This week Chris Dancy and talked with Alexander Bard, co-author of The Futurica Trilogy:
AB: Why do you think I’m writing my next book on Burning Man? Nobody has done a proper social theorem on Burning Man, the biggest social phenomenon at the moment. Burning Man is now having spinoffs all around the world. There are local burns everywhere and they’re magnets for the Netocrats. That’s where Netocrats go because Burning Man is the internet as a physical version. It’s the physical version of the internet. That’s exactly what it is. But nobody has done the proper social theory.
I was there three years ago and I met this really beautiful naked Canadian actress. She was like taking tons of cocaine and she was really funny and she was taking me around for a night and we were just sweeping the place. Suddenly she says, “You know what, this is our hutch. Burning Man is our mecca.” And I just realize this is a practiced religion. Why hasn’t anybody written a book on what the Burning Man really is? It’s not a holiday for people. It’s a damn mecca. It has to be constructed as if it is your religion because I think what it is. That’s where Syntheism comes in that he was born a burning man. It’s the idea of the burning man is already a practiced religion. Now let’s find out what the religion is, we already practice it, let’s find out what it is.
KF: I think there have been some books on spirituality of Burning Man but one thing that I think hasn’t been discussed as much is its connection to the new elites in terms of people like Jack Dorsey. Actually I don’t know if Jack Dorsey went to Burning Man but he’s part of that. He certainly was part of those types of networks in San Francisco in the late nineties and now he’s one of the biggest shots in the tech industry. He name drops a Hakim Bey, he talks about temporary autonomous zones and all of the concepts that were popular during that time and probably still are at Burning Man. I don’t know if anyone has really looked into the connections between that type of network culture thinking and that old Burning Man rave scene from that period.
AB: Yeah, I can see from the outside, Klint. I can see the best for being a Scandinavian and not an American because for the Americans probably Burning Man is like a big rave party for old grumpy people. I know for a fact you don’t get a top job at Google unless you’ve been to Burning Man. That’s a requirement. That is what I call Netocratic manifestation, if anything. That’s where I would look right now for the future.
Download, notes and full transcript: Mindful Cyborgs: Attentionalism, Netocracy, and the All-Consuming Flame of To(day)morrow
I do wish we’d gotten more of a chance to talk about how attentionalism actually differs from capitalism. It still sounds to me like more of the process by which one becomes and remains bourgeoisie, not a new form of economy. For example, successful netocrats from Michael Arrington to Peter Thiel to Eric Schmidt tend to become venture capitalists and/or angel investors once they achieve success.
Update: On the topic of both spirituality at Burning Man and the festival’s connections to the Silicon Valley elite, check out Fred Turner’s essay “Burning Man at Google” (PDF).