Unit 18: New Brave World. Pascal Bronner & Thomas Hillier

Image: Nick Hannes, Garden of Delight

“The end of the world has already occurred. We can be uncannily precise about the date on which the world ended. Convenience is not readily associated with historiography, nor indeed with geological time. But in this case, it is uncannily clear. It was April 1784, when James Watt patented the steam engine, an act that commenced the depositing of carbon in Earth’s crust – namely, the inception of humanity as a geophysical force on a planetary scale.”

– Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World

As we technologically advance at a blistering pace, we leave in our wake a devastating and ever-growing trail of destruction that scars our landscapes and destroys our fragile ecologies. From enormous trash gyers in the Atlantic Ocean to mountains of radioactive mining waste in Florida, to Amazon’s imposing fulfilment centres, nowhere is left untouched by our impact. Contemporary philosopher, Timothy Morton, describes these vast, temporal and spatial entities as Hyperobjects that defeat traditional ideas of what a thing is in the first place, questioning if the world as we know it is has already come to some form of end.

Whilst achieving this wonderful life of comfort and luxury, at least for the privileged few, our ability to create such monstrous objects is only outdone by our skill in covering up these collective sins. We sweep them under earths carpet, leaving large parts of our planet virtually uninhabitable. But, what if there is a second life for these scars, what if they can be reconfigured for a new world?

Where we are should come as no surprise to any of us, for decades, even centuries, writers have been predicting this future. In 1952, inspired by Huxley’s Brave New World, ‘Player Piano’ by Kurt Vonnegut showed, like so many writers of this genre; how Mankind’s blind faith in technological advancement has disastrous effects on society. We will take inspiration from writers like these alongside those who envision a different world such as Aron Bastani and his manifesto on Fully Automated Luxury Communism.

In our technologically advanced society, altogether serviced by Netflix, Deliveroo and Amazon Prime, could we once again indulge in the slower things in life? Bastani’s manifesto questions if new technologies can liberate us from work, where automation, rather than undermining an economy built on full employment, is instead the path to a world of liberty? Could we once again spend our days delighting in elaborate feasts, endless gardening, playing or even lying in a perpetual slumber?

Is now a better time than ever to reinvent the realm around us to create a new brave world… let’s find out!

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