if the twentieth century put an end to the idea of collective society,
the idea that scientific management and social engineering could
produce a new man, a new civil order, a society owned by all, the 21st
century promised we would flourish in our differences, each with our
own taste. products and solutions would be customized for our unique
needs. in satisfying our own needs we would create a public. a society
the new calculations of accommodating difference would do away with
the nightmares and exclusions that had produced mass society, nations
states, ethnic conflicts. it would be an end to the tyranny of unified
culture, an end to totalitarianisms.
we would now be free atoms, distinct and discreet nodes in a network.
with the new science of chaos theory and complexity, with better
understanding of nature, unlike the brute rationality of early science
we would find live ourselves self organizing in a series of rolling
plateaus, each finding its own order but most importantly each
resulting not from a command outside but from the will of individuals.
we would participate in a consumer culture of one to one, where power
flowed from our choices. the self interest of each of us would produce
a world rightly ordered by our choices in a free market place.
without an outside, a managerial elite or government edict that had
pushed for and succeed in creating a liberal society, we would now let
things find their own order, from the ground up. our desires would be
expressed by a purchasing power, it would be our vote and the market
would continually adjust to accommodate the desires we expressed. we
could all now be winners using the network effects to scale up to
success, a success each of us had agency to produce.
there were no larger structures to trump agency. if you could make you
would make it.
yet it was precisely this elevation of our differences to the
exclusion of our commonalities that took away our power. we were now a
society of individuals without a society.
we were soft machines controlled by our own on board computers and all
our needs and wants seen through the rich data mines of the hundreds
of traces we entered into networks everyday.
we believed machines neutral and objective and that in indexing these
traces we possessed and produced knowledge. we believes that market
forces and desires would shape a world that had reason to be of its
own. there was no power, there were only attractors that formed and
shaped as a result of these monitored transactions.
but this was a trap as we could not see the larger picture. as we had
given up and had no new models to express ourselves collectively.