How social physics teams up with the drug war to give a knock-out blow to human transcendence
As Shoshana Zuboff reveals in her 2019 book "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism," one of the biggest cheerleaders of that new data-based economic system is Professor Alex "Sandy" Pentland of MIT, an expert in the creation of creepy software designed to harvest data about a wired Netizen's feelings and intentions. But Pentland's goals are more ambitious than just enabling a new approach to economic control. He envisions a Skinnerian world run according to the mathematical principles of "social physics," a brave new world in which humans are controlled by the once-maligned processes of operant conditioning, with the behavior of formerly free citizens being nudged and corralled by data-controlled algorithms designed to steer their actions in "beneficial" directions, at least as the term "beneficial" is defined by Pentland's deep-pocketed clients.
"Such dehumanization sucks," you may say, "because it treats human beings as widgets. But what does it have to do with the drug war and the DEA?"
When the Conquistadores arrived in South America, they immediately saw the ritual use of psychoactive plants as demonic. Why? Because their rational European mind was laden with a material bias that denied any special abilities to the conscious mind. The idea that psychoactive plant use could open up new useful visions was therefore entirely foreign to them. They therefore had no compunction in abolishing such plant-based rituals, often abolishing the tribes that practiced them, too, for good measure.
The Conquistadores' attack on the humanity of indigenous peoples can be seen as part one of a two-part process of social control spanning half a millennium. The Conquistadores stole the soul from the indigenous people in the 1600s by denying them one customary means of self-transcendence. Now, hundreds of years later, Social Physics has come along to tell us how the social reality of the dispossessed can be re-created, not through transcendent experiences with plants, of course (since the materialist Conquistador mentality maintains its grasp on the western mind, even in post-colonial times), but through the robotization of humankind.
Viewed in this light, all Americans (and the world, for that matter) face the plight of those indigenous people, for we have all been barred from accessing transcendence through plants, thanks to the drug war. And now, to add insult to this unconstitutional injury, materialists like Pentland come along to quantify the soulless residuum of our lives with algorithmic formulas to ensure that our stymied ambitions for transcendence become acceptable to us as the new status quo. If we're unhappy about being transformed into Pentland's predictable data-making robots, not to worry: algorithms will be written that will sense our distress and take appropriate action, adding a smiley face to our online calendar, perhaps, along with a link to a feel-good article about puppies that were recently rescued from a puppy mill.
Pentland's ideal world seems to be one in which the richest capitalists are happy and the rest of us are pacified. This is a world that uses the average person as a widget to ensure the happiness of the top 1%. It is a despotic project that sees efficiency as the ultimate good, while viewing personal transcendence as the enemy. Why? Because transcendence can result in behavioral changes that cannot be predicted by data-crunching algorithms, changes that may even predispose some to overthrow the whole Big Brother project of social control entailed by social physics.
When it comes to humanity's desire for personal transcendence, the drug war has already knocked us down "for the count." Now Pentland's "social physics" wants to come along and deliver the coup de grâce to our aspirations, by using data-based algorithms to construct a reality in which humanity will be taught to make its peace with a strictly material and economically focused world.
Conclusion: It's time to just say no to surveillance capitalism.
The author has been accused of being "reactionary" for comparing the modern drug warrior to the Conquistadores of yore. Here is his response:
There is an ideological current running through western culture that can be discerned from Columbus to Donald Trump, wherein we, the west, think we know what's best for other countries. When the Conquistadores shut down the mushroom cults in South America and killed thousands of the adherents, the act was motivated by the same self-assured scientistic and religious hubris that America demonstrates when it travels overseas today to eradicate plants that have been used responsibly by other cultures for millennia, and doing so without a care in the world for the feeling of the locals. The motivation is philosophically the same, then as now, as is the goal: to spread western ways around the world and make the world safe for alcohol and tobacco and Christianity and give them a monopoly.
I believe using the term "conquistadores" is important to show how modern drug warrior attitudes are not appearing out of nowhere, as if by magic, but that they are part of a western intolerance toward other cultures that dates back many centuries, at least to the time of Emperor Theodosius II when he outlawed the psychedelic-fueled Eleusinian Mysteries in 389 AD. For while the west has largely abandoned the intolerant church, they have not abandoned the intolerance associated with it.
To summarize: I did not mention "conquistadores" randomly and in order to shock, but rather to highlight a thread of intolerance toward other cultures and "other ways of being" that runs through western history. For again, the drug war mentality did not spring like Venus, ready-made out of a clam shell. It came from a European Christian culture that has long felt it acceptable to run roughshod over the religious and cultural practices of non-westerners. We shouldn't hide this fact from our adversaries in an effort to sound conciliatory, but rather get them used to hearing the truth, that, unbeknownst to them, they are perpetuating a reign of western intolerance for other cultures that has been going on now for millennia.
Are you wondering why I stopped you? Well, aside from the fact that you're Black, of course. No, seriously, seriously! (Sorry, my mom always said I should have been a comedian.) I stopped you to give you a warning. No, not about your dodgy right headlight (tho' you really should get that fixed). I wanted to warn you that this website is all about criticizing the willful ignorance of society when it comes to so-called "drugs." It is not -- I repeat NOT -- about encouraging either "drug use" or the LACK of "drug use." Ya feel me? It's about encouraging EDUCATION about substances rather than DRUG WARRIOR DEMONIZATION of substances.
Got it? Okay, repeat after me, then: THIS WEBSITE IS ABOUT ENCOURAGING EDUCATION ABOUT SUBSTANCES RATHER THAN DRUG WARRIOR DEMONIZATION OF SUBSTANCES!!!
So if you're contemplating using anything from table salt to heroin, you've come to the wrong site. The author is neither a doctor nor a pharmacologist. This is a philosophical website, not a practical website. You dig me? You need to study up on any and all substances using reliable sources: don't get your medical opinions about specific substances from a philosophy website like this one, for Peter's almighty sake! Ya feel me? Is the copper right or is the copper right?
Now, be on your way -- unless, of course, you're Black, in which case, get out of the car this instant and put your hands on the top of my vehicle! Move! Move! Move! Papa's gonna rough you up a bit. (Tee-hee.)
Just kidding. I really should have been a stand-up comedian, you know.
And get that right headlight looked at, ya numbskull!
Bone up on slam-dunk arguments against the drug war, starting with the fact that it was a violation of natural law to outlaw plant medicine in the first place. Check out
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for fun ways to learn more about the manifold injustice of the status quo, including many knock-down arguments never made before. Why? Because even the majority of drug-war opponents have been bamboozled by one or more of the absurd assumptions upon which that war is premised. See through the haze. Read on. Listen on. And Learn how tryants and worrywarts have despoiled American freedom, thereby killing millions around the world, totally unnecessarily, ever since the fateful day in 1914 when ignorant America first criminalized a mere plant -- and insisted that the rest of the world follow suit or else -- an act of colonialist folly unrivaled since the days of the genocidal Conquistadors.