We see what we are
Here is an interesting piece in the Guardian by Simon Jenkins. It is a well written piece that deserves a full read. It is interesting because it is prime example of how our view of things can be shaped by the words and the mind forms that we use to describe them.
The age of technological revolution is 100 years dead
Dazzled by neophiliacs, we have lost the power of scepticism - the new is grotesquely oversold, the tried and tested neglected
January 24, 2007
I rise each morning, shave with soap and razor, don clothes of cotton and wool, read a paper, drink a coffee heated by gas or electricity and go to work with the aid of petrol and an internal combustion engine. At a centrally heated office I type on a Qwerty keyboard; I might later visit a pub or theatre. Most people I know do likewise.
Not one of these activities has altered qualitatively over the past century, while in the previous hundred years they altered beyond recognition. We do not live in the age of technological revolution. We live in the age of technological stasis, but do not realise it. We watch the future and have stopped watching the present.
When I finish reading most books, they hang around on shelves, prop up tables or go to friends. David Edgerton's The Shock of the Old is a book I can use. I can take it in two hands and bash it over the heads of every techno-nerd, computer geek and neophiliac futurologist I meet.
Edgerton is a historian of science at Imperial College in London and must be a brave man. He has taken each one of his colleagues' vested interests and stamped on it with hobnailed boots.
No, research and development do not equate with economic progress.
No, the computer is not a stunning technological advance, just an extension of electronic communication as known for over a century. No, the internet has not transformed most people's lives, just helped them do faster what they did before. No, weapons technology has not transformed warfare, merely wasted stupefying sums of money while soldiers win or lose by firing rifles. more
When I got up this morning, I checked my cell phone. I walked into the office and checked my favorite internet sites for news. I looked at my counter to see who had read yesterday's post within the last few hours. There, I saw that someone from Rome, from Denmark, from Ireland, from Aragon, from Beijing, and from New South Wales Australia had slipped the bonds of space to visit the mind of a man raised in the Texas Panhandle.
I drank orange juice out of season and jumped into my remote startable car with its warm seats. With my girl friends nano, the lifelike Bose sound system in it is never short of our favorite music.
In my morning office, I log on to the server at the downtown office and telecommute my presence without moving my form.
I read this man's opinion from a newspaper in England which I would never read without the internet. I can read the opinions of the Chinese, of the Russians, and of the Iranian state.
My phone captures video and allows me to post images to the world via You Tube and a host of other video hosts. I rarely dial numbers anymore, I just speak the name as if I have an attached secretary. With my tiny tablet computer, I can travel all over the world and work. With Skype, I can transport my voice and image any place on earth with a modest penny a minute charge.
And yet, there is still great truth in Jenkins' article.
I too shaved with a razor in water warmed by natural gas.
The engine in my car does indeed run on petro.
The play I may see tonight will indeed be a variant of the
Age Old Greek three act play.
Jenkins will probably use a microwave oven today,
and book a flight over the internet.
He might even give his opinion that the tech revolution is dead,
via a world video conference from his laptop.
Maybe the paradox of his opinion will strike him
as he shaves in the morning,
while he looks in the mirror,
through the miracle of our minds.
For we see what we are,
not what is there.
And that is part of the mystery that makes the gods smile,
and allows the children to play.
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