The American Sixth Fleet which is rightly considered the most powerful strike force in today’s world can be at any moment sent to an opposite side of the globe to protect a small group of American citizens who appears in danger due to harassment from some aggressive regime. Just think over what the American society has to sacrifice in terms of expenses from the US National budget in such a case. We do not know how much exactly one hour of such a mission can cost, but undoubtedly the amount is many orders of magnitude larger than everything that a group of Americans in trouble can bring to the society even though they work assiduously to a ripe old age.
You, my oversea friend, who lives in a democratic country of the 21st century and who is brought up in the spirit of hyper-patriotic Hollywood blockbusters can find nothing weird in such national prodigality. But can you imagine some similar State’s concerns for a tiny portion of the population at any time in the past somewhere outside the US? Can you imagine it in the days of the French Revolution in Europe or during both World Wars of the XX century?
“Achievements of democracy” you might claim in response. It only seems that way. Great Britain has already been a constitutional monarchy (aka democracy as we consider it today) for centuries when dozens of thousands of British soldiers were abandoned for their fate in the port of Dunkirk in 1940. Recollect who initiated that slaughter as well — a leader of a democratically elected political party in one of the most civilized European Countries. He sacrificed more than 7 millions of his compatriots in that war. Adolf Hitler was his name.
Democracy is a poor explanation for the absence of mass genocides in the 21st century. Russia is as far from true democracy today as the Soviet Union was over its entire history. Nonetheless, nobody can imagine gigantic concentration camps full of political prisoners in present-day Russia while a few were against Stalinist terror in the 1930s when millions were tortured to death in Siberia. And note, my friend, less than 100 years have passed since then — nothing on a scale of human history.
So, what’s the deal?
Information, my friend. Or, more precisely, the speed with which information can be generated, recorded and delivered to any corner of the world. Namely, the omni-pervasive force of information makes returning of dark times impossible any more. It started in the latter half of the 20th century when telecommunication technologies obtained global coverage. Television, satellite connection, computers, and, finally, the Internet created a new paradigm of the total involvement of masses in content streams.
Now, all State leaders (even the most corrupt and totalitarian ones!), all Governments, and all political parties are exposed to round-the-clock supervision through numerous media channels. At any given moment, hundreds of millions of eyes are watching what State entities do with regard to one or another social and political phenomena. This is power. The power of observers who influence the experiment on a quantum level as physicists say. The more human-beings are engaged in such observation via IT, the narrower a corridor of arbitrariness occurs for the national and transnational authority structures.
Nothing beats the mass attention in power. This is why the nuclear weapon is losing its persuasive potential slowly but steadily, by the way. Today, an insinuative remark on Twitter can be more dangerous and destructive than an H bomb.
Harsh flows of information keep gaining momentum year after year. Every new faster processor adds pace to this movement. Is there any limit for it? Probably there is, but we are still far from that limit. We cannot access the global infosphere directly without the assistance of computers and gadgets that still remain external to both our bodies and consciousness. Still too much time we spend disconnected. And time is what information is compressing.
A contemporary teenager who spends one day hanging on a smartphone connected to the internet can receive and comprehend more information than a venerable professor of the 19th century could obtain over years. The pace of our living is accelerating in accordance with the volume of information we can accommodate per unit of time. The volume is growing in accordance with the computing power of new processors. The latest Apple’s A13 bionic can do a trillion cycles per second.
The information itself is changing as well. Thick folios have given way to audio digests in podcasts we could listen to via AirPods on the go. Large newspapers and magazines fit dynamic news-feeds we scroll through 6-inch smartphone screens. If knowledge is brain food, we definitely eat much better than any generation in history. But the greatest achievement of our digital era is that we are becoming less and less dependent on centralized sources of information.
The “no God, no lord” motto of the first nihilists of the 19th century has reached broad masses today via the decentralization of sources of information. Official media along with both spiritual leaders and secular authorities such as Pope, Dalai Lama, and, for instance, the UN Secretary-General have equal say with just an ordinary Facebook user nowadays (and, truth be told, it’s unclear to whom of them we trust the most).
Now let’s think about that magic spirit of mass attention leveraged by the information ubiquity that compresses the time required to check how our socio-political elites behave. The spirit levitates invisibly over heads of the powers-that-be keeping them within a certain framework of our expectations.
Why do Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Xi Jinping act differently then, you may ask. Is there a difference in the very intensity of mass attention between China, Russia, and America? Yes, a certain difference is available, but that’s not the point. What is crucial in it belongs to different moral heritages accepted by Chinese, Russians, as well as by any other nation. To put it simply, what is a behavioural norm in China can be a social deviation in the US. What Russian people usually tolerate their President can be unacceptable nonsense for Chinese.
But ask yourself, my friend, whether those three leaders are so different in their behaviour actually. Try to imagine an American President, a Russian Tzar, and a Chinese Emperor in the 18th century. Those days, they themselves along with their Countries had almost nothing in common, indeed. Even time was passing through different calendars back then. Today, you unlikely be able to detect 10 critical differences in the official speeches of various national leaders given at some International summit.
Travelling around the world nowadays you can find that airports of New York, Beijing, and Moscow differ with nothing but the size and, probably, local commercials. Cultural, mental, and civilizational boundaries are getting blurred with… information, of course. Namely, information is a universal solvent that makes both temporal and spatial differences melt. And information technologies make that solvent more concentrated with each passing day.
What is in it for me, you may ask. A lot is in it for all of us, I assure you. First, we should give up any kind of Neo-Luddism whining regarding a gadget addiction and entrenchment of post-human technologies. Not because those phenomena bring no harm to humanity at all but because nobody is able to reverse the trend. The trend of absorption of time by information. Nobody can slow down the acceleration of the current pace of life. We still have enough room for the improvement of our connectivity. The majority are actively connected to the flow of information a third of the time they are awake at best, not to mention the hours of their sleeping — the biggest part of our existence is still dumb, not smart.
Opposing to information is nothing but working for Kronos (Time) — the ancient god of time who keeps eating his own kids up to now. Besides, fruitless efforts lead to only frustration. Some can complain that communication through virtual networks is time-consuming. Yes, right, it is time-consuming! When we exchange information our time is consumed. Kronos has to stay aside when information moves — there is no place for Kronos on the Internet. The ones who think that the real life goes beyond the Internet make a sorrowful mistake — the Internet is an integral part of the contemporary moment which can be neither ignored nor disrespected.
Second, the global flow of information is nothing but the directly reflected collective knowledge — the very crowd wisdom, the tangible objectification of Noosphere whose genesis and development were anticipated by Vernadsky, Teihard de Chardin, and Roerich in the 1920s. Approximately at the same time, Einstein proved that energy is matter and vice versa. What is knowledge we exchange through information flows if not our mental power — the energy of our collective intelligence. Creating information streams we create matter, we support our material universe to go on. Want to stay away from the universal almost-divine intelligence? As you wish, leave connectivity and appear face to face with time — think you can fight it alone? What arrogance!
Third, information is not something alienated to human destiny. Quite the contrary, the choices we have to make every day are grounded on our vision of life — the very knowledge we obtain through processing numerous informational inputs. The larger the volume of information we achieve, the wider choice we meet. A correlation between what we know and how we act in life is nothing but freedom at its core.
A century ago, some Ukrainian peasant wasn’t much different in choice with a blinkered horse whose destiny was moving along a corridor of its narrow perspective having to bear lashes from those who had a wider vision. That’s why at the beginning of the 20th century, millions of Ukrainian rural population were quite easily subjugated to dozens of communist intellectuals who possessed much extensive knowledge. Thus, any attempt to deprive yourself of information flows leads to the accumulation of bad karma only. Stay connected, keep pace with impulses of the present moment, and you will never appear in the position of that blinkered horse.
And last but not least: information belongs to nobody and to everyone at the same time. The same relates to the Internet and thoughts. Mighty thinker Nietzsche articulated this principle in the 19th century when he figured out interrelations between a subject and its predicates. In simple words, when we think about something, namely thoughts are an active agent which comes to our minds that are passive. We just process and “rebroadcast” thoughts over our collectively shared Noosphere.
The same happens with information on the Internet. All those petabytes of data we generate every second belong to our collective common heritage. That’s why both personal data and “intellectual property” are questionable in terms of ownership. That’s why numerous “original” ideas come as epiphany down to many human brains simultaneously. And that’s why “private data leakages” should be reconsidered towards easier adoption and acceptance by the post-modern society.
We should move to a Noe-Collectivism where egoism and individuality are not confused. Moreover, we will have to go in that way since the global technology giants are feeding artificial intelligence with our collective Big Data. The day will soon come when we all realize that nothing from our “private” info can be hidden or silenced. How to get ready for it is revealed in the next chapters.