24/06/2013

Machines, monkeys, love and vegetation

In 2011 the filmmaker Adam Curtis created for the BBC a documentary series of three chapters which holds that computers not only have failed in getting the old dream of improving Mankind, but have ‘distorted and simplified our view of the world around us’. The suggestive title of the series is taken from the homonymous poem written in 1967 by Richard Brautigan: ‘All watched over by machines of loving grace’.

In this first episode, ‘Love and power’, Curtis tracks the effects of writer and philosopher Ayn Rand‘s ideas on American financial markets, particularly via the influence on Alan Greenspan, chairman of the US Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006.

‘The use and abuse of vegetational concepts’ investigates how machine ideas such as cybernetics and systems theory were applied to natural ecosystems, and how this relates to the false idea that there is a balance of nature. Cybernetics has been applied to human beings to attempt to build societies without central control, self organising networks built of people, based on a fantasy view of nature.

‘The monkey in the machine and the machine in the monkey’ looked into The Selfish Gene Theory, which was conceived by William D. Hamilton and holds that we humans are machines controlled by our own genes.