Speaking to us from Beyond the Pleasure Principle,
Freud tells us that death isn’t just the end of life but a
force that gives life its shape and texture. Regarding the
physical world, Freud’s observation shows merit. Take the
cemeteries in the centers of Paris, London, New York and
Rome, for example, each an emblem of the way cultures
grow out of shared responses to death. To look back in
time in search of the earliest evidence of human culture,
you would have to look beyond the earliest pottery, made
in southern China, and past the cave paintings at Lascaux
to the first burial sites, in modern-day Israel, where the
dead were tucked into the earth in a fetal position, exiting the world just as they’d entered. When applied to the
world online, however, Freud’s argument seems to miss.
Internet culture is the one exception—that is, the richest
and most expansive culture in history is the only culture
not founded by death.