2020: The year of peak dromology

I’m baffled by the reality that’s unfolding in front of my eyes. I feel dizzy, disoriented, confused, drunken with this constant stream of information.

Just in the last three days: There is a massive social upheaval in the US, a CNN reporter was arrested live on TV while reporting, Trump threatens to shoot people & gets censored by Twitter, Trump signs order that could punish social media companies for published content which could change the nature of the internet as we know it, the US leaves the WHO, monkeys stole some Covid-19 blood samples in India (!), which struggles with rising Covid-19 infections on top of an unprecedented heatwave and swarms of locusts that are ravaging crops, Brazil’s coronavirus death toll surpassed 25,000 which was the fifth time the number exceeded 1,000 since the crisis accelerated in Brazil a week ago, and we’re about to see Nasa/Space X launch, which will be the first time that astronauts will be launched from US soil since the Space Shuttle programme in 2011.

Something is qualitatively different at this moment in history. The built-in accelerating process that creates all these varieties of connectivity is speeding up. The speed with which this complexity is increasing can now be felt more viscerally than ever before.

We used to have a linear perspective of time and space. It was based on a perception of distance between the observer and that which was observed. We can now *feel* the elimination of both the spatial and temporal distance between events’ occurrences and their representations. With the advent of digital technologies, spatial distance and temporal relief collapse. We are all sitting on our couches, watching this totalising global pandemic and surfing our hyper-individualised realities, while events are hitting us at an unprecedented speed.

I feel that the time has arrived when the rate of complexification occurs so fast that it is becoming itself an overwhelming phenomenon in the electronic noosphere. Terence McKenna had a hunch about the speeding up of our world, he says:

history grows toward what he called a “nexus of completion.” And these nexuses of completion themselves grow together into what he called the “concrescence.” A concrescence exerts a kind of attraction, which can be thought of as the temporal equivalent of gravity, except all objects in the universe are drawn toward it through time, not space. As we approach the lip of this cascade into concrescence, novelty, and completion, time seems to speed up and boundaries begin to dissolve. The more boundaries that dissolve, the closer to the concrescence we are. When we finally reach it, there will be no boundaries, only eternity as we become all space and time, alive and dead, here and there, before and after. Because this singularity can simultaneously co-exist in states that are contradictory, it is something which transcends rational apprehension. But it gives the universe meaning, because all processes can be seen to be seeking and moving in an effort to approximate, connect with, and append to this transcendental object at the end of time.

— Terence McKenna, Timewave Zero and Language

What emerges is this heightened sense of immediacy — a “real-time” perspective. The time it takes to traverse events happening in space has shrunk, looping us in hyper-perspectivity.

Paul Virilio is worried about this time compression. He warns us that we are suffering from a new form of pollution that he calls “dromospheric” contamination. The term dromospheric comes from dromos, meaning race, running. Dromospheric pollution refers to the contamination of “time distances” and compression of our “depth of field” (Virilio, 1997) which deprives us of our connection with psychological time. This is ever more present during this massive social isolation event.

Speed is now equated with real-time data transmission moving at the speed-of-light — giving rise to instantaneity. Virilio characterizes this digitalized speed-up as a shift from chronological to chronoscopic time.

Time is also a collective representation. We can point to a clock and agree that time is passing but the present is always slipping, always moving. This virtual “hyperperspectivism” is creating a new epistemic order, where the map supersedes the territory. As time collapses in itself so do our collective representations. Our optics are becoming large scale kaleidoscopic binoculars and microscopes at the same time, made of millions of small pieces of glass reflecting multiple horizons — never converging, always moving faster omnidirectionally.

Chronoscopic time derails me.

  • Are we becoming unrecognisable to ourselves as a species?
  • How do we inhabit this moment?
  • What sort of collectivity arises?
  • How do we construct our identities?
  • Can our minds fathom this temporal complexity?
  • Can our bodies process it?
  • What is the breadth and depth of new dromospheric emotions that we can feel?
  • How do we construct our embeddedness and inseparability with world affairs?
  • What does being there, being in the world, being alongside the world, being with others, being one’s self mean anymore?
  • How can we see clearly?

We need alternative temporal topographies as noted by Barbara Adam.

Since we have no sense organ for time, we need — even more than for the landscape perspective — the entire complement of our senses working in unison with our imagination before we can experience its working in our bodies and the environment. Such an effort at the level of imagination is needed if we are able to take account in our dealings with the environment of latency and immanence, pace and intensity, contingency and context dependence, time-distantiation and intergenerational impacts, rhythmicity and time-scales of change, timing and tempo, transience and transcendence, irreversibility and indeterminacy, the interrelation between Merk- and Wirkwelt, the influence of the past and the projection into an open future. ( Barbara Adam , 1998, p.55).

I don’t know yet how these topographies look like. They are not creatures of the past or the future —and the present is already gone. They respect our bodily rhythms, our relationships to each other and the earth, the lives of our ancestors and the lives of our descendants. We need new crutches to inhabit deep Time, we need to slow down, repeat, prioritise, anticipate, backcast and nowcast simultaneously and remember to not get dragged by it.

These accelerating temporal topographies give us different signals for judging what is true or fiction. As we adapt to these new ways of doing things the cultural and value-laden patterns of our society will change. I feel this change in my body right now.