NOW OBJECTS PERCIEVE ME
Society covers the earth. Even here up in the air, where the the sky seems unlimited, society stretches out and encapsules everything. In our present version society is neo-liberal capitalism. It covers the earth to a degree that is hard to grasp. Neo-liberal capitalism. What does this mean? At the basis of neo-liberalsim is the dogma that everything is measured by its financial value. Cost benefit. Credit. Benefit.
An important aspect of neo-liberal capitalism is that it as a systemic power. Its not like traditional capitalism where a certain class, a limited number of rich people had the power to use the other classes for their own purpose. The power to instrumentalise others for their own benfit. Nowadays power is not as easy to detect. It is systemic, it is everywhere. Neo-liberal capitalism is a system covering the earth.
Some time ago, travelling from Bergen to Trondheim an early summer morning, I realised I could use my credit-card to check into my flight at the airport. Its a brilliant detail. In cooperation with my bank my movements are registered. Not only the movement of my money – that is my debt – but also the movements of my body. We check in and we check out. But we never really leave the system. It surrounds us. Thats what I mean when I say that society covers the earth.
The really scary experience that morning in the airport though, was when I discovered the coffee smiling at me. Maybe I slept to little, maybe the bright nights of the norwegian summer was dizzying me, but now objects perceive me.
In his seminal book ’The Vision Machine’ from 1988, Paul Virilio writes:
“‘Now objects perceive me’, the painter Paul Klee wrote in his Notebooks. This rather startling assertion has recently become objective fact, the truth. After all, aren’t they talking about producing a ‘vision machine’ in the near future, a machine that would be capable not only of recognising the contours of shapes, but also of completely interpreting the visual field, of staging a complex environment close-up or at a distance? Aren’t they also talking about the new technology of ‘visionics’: the possibility of achieving sightless vision whereby the video camera would be controlled by a computer? The computer would be responsible for the machine’s – rather than the televiewer’s – capacity to analyse the ambient environment and automatically
interpret the meaning of events. Such technology would be used in industrial production and stock control; in military robotics, too, Perhaps. Now that they are preparing the way for the automation of perception, for the innovation of artificial vision, delegating the analysis of objective reality to a machine, it might be appropriate to have another look at the nature of the virtual image.”
Paul Virilio: La machine de vision, Editions Galilee 1988
English version: The vision machine, British Film Institute 1994