Thursday, August 19, 2010

Autistic Age

I came upon the following article in issue #58 of Philosophy Now. Published in 2006, it shows us how the age of the Yunnie is really becoming the age of the Autist, who rules our current, post-postmodern world, called here "pseudo-modernism."

I've excerpted a few key passages below, but the whole article is worth reading as it is relevant to issues on our minds today--like the effect of screen reading on our brains, the demise of books, the rise of plagiarism, and the end of empathy.

from "The Death of Postmodernism and Beyond," by Alan Kirby:

"In postmodernism, one read, watched, listened, as before. In pseudo-modernism one phones, clicks, presses, surfs, chooses, moves, downloads. There is a generation gap here, roughly separating people born before and after 1980.

Those born later might see their peers as free, autonomous, inventive, expressive, dynamic, empowered, independent, their voices unique, raised and heard: postmodernism and everything before it will by contrast seem elitist, dull, a distant and droning monologue which oppresses and occludes them.

Those born before 1980 may see, not the people, but contemporary texts which are alternately violent, pornographic, unreal, trite, vapid, conformist, consumerist, meaningless and brainless (see the drivel found, say, on some Wikipedia pages, or the lack of context on Ceefax). To them what came before pseudo-modernism will increasingly seem a golden age of intelligence, creativity, rebellion and authenticity."

Borg cupcakes

"The world has narrowed intellectually, not broadened, in the last ten years. Where Lyotard saw the eclipse of Grand Narratives, pseudo-modernism sees the ideology of globalised market economics raised to the level of the sole and over-powering regulator of all social activity--monopolistic, all-engulfing, all-explaining, all-structuring, as every academic must disagreeably recognise. Pseudo-modernism is of course consumerist and conformist, a matter of moving around the world as it is given or sold."

"This pseudo-modern world, so frightening and seemingly uncontrollable, inevitably feeds a desire to return to the infantile playing with toys which also characterises the pseudo-modern cultural world. Here, the typical emotional state, radically superseding the hyper-consciousness of irony, is the trance – the state of being swallowed up by your activity.

In place of the neurosis of modernism and the narcissism of postmodernism, pseudo-modernism takes the world away, by creating a new weightless nowhere of silent autism."

"You click, you punch the keys, you are ‘involved’, engulfed, deciding. You are the text, there is no-one else, no ‘author’; there is nowhere else, no other time or place. You are free: you are the text: the text is superseded."

© Dr Alan Kirby 2006


  1. Excellent! Reading it makes me glad I have so far escaped assimilation into the iBorg.

  2. This is too dark for an easy afternoon read. I think the cult-like image of Steve Jobs was what made my spine tingle.

  3. There's definitely something novel going on with the rise of the autistic culture and the prolonged adolescence of the 20-somethings (as described in the upcoming NYT mag article on the topic). The faux bohemians in our midst are the very definition of pseudo-modern, treating New York like a virtual game space, with check-in points (foursquare, etc.), adolescent food (cupcakes, hot dogs), and pseudo-neighborhoods. They might not even recognize what you and I would understand as the "real" city.

  4. I don't know.... every generation looks hopelessly different to those before and after. My 20 yr old niece just came to visit me with one book of Charles Bukowski's poems and another of his novels in her backpack. She's reading books- and texting, etc. Also, she loves photography- esp. photography that uses film, that is NOT digital.
    As a boomer, I do feel a certain sense of flatness from this post-1980's generation, but I am not them, and they are not me, and never the twain shall totally meet.

  5. There comes a point where all these drones are simply connected to the Hive Mind, endless copies of one another spewing the same message over and over "Buy this, wear that, think this, say that". It isn't about the appliances they use, it is a mind set created, financed and propagated by a corporate society empty of thought and culture. We've allowed ourselves to be purchased by the things we've purchased, consumed by our own consumption, and slowly turning a neighborhood, a City, a Nation into a bland, faceless provider of bodies and money, with no will of our own.


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