Tag: L.M. Sacasas (page 1 of 2)

The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason

I always enjoy reading L.M. Sacasas’ thoughts on the intersection of technology, society, and ethics. This article is no different. In addition to the quotation from G.K. Chesterton which provides the title for this post, Sacasas also quotes Wendell Berry as saying, “It is easy for me to imagine that the next great division of the world will be between people who wish to live as creatures and people who wish to live as machines.”

While I’ve chosen to highlight the part riffing off David Noble’s discussion of technology as religion, I’d highly recommend reading the last three paragraphs of Sacasas’ article. In it, he talks about AI as being “the culmination of a longstanding trajectory… [towards] the eclipse of the human person”.

AI created with Midjourney prompt: "religion of technology | manga | hypnotic --aspect 3:2 --no text words letters signatures"

The late David Noble’s The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention, first published in 1997, is a book that I turn to often. Noble was adamant about the sense in which readers should understand the phrase “religion of technology.” “Modern technology and modern faith are neither complements nor opposites,” Noble argued, “nor do they represent succeeding stages of human development. They are merged, and always have been, the technological enterprise being, at the same time, an essentially religious endeavor.”


The Enlightenment did not, as it turns out, vanquish Religion, driving it far from the pure realms of Science and Technology. In fact, to the degree that the radical Enlightenment’s assault on religious faith was successful, it empowered the religion of technology. To put this another way, the Enlightenment—and, yes, we are painting with broad strokes here—did not do away with the notions of Providence, Heaven, and Grace. Rather, the Enlightenment re-framed these as Progress, Utopia, and Technology respectively. If heaven had been understood as a transcendent goal achieved with the aid of divine grace within the context of the providentially ordered unfolding of human history, it became a Utopian vision, a heaven on earth, achieved by the ministrations Science and Technology within the context of Progress, an inexorable force driving history toward its Utopian consummation.


In other words, we might frame the religion of technology not so much as a Christian heresy, but rather as (post-)Christian fan-fiction, an elaborate imagining of how the hopes articulated by the Christian faith will materialize as a consequence of human ingenuity in the absence of divine action.

Source: Apocalyptic AI | The Convivial Society

Image: Midjourney (see alt text for prompt)

Our range of legible emotions is being constricted

A typically thought-provoking piece by L. M. Sacasas which, ironically, I’ve got plenty of time to read, process, and react to after getting up ridiculously early this morning!

It’s interesting to read this from a UK context, after an enforced mourning period after the death of the Queen. This piece definitely speaks into that context, about the “range of legible emotions” being “constricted”. After all, you weren’t even allowed to hold up a blank sheet of paper in public.

The rhythms of digital media rush me on from crisis to crisis, from outrage to outrage. Moreover, in rapid succession the same feed brings to me the tragic and the comic as well as the trivial and the consequential. So, it’s not just that I do not have the time or space to think deeply. I also do not have the time or space to feel deeply. I skim the surface of each emotional experience, but rarely can I plumb its depths or sound out its meaning. Consequently, I lose something of the richness of the emotions and miss out on their appropriate consolations. I feel enough to be overwhelmed and depleted, but I cannot inhabit an emotional experience long enough to see it through to its natural fulfillment with whatever growth of character or richness of experience that might entail.


The policing of other’s emotional expressions is one sign that the discourse is colonizing our emotional life. Such policing tends to generate an artificiality of (usually negative or critical) emotional expression, and conditions us to avoid certain (usually positive or earnest) emotional expressions. Under these conditions, emotional life is stunted. The range of legible emotions is constricted. Complex or subtle emotional experiences are overwhelmed by the demand for intense and uncomplicated emotional expressions.

Source: Impoverished Emotional Lives | The Convivial Society

Image: DALL-E 2 (“policing emotions, in the style of Leonid Afremov”)

Technological Liturgies

A typically thoughtful article from L. M. Sacasas in which they “explore a somewhat eccentric frame by which to consider how we relate to our technologies, particularly those we hold close to our bodies.” It’s worth reading the whole thing, especially if you grew up in a church environment as it will have particular resonance.

Pastoral scene

I would propose that we take a liturgical perspective on our use of technology. (You can imagine the word “liturgical” in quotation marks, if you like.) The point of taking such a perspective is to perceive the formative power of the practices, habits, and rhythms that emerge from our use of certain technologies, hour by hour, day by day, month after month, year in and year out. The underlying idea here is relatively simple but perhaps for that reason easy to forget. We all have certain aspirations about the kind of person we want to be, the kind of relationships we want to enjoy, how we would like our days to be ordered, the sort of society we want to inhabit. These aspirations can be thwarted in any number of ways, of course, and often by forces outside of our control. But I suspect that on occasion our aspirations might also be thwarted by the unnoticed patterns of thought, perception, and action that arise from our technologically mediated liturgies. I don’t call them liturgies as a gimmick, but rather to cast a different, hopefully revealing light on the mundane and commonplace. The image to bear in mind is that of the person who finds themselves handling their smartphone as others might their rosary beads.


Say, for example, that I desire to be a more patient person. This is a fine and noble desire. I suspect some of you have desired the same for yourselves at various points. But patience is hard to come by. I find myself lacking patience in the crucial moments regardless of how ardently I have desired it. Why might this be the case? I’m sure there’s more than one answer to this question, but we should at least consider the possibility that my failure to cultivate patience stems from the nature of the technological liturgies that structure my experience. Because speed and efficiency are so often the very reason why I turn to technologies of various sorts, I have been conditioning myself to expect something approaching instantaneity in the way the world responds to my demands. If at every possible point I have adopted tools and devices which promise to make things faster and more efficient, I should not be surprised that I have come to be the sort of person who cannot abide delay and frustration.


The point of the exercise is not to divest ourselves of such liturgies altogether. Like certain low church congregations that claim they have no liturgies, we would only deepen the power of the unnoticed patterns shaping our thought and actions. And, more to the point, we would be ceding this power not to the liturgies themselves, but to the interests served by those who have crafted and designed those liturgies. My loneliness is not assuaged by my habitual use of social media. My anxiety is not meaningfully relieved by the habit of consumption engendered by the liturgies crafted for me by Amazon. My health is not necessarily improved by compulsive use of health tracking apps. Indeed, in the latter case, the relevant liturgies will tempt me to reduce health and flourishing to what the apps can measure and quantify.

Source: Taking Stock of Our Technological Liturgies | The Convivial Society