The title might make one think of this book as one of those conspiracy books, so fashionable lately, with their funny theories about the ‘New World Order’. In reality, the title is perfectly centred on the theme of the book and is a synonym for the New Dark Ages, the Dark Age par excellence, but let us not tell that to the historians who go to such lengths to remove this simplistic cognition from a light-filled period of history.
Our present as a New Dark Age is a more dramatic vision than what Sage presented to us as Interregnum. This book shows us the most varied morbid phenomena, systematised among the insubstantial plagues of digital technologies, and what is worse is that Bridle, a technology expert, writer, journalist and visual artist, makes us realise that the worst is yet to come.
Our digital Dark Ages, we can all agree, is characterised by increasingly exacerbated inequalities, an increasingly unclear understanding of the dynamics of reality, ubiquitous mass surveillance, failing nation states, viral fake news, financial flash crashes, scientific failures, disturbing children’s videos on YouTube, algorithms creating t-shirts for sale on Amazon that say ‘rape me’, and how many more things could be said.
Depressing, isn’t it? But what are we supposed to think, to know that Amazon itself bought a company only to be able to use its robots, with which it replaced part of its staff and overhauled the organisation of its warehouses through so-called chaotic warehousing, where ‘chaos’ is to be understood as only for humans, totally incapable of finding their way around in it?
This is, of course, only a grain of sand in the universe presented by Bridle, a universe obsessively based on facts, shown and demonstrated as bitterly as it appears, without any sugary positivist attempts.
As Bridle writes: ‘In spite of an increasingly universal vision, our agentivity is increasingly reduced. We know more and more about the world, but we are less and less able to act on it’. A tinge of optimism seems to appear in the finale, ‘we are not limited by darkness’ it reads. Fact, like his entire book, or flimsy hope escaped in the ending? Happy reading.
James Bridle, New Dark Age, Verso, 2018