Forgetting Freedom a Generation at Time

In the 16th Century, French essayist Etienne de la Boetie, amazed at people’s obedience to perceived authority, penned Discourse On Voluntary Servitude. It wasn’t obedience per se that disturbed him, but that he saw people as “driven to servility,” when refusal to comply would end their servitude: “(I)f, without any violence [tyrants] are simply not obeyed, they become naked and undone and as nothing.”

For Boetie, being free is the natural state for humans, and he wanted to understand “…. how it happens that this obstinate willingness to submit has become so deeply rooted in a nation that the very love of liberty now seems no longer natural.” He was ruthless in his assessment of the people he saw: “[T]he essential reason why men take orders willingly is that they are born serfs and are reared as such.”

Boetie’s “… and are reared as such” alludes to intergenerational relationships: “It is true that in the beginning men submit under constraint and by force; but those who come after them obey without regret and perform willingly what their predecessors had done because they had to.” This is as we’ve seen since early 2020, as the young developed world views while watching a terrified parental generation yield when commanded to mask up, to isolate and to keep distance from other humans. Given the direction of society, coming generations will certainly see increasing levels of submission to authority as normal. No longer will it be “new” normal. Just normal.

And what is ’normal’ to be? Let transhumanist Yuval Noah Harari explain that people now may be the last generations of Homo sapiens, because “elites” (his word) have the technology to hack our bodies, as one might hack a computer, because after all, individual persons, we are told, are just algorithms. Therefore, they can be engineered en masse, with genetic code “edited” according to “our” intelligent design, and not the design of “some god above the clouds”. Concepts of soul and free will, he tells us, are over, and IBM and Microsoft clouds will now drive evolution. A new regime of mass surveillance from “under the skin” is emerging.

Harari’s “under the skin” mirrors the predictions of Klaus Schwab, guiding figure of the World Economic Forum, seen here explaining the coming fusion of people’s physical, digital and biological identities. Microchips will soon be implanted within bodies, this allowing direct connection between brains and the digital world. Individuals and the cloud, you see, are to be essentially one. And when you add to this the editing of human (for the time being) DNA, the sky truly is the limit.

But really, hasn’t “predictive programming” been habituating us with years of messaging in cultural and entertainment outlets? But of course! — such a claim would naturally be denounced as “conspiracy theory” by establishment interests, but that alone is reason for a closer look. One finds that “nudge units”, governmental programs employing platoons of psychologists and marketing experts, created to influence public perceptions and behavior, are not only acknowledged, but are so successful that countries all over the world are creating their own. The goals of predictive programming and those of nudge units are in perfect synch. That being so, any argument that nudge units would overlook the power of predictive programming to familiarize the public with oncoming conditions is absurd.

Bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel is noteworthy for his opinion — a particularly interesting “nudge” — that humans attaining age 75 should cease clinging to life which, by then, is “faltering and declining”, transforming “… how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us.” He doesn’t advocate suicide, just a withholding of major attempts at the preservation of life. This has implications for the passage of information within a civilization over time. Whereas cultures everywhere, and through time, have revered elders as narrators of cultural history, for Emanuel the wisdom acquired by the very old from their unique view of the passing of generations is not, in itself, important enough to cherish.

Emanuel’s position fits well with the coming techno-utopian world conceptualized by Harari, in which a great “useless class” is created: “What should we do with all the superfluous people, once we have highly intelligent non-conscious algorithms that can do almost everything better than humans?” Superfluous! Thus is utilitarianism as an underlying techno-utopian value established. And because the rest of the technophilic pyramid of power prays to the God of Efficiency in the Church of Artificial Intelligence, the only logical path forward would be to disappear the useless bottom layer. The logic inherent in AI would make it unavoidable.

In 1956, psychologist Carl Jung, in The Undiscovered Self, wrote that making people functions of the state “externalizes” them, causing the loss of “their extramundane point of reference …. relation to an authority which is not of this world”. Jung speaks of the importance of a spiritual connection, not based on learned religious dogmas, but internally sourced, “which alone can protect …. from the otherwise inevitable submersion in the mass”. How radically opposite that is to Harari’s mocking reference to anything not definable algorithmically.

66 years before psychiatrist Mattias Desmet referred to the collective reaction to the Covid19 ‘Pandemic’ as “mass formation”, Jung was describing the “collective possession” that “displaces the individual in favor of anonymous units that pile up into mass formations.” Referencing the Nazi’s Third Reich, Jung wrote that it would not be surprising “if another civilized nation succumbed to the infection of a uniform and one-sided idea. America ….. is perhaps even more vulnerable than Europe, since her educational system is the most influenced by the scientific Weltanschauung [worldview] with its statistical truths.”

It is doubtful that Jung foresaw the fatal dangers of transhumanism, the very melding of consciousness with the digital sphere, but for him the purely scientific existence, dominated by cold technical logic, was dreadful enough: “In this reality man is the slave and victim of the machines that have conquered space and time for him.” Nevertheless, his optimism remained intact: “Slavery and rebellion are inseparable correlates”.

But here’s the rub: “Inseparable” would no longer apply in the planned-for transhuman experience. Slavery could be guaranteed, because rebellion could easily be — and certainly would be — rendered impossible if the Great Reset’s promise to a cloud-connected humanity were ever to be fulfilled: “You will own nothing and you will be happy.” For how could any form of rebellion possibly arise from hackable algorithms engineered to experience happiness regardless of conditions? Techno-utopian engineers would naturally create nothing but models of obedience perfectly content with whatever their situations might be. This prospect is what our descendants will face.

Bill Willers is an emeritus professor of biology, University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. He is founder of the Superior Wilderness Action Network and editor of Learning to Listen to the Land, and Unmanaged Landscapes, both from Island Press. He can be contacted at Read other articles by Bill.