Aired on BBC last month, Adam CurtisAll Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace continues his knack of unnerving the viewer with hypnotising visuals and narratives that knits science, tech, neuropsychology to corporate and political ideologies. His use of music is also tragicomic.

Curtis is on top of his game. The BBC blog on his work and his own blog are good places to start, but this is the most user friendly place to get all his short-films documentaries.

All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace

All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace examines our collective hopes for the liberating experience of computer technology, networks and new modes of interaction.

Early network and internet engineers believed that our desires to free ourselves of government control, top-down authority and a globe modeled on the requirements of nation states, could be achieved by an embedded non-hierarchical network of communication.

Episode 2 focuses on ecosystems and how software developers have evoked myths of natural equilibrium to sell the idea that all forms of (computer-based) connectedness are inherently beneficial. I couldn’t help think of the persistent argument that “the internet is democratic”. It is not democratic, and yet the argument recurs time and time again – particularly as it applies to blogging and near-free publishing tools.

There are large corporate powers that dominate the internet; it’s no democracy. In terms of market penetration and information gathering – the multi-national tech companies dwarf the extraction and industrial manufacturing giants of the past. Through data they wield massive power. One power structure has been replaced by another.

Unfortunately, Curtis’ conclusion is that the unfulfilled promises of technology have led to cultural nihilism, in which we’ve convinced ourselves we are isolated machines and our only purpose it is to carry genetic data AND as such we’ve abandoned the idea of community. Bleak.

While you’re at it you should watch The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear. It is a wonderful and cogent explication of the shared history between fundamental Islamist thought and U.S. Neoconservatism.

The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear