In the future, when the history of our time will be written from a long-term perspective, it may be that the most important things historians will see are not technological advancements or the Internet, but the fact that for the first time a substantial and rapidly growing number of people had choices.
Humanismis a rational philosophy informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by compassion.
Affirming the dignity of each human being, it supports the maximization of individual liberty and opportunity consonant with social and planetary responsibility.
It advocates the extension of participatory democracy and the expansion of the open society, standing for human rights and social justice. Free of supernaturalism, it recognizes human beings as a part of nature and holds that values — be they religious, ethical, social, or political — have their source in human experience and culture.
Humanism thus derives the goals of life from human need and interest rather than from theological or ideological abstractions, and asserts that humanity must take responsibility for its own destiny.
“Tomorrow we will show the world that Norway’s democracy grows stronger when it is challenged. (…) We must never cease to stand up for our values. We have to show that our open society can pass this test, too, and that the answer to violence is even more democracy, even more humanity, but never naïveté.
— Speech by Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in Oslo Cathedral after deadly attacks by a Norwegian on a self-styled mission to save European “Christendom” from Islam, July 23, 2011
Charlie Chaplin’s speech in “The Great Dictator” (1940)
“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an Emperor - that’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone, if possible — Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another; human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there’s room for everyone and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.
The way of life can be free and beautiful.
But we have lost the way.
Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.
The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.
To those who can hear me I say, “Do not despair.” The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass and dictators die; and the power they took from the people will return to the people and so long as men die, liberty will never perish.
Soldiers: Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel; who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate; only the unloved hate, the unloved and the unnatural.
Soldiers: Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written, “the kingdom of God is within man” — not one man, nor a group of men, but in all men, in you, you the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.
Then, in the name of democracy, let us use that power! Let us all unite!! Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie! They do not fulfill their promise; they never will. Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people!! Now, let us fight to fulfill that promise!! Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.
Soldiers: In the name of democracy, let us all unite!!!”
Q: What happens to the idea of the dignity of the human species if this population growth continues at its present rate?
It will be completely destroyed. I like to use what I call my bathroom metaphor: If two people live in an apartment, and there are two bathrooms, then both have freedom of the bathroom. You can go to the bathroom anytime you want to and stay as long as you want to for whatever you need. And everyone believes in the freedom of the bathroom; it should be right there in the Constitution.
But if you have twenty people in the apartment and two bathrooms, no matter how much every person believes in freedom of the bathroom, there is no such thing. You have to set up times for each person, you have to bang at the door: “Aren’t you through yet?” and so on. In the same way, democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive it. Convenience and decency cannot survive it. As you put more and more people onto the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It doesn’t matter if someone dies. The more people there are, the less one individual matters.
“Democracy makes democratic laws, tyranny makes tyrannical laws, and so with the others. And they declare what they have made – what is to their advantage – to be just for their subjects, and they punish anyone who goes against this as lawless and unjust. This, then, is what I say justice is, the same in all cities, the advantage of the established rule.” “
A “cyberperson" is one who pilots his/her own life. By definition, the cyberperson is fascinated by navigational information - especially maps, charts, labels, guides, manuals that help pilot one through life. The cyberperson continually searches for theories, models, paradigms, metaphors, images, icons that help chart and define the realities that we inhabit.
“Cybertech" refers to the tools, appliances, and methodologies of knowing and communicating. Linguistics. Philosophy. Semantics. Semiotics. Practical epistemologies. The ontologies of daily life. Words, icons, pencils, printing presses, screens, keyboards, computers, disks.
“Cyberpolitics" introduces the Foucault notions of the use of language and linguistic-tech by the ruling classes in feudal and industrial societies to control children, the uneducated, and the under classes. The words “governor” or “steersman” or “G-man” are used to describe those who manipulate words and communication devices in order to control, to bolster authority-feudal, management, government-and to discourage innovative thought and free exchange. (…)
Cyberpunks use all available data-input to think for themselves. (…)
The classical Olde Westworld model for the cyberpunk is Prometheus, a technological genius who “stole” fire from the Gods and gave it to humanity. Prometheus also taught his gene pool many useful arts and sciences. (…)
The cyberpunk person, the pilot who thinks clearly and creatively, using quantum-electronic appliances and brain know-how, is the newest, updated, top-of-the-line model of the 21st Century: Homo sapiens sapiens cyberneticus. (p. 62-64.) (…)
The term “cybernetics" comes from the Greek word kubernetes, “pilot”.
The Hellenic origin of this word is important in that it reflects the Socratic-Platonic traditions of independence and individual self-reliance which, we are told, derived from geography. The proud little Greek city-states were perched on peninsular fingers wiggling down into the fertile Mediterranean Sea, protected by mountains from the land-mass armies of Asia.
Mariners of those ancient days had to be bold and resourceful. Sailing the seven seas without maps or navigational equipment, they were forced to develop independence of thought. The self-reliance that these Hellenic pilots developed in their voyages probably carried over to the democratic, inquiring, questioning nature of their land life.
The Athenian cyberpunks, the pilots, made their own navigational decisions. (p. 64.) (…)
Cyber: The Greek word kubernetes, when translated to Latin, comes out as gubernetes. This basic verb gubernare means to control the actions or behavior, to direct, to exercise sovereign authority, to regulate, to keep under, to restrain, to steer. This Roman concept is obviously very different from the Hellenic notion of “pilot” (making their own navigational decisions) (…) the meaning of “Cyber” has been corrupted. The Greek word “pilot” becomes “governor” or “director”; the term “to steer” becomes “to control”. The terms “cybernetic person” or “cybernaut” return us to the original meaning of “pilot” and puts the self-reliant person back in the loop. (p. 66.) (…)
These words (and the more pop term “cyberpunk”) refer to the personalization (and thus the popularization) of knowledge-information technology, to innovative thinking on the part of the individual.
According to McLuhan and Foucault, if you change the language, you change the society. Following their lead, we suggest that the therm “cybernetic person, cybernaut” may describe a new species model of human being and a new social order. (p. 67.) (…)
The postpolitical information society, which we are now developing, does not operate on the basis of obedience and conformity to dogma. It is based on individual thinking, scientific know-how, quick exchange of facts around feedback networks, high-tech ingenuity, and practical, front-line creativity. The society of the future no longer grudgingly tolerates a few open-minded innovators. The cybernetic society is totally dependent on a large pool of such people, communicating at light speed with each other across state lines and national boundaries.
Electrified thoughts invite fast feedback, creating new global societies that require a higher level of electronic know-how, psychological sophistication, and open-minded intelligence.
This cybercommunication process is accelerating so rapidly that to compete on the world information market of the 21st Century, nations, companies, even families must be composed of change-oriented, innovative individuals who are adepts in communicating via the new cyberelectronic technologies.
The new breeds are simply much smarter than the old guard. They inhale new information the way they breathe oxygen. They stimulate each other to continually upgrade and reformat their minds. People who use cybertechnology to make fast decisions on their jobs are not going to go home and passively let aging, closed-minded white, male politicians make decidions about their lives.
The emergence of this new open-minded caste in different countries around the world is the central historical issue of the last forty years. (p. 73-75.)
The social and political implications of this democratization of the screen are enormous. In the past to local geography or occasional visits. Now you can play electronic tennis with a pro in Tokyo, interact with classroom in Paris, cyberflirt with cute guys in any four cities of your choice. A global fast-feedback language of icons and memes, facilitated by instant translation devices, will smoothly eliminate the barriers of language that have been responsible for most of the war and conflict of the last centuries. (p. 76.) (…)
Most young people in the liberated lands want to depoliticize, demilitarize, decentralize, secularize, and globalize.
The new breed is jumping the gene pools, forming postindustrial, global meme-pools. They are the informates. From their earliest years, most of their defining memes have come flashing at light speed across borders in digital-electronic form, light signals received by screens and radios and record players. Their habitat is the electron-sphere, the environment of digital signals that is called the info-world. The global village.
The are the first generation of our species to discover and explore Cyberia. The are migrating not to a new place, but to a wide-open new time. The new breed will fashion, conceive, and design the realities they inhabit. (p.77.) (…)
- The ability to operate the brain: activate, boot up, turn on, access neurochannels.
- The ability to reformat and re-edit mind-files.
- The ability to communicate in the multimedia mode; to invent audiographic dictionaries and audiographic grammars. (…)
The 21st Century will witness a new global culture, peopled by new breeds who honour human individuality, human complexity, and human potential, enlightened immortals who communicate at light speed and design the technologies for their scientific re-animation. (p. 80-82.) (…)
Our survival asset is not hive inteliigence, as in the social insects, but individual intelligence. Our species is classified as Homo sapiens sapiens. Victorian scholars apparently decided that we are the creatures who “think about thinking.” Our growth as a species centers on our ability to think and communicate. Predictions about our future would focus on improvements in the way we think.
Our young, rookie species has recently passed through several stages of intelligence:
1. Tribal: For at least 22,000 years (approximately 25,000 to 3000 B.C.) the technologies for sapient thinking-communicating were those of a five-year-old child: bodily, i.e., oral-gestural.
2. Feudal: During an exciting period of approximately 3, 350 years (3000 B.C. to A.D. 350) humans living north of the 35th-parallel latitute developed organized feudal-agricultural societies. The technologies for thinking-communicating were hand-tooled statues, temples, monuments. Their philosophy was enforced by emperors, caliphs, and kings.
3. It took approximately 1,250 years (A.D. 350 to 1600) to coopt the feudal kings and to establish the mechanical assembly-line managerial society. In this age, the technologies of thought-communication were mechanical printing presses, type-writers, telephones, produced by efficient workers in highly organized factories, run by centralized bureaucracies. (…)
By now (…) we have migrated from the “real worlds” of voice, hand, machine into the digitized info-worlds variously called hyperspace, cyberspace, or digital physics.
This migration across the screen into the digital info-world marks the first phase of the postindustrial society. (…)
In twenty years we will spend seven hours a day actively navigating, exploring, colonizing, exploiting the oceans and continents of digital data. Interscreening - creating mutual digitalrealities - will be the most popular and growthful form of human communication. (p. 83.) (…)
The level of intelligence has been tremendously increased, because people are thinking and communicating in terms of screens, and not in lettered books. Much of the real action is taking place in what is called cyberspace. People have learned how to boot up, activate, and transmit their brains.
Essentially, there’s a universe inside your brain. The number of connections possible inside your brain is limitless. And as people have learned to have more managerial and direct creative access to their brains, they have also developed matrices or networks of people that communicate electronically. There are direct brain/computer link-ups. You can just jack yourself in and pilot your brain around in cyberspace-electronic space.” (p. 248.)
In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.
— Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States (1801–1809) and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. (1743-1826)
My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.
— Adlai E. Stevenson, Congressman from Illinois. He was Assistant Postmaster General of the United States during Grover Cleveland’s first administration (1885-1889) and 23rd Vice President of the United States (1835-1914)
It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…’
‘You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?’
‘No’, said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, ‘nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.’
‘Odd’, said Arthur, ‘I thought you said it was a democracy.’
‘I did’, said Ford. ‘It is.’
‘So’, said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, ‘why don’t people get rid of the lizards?’
‘It honestly doesn’t occur to them’, said Ford. ‘They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.’
‘You mean they actually vote for the lizards?’
‘Oh yes’, said Ford with a shrug, ‘of course.’
‘But’, said Arthur, going for the big one again, ‘why?’
‘Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard’, said Ford, ‘the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?’
‘I said’, said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, ‘have you got any gin?’
‘I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.’
Ford shrugged again.
‘Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happenned to them’, he said. ‘They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.’
‘But that’s terrible’, said Arthur.
‘Listen, bud’, said Ford, ‘if I had one Altairian dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say “That’s terrible” I wouldn’t be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin.