“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.”

Indeed.


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