Techgnosis, Infomysticism, and the War Against Entropy
by Steve Mizrach
Along with the technological expansion of the information age, the twentieth century has also seen an expansion in our understanding of the nature of information. Through theoreticians such as Claude Shannon, humanity has begun to understand the fundamental relationship that appears to exist between language, information, energy, and entropy. A physics of information has begun to develop which suggests that information relationships are as important as material, causal ones mediated in space and time. Some cosmologists now look at the cosmos as a system of various kinds of information-processing, perhaps even an infoverse. Thus, the information age marks a change in our worldview, as well as our technology. The mechanistic view of the industrial era is giving way to something new.
The thinkers who have best explored the metaphysical implications of this idea are neither mystics nor information scientists. Rather, they have been science fiction writers such as Thomas Pynchon, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, and Michael Moorcock. The essence of this mystical view could be summarized as follows:
So, what are we to make of our current information age? Techgnostics would suggest this is just merely one stage of a key ongoing process. Nanotechnology opens the possibility that life may start taking more direct control over matter. Biotechnology, that we may start taking more control of our own genetic code. Neurobiology, that we may unravel the brain code. And global internetworking (the Internet) may be part of a planetary effort to combat other entropic processes (global warming and other forces of ecological disruption) that this stage of life has set in motion. Ours seems to be a time of crisis and cataclysm; but, from the viewpoint of complexity theory, this is to be expected. Evolving systems are always poised on the edge of disaster, far enough from equilibrium to evolve, but balanced enough not to fall over the edge into total disorganization.
The Techgnostics would say that this is all just the beginning of an important adventure for humans. Or whatever form of posthumanity it is that we are becoming or creating. Our role is not central; there are undoubtedly other forms of self-awareness, intelligent life out there as well. But our role is critical for our planet as well as for ourselves. We are about to re-weave a "Universe Wide Web" of cosmic intercommunication. We may be on the verge of understanding our universe as an infoverse in which mind is a key force, rather than an accidental epiphenomenon. We are about to take a much larger role in a universal process we've only glimpsed through a glass, darkly, until now--a war against entropy and death, waged through the opening of heretofore sealed doors.
Steve Mizrach (firstname.lastname@example.org) (aka Seeker1) is a doctoral student in cultural anthropology at the University of Florida. His master's thesis research was on the electronic discourse of computer hackers, and his approaching doctoral research will be on the use of electronic media (including "new" or "emerging media") by indigenous peoples. He is interested in a variety of subjects pertaining to technology, culture, consciousness, and the world of "Mondo" or "far out" science, and how these things all interrelate. His Web site, the CyberAnthropology page, can be found on his web, along with a longer, single file version of this essay.
Copyright © 1997 by Steve Mizrach. All Rights Reserved.