Published on February 29th, 2012 | by Thompson2
Techgnosis by Erik Davis
“With pills modifying personality, machines modifying bodies, and synthetic pleasures and networked minds engineering a more fluid and invented sense of self, the boundaries of our identities are mutating as well.” -Erik Davis, Techgnosis
The growing digitization of our markets, cultures, and words has certainly changed the way we live, but it’s also blurred the line between fact and fiction. Either we, as a society, have become dumber or more gullible, or the Internet just paved the way for more imaginative, abstract thought that appeals to our technosoul. Erik Davis documents these changes in his book Techgnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information, and attempts to explain the effect on society and the soul.
“[T]he computer has definitely become an idol – and a rather demanding one at that, almost as thirsty for sacrifice as the holy spirit of money itself. Since the empire of global capitalism is wagering the future of the planet on technology, we are right to distrust any myths that obscure the enormous costs of the path we’ve taken, In the views of many prophets today, crying in and for the wilderness, the spiritual losses we have accrued in our haste to measure, exploit, and commodify the world are already beyond reckoning. By submitting ourselves to the ravenous and nihilistic robot of science, technology, and media culture, we have cut ourselves off from the richness of the soul and from the deeply nourishing networks of family, community, and the local land” (Davis, 8).
It’s ironic that when Hunter Thompson first started blurring the line between fiction and fact, he was doing so from a typewriter, and though he remained devoted to that typewriter in the information age, he couldn’t avoid the movement towards digital publication. Near the end of his life, he was writing a column for ESPN.com’s Page 2, blurring the line between sports and politics. He was also receiving satellite feeds of the NBA Finals, the Super Bowl, and March Madness at Owl Farm in Colorado. Even in the middle of nowhere, Hunter had access to every sporting event and every commercial that comes with it. Hunter wasn’t particularly pleased with the situation, as explained in his book Hey Rube, but acclimated to the availability of media.
Davis states a clear case that the Internet has contributed immensely to the growth of mythical, magical, and mystical thought, and why not? The Internet itself is rather magical and mystifying, but what has allowed these abstract ideas to grow? The overwhelming nature of the Internet and its endless information archives make it difficult to decipher fact from fiction. The Internet is very Gonzo in this respect. The open nature of the Net allows anyone to publish their opinions, creating a Gonzo realm of information that conceals facts in a sea of fiction, drowning its users with fallacies. The users that overcome this sea of fallacies do so only through massive auditing of material, but I suppose finding a trustworthy news station requires the same auditing, often in vain. In short, the Internet allows fiction to flourish, and with more information comes more confusion. The confused either accept a fiction as fact or become conspiracy theorists, certain everything is connected and forever searching for truth.
Davis writes “technologies extend our creative powers by amputating our natural ones.” Our creativity is extended to a larger audience, but through the use of technology our creative faculties actually decrease. So, does the Internet make us more creative? Erik Davis would say no, but it does allow for imaginations to mingle and grow a societal mind, creating more and more organizations and religious sects with the power to communicate across the globe. The Internet allows people to organize and it seems no one is excluded anymore. There’s something for everyone. Davis consistently calls the Internet the “digital frontier,” a digital version of the American West, and when a new frontier is discovered it seems the first thing we as humans do is colonize it, building digital societies and online identities. These avatars are an extension of our soul – our technosoul – and it’s important that we do not allow the technosoul too much influence, but embrace what we can learn from information technology and avoid the traps of pure spectacle.