The Daily Planet
The personal is political and the political is planetary
TLDR; shifting into a new, higher gear ⚙
For the last few years, I have been laboring with the idea that the planet is the correct setting for any discussion of politics, economics or any other human activity, which is to say that we are a planetary species. I first wrote in this planetary vein four years ago:
While climate change has figured prominently in my planetary writing, it’s not the only insertion of the non-human world in human affairs. There’s the planet going viral:
Dipesh Chakrabarty quote here:
Which is why we need to pay attention to cities: they are the concrete (both literally and metaphorically!) manifestation of the nature-society divide, and if we are to provincialize the globe and embrace our planetary future, cities will have to incorporate nature into their being. On the planetary city:
The war of the worlds is underway in Ukraine as we speak, though 2024 might see its successor in the US. Today’s violence is existential, about the constitution of the world we want to live in. We need shamanic mediation between these incommensurable worlds, which is to say, we need ontological diplomats, emissaries who travel between worlds. Ontological diplomacy is what shamans do for their communities. Latour and his collaborators introduce shamanic diplomacy thus:
And code is the language in which the planetary shaman communicates with their communities across worlds. The planetary perspective is particularly important for the cyberworld - from the metaverse to machine learning:
Computing only makes sense in the light of the planet.
The planet only makes sense in the light of computing.
As the book was to society, code is to the planet.
BTW, the link between the digital and the planetary isn’t new: it’s been part of the cyber counterculture from the beginning, with the Whole Earth Catalog being an early hit. The dormant insights of cybernetics are waiting to be resurrected in many avatars: cities, code, climate, globe, planet… Whether it’s Hirschman writing about voice and exit or Benjamin writing about art, its possible to read most writers from that planetary perspective, just as it’s possible to read Shakespeare from a Marxist perspective. Is it the only way to read the past and the present? Certainly not, but the planet has been conspicuous by its absence in literature and the humanities, so all the more reason for us to incorporate it in our repertoire.
It’s taken me four+ years to gather these tools and concepts along with a creeping realizatiom that we need a way of thinking that is to the planet that economics (and social science more generally) is to society. I couldn’t have done it any faster, but Planet → Carbon → Politics → Viruses → Cities → Code → Planet over four years is one sloooow turn of the wheel. I am ready to turn it quicker. Starting today, expect a ‘Daily Planet’ update every weekday.
The Daily Planet will mix fact, fiction and forecast without always saying which is which. I will take short and long breaks on occasion, but the default is a planetary look at the world five days a week
PS: for those who don’t know the reference, the Daily Planet was a fictional newspaper for which Clark Kent (the alter ego of Superman) was a journalist.
PPS: Even then I knew Elon Musk was more Lex Luthor than Superman.