Tuesday, June 17, 2003


There is an article over at the Guardian about the role of technology in the world today:

...one of technology's ends is to reduce our lives to such blob-like stasis that we hardly ever have to interact with other human beings. Another is to distract us from the shame we feel about our decadent lifestyles. Our response to being bored and rich is not to discard our possessions and live more simply, but to buy more stuff to reduce the space in which we might contemplate our shame.

Ya, ok, I'm writing this on a computer, which is hooked to a number of other computers in my house via wireless networking, and from there hooked to an intricate vast network known as 'the Internet' which is primarily a tool for the large-scale distribution of pornography and advertising. I can contact people anywhere in the world... but I don't know my neighbors.

By training and inclination, I am a technologist. But I have a vision of my future that puts me on a farm somewhere, far from the madding crowd. The manner in which my 'culture' uses technology offends me... for example the absurd number of people driving down the highway in SUVs, talking on cellphones as they floor the gas pedal on their behemoth deathmachines. These people feel connected, to some larger cultural vision of success via their acquisition of the SUV, and to the nameless faceless people on the other end of the ether via their increasingly absurd tiny phones... but there they are, one person to a vehicle, stuck in a traffic jam next to an empty carpool lane, which requires only that you have *one* other person in the car with you... (they lowered the definition of 'carpool' to a mere 2 people, and the lane remains empty. Perhaps they will revise the law to include the sheep in the SUVs, allow them to drive in that lane as long as they are talking on their cellphones. Actually this isn't a bad idea... it would get them out of the other lanes, increasing the probability that the rest of us will survive long enough to reach our destinations).

If you get the chance, watch the animation 'More' by Mark Osborne. It is an excellent look at the dehumanizing nature not of technology itself, but of the cultural misuse of technology to keep the sheep in line. (Have you ever noticed that a few years ago in the US, our politicians stopped referring to us as 'citizens' and started referring to us as 'consumers'? What are they selling exactly?) I took a CD of this to work one day and played it for my coworkers... and when it was over most of them hurriedly excused themselves, hoping to hide their tears.

The 'American Dream' tells us that if we consume more, we will fill this aching void we feel inside. Do you think it is working?