When we align ourselves with the machine-like aspect of the universe then we ourselves become machine-like. We then become machines living in a machine-world. For this to take place is the easiest thing in the world; it happens quite automatically, in fact. This is of course the defining characteristic of the machine-world – that everything which happens within it happens ‘quite automatically’! What other way could things happen in the machine world?
When we align ourselves with the machine-like aspect of the universe then information is automatically lost. Information is lost like water leaking out of a sieve! Before we aligned ourselves with the machine we had the possibility of seeing the world in a ‘non-machine like way’ – after the event we no longer have this possibility . ‘Information’ is therefore another way of talking about the view of the world that we had before we started seeing things in the machine-like way. Information is what the machine screens out, in other words. We could go so far as to say that a machine is a machine precisely because it is opaque to all information.
Once we fall under the influence (or spell) of the mechanical realm, the machine-like aspect of the universe, then we become subject to a force that is at the same time both irresistibly powerful and entirely blind. Machines are always blind – their blindness is what makes them machines, as we have just said. Machines always ‘just do what they do’ and the reason they just do what they do is because that’s what they do! The machine is its own justification, the system is its own validation. We don’t need to look beyond the logic of the machine for justification – actually, we’re not allowed to look beyond this logic! We can’t argue against the machine therefore – we can’t argue against it because it has removed the means by which we could argue against it. All contrary evidence has been done away with; all competing viewpoints have been effectively suppressed. How can we go against the machine when the machine is all we know? We can’t question the system when the system is all that there is. All we can do is try to find a place within it. There is a vast network of cogs in the machine: big ones and medium-sized ones and little ones, and they’re all turning, turning, turning at their own various rates. Each cog matches its movement to the rules that it is subjected to in the matrix of cogs around it – each cog is necessarily enmeshed with its fellows and thus with the system as a whole. This is ‘the logic of the system’! Everything is fine just so long as you are in step with all the other cogs but the moment you try to do something different then you’re in serious trouble; there’s no leeway in the machine for any modality of action other than that which has been specifically authorized by the machine – essentially, there’s no space in the machine for anything that isn’t the machine!
So when we’ve been pulled into the mechanical realm there is nothing for it but to go along with the logic of the machine, the logic of the system. From the POV of the machine, there simply aren’t any other possibilities! Obeying is no longer obeying because there’s no other possibility other than obeying. The only possibility open to us is the possibility of becoming better fitted to the machine; the only direction for us to go in is the direction of us becoming better and better at obeying the rules that are defining reality for us. This is the process of ‘optimization’ which is where we get better and better at doing what the machine is doing, better and better at doing what everyone else is already doing! Optimization is now the be-all and the end-all – it is the hypnotic drum beat to which we dance. The possibility of being 100% optimized is the magnetic lure that draws us on and on – we are pulled towards it like a moth to a candle. Perfection at playing the game that is the only game in town is the Holy Grail of the machine world – this is the answer to everything. This is the God we have to worship. This is machine nirvana. This is when all our troubles some to an end, this is when all our (machine) dreams finally come true…
The truly bizarre thing about this state of maximal adaptation / optimization to the assumed reality of the machine is however that this magnetically-attractive apparently wonderful goal-state is actually the point where all information is finally eliminated from the picture. Put another way, it is the point at which we become perfectly optimized is also the point at which we have lost all our freedom. We have been totally subsumed by the machine at this point – ‘perfect adaptation’ means that there is nothing there that is not the logic of the system. All anomalies have been eliminated. There are no obstructions to the machine doing its thing and so it can go right ahead and perform in an absolutely efficient manner, and yet at the same time once we have achieved 100% efficiency in this way (which is as everyone knows super-plus-double-good) we have also made ourselves perfectly and utterly blind as regards the value or meaningfulness of what we are being so efficient at. We are maximally good at doing whatever it is that we’re doing (at doing what the machine wants us to do) and at the same time minimally able to see what it is that we’re so efficient at doing! So what exactly are we achieving here? The point is that the machine is quite blind with regard to what it is doing and so by becoming maximally adapted to the machine in the way that we have done its blindness is now our blindness. And the machine is only doing what it is doing because it is doing it, as we have already said– there’s no more reason to it than this. There is no more sense to what is going on than this…
When we go down the one-way street of optimization (when we obey the magnetic pull towards the maximally optimized position, which we can’t help obeying when we’re under the hypnotic spell of the machine) then as we have said the end-point of this process is where we lose all information. The better we get at optimizing our activity within the terms of the assumed abstract context of the machine the more information we lose and when we hit the jack-pot of 100% optimization we have reached the state of maximum entropy. The state of maximum entropy is where all mechanical processes automatically head to – it is of course in the nature of mechanical systems to head towards an entropic maximum. What else is there but entropy in a mechanical system? The stone rolls to the bottom of the hill and then it stops rolling. The log in the fire-place burns brightly and gives off its heat and then – when it reaches the predictable end-point of the oxidation process – it stops burning forever. What we’re talking about here therefore is ‘activity that leads to the state of no activity’, or ‘change for the sake of forever staying the same’. This is what optimization is all about – it is movement towards an equilibrium point, movement towards the point of no further movement…
The ‘journey’ of optimization isn’t a journey at all, in other words. It’s the superficial appearance of a journey disguising no journey. It’s an illusory journey. It’s like the definition of a specialist as ‘someone who gets to know more and more about less and less until one day they know absolutely everything there is to know about nothing at all’! As we make the illusory journey of optimization (which is movement that gets closer and closer to a fixed point) tiny inconsequential details become more and more important to us, more and more demanding upon our attention and at the same time as our attention gets taken up with the unimportant details we progressively lose sight of the bigger picture. The more we are caught up in the game the less able we become to see what is really happening, in other words. Actually, these two developments are of course the same development – the decrease in freedom that comes with optimization is the same thing as the loss of perspective that we are being subjected to. There is freedom in reality (reality is freedom!) and the less reality we are aware of the less freedom we have as a result. When we have zero reality left then we also have zero freedom left – it’s the same thing. In the end we have zero perspective and maximum compulsivity and this is what life in the mechanical realm is all about!
This raises the question – why on earth would we want to go down a road that irreversibly takes us to a place where are compelled to give our attention over to unimportant details the whole time? Why would we want to be in the situation where we are forced to stress out the whole time over nonsense, where we are forced to constantly take nonsense seriously? Why do we want to put ourselves in the position of being commanded by nonsense, being bullied by illusions? Where’s the big attraction here? How does this ever get to seem like such a good idea?
We have actually already gone some way to answering this distinctly perplexing question. The journey of optimization is a fundamentally deceptive one – it is one that fundamentally misrepresents the goal that it is being aimed at. We’re ‘going for gold’ in a big way – we’re giving it everything we’ve got – and yet the gold we’re going for isn’t gold at all. It’s fool’s gold! It’s the very antithesis of anything worthwhile – what we’re aiming at so determinedly, so enthusiastically (with stars or dollar signs in our eyes) is the situation where we have no freedom at all other than the freedom to do what the machine wants us to do, and what the machine wants us to do is something that is actually quite meaningless outside of ‘the closed context of the game’! The gold we are playing for is worthless outside of the game and the game itself isn’t actually real.
We can’t really blame the machine however – we put ourselves in this situation. We wanted the fixed-or-abstract context to be there so that our games, our distractions, could be meaningful for us. The only way there can be any refuge for us in our games, in our distractions, is if we first assume the abstract context which our games or distractions can seem meaningful or important within. We buy into the system in other words and this is great because we then have a fully-validated pursuit to get stuck into, to get caught up with. All of a sudden there’s an absolutely meaningful (meaningful because they’re unquestionable) set of rules for us to go along with. All of a sudden there’s a polarity of right versus wrong, win versus lose, and all we have to do is accommodate ourselves to this polarity. All we need to do is keep on striving (or keep on hoping) for the ultimate validation of ‘getting it right’ or ‘being a winner’ within the game that we don’t acknowledge to be a game and what could be simpler than this?
We create this situation for ourselves by placing the machine in a position of authority over us. By making ourselves incapable of questioning the machine we place it over us and this then over-simplifies life to the straightforward matter of simply ‘doing what the machine tells us to do’. We have placed a tyrant in a position of absolute power over us and – in one way – this is exactly what we wanted. This gives us a reassuring sense of security in a universe where otherwise there would be no such ‘security’. The ‘machine’ is any structure that we have invented – it is also the formal system of our thoughts. We are incapable of questioning our thoughts since we are as mechanical as they are, and this provides us with the sense of orientation that – in one way – is exactly what we want. We can’t see beyond our own thoughts and there is a basic ontological security in this. We don’t want to see beyond our own thoughts, our own beliefs, our own crappy models of reality, no matter how much trouble they cause for us….
The machine (or the system of thought) is essentially an act of aggression directed towards reality. We could also say that it is our active ‘ignorance’ of the reality of the world as it is in itself – it is like me putting my palm up towards someone to indicate in no uncertain terms that I don’t want to hear what they are saying. “Talk to the hand because the face isn’t listening,” I say. The machine is the denial of the endless depth and profundity of reality. It is our way of saying ‘NO’ to this reality, which is too marvellous, too wonderful for us; demanding of us as it does that we become as endlessly deep and profound as it is. Rather than rise to this challenge, therefore, we pull reality down to our level, down to the level of our mechanical interpretations or representations of it. We pull reality down to the level of our banal generic thoughts about it!
Instead of rising to meet the challenge that unconditioned reality sets out before us we ‘hold out the hand’ – we replace reality with the crude game that we are playing. We replace an endlessly deep and profound reality with the moronic tyranny of the machine and engross ourselves in the all-consuming task of fulfilling its senseless demands….
Author: Nick Williams
Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.