By Asher Kohn / thestate.ae
A drone is a perfect citizen. It follows orders. It produces. It does not waste. It does not take breaks, it does not gossip, and it does not unionize. A drone does not worry about the second-order effects of its actions. A drone will not whistleblow and a drone will not strike. A drone works, and works hard, and does nothing else.
A drone is an economist’s compatriot. They are perfect rational actors, their brains wired to view everything in cost-benefit analysis. A drone can be cheated, but never confused. A drone will always be convinced that its decisions are correct. How do drones communicate? In certainties. Drones are sure of their place in the world and their place in the hierarchy. A drone will seek its maximum advantage in any situation. Without the need for sleep or sustenance, a drone is a higher being. An animal perfectly evolved for the digital world.
But perfect evolution does not mean an ideal form. They are working on it, though, creating drones like the famous “Big Dog” that is more adaptable. It is able to operate, its parents note excitedly, ‘even’ in nature.
This talk of perfection is literally inhuman. It is anathema to a carnival, which is why Murmuration is so wonderful. The carnival frame allows us to discuss drones in human terms, in fears and worries, in excitation and love. A carnival is silly, as irrational as can be. And as human as can be. The carnival is a meatspace event, drawn by Murmuration in an incursion into the drone’s digital world. The carnival is, arguably, a rationalism-free zone.
While humanity is proud of its rationality and problem-solving skills, there is no question that drones are our betters. Drones are more highly-evolved employees, able to execute their employers’ commands with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of that beloved efficiency. Though still more expensive than an individual human, the drone’s patience, literal inability to do wrong, and willingness to remain an individual give it advantages that are going to multiply in the next few years and decades. The urban environment is rapidly automating and in the future will consist of drones watching drones. The city belongs to the drone, the wage-worker of tomorrow.
Which is why, perhaps, drones are better at living in cities than even humans. Corporations are citizens and we are just persons, so the cities in which we live are bent towards the former’s needs. A corporation needs order, lines of sight, pollsters, and personal data. Not staring at clouds or making animals out of paper cups. Certainly not carving a beloved’s name into bark. A corporation has no interest in trees and less public space. Sitting in the grass has marginal economic value to a rational citizen, but good gracious is it wonderful for their flesh-and-blood counterparts.
Last week, a fight broke out in Ecumenopolis over a handful of greenspace. Things are, of course, complicated but there seems to be a groundswell not over the handful itself, but over the right to a rationalism-free zone. In a city rapidly churning out malls, there is perhaps a prayer for some respite from rational-choice theory. A little space, perhaps, free from the free market.
Heartwarmingly, meatspace is coalescing. Trees and animals have joined hands/branches/paws in an attempt to reclaim the flesh-and-blood world for the fleshy and the bloody. The carnival, as a theoretical space, is part of this messiness. The celebration of a world turned upside-down, of a silly, giddy, world is what makes us animals. Not animals in the pejorative sense but in the proudly goofy sense. Humans will make mistakes that a drone may not. Humans will dance around the maypole, jump over a fire, and tie wishes with string, and they need grass and trees to do that. Humans have an attachment to the land as part of the entire concept of being human.
A drone does not have need for any of that. A drone is perfect. No meetings, no coalitions, no arm-in-arm against the political rage of the day. A drone simply works. It could fly into the shopping malls to pick up your clothing. It could protect your newly-bought clothes from the looters, while another drone directs drone traffic. The city could all be given up to drones. For those less interested in rate-of-return on investments, this seems more terrifying than exciting. This seems like the sort of reason to create a carnival, insurging into internet space of proudly established in grassy space.
The theory that supports drones, I suppose, is that they do our messy work for us. That a drone will be an extension of a human, that the drone/iPhone spectrum is more a continuum than anything else. The drone as part-angel, part-citizen.This is troubling for all the reasons explained above: if the drone is an angel, then does that make the corporation God? This would also mean that humanity is ascended, that a more-perfect evolution of the human has been found within the theology of capitalism.
That day has not yet come, and the Big Dog and its kin remain better .gif’d than manipulated. The drone-as-tool has not yet reached the bar set by drone-as-theoretical-space. Let us have a carnival every day that remains the case.
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Originally posted by thestate.ae here.