Basic common sense tells us that if we want to do something we need to get hold of the necessary means. So I happen to read that comrades who, like myself, feel not just the need but also the urgency to attack and destroy the telematic network are thinking of mastering a knowledge of computers as a first step to attacking all the rest.
I share this cognitive premise, in the sense that knowledge is always, or nearly always, something positive. So long as we are aware of what we are learning and how that knowledge can be used, avoiding the traps laid for a long time now that make us learn not what we want, but what our enemies want us to want. This problem is not a simple one, but it can be approached fairly simply by starting from what is defined as the limits of “good” technology. Nearly all the ecology theses are based on what is believed to be the solution of this problem, including a presumed identification of these limits. Now, so long as one stays within that perspective, the use of less harmful technology is certainly possible, and no one would think of suggesting a return to the stone age. Not all technologies are equal and we agree that there is a considerable difference between those aimed at developing nuclear power and those aimed at realising the telematic network.
The nuclear production sector is a high-risk sector and represents a danger to everyone’s safety, so up to a point, it touches interests that can sensitise social strata who are in contrast with each other, included and excluded. Fear of total war has led us to a world order that depends on small wars and a progressive reduction of the atomic arsenal. Here we are faced with a problem which, even when considered in antithetical terms, is understood by those on both sides of the class barricade.
The information technology sector is certainly also a risk, in that it is causing an upheaval in the world order as we know it. But it is a risk that the included are gradually eliminating by cutting the excluded off from them, proposing a different interpretation of the interests to be defended due to the spreading of this technology. In other words, the consequences, which we will come to further on, will not be the same for everyone as in the case of atomic death, but will be perceived and controlled by the included, while for the excluded they will be unknown, therefore uncontrollable, therefore lethal. Information technology separates what nuclear power basically brought together into a social hybrid, and is erecting a wall that will allow a far more rigid division than the one we know so far.
But whatever could these consequences be? What harm is there in information technology and computers, many ask. Why this neo-luddism? Isn’t that out of date? In their fury, do the opposers not risk attacking good technology that we could also use after the revolution, and which moreover we need to use today in order to fight the class enemy. These are questions we need to find answers to.
Information technology has opend up a new world, one that in order to be technologically managed and utilised requires a considerable reduction in human resources in terms of intelligence, analytical capacity, self-awareness, individual autonomy, thinking and projectuality. There is no such thing as good technology. We need to see what use it is being put to. But the technology in question is not bad for the same reasons that nuclear technology is (bad for everyone), but because information technology is only bad for the excluded. In actual fact any technology, even that derived from nuclear sources, is always a reductive prothesis.
In order to spread to the level of world conquest, information technology must diseducate man to use it. Unable to reach individuals at their own level, not even that of basic common sense, it needs to reduce the latter to the level of the machine. The new man that information technology wants to fabricate, corresponding to the requirements of a substitutive technology, is one with low intelligence, poor capacity to communicate, reduced imaginative and creative possibilities, but who has quick reflexes and is capable of being flexible and of choosing between different elements, but all within a precise framework.
In order to do this, information technology is changing man’s creative capability profoundly. Now, if we just think how fundamentally important these are to us, we become aware of the dramatic consequences if this project were to succeed in being applied totally and pass unobserved. What they are changing without our noticing is the relationship between technology and our bodies.The relationship with any technology is that of a prothesis, i.e. of an increase in the body’s capabilities. A short-sighted person sees better with spectacles, and with the right lenses can even reach the point of seeing as though they had good eyesight. However, the digital image supplied to us by information technology has nothing to do with such a reality. If we see a house in front of us we reconstruct it through mental processes of perception and memorisation, a complex system of “analytical reconstruction” which allows us to state that there is a house in front of us. But if we see a house on the computer screen, what we are really looking at are thousands of luminous impulses which suggest a picture that in no way resembles a house. In order to see a house we must be educated to see it, reducing ourselves to the level of the machine.
Of course we instinctively rebel against this strange image of the house at first, but everything depends on the passing of time without reacting. Gradually a new behavioural map emerges within our awareness. We react differently to the image and only with greater difficulty do we manage to rebel against the idea that it is really just a drawing of a house. At this point the computer has already penetrated us. Technology is no longer something outside us, a mechanical hand of immense strength has now become an inverted prothesis that is penetrating our brains and conditioning us.
At this point we have become capable of receiving even long sequences of images, for example a whole TV programme, and exchanging it for a reproduction of reality. Our TV conditioning no longer allows us to rebel. Moreover, with a slightly better definition, the integrated circuit will close in on us for good.
But information does not only concern itself with the problem of our reception (perception), but also our transmission (language). Here again it has been necessary to adapt in a reductive way. A continual selection of our linguistic heritage is taking place through information technology, and a vast number of words are falling into complete disuse, being forgotten and substituted by other more essential ones. Here one could make a few interesting points. For example, expressions used in Italy such as “sales philosophy” or “economic return” or “there’s no problem”, and so on, can be can be seen as examples of this impoverishment of language. In a preceding article in this paper entitled “From Virus to Virus” (in itself rather enigmatic) we read at a certain point that “the Jerusalem virus of Friday 13th, is programmed to destroy all the files it finds…”. Whyever was the term file used to indicate spomething which in Italian could quite adequately be called “data archive”? For precisely the reasons we are discussing here.
At the present time a problem that is central to the history of the struggle against the class enemy is emerging: whether to decide to go for an immediate, spreading attack on the structures of information technology or not. This decision must be made before advances in the same technology deprive us of the capacity even to decide to struggle against it. Before long we will be unable to understand the wide effects of computer technology, and our ignorance on the subject could grow parallel to our knowledge of computer technology itself, precisely because it is not possible to have any knowledge of this technology that is not in some way vicarious, that does not depend on the acceptation of a generalised intellectual submission.
I would like to point to a number of not very clear aspects concerning this problem of computer knowledge that some say is necessary in order to fight the latter and contribute to their destruction.
I ask myself what it means to say there is a need to “gain computer knowledge”. At this point something from my own indirect experience comes to mind. At the beginning of the Sixties two mathematician friends of mine, attracted by a proposal by Olivetti and coordinated by the maths institute at Pisa university, accepted a transfer to this faculty to participate in the construction of the first wholly Italian computer. About two years later I met one of them who told me of his vicissitudes in Pisa. At one point the whole project ran aground due to difficulties concerning the resolution of a few more complex logarithmics. The director of the project had had the brilliant idea of finding a solution of the logarithmic, which required a great deal of time and frankly a large dose of mathematical creativity, by putting an ad in the weekly puzzle magazine “Settimana enigmistica” (a crossword puzzle weekly) asking for the collaboration of enthusiasts in the sector who, in exchange for a modest recompense came forward and solved the problems indirectly, i.e. through tables or matrixes, developing all the possibilities of binary logic: an incredibly long but also incredibly stupid piece of work. When the Olivetti computer of the so-called first generation was ready, it solved the aforementioned logarithmics easily, so they were able to go ahead. The sad reality of electronics is that apart from the strictly technical aspects of components, there is hardly any trace of real cognitive problems. Many comrades, attracted perhaps by clamorous electronic thefts or sabotage through programmed “viruses”, see themselves carrying out such great enterprises, therefore deduce that it is necessary to learn how to make programmes and so on. Then there is the passage to more or less sensate fantasies concerning the validity of attending “courses” or “studying” manuals.
In my opinion the problem is no different to that where one concludes that, although it is possible to make explosives in one’s own kitchen, it is best to avoid it: it is quicker and less dangerous to buy them and learn, quite simply, how to use them.