Günther Anders’s ‘The Obsolescence of the Human’, an omen of the contemporary world

Günther Anders filosofo

In 1956, the German philosopher Günther Anders wrote this thought, which I think describes contemporary life very well:

“To suppress any revolt in advance, one does not have to act violently. It is enough to create collective conditioning so powerful that the very idea of revolt will no longer even occur to people. The ideal would be to train individuals from birth by limiting their innate biological abilities. Then we would continue the conditioning by drastically reducing the level and quality of education to a form of vocational integration.

An ignorant individual has only a limited horizon of thought and the more his thinking is limited to material, mediocre concerns, the less he can revolt.

It must be ensured that access to knowledge becomes increasingly difficult and elitist, that the gap between the people and science widens, that information for the general public is anaesthetised of any subversive content. Above all, no philosophy. Here again, persuasion must be used and not direct violence: it will be transmitted massively through television, abridged entertainment, always flattering the emotional, the instinctive. It occupies the spirits with what is futile and entertaining. It is good with chatter and incessant music, preventing the mind from questioning, thinking, reflecting.

He puts sexuality at the forefront of human interests. As a social anaesthetic, there is nothing better. Generally speaking, they will try to banish the seriousness of existence, to turn everything of high value into derision, to maintain a constant apologia for lightness; so that the euphoria of advertising, of consumption, becomes the standard of human happiness and the model of freedom.

The conditioning will thus produce such integration by itself, that the only fear (which will have to be maintained) will be that of being excluded from the system and thus no longer having access to the material conditions necessary for happiness.

Mass man, thus produced, must be treated as what he is: a product, a calf, and must be watched over as a herd must be. Anything that allows his lucidity, his critical mind to be put to sleep is socially good, anything that would risk awakening it must be fought, ridiculed, stifled.

Any doctrine that challenges the system must first be designated as subversive and terrorist and those who support it must then be treated as such.”

Günther Anders, The Obsolescence of the Human, 1956.

The author categorised his ideas by coining the German term ‘Diskrepanzphilosophie’ (philosophy of discrepancy), to describe his focus on the growing divergence between what has become technically possible (e.g. the nuclear destruction of the entire planet), and what the human mind is capable of imagining.