Electricity & Writing

¨Socrates: But if these things are only to be known through names, how can we suppose that the givers of names had knowledge, or were legislators before there were names at all, and therefore before they could have known them?
Cratylus: I believe, Socrates, the true account of the matter to be, that a power more than human gave things their first names, and that the names which were thus given are necessarily their true names.¨ — Plato, Cratylus
19. Names for the pre-literate Greek were an auditory divination, a myth-event, not entirely stable in meaning, received by men from gods. Names today are visual pictures: spelled, defined and administered to children by the state through mandatory schooling.  
32. To point out the parallels between science and the state, as both operate upon the principles of legibility, standardization and systematization, is to perhaps only propose another grand human narrative, one more general and meta than the last, and thereby seemingly more true. In the search for the one true story of man, of first causes and prime movers, one continues an old train of thought endemic to the West.
43. Still, it is proper to ask how the technology of the written word changed the language people spoke. Prior to the appearance of writing, was the language man spoke less rigorously logical, more emotional and impassioned, more religious?
46. Fred Nietzsche criticized his Birth of Tragedy saying it should have sung. Plato argued the poets were immoral and needed to be removed from his ideal city-state. Teddy Carpenter abandoned his anthropological project, equating the study of non-western, pre-literate peoples with a kind of criminal act. Perhaps the tragedy of philosophy is that it tries and fails to sing and to make poetry. Philosophy must finally reject the poetic or, in the acceptance that it can never sing, must itself go silent.  
55. They say now that poetry is one particular electrical action in the brain among many. They have observed it and measured it. The brain is like computer hardware, they say, and poetry one of many softwares. There have always been computers, for man has always been a computer.
58. Man conceives himself through his technology. The technology of the written word allowed for the standardization of names and the creation of narratives of causes and effects: the complexities of argument and logic. The technology was useful: it broadened the state and met his goals of enhanced security, property ownership, and law. It grew his material wealth, provided him with pleasures and expanded his empire.
61. Plato´s Socrates speaks of his daimōn, a rationality that guides him. Notably it is inaccessible to both gods and other men. By answering its call and accepting its guidance, he is separated from gods and men and made an individual. Philosophy would progress to internalize this force of rationality within man, to make it a feature unique to man. Later, to the systematic economists, rationality would become a core assumption about men in their arithmetic of global economic life.
75. The technology of writing began as an amanuensis and was slowly grafted onto man. Its logic and reasonableness became a part of his speech. The spoken word became secondary to the written. The eye achieved dominance over the ear. Man learned to speak in text.
79. What is called consciousness is the embodiment of the technology of writing. Consciousness does not appear to man as poetry or song. Consciousness appears as a voice, a voice of reason, an interior logic: a written voice.
80. Without the technology of writing there could be no subject, no individual.

81. ¨Schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of literacy.¨ - Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man, 1962

85. The problems of other minds, whether the world is illusion or true, are the problems of literate men. The text was essential in the development of these ¨problems.¨

87. The historians tell of the Dark Ages, the centuries after the Roman empire had collapsed and men lived in small villages and feared the forest. These villagers were illiterate and state-less. Europe was sparsely populated and little was known of life beyond the village. Men were often without clothing and walked around shamelessly naked. Curiously, these men of the Dark Age were nameless. Was it coincidence that in the absence of the state men also lost their names? With this breakdown in legibility even in regard to himself, was it possible for a man to conceive himself as an individual?
99. The computer is the electrification of the technology of writing: the joining of his mastery of electricity to the older technology of writing. He sees the world through this enhanced electrical writing. He observes electricity in his own body and brain and believes he is not very different than the electricity and logic of the computer. He aspires to merge with it: to become reason, logic and legibility electrified and all knowing.
100. In the moving picture Lucy (2014) dolphins are depicted as using 20% of their brain capacity, compared to humans at 10% (brain capacity appears to be a measure of electrical activity relative to cerebral size). At 20% of its brain capacity, the film implies, a dolphin is physically endowed with functional sonar, which a human must manufacture technology to replicate. During the course of the film the protagonist Lucy expands her use of brain capacity and gains control over the laws of the world as detailed by science (gravity, fusion, etc.). Curiously, as she expands the use of her brain and becomes more reasonable, she loses her sex drive, empathy for other humans, any recognition of historical moral codes and ethics, and respect for private property. Eventually Lucy departs her body and merges with a computer. Finally, at 100% of brain capacity, she transforms herself from a computer into an electrical wave that can inhabit all living and non-living things, past and present. Man as computer hardware has made his final evolution into a supreme, immortal, all knowing and unbounded electrical rationality. The utopian dream is complete, the final step of his evolution from single celled organism.

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