Elegy of Eternity: The Ghosts of Progress in an Age of AI and Hauntology

The future is pastiche

Fayyadh Jaafar
𝐀𝐈 𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐤𝐬.𝐢𝐨
5 min readMay 10, 2023


Photo by Andre Benz on Unsplash

“The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an ‘objective correlative’; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion.” — T. S. Eliot

In the dawning twilight of an era where artificial intelligence (AI) holds dominion, there reverberates a melancholic echo, a spectral resonance cloaked in the somber shroud of bygone times. We find ourselves caught in a restless purgatory, flitting between the tangible world and the phantasmal realm of memories and unrealized dreams. This is the realm of Hauntology, a term born in the philosophical crucible of Jacques Derrida but now adopted and stretched by cultural theorists to encapsulate a particular flavor of our postmodern malaise.

Casting long, frosty shadows across the stark, digital landscape, Hauntology is the ghost of futures past, a specter that haunts not decrepit mansions but the corridors of our collective consciousness. It is an unsettling reminder of the future we were promised but never received, a future now as dead and unreachable as the past. It is a sense of loss for what never was, an elegy for a tomorrow that died before it was born.

In this haunting hinterland, there are no ectoplasmic apparitions, only echoes of a time when optimism was more than just a commodity to be bought and sold. Hauntology is a feeling as much as a philosophy—the chill you feel in a room where someone just left, the echo of a song from a time when the future seemed open and uncharted.

“When routine bites hard, and ambitions are low, and resentment rides high, but emotions won’t grow… we’re changing our ways, taking different roads.”

— Joy Division, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’

In the world of music, few bands encapsulate the haunting essence of Hauntology as well as Joy Division. Emerging from the ashes of the punk explosion in the late 70s, the Manchester-based band, fronted by the ill-fated Ian Curtis, was a harbinger of the post-punk era, an era marked by disillusionment and introspection, with a soundtrack steeped in melancholy and disenchantment.

Their music, an aural expression of the industrial decay and socioeconomic despair of Northern England, resonates with the spectral frequencies of Hauntology. The ethereal, foreboding soundscape of their signature track, “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” is a requiem for lost futures, a sonic embodiment of the Hauntological ethos. Even in their name, Joy Division—a horrific euphemism for the sexual slavery of women in Nazi concentration camps—there is a haunting reminder of the dark shadows that lurk within the folds of human progress.

Yet, even as we pine for futures lost, our present is accelerating towards an epoch of artificial intelligence that promises to reshape our world in ways we can scarcely imagine. AI, with its mechanistic precision and unerring efficiency, is transforming the human experience at a staggering pace. It is the harbinger of a new age, a future that, for better or worse, will be shaped not by the whims of human emotion but by the cold calculus of machine learning algorithms.

The rise of AI technology carries with it echoes of the Hauntological. It brings to mind the tantalizing promise of a future characterized by ease, prosperity, and technological marvels. But with its arrival, there’s an accompanying sense of unease, a spectral foreboding. The AI-future world looms as an uncanny specter, a ghostly presence that promises progress while simultaneously portending a loss of what makes us fundamentally human. It is the embodiment of the Hauntological paradox—a future that is both tantalizingly near and irrevocably lost.

In this AI-driven future, we’re promised liberation from mundane tasks, solutions to complex problems, and even companionship without the messiness of human relationships. Yet, this brave new world is eerily quiet, bereft of the cacophony of human emotion—the symphony of joy, sorrow, love, and despair that gives life its texture and meaning. We stand at the precipice of a future where our deepest desires, fears, and dreams could be outsourced to algorithms, creating a sense of disembodied estrangement—a haunting.

AI is the new Joy Division, the soundtrack of an era marked by the intersection of exhilarating possibilities and existential dread. It is the paradoxical icon of progress and decline, the embodiment of a future that offers the promise of betterment but resonates with the chilling notes of dehumanization.

The omnipresence of AI in our lives has created a new kind of Hauntology. The uncanny ability of these algorithms to anticipate our needs, desires, and fears before we even consciously acknowledge them is like being haunted by our own ghosts. These digital specters know us better than we know ourselves; their predictive prowess usurps our agency and our ability to surprise even ourselves with the unpredictable caprices of human nature.

“Existence, as we know it, is full of sorrow. To exist, to live, is to suffer.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

As we navigate this brave new world of AI and Hauntology, we find ourselves mourning the loss of a future that was never ours to begin with. We mourn the loss of a time when progress was more than just a product of technological advancements; a time when the future was a canvas upon which we painted our dreams and aspirations, not an algorithmically determined endpoint.

Yet, in this shared mourning, there is a sense of camaraderie and a shared understanding that binds us together. The Hauntological ethos, in its melancholic longing for lost futures, serves as a reminder of our shared humanity and our collective yearning for a sense of purpose and direction in an increasingly uncertain world.

The paradox of our time is that as we surge forward, we are also inevitably drawn back. We are haunted by the ghosts of our past, the specters of futures that never materialized, and the eerie presence of an AI-future that threatens to eclipse the very essence of our humanity. This is our shared Hauntology, a spectral echo that reverberates across the digital landscape, a haunting melody that is at once a lament for what has been lost and a clarion call for what might yet be.

Our existence, as Nietzsche would have it, is indeed full of sorrow. Yet, in this sorrow, in this shared Hauntology, there is also a profound sense of beauty. It is the beauty of the human spirit, resilient and indomitable, ever seeking, ever yearning, ever dreaming, even in the face of spectral futures and spectral pasts. It is the beauty of the human heart, capable of feeling profound sorrow and boundless joy, often in the same breath. It is the beauty of our shared humanity, ever haunted yet ever hopeful.

As the ethereal strains of Joy Division reverberate across the landscape of our collective consciousness, we are reminded that even in the face of spectral futures, we remain stubbornly, defiantly, and humanly alive.



Fayyadh Jaafar
𝐀𝐈 𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐤𝐬.𝐢𝐨

Former business journalist. I write other things here too, you know.