“But it is not Facebook that has spawned the frustration, impotent anger and hatred. It is the increasingly unequal, precarious and violent economic system that is the breeding ground for collective aggression. And, of course, Facebook is also part of this system. The social networks, from which the warmth of bodies has disappeared, only reinforce this violence while glorifying its ineffectiveness. The more our rage grows, the more we say it out loud in the bell jar of the Connected, the bigger powerlessness becomes.” Another stunning text by Franco “Bifo” Berardi that leaves us no choice, either we accept the harshness of reality or we become accomplices to the horrors of domination. There is nothing in between. The text appeared on Commune Info on November 2. Sunzi Bingfa.
Everything has already been written in the Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace, written by John Perry Barlow in 1993. “In the name of the future, I ask you from the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome here. You have no sovereignty over the territory in which we gather. We have not elected a government and have no intention of having one, so I address you with the authority that comes from the place where freedom speaks. I declare that the global social space we are building is inherently independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us, and you do not possess an instrument of imposition that we have to fear”
In thirty years, cyberspace has emerged, a hyperworld over which the earthly world no longer has any power of disposal. The contribution that industrial companies have paid in the form of taxes does not apply to companies that have established a non-territorial sphere. The political powers are not sovereign in the sphere of non-territory; on the contrary, the virtual non-territory has become the global infrastructure without which the political, administrative and economic system cannot function. The hyperworld is a dimension that recodes social reality by transferring linguistic practices (economy, politics, communication, affectivity) to an accelerated level that is independent of territorial laws.
The metaworld is a dimension that not only recodes the world, but also recodes psychic and linguistic nervous subjectivity by transforming it into a metaworld of simulated stimuli and perceptions.
In late October 2021, Mark Zuckerberg held a conference in virtual connect. This was certainly not in response to whistleblower allegations denouncing the harmful effects of social networks: trivia, because the exposure of the human mind to an increasing amount of virtual neurostimulation leads to a mutation that goes beyond the political will of censors and moralizers. These complaints are inconsistent: it is true that Facebook, like other social networks, tends to amplify and radicalize social hatred. But it is not Facebook that has spawned the frustration, impotent anger, and hatred. It is the increasingly unequal, precarious, and violent economic system that is the breeding ground for collective aggression. And, of course, Facebook is also part of this system. The social networks, from which the warmth of bodies has disappeared, only reinforce this violence while glorifying its ineffectiveness. The more our anger grows, the more we speak it aloud in the bell jar of the Connected, the bigger powerlessness becomes.
The cycle of impotence has probably now reached its ultimate limit, and Zuckerberg is proposing another leap: the leap into the meta-space for which cyberspace has created the infrastructure. Some critics have noted that Zuckerberg wants to make his system independent of Apple and Google, on which it is currently technically dependent for some functions. In the Nov. 1 New York Times, Sara Zwisher argues that Meta is just a broader corporate structure created by Zucker to escape recent legal troubles. Really? Certainly Zuckerberg’s decisions will be driven by economic and technical considerations. But the philosophical implications of Meta’s launch are much more important, in my opinion. The innovation aims to leverage experiments conducted since the 1980s, when Jaron Lanier was the first to talk about virtual reality and synesthetic communication without symbols. Visual and multisensory definition software has been perfected over those decades, and the meta-project is to bring those technologies together into an immersive experience via a platform like Oculus or other more advanced transducers of electronic impulses. In his talk, Zuckerberg announced the expansion of the immersive dimension with augmented reality hardware and custom sensors. If hyper is a dimension that infinitely accelerates the cycle of impulse communication, then meta is the dimension in which impulse communication simulates and replaces the real relationship between the brain and the world to establish a meta-reality in which the other no longer exists except as simulated nerve stimulation.
And the world
The announcement of a leap from Iper to Meta comes in the same days that preparations are being made for the COP26 conference in Glasgow, which sanctions beyond talk the ultimate impossibility of saving the Earth and its inhabitants from the ravages of warming, the ensuing gigantic migrations and the war, despair and panic that will accompany them.
After the G8 summit in Rome, everyone knows this except Cingolani’s five-star team, which, glued to their armchairs, calmly and thoughtfully continues to repeat their nonsense. The energy crisis is forcing some countries to reopen their coal mines. No realistic plan can reconcile economic growth and emissions reduction. So, given the absolute priority of economic growth, promises are being made again: Everything will be fine in 2050 (or maybe 2060 or 2070), so likely is that by then there will be no one left to verify it. Now that we know the world will become uninhabitable, we start building the metaworld. A population of Hikikomoris who will connect from their workplace to a world of perceptual stimuli. Imagination will have finally taken over. While the physical and social body rots.
Will the Metaworld work? Will a significant part of the human population move to the simulated sphere? I don’t know. What I do know is that one day in October, the entire Facebook system went down for six hours. No one explained what happened, neither Zuckerberg nor anyone else.
So let us speculate. The first hypothesis is that it was internal sabotage: Facebook employees expressed themselves in this way for trade union or political reasons. Too good to be true, and I think they would have told us. The second hypothesis is that the sabotage was organized from outside, by the usual Russians or Macedonians or maybe Chinese, who knows. Possibly, but I don’t think that was the case. The third hypothesis is that Zuckerberg, tired of being attacked out of the media and the American political system, made a small demonstration: try to see what happens when I block a territory that includes three and a half billion citizens, countless companies that produce, distribute, advertise and so on. Possible, realistic. However, the most likely hypothesis is the simplest: the month the world discovered the first global congestion crisis, or rather hypercomplexity, the Facebook system also failed, for the simple reason that somewhere in the infrastructure there was not enough power, or that the demand for connections at that moment exceeded its limits.
The more complex an integrated system is, the less easy it is to locate, isolate and fix faults. In the months and years to come, when the world becomes too ugly to bear, we will probably switch to the metaworld. The headphones in our ears will prevent us from hearing the sound of suffering, and the viewers will prevent us from seeing the misery, sadness and devastation. But at some point, an overload, perhaps Russian sabotage, or an unpredictable, inexplicable power collapse will shut down the earphones and all other connecting devices. As Don DeLillo recounts in his short novel Silenzio. A Silence of the Grave.