“We have the particle accelerator that has smashed the referential orbit of things once and for all.” – Jean Baudrillard
Fyi, don’t read this if you are in the mood for light reading.
It seems that late night pondering of the real time economy has sparked a train of philosophical thought in me lately. Maybe it’s that the holidays and a new y ear are coming up, or maybe it’s that working at a startup is always very transitory, but those thoughts come a rumbling. Information is flowing faster and faster, and the modes and methods of communication have been producing more data than we know what to do with. Information is produced, then copied and transformed (or transmogrified for Calvin and Hobbes fans) ad nauseum – copies of copies of copies.
Jean Baudrillard, the French “postmodern” philosopher has been truly inspirational on the subject, and while his attitudes are more or less deterministic and provide little alternative, I think they are worth delving into. Thus, I present the 3 metaphors of information and significance:
- Physics Metaphor #1 – The significance and meaning of data are masses with gravitational weight- the faster that new information revolves around these masses, the quicker it reaches it’s escape velocity, and flings from orbit, decoupling data from meaning.
- Physics Metaphor #2- Data itself is a mass, and the more data that’s available, the “heavier” it all becomes – too much data means and incredibly dense mass which draws everything to a halt (much like a black hole bending and slowing down time).
- Music metaphor- We are obsessed with “high fidelity”, replicating sound to replace the original. Musicality replaces music as we push towards this end, as we fiddle with amplifiers, special effects, reverb and the like. The same occurs with television and magazines as we have post-production effects changing the nature of history. Magazines use photoshop to touch up models to make them more real, or add smoke to make a fire more gruesome. Television adds sound effects, and declares imaginary wars using exciting graphics on terrorism, liberalism, conservatism, etc.
So what does Jean have to say about all of this? What do we need?
“A degree of slowness (that is, a certain speed, but not too much), a degree of distance, but not too much, and a degree of liberation (an energy for rupture and change), but not too much, are needed to bring about the kind of condensation or significant cystallization of events we call history, the kind of coherent unfolding of causes and effects we call reality [le reel]“.
Or to translate this to the real time economy, we need more filters. Systems that create information are adding to the problem, not aiding it. The solution is a way to limit our information, give us distance, and give us depth.