Sunday, 21 November 2004

Reading: The Will to Power

From: The Will to Power by Friedrich Nietzsche, translated by Walter Kaufmann
Section: "Order of Rank"

Topic: "The Herd" versus "The Overman." That is, the human Statistical Mean (preponderance of large numbers) versus Outliers.

Entry 866 (Spring-Fall 1887; rev. Spring-Fall 1888):

"The need to show that as the consumption of man and makind becomes more and more economical and the 'machinery' of interests and services is integrated ever more intricately, a counter-movement is inevitable. I designate this as the generation of a luxury surplus of mankind: it aims to bring to light a stronger species, a higher type that arises and preserves itself under different conditions from those of the average man. My concept, my metaphor for this type is, as one knows, the word 'overman.'

"On that first road which can now be completely surveyed, arise adaptation, leveling, higher Chinadom, modesty in the instincts, satisfaction in the dwarfing of mankind---a kind of stationary level of mankind. Once we possess that common economic management of the earth that will soon be inevitable, mankind will be able to find its best meaning as a machine in the service of this economy---as a tremendous clockwork, composed of ever smaller, ever more subtly 'adapted' gears; as an ever-growing superfluity of all dominating and commanding elements; as a whole of tremendous force, whose individual factors represent minimal forces, minimal values.

"In opposition to this dwarfing and adaptation of man to a specialized utility, a reverse movement is needed---the production of a synthetic, summarizing, justifying man for whose existence this transformation of mankind into a machine is a precondition, as a base on which he can invent his higher form of being.

"He needs the opposition of the masses, of the 'leveled,' a feeling of distance from them! he stands on them, he lives off them. This higher form of aristocracy is that of the future.---Morally speaking, this overall machinery, this solidarity of all gears, represents a maximum in the exploitation of man; but it presupposes those on whose account this exploitation has meaning. Otherwise it would really be nothing but an overall diminution, a value diminution of the type man---a regressive phenomenon in the grand style.

"It is clear, what I combat is economic optimism: as if increasing expenditure of everybody must neccesarily involve the increasing welfare of everybody. The opposite seems to me to be the case: expenditure of everybody amounts to a collective loss: man is diminished---so one no longer knows what aim this tremendous process has served. An aim? a new aim?---that is what humanity needs."

Comments: Over a century later, it seems that the increasing efficiency of production has only resulted in a positive feedback loop of increasing mindless dredge work. Despite our technological advancement, our species hasn't intellectually advanced much. People have an apparently endless capacity to invent meaningless labor, but the net result is a very poweful technological infrastructure. Still, most people resent thinking, and instead focus their energy on food, sex, work, and unimaginative play, and we go nowhere as a species.

So, what's the next step? And who will be the key player: an individual who Thinks Big, an emergent or orchestrated collective mind, a cybernetically augmented mind, or even a completely synethetic minda? Or is it happening already?

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