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Tuesday
16Sep

Tripping, Deathtripping in Cyberspace

The redoubtable Internet Haganah picked up on my earlier post on the Death of Cyberspace.

Aaron quotes from the original piece (his emphasis):
Cyberspace is a product - hardware or hallucination - of the human mind and, conversely, the physical and psychological effects of actions in cyberspace are instantiated in the material world, they touch ground somewhere.
And responds:
Conversely, what we see in cyberspace is itself a manifestation of real people and real-world processes, regardless of how weak a grasp those people may have on reality.

I might go so far as to argue that there is an underlying conflict between reality and the "consensual hallucination" of William Gibson's cyberspace.

This conflict plays itself out in that corner of cyberspace occupied by the supporters and foot soldiers of the global jihad. Jihadis may freely construct whatever virtual world they choose, but if that hallucination is at odds with reality - it is not reality that will die.

File under: "map vs. landscape" or "bug vs. windshield"

Aaron is right that what we see in cyberspace is the product of people, but this is not the converse of what I originally wrote.  People create actions.  Actions are undertaken in cyberspace, connections made, data transmitted and received.  Interpretation of this information only occurs within the wetware of the human mind, as both Aaron and I wrote.  There is no 'converse' at play here - the processes are the same: symbiotic, reciprocal. We were merely describing different directions of the process: he into the ether, me down to the ground.

Is there a conflict between reality and Gibson's "consensual hallucination"? Well, yes and no, depending on perspective.  An hallucination is also the product of the human mind.  A consensual hallucination presupposes a collective willingness to embrace an alternative reality, or at least to acquiesce to its creation, wherever and however it is constructed. Cyberspace is not mere hallucination in my view, however surreal and warped some people's use of it may be. It is more than that.

This is a complex issue.  In my view, the language an average Joe like me uses to describe the symptoms of the convergence of the 'real' and the 'virtual' is being outpaced by the evolution of the phenomena themselves.  The death of cyberspace and the death of reality are perhaps one and the same, and we do not yet have words to describe what exists when one becomes subsumed within the other.

Where this leaves 'jihadis' (also a contested term), I don't know.  Aaron is undoubtedly right that, if their hallucinatory worldview continues to be dissonant with the world of positive aspirations and desires, their message will fail.  Perhaps we will see them wholly withdraw into their virtual sanctuaries.  Perhaps their sad dreams of a barren world robbed of vitality and diversity will eventually fold in on themselves and disappear into blackness, a singularity of concentrated pain and thwarted ego.

Back in the 'real' world, people continue to die and suffer oppression.  Neither reality nor cyberspace is quite dead yet.

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