20-10-2017

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Magic and Machines - Andrew Dawson

In the tarot card 'Wheel of Fortune', a mechanical wheel revolves, representing changing luck. The tarot represented a vehicle for women to speak on issues the patriarchy restricted them from talking about. Invoking spirits as the communicators of heretical ideas like feminism, abolitionism, communism allowed for these assertions to be made without persecution. "The occult is an unplaceable relationship between the material and spiritual; it is words shaping reality". Links can be seen between the occult and the programmed -- in this schema words and rituals produce material and change in reality. As “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, we tend to stop being critical of these products, how they are made, how they affect society, and how to challenge its power. We talk about tech lords with words like wizards because they have reshaped reality in a manner that we cannot understand or resist. It dirties the term magic, a site of alterity, opposed to rationality, hegemony and capital.

Our dystopias reflect our concerns with the social atomisation and individualisation, trends currently driving social change under neoliberal social and economic systems. Consider UBER, which operates at a loss and is based on destroying socialised forms of transport in order to get a monopoly after the social democratic system is destroyed. The political implications of technological development must be addressed, as the desire of the worker for social change butts against the desire of industry for using tech advancements for increased profit and control. Therefore industry seeks to remove the worker wherever possible. Luddites were not against technology, they were against capitalist classes using it to drive them into poverty and maximising private profit. Who does technology work for? How can we change the organisation of society around technology? We must all become magicians to lever this change in the management of tech.