‘Power remains strong when it remains in the dark; exposed to the sunlight it begins to evaporate.’ — Samuel Huntington
The hegemonic power of the 21st century will be the one that wins control of the Global Brain. Combined with Samuel Huntington’s formula for the exercise of power, and justified by the metaphysics of “perception is reality”, you begin, perhaps, to see the problem I also see in Rolf Jensen’s plans for “The Dream Society”, and for what Algis Mikunas describes as “technocratic shamanism”.
This is one of the scenarios in which the prospective emergence of “integral consciousness” may be abortive. Others, of course, may be climate catastrophe or a global nuclear war, in which case all questions about the hegemonic power become rather moot. Death would be the hegemon.
This menace explains the urgency thinkers like Jean Gebser have expressed for a new metanoia, a new consciousness — one characterised by “diaphaneity” or “the transparency of the world”. Even before Gebser, William Blake clearly foresaw the fate of “Single Vision” and Urizenic Man unless we succeeded in “cleansing the doors of perception” (or “unfolding the wings of perception”, as Castaneda’s “don Juan” put it).
You can learn quite a lot about the Global Brain and its historical development (through telegraphy, telephony, radio, television, satellites, and the consolidation of all this in and through the internet) from Howard Bloom’s book on the matter: The Global Brain: The Evolution of the Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century. You can also learn a great deal about it from Lewis Mumford’s writings on “the Megamachine” or the many works of Marshall McLuhan, such as his Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Basically McLuhan’s “Global Village” and Howard Bloom’s “Global Brain” are the same — the same “new within”. And it’s this “new within”, which is also described by the term “Anthropocene”, that makes something like Jensen’s “Dream Society” entirely feasible, assuming that seeing nothing but our own inner states constantly reflected back at us doesn’t fill us with such self-loathing that we commit collective suicide.
Our present perplexity and bewilderment about current events is largely connected with the fact that we’ve not yet come to terms with this new environment — this “new within”. That we are in this “new within” is largely the meaning of books we’ve reviewed in the past, such as Stirk’s Technology as Magic: The Triumph of the Irrational, or Lee Worth Bailey’s The Enchantments of Technology, or Robert Romanyshyn’s Technology as Symptom & Dream, amongst others. It’s also the theme of The Matrix, as well, which seems so much to resemble Blake’s “Ulro” or “Vala”, where “the Architect” very clearly corresponds to Blake’s “Urizen”.
It’s this “new within” that accounts for the “collapse of reality”, or the confusion of fact and fiction, fantasy and reality, subject and object that undergirds much of “the Dream Society” as well. The ascent of propaganda or perception management as a technology of social and political control has coincided with the slow birth of the Global Brain, too. At each stage of its development or articulation, certain special interest groups have emerged to try to dominate and control, or gain a monopoly over, that particular development corresponding to one of the senses (radio and the ear, television and the eye, etc), so it’s not entirely unexpected that with the advent of the Global Brain, and its consolidation of all these media, that groups would arise to try to gain control over the entire sensorium, nervous system, or the field of perception of the Global Brain. This is the logic of “The Dream Society” and of “marketing 3.0”, or what is called “holistic branding” (meaning, “cradle to grave” control). It’s just a further development on “The Battle For Your Mind“, or for what is now called “The Attention Economy”.
Cyberwarfare is the new form of warfare in The Dream Society and the Global Brain. It has no interest, really, in seizing and holding territory so much as in capturing and holding “hearts and minds” by attempting to control and regulate the entire sensorium, and to do so — consistent with Huntington’s formula for power — by stealth marketing or “under the radar“.
Jensen holds that “the Dream Society” is “the final form of society”. What it is, rather, is the logical conclusion to “the culture of narcissism” only. Like Narcissus in the myth of Narcissus and Echo, we see and hear only ourselves and our own inner, subjective states reflected back at us, often in quite distorted form, like seeing our own image in a murky, turbulent stream or in a house of mirrors.
This isn’t some dystopian future. This is happening right now (and it’s not just Russian hackers or cybernauts). It’s also what’s behind the scandals around Strategic Communications Ltd and Cambridge Analytica (rightly referred to as “the tip of the iceberg“) and which lends that “Wizard of Oz” (or “Orwellian”) feel to our times. It’s just a further development of “the Battle For Your Mind” (or, as Jensen would have it, your “Imagination”). And in that sense, the Dream Society is just another development on what Philip Slater calls “Control Culture”.
Judging from books like Gary Lachman’s Dark Star Rising, or Peter Pomerantsev’s Nothing is True Everything is Possible, Jensen’s post-modern “Dream Society” is already pretty far advanced in Putin’s Russia. But when Guliani stated the other day that “truth isn’t truth”, we see that the same post-modern “Dream Society” logic — that “perception is reality” — has taken hold in the West also. This convergence can only be explained by the facts of the “new within”, which gives our era an aura of irreality and is also connected with Gebser’s “irruption” or the return of the repressed. It has become our environment, and we have to become conscious of that as such (or, as Paul Levy puts it, “awaken in the dream“).
“Holistic branding”, as Mr. Lindstrom calls it (or “spiritual marketing” as otherwise known) isn’t. It is the image of Sheldon Wolin’s (or Chris Hedges’) “Inverted Totalitarianism“. Quite a few former “technotopians” are now in dismay about what has happened to their dreams for the Global Brain. They were simply a little naive about what this “new within” meant, too, and of the power struggles among shadowy factions to seize or gain control over this “new within” (it’s sometimes interesting to follow their Twitter feeds as they muse over how to “fix” it).
But the truth is as Einstein once put it, more or less — the consciousness that created the problem isn’t the consciousness that can solve the problem. Even just perceiving this “new within” for what it is is a step towards metanoia and transcending it — that it is, as Mumford put it, our “inside” now become our “outside”, including, of course, the “Shadow”. Or, as they say, “the genie is out of the bottle”, and it’s definitely on a rampage.
This is why we have guides like William Blake, or Jean Gebser, or Rosenstock-Huessy among others to help us navigate the chaos without succumbing to it or to “the new within”.