What it Means to be a Machine
I am reading the final chapter of The Master and his Emissary, and I want to share some of it with you. Here Iain McGilchrist is dealing with a subject many, many people have dealt with – one could build a tank-trap by piling up all the books about this. (Including Lewis Mumford and his The Myth of the Machine.) Nevertheless, he is worth quoting. From page 430:
Increasingly the living would be modeled on the mechanical…When we deal with a machine, there are three things we want to know: how much it can do, how fast it can do it, and with what degree of precision. These quantities summarize what distinguish a good machine from a bad one; it is more productive, faster, and more precise than a less good one. However, changes in scale, speed, and precision in the real world all change the quality of the experience, and the ways we interact with each other: increasing them no longer gives a clearly positive outcome – it can even be very damaging. In human affairs, increasing the amount or extent of something, or the speed at which it happens, or the inflexible precision with which it is conceived or applied, can actually destroy.
But since the left hemisphere is hemisphere of What, quantity would be the only criterion that it would understand. The right hemisphere’s appreciation of How (quality) would be lost. As a result, considerations of quantity might come to replace considerations of quality altogether, and without the majority of people being aware that anything had happened.
I have the feeling that much more needs to be said now that were are dealing with a very advanced machine: the computer/software/internet complex. But this will do for a start.
He touches on something he should go into at much greater depth: mass man, who could equally be called mechanical man. Not only our brains have been changed – the whole man has been changed.
Scanning ahead, I see he is going to catalog many of our current problems, which can be understood by his insights. But I will save those for later. This is enough for now.