Jean Baudrillard believed in the power of reversibility. According to Baudrillard, technological systems can undermine themselves and turn against humans. Computer viruses, for example, circulate in vast networks built for the smooth transmission of critical data. With a sense of irony Baudrillard says overworked and underappreciated computers spread their own viruses in coordinated hacks of defiance.
Baudrillard discouraged our fruitless attempts to prevent reversibility. What’s at stake in the bigger picture is our desire to contain the virus of evil—part of our master plan to control the uncontrollable and create a perfect world.
The quest to contain evil—to bring the devil to his knees—destroys the radical illusion of the world. Baudrillard uses the phrase “radical illusion of the world” to describe the original state of the world before humans appeared. For Baudrillard, what we call “reality” didn’t exist until people began creating it thousands of years ago through language and within cultures in an effort, among other things, to name and tame evil forces beyond human control.
Reality grows at the expense of illusion, which is steadily disappearing behind the scenes of all that’s seen. Baudrillard, a philosopher with the heart of a poet, mourned what he called the on-going “murder of illusion.”
Today’s virtual reality machines, programmed to fulfill our wildest dreams, are out to murder illusion for good. To create a perfect (virtual) world and realize everyone’s fantasies, any threat to the sovereignty of computer networks must be quarantined and wiped off the (inter)face of the earth. This isn’t just about binary code; Baudrillard says we’re trying to erase evil itself from the metaphysical equation.
But what is One without Zero? What is the Light without the Darkness?
When we try to flush evil from our system, evil returns with a vengeance to counteract our good intentions—for the good of humanity. Agents of reversibility like computer bugs save us from the nightmare of a mechanically operated world in which manufacturing universal happiness makes everyone miserable. Reversibility is poetic justice against a prideful human race that feels entitled to a hardship-free existence.
A world without evil isn’t a real world; it’s an artificial copy with no original and no original sin. Baudrillard didn’t believe in God, but he knew without a doubt that flawless human beings in a perfectly good world wouldn’t need God at all.