Objectivism, Ecology, Ecosystems, Cybernetics, Feedback loops, Californian Ideology, Systems Theory…etc…

Three great BBC documentary films by Adam Curtis which help to understand our unit’s agenda: From Ayn Rand and Buckminster Fuller and the birth of the Californian Ideology, Ecology, Eco-Systems, Systems Theory and Cybernetics to George Price, Richard Dawkins and the Selfish Gene, see how the concept of “network” and “nature” has evolved as an ideology through modern times.

Grasshopper

Diagram of the Grasslands Experiment by George Van Dyne, showing how nature is interlinked as a system.

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace is a series of film about how humans have been colonized by the machines they have built. Although we don’t realize it, the way we see everything in the world today is through the eyes of the computers. It claims that computers have failed to liberate us and instead havedistorted and simplified our view of the world around us.

1. Love and Power. This is the story of the dream that rose up in the 1990s that computers could create a new kind of stable world. They would bring about a new kind global capitalism free of all risk and without the boom and bust of the past. They would also abolish political power and create a new kind of democracy through the Internet where millions of individuals would be connected as nodes in cybernetic systems – without hierarchy.

2. The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts. This is the story of how our modern scientific idea of nature, the self-regulating ecosystem, is actually a machine fantasy. It has little to do with the real complexity of nature. It is based on cybernetic ideas that were projected on to nature in the 1950s by ambitious scientists. A static machine theory of order that sees humans, and everything else on the planet, as components – cogs – in a system.

3. The Monkey in the Machine and the Machine in the Monkey. This episode looks at why we humans find this machine vision so beguiling. The film argues it is because all political dreams of changing the world for the better seem to have failed – so we have retreated into machine-fantasies that say we have no control over our actions because they excuse our failure.

Adam Curtis is a documentary film maker, whose work includes The Power of Nightmares,The Century of the SelfThe Mayfair SetPandora’s BoxThe Trap and The Living Dead.

 

2 comments
  1. Saurab said:

    That perspective of cybernetics “limiting our world view” is extremely fascinating, especially when it comes to ecology. We are, in a way, idealizing the functioning of a complex and multidimensional being into something ridiculously simplified so that humans can understand. I’m still wrapping my head around this idea!

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