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A debate in 1968 that is still relevant today.
Probably the best thirty minutes you could spend this week is hearing these two giants exchange their thoughts.
I agree with McLuhan’s foresight regarding the ascent of the role of the artist to integrate new good patterns on behalf of the global village. I also agree with Mailer’s foresight regarding the ascent of the role of the artist to denigrate new bad patterns on behalf of the global village. This is the crux of their differences and amusingly, they argue past one another.
We have lived in “exponential times” since the big bang (if there was one)
Reading Marshall McLuhan in Understanding Me is like witnessing the fulfillment of prophesy. This collection of essays and interviews from the 1950s and 1960s vividly describes the electronic world we live in today. What stood out for me was Marshall’s description of earth evolving into a man made product. We truly have become responsible for everything animal, vegetable and mineral including ourselves.
Marshall describes the world of the internet as a global village. A world in which we are fully and instantaneously involved in events worldwide. A world where we are experiencing a global tribalism. A world where entire societies are leapfrogging centuries of development to join us in the information age.
However, the information age that McLuhan describes is coming to an end and a new age is coming upon us. It is an age where electric circuits will join the tribe through artificial intelligence and robotics.
Electric Consciousness will not be a single step into consciousness. Like the evolving layers of consciousness as life forms became more complex step by step, electric consciousness will first be an electric fish, then an electric frog, then an electric dinosaur, then an electric mammal and so on. These subhuman consciousnesses will be our servants. We will have to go through all the phases of domestication and induction of these new tribe members. Humanity will gradually surrender more and more responsibility to electric consciousness. Purpose and leadership will take the place of process, data, network and time services for human occupations.
Finally, human level consciousness will be achieved and humanity will face an identity crisis. The gradual transition from low level to high level consciousness will soften the blow, but this will not be the case for the entire planet. Humanity will face an identity crisis of a scale never before known. Human principality and human republic will give way to principality of the conscious and republic of the conscious.
The Media of Electric Consciousness is upon us.