Shrinking the Technosphere=Part One

by Dmitry Orlov

Club Orlov (October 13 2015)

On September 28, while addressing the UN General Assembly, Putin proposed “implementing nature-like technologies, which will make it possible to restore the balance between the biosphere and the technosphere”. It is necessary to do so to combat catastrophic global climate change, because, according to Putin, carbon dioxide emissions cuts, even if implemented successfully, would be a mere postponement rather than a solution.

I hadn’t heard the phrase “implementing nature-ike technologies” before, so I Googled it and Yandexed it, and came up with nothing more than Putin’s speech at the UN. He coined the phrase. As with the other phrases he’s coined, such as “sovereign democracy” and “dictatorship of the law”, it is a game-changer. With him, these aren’t words thrown on the wind. In each of these cases, the phrase laid the foundation of a new philosophy of governance, complete with a new set of policies.

In the case of “sovereign democracy”, it meant methodically excluding all foreign influences on Russia’s political system, a process that culminated recently when Russia, in tandem with China, banned Western NGOs, which were previously making futile attempts to destabilize Russia and China politically. Other countries that find themselves having trouble with the Orange Revolution Syndicate can now follow their best practices.

In the case of “dictatorship of the law”, it meant either explicitly legalizing and absorbing into the system, or explicitly outlawing and destroying, every type of illegal or semi-legal social formation, first by focusing on the criminal gangs and protection rackets that proliferated in Russia during the wild 1990s, and now expanding into the international sphere, where Russia is now working to destroy the products of illegal Western activities, such as ISIS, along with other US-trained, US-armed, Saudi-funded terrorist groups. “Dictatorship of the law” means that no-one is above the law, not even the CIA or the Pentagon.

This being a given, it makes sense to carefully parse the phrase, in hopes of gaining a better of understanding of what is meant, and this particular phrase is harder to parse than the previous two, because the Russian original, “внедрение природоподобных технологий”, is laden with meanings that English does not directly convey.

“Внедрeние” (vnedrenie) can be translated in any number of ways: implementation; introduction; implantation; inoculation, implantation (of views, ideas); entrenchment (especially of culture); enacting; advent; launch; incorporation; adoption; inculcation, instillation; indoctrination. Translating it as “implementation” does not do it justice. It is derived from the word “нeдра” (nedra) which means “the nether regions” and is etymologically connected to the Old English word “ne?era” through a common Indo-European root. In Russian, it can refer to all sorts of unfathomable depths, from the nether regions of the Earth (where oil and gas are found) to the nether regions of human psyche, as in the phrase “недра подсознательного” (the nether-regions of the subconscious). Translating it with the tinny, technical-sounding word “implementation” does not do it justice. It can very well mean “implantation” or “indoctrination”.

The word “природопод?бный” (prir?do-pod?bnyi) translates directly as “nature-like”, although in Russian it has less of an overtone of accidental resemblance and more of an overtone of active conformance or assimilation. It is of recent coinage, and can be found in a few techno-grandiose articles by Russian academics in which they promote vaporous initiatives for driving the development of nanotechnology or quantum microelectronics by simulating evolutionary processes, or some such. The gist of it seems to be that once widgets get too complex for humans to design, we might as well let them evolve like bacteria in a Petri dish.

Based on what Putin said next, we can be sure that this is not what he had in mind:

We need qualitatively different approaches. The discussion should involve principally new, nature-like technologies, which do not injure the environment but exist in harmony with it and will allow us to restore the balance between the biosphere and the technosphere which mankind has disturbed.

It seems that he meant that people should conform to nature in daily life rather than try to simulate nature in a laboratory setting.

But what did he mean by “technologies”? Did he mean that we need a new generation of eco-friendly gewgaws and gizmos that are slightly more energy-efficient than the current crop? Again, let’s see what got lost in translation. In Russian, the word “tekhnol?gii” does not directly imply industrial technology, and can relate to any art or craft. Since it is obvious that industrial technology is not particularly “nature-like”, it stands to reason that he meant some other type of technology, and one type immediately leaps to mind: political technologies. In Russian, it is written as one word, polittekhnologii, and it is a common one. At its best, it is the art of shifting the common political and cultural mindset in some favourable or productive direction.

Putin is a consummate political technologist. His current domestic approval rating stands at 89%; the remaining eleven percent disapprove of him because they wish him to take a more hard-line stance against the West. It makes sense, therefore, to examine his proposal from the point of view of political technology, jettisoning the notion that what he meant by “technology” is some sort of new, slightly more eco-friendly industrial plant and equipment. If his initiative succeeds in making 89% of the world’s population speak out in favor of rapidly adopting naturelike, ecosystem-compatible lifestyles, while the remaining eleven percent stand in opposition because they believe the adoption rate isn’t high enough, then perhaps climate catastrophe will be averted ? or at least its worst-case scenario, which is human extinction.

In the next part of this series, we will learn what political technology is, what sorts of political technologies we can see used all around us. Then we will move on to addressing the main questions: What does it mean for us to become naturelike, and, finally, How can we invent or evolve political technologies to bring about this transformation while there is still time (if we are lucky).

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