08 June 2007

human hybrids?

this kid is way behind the times, i say as i sit, typing up a blog post that i will soon send out through these electric veins into the world via my high speed internet access wireless system...

i think i'm behind the times because i *gasp* have no cell phone - and really don't want one. they ring too much, expect too much from me. :) organically, i seem to find myself bucking the trends, though it is sometimes difficult. while all of the newest technology does have a tendency to draw me in, just on a sheer amazement level, it also freaks me out a bit.

we are all uber connected in this way, yet we remain so separated!

i've had more than one friend break down into hours of hysterics after losing a cell phone, saying, "but my LIFE is in there!" i just can't bring myself to turn over such matters to something that is nothing more than a
tool. i still even write my poetry and whatnot by hand, then enter it in the computer... if i were to lose those words... a few weeks ago, i had to get a printer for my upcoming adventure into grad school. i was amazed at the sheer volume as i poked about the web trying to find one. it just feels so excessive - there seemed to be millions! i read a ton of reviews, etc. and was soon lost in techy land for hours. i like to do my homework - but... thing was, review after review was negative, no matter what brand, style, or model. i think of how quickly so much becomes obsolete and it boggles my mind. i know much of that stuff can't be recycled. i've also watched people i know plow through new cell phone after new cell phone as the "newer better" model comes out.

i never have been much of a sci-fi fan, with the exception of a handful of books, but the following piece got me thinking... i can't link to his blog, but i can direct you to David Thorpe's myspace page where this post was found by yours truly, earlier today:

Sherry Turkle is a clinical psychologist, author and professor of the sociology of science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She worries that new technologies like instant messaging, Wi-Fi and cellphones are transforming human psychology.

In an article this week in the New Scientist she goes further to worry that this same technology is gradually turning us into cyborgs.

Naturally, I share this concern.

Sherry runs seminars at MIT on 'Technology and Self - how our sense of self is changing as a result of our interactions with technology'.

These have led to three edited collections, being published by the MIT Press, on the relationships between things and thinking. The first, Evocative Objects: Things We Think With, was published in April.

Eleven years ago she wrote: "When I landed at MIT in 1976, I was struck on day two by two things—that my students had what I considered eroticised relationships with their computers, which had an intensity, a holding power... it was compelling. It was not addiction, but it was something very powerful and it was completely new to me.

"And secondly, the way they use computer language where I would have used psychoanalytic language to talk about the self. I thought this was fascinating. For example, they say "Don't interrupt me, I have to clear my buffer", or "It's not a Freudian slip, it's an information processing error."

I have noticed the same response in myself.

The mind controls the body - mind over matter. As our thinking is changed by technology, and our bodies are distorted by using technology, so we recreate our bodies in the image of technology.

Sherry says this is not an addiction (or wasn't 30 years ago). I believe it is now. Anyone who has tried to get a child or teenager to come off a computer or watch less tv will agree.

She is right to say that it is also eroticised.

The first technology to be eroticised was the car. The most eroticised artefact now is the mobile phone, followed by the car and the MP3 player.

What does eroticised mean? That the technology's use triggers a state of arousal and anticipation, and produces attempts through whatever means to incite those feelings.

This is a response below conscious level. It becomes almost instinctive. Computer use, like driving, becomes an extension of our selves and incorporated in our dreams. It becomes desirable and necessary of and for itself.

SF stories of the past foretold that machines would take over. They never dreamt that this would not be by deliberate machine-led conspiracy but by an insidious process of designers producing desirable objects for profit-driven corporations, that use the tricks of marketeers to hook into our psychologies.

This drives an iterative process resulting in consumers becoming more and more wedded to successive generations of better-targeted products.

This process is akin to natural selection. Which depends partly on sex.

The erotic relationship demands consummation. At this point we have surrendered to the masters, the purveyors, the manufacturers, the corporations who are technologies' pimps.

We have surrendered our self-control and let go of the link to 200,000 years, or 99.9%, of our species history, when everything humans related to, and were part of, were biological (natural) ecosystems.

Now, at this moment in our species' development - as we are radically destroying or modifying these ecosystems, through mass extinctions, climate change, and the addition of 100,000 new chemicals - we are becoming intimate with technological ecosystems, without any idea of the consequences...

We are becoming hybrids.

after a few comments were left, the author posted then posted up this nugget:

The whole trend is driven by business and 'lust for the new' which we have been conditioned into.

If I can take you back to where it started - end of World War I. Soldiers back from the war, here and in the US. After the rebuild, most households had the basic necessities, and manufacturers were worried that they would go out of business as their markets dried up.

At this point, a nephew of Sigmund Freud began using Freuds's ideas about the unconscious to design advertising campaigns that made people believe for the first time that it was not enough just to have a washing machine, but that the washing machine had to be aligned to their sense of self-image.

It was he who made it ok for women to smoke, for example, by photographing some glamorous women smoking at the end of a Women's Emancipation march in New York in the early '20s. This associated in women's minds freedom with smoking. Of course smoking is addictive so they weren't being freed at all. Glamour is a smokescreen for sordid reality. This is what my short story, Perfection, posted last year here, was about.

Fashion is the supreme example of this. It's not enough to wear clothes, but the clothes must say everything about you and you don't want to seem out of date and you have to look cool. Fashion has existed for much longer, but the concept was in the 20th century systematically applied to other products.

Manufacturers love this as it means that markets will never dry up as long as people remain insecure... and their advertising makes sure that they do remain insecure.

Innovation is the other side of this. You have to buy the latest phone and computer after a few years because your old one, even if it works perfectly, will no longer be compatible with everyone else's. Some analogue products work better or are more appropriate than their digital counterparts (watches, radios), but the strong current towards convergence is sweeping them or has swept them all aside.

So the waste mountains pile up, and we ae actually running out of the natural elements which are used in these products. Last week's New Scientist looked at all these metals - such as iridium, galiium, etc, - and found that most will run out in our lifetime. Perhaps human ingenuity will come up with something to replace them, but it does demonstrate graphically that the corporate-driven growth and pace of change is - to use that over-used and tired word - unsustainable. It has severe limits.

We don't like limits. We like freedom. But we rush headlong into a tangle of self-delusory madness and the very opposite of freedom, because we don't realise how, by imagining that we can buy freedom with every new product, we are actually increasing our dependency on ties that will really constrain us.

One constraint I am concerned with is this human-hybrid tie-in with technology. We are/will be unable to function without it. And how many of us understand it? - forced to use (as in your case Sharon) - or even hypnotised by (as in your friend) - the glitter; uncomprehending (if I can say so without sounding patronising) of the specialists who invented and designed it - who seem almost a different breed of human.

'Consumers' cruise the shopping malls of the developed world on their days off, looking for the next fix, using text messages to alert their friends. Elsewhere, one billion people in the world live in slums and own next to nothing.

We are in the last days. I'm sorry, I never wanted to be a doomsayer.

makes you wonder, eh?

Labels: , ,


FAIR USE NOTICE: This site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We have posted it here in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific, social justice and other issues. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The material in this site is provided for educational and informational purposes only.