Speed and Information: Cyberspace Alarm!
The twin phenomena of immediacy and of instantaneity are presently one of the most pressing problems confronting political and military strategists alike. Real time now prevails above both real space and the geosphere. The primacy of real time, of immediacy, over and above space and surface is a fait accompli and has inaugural value (ushers a new epoch). Something nicely conjured up in a (French) advertisement praising cellular phones with the words: "Planet Earth has never been this small". This is a very dramatic moment in our relation with the world and for our vision of the world.
Three physical barriers are given: sound, heat, and light. The first two have already been felled. The sound barrier has been cut across by the super- and hypersonic aircraft, while the heat barrier is penetrated by the rocket taking human beings outside the Earth's orbit in order to land them on the moon. But the third barrier, that of light, is not something one can cross: you crash into it. It is precisely this barrier of time which confronts history in the present day. To have reached the light barrier, to have reached the speed of light, is a historical event which throws history in disarray and jumbles up the relation of the living being towards the world. The polity that does not make this explicit, misinforms and cheats its citizenry. We have to acknowledge here a major shift which affects geopolitics, geostrategy, but of course also democracy, since the latter is so much dependent upon a concrete place, the "city".
The big event looming upon the 21st century in connection with this absolute speed, is the invention of a perspective of real time, that will supersede the perspective of real space, which in its turn was invented by Italian artists in the Quattrocento. It has still not been emphasized enough how profoundly the city, the politics, the war, and the economy of the medieval world were revolutionized by the invention of perspective.
Cyberspace is a new form of perspective. It does not coincide with the audio-visual perspective which we already know. It is a fully new perspective, free of any previous reference: it is a tactile perspective. To see at a distance, to hear at a distance: that was the essence of the audio-visual perspective of old. But to reach at a distance, to feel at a distance, that amounts to shifting the perspective towards a domain it did not yet encompass: that of contact, of contact-at-a-distance: tele-contact(...)
The dictatorship of speed at the limit will increasingly clash with representative democracy. When some essayists address us in terms of "cyber-democracy", of virtual democracy; when others state that "opinion democracy" is going to replace "political parties democracy", one cannot fail to see anything but this loss of orientation in matters political, of which the March 1994 "media-coup" by Mr. Silvio Berlusconi was an Italian-style prefiguration. The advent of the age of viewer-counts and opinion polls reigning supreme will necessarily be advanced by this type of technology.
The very word "globalization" is a fake. There is no such thing as globalization, there is only virtualization. What is being effectively globalized by instantaneity is time. Everything now happens within the perspective of real time: henceforth we are deemed to live in a "one-time-system"1.
The very word "globalization" is a fake. There is no such thing as globalization, there is only virtualization. What is being effectively globalized by instantaneity is time. Everything now happens within the perspective of real time: henceforth we are deemed to live in a "one-time-system"