I read somewhere that the radio was responsible for Nazism. I am sure this is an exaggeration, but I am also sure there is some grain of truth in it. The explosion of technological advances in the last three hundred years were enough to drive any society crazy.
I suspect this is intuitive to most. The problem is in following up on this intuition. We have to avoid too much of a logical, narrow, detailed analysis, and concentrate on the big picture. Immediately we run into problems, because we are not used to concentrating on our intuitions, or emotions – which are, by their nature, impossible to analyze.
We have carefully stayed away from them, because they were seem as the root of our problems by Enlightenment thinkers. Reason alone would save us – they reasoned.
Our perceptive thinkers have now realized this was a huge mistake. And plenty of other people, who are the worst kind of thinkers, are now busy destroying the Modern World: lock, stock, and barrel – certain that this process will create the best of all possible worlds – simply by destroying the one they have.
I refer you to an article on Page 7 of the April Harper’s Magazine entitled Check it for Yourself. Here are two quotes beloved of Tea Party advocates:
Benjamin Franklin said: “The Constitution only gives the people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”
Thomas Jefferson said: “The issue today is the same as it has been throughout history: whether man should be allowed to govern himself, or to be ruled by a small elite.”
There is only one problem: neither man said either thing. Does this affect them in the least? No, it sounds like something they should have said, and that is good enough for them. Historical accuracy be damned!
But what about computer craziness – the subject I started to talk about? The foregoing was only intended to illustrate some of the craziness that has swept over us. Let me return to the subject – which is, in summary: that we have forgotten how to be human – and become machines instead. Various parts of the same machine.
I cannot resist another quotation, this one from page 21 of The Master and his Emmissary, an important new book:
The defining features of the human condition can be traced to our ability to stand back from the world, from ourselves and the immediacy of experience. This enables us to plan, to think flexibly and inventively, and, in brief, to take control of the world around us rather than simply respond passively.
Few would argue with this, but nearly everyone does their best not to do it. They do their best to not be human! Why? Because they don’t want to be destroyed!
“But what,” you may say, “Does this have to do with computers?”
For me, computer is a code-word for a complex consisting of computers, their software, and the Internet that ties them all together. I have spent some time recently looking into just what this is – and have been shocked at what I found. Especially its effect on its practitioners. They have been devastated!
I can remember when computers and their programming were just a hobby – a fun high-tech game. Bill Gates started off this way. But soon became a ruthless business man, intent on crushing his rivals. Some of his executives became multi-millionaires – and lots more jumped on his bandwagon, hoping to do the same. Most ended up being ground to pieces. You have to be very tough to go through that meat-grinder unscathed.
Which reminds me: Liz Taylor just died – a perfect example of that process. A tougher woman never existed – compared to Marilyn Monroe, who did not survive at all – except on film.
In my experience, it is the same in Silicon Valley: in the process of creating successful companies people are destroyed. True, they were severely damaged people to begin with, with terrible childhoods. The Machine just continued that process.