The laws of genre fiction dictate that a promising experiment backfires at approximately the same rate that a hard-drinking detective cracks the one case that’s been haunting them for years. Despite the permanency of laws, some things change: detectives get grittier, murders get sexier, and nuclear power has lost its place as the go-to MacGuffin battery to nanomachines. The apocalyptic extreme among the type of nerds who have VIP access to the transhuman post-fuckfest being cooked up by Roko’s Basilik is the appetizingly named “grey goo scenario.” From Wikipedia:
Gray goo (also spelled grey goo) is a hypothetical end-of-the-world scenario involving molecular nanotechnology in which out-of-control self-replicating robots consume all matter on Earth while building more of themselves, a scenario that has been called ecophagy (“eating the environment”).
Frankenstein. Skynet. The brooms from Fantasia. The fear of an invention “getting away” from and turning on its creator takes many forms. It may start getting pretty predictable after a while. Remember the old rhymes: “If pharmaceuticals you see, then zombies there be; if radiation abound, then kaiju around; a fem-bot mañana, mecha-vagina dentata”; and so on.
The problem with these scenarios never seems to be going too far, but not going far enough. Why would a man-made disaster that reduces the realm of experience to one horrible, qualitatively homogeneous mess be limited to the literal eating of the world? If there is something in our genes that inclines us to turn everything into one featureless monocolored smear, why wait for robots?
Have you been online lately? Minions are everywhere. Fucking everywhere. Perhaps by the time you read this they’ve become so commonplace that you can’t even notice them anymore. They’ve gone from the stuff that is everywhere to being the stuff that is everywhere.
We swim in them, mouths agape, recycling and drinking and pissing and sometimes freezing in minions during the winter without even noticing. This is minions. And while it might be more appropriate to see them as a kind of memetic malfeasance (…laughs), there is one interesting thing about the path to Minion oversaturation that distinguishes them from run-of-the-mill litter.
In the first installment of the Despicable Me franchise (2010), it’s strongly implied that the protagonist Gru was the original creator of the Minions. By the time of their eponymous spin-off five years later, we have learned that they’re a sort of primordial species that has existed for as long as, if not longer than, humanity. Minions have served as pages for every blood-drenched tyrant throughout history (but not during the World Wars…really makes you think). In our enlightened age, every reasonable person knows that Minions are exactly what they claim to be, perfectly natural. Despite a grievous lack of mainstream airtime or funding, adherents to the original Despicable Mythos nonetheless persist.
Of course, those errant whiffs of Frankenstein(‘s monster) that you’re detecting always lead us back to that classic Gothic horror that we all love – that’s right folks, I’m talking about classic Kapital.
Imagine, if you will, an all-consuming, self-replicating entity that threatens to erase the distinctions that give coherency or meaning to anything that you’re stupid enough to love. Some terror that broke free of its master’s control and devours children with the same efficiency that it turns entire nations into uninhabitable wastes. A beast that turns lifelong comrades against one another with invisible efforts. A creature that only seems to grow smarter and stronger with each drop of blood that you extract at the cost of a whole battalion. Something that doesn’t sleep, turns to fog, and never stops moving in pursuit of its next victim.
You get the idea. Nonetheless, I’m obliged to state plainly:
Capital is the grey goo.
It’s here. It’s eating everything. We’re drowning in it.
I’m not who you should be reading about the many ways that capital violently opens up new markets where monetary exchange was once unthinkable (through enclosure or worse). I’m not capable of fully explaining the implications of capital’s explosive growth cycle (where money is exchanged for commodities for the purpose of becoming a larger pile of money, M-C-M’). That cycle brings with it the imposition of the commodity form, meaning an exchange-value is attached to more stuff than ever. The bigger this system, the more difficult it becomes to discern the exploitative social relations that made exchange possible. Still, I think it was David Harvey who phrased it like this: if you can put a price tag on one thing, you put a price tag on anything.
Long story short, the commodity form not only affects everything, but transforms it, and breaks down the world into that which we cannot readily grasp or distinguish- so, “all that is solid melts into air.”
Describing the scale of the transformation is one thing, but responding to it is another. What is there left to do when you’re living in a world that has been ravaged by an end-of-world scenario?
The best place to start may be simply disobeying the posters.