Cats and Theories
a blog by coticheque
a blog by coticheque

The experience machine & the world for upload

I bet the format of Instagram stories got so popular, because life only looks good on pictures. In Sartre’s ‘Nausea’ the female protagonist was preoccupied with collecting ‘perfect moments’, but some externalities were always there to ruin it. And that’s how indeed it is. Can you breath, can you see things clearly in the burning sun? The oxygen intake is scarce, the airflow tight, focus of eyes never precise. The eyes become watery, the skin feels too sticky. The air is full of dusty particles that settle on epidermis, mixing with fluids, resulting in an oily dirty coverage you have to subsist under. It might be a symptom of sensory oversensitivity, but living in a body is binding. Although through pictures you may transcend the feeling. The landscape becomes perfect regardless of weather contingencies, the food on a plate becomes pure aesthetics, the Platonic ideal of food on a plate, as if the restaurant was not too hectic, hot or too loud. The thirst, the temperatures. I don’t even want to start with the temperatures. Only a narrow range of degrees makes existence not pain-provoking, suffering-inducing, deeming only a tiny part of the annual cycle liveable.

What stands behind the words ‘life is beautiful’ and ‘enjoy beauty of the moment’: do people mean it as a metaphor, a hyperbole, or do they find their perception flawless (highly doubtful). They have to exaggerate, nothing makes sense otherwise. The beauty of life exists only in poems that were written specifically for the purpose of distilling and perhaps even constructing it. The empirical realm has nothing to do with this Platonic image of what life is supposed to feel like. That’s why we tend to get fascinated with camera outputs, films and photos of moments and places. But life is not a movie of Richard Linklater or photos of Paolo Raeli. These topographies are noumena, unreachable from the trivial reality of phenomena. ‘In the end, the perfect moment wasn’t anywhere, not on either side of the footlights, it didn’t exist; and yet everybody thought about it.’

Philosophers of postmodernism noted that modern culture induces the sense of nostalgia: with a deconstruction of all metanarratives, the culture has to come in terms with the endless borrowing and recycling which creates a feeling of nostalgia – a constant ‘looking backwards in search of our present’. But I argue that we don’t even look backwards anymore: we look sideways and beyond, at the perfect images online. The images from online are like the experience machine: you can not only experience distilled reality through the two dimensional percepts, but experience the multitudes that won’t even be available in one single lifetime.

Whom can I be today? An owner of a design studio in Copenhagen, my lunch consists of Martini with olives, bread with salted butter, I dress in Loewe and Bottega Veneta in my minimalistic beige apartment at Frederiksstaden. Plush armchairs, glass, marble tables. Reflections of light amuse me. Tomorrow I’m curator of an art gallery from St. Petersburg. Currently on a business trip to Dubai, my percepts are limited to minimalism of the Emirates first class and collection of things arranged on a junction of routine and art: Rick Owens and Basquiat, Jeff Koons and Maison Margiela. After that – I’m a digital entrepreneur from New York, my life is cream cheese bagels, outdoor brunches, vodka sauce pasta, matcha tea, sunsets from the skyscraper window at Manhattan, colorful shoes and Céline bags, MoMA on the weekend. The blinks of days from a myriad of various lives. The experience machine is at the full steam.

I once read a book by Guy Debord (which was unbearably Marxist in overall) who ruminated on the same problem, which he approached from the other end. Media to him made human life ‘receding into representation, ‘fragmented views’, with ‘Being replaced with having – now replaced with appearing’.

He called it a logical continuation of the Christian tradition: ‘The spectacle is the technological version of the exiling of human powers into a ‘world beyond’; the culmination of humanity’s internal separation.’

But isn’t all art a separation into the world beyond? A better world. It hasn’t just become an appearance, it’s always been and for the best. The reality we share is a crappy transient media, a soup of hectic percepts and occurrences that has a potential to be worthy of something, if reconstructed, reassembled, and embellished, perhaps a bit sugar-coated.

The purpose of the world is to be digitized, scanned and uploaded.

The arguments against seem unconvincing. When outlining thought experiment about the experience machine, Robert Nozick added some arguments that oppose it. First, ‘We want to do certain things, and not just have the experience of doing them’. Disagree. As we’ve seen earlier, living and doing things is unpleasant. Second, ‘We want to be a certain sort of person. Not someone floating in a tank like an indeterminate blob’. Perhaps, could be. Finally, ‘Plugging into an experience machine limits us to a man-made reality (it limits us to what we can make).’ That’s the strongest argument so far. Creating new things is important. Which we can do by deconstructing and rearranging our own life, creating simulations of experiences for others. That’s why in the experience machine, you have to be both a consumer and a creator.

As long as you believe into perpetuation of the mankind’s legacy, it makes sense to transfer empirical experiences into text and images and film – to construct a better world. Of cream cheese bagels and blue hortensias, the dance of dust in the sunlight, of perfect stereo sunsets from dozens of points across the globe.

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