The Opium of Cybernetics

As for Marx, Opium induces confusion or sleep, and the contextual habit stemming from many other sources.  Its cloud induces somnambulism as a reaction to life. No matter what the source, information is filtered by the fog. Signs of confusion or sleep occur in the construction of categories into which information systems we attempt to bind them.  Regardless of any system’s formulas, algorithms, automatic edit checks, or “baked in” business rules, choices of reference, operational definitions, disambiguation precede them. In the professional practice of system development, by definition, information that is not bounded by a system is just noise. When “data” is made synonymous with information anything not providing only the minimum clean data to make the system work is still noise. In such a world there is no “feedback.” “Machine learning” is not an appropriate analog due to the organic cause and effect, machines don’t learn when sensors are not built to stream facts.

Bateson has his own allusion to opium.  He sets the stage for what cybernetics and ecology are not. Nevertheless schizophrenia is still an option with the introduction of opium.  Discerning what is ‘real” is disturbed by conflicting messages conveyed as truth.  The question floats to the surface of what ‘reality’ a person finds preferable. Somnambulism is one option.

Similar to what Marx remarks about religion, evaluation of information technology performance is shadowed by such a pervasive atmosphere. A system’s performance is gauged by seconds (or less) a transaction or response to a command occurs.   The quality of the data needed for that response is assumed.  — unless automatic edit checks are built into the application.  It is safe to say that a system might function in the darkness.

A fundamental contradiction is that providing or receiving unchecked data might close scrutiny of data, especially when combined with equally unchecked data. Breathing or taking the opiate of technology might make the clouded atmosphere even more deceiving.

In cybernetic ecology an intoxicating atmosphere with no feedback is bad enough, but what happens with contradictory feedback?  Without feedback habits or patterns would not be habits or patters, random movement or action.  Taking a cybernetic approach, systems without feedback are not systems are all. Evanescent, memories. On the surface it appears to be a misguided attempt to explain cause and effect.

  • Comparing it to other of his arguments it is about habit. But people in habits in context and contexts have habitual forms and actions (events).
  • In both instances, “feedback” is one effect that perpetuates habits.

McLuhan: Guttenberg Galaxy. “Schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of literacy.”  Like Bateson, McLuhan quotes Russell’s remarks on category mistakes, and how it describes the logic of schizophrenia…  it is the proliferation of media, particularly that depends on these category contradictions

The opium of the masses is now opium. When combined with technology forms of phones, watches, and “fit-bits,”  opium, people’s habitual somnambulism, at least seen in public,  dominates streets, sidewalks, intersections, restaurants,  Opium, for Marx and Bateson,  forms a smoke screen inhibiting insight to one’s habits and their sources.  For Marx the effect of opium is in the air, and could be caused by other intoxicating smells.  For Bateson opium veils understanding by inducing a habitual use of vacuous categories.

With the opium induced realization of cybernetics within powerful reach, the viscous and vacuous idea of “virtual reality, “fake news” or “alternative facts” cybernetics goes up in smoke.  Schizophrenia embeds -like journalists are “embedded” [in bedded] with war) – any path to truth, or even logical interpretation.  “If the truth turns is found to be lies,” Jefferson Airplane, and lies pervade the atmosphere of a path to decent interpretation, then smoke and mirrors led to deeper schizophrenia.