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Philosophy Of Reality

created 2006-05-26 19:32:17

(Up to: Hacking Reality Philosophy Taoism )

Joining up some disparate threads, will sort this out at some point into something more lucid.

  • Hyperreality

    • vs the Tao...

    Baudrillard claims a market economy is the pinnacle of a simulated society. In The Precession of Simulacra, he picks up on Disneyland (as do many others, I'm sure) as a simulation, a place of fakeness. But then Baudrillard continues to contrast this with the fakeness outside Disney - the fakeness of "real" life. As he says:

    "People no longer look at each other, but there are institutes for that. They no longer touch each other, but there is contactotherapy. They no longer walk, but they go jogging, etc. ... One reinvents penury, asceticism, vanished savage naturalness: natural food, health food, yoga."

    Compare this to what Alan Watts says regarding the escape of holidays:

    "We crave distraction - a panorama of sights, sounds, thrills and titillations into which as much as possible must be crowded in the shortest possible time. To keep up this "standard" most of us are willing to put up with lives that consist largely in doing jobs that are a bore, earning the means to seek relief from the tedium by intervals of hectic and expensive pleasure. These intervals are supposed to be the real living, the real purpose served by the necessary evil of work." (The Wisdom of Insecurity, p. 20-21)

    • the simulation of scarcity

    The same idea - that market economies lead to a totality of simulation - links into a large number of things, as it leads us to question the nature of the things that we buy and sell, the things that we value. If we accept that economics was originally the "science" of limited resource management, perhaps we should investigate the issue not on the idea of "management", but of how we see things as being "limited".

    Trade and expansion are 2 separate things. Trade can exist without expansion, as resources are naturally depleted, but also naturally reproduce. However, a competitive society (assuming that some standard exists for value to be competed over) intent on improving an entire population (i.e. a greater-than-zero-sum game) must provide more input in order to improve. (Improved efficiency is also an option, but expansion is easier than efficiency, and so will take precedence.)

    One possible theory is that "natural" resources have "run out", in trade terms. That is to say, structures have reached a relatively stable point where these resources have been fully portioned out, and while prices may fluctuate globally, there is little (if any) opportunity for new competitors. It is feasible that control over these natural resources (oil, metals, food, etc) grew relatively stable a long time ago with the rise of "true" globalisation (i.e. imperialism rather than corporate globalisation today).

    Thus, to keep competition pushing (for competition provides improvement), more resources must be created. But the creation of "natural" resources such as those outlined above is difficult for 2 reasons - firstly, we do not have the knowledge, and secondly, even if we did have the knowledge, the current stability of the infrastructure means that this creation would be resisted. Thus, new areas of possessable resources must be determined. Which is where the digital marketplace comes in.

    Bits and bytes do not exist. They are not things, they are merely states of electricity, defined relative to each other captured in standards and protocols. One cannot own a state of existence - you cannot purchase the properties of life or death, for instance. But through these standards, a new realm has been concocted. States that represent something (or perhaps, following Baudrillard's fourth definition (more explanation needed here), represent nothing at all but themselves) are the new "natural" resource. DRM is an enactment of limited scarcity - a way to clamp down on the apparently unlimitedness inherent in the mere recreation of certain physical states.

    Intellectual property is the same deal. Leasing of patents, for example, is nothing but an exercise in applying fake scarcity.

    But does all this mean that scarcity is real? For if scarcity isn't real, and is therefore a choice, then shouldn't we be weighing up the opportunities for equal access to concepts (such as ideas) against the need for progress?


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