all information, printed text or photographs, film or software.

We can then trace the origin of copyright to the emergence of the printed symbol. To emphasize the importance of this development (in order to strengthen the argument), I will summarize the development of modern symbols below:

Symbol Population Cultural Basis Time Period
Primitive symbols Animals Genetic culture  Prehistoric
Speech People Oral culture  40,000 B.C.
Text Civilization Written culture 3,000 B.C.
Print Industrial society Distributed mass-culture 1,500 A.D.
Hypersymbols Information society Information culture 2,000 A.D

The dates indicate the origin of the respective symbol, rather than the date it became widely used. Normally, the transition from oral to written culture is considered to have taken place around 500 B.C., and printed material wasn't very widespread before the Enlightenment (1700s and 1800s). The first date is very hard to ascertain. This is really not that important: the question is not one of dates, but of the history of symbols. It is clear that information technology is causing a change in society which effects are comparable to that of the printing press (at least!).

Symbols change with time. What we consider valuable today can become worthless tomorrow. For example, most people think gold is valuable. If, let's say, a small planet made of gold collided with the Earth, making gold the most common metal on the planet, our view would instantly change to where gold was worth less than iron. By the same token, we would gladly trade all of our gold for food if we were starving, since we also have certain physical needs. You could even say that we have psychological needs, which are (in our modern society) largely generated by advertising, making us willing to trade our economic means, in monetary form, for stereos, sodas, etc. We thus have a conception of the value of things that is based on supply and demand. Supply and demand are controlled partly by nature, and partly by other people. This is what makes us consumers. These concepts are found in all major ideologies.

When other people want to influence our consumption, they use symbols to do so. This can be done by, for example, establishing a certain brand of clothing as synonymous with the symbol called status, or a brand of soda as synonymous with freshness and youthfulness. But this is only the most conspicuous part of the top of the iceberg. In reality, our entire societal system is built by symbols. This is what sociologists cal symbolic interactionism, which is a scientific theory usually associated with a guy named George Herbert Mead - something of a genius of a philosopher, who unfortunately didn't directly write anything, but had a great influence on the field of sociology. Mead defined many of the symbols I've mentioned in this chapter. Mead also touched upon the concepts that will be found later on; among other things, he suggested that the French Revolution was a turning point in modern history, where people for the first time realized that they had a right to change or correct society, and that the state wasn't based on some divine principle. Philosophically speaking, he was a pragmatist who thought that ideas and theories should be checked against reality before being awarded any value or authority. Mead for sure was a supporter of the hands-on imperative. (The pragmatic school of thought is an extension of fallibilism, which is basically the same as Zen).

Ok, fine. What about copyright, then? That's the point I'm supposed to get to. We, as the people of the Earth, have reached an agreement that says that we should view information and knowledge as property. This concept of property, or ownership, is a symbol that we endorse. With the introduction of the information society, the morality created by these symbols becomes fuzzy, to say the least. Morality, or ethics, tells you that you shouldn't trespass on the territory of others, not to harm, not to steal someone else's property. These are commonly accepted moral imperatives when it comes to material property. But when it comes to intellectual property, protected by copyright and patents, we've reached a breaking point. IT forces us to re-examine these principles: it is immoral to enter certain commands in a certain order from your keyboard. Other command sequences are fully acceptable. I can program my own computer, but not someone else's over a network. I am permitted to copy some programs as much as I want to, some not at all, and some with conditions. We become uncertain of what to think, and some succumb to dogmatic condemnation of software piracy, in order to be certain.

Since legislation isn't the same thing as corporate policy, I get mixed signals, like when the gaming company Nintendo asserted that it was forbidden to engage in second-hand sales of computer games. Of course Nintendo is of this opinion, since if people can only buy new games, that lets Nintendo sell more of them and make more money. Under Swedish law, Nintendo doesn't have a leg to stand on. We are faced with conflicting messages from the government and established industry, with the result that we start thinking on our own. Since corporations share economic power with governments, we view both as authorities. We start questioning these authorities - we start thinking independently, and make our own decisions in the absence of clear directives from society. Remember, once again, Rule #3: Distrust authority. The hackers' ethic leads the way through turbulent times.

The hackers discovered severe injustice with regards to information. On the Scene, the 13-14-year-old hackers couldn't for their life understand why only the youths with rich parents should have access to all the fun software. Among the phreakers, there was total disbelief over why only companies and institutions should be allowed free communications - since this was a way to grow! Why accept this? Granted, one could call this lack of respect and lack of understanding of the workings of society, etc. However, no one lowered himself or herself to discussing the issue. The message that the hackers received from the establishment was: "You are criminals. Period." What amazing hypocrisy!

I conclude that the more cybernetic a society becomes, the more difficult it becomes to define private domains of knowledge. The more computers and the more refined technology we get, the more meaningless the concept of intellectual property becomes. This is especially the case with software, for which patents are granted for methods that didn't require any large investment in research and equipment, but only perhaps one or two nights of intensive hacking. The ideas didn't cost anything - it's mostly a case of "early bird gets the worm", and it gets the only worm. It is no longer possible to defend intellectual injustice with material analogies.

This forces us to pose the question: where is the line between freedom of expression and property? What may I copy and what may I not copy? When does knowledge cease to be public property and change into private property? What is happening is that technology is de-boning our entire social systems, holding up its skeleton for all to view. We can see how large areas of cyberspace has arbitrarily been sold out to the profit-hungry gold diggers of the information industry.

Software is an extension of the human mind: of the ability to create, understand, and generalize knowledge. To reserve such a powerful tool only for those who can afford to burn hundreds of dollars on it is not sustainable in the long term. I'm not saying that parasites like the Chinese Triads or other piracy syndicates should be allowed to take the right of ownership from the large companies. What I am saying is that it shouldn't be prohibited for private individuals to freely distribute software and help each other use it. This doesn't exclude competition from established companies, as long as they can provide something that the local hacker can't: printed manuals, 24-hour service, instructional resources, etc. Who knows these things better than the one who created the software? Software is a product that lacks inherent value. It is not the ownership of software that drives society forward, it is the ability to use it, and to teach others to use it. What we should buy and sell in the information society isn't software, but applications and advice - in one word: Support.

As necessary as copyright was in the industrial society, as meaningless it is in the information society. The problem is not separating printed information from electronic information. The problem is that it's no longer possible to separate information from knowledge, and owned knowledge from public knowledge. The line between an idea and the application of the same is being erased as people communicate more and more using machines that have been constructed for that very purpose. By extension, the line between thought and action is also threatened by the development of virtual reality.

Let the software companies fight syndicates, mafias, and criminal groups that make a killing off piracy - this doesn't bother me at all. But, for God's sake, don't condemn the private copying of software between friends with no profit interests involved! This distribution is not immoral, but simply a way of transmitting knowledge. It is wrong if such copying is illegal, and it should be permitted for private individuals to copy as much as they want. It is the dirty money that should be removed from the software business, not the burning interest and enthusiasm of the amateurs! The moral limit is not drawn over the right to copy programs or not, but the right to make money from a program or not! This is the right that should be reserved for the author, if he or she so wishes.

In Sweden, today, I can go into any public library, retrieve any book that I want, go to the copy machine and copy as many pages as I want. Some legislator, in a moment of clarity, realized that preventing this would be an infringement on the freedom of the individual and the possibility of personal development *Code 1993:1007). Information gives birth to intelligence! There is no reason that this freedom should be limited to printed matter. Films, CDs, computer programs… it's only a matter of definition. All of this is information, and nourishment for human intelligence. It is not healthy for the individual to be prevented from copying information. It is sick. SICK!

Patenting a certain sequence of characters - strings of information - sound waves and videograms - insanity. If the people who first invented words for human language thought in those terms, we would have never learned to read or write. Whistling a patented song on the town square one sunny afternoon is a "public broadcast", and royalties should be paid for it. When you're not engaged in making a profit off information - which is by extension to increase your power - when you're simply out to spread joy and knowledge, then information should be free. Period.

There's no point in dragging out an argument about it, and legislate left and right. Sooner or later, we'll reach the jaywalking criteria (Translator's note: in Sweden, it's only illegal to jaywalk if you end up actually interfering with traffic): this is when a crime becomes so common and widespread that it's pointless to fight it, like jaywalking or copying music CDs to tape. Rather, governments and legislators should concern themselves with their own integrity.(2)

Conceptual Breakdown (Copyright Does Not Exist!)
With the decreased clarity of our symbols, what should we expect to happen? To have something to build on, I will with impunity borrow an idea from Thomas Kuhn. Kuhn is a philosopher of science, who has exciting ideas about the way science grows and changes over time. Kuhn's theories are reminiscent of ideas of social development, the emergence of various ideologies, and how we humans grow and change our environment in general. In short: the man describes what happens when people use their intelligence. The most thrilling part about Kuhns theories is that they are very reminiscent of Gödel's theory of formal systems. The basic premise is the following: you have a clear picture of the world, a paradigm(3), such as:

You know that information can be owned, because otherwise this and that company would go bankrupt, and that means this or that to you, which is not good, and therefore you should accept that information can be owned.


You know that money is valuable since it's based on the country's productivity and quality compared to other countries, and therefore you should accept that a note with some numbers on it is worth money, so that the government (and other governments) doesn't suffer a crisis of public confidence, because then your standard of living is threatened. (Note: slight sarcasm here. Other people might say this in complete seriousness, though ;)

Kuhn thought that paradigms changed over time like this:

Paradigm -> normal conditions -> Inconsistencies -> Crisis -> Revolution -> New Paradigm

With the premise that people generally develop norms (rules for action, bases for judgment) in the same way that scientists form paradigms (models, bases for judgment), I'm applying this system to our society. (Norms and paradigms are kind of the same - both are grounded in human intelligence, and are oriented towards bringing order out of chaos by erecting philosophical systems). These conceptual systems live around us while we don't think about them. For example, there's no law of nature that says we have to divide the day into 24 hours - we would do just as well with 10 or 50. No one forced us to separate musical tones into 12 per octave, because 8 or 16 would work fine too. We define our environment in common terms to avoid conceptual confusion. Sometimes we reflect on these concepts so rarely that we take them for granted, as a natural order, and for that reason we consider people who come up with new conceptual systems delusional. William S. Burroughs expresses this more conspiratorially and ruthlessly:

"There is no true or real 'reality' - 'Reality' is simply a more or less constant interpretive pattern - the pattern that we accept as 'reality' has been forced upon us by the authorities of this planet, a system of power that primarily seeks total control."

(From Nova Express)

When Erik Satie, the poor genius, played his furniture music which broke with traditional patterns of musical creation, he got booed out. When Picasso broke with classical art concepts, many considered him to be an idiot. Cross your heart - how many of you has not at some point complained about art which "you can't see what it's supposed to be"? Gödel went so far as to prove that even something like time is subjectively perceived, philosopher or not. With hackers, we find this rebelliousness in, for example, the B1FF language, where our pre-established notions of the functions of signs are given a serious twist. Many BBS and Internet users write flaming posts when they see someone write a sentence like: y0YO!#%$!! wH4+zZ h4pP3n1n' 4r0uN '3r3 +H3zZ3 d4yZzZ?#$!%??. The question repeats itself: how groundbreakingly creative are you allowed to be? And at which points in time?

From the start, after some turbulent times we've established a closed conceptual system that we have accepted, we live in a stable condition where production and consumption live in harmony with an established societal system, with all that it brings of class divisions and territorial thinking. Now, when the information society brings things to a head, internal inconsistencies emerge inside the system. Is money really based on production? What are the production forces, in that case? Can knowledge be owned or not? This is the period in which our society currently finds itself, and will remain in for quite some time. This is the turbulent era of the post-industrial society. We are breaking out of the complete, near-mathematical system that our society has been stuck in, almost like Gödel broke out of mathematical systems and Zen debunks philosophical theories with direct answers. The Patriarchy, which the feminists want to break down, is another system whose foundations are cracking. (Within sociological science, this condition is called anomie, which means that there is a lack of functioning norms in society, like in today's post-Soviet Russia). This phase is also characterized by mushrooming subcultures and a reinforcement in religious sects, both of which are a result of an anxious search for definite norms not found in ordinary society. Eventually, there will be a crisis that precedes the real information revolution. This is when the most comprehensive societal changes will take place. (We are talking about a social revolution, no necessarily a bloody one). After this revolution, we form a new set of assumptions about how society should function, and it is only then that we have achieved the real information society. Many micro- and macroeconomic equations (or axioms, to be scientifically nit-picky) that are valid in the industrial society will become totally worthless in the information society.

In order for the changes to occur at all, someone has to push them through, committed to partially tearing down old norms to make room for new ones, albeit with some respect for the old society. These are Nietzsche's disciples, or in our case, the most militant cyberpunks with the hackers at the front, who dare to stand for their ideals in a new age. To quote Nietzsche himself: "I'm not closed-minded enough to stick to only one system, not even my own!" It's about tearing down the norms of industrial society to make way for the ones that will put information society on track. It doesn't have to occur outside the established system; what Nietzsche (and others) says is that it may.

Since the 50's and 60's, the younger generation has assumed the role as pattern-breakers, questioning old systems and building new ones. In Nietzsche's time, students and intellectuals were the most rebellious. There's been a shift to where radical ideas are associated with youth, and conservative ideas with age. This is one of the worst pathologies of our system of roles - many young people actually dislike the role as revolutionaries, and become, like in Tom Petty's partially self-biographical song Into The Great Wide Open, rebels without a clue. The pressure to revolt can in some cases become the straw that breaks the camel's back, pushing youngsters into crime and drug abuse. Many acts of rebellion are unfounded and arbitrary, aimed solely at provoking more conservative older folks - but there are some acts that are justified. The revolt against the informational dictatorship of corporations and governments is not unreasonable. It is an ideologically grounded revolution, which deserves being taken seriously.

Tolerance for new concepts and points of view is one factor that determines how closed or streamlined a society is. Nietzsche, in his time, appreciated the majestic music of Richard Wagner, which was another attempt to break out of a degenerating musical paradigm. Even though Hitler later admired both Wagner and Nietzsche, nazism was an ideology that condemned any effort to create new systems of concepts. Towards the end of the 30's, they organized an exposition in Berlin for "ugly" art, mostly modern, which they considered sick or twisted. That's the nature of fascism: after a shining ascension, it loses all interest in creativity and strives only to preserve itself. Can a society like ours, with corporations large enough to intimidate governments, accept an orderly and reasonable debate about the existence of copyright? Or will the system violently seize the power to decide what is public and private property, bypassing pesky democratic channels through lobbying and executive decrees with no debate whatsoever?

Dear readers: I suppose that on your journey through this book, you've discovered how close we really are to the information society.

It's my honest and upright opinion that such a society will either be free of copyright and software patents as they exist today, or it will be an informational dictatorship run by either governments, corporations, or mafias. The latter is the society William Gibson warns us of in his cyberpunk novels. Let's avoid it. I have do not know exactly how this change will occur, nor what the final result will be, just that it will take place.

Cybernetic Society vs. Class Perspectives - The Mechanisms of Power
The British sociologist Basil Bernstein(4) viewed the mechanisms of society like this:

In this system, we can see society divided into a production sphere and a sociocultural reproduction sphere. In the production sphere (corporations, organizations, legislature, executive branch, and counties), power is created, economic, political, and public. The socio-cultural reproduction sphere (parts of the media, entertainment industry, educational system, etc.) exists to justify and perpetuate the patterns suitable to the production sphere.

At the bottom of the picture, we find the nexus of these relationships. The Code is our language, in all its forms. It's actually every social symbol used to exchange information between people and society. The Code is pure information. It is the foundation for the entire hierarchy and social order. Through the linguistic code, society is constantly structured and reinforced in the same ways, which is why Zen, Nietzsche and Burroughs criticized language - they felt subordinated to a social and cognitive system which never changed in any substantial manner. Additionally, language has more levels than the spoken or written. There is pictorial language, music, and all kinds of symbols to use. Basically, all vessels for the transfer and storage of information could be said to be part of this code.

Many believe that the information society will naturally generate the same kind of structure, just because it's always happened before. There is no evidence suggesting that this would be the case - rather, evidence suggests the opposite. The information society inherently elevates public consciousness of society itself to a level which bares its mechanisms. What's actually happening is that the basic units of society become aware of their own role in this gigantic information system, which in turn leads to their desire to improve it. Social progress can thus be further accelerated, like always (you with me?).

Let's employ an illustrative example: a current controversy on the Internet concerns (as I mentioned in Chapter 8) the Church of Scientology and its questionable copyright on the religious documents it produces. According to believers, the documents contain material describing the movement's so-called clearing technology, which is a quasi-science demanding comprehensive and very expensive courses. The Church thinks that only members of the movement have a right to this information. Roughly, you could say that clearing technology consists of hypnosis and science fiction.

The Church of Scientology is a sect, and as such, a society within society. It provides all the functions a society normally provides for a human being. It affords her opinions, morality, social orientation, and so on. The only reason for a member to venture outside the limits of the sect, is to earn his or her own living and thereby nourishing the sect also. Sects, among which I also place the Plymouth Rock people, Jehova's Witnesses, and Livets Ord (a Swedish religious sect), live like parasites on our social system. Almost every clear-headed individual is aware of this. One way of seeing how hermetically closed a sect is, is to apply Bernstein's model on it. Any reader with some imagination shouldn't have much trouble doing this.

Now, participate in a thought experiment that is taboo. Imagine that society is a sect, and that your thought patterns are externally controlled. Imagine that copyright and freedom-of-expression legislation exists to limit your awareness and maintain the social hierarchy, just like a sect's leadership rules its members. Imagine that, despite all of our freedoms, we might be blinded by the delusion that our society is free! Members of a sect are completely convinced that they have made an independent choice to join it, and that they are free individuals. All sect members are convinced that the sect's account of things is the one true account, and all renegades are vehicles of, for example, Satan. Suppose that all members of society are convinced that society's account of reality is the true one, and that criminals, hackers, and other non-conformists are painted in a bad light because it suits its purposes. No sect leaders force their members to obey and serve out of sheer lust for power, but because they actually believe in what they're doing. No politician or CEO forces citizens and employees to do their bidding out of sheer malice, because they also believe in what they're doing. Do you understand Burroughs a little more?

Look society and power in the eye. Why is the Church of Scientology one of the first authorities to cry for law and order, wanting control of information? Why is society not so far behind? Why do we want to keep tabs on the information that spreads through subcultures? Suppose that there are truths you never dreamt of, outside the universe of society. Isn't it the case that behind this jovial façade of the social community a force is concealed, which wants to replace organic sympathy with mechanical obedience?

So what is this superior power? I've already shown what it is: supervisory intelligent entities, thinking units consisting of constructs of people: Corporations, Governments, Nations, Counties, Concerns, Mafias…. they consist of individuals, but they don't think like individuals. They are intelligent, but their intelligence is not human. They can benefit us, but they can also do us harm. They are superindividuals, individuals made out of individuals, united through the control of information, or to put it in another way: power. The problem is that we, as humans, have a horrible time seeing the forest for the trees.

Too many myths are flourishing around people and their society. One of the most despicable ones is the delusion that society is "free". Every society is founded on the lack of freedom - giving up some of your freedom in exchange for security. What every individual should know is that unless you apply anarchistic principles, you have to go through life constantly sacrificing parts of your freedom to superior forces. These can consist of the kinds I enumerated above, and others. The basic obligation a superindividual has to an individual is to inform the individual that "this is what I claim of your freedom, and this is what you get in exchange." Symbiosis, not domination. The nastiest of these superindividuals are those that operate behind the scenes, intentionally controlling and influencing individuals without their knowledge. These are often referred to under a collective term: the "Illuminati", the glowing ones, the "good" people, the circle of initiates.

Look at a new world with open eyes. Break out of the system. Only after doing so, can you understand what you can do for society. (And don't forget to ask yourself if I am, in fact, just a nutty conspiracy theorist trying to see something where nothing exists. That possibility exists, you know.)

1. Wasn't it an exquisite coincidence for this incident to happen in 1984?

2. Here's a present for the libertarians: if the right of ownership is sacred, why do people not respect it when it comes to music CDs, etc.? Would you? Why is the market unable to solve this problem, if the legislature is really so powerless? Say, are there any problems that can't be solved either by the market or the state?

3. This word is one of those that have escaped down from the esoteric, academic levels into normal language. Be careful if you use it around people with scientific training, since the keyword of science is precision - paradigm means one specific thing, not a category. Using the word outside the philosophy of science could be viewed as a vulgar, though common, practice. The opposite of scientific language is found in New Age culture, where it's important to be as fuzzy and imprecise as possible. Popular culture, of which this book is an example, must attempt a balancing act between these two extremes.

4. Bernstein, who was originally a linguist, belongs to some structuralist or post-structuralist school of thought, which isn't really too important in this context.


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