In “Enlightenment as Mass Deception,” Theodor Adorno describes technological innovation as a means of creating sameness within society. We often think of today’s Mark Zuckerbergs as equalizing forces within an increasingly unequal society, falling into narratives of technological salvation, where Facebook saves the world by creating more opportunity for economic mobility. Just last week they ran a pilot test a new program to bring wifi to the developing world via drone. For the most part, people understand this as a common good. When Zuckerberg donated his billions of dollars to his favorite charities, he came under heavy scrutiny. But introducing internet connectivity to large swaths of the world yields criticism from nearly no one.
Adorno writes that “technological rationality is the rationality of domination,” but it is also the dominant rationality. At least in the US, and particularly among millennials, we innovate without question. Our generation has the largest number of entrepreneurs enacting this technological rationality, which rests on the fundamental principles of simplification and representation via the screens. Still, with change incurs loss, and what is lost cannot always be refound.
In video by Bold Studios titled “The Innovation of Lonelieness,” Shimi Cohen describes the way in which our obsession with the screens and the false sense of connection they offer is fundamentally changing who we are as a society, from a neural level, to our sense of self as human beings in an increasingly ‘connected’ socieyt. In short, we become obsessed with connection and sharing our lives online, with less and less of an emphasis being placed on authentic engagement in real life. In this light and in the context of the digital era, the sameness Adorno refers to in his opening words is pervasive.
I find it particularly frightening in this year’s national election. At least in my memory, it’s the first time a fascist candidacy has been legally nominated, and though his campaign is almost always unravelling at the seams, there are those whose love for him persists. Had this been 40 years ago, I imagine people would be mobilizing in the streets to ensure his campaigns demise; today, everyone shares and tweets his worst moments, advancing his agenda by means of simple exposure.