I wrote this piece around 4 years ago, but it’s still in tune with my current thoughts/feelings.
I feel like I’ve removed myself from a large machine, and can view it from a distance. It’s purpose seems as simple as watching a person go about their daily life. Like a person, it has no specific pre-meditated goal (when seen from an outside, long-term, unbiased point). It’s goal is a result of the collection of actions it preforms with regularity.
A person works their job, has kids, buys things, consumes them and throws them out. Their purpose is to maintain society in two ways. One, the propagation of humans and the specific meme which their society wants. Two, the ‘machine’ is operated and maintained. Think of a city as a machine. All aspects of the city make up the machine (buildings, infrastructure, etc) except the humans inside. They are the operators. You work to put goods/services into the machine and you use the machine to supply you with what you want.
This occurred to me a I entered downtown on a sky train thinking about when stores close. I felt that I was limited in how I could choose to schedule my day by when stores are open. It clicked in my head that the city as a whole is a giant machine that we all operate. Sometimes the machine needs to rest.
These machines (for each city is it’s own machine) form networks with each other along trade routes. Certain machines may not survive because they lose the ingredients they need (the human populace leaves, lack of local resources, etc). These machines can be analysed similar to an animal species. Each culture around the world is it’s own breed. Proximity means that resources are similarly difficult to acquire and therefore the machines develop similarly.
Cities everywhere follow this pattern. The development of humanity in a historical sense (circa roughly 10,000 years ago) is not human development but the evolution of these machines. They become bigger, more encompassing as we create new and better technologies for them. The detachment with other humans is because the machine itself is not acting in our best interests but it’s own. The more isolated from each other we are the more we need to take from the machine.
Sadly the Internet is just another extension of the machine. It’s actually one of the last major steps required for it to have total domination over human life. The Internet allows the machine to deliver constant streams of information to each of us individually. It further isolates us while providing an easy media to indoctrinate us. The Internet is a component of the machine which had to find it’s own justification for existence. It created a meme in all of us Onliners that the Internet is about freedom. We use it to rebel against the machine but it only further isolates us.
On seeing the machine from the outside it’s ugly in human terms. There isn’t a subjective aesthetic on this, it’s human bias to call it ugly. It’s a life form (in the universal Darwinian sense) like anything else and human opinions on beauty are not relevant. Organic beings also form conglomerations in nature, ants are a prime example. Why is one better than another?
Given the damage that the city-machine has done to it’s surrounding habitat, it’s clearly not a sustainable organism. Like dropping an invasive species onto an island with no similar predators, it will destroy it’s resource base and starve to death. Best case scenario is that a massive die off happens, but a minority of aberrant individuals have adaptations that allow them to survive. They can then repopulate and hopefully achieve some sort of equilibrium with their ecosystem.
And yes, what I’m discussing here would be catastrophic in human terms. The end of civilization (or a 95% drop) would entail massive loss of human life, which would be a tragedy. From a human perceptive. Looking at it from the big picture, from the scale of life and the earth, it would be one more learning experience for evolution.
I try and see the positive in everything, and that includes the apocalypse.