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Thursday, January 6, 2011


Advances in technology are amazing, always have been and always will be. I just bought and installed an 8 GB SD card in my mobile phone. It is a tiny slither of a thing. A more expensive 32 GB version has the same physical size. My first computer had a memory of 64 KB (the DOS resided on a floppy disk). The point being: nothing in human affairs has changed since that day, only technology has. From the invention of the wheel to the wonders of Nanotechnology the driving forces seem to be as contradictory as can be: to make life easier (transport, household appliances), to make life healthier (medicine) and on the other hand to make us work faster (robotics) and to destroy us more efficiently (weapons). The underlying theme seems to be that technology is eminently profitable for those who own the means of production. The demand for technology of all sorts (good and bad) is as insatiable as the greed to advance to the next level that promises so much for all but delivers mainly the luxuries for the few plus the trickle-down-effect. All the while the fully converted technophiles laugh at the few technophobes who invariably want to turn back the clock to the time when the earth was flat.

One of the beguiling promises of technology is that we are getting ever closer to that last level of the game when all will be well: all diseases cured, MAD peace, artificial intelligence solves all remaining problems … death, violence, god, unemployment due to a stand-still on R&D, gadgets that fix themselves. Luckily we’ll never get there but billions are bombarded daily to make them believe it anyway. We need to produce more, faster, more advanced, more sophisticated, more amazing stuff in order to grow economies, to employ billions of workers in factories, to employ millions to hard-sell the stuff, above all to ensure the technological edge in military hardware lest the most powerful nations become redundant in their noble quest to equate individual freedom with their technologies. A bit/a lot of high-tech space-age spying on its own free citizens is a fair price to pay for it. Big Brother ever getting bigger, watching us day and night – as predicted by George Orwell. Or perhaps to elaborate on a song lyric by Leonard Cohen, by way of saying that there wil be a camera in every bedroom of the poor so as to record their pathetic attempts to pro-create fodder for the labour market – to be screened on reality TV for cheap laughs.

So, is it true that technology is value-free in itself, only to be used and abused by value-laden and hence fallible people? The knife that cuts the bread as well as the throat? The gun that never kills were it not for the human trigger? Do we really need bad technology in order to protect us from those who use bad technology? Do I need a more-advanced gun to protect myself and my family from the gangsters, political and otherwise, who are out to get me with their less-advanced guns? The right to self-defence? The right to bear arms? Imagine if all pacifists of the world will refuse to arm themselves and will only defend themselves by their words: will the gangsters shoot them like sitting ducks and laugh their head off? Is it actually possible to ‘fight’ for freedom? What if freedom is the freedom to be free of all violence? Is this the last level of the game? The ultimate winner setting us all free? Are we getting into metaphysical crap just because we want to solve the dualism of good technology needing to coexist with bad technology? Who can distinguish between good and bad anyway?

Like Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, there is every chance to be an accidental hero on the wrong side of the divide due to the multiple contradictions of technical life as a tragicomedy. As such I bought my 8GB SD card without much thought, until now, about the rights and wrongs my purchase might entail. I just responded to the need to be technologically up-to-date and able to store 2,500 high resolution pictures or 500 low-resolution videos on my mobile smart phone, ready for upload to the next-in-line 50 billion dollar networking site that will connect all technophiles of the world and create a world family of believers in technological progress leading to the Promised Land. Amen.

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