‘The Apocalypse of a Wired Brain’ by Slavoj Žižek

Žižek, S. (2020). The Apocalypse of a Wired Brain. Critical Inquiry, 46(4), 745–763. doi:10.1086/709222


When the threat posed by the digitalization of our lives is debated in our media, the focus is usually on the new phase of capitalism called surveillance capitalism: a total digital control over our lives exerted by state agencies and private corporations.

However, important as this surveillance capitalism is, it is not yet the true game changer; there is a much greater potential for new forms of domination in the prospect of a direct brain-machine interface (the “wired brain”). First, when our brain is connected to digital machines, we can cause things to happen in reality just by thinking about them; then, my brain is directly connected to another brain, so that another individual can directly share my experience.

Extrapolated to its extreme, the wired brain opens up the prospect of what Ray Kurzweil called Singularity, the divine-like global space of shared awareness. Whatever the (dubious, for the time being) scientific status of this idea, it is clear that its realization will affect the basic features of humans as thinking/speaking beings: the eventual rise of Singularity will be apocalyptic in the complex meaning of the term: it will imply the encounter with a truth hidden in our ordinary human existence—that is, the entrance into a new posthuman dimension, which cannot but be experienced as catastrophic, as the end of our world. But will we still be here to experience our immersion into Singularity in any human sense of the term?

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