Great delamination

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The Devil’s Advocate

The moment of BlackStar. (von Sachsen-Rampton, 2017)

In which the curmudgeonly old sod puts the world to rights.

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The JC is cultivating a theory that, at a point in the last decade, the online universe — the one you’re in now, dear reader, as you peer through crusted specs through this frame into our fully tractable simulacrum — and the real universe, out there, with trees and flowers and basil fotherington-tomas[1] (note to file: we will need a snappy word for each) diverged — “delaminated” — set off along their own independent, meandering trajectories ever since, finally lost contact and now bear absolutely no relation to each other.The separate realms have become “non-overlapping magisteria” to use Stephen Jay Gould’s excellent term from Rocks of Ages. It is a category error to apply standards in one to situations arising in the other.

Meaning that what was a simulacrum increasingly no longer is. There is much danger in confusing the two.

Elemental manifestations: online discourse and discourse in real life are qualitatively different: online is deterministic, delineated, scaled, binary, digital, definitive, eliminative, final and binding. IRL is graduated, ambiguous, deprecated, provisional, malleable, nuanced, forgivable. Being human, it offers scope for redemption, reinvention, and reconfiguration. No-one is perfect —neither the judge or the judged —so we must make allowances for error, misunderstanding, misapprehension. Online, ostensible fallibility has fallen away. Judgment is simply a special case of categorisation. We can, do, and to get by, must categorise.


The JC dates that loss of contact to 2016 — specifically, 10 January 2016, or “BlackStar”. The “great delamination” at which the digital/analogue separation became irreversible, is a key inflexion point in the social history of the 21st century. I cannot prove, or even adduce evidence, that Bowie was fundamental to things keeping together, but the dates check out. The great weirding commenced with the collective expiry of cultural touchstones across the spectrum: Bowie, Harper Lee, George Martin, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Ronnie Corbett, Glenn Frey, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and of course Rick Parfitt from status quo. From then things just got weirder, and have not really come right since. Trump, Brexit, Covid, Ukraine, Crypto, the neo space race — these are all symptoms of a collective mind that has lost its way.


Because the magisteria are fully “disentangled” — the causal arrow is broken in both directions — it has become impossible for independent observers in one magisterium to understand corresponding rationales imported from the other.

This presents a “cancellation problem” for subjects who still equate their own personal cognitive states between the two worlds. Whereas to an observer, digital person A and analogue person A’ are distinct and unconnected, in person A’s own mind they are, of course, one and the same.

Many of the serial sociopolitical and cultural disasters we are encountering at the moment are the result of people confusing their magisteria.

See also


  1. ‘I simply don’t care a row of buttons whether it was a goal or not nature alone is beattful’