News of the World

What was made to look like a series of disconnected incidents now appears as what it always was: a worldwide web of corruption whose murkiness resembles something out of The Wire or a David Peace novel. A dark network comprising private investigators, the criminal underworld, tabloid newspapers, multinational media conglomerates, the police, politicians, the banks, and the bodies supposed to regulate them (who are at best impotent, at worst part of the problem) cannot now be kept hidden from public scrutiny. This is less a conspiracy than a network of complicities: fear on all sides, nobody trusting anybody else, the whole thing depending on who’s got the goods on whom … Cops watching hacks watching cops; threatened politicans looking for favours …

This is the news of the world…

110708 Reality Management: Hack-gate, Hari, Milibot and the Cyber War: Mark Fisher, K-Punk: openDemocracy

What Dawkins says is that we are just machines – our function is just machines whose role is to allow embedded systems to carry on over time. And what these systems are doing is playing mathematical games of strategy against each other, hoping to survive. So we become soft, fleshy machines to carry these codes. I think that’s another example of a system that diminishes us. We’ve embraced it quite happily, because it offers us a retreat from trying to change the world. Whatever we do, liberals, the right, corporations, in recent history it seems to lead to unforseen consequences. We throw up our hands and go, “Oh dear!”.

110524 Adam Curtis: The Rise of the Machines: The Register

my standards for technological innovation:-

1. The new tool should be cheaper than the one it replaces.
2. It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces.
3. It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces.
4. It should use less energy than the one it replaces.
5. If possible, it should use some form of solar energy, such as that of the body.
6. It should be repairable by a person of ordinary intelligence, provided that he or she has the necessary tools.
7. It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible.
8. It should come from a small, privately owned shop or store that will take it back for maintenance and repair.
9. It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships.

Wendell Berry

1987 Why I am NOT Going to Buy a Computer

This is to inform you what you have to undergo. Gentlemen if providing you don’t pull down your meshenes and rise the poor mens wages the maried men give tow and six pence a day a day the singel tow shillings. or we will burn down your barns and you in them this is the last notis

A letter from “Captain Swing” to farmers introducing a new threshing machine, 1830.

From Captain Swing: A Social History of the Great English Agricultural Uprising of 1830, Eric Hobsbawm and George Rudé  p208.

a kind of not-fully-abandoned utopian wish for an appropriate, even benign kind of technology, a machine in the garden humans could live with, lives alongside or lies behind modern neo-Luddism and, more often than not, is the symmetrical flipside to the paranoid suspicions of the neo- Luddites. Many neo-Luddites react to the secrets and lies, the broken promises, of technological progress with the profound disappointment of the brokenhearted.

06 Against Technology: Steven E Jones p21

The vast concourse of people who had assembled to witness the truimphant arrival of the successful travellers was of the lowest order of mechanics and artisans, among whom great distress and a dangerous spirit of discontent with the Government at that time prevailed. Groans and hisses greeted the carriage, full of influential personages, in which the Duke of Wellington sat. High above the grim and grimy crowd of scowling faces a loom had been erected, at which sat a tattered, starved-looking weaver, evidently set there as a representative man, to protest against this triumph of machinery, and the gain and glory which the wealthy Liverpool and Manchester men were likely to derive from it.

The opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, 15 September 1830: Fanny Kemble.

Records of a Girlhood, 1878.

Some of the directors observed, that they were but trustees for property to an immense amount, that the value of that property might be affected, if the procession did not go on, and thus demonstrate the practicability of locomotive travelling on an extensive scale; and that, though the illustrious duke [of Wellington] and his cortege might not deem it prudent to proceed, it was the duty of the directors to complete the ceremony of opening the road.

Discussion following the death of William Huskisson, run over by George Stephenson’s locomotive engine Rocket during the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, 15 September 1830.

25 September 1830: Mechanics’ Magazine

… the engine having received its supply of water… was set off at its utmost speed, thirty-five miles an hour, swifter than a bird flies (for they tried the experiment with a snipe). You cannot conceive what that sensation of cutting the air was; the motion is as smooth as possible, too. I could either have read or written; and as it was, I stood up, and with my bonnet off ‘drank the air before me.’ The wind, which was strong, or perhaps the force of our thrusting against it, absolutely weighed my eyelids down. When I closed my eyes this sensation of flying was quite delightful, and strange beyond description; yet, strange as it was, I had a perfect sense of security, and not the slightest fear.

Fanny Kemble, letter to a friend

26 August, 1830

Records of a Girlhood, 1878

We are credibly informed that there is a Steam Engine now preparing to run against any mare, horse, or gelding that may be produced at the new October Meeting at Newmarket; the wagers at present are stated to be 10,000 1; the engine is the favourite… its greatest speed will be 20 miles in one hour, and its slowest rate will never be less than 15 miles.

Trevithick’s Portable Steam Engine

8 July 1808, The Times