Surveillance Never Sleeps | 1. Preface: Technologies of the New Real

Blueshift Series

Surveillance Never Sleeps

Arthur and Marilouise Kroker


Preface: Technologies
of the New Real

Surveillance Never Sleeps is a new way of looking at the human impact of technology in the twenty-first century. Here, four critical intersections of technology and society–drones, surveillance, DIY bodies, and recent innovations in robotic technology–are explored for what they have to tell us about the “new real” of digital culture. With astonishing speed and relatively little public debate, we have suddenly been projected into a new reality of pervasive surveillance, drone warfare, DIY bodies as the essence of the “quantified self,” and creative developments in robotic technologies that effortlessly merge synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, and the design of articulated robotic limbs into a newly blended reality of machines, bodies, and affect. However, while the sheer dynamism of this digital remaking of human experience seemingly anticipates a future of accelerated technological change, it does not account for the dark singularities of increasingly atavistic politics, fatal flaws in the codes, the “blowback” of long-suppressed ethnic and racial grievances, or the rise of fundamentalist ideologies.

Surveillance Never Sleeps seeks to answer the question posed by the uncertain world of twenty-first century experience itself, namely why in an age of a seemingly inexorable drive to technical perfection, smart bodies, and complex machine-human interface has society itself so quickly imploded into politics moving at the speed of darkness and motivated by the will to purity? Consequently, a truly unique world situation: powerful eruptions of the boom and bust cycles of late capitalism; the rise of reactionary fundamentalist movements, some religious, others political; the effective political dispossession and economic destitution of most of the world’s population, and yet, in the midst of all of this, the emergence of a new technological theology as transcendental in its cosmological ambitions as it is localized in its implications. So, then, a twenty-first century that may have permanent war, class privilege, and resurgent forms of political recidivism as its sustaining noise. But, for all that, there is the clear signal in the technological background of ambient robots, DIY bodies, hovering drones and machine-readable surveillance that something else is happening, something as novel in its technical expressions as it is enigmatic in its consequences. Surveillance Never Sleeps is about listening intently to the signal of technologies of the new real as they penetrate the social, political and economic static of the posthuman condition.