I have a strange obsession: I am determined to understand the world – and people in particular. People are the ones that give me the most trouble.
I am convinced we have changed greatly, and we now are only partly human. But saying just what we have become has baffled me. It is clear that we have become more like machines – but it is also clear that we have become demonic: intent on destroying ourselves. The two parts didn’t seem to fit together.
But this morning, after a night of nightmares, I can see (or rather, feel) how they fit together. The two metaphors I just used: (seeing and feeling) are those used by the two hemispheres of the brain. The right hemisphere is identified with the whole body while the left is identified with our extensions (as McLuhan put it), such as our machines. And as Iain McGilchrist tells us, it is not longer the Emissary, but has become the Master.
We have always considered our machines to be our helpful servants. And for hundred of thousand of years they were. But then, all of a sudden, they took over our world, with the advent of civilization – which was a complex of our technologies, and our reactions to them. Mankind struggled to cope with these, mostly unsuccessfully.
In our time, we have been hit with the most overwhelming of them all: the computer/software/internet/wireless complex. I have been alarmed to see how this has overwhelmed people, even down here. These new technologies have not made us better, but worse – by taking over more and more of our lives.
I am now reading The Condition of Man by Lewis Mumford, one of my gurus. In the first part of the book, he is quickly going over these developments in the Greek and Roman worlds. I wish you had the time to read it. Everyone should be forced to be a failure (like I was) and then given time to recover (like I have been). But I am getting off the subject, which is demonic machines.
Now that I have realized that such a thing is possible, it begins to make sense (as we say). My twenty years of working in high-tech were full of just such insanity – which nearly drove my crazy myself.
When I tried to explain to the friends I still had back in Silicon Valley that software development was a social process, and therefore subject to the problems of our society – they abruptly stopped listening to me. They were completely enmeshed (like a gear in a machine) in that society, and they were not about to question it.
For that society, the end of the world has already happened. They are on a one-way track that is going nowhere – with no awareness of this, or anything else. Their things become more and more, while they (as persons) become less and less.