> technology : directions : stasis"[A fire storm of change sweeping western society] breeds odd personalities, too: children who at twelve are no longer childlike; adults who at fifty are children of twelve. There are rich men who playact poverty, computer programmers who turn on with LSD. There are anarchists who, beneath their dirty denim shirts, are outrageous conformists, and conformists who, beneath their button-down collars, are outrageous anarchists."has technology altered the fundamental human landscape?perhaps there are things beyond technology, perhaps beyond human beings even, things that keep us doing the same stuff, so even with all of our great inventions, we remain in stasis.
we are still trying to eat, shit, sleep and have sex daily. when we broadly measure those human activities, we see we haven't changed much.
clearly things have changed, the research here into food death and relationships is some attempt to understand what exactly might have changed.
but we might have just grown in size and scale of society, and maintained the same stuff going on inside it.
some of this argument for stasis comes as a reaction to futurists announcing today as the first day of our new lives: reading Future Shock, the opening analysis of strange new hybrids:
- Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, pages 11-12
immature people have existed forever. so have psychedlic drugs. so now we talk about it, have we lost our fear? do we have a bigger vocabulary?"A growing body of reputable opinion asserts that the present moment represents nothing less than the second great divide in human history, comparable in magnitude only with that first great break in historic continuity, the shift from barbarism to civilization."
no! our era is change on a par with judgment day! Toffler cites "reputable opinion" here:
- Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, page 14
i'm sure the barbarians who finally donned underwear weren't entirely aware of their role in shifting the earth, nor did that shift become apparent overnight. we have been in a constant state of shift, one might argue, but we have maintained a rather constant state of barbarity - crime and poverty have never disappeared.
with regards to food and forestalling death, we have arranged the world to extend our lives; we have provided for increasing numbers of humans to lead a sustained life, in less physically taxing conditions. but we are perhaps separated from the spiritual sustenance provided by small communities and connection with nature and sustenance; have we traded physical hardships for neuroses? while the numbers of toiling and just purely suffering poor continue to swell along with our egos.
so our lives are never more or less worse or better; most stuff stays the same, just with a larger scale?
maybe technology is just what we've come up with to handle our swelling populations, resulting from our proclivity to breed and create. the cotton gin will produce more cotton to clothe more folks. if there were 10,000 of us total living on earth, we might not need all this stuff to sustain ourselves.
the larger our society, the more our time is demanded outside of our sphere of the home, the more we develop tools to manage those responsibilities, the more time we need to spend managing our tools, ...
electronic babysitting is cited here as an example of stasis:seeing stasis: eames vision
we have machines managing the entertainment of our young ones, teaching social codes through mediated simulation of and storytelling about life after puberty.
seeing stasis depends on abstraction. if you go far out enough, away from people and technology, away from even the planet earth and our warm sun, you find life and death remain constant. in a bit from there, closer to earth, you find good and evil constant, and (wo)man's judgment thereof.
in further from there, you find people still looking for people to talk to, and to steal from, and to share dreams of eternal happiness with.
this is where technology meets abstraction to project stasis: internet chat rooms and web pages ultimately serve little more than timeless human goals like those listed above.
even grocery shopping in mega-malls is like going to market, itself an activity as old as agriculture!
When the first successful test of the atomic bomb was completed, Albert Einstein reportedly said, "Everything has changed except the way we think."environmental concerns, urban planning and the breakdown of the family, these are still timeless human issues that exist in different forms, larger scale in the new technology space. when we drop down below that, where people are making plane reservations and picking laptops, we have arrived at the thoroughly modern era where people are doing things they have never done before. but compared with the vast weight of predecessor activities, and motivational forces, those activities that signal our age as "a firestorm of change" (Toffler) appear ephemeral at best. very much appropriate for discussion today! but it's important not to lose perspective - to zoom out a little and see our little paddlings in the ocean of human activity.
(Charles and Ray Eames are cited here for their short film Powers of Ten: About the Relative Size of Things in the Universe and the Effect of Adding Another Zero; zooming in and out by factors of ten, illuminating scale and perspective and relativity: "Starting at a one meter square image of a picnic, the camera moves 10 times further away every 10 seconds, reaching to the edge of the universe; then the journey is reversed, going 10 times closer each ten seconds, ultimately reaching the interior of an atom." (http://www.eamesoffice.com/) i'm doing a similar zooming with abstraction.)
all that applies to daily activity, that the motivations and directions have not changed. but have we shifted shape somehow? are we moving towards some kind of different society or humanity? that sounds utopian.