It’s curious—maybe even funny?—that so soon after my last essay on Elon Musk and our Faustian fundamentalism, there descended, from the ostensive Parnassus where our tech moguls frolic in magic fountains of source-code, a new “inspiring” declaration that almost makes Musk’s own fanatic dreams of capturing the infinite seem tastefully restrained.
This would, of course, be Jeff Bezos’ effort a few days ago to jump-start the increasingly languid imaginative humors of our civilization, through a great and rousing goal: we ought to aspire, declared Bezos, to have “a trillion humans” inhabiting the solar system one day.
Of course we have enough to think about with what we will do with the 10 billion or so of us already expected by 2050 to make their homes down here on the blue planet, and what they are supposed to strive for or do with their lives. But away with such trifles! (Perhaps our billionaires reason that these will be mostly poor, so it will not matter.)
Mind, it’s not on the agenda of figures like Bezos (nor, frankly, almost any of our “leaders” who are in fact mere followers of the growth-compulsion) to make life more meaningful—just to endlessly increase the sheer amount of biomass living it, and hope we mistake this for meaning..
Really the storied end result (if we cut to the chase) is to make the human race into well-fed animals, fodder for an unreasoning, almost neoplasm-like impulse: we are quite simply to invade and use up everything we contact—all in a purely “physical” sense no less, one that remains studiously empty of all other human aspects and potentials—continuing indefinitely and monotonously in this pattern.
Bezos’ pronouncement is, of course, all just the Faustian impulse again, interesting only in that it here simply magnified to perhaps an even greater extreme than before seen. The resort to such mechanical, hyperbolic one-upsmanship in the affirmation of a worldview itself tells much of the sclerosis of that worldview.
Like Trump, Musk and innumerable others, Bezos is unconsciously, even instinctively following the logic of the Faustian. He, too, is following it correctly: noting the “absolute true fact that Earth is finite” as if it were recent and shocking news, it follows that, if our March on Infinity is to continue, it must lead off-world.
Bezos even references the mostly-failed recent attempt to attain infinity through virtuality, in which he has of course played a huge role, by making the riotously disingenuous comparison between the expansion of computing (simulating) power and the resulting exploration of cyberspace, and actual physical space colonization.
Here is that reasoning, summarized: if we can spend 20 years simulating infinity (albeit unsuccessfully, with diminishing and even negative returns setting in); if we can succeed at addicting billions of people to staring passively at tiny rectangles for the majority of their days… then surely filling up the entire Solar System with human bodies is tractable, dignified, desirable!
As the payoff for this thousand-fold growth in brute human mass, this slow hyper-invasion of the radiation- and micrometeorite-streaked hard vacuum that surrounds us in every direction, Bezos promises us “a thousand Einsteins and a thousand Mozarts”.
Here too one sees on embarrassing display the abysmal unconsciousness of our Faustian fundamentalism, the true intellectual sterility into which it has willingly, even desperately settled. The point is just this: Bezos, a “visionary” mainly in the areas of digitized book-peddling, labor-crunching, and author-bilking, cannot seem to see how pointless, how utterly boring this would be.
Faced with the radical originality that is genius, our master technocrat, the disciple of centralization and bulk delivery, cannot think of anything better to do with it than to duplicate pre-identified (and long-dead) specimens of it. Completely missed thereby is the point that we would thereby no longer have genius at all, but genius-in-bulk, a mass-product more akin to deodorant (with one-click delivery, mayhap?).
This all points up once again to the nettling emptiness in our souls, which we seek to allay—reflexively, absurdly, and in the end probably tragically—by rushing outward instead of inward.
Climatologist Michael Mann, at least, immediately showed some appreciation of this absurdity: “I can’t help but wonder why these captions of technology always look away from the earth rather than towards it”.
But then again, even here on Earth, our only remaining goals besides growth (comfort, avoidance of harm, equality with the aim of interchangeability) have long since become essentially negative—so to say, not values at all. Friedrich Nietzsche would surely be nodding, if not laughing.
“Welcome, my friends, to the age of synthesized awe, of increase-as-virtue—welcome to Faustian nihilism!”