Memo Atken: A Digital God for a Digital culture

“Now we are living in times of increasing technological surveillance. In this post-Snowden era we are more aware of the extent of this invasion of privacy than ever. But how have the general public reacted to the Snowden Revelations? It seems the general mood is apathetic — perhaps even sympathetic, finding safety and comfort in knowing that a Higher Force is watching; protecting those who are virtuous, the law-abiding. He who is innocent has nothing to fear. He who does wrong will be found and punished.

This seems to me, rather similar to the role of organized religion and moral high gods of the past.

It was ancient religions that imposed omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent powers watching over us, judging us, protecting us. Those were myths fabricated to control the masses. Today, as our societies lose spiritual sensibilities, we are drowning ourselves in a break-neck race of materialism and technological submission. So The Overseer too is adapting, co-evolving. As its metaphysical traits crumble and become obsolete, the gaps are filled and substituted with new traits — physical, material, digital traits — to match our physical, material, digital lifestyles. We don’t fear the Old Gods anymore, they cannot protect or control us, so we need new ones. We have killed God, as Nietzsche says. But we are rebuilding Him, with Technology, to match our techno-culture. The myth is becoming real. We’re edging closer and closer to an authentic man-made deity. Living up in The Cloud, of all places. Watching over us, listening to our thoughts and dreams in ones and zeros.

I’m really intrigued by this evolution of our Overseer — invented to ‘watch and protect’, an instrument of power and control — into a material, digital form; to match our material, digital
lifestyles.

And to be very clear, I’m not suggesting that I believe that Google, Facebook, NSA, GCHQ are gods that we worship, or that they have other magical god-like powers (though all of those points could be argued too). I’m just suggesting that they are taking the role in society of surveillance and control, that was previously the role of traditional religion, which is no longer effective in that role.”

(source accessed 7-6-2016)