I appreciate James Poulos' thoughts on technology (and spiritual battle), by the way
(PS, slightly related cartoon at bottom.)
(Audio recording of this post.)
James Poulos, of the Claremont Institute and executive editor of the excellent American Mind publication, was interviewed by the Babylon Bee folks this week. I’ll embed the interview in case you want to view the whole. If you didn’t know, yes, the Babylon Bee also does pretty serious non-satirical interviews, and along with Bee Social and Not The Bee they have sort of become a little media empire.
What I appreciate about Poulos is that he is aware of technological trends and is sort of a tech-geek himself (like me)… he is publishing his new book on the Bitcoin blockchain, after all. But he also sees the dangers in our technology… perhaps a shorter term danger of technology making people go crazy or allowing the powerful to manipulate and control them, and a longer-term danger of technology supplanting the human soul. But his solution is not to give it all up and go be Amish. What we need to do is get a handle on our tools and make sure they are serving us and also not replacing us (and used well, they can re-empower the ordinary man contra the rulers).
Poulos summarizes his book in the interview, and let me give you that summary because it’s probably a good summary of his thinking generally1:
The ruling factions who are trying to dictate our every waking moment created these machines, these digital machines [holds up smartphone] thinking that the machines, because they created them, would perfect their global rule. And they were very optimistic about it and everyone was feeling good. But the machines did not care about what the ruling factions wanted to happen, and so ordinary people started to use them to do what they wanted, to say what they wanted to say, and to live how they wanted to live. And that caused the ruling factions to panic, which we saw starting in 2016. And so now they're trying regain control of the box and reclaim control of us through the machines. And we can stop them.
To say this another way, what happened is:
The ruling factions had this sort of utopian vision for what the future is supposed to look like (think World Economic Forum).
They created these digital tools and projected their fantasy vision for the future onto these tools. Everyone will have a smartphone (for example) and it will connect them to everyone else and through the pressure of the medium we will be all set toward this glorious future together.
But it didn’t work. People used the machines as they wanted to use them. Many of these people had a different vision of what the good human life is. The system took on a life of its own and the “rulers”, who actually aren’t nearly as in charge anymore as they’d like to be, didn’t have the control they expected to have.
Now, still using the machines, the ruling factions want to reassert their control and get the errant world “back on track”.
So, a very obvious example of #3/#4 would be first the fact that people used social media, darn ‘em, to share information and promote activities undesired by the rulers, and now we see social media censorship growing rapidly in an attempt to get that all back under control.
Let me share a few more snips under subheadings with light commentary.
Are cell phones evil? / The desire for control
In the interview, Poulos talked about how our technology is now capable of sort of flying through the air (either literally like drones or, I think he mainly had in mind, sort of virtually “in the air” through always-on wireless communications or the growing 5G network), being everywhere all at the same time, having the sort of properties humans previously only ascribed to angels and demons. Responding to a somewhat facetious question from Kyle Mann, is your smartphone a demon, is it evil? Poulos says by itself, no:
The good news is that it's basically just plumbing, like invisible plumbing. And so the spiritual war that needs to be waged is one that involves remembering that we have souls. Unlike these disincarnate devices and programs and entities flying through the air almost instantaneously, we are human, we have souls, we are incarnate. If we forget that, then the insanity will really kick off. And some of the worst people out there are those who deny that we have a soul, think we can just merge into this sort of cyborg vivarium living space. And so the technology is not itself... we haven't summoned forth demons. Demons are there, they will continue to be there, and the way of doing battle with them is different from the way of dealing with the fact that we've created these powerful machines. What ordinary people need is a way to reassert human control over our machines .
Some forms of the technology are not just tools, they're also weapons, and it's time for Americans to lay hold of those weapons. We need a 2nd Amendment for computers, Americans should be able to freely use these machines, develop databases, freely exchange goods and services, all that stuff. And that's not what the ruling factions want us to do. They want to know when we send money back and forth, more than $600. They want to spend as much money as they can think of, which is an infinite number of dollars. And really they just want to know what we do, what we think, where we are at all times. That's not America, it's never been America, and to be quite honest it's never been any regime on Earth, even the most horrible.
Just a couple comments - Poulos has elaborated on his desire for a digital 2nd Amendment elsewhere. I wish him the best with that project, but I’m always a little wary of asking the state to please restrain the power of the state… but maybe that’s the only choice we have (or asking good lower magistrates to restrain, within their realm, the powers of higher magistrates). Cryptocurrencies are a good example here, with all the good they’ve done (which would have never happened had regulation come first) and the threat they now are to traditional finance and state control. Because, although Bitcoin bros like to talk a good game of “we’re decentralized, the state can never shut us down!”… sadly, the state probably could. Yeah, there are things that are easier for the state to control (like traditional credit card processors), and things that are harder for the state to control (like cryptocurrencies)… but if the US government really decided to launch a full court press against the Bitcoin ecosystem, it could decimate it, even if little scraps would hang on. But I suppose Poulos knows this which is why he says we need a digital 2nd Amendment.
And then two… I appreciate that he understands the scope of the threat. More people need to wake up to that. We have seen, in COVID-19, the “free” states of the world exert greater control over their people, in many ways, than the worst tyrants anywhere before, say, 1960. Because it would have simply been practically impossible to exert that kind of control pre-1960. Modern technology means the few can manage the many to a degree never before possible. It is more important than ever before to restrain the powers of the state.
Is Mark Zuckerberg the problem? / The desired world post-Reset
Following a jesting question about “would you go back in time and kill Mark Zuckerberg?”, Poulos said:
I don't think Mark Zuckerberg is the problem. It's the form of the technologies, the formative effect of the technologies that's the issue... You get rid of Facebook and what comes next? The people in charge, the people who think they're in charge, want FedBook to be next. They don't want to get rid of Facebook so people can live more productive human lives with their friends and their community and their fellow churchgoers. They want to concentrate things still further, they want to have more control over what you say and think. And they want to get people to accept a lower standard of living, and lower rates of childbirth, and lower rates of transportation. They want to shrink you down, put you in the pod, and wean you off of money. They don't want you to be productive, they don't want you to hold assets, they don't want you to accumulate wealth and save it and pass it on to your future generations. They want you to farm points in their social credit system.
This is a world where there's no place for God. This is a world where, let's be frank, there is no place for testosterone. There's no place for physical strength and vitality. And that is what the Reset is designed to accomplish. Oh crap, we built this system, it's falling apart, our machines are disobeying us. We need to just round it all up and reprogram it and make sure we can pacify and domesticate and defang and control the people as much as we want to control the machines. That's the project.
That quotation stands pretty well by itself.
On what “furries” are really looking for
Don’t ask me to explain furry subculture either, I don’t even know if I’ve pluralized the word properly. Kyle Mann basically explained it as people who build their identity around being sort of anthropomorphized animals. After that weird introduction though, a rather poignant response:
I think that the whole "furry" thing is a massive cope for the fact that we've entered into this cyborg existence, and the people in charge are not really in control, and nobody knows what to do about it and they're looking for answers. Not answers to "how do we save the world?", like, that's obsolete, but how do they save their souls? And if they can't get that information they're just going to continue to spiral and latch on to the most obscene or bizarre answers or pretend answers in the hopes of keeping themselves off-balance or distracted enough that they no longer have to sit with the fact that they no longer know who they are and that they need to restore their soul to a position of life and vitality.
Reminded me of Pascal there and his comments about humans unable to sit in a room with themselves and constantly seeking distractions (the Pensées is a great read, by the way)… so humanity hasn’t changed all that much in the last 400 years. One might also say “so be courageous in preaching your message to lost people, Church”.
On transhumanism as the path to, and destination of, Reset
One last quotation:
What is going to get us from the all-too-human condition that we're in right now to realizing this fantasy land where everyone lives in perfect harmony, and all of our responsibilities have been assigned to the sort of machine complex, this Borg that we can trust to prevent the dirty, sinful humans from screwing up? Exiting humanity, that is what we need to do in that schema. Human beings, we can't trust them, they have bad opinions, they have bad ideas, they're dangerous, they're violent, they're patriarchal, they're racist, they're terrible. So what do we do? Obviously humanity is the problem. We need to leave our humanity behind, we need to process everyone through a sort of system that causes them to recognize that their humanity is what's wrong with us.
OK, so how do you begin that process? Well, what are the things that you knock down in order to escape from our natural, given, God-given humanity? The first thing on the list is the most fundamental distinction, the distinction between man and woman. If you can break that, then people start thinking, "well, we can become anything, we can do anything, we can think ourselves into being whatever we want to be, we can be gods." And so, just observe the speed with which we've seen the gay rights movement get co-opted and turned into this other thing and they keep adding stripes to the flag and it keeps getting more and more bizarre. Even to the point where lesbians are now like "too many of us are turning trans, this is bad, the whole point is women with women and we don't need to go to this other place."
So why is this social contagion of transsexualism becoming the thing that has risen to the top of the stack in terms of attention, in terms of prestige, in terms of the push that's it's getting from officialdom? Well it seems to me pretty obvious that this is really because it's step one, like the founding event for a regime that is trying to go into a full transhumanist realm. Because we got to break the humanity in order for the spark within to merge with the machines.
You could even say something about the transhumanism of vaccine mandates here, especially inasmuch as your natural immunity doesn’t count, only our shot in your arm counts. But the bigger comment I’ll make here is sort of what I said in a previous post which is Christians, when you confront these errors, confront the heart of the error not some peripheral problem. “This will let men into the women’s locker room!” is a peripheral problem. “This eliminates any meaning from the concepts of ‘man’ and ‘woman’, and that’s really the goal, because the goal is that we can now think ourselves into being whatever we want to be, we are gods”, now that’s the heart of the error.
PS - BONUS CARTOON
Because some readers might find this immediately practically helpful, I thought I’d mention the below. We actually invested in the project to make a Tuttle Twins pro-liberty children’s cartoon series. Frankly the way these things go I had low expectations. They released their first cartoon two days ago and I was in fact super-impressed. Plenty of jokes for the adults to laugh at too. Start just after 12:00 if the embedding doesn’t work right for you.
All quotations here may have been slightly edited for clarity in reading.