Thursday, May 27, 2010


Via Text-Patterns blog run by English Professor Alan Jacobs...
Chuck Klosterman: "I think that most technology is positive in the short term, and negative in the long term. I wonder, if somebody looked back at the 20th and 21st centuries a thousand years from now, what their perception of the car would be. Or of television. I wonder if over time, they’ll be seen as this thing that drove the culture, but ultimately had more downside than upside. When you think about it, cars are the most central thing in America, in a lot of ways. They’ve probably influenced the way we live more than anything else, and yet every really big problem—whether it’s the environment or who dictates the international economy because of oil—is all tied to cars. Ultimately, cars are bad for civilization. I don’t know if they’ll end us. That’s always the thing when somebody asks you if something is good or bad. You say something is bad, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, you think that’s going to end society?’ No, but something can be bad without ending society!"
This really echoes the parallel I drew with cars as a drug in the post "Sociality Not Facebook will Injure Not Kill the Automobile." And like any new substance a society convulses until it comes to terms with that substance. Too much of anything is noxious:
I'm reminded of an interview with ethno-botanist /slash/ cultural anthropologist /slash/ cool freakin' guy, Wade Davis of the National Geographic, as he discussed the manner in which various drugs affected and in turn were accepted into cultures. I realized that cars were similar to the picture he painted about drugs in society, in that when they are newly introduced, they create a period of dislocation in that culture.
Looking back at what Klosterman is saying, it is easy to dismiss his notion that technology is bad in the long-term, but is he that far off? When you think about it, technology is really just a means, but it isn't an ends. The printing press, the internet, the car are really just tools in connecting people, useful only in their particular time. All that really matters (for those particular technologies) is connecting people. The concept is advanced, but the particular method is tossed the recycling bin of history.

Other technological advancements also responded to human needs and the solutions are constantly evolving to something better. Except the current solution always entrenches itself in the status quo and the new solution has to root it out completely to replace it. Wherein it then becomes its father and positions itself as the "monopoly" on solution. Good short-term. Bad long-term.

You might as well just park that love of your automobile right now. I'm sure somebody somewhere really loved their horse and buggy. Maybe it was even marketed to suckers as the American Dream. Just think, in 50 years you can be the strange, backwards community still driving cars. Luddites.

Maybe the next technology will be the actual Matrix and all experiences are virtual and so real that they replace conscious awareness. And we can sleep in pink pods of goo...