The Limits of Metaversality

One of the most consequential issues of our epoch will no doubt be the question of the metaverse—this as in the entire digital semiosphere—coupled with a triumphant technorationalism espoused from within the new digital habitat. Its effects are already permeating every category of sociopolitical consideration, putting into question no less than sovereignty, legitimacy, the status of civic rights and so forth, substantially fixing the future between the looming threats of totalitarianism and a teleology that seems oriented towards the implementation of no less than open tyranny.

Technocratic metaversality threatens to radicalize the forms against humanity, this through an ever-widening separation between theory and practice, evocative of both nihilism and the very essence of pure ideology. The metaverse is hence open to an expanded version of Kant’s critique of Leibnizian metaphysics, an updated take on the Marxist theory of ideology, as well as (ironically) Hayek’s calculation problem. Yet, the technorationalist metaverse—a seemingly Platonic world of forms increasingly dominating terrestrial existence—nevertheless appears inimical to the good society as seen by Plato, which, of course, Popper saw as leading straight to totalitarianism. At issue is what the inversion of that same system will represent.

The dominant hypermodern mode conceives many or all problems as solvable through Brattonian “planetary scale computation.” Meritocracy now comes with an instrumental-technical imperative that explicitly privileges metaversality. Objects find their reference point in form rather than function and this is all merged with the specific claims that have accompanied the putative immanentization of metaphysics, hence the completion of nihilism proper. Thus, there are a number reasons for having doubts about the actual efficacy of technocratic metaversality as governance, which I’ll seek to only briefly hint at here.

The claim is that the crowning achievement of Cartesian representation and the implementation of Bacon’s Novum Organum has now set humanity catapulting towards a surveiled, cybernetic manifold where theory and practice, education and experience, credentials and competence, all come to achieve an ultimate separation, each coming unbounded from the other, and culminating in a pathological mode of virtual leadership consistent with the world-destroying doctrine of technoscientific irrationalism: mythology-enhanced science coupled with scientific extremism, or what Virilio called “extreme science.”

Metaversality may claim itself as “open,” but it cannot tolerate division between fact and value. Instead, there’s a vicious circularity: the mantra of the metaverse is “flourishing” and “flourishing” is metaversality; beyond that, we’re left only to believe that “terabyte makes right.” The only thing techobureaucratization comes to lack is genius—and in its place we see the flourishing of a digital inebriation that is only possible when nestled within an almost entirely synthetic world system.

While the Platonic auxiliaries were required to have the qualia and hard-nosed practical experience necessary to make informed interpretative judgments, the phenomenology and practice of civic life is being increasingly replaced by the propaganda of progress, deliverances of the culture industry and other assorted (and phenomenologically-devoid) simulacra. While in the Platonic “system” the only justification for poetics would be an unjust regime, under a fully-realized technocratic metaverse, humanistically oriented poetics would be both justified and rationally subjected to criminalization. Thus, ala Julian Assange, the post-academic digital humanities may wind up having to be heavily encrypted.