|Cybernetic culture research unit|
Cyberhype-1: Who Believes in the New Economy?
Cyberhype consists of operative non-linear abstractions, or productive virtualities. It is at once soft-product, viral-advertisement and artificially intelligent media content: manic run-away into telecommercial takeover of the Earth. Built out of nothing but fictions, it is still entirely real (and ever-increasingly socio-economically effective).
Cyberhype designates the reality of a New Economy in which economic bubble and IT-boom have become indistinguishable, mutually transmuting each other into something unprecedented, and thus unrecognisable. Those eagerly awaiting a market correction in the direction of economic normality are repeatedly disappointed (despite NASDAQ fluctuations, the US economy is expected to grow by a further 5% in the year 2000). Even if it all caves in, it will collapse into something unimaginably new.
Cyberpunk speculations are already techno-economic infrastructure: contemporary social reality condenses out of the future rather than developing from the past. How could anything other than a fiction any longer be true?
Who Believes in the New Economy?
The recent forum on the New Economy held at Londons Binomics Institute entered the territory of the positively unbelievable, to borrow a phrase from controversial trade-guru Jack Schwarz. It was Schwarz whose ideas have been criticised as "less a theory than a program for mass hypnosis" who concluded the days proceedings. Confused and conflicting reports later described him as "speaking in tongues", "receiving instructions from invisible beings", and "remaining basically off-planet" throughout.
According to our correspondent, events began soberly enough, with a paper from Professor James Thorne of Axiomatic Systems Incorporated entitled Bubble Horror, dedicated to the dangers of cyberhype-driven asset-price inflation and manipulated stock-valuations. Thorne, who proudly bills himself as a neofundamentalist, is well known for his frequent and scathing attacks on the "witch doctors of the so called new economy." "What goes under the name new economy isnt an economy at all," he argued. "Its a bubble of sheer delirium fizzing up out of mania and crazed beliefs, destined to burst once traditional standards of evaluation inevitably reassert themselves." Decrying the "scourge of post-realism", Thorne doubts that "ontologically-secure profits" will ever be made in a "pirate-infested cyberspace, potlached down to a cybercommunist wasteland ... it makes more sense to invest in the moon than in web stocks."
Abstract Machiness Liz Volta mocked Thornes appeal to financial foundations as a skeptico-depressive disorder, entirely dissociated from contemporary reality. Her paper on The Telecommercial Condensation of Virtuality described the new economy as an "effectively self-consistent hype-plane built out of brands, consumption potentials, and viral marketing, with audience and web-traffic bought and sold as commodities. It trades in pure quanta of captivation. Under these conditions apportioning value on the basis of underlying actual assets is peculiarly archaic." According to Volta, belief in the new economy has become a factor of production: both an operative fiction and a good investment in itself.
Jack Schwarzs paean to superconductive capitalism out-hyped even Voltas enthusiastic affirmation of the virtual economy. His presentation Mindless Trade promoted itself as a "practical demonstration of irrational exuberance", whose result would be "collective ego-dissolution into the hypersphere". He defined his method of positive unbelief "a fictional techonomic yoga from the Plateau of Leng" as a process of "tuning into artificial reality, which is the only reality left." It is no longer a matter of what is believed, but of what can be treated as real. "Belief and disbelief are the twin traps of maya," Schwarz suggested. "True fusion with the market only occurs on the plane of unbelief."
Employing a range of chants, sonorous gongs, gestures and other xenobuddhist techniques Schwarz led the audience through some of the market channelling procedures he uses when training stock- and money-brokers to clear trading behaviour. "... You are feeling ever more relaxed ... floating in empty cyberspace ... Eliminate your own ideas." This was the last distinct phrase our correspondent can remember (despite subsequent regression-hypnosis). Her account of what followed remains both garbled and mystifyingly incomplete. Ccru will investigate further but is meanwhile suspending belief.