Friday, February 22, 2013


Judith Williamson called it "inevitabilism". (I was interviewing her about the CCRU, Sadie Plant, et al, for this piece).  This dude calls it The Borg Complex:

... I read an article which strongly urged religious institutions to adapt to new communication technologies. Adapt or die, the author seemed to say; or, better yet, resistance is futile...  it occurred to me that there was an identifiable rhetoric that could be usefully labeled a “Borg Complex.”... 
I’m persuaded of the usefulness of this particular label because, at the very least, it draws attention to rhetoric that shuts down debate and discussion about technology. In its worst forms this rhetoric is disingenuous and coercive. Even when it is not deployed maliciously, it oversimplifies genuine complexity and prevents us from imagining the full range of possibilities with regards to our use of technology. The label also raises some interesting historical, philosophical, and ethical questions about technology.... To what ends is this rhetoric put? Apart from rhetorical considerations, what do we make of the technological determinism implied? What does the history of technology tells us about the claims of inevitability? What sorts of options and choices are genuinely available when a technology appears?

The Frailest Thing is cataloguing examples of Borg-ian arguments at this tumblr

Here is The Frailest Thing's schema of the fundamental set of rhetorical moves, aka "Borg Complex Symptoms"

1. Makes grandiose, but unsupported claims for technology

2. Uses the term Luddite a-historically and as a casual slur

3. Pays lip service to, but ultimately dismisses genuine concerns

4. Equates resistance or caution to reactionary nostalgia

5. Starkly and matter-of-factly frames the case for assimilation

6. Announces the bleak future for those who refuse to assimilate

7. Expresses contemptuous disregard for past cultural achievements

8. Refers to historical antecedents solely to dismiss present concerns

As Blue Lines Revisted notes: there are numerous examples of this syndrome in the discourse around music and technology...

As Virilio notes, every technological innovation is also the invention of a new accident, a new form of catastrophe...

As physicians, the honest ones, note: the word "side effect" is semantic sleight  - all drugs have multiple effects, but medicine and Big Pharma choose to downplay the negative ones and focus on the "primary' benefit of a new drug

Here's my own contribution to anti-inevitabilism

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