“at the collective level, something funny is going on in terms of our reality testing…”

Some interesting thoughts [as ever! – Ed] from the writer and novelist Will Self in an interview in the Irish Times today.

If Self was concerned about the impact of technology seven years ago, what about now, when the overwhelming impression for many people is that the world is spinning faster and faster? Or is that just another technological illusion? “Oh no, I don’t think it is. It is absolutely not an illusion. Anybody smart – no, let’s not get value-judgmental about this – anybody lucid can apprehend that the world is a large-scale and inherently chaotic system in all sorts of ways.”

As Self sees it, the worldwide adoption of wireless broadband in 2004 was a definitive turning-point for society. “That really was the point at which the feedback loop began to accelerate. What strikes me, and I think it’s in the three novels as well, is the sense that it’s not good or bad, necessarily. It’s large-scale actions which lead people to believe that they’re in control – that’s the really dangerous thing. It’s the illusion of control, against a background of things running out of control, that’s so worrying.”

With their obsessive circling around his central themes while, at the same time, spiralling in all directions, Self’s trilogy dramatises humanity’s fondness for worrying about the wrong things. He doesn’t, he says, go the way of scientists such as Susan Greenfield, who foresee a radical alteration in our brain chemistry because we spend too much time on the phone.

“As a monist I don’t believe the mind rules the body or the body rules the mind,” he says. “I just think they’re the same thing. But I do think you can see – and everybody comments on it – that at the collective level, something funny is going on in terms of our reality testing; of what we respond to at a collective level, and how we divide up the real and the virtual.”


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  • chrisjones2

    Its not just wireless broadband. Thats just a vehicle for connectivity. Nor the speed of the feedback loop.

    Its what all of that enables in both connectivity of people and machines. With that and Artificial Intelligence we face the prospect of huge advances in robotics and automation in the next 10 years.

    Self driving electric cars are just one example. Great for convenience but look at the implications for jobs. They require much less servicing and dont wear out as quickly. Its sensible that we move away from a model of personal ownership to a pooled system, – on demand taxi services …but we dont need to pay for taxi drivers or companies. Buses? Soon a thing of the past or with automated systems.

    Over 20 years whole swathes of jobs in vehicle sales, maintenance, taxiing , driving will go – even traffic wardens. The middle class occupations will be decimated too – the law? Accountancy? Education? Already basic accounting packages offer ‘press button’ accounts production for small businesses.

    Yes. it is spinning faster and has only started to accelerate in a new industrial revolution that will really mess with our brains

  • lizmcneill

    Automated buses or bus-like vehicles will probably still be around to efficiently move passengers in densely built-up areas.

  • hgreen

    The problem isn’t technology. The problem is our political and economic systems have failed to adapt.

  • aquifer
  • mickfealty

    Welcome to my world Hugh… 😉

  • Zorin001

    And show no sign of catching up anytime soon

  • Patrick Jones

    The old Belfast Black Cabs offered a very good service – albeit it often uninsured and riven by homicidal maniacs -and I really wonder if they may not displace the bus.

  • Brian O’Neill

    They are less popular now. Pensioners get the bus for free and with a smartlink card the buses are now cheaper as well.

    Years ago I used to work up on the Glens of Antrim. At that stage I did not drive so used to get the bus regularly. Very often I would be the only passenger on a 60 seater bus. It would have been cheaper to get my a private taxi.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Bucking the trend, Russian political systems seem to be using new technologies quite expertly.