Jonathan Crary: “If we want to continue living on this planet, we must limit the Internet” | technology

“If there is to be a livable, shared future on our planet, it will be detached, independent of the 24/7 capitalist systems and processes that are destroying the world.” With this statement begins the latest book by Jonathan Crary (Vermont, USA, 72), an art critic and educator obsessed with how technology can change our lives.

in scorched earth. Towards a post-capitalist world (Ariel), the author accuses of the way technology has shaped the current state of capitalism, a system that is “incompatible with any kind of conservation or conservation.” The climate emergency is the latest warning sign on the path of self-destruction that humanity has embarked on, and which we will not abandon without radical changes.

Karary realizes that this subject is far from his area of ​​expertise, modern art. But he says because of the intellectual responsibility he can’t stop writing about it. Hundreds of books on technology are published each year. I don’t have a teaching profession, but an agitator,” he explains via video from his office in New York. It’s not the first book he’s published on the subject. It deals with how technology is redefining the life experience in 24/7. Capitalism to attack the dream (Ariel, 2015). “scorched earth It is a continuation of that idea: I say what are the tools through which this lasting connection between people is strengthened.” He is already preparing a third part, in which he will explore forms of resistance against these tendencies.

Ask. You write: “The idea that the Internet can function independently of the catastrophic processes of global capitalism is one of the most startling fallacies of our time.”

Answer. I wanted the book to be provocative, in the tradition of political pamphlets, and to challenge some standard conventions. This includes the way we think about how to transform our present. We are in a global emergency. I try to insist that if there is really any kind of sustainable future, you have to accept that some basic elements of our present will simply be incompatible with these new scenarios. The patterns and habits that dominate individual and social life simply won’t work, and the Internet is not safe.

s. In the 1990s, the entire world saw the Internet as a revolutionary technology for sharing knowledge. What is left of it?

R was found. What we see is a relentless intensification of the ways in which different systems, platforms, and social networks conspire to occupy and commercialize different aspects of our lives. The Internet was a breath of fresh air in the 1990s, but at the same time it was just the kind of ramp-up that is intrinsic to capitalism in the West. This was already witnessed by people like Rosa Luxemburg and other critics of capitalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

“The Internet won because it allowed a consumer society to operate 24 hours a day.”

s. How did the Internet become a tool controlled by a few companies?

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R was found. Countless private organizations and companies have seen the kind of access and dissolution this technology allows. It offered the possibility of a 24/7 consumer society, and extended the idea of ​​the consumer to nearly every aspect of social experience. What’s happening offline now is becoming increasingly irrelevant, in part because it’s so hard to monetize it. Online romantics continue to see it as a tool with potential for social connection, activity, and organization. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but in the long run, I think if we want to continue living on this planet, we need to limit the digital realm in our lives.

s. You say that the Green New Deal is nonsense, that it is not a real solution to the climate crisis.

R was found. I think people are being fooled into thinking that betting on so-called clean energy will solve the problem. It simply perpetuates all the destructive habits we indulge in. It does not question our identity as consumers and empowers us with the idea that we should all buy electric cars. And that’s the last thing the planet needs: hundreds of millions of electric cars to replace those that burn fossil fuels. Why not look for a more radical shift in mobility? Why not bet on public transport? The same goes for the obsession that all we need to do is reduce fossil fuel emissions. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but if it wasn’t part of a much broader program to transform the habits and patterns that govern life in societies, it wouldn’t make sense. The current lifestyle is not viable in a world of 8,000 million people. This includes our use of the Internet, which consumes a lot of energy. Any strategy that does not change the way we consume and act is a waste of time.

s. He also asserts that the Internet does not unite us, but rather makes us more individual. Young people today, he says, are less politically organized than they were 30 years ago, and this proves that the Internet is the perfect tool for capitalism.

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R was found. that it. The title of the book is scorched earth In reference to the environmental emergency, but also to the destruction of communities and social experiment. I am a professor of modern art at [la Universidad de] Columbia, so you can rightly ask me what I do about it. What I do in a sense is a kind of aesthetic criticism, in the broadest sense of the word. Something has been lost in recent years. People complain about the impacts on our lives caused by data mining or mass surveillance. I try to focus more on the transformation of the social experience itself. I think young people’s lives have been impoverished by focusing too much on the digital environment. I know there are a lot of clichés out there about kids who spend too much time playing video games or between screens. Beyond that, we suffer damage to some of our cognitive abilities.

s. Since 2003, he says, demonstrations in the United States have decreased significantly. And that this is related to the expansion of the Internet.

R was found. The demonstrations in the United States against the Iraq war were one of the last expressions of a kind of organized mass mobilization. It is true that the Occupy Wall Street movement came later, but it quickly fizzled out and had no lasting impact. People today are more confused. I’m not saying this is the internet’s fault, but it definitely contributed.

“The Internet impoverishes the lives of young people, cutting off social contact between them”

s. What do you think of Metaverse? If it takes hold in the next few years, how will it affect the way we treat each other?

R was found. I honestly don’t see an evolution in some sort of closed, interlocking world. I don’t think this will happen. It is a delusional extension of the logic of isolation and separation, and part of the idea that the world we live in is useless. The metaverse is digital information that can be processed and transformed into images. We’ll see if he wins.

s. It also confirms that science and technology are no longer compatible with human needs. because?

R was found. I knew I was going to get a lot of criticism about it. Science cannot be treated as something separate from its historical, economic and institutional foundations. For some reason, this body of knowledge seems to be exempt from critical evaluation. And it must be said of this to restore an invisible critique of the assumptions on which Western science has been based since the sixteenth century. In the book I quote some thinkers who have already confirmed this, but I focus on the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. He was part of the academic world, but as early as the 1920s he was able to see the relationship between science and technology developed into something very different from what it had been in previous centuries. At some point, science and technology went their separate ways, and starting in the second half of the nineteenth century they focused on product development.

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s. You accuse those who warn that digitization threatens privacy because their proposal is to mitigate the effects of capitalism rather than change that system. What would your approach be?

R was found. I’m not saying privacy isn’t important, it clearly is. But I am trying to present a critique from another point of view. For example, biometric technologies like eye tracking and facial recognition are said to be spying on us or finding out something about us. I think it goes beyond that. They create patterns around what we look at, what we like most, or what catches our attention and then build a reality that conditions us. We tend to think of ourselves as looking at neutral screens, but what is shown to us is constantly being redefined to attract us, thus removing any thought-provoking visual information. It seems wrong to me to demand more privacy if it only serves to keep us using our social networks or to run our binge-watching series. flowBut in secret. In this way, we will perpetuate individualistic dynamics that I consider socially destructive, because they contradict the idea of ​​making decisions that benefit society.

s. Do you think you’ll see any of the changes you’re suggesting?

R was found. We are in the middle of a climate emergency, so there must be changes by force. Another thing is in which direction and to whom they benefit. We are going through a very dangerous time, but I also think it’s a potentially transformative one.

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