Metric Mysticism

Metric Mysticism

2017-18

Metric Mysticism is a lecture-performance that gazes into the crystal balls of Silicon Valley and charts the transmutation of big data into a magical substance that predicts—and polices—the future.

Focusing on the appropriation of mysticism and magic by Silicon Valley start-ups and governmental surveillance agencies alike, Metric Mysticism suggests that the crystal ball, a transparent device that permits one to see into the future, has come to stand in as a paradigm for how tech entrepreneurs prefer to imagine the algorithmic processing of information.

Palantir Technologies is identified as at the forefront of such metric mysticism. Co-founded by Peter Thiel, the controversial data analytics company appropriates the palantir, a fictional all-seeing crystal ball used by wizards in The Lord of the Rings. Here, in the palantir, data becomes a new absolute, determining what the future is and how it should be controlled.

Yet what if one were to gaze not into a crystal ball but rather a chunk of silicon? Not transparent glass but rather an opaque, chemical element at the very core of digital technology. Against the prediction of the future, can reconfiguring the act of crystal gazing offer a way to better comprehend the crisis of the present?

Credits

  • Supported by Arts Council England