“All our inventions have endowed material forces with intellectual life,
and degraded human life into a material force.”
After the Last Man is a short and dense book, consisting of a series of vignettes (excursus) ranging from a paragraph to a few pages in length on the contemporary technological system. Each excursus is followed by a few lines that point the reader to other passages in the book. Rather than having a formal beginning or end, After the Last Man is meant to be discursive reading, designed to mimic the infinite feedback loops of the technical system. Its subject is the “postmodern” world that is the result of the spread of information and communication technologies. The author is at his best in examining this world’s many facets.
The system is impossible to comprehend. It is no longer a tool with specific tasks, but rather a series of interconnected nodes and episodes, each with its own discrete meaning. It is also boundless, having no linear beginning or end. Causality is indeterminate. The system is also hidden. The internet cannot be seen, and the system does not leave behind artifacts. Who saves a computer as an heirloom? The system is simply the flow of possibilities. The only time it makes itself known is when...