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The Limits of Technology

Note by Beth Holden

Worship of the efficiency of technology is represented on the cover of the Oct. 23 New Yorker, where robots give alms to the beggared human. It's title is “Tech Support”.

The desire to escape the bonds of humanity is also represented in Freud's use of the term thanatos, the death instinct. I use the word Freud, knowing that it causes many to cringe in fear and loathing. That response is understandable since our culture seems to be taking us away from self reflection. Freud's work was about the very opposite of computerized efficiency. It was about lust and hate, compassion and longing. It was about life and death. It is understandable that people fear Freud's message and want to bury it. It is about the pain and the joy of life. These days we seem to desire escape from the pain so much that we are willing to sacrifice the joy along with it.

Years ago I took Russell Dale's class on Hegel. I had read almost no philosophy previously, but I was curious about Hegel and Marx. In order to grasp all that went on in class I made audio recordings and played them back the next day, taking notes. There was one particular class which included an animated discussion of interest to me and I was eager to hear it again. When I got to that part of the recording I shut off the device and went to get a cup of coffee so I could settle in to what I remembered as about 15 minutes of the class. But when I pushed the play button it went by in 30 seconds! I was stunned. Where was all that stuff I remembered. After examining the device for flaws, I realized that most of what I had experienced was not on the recording. Facial expression, tone of voice, postural shifts, and all the feeling and associations I had about the subject and the people who were speaking. That did not get recorded!

Something similar happens when we talk to each other via computer. It just ain't the same as being in a room together. Listening to Harry on Oct. 15 was a breath of fresh air. He kept using the phrase 'small groups' and warning against the limitations of technology. This is not to say that technology is of no value. But it can be an addictive salve which, overused, can bring destruction. We need to understand what the attraction is all about and whether we are going for something or running away. We need to understand what being human is.

techlimits.txt · Last modified: 2017/10/19 14:29 by admin