….to mess with the Funkadelic line, for it better describes the idea for today.
Radical changes in environment necessitate a technological change. In other words, if we want to change how we are living, we need a new technology to do it. This is the lesson of Marshall McLuhan.
For all new technologies create environments composed of services and disservices. The technology associated with oil created an environment of services and disservices, many of which carried over from coal and wood, and many of which were new and novel.
Some of the services of the oil environment were gasoline and drives to the beach; mechanics’ shops and drive-in movies. The oil landscape created plastic Space pens and life-saving medical devices. Petroleum increased food production through fertilizers and farm machines. All of these things allowed human populations to expand and live longer.
Some of the disservices include toxic gases, pollution, plastic trash, dead zones, Dick Cheney… There are many more, and it’s productive to inventory with a group to gather lots of unexpected effects.
All of these services and disservices, including the rig workers, Ipod buyers, and those Americans who eat Peruvian cantaloupes in the winter, create the oil environment and this just goes to show how huge and pervasive these technological environments are.
Which makes it all the more unnerving that, with the exception of artists, we only notice these environments when they’ve gone. We don’t generally notice the air we breathe, only when it’s gone. A fish doesn’t know it’s in water – until it’s not.
Technological environments go unnoticed as ambient background. When a figure pops out of the ground, our attention is directed, and en mass, we respond to the novelty, ignoring the ambient environment that spawned that figure.
But that’s where the action is – in the ground. Effects precede causes, and the ambient background is where each new technological revolution is self-organizing as we autonomically shape our institutions with it. We begin to live a new technology before it actually arrives, haltingly, and unaware. Eventually, the structure coalesces, emerging from the background as a figure.
After we notice the figure, it ceases to work on us subconsciously, and becomes obsolete. Visualizing and naming the figure, we believe we have some measure of control. Still, deliberate adjustments to new technology is the norm and can be very disruptive, obliterating the previous technology.
A curious effect of obsolete technology was pointed out by Bob Neveritt and that is when something is obsolete, there’s more of it. Now the natural tendency when hearing that something is obsolete, is to think it gone and disappeared. It turns out, that generally, when something is obsolete, there is, at least initially, more of it!
Consider when CDs came out. CDs made records obsolete. But records continued in popularity for years, increasing in production, until eventually declining (and fulfilling the destiny of all obsolete technology a la McLuhan – becoming art forms in DJ performance.)
Well we face the end of the oil age. Oil is now obsolete. And we know it’s the end for it is clearly visible before us as a figure, a sprawling huge monster consuming more and more of our attention. All of America has been pointing to the petroleum environment throughout the summer, an orgiastic finale to the awareness and visualization of the oil landscape in our communal TV body that began when Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the Whitehouse.
We are drowning in oil, we’ve got more than we can use, the dark mess of it polluting the water, and let’s be honest, killing whole generations and species of life on Earth, whose diversity and uniqueness is a treasure among treasures in the universe.
And let’s note this sign of the End of the Oil Age: Matt Simmons has crossed over. A long-time oil insider whose integrity brought controversy, his candor and conviction will be missed.
But the oil environment won’t. And after this peak, after this frenzy of attention, after this crude bath, when our fuel for this environment is no longer economically viable, then the services and disservices of the oil environment will cease to exist as such, and our lives will change.
The obsolescence of oil means cold fusion is already here, coalescing in the ambient environment around us. This is the Mystery landscape of five-bodied media theory. We are structuring the cold fusion economy right now, though unaware of the mechanics of it. Cold fusion is already here and though we can’t see it yet as a figure, attention continues to focus in.
We’ll be stumbling around this mystery landscape for a while longer, and when we’re ready, we can shape a future based on clean energy whose fuel is the deuterium in seawater. We accelerate this process by our attention to it. Every conversation about new energy adds to the reality. Every word you type evokes the focus on the figure.
Talking and typing in the new cold fusion economy. Good or bad, positive or negative is irrelevant. The meme is alive in the Mystery landscape, and we are accelerating it’s process.