Golem, Our Higher Nervous System
(Enabling the Decentralization
of Collective Consciousness)

        85.  How Form does move within us! I recognize now -- and have made more obvious in rewriting -- that what has moved in me through this river of meditation from House to Mobility to Communications is a vision of Golem as (Hu)Man, of our technology and society as organized in our image. As of course they are, being our extension. But what drives my vision is the understanding that this image is not only mutating but is deliberately mutable. The deeper name of our species is Homo Proteus, and megamechanical man is only one of our possible Forms.

        We can lay hold of our being in any of its aspects to begin transformation. Few people believe this now about this one. These days, the works of the Machine express ugliness so great that we cry out to deny the responsibility, to deny that their image is ours; and many of the most humane among us are misled to phrase the struggle as Man against Machine. In this and other ways we express the deep feeling of impotence that bounds most of our condition and shapes the gut belief that nothing can be done. McLuhanism likewise views us as relatively helpless in the hands of Golem, carried through pre-ordained transformations by each new device.

        I say it again: humanity, its society, and its technology are interpenetrate, change simultaneously. Machines should be no more mystifying than our mirrors, and whatever power we have to change our image is reflected equally in them. A different image of Golem is possible. It beckons in our current transformation along the lines of self-determination and reconnection to the organic World. Golem as Megamachine, the primitive, literal extension of the human body, reflects the image of the social body articulated in hierarchical class society, and centers around the individual ego inside its body House. This key metaphor is in the initial death-throes of being replaced by a new organizing metaphor, which may describe the essential entity "man" as a many-equal-personed body uniting by communication into one collective consciousness. Or, with luck and choice, it may be more subtle in its harmony, balancing the aspects of consciousness, individual and collective. (It might also take what is irreducibly "human" to include all life, and more.) Whichever new metaphor flowers in our culture, the bodies of our society and our technology will be reorganized in its image. From an image of man balanced in the tao of separate/mutual comes a classless collective society with personal freedom. And corresponding to this, the image of Golem as Megamachine lumbering over a barbed-wire fence, sitting down in an empty field after the rain, going through explosive smoky changes, and turning into a flock of crows who fly away. Each under his own power, chattering in the β-tongue, and trading round all roles as they go.

        86.  Change begins in the mind. Computers, which extend some of our functions of intelligence, are our most marvelous technology, and the one most awesome in its potential for our change. It opens new dimensions both for the collectivization of consciousness and for individuation as well, with radical implications for our distant evolution and our immediate politics, By computer technology, we extend intelligent consciousness in an outered form which can be operated on and deliberately transformed by all the gathered skills and knowledge of our persons and culture. More nearly than our attempt to reconstruct our genetic heritage of aggression, our evolution of computers displays us as the species Homo Proteus.

        87.  Some of my friends have formed an electronics/ design company leading toward the goal of marketing a home computer bank, tied to large central facilities, for the price of a new car. Others have worked on first-generation bootstrapping programs designed for self-learning the skills of using computers as creative extensions.

        In your home, the extension of a system that can connect you vividly with anyone and that gives you free access to all mankind's recorded knowledge, visual and aural, all records of all work in progress; all the day's news and the opinions of any who care to offer one, in summary or total detail; all the programmable knowledge-processes of our civilization; all everyone wants to share of his or her Story -- in short, universal immediate access to all of our culture's information. the fundamental basis for both collectivization of consciousness and the full potentials of individuation. And with and beyond this, the empowerment of personal and group consciousness by the enormous multiplication of their lower ("mechanical") powers. Only the poetry of science fiction has attempted to survey the consequences: and it has been most notably deficient in attending to politics and sex.

        88.  What will you do with your extension when you get it, how will you play? Learn to build a solar generator, order the parts, and ask someone to show you how to solder? Get a weekly grocery list keyed to the cheapest solutions for your nutrition and taste that tells you what to buy where when? Complete its integration into your house so that it turns off unused lights and regulates the entire house metabolism in accord with satellite weather observation? Work with five somewhere others to make and spread a videotape on government pollution, drawing on public input of muckracking videotapers who go out fresh each day in every city to follow leads? Have available to your isolated commune most of the culture's light technological resources? Research chemicals and their precautions and compute the ideal time for simultaneous demolition of Doggy Diners by a hundred highways?

        Think fast. Given your socioeconomic class and habits. by 1984 you'll be linked into a first-generation system with these capacities. How timid, naïve, and unimaginative our uses will be at first! But go to the poets, they know.

        89. Computers make possible a technology of vivid, direct person-to-person communication and universal information access, assisted rather than regulated by semi-centralized agencies which operate to refine its fidelity and connectivity and to extend the depth of its memory and low reasoning powers. The tendency of their free use is to render communication utterly decentralized and move our culture toward mode-β forms.

        Consider the reformation of our systems of learning through such a technology. Lacking adequate positive icons -- a flock of crows will scarcely do for Golem learning -- its depth is best expressed negatively. All material need for the present centralized structures of education -- power, physical plant, department and discipline, management, whatever -- would vanish, and with it the restrictive power to enforce them. Even within our present disgusting customs, Martha could start study at the age of seven or forty-seven, via her home terminal and under the tutelage of Chemist X (who would probably bill her), and in her time and way qualify through company knowledge tests and his endorsement for employment with Dow Chemical, meanwhile practicing Tai Chi on Wednesdays with a master in Arizona. Damn! What will become of the classroom, the administration, professionalism, fund-raising, face-saving, and the uniform curriculum? What will they do with all those empty buildings?

        We should see instead a wild flowering of depth experiment in the forms and processes of small-group interaction, which forms the social foundation of learning. For the foundation of material limitation on which the present authoritarian and fragmenting character of our educational system depends will largely disappear.

        90.  All this describes equally the transformation of our systems of politics and governance. For the first time, a full popular democracy becomes possible. Hitherto our technological limitations in the handling of distance and of social information made democracy necessarily representative in any group of people too large to be spoken to with the unaided voice. From this hierarchical imperative follows the centralization of democracy and its present universal organization in forms of soft authoritarian control.

        High computer/communication technology makes possible the abolition of representative government, and the institution of simple, direct popular-democratic govemment: the full realization of the classic process in which a problem is recognized, the people become informed through study, conference, debate, and then decide what to do.

        A partial outline: By an open "signaling" process, problems of a local or broad scope are called to formal attention -- you can tune in to a running "straw vote" program which registers what the citizenry is concerned with, and can record your own concerns, perhaps keying them to be noted by special interest-groups. You decide to take responsibility for helping to make a particular decision. You decide how much time/energy you want to put in on this one, for starters, and compute a learning program that will fill this best -- perhaps drawing advice from the public market of political-decision-learning programmers. At the console, you read, see, and talk with whomever you wish, expert or study group, and extend or deepen your search if you choose. When you are ready to decide, you register your vote. When enough register, a final date is set; as it arrives the votes may be seen announcing themselves; after that the process of implementation begins.

        By 1984. America could govern itself by a system of totally decentralized authority and semi-centralized agency, in which every person who wanted to share directly in any given public decision would be totally enfranchised and enabled to do so -- a system of maximal political self-determination.

        91.  What the actual evolution of small-and-Iarge-group governance will be, given such a free-access system to grow with, we can only speculate. The system is rapidly coming into existence, as computers learn to read and generate programs directing the hooking-together of their memory banks and operations, (15 ) in the early stages of evolution toward fully conscious, self-directed life, and as blind and greedy economic processes contrive to fit our fingers to their keys. Surely the struggle central to the system's humane use -- and to human life itself -- will be around the repressive regulation of this intelligence, the authoritarian control of its access and use. In this struggle, freedom leads us toward full symbiosis with Golem as he matures: I think that repression leads to death at his hands, and ours within them.

        The demystification of technology, the propagation of knowledge and means for its use at the popular level -- all ripely inherent in free use of computer technology -- are essential strategies of struggle against repressive centralized power and are the key to the democratization of technological society.


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