‘The California Ideology’ is an essay by media theorists Barbrook and Cameron written in 1995. They argued that the techno-utopic ideals propagated from Silicon Valley enthusiasts such as innovation, connectivity, and so on, was paradoxically driven by a radical sense of individualism, counterculture, and neoliberalism. These tech pioneers believed that wider and instant distribution of knowledge would liberate everyone from political grasps. However, today we realise that hypothesis is not the case.
Watching the two videos of Zuckerberg and Musk, what I find eerie is how they market their commodification of us, the users, as something virtuous and a necessary feat for human ‘advancement’. Musk’s argument for archiving human consciousness on Mars, in case of global humanitarian disaster, is essentially an eloquent phrase for continuing modern human colonisation. At what cost does this come at? It’s not only about personal privacy, but the cost for ‘greatness’ comes at the price of Earth’s resources, degradation of communities and infrastructures, and succumbing to our computer-generated identities, therefore eroding our socio-cultural structures of our material reality. So once the dreams of techno-utopists such as Musk and Zuckerberg are achieved, what is actually left for the community when we are not behind the computer’s gaze. I feel this rhetoric and ideology is highly contradicting and is more trapping than ‘liberating’. I’d go as far to argue that this equation of online = connected communities is a fallacy…
Transcript: Video #1
Interviewer: So on that kind of launch rate, you’re talking about it over two decades you could get your million people to Mars essentially. Who’s city is it? Is it NASA’s city, is it SpaceX’s city?
Musk: It’s the people of Mars’ city The reason for this I mean, obviously like why do this thing, I think this is important for maximizing the probable lifespan of humanity or consciousness. Human civilization could come to an end, for external reasons like a giant meteor or super volcanoes or extreme climate change or world war three, or you know, any number of reasons. The probable lifespan of human civilizational consciousness as we know it, which we should really view as this very delicate thing, is like a small candle in a vast darkness. That’s what appears to be the case.
Transcript: Video #2
As I look around and as I travel around the world. I’m starting to see people and nations turning inward against this idea of a connected world and global community. I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as others. For blocking free expression, for slowing immigration, reducing trade, and in some cases around the world even cutting access to the internet. It takes courage to choose hope over fear. To say we can build something and make it better than it has ever been before. You have to be optimistic to think that you can change the world. And people will always call you naïve but it’s this hope and this optimism, that is behind every important step forward. Our lives are connected and whether we are welcoming a refugee fleeing war, or an immigrant seeking new opportunity, whether we are coming together to fight global disease like Ebola, order to address climate change, I hope that we have the courage to see the path forward is to bring people together, not push people apart. To connect more, not less. We are one global community.