mirrorsToday we are being offered a look into what will likely be the new baseline phenomenology of humanity, by virtue of the description provided by Kevin Kelly, author of What Technology Wants, in a recent issue of Wired Magazine. Phenomenology refers to the way in which we perceive the world from our first person subjective perspective. It is the world of space, time, light, and matter as interpreted through the lens of our private consciousness, mediated by our sensory apparatus and our intellect. When research appeared a few years ago demonstrating that the colors of the visible light spectrum seen by certain species of animals, e.g., cats, birds, and butterflies, are different from those we see as humans, and offered us a peek inside the world through their eyes, we got a look into the phenomenology of these other species.

The article describes the near-future environment known as Mirrorworld, which may also rightfully be called “Earth 2.0.” Representing an overlay of the bits and bytes of the Internet atop the matter of the real world, and powered by 5G technology, the result will be a human-machine hybrid world in which the computational world of what Shoshana Zuboff termed “Big Other” – the intermediary agency created by Big Tech and positioned in between Nature and God – will have been inserted into our existing human phenomenology through the mass penetration of the technology of augmented reality into our lives. Its full implementation is estimated to be only a decade away.

The precursor alternate reality of today, for those humans who see the world only or primarily through the lenses of their smartphones, is such that the real world, mostly blotted out at this point, will be brought back into their view, yet it will remain subordinate to the the simulated world they already privilege in daily life terms. The new sensory apparatus that is coming will directly take over their fields of vision instead of being beheld by them at a distance. It is difficult to imagine that it will not take over their auditory sense as well.

surveillance eye

Instead of holding smartphones in the hands and looking at them with their eyes, humans will wear them over their eyes, in the form of transparent augmented reality glasses, followed by contact lenses, and eventually, optical implants. What they will see in Mirrorworld is Big Other’s interpretation or modifications of the real world, the same as they see now through their smartphones. But instead of flipping from natural reality to computational reality and back again, real reality and Big Other’s electronic replicant will be perceived by humans equipped with these glasses or lenses at one and the same time.

Every item in the world, including every human, will have a digital duplicate that will be visible through the augmented reality glasses or lenses, along with whatever data the system has on that item. Every discrete object, including every human, will be made machine addressable and machine readable through this system, in what will promise to be a very advanced form of inventory barcoding for all matter on Earth. Advocates do not shy away from the surveillance state interpretation, but why should they? Although many people complain about the untrustworthiness of Big Other as it is today, they continue to enthusiastically, even urgently, feed into its Silicon Valley data portals whatever little power they still have left.

When Mirrorworld arrives, they will lose their independent human consciousness: it will be overpowered by the new machine phenomenology, which they will experience directly as if it were their own. The system will appear to have four spatial dimensions, instead of the three that belong to human phenomenology. In the machine phenomenology, time will run in both directions; that is, time will falsely appear to have no meaning to humans experiencing it. The phenomenology of every human who today beholds the reality of his hometown in its natural light will morph into one that better resembles the artificially bright colors of a children’s You Tube cartoon video, or the neon blinking lights of the main Las Vegas strip. An interesting example of what the Mirrorworld might be like from a first-person perspective is in this video.

data slavery

What would be the point of constructing such a duplicate overlay onto the world, one might ask? So that the personalized advertising and mass conditioning the people are subjected to today may be beamed directly into the human brain, instead of transmitted over common media. Rather than manipulating subject humans into remaining tethered at all times to the clickbait on their smartphones, it is far more efficient to just take possession of each person’s sensory apparatus directly.

Every mass marketing appeal or platform will still be trying to draw the attention, the immersion, and through them the personal data of every individual in a totalizing and overbearing way, except that all this visual and auditory noise, popup notifications, advertisements, and clickbait, will appear to be coming from inside each person’s own head instead of appearing on a tiny screen. Needless to say, there will be no room at all in Mirrorworld for any critical thinking, intellectual reflection, or real relationships with other people. In this world, advertisers, oligarchs, and data brokers will no longer be competing for control of people’s hours and days as they do now, but for who can best dominate people’s timeless mindspace.

Perhaps at this time it will make sense to begin talking about technology-free zones, for people who want to live like people again, to reclaim their time, attention, freedom, and now mindspace, and to feel like citizens in a human polity, instead of being subject to the whims of a small but powerful handful of unaccountable, de facto totalitarian technocratic rulers.


Works Cited:

[1] Dina Spector, “How cats see the world compared to humans,” Business Insider, March 10, 2018, https://www.businessinsider.com/pictures-of-how-cats-see-the-world-2013-10.

[2] Kevin Kelly, “AR will spark the next big tech platform – call it mirrorworld,” Wired, February 12, 2019, https://www.wired.com/story/mirrorworld-ar-next-big-tech-platform/.

[3] Shoshana Zuboff, “Big other: surveillance capitalism and the prospects of an information civilization,” Journal of Information Technology, 30(1), 2015: 75-89, https://cryptome.org/2015/07/big-other.pdf.

[4] Keiichi Matsuda, “Hyper-Reality,” May 19, 2016, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJg02ivYzSs.


The phenomenology of the coming “mirrorworld”