Zeros and Heroes: On Computational Compassion and How to Escape the Social Game of Hopscotch

Among this quarrelsome species that we call human, indifference is a luxury. Perhaps a day shall come when we will have the opportunity to live our dreams without worrying too much about the dreams of others. But as long as the latter are nightmares, we shall hear ubiquitous screams amplified by social networks, millions being spent to keep us falsely awake with so much irrational pain that we could fill up an ocean with the cacophony of our miseries.

What is the relationship between God and the media? The latter seem to have stolen the virtue of ubiquity from the former. The new media are now buried, almost invisible, in the multiple environments that make up our daily lives, right down to the hollowness of our synapses.

The first humans one day looked around and they saw stones, animals, trees, other men, women, children, more stones, a sun, stars. The first question that is undoubtedly at the origin of intelligence is: what unites all these realities? What is common to all of these phenomena? What is everywhere the same? Thus was born religion, then philosophy and also mathematics. Religion affirms what must be the same everywhere. Mathematics tries to understand what must be the same everywhere. Philosophy concludes: everything is in fact different, but the intellect, thought is everywhere able to unite us provided that we accept the ubiquity of that difference and understand the desire for unity in our hearts.

We have entered a world of digital humanism, computational compassion, endlessly producing a show of zeros and heroes. Globalisation superproduces this ubiquitous reading grid, like a mental second nature, to such an extent that emeritus researchers have proposed that the universe be compared to a hologram, a vast binary simulation. Everything would be information and bits, logarithmic equality. We mistake the universe imposed by our levelling capitalism for the truth of the cosmos. One religion replaces another. Everything is – must be – everywhere the same, say the advocates of emotional informationism, aiming at the transubstantiation of everything and everyone into arithmetics. Equality, not of opportunity, but of result. The flattening of the world.

In her speech at the UN, the young Malala Yousafzai was right to speak of equal access to education: we must work to equalize the initial conditions offered to each and everyone, such that they can work creatively and joyfully towards what is possible and what is their ideal. One should not predetermine the finish square, nor, as in the game of hopscotch, impose that the finish square should be the same for everyone. Too often, a priori political equality, which we should strive for, turns into a posteriori standardization, an equalisation of goals that is forced upon us. One dogma replaces another. In our delirium of good humanist virtue, we forget to think for ourselves. If the slave cannot yet, sometimes the new master can no longer.

Difference, creation, the multiple, this is the ubiquitous. Oneness is an aspiration. The cosmos is a dance between the creative becoming that Descartes called continued creation (and as is now known, I call it Creal) and the ideal of an ordered unification. Any tendency to favor one aspect of this polarity over the other introduces an unhealthy imbalance. This leads us to a wisdom that the Greeks, in particular the Stoics, but also Aristotle, already explored, and which was recently emphasized anew by French philosopher Gilles Deleuze: the golden mean (“commencer par le milieu”). The happy medium is this balance between creation and order, difference and repetition, which governs the performative stability of any living system, and which can protect us from the sad media. This equilibrium is almost nothing, it is an invisible, an infinitesimal point between two forces, a strange attractor. When a system touches this eudynamic balance, new possibilities can emerge.

The crealecticians, a man or a woman, will be ubiquitous but not standardised; they will live in a creative environment of spiritual matter and organic spirit. We are right to want to keep the old-fashioned fanatics out of our cities, but let us not replace the symbolic violence of the religious past with a new violence, that of a world in which equalisation is the new agenda that closes mouths and minds in a prison of pseudo-peaceful conformism. The right to life in peace, the right to dignity, the right to education are essential; they should not tarnish the resilient joy of living and thinking for oneself.

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