Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Techism (and you thought totalitarianism was scary): part 2

Marshall McLuhan said "The medium is the message". Instead of focusing on the content within the digital age, we find we become more focused on the means of transmitting that content. When these means become fashionable, and desirable, we no longer yearn for the content but for the machines that brings it to us. then we fashion ourselves in the image of these machines.

Joseph Campbell noted that in the movies, the credits roll after the hero kills the bad guys, wins the prize and gets the girl.The mythological hero is positioned mid-way in our lives. After his victory, he returns to his people to teach them ways of avoiding the things that led to the hero's conflict. He becomes the sage and brings wisdom. But the audience becomes the hero in their minds and go nowhere. They fight and kill and fight and kill again and the only goal, always,  is the prize. The economies cycle boom and bust and never progress beyond that; the GMO seeds kill insects and weeds and do not replenish the earth and the plants that grow from them produce seeds that can never be used and seeds have to be purchased again to repeat the sterile cycle until the earth gives up or the insects and the weeds evolve. We click the "like" button for the content but do not add to it. We become the machine.

In The Gutenberg Galaxy, McLuhan quotes the physicist Heisenberg who is discussing "science as a part of the interplay between man and Nature":

"In this connection it has often been said that the far-reaching changes in our environment and in our way of life wrought by this technical age have also changed dangerously our ways of thinking, and that here lie the roots of the crises which have shaken our times and which, for instance, are also expressed in modern art. True, this objection is much older than modern technology and science, the use of implements going back to mans earliest beginnings. Thus, two and a half thousand years ago, the Chinese sage Chuang-Tzu spoke of the danger of the machine when he said: 
"As Tzu-Gung was travelling through the regions north of the river Han, he saw an old man working in his vegetable garden. He had dug an irrigation ditch. The man would descend into the well, fetch up a vessel of water in his arms and pour it out into the ditch. While his efforts were tremendous the results appeared to be very meagre. 
"Tzu-Gung said. 'There is a way whereby you can irrigate a hundred ditches in one day, and whereby you can do much with little effort. Would you not like to hear of it?' Then the gardener stood up, looked at him and said, 'And what would that be?' 
"Tzu-Gung replied, 'You take a wooden lever, weighted at the back and light in front. In this way you can bring up water so quickly that it just gushes out. This is called a draw-well.' 
"Then anger rose up in the old man's face, and he said, 'I have heard my teacher say that whoever uses machines does all his work like a machine, grows a heart like a machine, and he who carries the heart of a machine in his breast loses his simplicity. He who has lost his simplicity becomes unsure in the strivings of his soul. Uncertainty in the strivings of the soul is something which does not agree with honest sense. It is not that I do not know of such things; I am ashamed to use them.'"

After a while any art within the remaining content is also lost and the content is designed only to propagate the machine that brought the content:

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  1. How right you are! Technology has become our new God. The goal of so many is the the greatest and fastest form of receiving content but do they really pay attention to the content.
    I often had this argument at work is technology that makes the learner or is it the content that makes the learner. Some how there has become a disconnect between what is truly important in the world.

    1. This mania for everything to be fast is, I think, a symptom of psychological immaturity on a massive scale. The hero archetype which marks accomplishments and victories by nature is early adult. It also delivers enough sensation in a short period of time to be satisfying to people who have become exposed to too much sensation and thus require it in large doses for it to have any effect. You get the addictive behaviour: always seeking that "high". It really does not bode well for the survival of the human species as it is allowing its natural life cycle to become truncated. You will also see that expressed in my novel as war is one of its symptoms, too. In agriculture, we are destroying the earth which our heirs will inherit because we no longer can look very far into the future. One of the things that made Augustus (the first Roman emperor) great, apart from his staggeringly high intelligence, was that his wife, Livia Drusilla, had the ability to see generations ahead of her time and advise him accordingly. The average modern politician can only see as far as election day and the voters are no better. The world is becoming increasingly myopic. From an evolutionary perspective, that is fatal.