Adam Curtis and machines of loving grace

All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace is a remarkable three-part documentary film series made by Adam Curtis for the BBC.  (Click on the link if the embedded videos don’t work.)

He explores the consequences of looking at the economy, at nature and at human nature as an self-regulating cybernetic-like system, governed by automatic feedback, without the need for human thought.

Thinking this way make people assume that political action is futile and it is better to stand aside and let things come into adjustment automatically.  This is profoundly anti-democratic.  Also, it doesn’t work.

Love and Power is about the idea that the economic system will come to a desirable equilibrium based on individual self-interest without outside regulation.

He reports on Ayn Rand and her attempt to set up a utopian community based on the virtue of selfishness, and on Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who internalized the values of Ayn Rand.

The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts is about the idea that nature left to itself will come to a desirable equilibrium without human intervention.

He reports on the environmental movement based on the idea of self-regulating ecosystems, and on hippie communes who took this as a model of human society.

In fact this idea was not scientifically valid.  The ecological system is dynamic and constantly changing and equilibrium is an illusion.

The Monkey in the Machine and the Machine in the Monkey is about the idea that human morality develops by itself through the operations of natural selection without rational choice.

He reports on Bill Hamilton, a scientist who believed that human behavior is controlled by genetic codes embedded deep within us and over which we have no control, and his response to what he saw as the terrifying consequences of this belief.


I have linked to videos in this series before, and the videos were taken down from the Internet.  I hope the videos I’ve embedded in this post will last longer.  If not, I hope the links will work.  The linked videos are better than the embedded videos because none of them have commercials.

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2 Responses to “Adam Curtis and machines of loving grace”

  1. Perette Barella Says:

    Curtis has done several documentaries, all of which I’ve found interesting. You may also want to look into _The Century of Self_ (which follows the use of psychology in advertising and the political process), _The Power of Nightmares_ (on the use of fear for political gain), and _The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom_ (which examines the changing ideas of freedom from ‘an harm ye none do what ye will’ toward ‘buy any ye want as long as ye shop’). I think I’m missing a few others, too.


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