Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I am in awe of day to day miracle that modern technology has grown into. The human mind that can make possible digital communication, the internet, wifi. Now we can contribute to better global human rights, we can connect with people all over the world, we can run our televisions through digital boxes that need no wires... I look at the phone in my hand I'm playing Block'd on, and marvel at the casual use of this high tech wonder we all hold in our hands every day.

It amazes me. Intimidates me.

And part of me thinks, isn't this an age old human story, man's fear of his own creativity, his longing for power, and the downfall it brings when the invention gets out of his own control? The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Frankenstein, Pandora, A Space Odyssey... oh. I just went searching for more examples and found someone has written it already.

My thoughts are on the discussions of the dangers of wifi, both queried and dismissed in equal measure -of the high rate of cancer amongst the gardaĆ­, who all work under communication masts, of children in schools beside them all day. Of nuclear waste in our seas, in our rain, epic disasters in Chernoble, and Japan, even problems in England that people understate, hush up. Holes in the ozone layer, sick children. Cancer, cancer, cancer. Could we live without plastic? Can we live with it?

I came across an excellent essay on our pollution of the world, and ensuing toxicity of the placenta and breastmilk. Life threatened at its most basic stage. I know dolphins are dying because their mother's milk carries so many pollutants - why assume this isn't happening to us, too?

Heidegger diagnosed the dangers of technology not as a problem with the tech-
nological implements, but with the basic attitudes and limitations of modern human 

The threat to [humans] does not come in the first instance from the potentially lethal 
machines and apparatus of technology. The actual threat has already afflicted the 
human being in [his or her] essence. The truth of enframing threatens human beings 
with the possibility that it could be denied to them to enter into a more original revealing 
and hence to experience the call of a more primal truth. Thus where enframing reigns, 
there is danger in the highest degree.

The insidiousness of chemical technologies is that they operate on the substructure of visible and temporal experiences: they cannot be directly experienced and they 
appear in the food chain long after their makers have died. In this respect, chemi-
cal technology functions on the “occult,” i.e., on the hidden spatio-temporal level, 
of our organic being. The “danger” in Heidegger’s sense lies in the “enframing” 
control that we apply to the micro-organismic level without understanding the con-
sequences of our manipulation. I am reminded of Goethe’s poem, “The Sorcerer’s 
Apprentice,” in which the apprentice uses magic to animate a broom to fetch water 
for him, and the broom brings more and more water into the house. Not knowing 
the magic words to break the spell, the apprentice breaks the broom only to have 
now two brooms carry water into the already flooded house. 
 In his later years, Heidegger came to understand the challenge and promise of 
technology as the possibility that humans might reveal the world in a new and more 
truthful way:
The essential unfolding of technology gives man entry into something which, of himself, 
he can neither invent nor in any way make. For there is no such thing as a man who 
exists singly and solely on his own.

keeping watch over the unconcealed and the concealed is the possibility and the call 
of the project of technology. The saving power arrives alongside the danger when 
human beings understand that there is a transcendent dimension beyond human 
control. We don't exist singly and solely on our own. The placental imagination 
challenges us to widen our scope beyond the human being and grasp our existence 
as entwined with the forces of nature and the invisible web of relations between 
human and nonhuman beings.

It's a good essay, worth reading if you have time, you can find it here. It does not conclude optimistically, however.

I have been derailed by finding other people's better elaborations than mine on this topic! My basic point? We're amazing, but we're all fucked. Moving too fast, bunching priorities in the wrong places, failing, failing to notice what else we sacrificed, what we are made up of and how we're affected, in spirit, in flesh. 

Ask not for whom the bell tolls, children. And  don't call me paranoid for being suspicious of chemical laced shampoo and pesticides. 

Like the sign on the new road where I grew up said,


morgor said...

meh, humans are tough... in ways.
we'll adapt.

Jo said...

Sigh. Morgor thinks we're all going to be X Men...

Janine Ashbless said...

Jeez, Jo, you need to stop reading internet health posts. It's making you miserable and it doesn't make you one whit safer. Seriously: The stress is probably doing you more harm than any walk in the rain.

And, at the risk of sounding flippant, it all does remind me of the Daily Mail's apparent campaign to categorise everything in the known world into A) Things that cause cancer, and B) Things that cure cancer.

Jo said...

Well, I dunno. I turned off my wifi...

I know what you mean, but I don't think it's exactly stress. Nor does it all come from internet health posts, I must protest. I have no knowledge of the Daily Mail :)

morgor said...

yum patronising.
No, i don't think we're all going to be xmen. Do you honestly think that humans are going through more hardship now than they have before because of technology?
You think wi-fi radiation, office jobs and mcdonalds are going to be more of a trial for humans than an ice age wearing bearskins? Humans have been around for a long time.

I can't believe you're genuinely worried about radioactive rain, you're way to stressed out and paranoid. You can't spend all of your time fretting over what could happen! Get off the internet, ignorance is bliss!(to a degree)

Jo said...

It's not just the internet! Fuck off! :)

I did think of this, it's just new natural selection, and there's too many of us anyway. That was sort of my train of thought, about the Icarus type stories built into our culture. That our minds are built to create things that will reach beyond our control and cause our downfall.

This was more of a theoretical musing on that topic than a paranoid lament, do note, I wasn't freaking out about anything. I'm not sitting here in a tin helmet.

Ignorance isnt' bliss, anyway, it's ignorance. I hate that. It doesn't appeal to me. I'd rather have the information and consideration with a side of worry.

And I didn't mean to patronise, I just don't think we're able to adapt at the rate we'd need to to deal with all of this. Animals aren't either, they're just dying out. I see no evidence of evolution yet, other than the ability to grow massively obese, maybe? I suppose there's that.

Mwa said...

Yeah. Oh yeah. Preaching to the choir here. The panicking choir that is rocking back and forth going "Aaaah." Yeah, that one.