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Obviously this is the end of the world. Or one of them, anyway. It's our end of the world, at least, so let's talk about it before the next one comes along. I needed an apocalyptic thinker to talk about all this with. No, not Jor-El, rather someone who's examined our apocalyptic fantasies and desires and has thought them through. So, I asked the thoughtful, funny, and insightful Mark O'Connell, onto AEWCH.
Mark is the author of the timely book, Notes from an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back and, very much relatedly, of To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death. They're both books about how people relate to death, featuring Mark's conversations with them: doomsday preppers and transhumanists. They're books told in a Jon Ronson-esque tone, but with a little more theory behind them.
Mark lives less than two kilometers away, but we had to find each other remotely. So, sorry about the sound being different. It's still good. But our lives are mediated by machinery of all sorts now in pronounced ways. Is the singularity near, or did it already happen, and was it extremely normal and somewhat boring? Anyway, this is a great episode, and I'm so happy to share it with you.
Let's begin to think about this particular End.
ON THIS EPISODE
- Why we have fantasies about the end
- How to keep the sublime and strangeness when we get back from quarantine
- Is mindfulness preferable? Is it a form of anxiety?
- The continuity between consciousness, nature, and machines
- How all apocalypses are not equally apocalyptic
- Being passive spectators of the pandemic while thinking we're active participants
- Why our pandemic anxieties predated the pandemic
- How and why to organize in quarantine
- Transhumanists as preppers with money
- Why doomsday prepping doesn't work
- How apocalyptic thinking is embedded in tech culture
• For more of Mark, go to his website, and check out his excellent essay on the relevance of JG Ballard. And here's a great interview with Mark on Utopian Horizons. Also, I highly recommend reading his books back to back. If you want some help with that, you can get To Be A Machine on Audible.
• Here's a bit on Freud and the oceanic feeling.
• There's a solo episode about the problem of the concept of nature, AEWCH 82, "Destroy Nature Before It Destroys Us".
• I do love Lars Von Trier's Melancholia. Do watch it.
• Here's my appearance on The Higherside Chats.
• I love Peter Bebergal's book, Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural, which features the story about the golem and the rabbi.
• Now is a great time to listen to AEWCH 67 featuring spiritual teacher and christian esotericist Daniel Joseph. And I still can't believe that I had Billy Bragg on the show! Here he is on AEWCH 79.
Until next time, friends!