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Excerpt from Welcome to the Machine

Genius (p. 142)

From chapter "Nothing to Fear"

The global culture of consumption hasn’t evolved out of some inherent human addiction to the ownership of “goods.” Before human beings can be addicted to “things,” they must be converted from human beings to consumers. This is often accomplished through the destruction of those humans still living in supportive communities interacting with their landbase. As we have seen time and again: the indigenous do not become civilized until their human and nonhuman communities have been decimated. Once communities are gone, conditions are ripe for the creation of consumers and mass commerce, which is driven by merchant greed as much as by consumer demand. If I can’t live in a human community embedded in its natural surroundings, I may as well have a good laptop computer and a really groovy stereo. Greed is the “offensive” side of fear; it’s the seeking of comfort. Security is the “defensive” side of fear; it’s the protection of comfort. Money is the medium of exchange that comfort-seeking takes in the modern socioeconomic system. Wealth is the turning of earth, lives, labor, and so on into consumables and money. Endless profit-seeking turns the wheels of commerce. Some (Rand, RAND, and others) say that’s the genius of the capitalist system. And it is.

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But it isn’t. The first definition of geniusin the dictionary is the attendant spirit of a person or a place, as in djinn, as in genius loci, the pervading spirit or tutelary deity of a place. But machines—including societies formed as machines, as in capitalism, as in industrialism, as in civilization—are placeless. And they are spiritless. Which means they can never have genius. They can have power. They can have organization. They can have information. They can have a sort of virtual intelligence. But uprooted from place and deprived of spirit, they can never have genius.