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Is the Internet Part of a Refutured World?

I’m still wrestling with this excerpt from Jonathan Crary’s Scorched Earth. But let me just say, this opening paragraph does get one’s attention:

If there is to be a livable and shared future on our planet, it will be a future offline, uncoupled from the world-destroying systems and operations of 24/7 capitalism. In whatever endures of the world, the grid, as we live within it today, will have become a fractured and peripheral part of the ruins on which new communities and interhuman projects may possibly arise.

“The Digital Age is Destroying Us,” Jonathan Crary

Lately I’ve been throwing out the polemic amongst friends that perhaps the Internet wasn’t such a good idea after all.

“Social media, you mean?” they ask.

“No,” I reply, “though that’s certainly been a huge negative. I mean the Internet as a whole.”

Usually they just laugh nervously. I mean, nobody wants a world without the Internet, right? Right?!? And to be honest, it’s not like I think the Internet is really going away, or even that it should. Transform? Certainly. But books like Infinite Detail have given us a vision of a post-Internet world, and there are aspects of that which are deeply concerning. Surely there must be some way of salvaging the good of the Internet in service to a more sustainable future?

But Crary is making a case here, not for merely eliminating the ills of the social web (though there’s some of that, too) but for the Internet being inextricably bound to the capitalist materialist flows that are, frankly, burning the planet down as we speak. There may be, he suggests, no post-materialist, sustainable future in which there remains an Internet.

In order to save the world, we may have to disconnect it.

I need to sit with that one a while.

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