Note — Sep 05, 2021

Revenge of the Real

At 032c, an interview with Benjamin Bratton about his book Revenge of the real. Although it’s about his views on the west’s covid ineptitude, it does overlap with his idea of planetary sapience which I find intriguing and his answers go some way in decrypting that vision.

Especially worth a read for the framing of the pandemic as a “massive experiment in comparative governance” of each country’s response to the climate crisis, and for Bratton’s sure to fail but likely correct intended shifting of the word “surveillance.” He feels it’s used too narrowly, that some “societal self-sensing” is useful but being thrown out with the rest.

Finally, you should read it alongside the previous piece; that one is basically taking stock of the technological layer around the world; this one is considering the next stages; both starting from the lessons of the pandemic.

Governance really has to do with all of the modes and processes by which a society makes sense of itself, and then acts upon itself through processes of deliberate composition. […]

[W]e’ve dismantled the state’s capacity to govern deliberately over the past decades, not months. At the end of this road, we may have nothing left but police functions in terms of what states are allowed to do. […]

[T]he longer that intelligent and equitable plans are deferred, the more likely that stupid and authoritarian plans will be realized by default. […]

We are at a point in history where it is quite clearly understood that the political, economic, cultural, epidemiological, bio-political circumstances in which we are all enmeshed inevitably operate at a planetary scale. But, the political technologies we have, to act upon those circumstances and compose them, are artificially diminished down to spatial and temporal scales that are mismatched with the conditions they’re being asked to act upon.