Great delamination

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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: I vote “Offworld” and “Onworld”) diverged — “delaminated” — and each set off along its own independent, meandering trajectory.

There was a point — we date it, a bit arbitrarily, to 10 January 2016 — at which the Onworld and Offworld finally lost contact.

They now bear no relation to each other. The separate realms have become “non-overlapping magisteria,” to use Stephen Jay Gould’s excellent term.[2] It is a category error to apply standards developed in one to situations arising in the other.

The Onworld

Online — the “Onworld” — is unilateral: one-to-many, deterministic, delineated, rigid, scaled, binary, definitive, eliminative, decontextualised and final.

Like the code is it made out of, it is exact, precise, and machined.

It has, therefore, zero-tolerance. “Tolerance” implies sloppiness, ambiguity and weakness. The Onworld is digital; tolerance is analogue.

All of history is presented as it was: unexplained, unfinessed, uncontextualized to the present. The onworld remembers, obsesses about, and continually judges its own history.

The Onworld consists in, and of, data. Data is of the past. Irony: despite its apparent hyper-modernity, the Onworld is mechanistic, finite and historical: it is not futuristic, but backward looking.

The Offworld

By contrast, real life — the “Offworld” — is bilateral: one-to-one, graduated, ambiguous, deprecated, provisional, malleable, nuanced and forgiving.

It flexes.

It acknowledges that for all you do know, there is infinitely more you do not. It is necessarily tolerant, open-minded, and constructive, for that is what you have to be when you don’t know what is coming next.

The Offworld asks us to apply our imaginations, open-mindedly: to be constructive: to form alliances, to learn, to create excellent outcomes, using whatever criteria for “excellent” then appeal to whoever happens to be about.

It continually updates, finesses, and a recontextualises what has gone before. The blind alleys of history are quickly written over and erased from the landscape. The triumphs of history are kept and venerated. The off world forgives, or forgets, history.

The Offworld is human, infinite and forward-looking. It is futuristic. Being human, it offers scope for redemption, reinvention, and reconfiguration.

The Dissimulacrum

This means that what was a “simulacrum” — the Onworld began as an edited, enhanced, efficient, better version of the Offworld — increasingly no longer is. The two have delaminated. Where it once made sense to conflate the two, there is now much danger in doing so.

Nowadays online discourse and discourse in real life are qualitatively, quantitatively different.

No-one is perfect —neither the judge or the judged — so in the Offworld we must make allowances for error, misunderstanding, misapprehension: our own, and each other’s. But in the Onworld, that ostensible fallibility has fallen away. It is not possible. Judgment is simply a special case of categorisation. We can, do, and to get by, must categorise.

The day of delamination: BlackStar

If this is right, then the “great delamination” is a major inflexion point in the social history of the 21st century. So when did it happen?

The JC dates it back, specifically, 10 January 2016, or the day of “BlackStar”.

He cannot prove, or even give evidence, that Bowie was fundamental to things keeping together, but the date for the great weirding checks out.

There followed a collective expiry of cultural touchstones, across the spectrum, within a year: 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. Trump, Brexit, Covid, Ukraine, Crypto, the neo space-race — these are all symptoms of a collective mind that has lost its way.


Because the worlds are fully “disentangled” — the causal arrow is broken in both directions — it has become impossible for independent observers in one world 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 a person B, 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.

Hypothesis: many of the serial sociopolitical and cultural disasters we are encountering at the moment are the result of people confusing the online and the Offworld: specifically mistaking the massively-multiplayer online role-playing game that is the Onworld, for something that actually means something in the Offworld.

See also


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