The absolute permeability of the computer has evolved into a measure for the organization of human relations and politics. In the face of the total permeability of the digital-diaphane primal matter , all information is equally decontextualized and deformed, transformed into mere “content” on the inter net. And being the result of this pr ocess, the “content” we find on the inter net does not contain anything, but is similarly deformed, in a subliminal way as empty as the computer itself.
Consequently , metaphors are also running wild when attempting to describe the internet. Being speechless in a proper sense, misnomer is added to misnomer . In one instance, the net is pastorally described as a “global village,” in another instance antithetically as a “highway ,” and even more hysterically as an “ocean” or a “jungle” from which we have to “protect our children.” Or is it, after all, only a “playground for brainless narcissists”? To the net theorist Kevin Kelly , it is “a copy machine.” Orville Schell, a professor of journalism, said the computer was “like radioactivity ,” because “once released, it is nearly impossible to contain.” From a political perspective, it was first claimed that the internet was like “oxygen to dissidents.” After the unveiling of the inner workings of the digital-military complex, which connects Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, and several secret services, the internet was suddenly regarded as “the wet dream of the Stasi.”
First of all, “content” doesn’ t contain anything in the proper sense, because this would require a purpose, a motive of the information on the inter net that superseded the mere form, the medium. Without such context, there is no content in the proper sense. And the computer knows only one context: itself. Therefore, the majority of the information that we receive via the internet deals with the apparatus itself. How fast is the new iPhone? Or , is Samsung better after all? By which new functions is Facebook violating our private sphere in an even more menacing way? In which softwar e-firms should one invest today and which stocks should one sell right befor e the inevitable collapse of the next tech-bubble? What will change when private 3D-printers in childr en's r ooms pr oduce fir earms? McLuhan’ s formula, that the medium is the message, was never truer , never mor e absolute. The “content” of the inter net is the nothingness of the computer and nothing mor e.
What is, paradoxically , most necessary in this world, is to forget about the computer itself, because otherwise everything would seem terribly one-dimensional and wan. Although we constantly talk about the computer and by means of the computer , we never talk of the computer in the pr oper sense. It is easier to believe we ar e looking at dif fer ent things, when in fact we ar e just staring over and over at the same scr een. The wall of metaphors which surr ound the computer bar e witness to our essential silence in re gar d to the computer .
If ther e is an assertion, a meta-narrative at all, which does justice to this silence, it is the assertion of the immateriality of the computer . John Perry Barlow wr ote in his “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” of 1996: “Y our legal concepts of pr operty , expr ession, identity , movement, and context do not apply to us. They ar e all based on matter , and ther e is no matter her e.”
Barlow’ s text was fr equently ridiculed, but today it is fundamental to the political demands of the digital elite. The immateriality of the computer that is stated in this declaration became the foundation of the pr omise that – by its mer e existence – the computer would trig- ger r evolutions in virtually any material sector – politics, law , economy – as if it was an intervention by a deus ex machina fr om a better , pristine world befor e the fall fr om grace into earthly matter .
In the new Califor nian techno-gnosis, a Manichaean division is pr edominant, a division between the analog, demiurgic world of the “weary giants of flesh and steel” and the immaterial, light-flooded world of the “new home of mind,” which the computer pr etends to be – both expr essions stem fr om Barlow’ s “Declaration of the Inde- pendence of Cyberspace.” A richer cultur e of “sharing,” dir ect democ - racy , the emancipation of women and consumers, br eathtaking solutions for societal and envir onmental pr oblems – all this shall happen practically automatically , once the fiber -wir ed portals to the im- materiality of cyberspace gape everywher e within the material spher e, once every single brain is transformed into a portal to the hive mind.
In r egar d to the phenomenology of the object, looking at its surface fr om the outside, one can alr eady r ecognize the desir e of the com- puter to negate its materiality . In no other sector , the tendencies of technology and design towar ds their own vanishing ar e so clea r. Accor ding to Moor e ́s La w, the capacity of micr ochips doubles every 18 months. A true obsession to minimize everything r eigns, which has alr eady compr essed the capacity of the r oom-sized machines of the fi fties into the size of a pants pocket. Once, the human brain was the most complex structur e of natur e. T oday , it is the micr ochip. As if they wanted to amplify this ever and ever mor e spectacular disap- pearance of matter , the scr eens of laptops and smartphones ar e getting larger and larger . To gaze into an abyss of nothingness fr om a box seat, in colors as brilliant as the sun: this is the dr eam of our age.
Immateriality , which the computer states so vehemently with all of its existence, is its most cunning trick.Immateriality seems to discon - nect the computer fr om the whole world, fr om the corrupt structur es of law , economy , and power of the material r ealm, to which it is in fact entangled. The pr oper question – the blind spot of the discourse of the computer – is the question of the materiality of the computer .
The illusion of the immateriality of the computer br ought along hopes for better , mor e ethical industries and politics, which wouldn’ t be based on the destruction of the envir onment via wars for raw materi- als and human exploitation. These hopes wer e a gigantic deception. Computing capacity r equir es power – at the moment r oughly 10% of the energy globally pr oduced – and it needs minerals, for the sake of which wars ar e being fought today in Congo and Afghanistan. The fairy tale of digital democracy was impossible without the cheap laptops and junk smartphones which tax avoiding American firms extract by the use of mental and physical violence fr om their Chinese working slaves.
The alleged “sharing” in social networks fills up the pockets of the new net monopolists and lets the ar chives of the state-run surveil - lance organisms swell to historically unpr ecedented extents. Instead of a new golden age, we ar e witnesses to the dawning of cyber -totalitarianism, invulnerable as it r emains without a face, without a form, without a space, without a body . The hopes for a bodiless information-economy tur ned out to be ideology in the Marxist sense, i.e. a “r eversal of re ality .” The consumer who is dwel- ling today in the exertive attempt to seem bodiless, characterizing the aesthetic of Apple and similar firms, dwells in a r eversed re alit y, in which the scr een must lose its materiality in or der to disguise the fact that without it, everything would cease to exist.