All posts by Paul Raven

Six foot of unkempt postgraduate researcher.

regression to the mean

It’s not a shock — or at least it shouldn’t be. Rather, it’s a regression to the mean, albeit a notional and imagined mean: a grasping for a glory which was largely lost long before anyone who just voted to retrieve it was born, like a fading actor dressing up in the moth-eaten costumes of the roles that made them famous, mouthing half-remembered lines in front of a warped and dusty mirror. This new England will be remarkably like the one I grew up in during the 80s: mean, greedy, racist and cruel. This is the country that invented capitalism, remember: the country that invented the poorhouse and the limited-stock company. England, going back to doing what it does best — namely eating its young.

Ironically, in doubling down on the decision to exit Europe, England reveals itself to be much more European that it would like to admit: prone to the same parochial populisms, suckers for the same sorts of priapic strongmen. That imagined glory is now forever out of reach. In seeking to restore its preeminence, the English have ensured their irrelevance.

I want to be angry. I guess I am angry, but less so at the electorate than the elected, the latter of whom have played a game as old as the written word, if not far older still. The naked deceit, and the concomitant thirst for the lies supplied, has been terrifying and humbling to behold. Mostly I’m sad: sad for the waste and misery that will come, visited upon those least able to protect themselves from it.

This is not a reassuring result for those of us trying to find ways that we might avoid the worst possibilities of climate change. For all our selfcongratulatory modernity and technological baubles, we’re still feudal apes, grooming our silverbacks in hope of favours, shitting where we eat.

a quasi-military device

Loads of grimly chewy stuff in this Will Davies interview. Like this map-is-not-the-territory riff about smartphones, f’rex:

What the phone promises you psychologically is not content as such, but a space on the screen that is totally obedient to you. This translates into the illusion that the world, seen through the screen, will be equally obedient. I think any effort to try to understand smartphone addiction needs to grapple with the fact that it is much closer to a control technology than an information technology. Of course, it tells you useful things but what it offers you is navigation and control, the ability to make a fast-moving and confusing world obey you. One of the main contrasts in the book is between a view of the world that tries to represent it—the classically modern one of the seventeenth century for which the map would be a classic example—and a view of the world which brings it under control, which is a military ideal. Today, we often have no idea where we are going until we put a destination into our phone and follow the instructions. This navigation-based approach to the world originates from military technology and the need to bring the world under control.

Etymology is important, kids! “Cyber”: a contraction of “cybernetics”, derived from from the Greek kubernētēs (pilot, steersman) and/or kubernēsis (governance, leadership).