Everything’s provided 
Consummate Consumer 
Part of worldly taking 
Apart from worldly troubles 
Living in your prewar apartment 
Soon to be your postwar apartment 
And you lived in the future 
And the future 
It’s here 
It’s bright 
It’s now 
– Regina Spektor “Hooked Into Machine” 

From time to time the tool-making capacities of the human animal become so entrenched and explosive as to strip-mine the social psyche of entire populations. Bereft of its irony, would the quote above not perfectly exemplify a kind of organicist technologism which we find embodied not only in works of science fiction but much more trenchantly in particular historical episodes. A monstrous, or  robotic, re-organizing of society so as to absorb all the quirks, failings, and conflicts into the cold unity and efficiency of the machine; the calculations of light reverberating sonorously in the untroubled spaces we reside in. Nor should we even properly call them spaces, since, while it is true that the vision is a subspecies of organicism, it lacks the contours of a geography. Properly speaking we could perhaps say that a certain virtual landscape is proposed here, a folding in of time so as to create an instantaneous constancy – “the future is here.” 

To call such a vision monstrous is misleading, hence the caveat of robotic, which also does not quite express what this particular vision entails. A monster, at least, is still a form of ethical being. Take, for example, the case of Adolph Hitler, who has become the typological case of a monster in the social imaginary of modern history. Precisely as a monster Hitler remains embedded within the framework of ethical imagination – as an embodiment of horror, which is to say of fascination. Thus Hitler even now continues to perpetuate a fascist logic, because fascination -with a “pure” and unified society, body etc. – is precisely, and etymologically, the domain of fascism. Hence the wisdom of Hannah Arendt in drawing out the banality of the evil present in the figures of the Holocaust. How else to undo the potent mythos of those idolaters? 


The central question, however, has yet to be addressed. The fascination with pure bodies, and therefore the creation of imaginary monsters -to continue with our test subject these would be, for Hitler/National Socialism, the figures of Jews, gypsies, blacks, homosexuals etc. – this fascination amounts to a paranoia which, although it is horrific, disturbing, and distorted, is not altogether new. Moreover these imagined monsters had to be affixed identities which corresponded to actual people. Identity being a rather fluid and “subjective” exercise this can take place, on a small scale, when people within certain geographical bounds are seen as different, marked in some way by gender, skin colour, behavioural patterns, economic status etc., and thereby persecuted by another group who defines the former as somehow a threat to their existence. What we begin to see emerging, then, as the National Socialist dream unfolds is the solidification of forms of identity precisely as new technologies emerge which are able to translate the idolatries of fascist identity politics into a computational regime. Thus, as Edwin Black analyzes in his book IBM and the Holocaust, the asset confiscation, deportation, ghettoization, enslaved labour, and ultimately the murder of millions of Jews was first a matter of identifying people as Jews – a task which required a quick and efficient way of entering and compiling data. This exercise in computation was made possible through IBM’s Hollerith punch card technology. Thus begins the fascist politics of computation, thereby furthering and facilitating the pathology of the Nazi’s and the German people. As it becomes technologized the horrors of identitarian politics become embedded as computational facts. Instances of data. 


So we must introduce another monster, and this one much more the robotic monster, though history has not regarded him as such. I am speaking, of course, of Thomas J. Watson the CEO of IBM. Watson, as head of the International Business Machines corporation, was instrumental in bringing the tabulation technology employed by the Nazis. Watson was even awarded a medal by the German government for his efforts (although he may have believed it to be a recognition for his efforts towards global commerce and international peace). At any rate Watson, an astute businessman, returned the medal in 1940. The end result of this was a tense relationship between Watson and the German IBM operation, which ended when Germany and the US went to war and the German IBM chapter was seized by the Third Reich. Watson went on to produce technology for the United States military effort, and went so far as to institute a policy that IBM receive only 1% of profits from military technology.  The question which remains, of course, is this: Why call Watson a monster – even a robotic one- wasn’t he just a businessman who made a mistake, and didn’t he pay for it with his war efforts? 


Right away, however, it becomes apparent that the choice between condemning Watson as a monster for his technological contributions to the Third Reich or exculpating him for his technological assistance to the American War effort is a null question . Watson was neither a fascist nor a politician  but a capitalist businessman and as such could never be considered a monster in the way Hitler is often considered one. It is precisely at this point that Watson is in some ways a more problematic figure. The locus of this problematic is that Watson, in fact, represents an incoherent modality of being. Where Hitler remains, in a negative way, a figure for ethics, Watson does not – having made the break with fascism, and therefore disoccupying the centre of political meaning.  What remains represented by Watson, however, is a digitized unit. That is, Watson symbolizes the cognitarian activation of the flow of technologized data-power. 
Watson, much more fully than Hitler, therefore fulfills the vision described in Regina Spektor’s work. Elsewhere in the song she describes “herself” as part of a composite correspondence which is synthesized by the mighty power of the machine. The inconsistencies and incoherence of life – the fact that one can orient their business and technological innovations to political visions as diverse and conflicting as Hitler’s German fascism or the American Democratic party’s politics- have no import since they can be synthesized into an artificial reproduction of life. What we must not forget, however, is that someone, or some world, invariably pays the price for these bright futures. It could be the Jews and the Roma of Europe, or it could be, as now, the miners of the Congo who pay with their blood for the continued production of the glut of cellphone and digital technologies which we have now come to rely on as the bright and instant future. 



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