Dear Eric Schmidt (formerly CEO of Google, now Chairman of Alphabet),
Do you want to know the line I heard more than any other in 2016? Well, here it is anyway: “You look well for 72.” This is from people I was meeting for the first time. Minor variants were “fit” and “considering you’re 72 – or at least, according to what I read on your Google profile.” Google mashed me up with some other guy. So listen Eric, you might like to shave a decade or so off that.
Or, hold on a second, while you’re at it, now we’re on the subject, why not keep on going, take off two decades or three? That’s better, now I’m approaching 40 again, just from a slightly different direction. Only suddenly I don’t look quite so fit any more. Eric doesn’t give a Schmidt what age I am. Good attitude. The Eric philosophy is all about quantity not quality. It’s about “traffic.” Anything you read is wrong.
I would like to write, 2016 was the Year of the Lie. Therefore the good news is that normal service will be resumed and in 2017 Truth will make a comeback and we will enjoy a new Enlightenment. Here is a stone-cold fact. In 2016 the fact died. That species became extinct. There are no more facts, only information. Our lives are now governed by the ebb and flow of data. The digital tide. For a while there I was thinking of standing my ground, like King Canute, but to hell with that. What’s the point of standing against a zeitgeist? You just have to learn to surf the endless curve, the stream, the flood of…
I was about to write “lies”. Correction. In 2016 the lie died and was buried alongside truth. Now, 2017 is the Year Zero of truth. We inhabit an era of extreme scepticism. My hope for the new year is that we can push this further still, make scepticism total and abolish the last remaining shreds of credulity and trust.
“Post-truth”, the so-called “word of the year”, was clearly a premature ejaculation, because the sad thing about 2016 is that more than ever we bought into myths under the impression that they were true. I don’t remember anyone in any election or referendum saying, “The post-truth is…” We voted for nostalgia and Spitfires and white cliffs, we voted for religion, we believed in £350 million for the NHS, or greatness, or control, and endless forms of bulls**t, masquerading as truth. Like a premature Christmas, we dreamed of a Messiah and heaven. I see 2017 as the year in which we finally get to transcend transcendence. To give up, finally, on salvation. And since beauty is truth, truth beauty, ugly will be the new beautiful. Which will come as a massive relief, even if a blow to cosmetic surgery.
But, you will say, “We’ll always have pornography.” Courtesy of the world wide web of deceit. An inevitable overflow of binary entanglement. Pure information, only with more sound effects. But the Malthusian principle that where there is overkill there must also be die-back applies. The high tide will recede. The Danish minister of justice who predicted (back in 1969) that legalising pornography would lead to indifference was a prophet. Our fixation on the orgasm will shrink. Masculinity and femininity are exhausting and eccentric postures. We have done the cum-shot to death.
Clearly, when the id has conquered the ego, and everything is outed, the Freudian unconscious must wither away in the harsh studio lights of transparency. In times to come we can look forward to the rise of the zerotic, new forms of asceticism and even friendship, beyond mere romance.
Need I say that identity politics is dead? It turns out that identity is just a big mistake. It’s a desperate throw of the dice. Every public profile (had a look at Facebook recently?) is just a failure of the imagination. Everybody is bluffing. All the time. "I" is probably the most successful logo ever. But it’s gone now. I don’t know what will take its place. Maybe we are not quite ready for “one”.
At least we won’t have to worry about authenticity any more. Be more fake. Keep it unreal. The Sacred Book used to be there to inspire belief. The unholy book to come will go about inspiring a new generation of unbelievers.The book will be the new vinyl. In the age of negative epistemology, fiction (I include fantasy, saga, epic, lyric) will be our truth, because at least it admits it is fiction. The novel is not a form of “escape”, it is our new architecture of understanding. The function of the writer in future will be to alert us to the constructs of narrative.
Conversely, the Hollywood dream factory will, like a new Jean-Luc Godard, own up and lay bare its tricks and snares and contrivances. Tom Cruise, I predict, will emerge as a new hero when he reveals that he only adopted Scientology as a highly sophisticated joke in order to dramatise exactly how absurd our beliefs can be. Then, having climbed up that ladder (or in his case the Burj Khalifa) he will, as Wittgenstein once recommended, push it away. And set us free.
And Eric, that photo on my Google profile is terrible too. But I know you’re not going to fix that either. Because I understand that you too are an illusion. Maybe the biggest hoax of all. The great CEO, mystically omniscient and omnipotent. The one. And writing to you is like sending up a prayer, because you never reply (I know, I’ve tried) and you never get anything right, either. Or rectify. You’re just another figment, a fantasy, floating on the quantum foam. You’re not going to like this, but I want to recommend a slogan, a mantra for the future: Only disconnect.
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