Zero History (William Gibson)
– Highlight Loc. 3196-98 | Added on Sunday, November 28, 2010, 04:25 PM
“But not all secrets are information people are trying to conceal. Some secrets are information that’s there, but people can’t have it.” “There where?” “It just is, in the world.
Sounds true, doesn’t it? Even taken out of context, stripped of any history, there seems to be some granule of verité that resounds having considered just these two lines. It in fact reminds me of one of the assertions that D. Wallace seems to be making in his last “unfinished” [think totally, heart-breakingly incomplete], namely that all the information is already here now, in the world and that all that we can do is “wrangle” it, be the cowboys and cowgirls of the information herd, shepherd it, bring it to rich grazing grounds, consume its milk [digital nectar], eventually slaughter and eat it [in case you’re of carnivorous inclination]. The point being that no essentially new information really still enters the world, which I consider a post-modern fallacy, another premature “The End of History/Originiality” spiel. It’s interesting that Wallace used the cowboy analogy because Gibson used it too in Neuromancer, some of that incorrigible Frontier spirit, an appeal to the American archetypes: Information can be mastered, it can be [more apposite in Gibson’s conceptual universe] branded.
Yet the quote remains arcane, inaccessible to some degree, felt to be right only at an intuitive, pre-conceptual level. Who are these “people”? And why can’t they have the information if it is right there “in the world”? My guess is that the answer has something do to with an issue that Gibson keeps coming back to: pattern recognition. All the data is there already but “the people” are unable to recognize the existing pattern and put it together in a meaningful way, in a way that creates meaning out of informational chaos.
Zero History (William Gibson)
– Highlight Loc. 4062-65 | Added on Tuesday, December 07, 2010, 08:40 AM
She got what I was trying to get away from. The seasons, the bullshit, the stuff that wore out, fell apart, wasn’t real. I’d been that girl, walking across Paris, to the next shoot, no money for a Métro card, and I’d imagined those shoes. And when you imagine something like that, you imagine a world. You imagine the world those shoes come from, and you wonder if they could happen here, in this world, the one with all the bullshit. And sometimes they can.
And this is what we tend to forget or romanticize away, given how often we click through the digital info-sphere, the irreducible materiality of being human. That in the end we are always stuff which/who needs more stuff and that even information, these lines right here on a screen is actually stuff too [polarized particles on a screen] and that nearly nothing other than perhaps light/energy escapes this sphere of stuffiness. Even the ideals and images in our heads, when one really gets down to it, are blood&bone neurons firing away and what might seem like an abstraction is a pretty darn specific chemical process. That’s not saying that everything is material but a whole damn lot is, especially at this stage of our species’ development and to think otherwise because we have an internet [run on giga-tonnes of copper, glass fiber and insulation cables, server-farm outfits, not to mention all that other stuff]. We make of our ineluctable materiality, yes, a sort of secret.
And maybe the sigil for that is many, many people’s obsession with clothes. How we must possess ever more of them to desperately, confusedly signal something about who we think we are. But what the fuck is the message of a pair of jeans? Of a pair of Nike Air Max? Little to none, perhaps a couple of bits [poor/rich, man/woman, hipster/nerd, what-have-you/what-have-you-not]. There is a way out of this though, imagined in the quote, namely that you create your own stuff, for [a most unlikely] example: sneakers. Those god-damn foot-canoes that almost everybody is feigning after, a smooth-blend of everyday use-value and all-around visibility and status. The shoes are very strange bed fellows though: they usually just last long enough to get some sort of sentimental value going when the sole starts peeling off or the upper starts presenting with sizable, ungainly fabric lacerations. However, we survive them, we survive our shoes, as we survive most of our everyday use objects. And a certain positive feeling is associated with that: us the survivors and those deceased inanimate, partially en-charactered objects. There is a perhaps involuntarily existential dimension to the phenomenon of built-in obsolescence. To think that my Samsung cellphone would still be around [with those numbers of my family and friends, perhaps even the screen picture of my gf] while I lie beneath the grass is, frankly, depressing.
Surface Detail (Iain M. Banks)
– Highlight Loc. 2062-66 | Added on Wednesday, December 29, 2010, 01:36 AM
The harder the haul up the developmental ladder a species had suffered – rising from the usual primordial slime of just-dawned sentience with only (for example) the wheel to their name, to the dizzy heights and endless cheery sunshine of easy space flight, limitless energy, amusingly co-operative AIs, anti-ageing, anti-gravity, the end of disease and other cool tech – the more likely it was that that species would have entertained the idea of an immortal soul at some important point in its history and still be carrying the legacy of it now they had escaped the muck and had hit civilisational cruise phase.
And if “the idea of an immortal soul” is not a secret that is out in the open then at least it is certainly the anti-thesis to being mired in materiality. Because having wrangled structure/life from entropy via orderly, finite energy-conversion we are always obsessed, at bottom, with the inevitable reversal of the process: decay, collapse and ultimately, oblivion. One day our era’s finest achievements will be a smattering of dust and a few lonesome waves of energy on their way to the edge of our cosmic bubble [or disk or torus or whatever-the-fuck].
The way in which I do not know even a single person’s name from fifty-thousand years ago, so nobody hence will remember one Themba Benedict Giger-Mabona. And even knowing that I live and have a consciousness only in the present moment and a passel to come [but not a single millennium from now] does not change a deep sense of loss or prospective nostalgia at the things we lost in the solar-temporal cataclysm.
Perhaps ironically, the most relentless, conceptually project in literature against the ever-looming prospect of oblivion is the unjustly derided genre of SciFi. Here the future always remains a space of total possibility, where in the extreme case individual consciences may survive as long as they choose to [e.g. “Altered carbon”] even if they almost always decide not to. And more importantly, it seems for the nonexistence-scarred mind, record-keeping most certainly continues ad infinitum. Our footprints will forever be preserved on some far-away, unthinkable, informational beach for posterity [be it just a single specimen] to pore over and scratch its brain-containing body part and laugh in ridicule.
And I surmise that religions’ idea of the soul was just an early solution to the same fundamental problem and it too was premised on what is conventionally conceived of as non-material, instead of information there is the spirit. The secret which is everywhere present in the world.
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