Society is Not Your Friend

Society is not your friend..

The concept of a sui generis society – something that is literally *real* – has been out of favor for over 100 years. I think that the concept – if not the specifics of Comté and Durkheim – can be revitalized. Further, that concept is the biggest threat to posthumans imaginable.

Rather than subvert individual humans to a less-important stature (an important feature of Comté and Durkheim’s model), let us instead suppose that a sui generis society is instead an emergent phenomenon. That this entity comes to life literally as more than the sum of our individual parts and actions. If ants and bees (or flocks of birds) can mindlessly create emergent phenomenon greater than any individual creature, consider how much more a sui generis society would be compared to an individual human?

Such an entity need not be “conscious” or “self-aware” like we are; Peter Watt’s antagonist in Blindsight gives a good example where intelligence need not imply self-awareness or consciousness at all.

If you’ve read Blindsight, this is the point that you should be going “Oh, shit.”

Because any such entity would be concerned most significantly with perpetuating itself. Anything that could threaten its perpetuation would be seen as a threat. We aren’t just talking “clash of civilizations” here, folks – we’re talking anti-intellectualism. {post-trump edit: and I don’t just mean like the GOP, here.}

Consider the amounts of social handshaking that goes on around you, the degree of social ostracism. A sui generis society would not be interested in any one person’s success any more than you are interested in promoting one cell in your body. If one of your cells were to get its own ideas, you’d take action to have it removed.

Comté and Durkheim wished (unlike some later functionalists) to steer the sui generis society towards a style that they felt would be optimal and just. This is probably not possible – or at least is extremely difficult. Any subversion large enough to be noticed by the entity will be itself subsumed and digested, unless it is large enough to fight and take over itself. Consider flavor-of-the-month management as an example of the former (many of which started out as very well-intentioned movements) and the Civil War as the latter.

Society – as an entity – has no interest in fulfilling your personal dreams and goals. It has no need to be more efficient, or to encourage altruism in gift-giving. Instead, it’s set up to be a very nasty and mean self-perpetuating thing.

And here’s the bit that started me in thinking of all this. The closest thing – aside from another sui generis emergent society – that would be able to challenge such a thing would be a posthuman upload or an AI.

Did I mention that the Sarah Connor Chronicles will be back on this fall? Or that there’s a new Terminator movie next year?

We’ll talk about it around the water cooler, okay?