2023 Perth Philosophy Circle 1st presentation: The beginning and the end and the beginning of the Internet

Date: March 20th

Presenter: Andrew Hutcheon

Synopsis: Elon Musk buys Twitter, users rush for the doors and at least 50% of its staff are sacked. Facebook similarly sacks 1 in 8 of its global workforce in response to a decline in revenue and user activity. Misinformation is rampant, cybercrime is escalating and legislators are circling. Elsewhere, terms such as ‘digital detox’ – a term used to describe an intentional period away from an internet connection – and a general ambivalence towards the internet as it is currently developed should give pause to wonder whether the internet is reaching an end point, or else some kind of significant change worth noting. This presentation aims to provide an account of how we arrived at the present moment in the history of the internet and chart some possible futures, drawing upon a wide range of theory and material in the field, considering whether we have arrived at the beginning of the end, are continuing business as usual or something significantly weirder than we can anticipate.

It seems that despite the achievements of many civilisations, at the present, we live under the shadow of potential nuclear apocalypse. The re-emergence of conflict between global powers equipped with nuclear technology could lead to a global conflagration—a worldwide destruction with the potential to render our planet uninhabitable. But is our understanding of apocalypse limited to this brutal annihilation of the world?  In this year’s lecture series, we will consider alternative ways to reflect upon our modern technologies and ways of thinking, that might go beyond destructive apocalyptic prospects: What potential futures we face that may not necessarily end in world-wide destruction but, rather, open up different possibilities for the radical transformation of human life as we know it.

At the present, we understand the term apocalypse as the irreversible destruction or the end of the world. But its original meaning was very different. Originally, the term apocalypse came from the Greek word apokálupsis. For the Ancient Greeks, apokálupsis meant ‘to uncover’.  The term was later adopted in the title of The Book of Revelation ‘The Apocalypse of John’. Yet its meaning had changed. The apocalypse as uncovering became a revelation of the future, alerting us to a conflict yet to come, that would, without Christ’s salvation, lead to a destruction of the world. It was from this theological notion that our present concept of apocalypse as a destructive annihilation emerged.

In this year’s series, we will consider these various understandings of apocalypse to reflect upon a range of contemporary potential visions of the future. By questioning the ideas that support these prevalent visions, we hope to uncover the origins of these views of the future, while reflecting on the possible conflicts and destructive possibilities that remain uninterrogated.

Hence, in our new series, we will consider the apocalyptic undertones in our possible visions of the future through topics including: the idealism of the early internet and the perversion of this vision, emerging biotechnologies of control and transhumanism, how the idea of the ‘manosphere’ is transforming how relationships are understood, the dangers we face in our attempts to predict the future and our commitment to an unconsidered idea of progress, and other topics that consider the difficulty we face in thinking through our everyday connections to the world.  Harking back to our previous series, we want to reflect on a potential connection between apocalypse, crisis and hope. In other words, the issue is whether it is even possible to hope for our common future.

Each lecture will last roughly 45 minutes to 1 hour and will be followed by questions and conversation.

We invite you to join us for a night of ideas, discussion and drinks as we ask what it means to be human in our contemporary world.

Though this series builds off of our previous series on Utopia and Crisis, no knowledge of philosophy is required; everyone is welcome.

Free to attend but tickets required. All refreshments and food are available for purchase from Clancy’s Fish Pub, Fremantle.

March through June presentation details:

March – Andrew Hutcheon – The beginning and the end and the beginning of the Internet

April – Charles Foster – Chirurgy, Chimeras and Control: How Biomedical compliance technologies and transhumanism might shape our future

May – Keegan Martens – The Future Can Wait: Apocalypse and the Status Quo

June – Eva Bujalka – Sex, Lies and Video Tates: The rise of the ‘manosphere’ and the future of dating