Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Graded Blog #3- Lyotard's Difficult Passages

First of all, I found this entire article rather difficult to understand. I believe there are different interpretations to it, and like all forms of literature or art, everyone has their own ways of seeing it. It reminds me of contemporary art in the sense that at first read through; it was so confusing that it really meant nothing to me. It’s interesting because he does talk about language in the essay and states, “there remains, beyond the writing that has stopped, an infinity of words, phrases and meanings in a latent state, held in abeyance, with as many as things ‘to be said’ as at the beginning,” (Lyotard 17). This is not the passage I am concentrating on; however it goes along with the question as to why the essay is so difficult. There is so much beyond the words on the page to be interpreted. It wasn’t until the second or third time through that I started to put any of it together in my head. I picked two passages from the reading that I thought to be both very difficult and very connected to each other. The first:

“Once we were considered able to converse with Nature. Matter asks no questions, expects no answers of us. It ignores us. It made us the way it made all bodies- by chance and according to its laws.” (Lyotard 11).

The second:
“You know- technology wasn’t invented by us humans. Rather the other way around. As anthropologists and biologists admit, even the simplest life forms, infusoria (tiny algae synthesized by light at the edges of tidepools a few million years ago) are already technological devices” (Lyotard 12).

These passages both allude to the fact that technology is not actually what we commonly know it as. Technology has many different definitions, and as I was reading through some of them this one caught my eye: “the sum of the ways in which social groups provide themselves with the material objects of their civilization.” Lyotard is stating the exact opposite in his essay. He is saying that technology came before us, and actually created humanity. It is a difficult concept to read into because when most of us think of technology we think of something invented by the human population. Basically, we are a form of a technological device because we “filter information useful to [our] survival” (Lyotard 12). I believe he is trying to get across that we are not superior beings in the world and that we were created by accident. We are just another technological device, or collection of technological devices, created by matter. When I think of matter, I immediately think, something that occupies space. Matter does not have feelings, it is not a higher being. It simply created us, like the rest of the universe, due to its laws. These concepts in these two passages completely wipe out any belief that there is a higher being, or any belief that we have control over our own destiny. We have no control over the laws of matter or the changes of the earth. Matter, unlike a superior being, asks nothing of us. It will not matter what advances, if you will, that we create. Lyotard talks about the “explosion of the sun,” and how we will completely wiped out and forgotten. This is because there will be nothing to remember us. Thought is just a technological device, like our bodies. That being destroyed, there will be no reminisce that our world existed at all. So in a sense, he is saying that we were not only created by what he defines as technology, but we will also be destroyed by it.

This reminds me of the article we just read, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us,” written by Bill Joy. Both authors are saying that technology will destroy us, but their definitions of technology are completely different. In Joy’s article, he states, “we are creators of new technologies and stars of the imagined future, driven- this time by great financial rewards and global competition- despite the clear dangers, hardly evaluating what it may be like to try to live in a world that is the realistic outcome of what we are creating and imagining,” (Joy 13). Joy is implying that we have the power to save ourselves, but we forget about the dangers and consequences because we are caught up in awe of what we can accomplish. Technology will destroy us, but really, it will be us destroying ourselves. This is opposite of what Lyotard implies which is that we have no control over technology defeating us. Matter “ignores” us, doesn’t care what knowledge we have, and does not discriminate. Humanity is a mere accidental creation which will be inevitably exterminated when earth is exterminated, and there will be no remembrance of our existence because all intelligence is a technological device, just like we are.

Lyotard. "Can Thought Go on Without a Body?"

"technology." Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 30 Jan. 2008. .

Joy Bill. "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us."

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

It took me a while to figure out what you were up to here. For a while, it seemed like you were mostly echoing some of the content of the last several posts. That's not a bad thing in itself (it would have worked much better if you'd made it clear who, if anyone, you saw yourself in a conversation with), but it made it hard to see where you were going.

I became genuinely interested when you started connecting Lyotard to Joy. Setting them in opposition to one another was a great idea, and here's an idea I see implicit:

1) Lyotard's ideas about technology are very unconventional.
2) Joy's ideas about technology are scary, but conventional.
3) Lyotard is so hard to follow because he is Joy's opposite (that is, the opposite of conventional, if paranoid, thinking).

I think this would have worked better if you'd cut down on the section which is just about Lyotard, and brought in Joy from the beginning or from very close to the beginning - simply because that's where you have something very distinctive to say.