‘The Metamorphosis of the World’, by Ulrich Beck

0745690211John Fanning at The Dublin Review of Books:

The book also highlights two additional developments that are contributing to a sense of bewilderment and disorientation; advances in reproductive medicine which are changing the nature of motherhood and fatherhood and the extraordinary speed and implications of the digital revolution. Under the first heading Beck discusses the emerging concepts of fertility tourism, transnational motherhood and commodity children and suggests that if the act of procreation no longer requires the presence of two people at the same time in the same place but can be “displaced to a laboratory somewhere in the world in any random rented womb at any arbitrary time” then our fundamental understanding of humanity is in doubt. The effects of the digital revolution have received much more attention but Beck brings fresh insight to the subject, pointing out that we are only just becoming aware of “digital risk”, which interferes with something we have always taken for granted; our capacity to control personal information and protect our private lives. Echoing Hardt and Negri’s Empire (2000) thesis, he argues that we are all being lured into control by an anonymous digital central power; which doesn’t rely on violence but which “exercises extensive and intensive profound and far-reaching control that ultimately pushes any individual preference and deficit into the open—we are all becoming transparent”. He also notes the unsettling effects of the divide between the “Neanderthals”; the elderly, who were born human beings but who woke up as “digitally illiterate” and the young “Homo Cosmopoliticus” at ease in the new world but in danger of drowning in an ocean of “fragmented, unorganised, context-free knowledge”.

The political reaction to this unprecedented level of disorientation has been one of outrage rather than any coherent attempt to alleviate the problem. The immediate reaction on the right is to circle the wagons and build a wall; against Mexico, Europe, whatever; and on the left to “occupy” Wall Street, any street, whatever. Both reactions allow people to let off steam but are intellectually bankrupt in terms of a solution.

more here.