I’ve said, again and again, that Steve Jobs’ constant reiteration that the iPad was “magical” was deliberate and done with specific intent. And we listened. We knew it was good technology because it had the language of magic in it. We made it do things by pointing at it. The screen was full of sigils. It was a 21st Century spellbook, and, brilliantly, we didn’t have to charge it up by murdering a chicken or wanking on it. – Warren Ellis
Thinking about CUNNING PLANS again. Specifically the points at which Ellis affirms the magical nature of our devices, usually along with references to Steve Jobs’ iPad fetish.
Fetish in the old sense, mind you. Not Jobs having a bit too keen an eye for flashy hardware but the old post-colonial anthropology term for a craft created by the natives and believed by them to have supernatural powers. Sticks bound by sinew, supposed crude representations of ever-present entities or embodiments of power.
August Comte, French philosopher and one of the founders of sociology, portrayed fetishism as the most primitive of religions wherein religions “naturally” evolved from there to polytheism and then monotheism. Hegel proposed fetishes as a reification of abstract thought that Africans were “largely incapable of” (what utter bullshit). Predictably, fetishes were lost penises to Freud. Even more predictably no one stopped to actually ask the people making them much at all.
Jobs, Ellis and some others stumbled upon and picked up the thread we’ve lost or ignored or suppressed for centuries. Far from primitivism physical fetishes represent an advanced relationship with nature, a more involved role in existence. What ethnobotanist and madman Terence McKenna called “partnering with deity in the co-creation of reality.”
In adopting mobile devices as fetishes we’ve begun to evolve back into that co-creating mindset. What better replacement for a local embodiment of a global presence than a platform that instantly connects me with friends in Japan or news from Russia? (Also thinking about the lightning-fast adoption of mobile finance in Africa as well as Michael Saylor’s Mobile Wave). The device is transcended by its own platform and yet I interact with it, talk to it and through it in order to try and shape life in the way I’d like. I draw sigils with my finger in invisible electromagnetic ink thanks to electroconductivity.
Comte condemned ‘fetishism’ as primitive thanks to, of course, unbridled racism but also a complete disconnection from interaction. We had lost the idea of helping make the Real and were relegated to observation and limited social negotiation.
A world without magic and ghosts is a world where we believe we can put the last ten thousand years in a box and consider it a done deal, just as scientists a hundred and twenty years ago considered science a completed enterprise aside from the nagging mystery of the luminiferous aether. – Warren Ellis
My phone brings me messages from Brazil. Shows me minutes-old solar flares and new planets in the ether. Encourages me to reply, engage, make and remake on scales that to Comte would’ve been deific (a bold statement considering Comte felt he had discovered the science to end all sciences).
The whole point was underscored this week when I went to change the passcodes on my mobile devices (which I do regularly). Creating new passcodes for my near-fetishes always carries a special quality to it. I feel as if I’m reinscribing the magic runes on my spellwear. Renewing the arcane protection of crucial ritual gear that allows me to participate in the co-creation of the now.
Which isn’t to say it’s all wonderfully holy – invariably I terrify myself by momentarily forgetting new passcodes. For a moment I’m cut off from that role and thanks to auto-deletion schemes also close to wiping my tools, reducing them to crude shiny bricks. Every time. Which only serves to reiterate the magic nature of all this stuff. The magic nature of us.
Embrace it. In pursuit of replicating the condition of magic, we are attempting to create our own new spirit world. We build magic doors that open upon the speaking of magic words, and we want our mystic artifacts to whisper to each other across the aether, and we use magic mirrors to enact remote viewing across the limb of the planet, and we arrange for Plato’s daemons to mutter at our shoulders. – Warren Ellis