Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Question #2...Progression or Self Preservation?

What I got from Lyotard’s understanding of technology was that it is somewhat related to the topic of progression. Now, progression is something that we touched on during the first class meeting when we were all asked what technology means to us. Lyotard takes this one step further and brings the aspects of life and thought into the equation. A passage that made me stop in my tracks while reading this article was on page 12 where Lyotard states “You know – technology wasn’t invented by us humans. Rather the other way around.” Based on my initial understanding of technology, something seemed a little off with this sentence. I have always associated technology to computers, flat-screen televisions and new solutions for male pattern baldness with no fault of my own as these are things with which this generation has been saturated. This however is not what interests Lyotard. He backs up his claim by stating that “even the simplest life forms…are technical devices.” By saying that humans were ‘invented’ by technology is implying that there has been a progression from these simplest of life forms. I’m not saying that Lyotard believes that humans evolved from algae, as he describes the two as very similar in technological comparison sharing a common trait of the desire for self preservation. He describes a material system as being technological if it can receive and process information to assure its existence. Notice how he uses the words “material system” and not something like “organism” or “being”. It’s hard for me to think of some inanimate object or any other form of matter other than a living being that self preserves. This is where I think his argument loses some value. I agree that technology is directly related to progression since it is this progression that led to the invention of electronics and advances in medicine. I however do not agree that this progression is the only aspect of technology. Computers in my opinion (and to my sincere hopes) should not advance to the point where they become aware to the idea of self-preservation in order to be identified as technological. I also do not think that computers and related instruments of modern day electronics should not be omitted because they do not self preserve.
What is interesting is that Lyotard often describes humans and the thought processes that we undergo in terms of computer language. Throughout the article he describes human thought as a technical device made possible by complex operations performed by the body. He makes the comparison of the body acting as the hardware and human mind acting as the software. This is interesting to me since he never regards electronic computers as being technological. In fact, computers cannot be technological using the basis of his understanding of technology. I don’t think that it would be possible to significantly disagree with Lyotard since there would be entirely too much information to disagree with. I will say that I would use much of his description of technology, but I would just have to expand to a more broad approach then Lyotard is willing to do himself.


Adam Johns said...

The very beginning of this post is a little awkward, but things pick up when you refocus it with a quotation. Does Lyotard simply mean that there has been progress from these early life forms, though? His focus in this section is on what unites all technical devices/life forms. It's interesting that you bring progress in, but it's unclear _why_ you do.

It's funny, because you obviously really _get_ what he's saying -- until the progress drops in. My instincts say that this calls for self-analysis: why do we insist on turning everything into a narrative about progress? Maybe you see something that I don't, though -- I just don't see what, exactly. Then you set yourself up as the one questioning excessive progress; here, you are presumably referring to the launching of the Inhuman mind into space. Fair enough - but is it clear that Lyotard is really buying into progress? After all, the "SHE" voice at the end proposes a suffering, gendered intelligence -- is that progress, or even change?

I find everything here challenging and worthwhile, but you aren't explaining yourself at the most critical points (of course, maybe Lyotard would say that that's in the nature of thought and writing, right?).

Tim said...

I think that your post had some interesting insight into Lyotard's rather complex and difficult essay. I struggled through this essay and, I am not ashamed to say, I hated it.

I had trouble with the part in Lyotard's essay (much like you) when he commented on technology creating us. I had no clue what he was saying. Your explanation helped me understand (at least, somewhat) what Lyotard was trying to say. However, much like Adam pointed out, I don't get the whole progress part of your essay. Don't get me wrong, I think you did a more than adequate analysis of the reading, but I don't really get where you are coming from this. I definitely think you had more insight into the essay than I had... you definitely seem to know what you are talking about. I am just somewhat thrown off by the last part of your blog.

Otherwise, good job!