A society in short supply

Breathing – Chaos and Poetry
TECHNOLOGY / Chaos has taken over, but can we find a way out of the chaos?


When the premise is wrong, everything gets wrong. The fact that technological development ended up in private hands, and then became a tool for financial capitalism, has ended all the promises that automation should make the worker free. The technology that would contribute to a higher standard of living has led to the opposite: As cognitive loose workers, we are constantly at work, as slaves to our own smart phones. Life is about repaying abstract loans, while time is colonized by zero-hour contracts.

The deregulation of working life is one of the main themes of the theorist Franco "Bifo" Berardi. As the worker becomes increasingly vulnerable, the state and capital cooperate on new digital "advancements" that reduce humanity to the guinea pig for technology. In the book The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance (in Norwegian from publisher H // O // F, 2011), Berardi introduces the idea of ​​poetry as the antithesis to the digital frame we are forced to live in. human compatible. And for that to happen, our cognitive system must be reformed.


This scary scenario begins with the language being limited to something instrumental. With the introduction of more electronics and technology in daily life, we are influenced by automatism. Conventional phrases are easiest to use because they are consistent and we avoid misunderstandings. Through such codification we are raised by the machines; we are formed in their image. In turn, words lose their meaning, they become codes, and the ability of humans to communicate with each other is weakened. To combat this digitization of our cognitive behavior, we must enrich our language with ambivalence and nuance, things that technology does not understand, ie poetry.


Berardi's new book Breathing is the sequel to The uprising. The title reflects the sense of not being able to breathe – a metaphor for the way we live today. When humans try to live by the technology's premise, they are doomed to failure. While the technology is static and accurate, the organism is dynamic and vague. The only way we as living beings can adapt to the digital environment is by suppressing our own sensitivity. This inevitably leads to a lack of empathy and, by extension, to fascism.

Fake news

In the digital world, the characters have lost their significance, which is illustrated by so-called fake news. The abundance of news and opinions leads to an inflation of truth, says Berardi – we do not see the forest for trees only. The over-stimulation wears out the brain, we lose our ability to concentrate and we just have to skim the headlines. We are unable to assess what is relevant and our references break down. To hide our own lack of insight, we hide behind identities and become depressed because we do not cope with "reality".

It is impossible for us to digest stimuli in a digital high-speed rhythm. Only thinking can lead us to real

Infinite access to information cannot replace secure knowledge. The mathematics of the world are incompatible with organic life – it is impossible for us to digest stimuli in a digital high-speed rhythm. Only thinking can lead us to true truth. But when do we have time to think? Attention wears between the "social" media that calls to us from all our devices. Without reflection and reflection, society begins to resemble a mindless anarchy. We need a respite.


When it takes more and more to create less and less, it causes chaos. Civilization was supposed to protect people from chaos, but the liberalization of neoliberalism over the last few decades has led to a new all-against-all state, where the focus on economic efficiency excludes all ethical behavior. The new situation is characterized by the fact that the body and reason have separated. Although the physical body would rebel against oppression, consciousness has disappeared, consumed by technology. Berardi calls them "brainless bodies": They already have the digital network stored in the nervous system. Is this the end of humanism?

Again, it is the poetry that is the wizard out of chaos. In order to regain the ability to breathe freely, we must release our language from the machine's codes. Poetry opens up the endless possibilities of language and awakens the imagination. Our imagination is what sets us apart from the machine and makes us understand that another world is possible. While the digital eats us up from within and starves us for spiritual food, poetry can inspire us and awaken the emotional life – in short, make us human again. Berardi finally dares to hint at a hope; perhaps from the chaos we can find the way not back to the constructed order we had before, but to a more organic harmony? The first thing we need to do is remember to breathe.

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