The technophobe is one who fears new advancements regarding them with suspicion and perhaps nostalgically seeks to halt advancement or worse go back to an imagined garden of Eden style past. These people are vulnerable to missing out on the practical benefits of technology and they demonstrate an inflexible and stuck mentality.
The technophile is one who is totally enthusiastic about technology throwing themselves into the new gadgets and advances of our modern-developed world. They are consumers and are vulnerable to the excess of their addiction, an extreme example would be the Japanese ‘Otaku-kids’ young people so obsessed with media and technology that some have died in front of their machines through lack of nourishment, a less extreme example might be the ever growing black hole of wasted time playing inane games (angry birds) or staring at pornography on the internet.
Against both these positions we must assert a third, which represents an overcoming of the disadvantages of both embedded Luddite and superficial consumer, that of the techno-savage.
We live in a technologically advanced culture and yet most of us don’t make this technology. We are allowed to use it, consume it and absorb its effects, we are the primitives of our own world, we no longer need to go to other places to see so called primitives, we are compartmentalised so we don’t know how things work or even what they were originally meant for! We are like those wronged natives who were brought to great cathedrals and cities to be shown to Europe’s leaders and allowed to wander through environments they had no part in constructing totally cut off from the meanings of the old world only able to conceive of it in their own terms, terms which could not conceive of the changes that would be wrought on them.
The acceleration of technology has moved so far out of common awareness that we might consider code, computer programing, technical engineering as the new ‘Latin’. Like the Church’s hold on the creation and dissemination of meaning and culture this new specialised language is very much alive and its cardinals and priests are not bound by adherence to one institution with attendant moral dogma, worse, they are disparate and brought to heel only by funding from institutions, individuals and governments with lots of money.
We are in the lazy habit of making science and technology synonymous with progress and fact, when was the last time you read a science team or research body’s manifesto? But you do remember the last time some exciting new technology was unveiled to you and like the audience in a theatre you behaved yourself, reacted to the spectacle with wonder and curiosity in thrall to our new religion and its demonstrable miracles.
What is at stake here? Why should we care? Firstly without wanting to seem conservative new technology creates new meanings and undermines old ones. This may not be a problem if not for the lack of awareness that pervades the sciences where it’s common to regard research and innovation as a pursuit of purely benign forces. Coupled with the sheer speed of change rattling through the developed world this creates a problem, why do we put so much effort into new tools while we take for granted the existence of meaning? As if meanings don’t require creation, repetition and development.
Think of the ambiguous and potent figure of the ‘predator’ from the popular film franchise. Is this creature not a figure of ‘anti-progress’ and in his own way a heroic presence. Set against the lies and treachery of his human prey, he is in possession of technology which is far in excess of our own and yet is seemingly animal, awkwardly operating his equipment as if he has stolen it from another culture, this figure is a symbol of a mythological warrior, what we imagine our forefathers were in ages past his code and values have not been weakened by the technology he wields he has subordinated it to his will.
The dignity of this position is that with or without the tools there is a value, a meaning, a sense of purpose which the creature is motivated by. Take away all the bolt-ons and you would be left with a still potent figure. I wonder how many of us have that in whatever form and do we have the strength to assert our values against the forces which like a huge un-captained ship drift and crash through our reality? If we don’t want to end up as the equivalent of those ‘native’ cultures obliterated by our own in 19th century then we might like to consider what essential traits are worth asserting and if robbed of all the gadgets and 21st century extras what would we look like? We must embrace our own otherness and become savages not natives.
by Michael Eden