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Date Published: 5/14/1996
Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, Editors

Global Algorithm 1.0: The Global Algorithm

Arthur and Marilouise Kroker

nanotechnology . artificial life . softpeople . webmasters . virtual class . mimetic flesh . Java.Perl . C Shell . surplus class . the will to virtuality . techno-culture . unabomber . the road ahead . retro-techno . simnet . worldchat . intranet . Oracle . Intel . Infinity . molecular engineering . recombinant genes . cyberspace . wiredskin . code warriors . digital flesh . cyberboy . geekheads . alien-issue . wetware/software/hardware . glint chip eye . wwwself . bitnetted . fractal bodies . viral memes . flash memory . digital ears . diamond nano-eyes


The end of the 20th century witnesses the triumph of the virtual class and the reconfiguration of society and culture by what we call the Global Algorithm. The techno-optimism of early 90s liberal futurism is dumped into the trash, and the world bunkers down for a lean and mean period as technoculture is consolidated around the politics of so-called rationalization and Spencerian economics.

Two classes emerge: the virtual class that expresses in existent material form the historical interests of pan-capitalism, and the surplus class, the remainder, what is left when a fully technological society is realized. What is gained and what is lost by being digital? Who do we see when we look in the digital mirror: Future-Fallout or Net-Utopia? Digital ears and diamond eyes and Java nerves or real blood and guts? What is the relationship between being digital and issues of race, class, and gender?

The epochal dreams of digital reality are not so far away from the deserts of North Africa in the fourth century, that moment when St. Augustine triumphantly severed flesh from spirit, beginning the search for our successor species, first in the torture chambers of absolutist religion, then in the war zones of absolutist ideology, and finally in the futurist algorithms of absolutist technotopia. But we remember Camus: the union of absolute justice and absolute reason equals murder in the name of freedom. The question remains: is digital reality the final act of species murder, the (human) blood sacrifice necessary to inaugurate the reign of the post-human? But that would be a question of myth, and mythical thought, most of all, is denied by the feverish and calculated positivism of the new codes.

Over the next few weeks, CTHEORY will publish a series of articles dealing with the theme of the global algorithm. Diverse theoretical voices from San Francisco, Paris, Cologne, London, Amsterdam, Munich, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego, Montreal, Berlin, Tokyo, and New York will explore new digital futures as well as the intimations of deprival associated with the triumph and distress of wireless flesh.

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