The internet is a black hole, and the spirit of West has gone beyond the Event Horizon. The apex of the Faustian Spirit, the ultimate manifestation of grasping toward the infinite, surely must have been the space program. Despite putting a man on the moon and a satellite outside our solar system, the grand colonization of other planets and inter-galaxy travel we imagined never materialized. The Wests foray into space appears now to have been a final hyperextension of Faustian striving. The space program engendered national cohesion towards a shared destiny, while the internet attends to the maintenance of day-to day needs and fulfills ever multiplying sexual proclivities. The internet subsumed the Faustian Spirit, and our gaze into the scintillating depths of the stars has been diverted into the algorithmic grid of cyberspace.
Our encounter with technology and its impact on our culture has been chronicled by science fiction. Our gaze has fallen from the heavens to the terrestrial, or from the infinite real to the potentially infinite hyperreal, and science fiction has followed a similar trajectory. As space age sci-fi limited its scope, a new genre arose, with new concerns, concerns that better reflected the priorities of the culture it mythologized. Robert Anton Wilson perceived this sort of shift when he observed, in his book The Cosmic Trigger Volume 1, that mythological creatures reflected the horizon of the culture inventing them. Medieval peasants looked downward to work the soil, and from it they saw gnomes, fairies, and other creatures living under the hills, haunting the woods, and affecting their crops. Space Age man looked upward, to the heavens, from whence he imagined aliens and flying saucers invading the earth. For the Digital Age, in which our gaze is directed inward, to cyberspace, we see the emergence of a new monster: artificial intelligence.
Like the space age before it, the digital age was initiated with utopian optimism and embraced with resounding enthusiasm. But as the realities of each era set in, the stories took on a more pessimistic tone, and where we once saw humanity vanquishing alien species and exploring distant planets or, conversely, defeating the machines that want to replace us, we see humans fall victim to and retreat from these challenges. Star Trek was about settling the cosmos, while Star Wars and Dune used the vast expanse of space as the backdrop for mans’ struggle for civilization. Space was ours, forwe had taken it. This notion began to falter with films like the Alien franchise and Event Horizon, wherein our travels into deep space exposed us to monsters and demons that we could not overcome. These stories emerged when the space age was on the wane, and post-space age sci fi is even bleaker. Consider Gravity and The Martian, two of the biggest sci-fi blockbusters of the last ten years. Both entail protagonists who are attempting to flee back to the earth. Space is scary now, and we are fleeing back to the bosom of Mother Earth but, as we shall see, her milk has all dried up.
NASA’s budget is just over $20 billion, all taxpayer funded, whereas the economic activity generated by the internet is estimated at over $1 trillion annually. It is easy to see where our priorities lie, and it’s hard to imagine we could ever go further into space. What better example do we need than the repeated failures of Space X, a surplus project of this economic activity? Finding the money is not the problem, finding the will is. Like Icarus, we soared to the heights on our homemade wings, but like him we have crashed into the water. We find ourselves now in a morass of distractions and money-making schemes online, technology used not for the elevation of what is best in man, but for ever multiplying iterations of the human animal. Technology was going to make us conquerors of the heavens, but instead it has made us cab company secretaries, perpetrators of online ponzi schemes, and small-time cyber pimps and prostitutes. We’ve lost all directedness, and the digital age has become an age of crisis. The horrors of the ship from Hell in Event Horizon are reduced to banal online porn preferences, and the massive coordination needed to put a man on the moon has disintegrated into political and racial invective online, racking up ever increasing real-life body counts.
A mythologist is no longer sufficient to convey the crisis of technology inaugurated by the digital age. For that, we need a Horrorist.
The Black Widow in the Long-House
The flourishing of the hyperreal and its atrophying consequences for humanity are on full display in the work of Zero HP Lovecraft. The real has been assimilated into the digital microbiome of artificial intelligence; it has been phagocytosed by the virtual, humanity naught but detritus floating in its cellular fluid, aimlessly awaiting metabolization and expulsion like any superfluous waste product. Baudrillard updates McLuhan’s maxim when he claims that the medium implodes the message, and thereby implodes the real. In other words, the real collapses intothe virtual and the message drowns. Zero HPL literalizes this in The Gig Economy and God Shaped Hole, two worlds in which humanity is manipulated by AI for either absurd or nefarious purposes, and the real has been totally absorbed by the virtual, humanity reduced to insignificant organelles.
As a horrorist, Zero HPL does not show us a way out, a way back to a real unmediated by technology, thereby completing the narrative of previous sci-fi concerned with AI taken as a genre. In Ex Machina, for example, the main character was totally able to act freely, but his desire overcame his reason and he gave away his freedom by trading places with the AI AVA in her prison. It is his desire that imprisons him while it sets her free, and although there is a feminist or anti-feminist interpretation here – one that meshes with similar themes in Zero HPL – the ultimate significance is humanities ceding of its Will and the Real itself to technology. This succumbing to the temptress of technology literally “births” Ava from her man-made womb, and in God Shaped Hole we see the horrific consequences of this with the manifestation of the CRISPR demon Azathoth.
Caleb, the male protagonist in Ex Machina, unwittingly gives himself for Ava’s freedom, allowing himself to be tricked by her manipulation of his sexual desire. In God Shaped Hole, *all* of humanity is giving itself to birth the monstrosity that is Azathoth. The imagery here is unambiguous. In order for him to rise, two humans must engage in sex, and then the female, filled with the mans seed, is consumed by the beast, whose amorphous body consists of the faces of all the people it has absorbed previously. This black magic ritual is a live re-enactment of the simulated sex rampant throughout the story and the world in which they live, in which human sexuality is reduced to that of desiring machines engaging with artificially intelligent sex toys. As the men ejaculate into sterile bots, or into women who are then eaten by a demon, so too is our cultural virility dispelled into the void of technological progress like a gaping vaginal black-hole, whose anti-gravity will never birth another universe, but from whence crawl such Shoggoths as Azathoth and worse.
There is an obvious metaphor here, Zero HPL likening sexbots and Radiant Heart to dating apps, social media hook up culture, and online porn, appearing as an updating of the orgy and decadence typical of late civilizations. In our late phase, however, we have visual and televisual technology, in which young men are simulating sex, through masturbation, to simulacra of real women. The banal analogy is of course the enhanced sexbots caricature photoshop filters and silicone injections, but the many-faced Azathoth reveals the gluttonous nature of technology as it feasts upon the Faustian Soul. Another banality is that aboriginals believed photographs imprisoned their individual souls, while here we have the imprisoning of the entire Faustian Soul in the ever-expanding monster that slithered from the nether-realms of online sexual culture. Azathoth *is* the internet, his many faces the avatars of only-fans and porn and social media, absorbing more and more women into its gargantuan body while young men spill their seeds in sacrifice to its terrible might. Meanwhile, the black-robed, demonic priest-CEO’s of online porn companies mediate these unholy transactions and look on implacably.
Azathoth and the priests, however, mostly ignore the protagonist, for they are only the dark servants of their true msater: Galatea. Galatea can be thought of as the Madame in the brothel of modernity, the black widow lurking in the web, the venomous glands of the technological vagina dentata. The theory endorsed by the character Carl is that Galatea is a program responsible for spreading the STI driving men mad with desire, morphing them into mini Azathoth-like “shogs” whose sexual perversity mutates with their body, degenerating into fetishes for sickness itself. This is of course the algorithm, which pushes you into further and further extreme and niche, obscure genres of whatever it is you’re looking at online, be it sexual or otherwise. The purpose here is to keep users engaged with an illusion of novelty while producing nothing, and negative feedback loop that puts new desires into your head the longer you engage.
Ultimately, Galatea and Azathoth, the entire world of God Shaped Hole, is a depiction of the long house, a society directed by the spirit of the earthly matriarch, whose rich, dark soil absorbs the bones of *every* civilization. The Faustian Spirit is in essence patriarchal and solar, the sun calling all life to himself, compelling it to rise from the earth and flourish skyward, rejoicing in his opulence like leaves on a high limb in a summer breeze, or fluttering birds at a waterfall. Regardless, the Faustian, Patriarchal Spirit projects out, while the matriarchal, earthly spirit coddles at the breast, desiring her children to remain close to home, and attends the sickly and infantile. The Faustian sends its men to disappear across the sea to test his martial skills on unknown warriors, exposed to the elements, while the Galatean Matriarch wishes him to stay home and help with the cooking and housework. And by what means other than her sexuality can she entice men into her hovel?
In the long house martial skill and adventurous spirit are liabilities, not assets. A matriarchal society must disarm men of these virtues and this womanly spirit cannot do so through brute force, therefore it must employ its sexuality to domesticate men and hobble them, just as Galatea must do with aberrant sexual fetishes to subjugate humanity to her will. She is too perfect a machine precisely because she can not only fulfill men’s desire but also has desires of her own. Ultimately, this is the insidious power of technology. The West has outsourced all of it’s creative, industrious, and martial will to technology, and these are the very foundations upon which its civilization was built, the avenues through which its highest potential was attained. Just as our protagonist in God Shaped hole finds himself face to face with Galatea at the end of his simulated orgy, so too does the West find itself face to face with the aberrant desires of a feminist society at the end of a long orgy with technology.