Paul Valéry on "the conquest of ubiquity"

Gaz(The famous "Gaz à tous les étages" sign)

Spent some time re-reading this fantastic piece by Paul Valéry called La conquête de l'Ubiquité ("The Conquest of Ubiquity"). Written in 1928, this short text has been quoted by Walter Benjamin in The Work of Art In the Mechanical Age of Reproduction.

Three excerpts that struck me as fascinating (considering that it has been written in 1928):

"At first, no doubt, only the reproduction and transmission of works of art will be affected. It will be possible to send anywhere or to re-create anywhere a system of sensations, or more precisely a system of stimuli, provoked by some object or event in any given place. Works of art will acquire a kind of ubiquity. We shall only have to summon them and there they will be…They will not merely exist in themselves but will exist wherever someone with a certain apparatus happens to be. (...) Just as water, gas and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign. (...) Just as we are accustomed, if not enslaved, to the various forms of energy that pour into our homes, we shall find it perfectly natural to receive the ultrarapid variations or oscillations that our sense organs gather in and integrate to form all we know. I do not know whether a philosopher has ever dreamed of a company engaged in the home delivery of Sensory Reality""

Why do I blog this? in this fascinating short essay, Valéry forecasted in a very acute way the evolution of art and media delivery. Furthermore, he addressed the notion of dematerialized contents and linked it to the "network" meme: although he does not mention this term, the comparison with utilities (gas, electricity and water) is strikingly interesting. Besides, the last bit about "a company engaged in the home delivery of Sensory Reality" seems to be a premonitory basis for the discourse about Virtual Reality in the 1990s and Augmented Reality nowadays.