Cyber Religion

Reviewing two new books about the internet at TLS , Michael Saler sketches the religious ideology of Silicon Valley:

“The ‘Valley’ is not merely a byword for technological innovation and economic growth: it is the lush seedbed for a new ideology of the twenty-first century, one that fills the void left by the Cold War. This ideology revolves around the internet. Its fundamentalist narrative has been spun over several decades from such diverse strands as free-market economics, techno-mysticism, anarchist leanings and utopian longings, and has now assumed a prominent place in everyday conversation alongside the technologies that inspired it. The internet ideology provides a quasi-religious vision of how human relationships will be transformed, material abundance created, and transcendence attained through human–machine interactions. Its prophets cite its decentralized and open structure as the model for a free, egalitarian and transparent world order. Their holy writ is Moore’s Law, which suggests that computers will “evolve” exponentially, doubling their prowess every two years or so. Their eschatology is the Singularity, which predicts that machines will outstrip humans in the near future, and benevolently uplift (or simply upload) mere mortals to nerd Nirvana. In the interim, the messy stuff of ordinary existence will be tamed by quantifying it into the bits and bytes of Information Theory, and transformed into profitable ‘Big Data’ for the Information Economy.”

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