Mark Twain and Lyotard
In his essay” Can thought go on without a body?” Lyotard stated that “ technology was not invented by humans. Rather it was the other way around.” And, in his view, this is true of all organic life forms, from the simplest ones to the most complex ones- humans. What separate us form the rest is our exceptional “software” capable of processing data extremely well (12). Looking at the Mark Twain’s novel in this light people in the 6th century Britain are on the one of the lower stages of human development and “invention” by technology. Hank Morgan certainly sees them as infants and underdeveloped specimens of the human race. “It was not fair to spring those nineteenth-century technicalities upon the untutored infant of the sixth…”(Twain 204)
Hank as a nineteenth-century mechanic has an upper hand in everything that he does in this society. He knows he possess immeasurable advantage over these children and he uses it every chance he got in order to change this backward, feudal country and propels it into the age of progress and freedom for all. Hank Morgan believes that the way toward a better society is achievable through development of technology and education. He sends carefully chosen boys and men into schools, secretly introduces the telephone lines, publishes the newspapers in the mostly illiterate country where even the priests read only Latin and Greek. Hank with his technological knowledge rules the country from a shadow and manipulates the people, from the slaves to the king itself.
No doubt, technological advances did improve are lives and our “software” got even better in processing data, our memories can store more information than ever and with our language we can express very complex thoughts, maybe we even reached the pick of human evolution, but did our societies really got any better, any freer? To compare our society with that of an 6th century Britain is too extreme, but Hank’s nineteenth century America is not so distant past, and Twain did not see it as a free and fair society for all. With all its technological advantages Hank’s America was not without salves and owners. What were slaves and freemen in 6th century Britain in Hanks time were members of working class, and capitalist proprietors owned their lives almost in the same way the king and nobility own their slaves. In our case, most of us depend on wages, even though we can afford significantly more with them, the same way worker in nineteenth century depended on his/hers.
I am looking forward of seeing how Hank’s technological improvements will affect lives of “children” in Britain and whether they will “invent” human and how that human will be defined.