Writing Technologies

Écrire – La Technologie: A View From France

Douglas Morrey

The prolific and controversial novelist Maurice G. Dantec, meanwhile, has, for a decade or more, been conducting an urgent enquiry into the effects, the possibilities and the dangers of our current technological reality. On one hand, Dantec documents the social atomisation implicit in a thoroughly technologised society, through his brutal depictions of criminal networks engaged in serial murder on an industrial scale, existing as the negative counterpart to the commercial and political networks of legitimate society and making full use of information technologies at once to expand, document and market their operations, and to control and conceal them (La Sirène rouge, 1993; Les Racines du mal, 1996). On the other hand, Dantec suggests that it is only through the accelerated, ungoverned development of technology, in direct but unprogrammable relation with the unpredictable evolution of organic life, that humanity will escape from its current amoral impasse through the emergence of its successor. Hence the range of post-human characters and concepts in Dantec’s work: from an artificial intelligence interface that evolves something like consciousness and escapes the control of its operator (Les Racines du mal); through a set of twins, mutated through contact with a virus and with their schizophrenic surrogate mother, born with a super-evolved global consciousness (Bablylon Babies, 1999); to a part organic, part digital life-form that exists only in and through its connection to the global information network (Cosmos Incorporated, 2005). At the same time, Dantec never stops asking what role literature and religion may have to play in this technological future – literature as religion and religion as literature. In his diaristic laments on the decline of western civilisation, as well as in his science-fiction prophecies, Dantec foresees the onset of a new Dark Age: as the twenty–first century succumbs to a new series of wars of religion, accompanied by accelerating environmental catastrophe, humanity’s true inheritance of science and philosophy, literature and theology is to be preserved by a generation or more of guardians who will be not so much clerics as warriors in the service of a future for humanity. The greatest weapon in the war for the human soul will be a library – Dantec’s Bibliothôgon – an ideal collection of inscribed wisdom to be used against a new breed of heathens, philistines and infidels. If writing retains such power, it is because – in a tradition drawn advisedly from the religions of the book – writing names the real possibility of creation, as opposed to the simple reproduction, or culturally enforced creativity of a technological culture in which even the most market-oriented hardware manufacturer urges us to ‘go create’.1 If writing is thus – still and again – a technology, there is a sense, in Dantec’s work, that, as the oldest, darkest, and most mysterious of technologies – as the technology of technologies – it may allow the unbinding and defusing, the deforming and rethinking of technology.

1. Sony advertising campaign c. 2001.

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