Limited / Limitless





Limited                            -                      Limitless
Circular                           -                      Linear 
Conserve                          -                      Progress  
Completion                      -                      Perfection
Earth                                -                      Heaven 
Sacred                              -                      Profane 
                  



One of the benefits of religion is that it allows us to draw boundaries, to mark off no-go-zones. Without an encompassing and binding narrative like religion, we are at the mercy of our expansive urges.

Sacredness implies limits - "only at this time", "only by these people." 

Nietzsche suggests that the development of a culture must happen at a certain pace, a careful pace.
This, then, is the job of the conservative - to slow the pace to an andante and to prevent it from progressing too quickly.





Perhaps the question is not, "Can The Matrix ever become a reality?" 

Rather, "What will stop The Matrix from becoming a reality?"

In other words, is technology inevitably taking us toward this destination? If so, when do we put the brakes on?

Another way to look at it is to ask, "If we had the appropriate technology now, would it happen?"

It may already be happening, bit by bit, one advance after another.

We look at The Matrix and are horrified, and yet we covet and praise the contemporary 'advances' that may lead us toward it.




The rule in biological evolution is plain: The immediate individual bodily effects of functioning shall never be allowed to impinge upon the individual genetic coding.

The gene pool of the population is however subject to change under a natural selection which will recognize differences, especially differences in ability to achieve more adaptive functioning. The barrier which prohibits 'Lamarckian' inheritance precisely protects the gene system from too rapid change under possibly capricious environmental demands.

But in cultures and social system [...] there is no equivalent barrier.

Innovations become irreversibly adopted into the on-going system without being tested for long-time viability; and necessary changes are resisted by the core of conservative individuals without any assurance that these particular changes are the ones to resist.

Individual comfort and discomfort become the only criteria for choice of social change and the basic contrast of logical typing between member and the category is forgotten until new discomforts are (inevitably) created by the new state of affairs.

Fear of individual death and grief propose that it would be 'good' to eliminate epidemic disease and only after 100 years of preventive medicine do we discover that the population is overgrown. And so on.

[Gregory Bateson]
Mind and Nature, p. 238




The machine metaphor, stressing bigger and more efficient operations in wordly society, stands in sharp contrast to Amish thinking about the use of tools.

The logic of expanded technology points toward infinite industrial growth and infinite energy consumption. The energy crisis is for the Amish a crisis not of supply but of use, not of technology but of morality.

By carefully restricting the use of machine-developed energy, the Amish "have become the only true masters of technology."

The Amish have problems, but with respect to energy and the balancing of human life with machines, they have mastered one of the contradictions so puzzling to modern society.

By holding technology at a distance, by exercising restraint and moderations, and by accepting limitations and living within then, the Amish have maintained the integrity of their family and community life.

They have escaped many of the noxious side effects of ambitious technology - haste, aimlessness, distraction, violence, waste, and disintegration.

[John A. Hostetler]
Amish Society, p. 383-4




Bostrom calls this the Technological Completion Conjecture:

If scientific- and technological-development efforts do not effectively cease, then all impor­t­­­ant basic capabilities that could be obtained through some possible technology will be obtained.

In light of this, he suspects that the farther into the future one looks the less likely it seems that life will continue as it is. He favors the far ends of possibility: humanity becomes transcendent or it perishes.

The Doomsday Invention: Will artificial intelligence bring us utopia or destruction?

 



The Amish are inutitively aware of the danger of large-scale enterprises [...] Limitless technology is, for them, greed and a denial of wisdom.

Amish economic thinking is subjected to a traditional wisdom requiring the restraint of selfishness, greed, leisure, and expansionist thinking.

The future of the Amish will be determined not solely by technology, or the means to life, but by the definition they themselves give to life.

[John A. Hostetler]
Amish Society, p. 396




Many argue that posthuman space will be more virtual than real.

Individuals may consist of uploaded minds living as data patterns on supercomputers or users engaged in completely immersive virtual realities.

Postgenderists contend that these types of existences are not gender-specific thus allowing individuals to morph their virtual appearances and sexuality at will.

Postgenderism 




The body, that inconvenient reminder of mortality, is plucked, pierced, etched, pummelled, pumped up, shrunk and remoulded [...] What seems a celebration of the body, then, may also cloak a virulent anti-materialism - a desire to gather this raw, perishable stuff into the less corruptible forms of art or discourse.

The resurrection of the body returns as the tattoo parlour and the cosmetic surgeon's consulting-room. To reduce this obstreperous stuff to so much clay in our hands is a fantasy of mastering the unmasterable.

It is a disavowal of death, a refusal of the limit which is ourselves.

For all its love affair with matter, in the shape of Tuscan villas and double brandies, capitalist society harbours a secret hatred of the stuff. It is a culture shot through with fantasy, idealist to its core, powered by a disembodied will which dreams of pounding Nature to pieces. It makes an idol out of matter, but cannot stomach the resistance it offers to its grandiose schemes.

Taming the Mississippi and piercing your navel are just earlier and later versions of the same ideology. Having moulded the landscape to our own image and likeness, we have now begun to recraft ourselves. Civil engineering has been joined by cosmetic surgery.

'Personalizing' the body may be a way of denying its essential impersonality. Its impersonality lies in the fact that it belongs to the species before it belongs to me; and there are some aspects of the species-body - death, vulnerability, sickness and the like - that we may well prefer to thrust into oblivion.

[Terry Eagleton]
After Theory, p.164-6




Religion has invisible purposes beyond what the literal-minded scientistic-scientifiers identify - one of which is to protect us from scientism, that is, them.

We can see in the corpus of inscriptions (on graves) accounts of people erecting fountains or even temples to their favourite gods after these succeeded where doctors failed. Indeed we rarely look at religion’s benefits in limiting the intervention bias and its iatrogenics: in a large set of circumstances (marginal disease), anything that takes you away from the doctor and allows you to do nothing (hence gives nature a chance to do its work) will be beneficial.

I believe in the heuristics of religion and blindly accommodate its rules (as an Orthodox Christian, I can cheat once in a while, as it is part of the game). Among other things the role of religion is to tame the iatrogenics of abundance - fasting makes you lose your sense of entitlement.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
Antifragile, p. 364-5




Much has been gained when the feeling has at last been instilled into the masses (into the shallow-pates and greedyguts of every sort) that there are things they must not touch; that there are holy experiences before which they have to take off their shoes and keep their unclean hands away - it is almost their highest advance towards humanity. 

Conversely, there is perhaps nothing about the so-called cultured, the believers in 'modern ideas', that arouses so much disgust as their lack of shame, the self-satisfied insolence of eye and hand with which they touch, lick and fumble with everything; and it is possible that more relative nobility of taste and reverential tact is to be discovered today among the people, among the lower orders and especially among peasants, than among the newspaper-reading demi-monde of the spirit, the cultured.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
Beyond Good and Evil, 263




The historical sense […] to which we Europeans lay claim as our speciality, has come to us in the wake of the mad and fascinating semi-barbarism into which Europe has been plunged through the democratic mingling of classes and races […]

The past of every form and mode of life, of cultures that formerly lay close beside or on top of one another, streams into us 'modern souls' thanks to this mingling, our instincts now run back in all directions, we ourselves are a kind of chaos [...]

Through our semi-barbarism in body and desires we have secret access everywhere such as a noble age never had, above all the access to the labyrinth of unfinished cultures and to every semi-barbarism which has ever existed on earth; and, in so far as the most considerable part of human culture hitherto has been semi-barbarism, "historical sense' means virtually the sense and instinct for everything, the taste and tongue for everything: which at once proves it to be an ignoble sense. 

We enjoy Homer again, for instance: perhaps it is our happiest advance that we know how to appreciate Homer, whom the men of a noble culture […] cannot and could not assimilate so easily - whom they hardly permitted themselves to enjoy. The very definite Yes and No of their palate, their easily aroused disgust, their hesitant reserve with regard to everything strange, their horror of the tastelessness even of a lively curiosity, and in general that unwillingness of a noble and self-sufficient culture to admit to a new desire, a dissatisfaction with one's own culture, an admiration for what is foreign: all this disposes them unfavourably towards even the best things in the world which are not their property and could not become their prey - and no sense is so unintelligible to such men as the historical sense and its obsequious plebeian curiosity. 

That as men of the 'historical sense’ we have our virtues is not to be denied - we are unpretentious, selfless, modest, brave, full of self-restraint, full of devotion, very grateful, very patient, very accommodating - with all that, we are perhaps not very 'tasteful'. 

Let us finally confess it to ourselves: that which we men of the "historical sense' find hardest to grasp, to feel, taste, love, that which at bottom finds us prejudiced and almost hostile, is just what is complete and wholly mature in every art and culture, that which constitutes actual nobility in works and in men, their moment of smooth sea and halcyon self-sufficiency, the goldness and coldness displayed by all things which have become perfect. 

Perhaps our great virtue of the historical sense necessarily stands opposed to good taste, or to the very best taste at any rate [...]

Measure is alien to us, let us admit it to ourselves; what we itch for is the infinite, the unmeasured. Like a rider on a charging steed we let fall the reins before the infinite, we modern men, like semi-barbarians - and attain our state of bliss only when we are most – in danger.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
Beyond Good and Evil, 224




It is preeminently in the generations and castes that conserve a people that we encounter such recrudescences of old instincts, while such atavisms are improbable wherever races, habits, and valuations change too rapidly. 

For tempo is as significant for the development of peoples as it is in music: in our case, an andante of development is altogether necessary as the andante of a passionate and slow spirit; and that is after all the value of the spirit of conservative generations.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
The Gay Science, 10