fadeout,

a “controversy staple”: the enduringly universal conviction that our “past-its-prime” civilization must be slowing down — has dangerously stalled, “approaches irreversible asymptotic stasis,” is “fading out.” ■    “Science fizzles out into Glasperlenspiel, freedom dilutes into fleedom; playing with our arf toys, gardening the tiny planet, tweaking our ever-feeble bodies — all that is hardly above the achievements of the past, except perhaps simpler. Weve spawned Minds — accomplices to our trifles; they failed to reveal anything we didnt know before. We fetishize our vehicless flight, so near the ground; our ancestors of long ago were already traveling the same airways — often faster if less safely. Aching expats from an age of glory, were parading our ignorance with our real and pretended explay, deep sleep abuses, fresh eye cult… provincialism in everything, most incapable to even notice it.”  ■    Its always been socially respectable to put a golden age in the past, lament the contemporary degradation; scare-like fadeout panics may be unsuppressable in a community thats been through and out of an exponential growth stage, such as a collective at the end of an activity pulse. Numerically, fadeout peaked during late Change — when deep sleep was feared to stop generational renewal and “trigger a freeze,” when modernity loomed so close behind: awed by its sheer scale, many associated downscaling and sparsening with dying. In later thinking, the ire largely shifted from downscaling and atomization of society (“nothing to call the science or art anymore”) to an alleged complexity loss. ■    Rational arguments against the fadeout diagnosis are well known. Hard as it is to measure, total complexity is still growing whereas many of the often-quoted simplification trends, while real, are not at all recent (predate modernity). The new human lifecycle may be as good if not better than “death-driven evolution” in effecting gene pool changes, and much more efficient in upholding diversity. The prospect of cosmic leap travel and colonization — satisfying the most conservative notions of growth — has been eroding the fadeout consensus (some even proclaim the dawn of a “fadein”); on the other hand, the leap drive — “a lucky find, not a sacrifice” — may only excite by being so comfortable: it brings us safely to where we failed to go “the hard way,” blood and tears, hundreds of years ago. Throughout history, anyone would much rather associate their age with tired lateness than early beginnings; this persistence can be seen as evidence both in favor (reflects persistent reality) and against (the world was reborn many times over but the laments never cease, so it must not be about the world after all).  ■    Fadeout disputes often invoke beyond B: without an obvious direction of further ascent and unable to “just stay,” we must be sliding backwards; in this desequentialized posthistoric age, however, groups and individuals go through their own, increasingly disconnected booms and declines, making overall movement elusive and bias-sensitive. Some definitions of “regress” may be straightforwardly reversible (esp. at smaller scales) but “this is no age for progress” either; “haste haters” (just lazy?), were mainly curious to see what would come out — panpractically — if we let things evolve to their fullest: no raze-and-rebuild but engage and rething.  ■    In a historical pattern, the ossified top storeys of a social order are periodically crushed, which shifts the center of gravity downwards for a perception of regress or backslide. Today, theres little of a universal “world order” to rot; in a post-energy, post-economy, even post-complexity world — flat, asystemic, with any authority consensual, situational, temporary (no forever!) — there are no top storeys to crumble or to forcibly destroy; our fragmentary multi-realm society may be as conspiracy-proof (and conspiracy-theory-proof) as realistically possible. The bombastic apocalyptism of the past is no longer visualizable; instead the prevalent fear, almost an obsession, is of a gradual — hard to notice, impossible to stop — malignant transformation, slippage, fadeout more terminal than any catastrophic downfall. Tellingly, a fadeout theory that postulates a more historically recent peak is inherently harder to dismiss — more suggestive, more frightening: the earliest signs of a backslide are creepier than something we have, in any case, learned to live with. Braking a slippage “convincingly” requires, in the general case, reinstalling a rigid top-to-bottom structure — thereby restarting the vicious cycle of solidifying, ossifying, crumbling.  ■    Livid arguments become a rarity, pro and contra barely notice each other anymore (“awaiting a synthesis”?): it is low tide, “fadeout of the Fadeout,” triumph of the “…and its good” faction. The “greater Fadeout” has gobbled and digested countless smaller conservative paradigms but isnt, itself, a driving force any longer — just a pervasive attitude of shrugging self-mockery and constant self-check, a strangening exercise of seeing both sides of a coin simultaneously; most “fadeout” pronouncements can be sourced to someone who never subscribed to the core ideology. “Above a certain level, every theory carries its own negation”: now “fadeout” may have become such a prepackaged, ready-to-use meta-negation fitting all occasions.

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