Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Graded Entry (Group 2) - Technology: Human Preservation or Demise?

For this entry, I chose option number 3, in which we point out the crucial difference between Bill Joy and Jean-Francois Lyotard.

First off, let me begin by saying that Lyotard was a bit hard to understand. I had to go through the essay a few times, because I spent half the time staring at the paper thinking "what??"

After going over the essay again, it became clear that Joy and Lyotard had different views of technology. We know from our reading and class discussions that Joy has a rather apocalyptic view on technology. Simply said, he does believe that our push for advancement and developement could bring about our destruction if we are not careful. We must take the necessary precautions - we must not get arrogant and forget that there are dangers involved with advancements - to make sure that our push for new technologies doesn't back fire.

The way I look at Joy's understanding of technology is roughly what happened with the R.M.S. Titanic. The early 20th Century was a period of rapid growth. It was the Industrial Revolution and there was an explosion in technological development. Titanic was a symbol of her time. She was the biggest, most luxurious, and most powerful ship of that time. Unfortunately, she was built by pure arrogance. It was a time when man felt invincible; that nothing could get in his way. We felt that we had conquered everything nature had to throw at us. We all know the famous quote about the Titanic;

"God himself cannot sink this ship."

Titanic reflected the mentality of her time. Man believed that he was finally above God, and because of that we completely forgot about the dangers that were still around us. In the end, that mentality came back to bite us in the face. The world was shocked upon learning of what was believed to be "unthinkable." Titanic, the ship that everyone believed could conquer the elements, was now sitting at the bottom of the Atlantic.

In my opinion, Titanic was an excellent teacher to us. From her death, man learned many lessons. He was reminded that he was not above nature. Our arrogance led to the ship's destruction and if we are not careful, according to Joy, it could lead to our ultimate destruction as well.

Bill Joy does have credibility in his views, however, on the other end of the spectrum we have Jean-Francois Lyotard. Lyotard's view of technology differs from Joy's in a big way. Essentially, Lyotard believes that in the end, technology can be a continuation of us. He believes that our views, our beliefs, our way of life will continue even after we are long gone. We must continue to push forward in development to ensure our survival. After all, this is why we continue to push for new technologies; to ensure that our way of life goes on, even if we don't. As Lyotard pointed out, the clock is still ticking; the sun is only getting older and will eventually die, most likely taking us with it.

Lyotard does make a good point. For one thing, machines are not as fragile as we are. Who knows, some day, for whatever reason (global catastrophy, sun dies, etc.), we may no longer exist. Man kind could be whiped from the face of the Earth, but if our technology and if our machines continue to live, they could carry with them our way of life, our thoughts, our beliefs, and our hopes. If that is true, then our minds and our thoughts will continue to live, even if our bodies don't.

The views of Joy and Lyotard differ in a big way. Where as Joy believes that technology could bring about our destruction, Lyotard believes it is a way for us to continue to live in this universe. I hope I was clear on what I wanted to say, because it is roughly midnight and I am still not 100% sure as to what Lyotard was on about.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

"A bit hard to undersand." That's an understatement...

Anyway, what I like best here is that you do spend some time elaborating on a perfectly reasonable distinction between Joy and Lyotard: the former, in your view, thinks apocalyptically, while the latter does not (or he in some way is thinking counter-apocalyptically; how can we endure _beyond_ the end?).

Where I see unexplored potential is in your lack of attention to details. Your Titanic analogy is a nice idea, but is it justified? Joy, after all, is the equivalanet of the Titanic's designer, and yet he's the one sounding the alarm. But although he's sounding the alarm, he also believes that the apocalypse is far from inevitable; that a political, institutional solution is possible.

That doesn't mean that you're wrong in your essential analysis of Joy as an apocalyptic writer. But the devil is in the details.

And the devil's in the details for Lyotard, too. After all, we have the two voices, possibly arguing against one another, and the problem that this is a gendered, suffering machine: surely there is something apocalyptic about launching such a machine into the universe?

It's also worth noting that Joy is far more clearly in favor of _existing_ technologies than Lyotard is (Lyotard is pretty indifferent to them).

None of this makes your exploration at all unworthy - it just goes to show that there's more you could have done with better attention to the _detailed_ differences (and similarities) between them.