Techno-Wizardary – the Tricksters’ Playground

IRONICALLY, WHILE THE IMAGE of technology is secular, it rests on Christian myths, as Davis points out:

“[T]his secular image was framed all along by Christian myths: the biblical call to conquer nature, the Protestant work ethic, and, in particular, the millennialist vision of a New Jerusalem, the earthly paradise that the Book of Revelation claims will crown the course of history. Despite a century of Hiroshimas, Bhopals, and Chernobyls, this myth of an engineered utopia still propels the ideology of technological progress, with its perennial promises of freedom, prosperity, and release from disease and want.”[i]

The old image of technology for well over a century was industrial. Lewis Mumford called it the “myth of the Machine” and, as Davis points out, it rested on “the authority of technical and scientific elites, and in the intrinsic value of efficiency, control, unrestrained technological development, and economic expansion”.[ii]

The new image of technology is less mechanised and described in the mythology of information, electronic minds cloud computing, infinite databases, computerized forecasting, hypertext libraries, virtual realities, micro-chip engineering, artificial intelligence, bio-engineering, and global internet and telecommunication networking.   Hence:

“Boundaries dissolve, and we drift into the no-man’s zones between synthetic and organic life, between actual and virtual environments, between local communities and global flows of goods, information, labour, and capital. With pills modifying personality, machines modifying bodies, and synthetic pleasures and net-worked minds engineering a more fluid and invented sense of self, the boundaries of our identities are mutating as well. The horizon melts into a limitless question mark, and like the cartographers of old, we glimpse yawning monstrosities and mind-forged utopias beyond the edges of our paltry and provisional maps.”[iii]

The playground of the Trickster is new technology. Erik Davis argues:

“Of all the godforms that haunt the Greek mind, Hermes is the one who would feel most at home in our wired world. Indeed, with his mischievous combination of speed, trickery, and profitable mediation, he can almost be seen as the archaic mascot of the information age… He flies “as fleet as thought”, an image of the daylight mind, with its plans and synaptic leaps, its chatter and overload. Hermes shows that these minds are not islands, but nodes in an immense electric tangle of words, images, songs, and signals. Hermes rules the transtemporal world of information exchange.”[iv]

“A Host of Guises”

TRICKSTER IS MASTER of the persona and masks. His ego is fluid. He is both hero and anti-hero. Davis states:

“More than mere delivery boy, Hermes wears a host of guises; con artist, herald, inventor, merchant, magus, thief… Lord of the lucky find, Hermes crafts opportunity like those brash start-up companies that fill a market niche by creating it in the first place.”[v]

The Greeks were quite clear about it – Hermes is a thief. However the Trickster’s banditry is not based on raw power. He is no mugger or thug. Hermes is the hacker, the spy and the mastermind. He is executor of the slickest legal contracts.[vi]

[i] Erik Davis (1999) Techgnosis, 3.
[ii] Ibid, 3.
[iii] Ibid, 1.
[iv] Ibid, 14.
[v] Ibid, 14-15.
[vi] Ibid, 15.

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