On the twentieth anniversary of the movie The Matrix, I might have to remind you that the movie was about a main character given a ‘red pill’ that allowed him to see the truth, that humans were controlled by a bunch of robots which created a virtual reality state that all the people lived in, so they didn’t know the robots were in charge and they could suck the brains of people. I mean I didn‘t really even like the movie at seventeen, but I can get down with the moral of the story, in a mythic sort of way. The Matrix rings true on some level not because it might happen someday, but because it has definitely been true for a very long time. Over the past 10,000 years The Matrix it has grown exponentially. But on a symbolic level, we have had a technological cohabitant in our lives for 3.3 million years. We need to recognize when this relationship is symbiotic and when it is parasitic.
But there is something else that is of more immediate concern. Isn’t it more likely that the ‘red pill’ was a drug? Isn’t it more likely that all the crazy unusaul things that happened after taking that drug are hallucinatory fantasies?
But before I do that I guess I have to talk about the issues that are actually pressing in my life and I how I wish I had drugs to deal with them. Equipment breakdowns, supply shipments coming in late, and my inability to navigate the one man Matrix of my own organization. I am in the process of putting in the water pipelines for cattle, been working on it for three and half weeks and still don’t have one foot of functional fence or pipeline. As you can tell from the picture we are trying to raise Abel so he can do it, but for the next five or six years, I guess I am in charge of projects. Even though when I am in charge of projects that involve more than three or four moving parts I slowly go crazy. So, as always, that is why I would rather talk about something else. So…
On Sunday the neighbor and I kicked his four hundred head off our property and today the first load of Belcampo cattle came on. Joe Morris’ Paicines cattle did way too good this year and I have inherited these gigantic monsters that I somehow have to make even bigger. We got a milk cow too. Did I mention that? Had a milk cow at least, she’s been MIA for twenty-four hours now. Lots of other stuff happened, a bunch of which I don’t want to think about and certainly not talk about. So back to conspiracies that may or may not be.
Let’s look at the term that has become popular lately, “The Deep State”. Contained in this term is an idea that there are shadowy backroom people in the permanent administrative state that are really pulling the strings. The problem, says this theory, is with evil people. Now, let me just say that, from my perspective I would agree that the administrative state is extremely powerful. I would argue that is extremely problematic. So I agree on the symptoms. My diagnosis is different. Are there shady dealings that are happening in the shadows of public attention? Probably, and we should be outraged when they are discovered and when evidence is presented for their existence. I am just little rancher and small businessman and dime store philosopher, so I don’t know, but I suspect that those conspiracies represent less than 1% of the problems created by the administrative state. I think that the administrative state is so problematic because there is no person or group of people that understand it adequetely. People are able to get away with ‘evil’ because of that structure. The evil is the effect and not the cause of the problem. Our instituional systems (both governmental and corporate), the things that control our technologies, are so big that no one understands them and no one really controls them. They lurch and grow as an organism in their own right, not as our servant. But this organism has no feelings, doesn’t care if it grows and is not trying to grow. I don’t know if Artificial Intelligence will change that, but the point is, we do not need our technology to be conscious in order to live in the Matrix. At this point our technological superstructure has grown so large that it creates own gravity.
Conspiracy theories are comforting on a primal level, because they distract from the much more thorny issues of modernity. It has become accepted on both sides of the political spectrum that people with vast power are creating complicated systems that control thought for their own malevolent purposes, using their vast wealth and the power structure of the Deep State and the military-industrial complex. But I would argue that this paradign has opened the door for people with no real power to control minds and create sheeple using nothing but Garage Band, an internet connection, and a simplistic fairy tale.
There is popular idea that there are elites that pull off all sorts of shenanigans without us knowing about it, through their control of the media and other means. To use the language of science, this argument suggests that we have been victims of ‘false negatives,’ where you fail to capture an event that is actually happening. There was and is a case for that. But now we have created a situation of rampant ‘false positives,’ where we are recording ‘events’ that are not actually happening. Remember, it is much easier to concoct a conspiracy theory then to concoct a conspiracy, and if you want to create zombie sheeple, it seems just as effective.
What does this have to do with my core thesis regarding large animals, vegetation and technology? Just about everything. The human psyche is built to live a hunter gatherer life, including assessing human motives and helping those that are helpful and hurting those that are hurtful. It has not had any selective pressure for understanding complex institutions or the processes that formed them. Often as a result, people see a human face in these instituions where none exists. As our technologies become more complex and powerful, our corporate and governmental institutions become more complex and powerful, in lock step. And while this does allow for all kinds of bad behavior to proliferate like mold in the shadow of institutional monoliths, there is another problem.
We have always assumed that when confronted with increasingly complicated instituions humans would respond by becoming more astute and nuanced navigators of instituions. But what if the opposite happens? What if instead our society turns into a bunch of people swinging clubs at imaginary demons?