To begin with, the Blueprint -- the "Story," as Daniel Quinn calls it, that’s driving all this is a very new and unproven proposal. In fact, if we can step back far enough, the whole modern age is one vast, weird experiment.

In many ways it has been a marvelous success. We dove deeply and passionately into the secrets of the material world, and brought back an absolutely precious body of truth that will be significant forever

Painted drumhead

Along the way we brought into being a new kind of individual freed of the constraints of tradition, kin, community and all that had gone before. We unleashed a rush of human energy and invention. Cobwebs of superstition were blown away. We found new ways of seeing even, and gazed on vast new horizons.

But the reports coming in now are grim. The whole proposition is turning out to be something of a devil’s bargain. Like the marching brooms of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, as science and technology mature they need only the slightest lapse of vigilance to ramp out of control and take possession of the course of history. To turn human culture into Technical culture.

Somewhere in its growth curve, the technological/industrial/scientific institutions -- the Technical culture -- becomes too big and too dumb -- too uncontrolable to remain responsive to human needs. It’s marching to its own 1000 megahertz drumbeat, and commonsense problem-solving on our scale is increasingly marginalized.

For example, right when we are scrambled by an absolute overload of venial, mind numbing “entertainment”, when a whole population is living out their relationships through sitcoms -- what vast new enterprise do we start? Building High Definition TV and opening up 500 more channels, and creating this internet. Why? Did a council of our clearest and wisest carefully consider their impact and decide that this would bring the healing we so desperatly need? Of course not. Its coming because the technology has arrived. Because not to do so would be to Stand in the Way of Progress!

Empowered thus by the powerful theologies of PROGRESS, mature Technical Science forges ever forward, no matter what the cost, until finally it can't stop. Yes we have a poisoned environment, OK, the masses suffer a dreary mechanical existence...but certainly the Internet will change all that! Or smart houses? Or the genome project? Or Free-market Globalization? Some day we may look back and recognize in this self- destructive feedback loop something of the fiery dance of Kali. Or is it the charismatic tyranny of the Anti-Christ?

Unfortunatly, most of us...subjects...have gotten so caught up in the trance-like excitement of this final phase that we refuse to acknowledge that the experiment has gone sour. Or even that, yes, we are operating under a tentative what if set of rules; and that if things aren't working out that well we can play by other rules

At this moment an extraordinary engine of salvation enters human history.

The Silicon Chip!

Willing slave of humanity, Jinn of global consciousness. All the labors of our race seem to intersect and resolve themselves in this elegant whisper of matter. How many transistors can dance on a quarter inch chip? Over three million! What can it do? Just about anything! A new hope is aroused: “…humans will typically live among five hundred year old trees and carefully tended gardens, yet within easy travel distance of an urban area of incredible technological wizardry. By then, the means of survival…will be totally automated and at everyone’s disposal,” says the Celestine prophecies. Cool, but only a start. This technology just begs for really bold new worlds. Neural networks…chip implants…bio-mechanical evolution: who’s to say what the limits are anymore?
But if we are thinking of pinning our hopes on this wizardry, we better check it out closely. Visionary moments have a way of distracting attention from mundane facts. Silicon chips are not built simply by inspired will, they are the climax product of an entire civilization. The two have evolved into perfect symbiosis: the system would now collapse without the chip, the chip could not exist without the system. Every personal computer is as perfect a monument of our age just as the great pyramid was to pharonic Egypt: an entire society must be organized to build either one.

The Great Pyramid of Silicon

A brief overview of how microchips are made shows just how extensive a support system the information age requires.

• Microprocessors are manufactured in science-fiction like facilities routinely working in mind-boggling tolerances of 1000's the thickness of a human hair.
• But to build this state-of-the-art machinery requires the can-do might of conventional smokestack industry
• and some of the most highly refined and toxic materials known -- Beryllium, arsenic, chromium compounds, solidified forms of noble gases
• and the inevitable waste stream is the worst.
• Many raw materials come from strip mining and other destructive practices.
• Bringing everything together requires a vast transportation infrastructure. Oil spills and other slip-ups must be factored in as the cost of doing business.
• Much of the electric power for all of this will come from nuclear reactors, creating another waste stream only this one is deadly for 20,000 generations.
• Then a vast work force is needed, and the social controls to maintain a “hive mentality,” without which no one would do this kind of repetitive and unrewarding labor for long.
• The tremendous cost of developing chips can only be justified if they are sold in volume, so a powerful marketing/entertainment industry must be created to turns these workers into consumers of an endless stream of digital goods.
• Finally, since the dynamics of capitalism demand that markets constantly expand, all cultures following different world views must be aggressively converted to the hive ideal, made into low-wage workers/consumers. Or eliminated if they control natural resources.

Dance to the music, pay to the piper. This technology has given us a whole new range of experience, a dynamic digital culture. To its insiders, its future seems limitless. But no matter how digitally pristine the Age of Information appears, it rests on the groaningback of a system predicated on the relentless exploitation and plunder of the earth and its peoples.

One is reminded of another expansive culture, the aristocratic plantation society of the old South. It was a courtly, civilized experience -- if you were lucky enough to be Scarlet or Rett. Many of its insiders were equally unaware of the backbreaking drudgery in the cotton fields that made crystal chandeliers and polished libraries possible. But then as now, the laws of karma cut only so much slack for ignorance, and the Piper had to be paid his due. Today we find ourselves once again in an unconscionable situation. The environmental and social degradation perpetuated by the silicon chip is a great storm-cloud that can no longer be ignored. As the poet said, there’s a hard rain’s a gonna fall.

Ironically, the evolution of the chip itself hints at its own demise. With every iteration it has become magnitudes smaller, faster, finer, as if it has the urge to transcend physical limit, to become the idea of a processor; pure intellect, a field of information. Talk to a true computer theologian and there is always this uprushing feeling: Its “Information” he wants to talk about, and Process, and Knowledge. Hardware is irrelevant, a bridge that will fade away, like the Marxist State was supposed to.

The time for that fading has arrived. We have, amid a mountain of info-garbage, the needful knowledge now: how Things Are: quarks and galaxies and everything in between. We know we're one humanity with one home, one delicate web of life.

The Technoid-State won't fade easily into its own parade. Power is addicting--it’s hard giving up those glittering dress balls with the orchestra playing under the magnolias. We have to really get it: the computer chip, no matter how elegant in appearance, is terminally corrupted by the vast clanking mechano-womb that gives it birth. An earth-destroying system which can no longer be accepted. As catalyst, as awakener, its job is done. We got it. We are no longer who we were. We human being people have work to do, and it won’t help to cling to the good old digital days. Let's move on.