In the last two weeks, a sequence of affirmations and confessions offer us clues about the present, past and future of what we colloquially call the Internet. Is about Bill Gates, mark zuckerberg Y Vitalik Buterinreferring in turn to the popularization of the PC and software (Gates with Microsoft), social networks or Web 2.0 (Zuckerberg with Facebook, Instagram) and the most recent advanced crypto to the so-called web3 that these days lives with intensity a key event in the Ethereum network.
Through in-depth interviews in massive and specialized digital media (such as Joe Rogan’s podcast, the most popular in the world), they agreed to give details ranging from their personal lives to the impact of their professional work on humanity on topics ranging from deep ties, democracy or money.
The most recent was that of Gates, who this Tuesday updated an ambitious report (Goalkeepers Report) with which a decade ago he seeks to monitor progress on major social issues. Led by the interviewee, Gates defended his rational optimism in the long term: between the famines in Africa, advances in genetics and mRNA vaccines. Death (the war in Ukraine, the coronavirus and the pandemic, species, droughts and the Earth in the face of global warming) and progress (computer science, scientific improvements, social advances) are part of his diagnosis.
Zuckerberg also defended his role: with more mea culpa about the effects of social networks and the difficulties in controlling the harmful effects of the circulation of information, he spoke about his hobbies (the Jiu Jitsu and other martial arts) but also its optimistic projections within the metaverseyour big bet.
Buterinthe lesser known, described more technical aspects of the high impact of the crypto revolution: these days, the creator of the network ethereum is going through a key moment that promises to restore optimism about the scope of technology blockchain: gives details about the great expectations around the profound change baptized “merge” but focuses its gaze on the effects, which cover energy consumption, the valuation of cryptocurrencies but also the governance of large organizations, decentralization and even calls “start-up companies”. With mathematical logic, it stands aside from extreme positive or negative visions (future of humanity? Useless financial projects?) and defends the work of developer communities in infrastructure.
The coincidence in a matter of days makes the three looks seem more complementary than contradictory. Or more than that: they function as signage to bring us closer, from its protagonists, to the computer revolution that we are leading at the beginning of the 21st century.
This simultaneity is also seen from reflection and the academic field.
The philosopher best-seller Byung-Chul Han has been offering articles in which he puts these changes at the center of his analysis. Increasingly further away from its oriental imprint, and in line with its recent Infocracy (where it postulates the effects of “dataism” and the effects of the “information regime” on democracy), a new compilation in Spanish is published these days under the title Capitalism and the death drive (Herder, September 2022). In the main essay, Han mixes, with obvious influence from Freud, the aggressiveness, the violence, the accumulation of capital and, in short, the dilemma between progress and death from a collective perspective, of the human species: where does that come from? impulse? Is it ultimately a contradiction?
The look, with a different approach, has points of contact with the work of McKenzie Wark, an interesting political and cultural figure who will arrive in Buenos Aires in the next few days for FILBA (he already accredits pioneering essays such as the hacker manifesto, 2008, up to a recent personal novel, Reverse Cowgirl, Black Box).
In Capitalism has died, the essay recently published by the interesting Spanish collection Holobionte (July 2022) already asks from the title if what we are experiencing today is not even worse. From an activist and explicitly post-Marxist perspective, he also develops, throughout several articles, a postulate that has information technology at its core: the new class struggle is taking place between hackers and vectorialists, creators and appropriators of value in this era . It is a vision in which the access, control and exploitation precisely of the informative “surplus value” is, for her, the center of the current dispute. In any case, his thesis is that if the facts on which the idea of capitalism was based in the mid-nineteenth century cannot be considered dead, surely our ways of understanding it are exhausted. Like Byung Chul-Han, he considers that this computerization at the beginning of the century also offers us great difficulty in understanding our roles in this process, the paradoxes and also the dilemmas between progress and destruction, between life and death.
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Past, present and future of the computer revolution