I am reading Devices of the Soul again – and this time I am getting a lot more out of it. I can now understand it better – perhaps because I have become wiser, more skeptical, and more self-reliant – things I did not learn in Silicon Valley (the home of modern technology) in spite of my desperate struggles. I did finally conclude I had to get out – an obvious conclusion, since I was reduced to living on my credit card debt – and I did, once I had used it all up.
In all fairness, I must point out that this book was published by O’Reilly books, a Silicon Valley publisher of computer books – who also invented the term Internet 2.0 during one of their many high-tech conferences. This is one thing I miss down here: contact with sharp people – but I can still read their books and their blogs. They are aware of the silicon valley craziness, since they are part of it – and, of course, I am too. The Internet has become part of my personality, for better or worse.
Steve Talbot, the author, starts off with the Greeks – people I am poorly acquainted with, and don’t feel a kinship with either, since my classical education was almost non-existent. They were a strange people, far removed from our time. A people the Americans, in contrast with the British, have avoided knowing. This is a pity, because our culture started with them. If we cannot understand them, we cannot understand ourselves.
Allow me to quote from pages 14 and 15:
Technology is our hope if we can accept it as our enemy, but as our friend, it will destroy us.
Our primary task is to discover the potentials within ourselves that are not purely mechanical, not merely automatic, not reducible to computation. And the machine is a gift to us precisely because the peril in its siding with our one-sidedness forces us to strengthen the opposite side – at least it does if we recognize the peril and accept its challenge.
Of course its friendly approach threatens us, and of course it calls for a certain resistance on our part, since it expresses our dominant tendencies, our prevailing lameness or one-sidedness. The only way we can become entire, whole, and healthy is to struggle against whatever reinforces our existing imbalance.
Unfortunately, there does not seem to be much recognition of this yet. In fact, in many quarters there is nothing but an exhilarated embrace of one-sidedness. Where, for the Greeks, techne always had two complementary but never completely separable aspects – the increasingly self-aware inner originating, and the outer result – our technology has become only so much gadgetry…We have forgotten the crafty inner origin and essence of the techne that had served our ancestors so well… Odysseus was on his way to being a true contriver; we seem to be content with mere contrivances.
Where the individual’s consciousness of self once became more vivid through the experience of his own capacity to objectify his inner contrivances in the outer world, today the objects as such have engulfed us, threatening the originating self with oblivion.
That will be enough for now. I am having a hard time understanding this myself. And I have to go to the bank to get the money to get me through this month – using my ever-handy debit card – a technology I could not get along without.