The heavy sounds of construction clang and echo across the campus. Showers of sparks explode from I-beam edges; hot rivets glow in winter evening light/illuminate a rising lattice of steel transformed by strings of worklights into a vector space of intersecting lines and planes, hung with ice and electricity. The Bill Gates computer center will be ready by 2000; Bill has donated several million dollars and several million more in computer equipment in a brilliant bid to ensure that the future of the infomanagerial class be even more tightly bound up with his operating system...
Of course, the virtual class is going to need protection from the mounting tide of flesh-and-blood resistance to the extension of neoliberal technofascist control across the globe...and so it is that we find ourselves, blood capsules inside our mouths, strategically placed around the room, waiting for the fresh-faced 22 year old Marine with face paint and 50,000 dollars worth of computerized weaponry to begin his talk...
> WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20 > 5:30pm > The Future of the Military > Location: Littauer 140, Kennedy School, Harvard University > Land Warrior is the Army's revolutionary program to equip soldiers > for the digitized battlefield. For the first time, the soldier's > equipment is being computerized as if he is a complete weapons > platform.The result: the first integrated soldier fighting system > for the dismounted infantryman. By harnessing today's technology, > future soldiers will have unparalleled effectiveness and > survivability as they are linked into the 21st Century battlefield. > Come see the 21st Century Land Warrior prototype presentation in > full battle gear.
After a short introduction by an older Marine Corps officer, in which an overhead projector was used to display graphics educating us as to the nature of the threat in the next millennium (a picture of the earth from space, surrounded by comic book sound-effect jagged edge balloons, the kind you see in junk mail like yellow starbursts '2nd video free!', only these contain phrases describing the 'conflict situations 2000:' 'terrorist attack,' 'urban unrest,' 'chinese aggression,' 'defense of US interests in the Middle East'), the 'Land Warrior' steps forward.
"My infrared night-scope is capable of penetrating nearly any amount of smoke, fog, rain, or chemical clouds, at night, at a range of several thousand feet; these images are sent by satellite uplink to be decoded by a centralized computer system that transmits all necessary information to commanding officers and identifies enemy forces and issues directives in the form of on-screen text overlay, pinpointing primary targets to eliminate unnecessary battlefield time lag!" he barks out. Land Warrior flips down the scope and a video projector displays what he sees for the assembled crowd...
He launches into a description of the increasing miniaturization of the scope technology, with hopeful engineers predicting the incorporation of night-vision, video feed, and target pinpointing and identification technologies into contact lense systems by 2005.
> These technologies, these assemblages, though, need to be > appreciated for what they are: synthetic materials transformed > into instruments of "the will to virtuality," or of human > incorporation - even "disappearance" - into cybernetic machinery. > Cybercultural technologies are agents of physical colonization, > imperialists of the human sensorium, created, like Frankenstein, > by our own raw desire. They represent what Virilio calls "the > third revolution", the impending bodily internalization of science > and technology. As Virilio recently defined the third revolution: > > By this term I mean that technology is becoming something > physically assimilable, it is a kind of nourishment for the > human race, through dynamic inserts, implants and so on. Here, > I am not talking about implants such as silicon breasts, but > dynamic implants like additional memory storage. What we see > here is that science and technology aim for miniaturisation in > order to invade the human body.
For Land Warrior Weapons PLatform (no longer a soldier but a machine-soldier), the aim of miniaturization is not only to invade the body but to enhance the capability of the body to invade. Land Warrior lifts his immense laser-guided automatic rifle and prepares to recite another few lines of hype.
I bite down on the blood capsule, warm alcohol taste of thick fluid filling my mouth as Land Warrior opens his - I stand and scream, red froth spraying and dripping down my face and arms, twitching spastically i flop across the table crying 'your laser-guided bullets are murdering the planet's poor!' collapsing in a smear of dark crimson cutting through the cheap (expensive!) theatrics of the Marine presentation...
> Certainly, it is possible to characterise the present period of > self-consciously "spectacular" technological innovation as being > driven primarily by pan-capitalism's need to arm itself against the > onset of virtual class warfare. Without doubt, the virtual > class must, at some stage - and probably with the acquiescence, if > not the full participation of global technocratic, political and > military elites - confront living labour, actual communities, > tangible spaces, material environments, and physical, breathing, > bodies.
Land Warrior forgets his next line, stutters something about the many layers of tank armor his intelligent slugs can penetrate...across the room another person suddenly writhes and drools blood/the military officers stony faced attempt to continue the demonstration as every five minutes another member of the audience twitches, screams, and dies...it becomes more and more difficult for Land Warrior to remember the script, he's stuttering now and somehow it feels as if his attempt to project holographic power through his 50,000 dollar suit is collapsing like cheap small-tent carnival tricks.
> Make no mistake, VR and cyberspace have not simply opened up new > wealth generating possibilities for the virtual elites. They have > also opened up new political prospects for those who wish to see > the spectacular representational systems of crash culture disappear. > What is important in the interim, then, is to challenge the > pronouncements of the virtual class wherever they appear and join > with others in a comprehensive and detailed critique of the > neoliberal discourse of technology in a variety of fields ranging > from VR to cyberwarfare and beyond. Further, such challenges > need to involve a multiplicity of individuals and groups. These > might range from school kids and students disenchanted with the > increasing replacement of education by mere technocratic > information, to disaffected computer industry workers, or simply > local communities seeking control over their own technological > environments.
In a telling moment, the older marine describes what he terms 'a few bugs' in some of the systems: it seems that the voice recognition unit, although able to recognize 'a wide variety of accents, from rural louisiana to brooklyn' in laboratory tests, has been unable to perform well under battlefield conditions. 'The problem is,' he stresses, 'in a real battle situation the soldiers are almost always either whispering, which the unit can't pick up too well, or screaming, which the unit also can't handle.' He is interrupted by another screaming bleeding death...the younger marine is looking visibly shaken.
The audience has certainly been snapped out of the spell of techno-fascist spectacle.
> Virtual politics, therefore, should be founded on defying the > neoliberal discourse of technology currently being fashioned by the > virtual class. It is crucial to ensure that the political genealogy > of technology, of virtual reality, of the reality of virtuality, is > uncovered by numerous individuals, groups, classes, and new social > movements. Indeed, without such excavations, the increasingly > institutionalised neoliberal discourse of technology currently > being promoted by the virtual class will rapidly become a source > of immense social power. This is why concrete, corporeal, and > ideological struggles over the nature and meaning of technology > are so important in the realm of virtual politics. It is also why > the specifically neoliberal discourse of the virtual class needs > to be countered.
Someone dies and calls out "how much do you get for the contract with Hasbro?" robocop, toy story, tiny soldiers, spinoffs and cartoons, gi joe - the next generation. look for the franchise, the Disney movie and the mcDonalds happy meal figurine. When these things begin to emerge, show up on opening night with fake blood and real bodies. The largest military budget since the high point of the cold war will be buying 50,000 suits for fresh-face recruits, hookin 'em up to satellite link and central computer control, removing the reality of killing the planet's poor by one more layer of screen display; they're on tour across the nation right now, so show up and twitch and die bloody simulated death before they show up and make you... for real.
* This event-scene is written in response to John Armitage's "Resisting the Neoliberal Discourse of Technology" Article 68, 2 February 99.