Before we stare into the postmodern abyss, we should complete our analysis of technology and its essence; that is, its existential conceptual universalization. For this, we must turn to Martin Heidegger, who claimed that the machination of technological progress and its accompanying mechanization of life turns every living being into stockpiled resources, mechanical means to an uncertain end. The speciesism implicit in humanistic ideology left philosophy at a loss once animal and slave labor no longer played a role in the most effective economies of the world. For Heidegger, this reveals the insufficient expression of will-to-power across human form-of-life. The essence of being will never emerge from humanistic existential self-negation.
Heidegger saw in Germany the progression of technology into bureaucracy, disenchantment, and fascism. In response to the removal of meaning and significance, the need to generate subjective meaning independent of society and the State became the imperative of human life. Autocratic regimes performing genocide of arbitrary scapegoats is the consistent result of socialistic centralization. Reliance on a higher power, whether for objectivity or purpose, creates its own subjection. Losing their will to self-responsibility, socialization of meaning results in moral insolvency of individuals, then moral bankruptcy. Whether political subjection, spiritual asceticism, or conformity to THEY, through consumerism and spectacle, the intelligent being who fails to generate meaning out of their own experience of becoming-in-the-world inevitably falls into inauthenticity and suicide.
The mechanization of dualism was the same movement as the development of totalitarian idealism. Descartes escaped from the moral responsibility unending war and brutality by separating mind from body, leaving the use of each body permissible – responsibility for slavery, carnism, and war avoids recognition through stoic detachment. Kant escaped from the moral responsibility of choices that carry consequences by crystalizing this dualism even further. The realm of the thing-in-itself required a duty of egalitarianism at the expense of the entire phenomenal plane. Space, time, and bodies are all illusions; choice, consequences, and individual merit are productions of the mind. Kant’s moral bankruptcy results in a total loss of objectivity; just another system of inequalities, based on the comprehensive negation of life and meaning, again results in depravity, corruption, bureaucracy, carnism, slavery, and war. The last step in this progression spawns Hegel, who loses any pretense of objectivity or concern for life, again anointing idealistic hierarchy and war instead of freedom, value, and significance.
This placed philosophy in a terrible position. To regain objectivity necessitated an increasing belief in mechanical determinism and materialist history. To regain meaning necessitated an increasing romanticism of our sentimental, subjective, perceptual flux and emotional chaos. Once determinism, forgiven of any moral responsibility by Descartes and Kant, moved into rationalized sciences, philosophical materialism narrowed its attention to the interplay of historical forces, diminishing further the importance of any life or the Earth; when war is the only mechanism of progress, individual freedom, choice, value, and significance depreciate. Meanwhile, increasing romanticism results in further emotional rebellion; continuous movement without objective action. Philosophies of meaning progressively abandoned the attempt to take meaningful action, leaving positivism, structuralism, and pragmatism to their own pluralistic, pervasive doubt of knowledge, communication, or causal agency. We cannot feel surprised by the insanity that results from the fantasies of FreudoMarxian depersonalization. The “perpetual flux of stratified assemblages, ordered by the Body Without Organs” inspires rational revolt. This sad reaction to the absurd abyss at which we realize our total responsibility becomes a circus of values in its escape; we have the epistemology we deserve.
For Heidegger, the essence of a semiotic sign is more than its rhizomatic tracing through pluralistic matrices. Essence is the universality of the sign as a form, an aspect of being that transcends time and experience. Technology remains lost between mechanization and machination; its pervasive influence continues to spread and entrap the individual through technique, tools, means, and ends:
“To posit ends and procure and utilize the means to them is a human activity. The manufacture and utilization of equipment, tools, and machines, the manufactured and used things themselves, and the needs and ends that they serve, all belong to what technology is. The whole complex of these contrivances is technology. Technology itself is a contrivance—in Latin, an instrumentum.”
– Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology
Mechanization paradigms generate systems of inequality through principles, anchoring technological acceleration in favor of partisan gradations of value. Technology, if an independent partisan entity, is a contrivance that reinvents everything by a standard of instrumentalism. Because technology and technique are fundamentally human endeavors, this becomes tautological. To say that the utility of utility proves itself in its increase of utility says nothing new, only that acceleration, growth, and expansion are core elements of human success, precisely because these are emergent power-laws of anything that gains material complexity to survive against entropy and chaos. Growth rationalizes the intended consequences of inequality, which is to raise the virtuosity of capital rather than the worker. Technology provides equalization of process independent of human volition by means of an aggregation of generalized systemic liquidity. However, the socioeconomic systems that produce this technology constantly degrade technological validity through collective action. Impatient with the pace of progress for the baseline standards of living, socialism attempt to correct the emergent inequality of equal rights, preferring centralized control of unequal treatment. Because the idealist visions of an ordered and orchestrated society are incompatible, mechanization of economy becomes mechanization of sociopolitical panopticism. Out of this duplicity, more machination paradigms emerge, generating their system of values as a rejection of those with power at the time, pointing to aggregate unintended consequences. Because the mechanization paradigm never purifies itself and the machination paradigm attacks the symptom rather than the disease, the system falls into learned helplessness; bureaucracy, stagnation, and entropy result.
Just as early modern metaphysics failed to reveal the truth of being, life, and consciousness, its artificial prioritization of human, male, race, and class caused epistemology to fail in understanding instrumentalism. For Heidegger, the system of inequalities creates a paradigm that cannot reveal the truth of technology. Namely, that the essence of technology is the enframing and stockpiling of energy, forced from the Earth, held for a future purpose. Workers and resources become “stockpiled” as a means to a later end, but this purpose remains unknown, continuously displaced. Instrumentalism turns all beings into instruments of becoming. Unless someone argues that technology itself has a purpose of its own, a purpose to which we remain woefully ignorant, our progress will continue to leave us alienated as stockpiled instruments of future beings.
Of course, this is precisely what adults do through socioeconomic behavior; we stockpile time, energy, and resources in any form we can for the support of our own future, the future of our children, and for those with the wealth to do so, as many generations of human civilization that we can afford to improve. Indeed, we must take up moral responsibility for the end goal of this stockpiling, establishing it upon a system of meaning, or we will displace the guilt and anxiety of machination indefinitely. The danger begins when we miraculate our anxiety toward our own teleological stockpiling into a causa prima for religious, political, or social mechanization.
“The coming to presence of technology threatens revealing, threatens it with the possibility that all revealing will be consumed in ordering and that everything will present itself only in the hiddenness of standing-reserve. Human activity can never directly counter this danger. Human achievement alone can never banish it.” – Ibid
Heidegger’s analysis of instrumental machination shows that that mechanization is a method of enframing, we entrap meaning within an ordered framework out of anxiety toward our own finitude of orchestration. Technology reveals the potential of nature by means of capital, society, and science that relies upon system builders orchestrating the majority. The natural energy impossible to the individual is then entrapped within an artificial order of stock-piled energy. When this instrumentalism is miraculated as first-cause, this energy revelation expands to include the rationalization of every living being, in accordance with a destiny; unfortunately, it is a destiny no one yet realizes. The greatest danger of technology is that our increased certainty of probable outcomes exhausts the possibility of meaning, while hiding the essence of being in a stockpiled network of means without an end.
Heidegger later made a claim that philosophy as practiced is dead because THEY (the rabble, the spectacle) aligned existentialism too much with humanism rather than being-in-itself as an expression of will-to-power. As our analysis will show, the clear answer to claims of machination and the moral bankruptcy of mechanization requires a restoration of equality, objectivity, and responsibility. To avoid the depravity of instrumentalist systems of inequality, we must build our paradigm without the foolish speciesism that brings about the Biopolitics of fascism and communism. This means that our duality is on the side of life as it balances and conquers entropy. A morality of will-to-power ought to treat animal, alien, and machine life as an intelligent end, wherein minimum viable resilience is our means.
Life-process versus entropy; this will indeed anchor our valuations, though philosophers have taken this exposure to the equality of “bare” life with extremes of hope and desperation. We draw this line, between the life-process as an open system and the the entropy of its material hardware; entropy as the gravity that life is struggling to overcome. Looking to Heidegger’s predecessors, will find this life-against-entropy dualism has partisan affects; a clear division arises between the pessimistic virtualization of Schopenhauer and the affirmative nihilism of Nietzsche. This partisan separation continues into the French post-structuralists and contemporary American pragmatism, though each repeatedly lose themselves in Marxist ideology. Dividing reality into will-in-itself versus perpetual flux continues to result in mystic subjectivism or violence romanticism, yet each are integrally pessimistic.