"The 'I' — the individual — is now at the center of everything,", says Adams. "Power and influence are dispersed and the 'I' — from young innovators to determined activists to elderly monarchs — now holds all the cards." The digital revolution has definitely enriched all of our lives. Is this a good thing? Apparently not, he implies, at least not in the long run. Now that the world is interconnected, "That’s the end of the revolution, but just the beginning of the story."
What, as Paul Harvey used to say, is "the rest of the story?" According to Adams, it is the "next revolution" - world collectivism. Adams doesn't use that term, of course. But:
If the [digital] revolution has so radically empowered the individual, then the individual has newfound responsibilities. In politics and society, in business and the private sector, in science and the arts, the winners will be those who use digital tools to support causes larger than themselves.
In other words, those who merely use technology - he calls them "toys" - to make the most of their own lives and pursue personal happiness and flourishing will be overshadowed by the true "winners" and their "causes". I don't pretent to know specifically what Adams is talking about, but the implications are chilling. He continues:
It used to be vital to own information, but now nearly everyone has access to the knowledge base of our species. So today, it’s much more important to know how to find, analyze and use information to solve problems.
Whose problems; your own? - or the collective's or Society's? The current financial crisis was bred in Washington by people whose "cause" was to solve the alleged societal problem of a lack of “affordable housing”. And this is mild compared to major historical figures whose visions (or delusions) of grandeur had brought such misery and suffering to nations like Russia, Germany, and China in the 20th century.
Even more critically, we must be able to connect with other individuals. The "I" may be the center of everything, but there are many "I’s" out there who can help us. This means we must appreciate diversity, embrace multiple identities and comprehend other viewpoints. We must be able to see the world through the eyes of others.
Is Adams merely saying that one must consider all viewpoints? But, that takes the exclusive attribute of the “I”; rational judgement, which depends upon seeing the world through one's own eyes; i.e., measuring the viewpoints of others by reference to the universally observable facts of reality. How does that jive with "diversity", "multiple identities", or other forms of group identity such as multiculturalism?
There is no turning back. The digital revolution rewired our minds and gave the "I" new tools to shape the world.
But those who are truly destined to change the world are those who understand that the toys at our fingertips are just the means to an end. Those who will lead the next revolution are those who look beyond the "I" and view themselves as part of a global community.
Once again, Adams is not specific. In what way should the world be changed or "shaped", and why? One thing is certain: The degrading of the individual is a prerequisite of collectivism. Those "toys" of the digital revolution: They are the means to whose ends, the individual's own? No, the "global community's". The implication that the individual is a means to tribal ends is the real message Adams is attempting to get across here.
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Posted by Zemack on September 04, 2011 at 8:54PM
Hasn’t this revolution already happened, with devastating results?
The “I” is your mind. For what purpose should you give it up? Give it up to “see the world through the eyes of others”, who will give up theirs in the same fashion, and around and around we go until the “global community” is filled with empty heads “wired” to look to the next person for intellectual guidance. Who will be there to fill the intellectual vacuum? Those who seek to offer the “guidance” – i.e., to rule.
This is nothing more than a rehash of collectivism; the dead 20th century ideology that brought a revolution of poverty, war, and torrents of blood to more than half the globe. Some global community. How does one collectivize a population? Turn each individual away from the evidence of his own eyes, by convincing him that truth and facts lie in the thoughts of others, not in objective reality to be discovered by his own reason. Turn him away from his independent mind, his “I”. Present it in terms of cooperation and understanding with others. Then the population will be ready for the “cause larger than themselves” – the authoritarian state.
Better to keep your “I” as your highest value. Look through your own eyes. Evaluate the facts – and others’ opinions – based upon your own independent judgement. Then recognize that the global community is you – and every other individual. The global community is not larger than the “I”. It is made up of “I”s. There is no higher value than the individual human being. Think and act on you own judgement; set your own goals, values, and purposes; pursue your own welfare and happiness – and fight for the freedom to do so. Then, respect the next person’s right to do the same. Don’t let gadgets or others “wire your brain”. And don’t try to wire the brains of others. Define your own person and character, because you have the power– until and unless you de-emphasize your “I”, your mind. Deal with others as equals with the ability to do the same with theirs. Recognize that you are the supreme cause, because you are an individual.
By all means fight for the next revolution. But remember where the last one got us. We must not repeat it. The last century belonged to collectivism. This one should belong to individualism.
The intellectual establishment - the mainstream media, big education, big government, etc. - has seen its monopoly over the cultural discourse broken. Anyone can get his information independently. Ideas can no longer be stifled by establishment kingpins (Ideas can never be fully stopped, just slowed down). The proliferation of Internet access with its powerful search engines, by enabling universal “access to the knowledge base of our species”, dilutes and minimizes centralized intellectual authority.
These developments have largely drowned out the establishment leaders' ability to shape the flow of information and ideas. They are losing control of defining the philosophical direction of societies. Cultures worldwide are in a state of flux and transition; but, transition to what? Perhaps for reactionary old guard leaders like Adams, it should be toward recapturing the intellectual elite's ability to shape the culture to its liking. Throughout the past century plus, American intellectuals have been very successful at doing this. America has moved progressively - both figuratively and literally - from mostly capitalistic freedom to mostly socialistic authoritarianism. The intellectuals’ uniquely American philosophical weapon – Pragmatism (See also Tara Smith's lecture, The Menace of Pragmatism: How Aversion to Principle Is Destroying America
, as well as her article in The Objective Standard.
But as the intellectual establishment's hegemony over the flow of ideas dwindles under the onslaught of the Internet, not only the forward progression of their collectivized agenda is threatened, but also the "gains" already made. Individualism - the "I" - is the antitheses of collectivism. No digital revolution can create individualism, of course, only philosophy can do that. But perhaps what Adams sees is that the sudden free flow of information, knowledge, and ideas has established the foundation or architectural framework for the rise of individualism. Thus, the threat: An individualist does not submit to the will of any authoritarian figure, including those figures who aim to claim the mantel of leadership - read control - over the collective – now expanded to encompass the entire globe.
This is the meaning of Adams call for individuals to renounce their "I" - the application of their minds and judgement to their own flourishing - and subordinate themselves to the world collective. It is to save the eroding power of the establishment intelligentsia, which for two centuries has been on the side of undermining the Enlightenment ideal of individualism and its derivative values of individual rights, capitalism, and limited, servant government. Those “newfound responsibilities” of the individual to “support causes larger than themselves” will translate into the responsibility to promote only causes defined by the new masters of the global community. It’s the only way it can be for anyone who subordinates his “I” to the collective.