Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Human Nature (Option 3)

Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines Pacify- to reduce to a submissive state. In this paper I will attempt to explore the pacified existence we are placing on nature.

Marcuse's beliefs about the purpose of technology are valid because I believe that is one of the main purposes of technology that is to pacify us humans most notably through forms of entertainment. That is the medium by which we are most pacified. Just look at someone playing their favorite video game or watching their favorite TV show. They are locked on to the TV or sometimes computer screen in a deeply pacified state. It is my belief that someone reading a book is pacified but to a lesser extent. This shows that the more advanced technology, the video game, pacifies someone more than a book does. This trend of increased pacification will continue until total pacification will occur whether or not we welcome it. The earliest ultimate form of pacification would be a merger of technology with humans in the form of an implant to play some form of virtual reality video game. This, to me, is the beginning of the end of technology mentioned by Marcuse. It is at this point that man ceases to become man alone and now is a cyborg that will exist in some sort of virtual reality realm like the holodeck of Star Trek. I think the actual end of technology will come when the artificial part of humans becomes dominant and or the natural part is no longer needed for decision making therefore pacifying the human component of the cyborg. The “logos of techics” translate roughly to “words of technique” which is the Greek words for technology; change the paradigm that always existed between men and nature.

The first sentence of (b) is a striking one to me because it makes me wonder if there is joy or happiness in nature. I have come to the conclusion that there is none and that joy and happiness are purely human things. When an animal catches its prey it’s not happy that it has dinner, it is merely surviving. The animal is functioning based only on its instincts. Nature is ruthless. Humans on the other hand are different, they have joy and happiness which, according to Marcuse is unnatural and therefore reduces nature to a passive state. Marcuse says that some societies place black races inferior to white, but “civilization produces the means to free nature from its own brutality, by virtue of the power of reason” That certainly is the case here in most developed countries where equal value is placed on both races.

The “nature” Marcuse is getting at isn’t nature like forest and wild animal nature, but rather human nature. Human nature is being “freed from its own brutality by the transforming power of reason.” Therefore human nature and its barbarity is being pacified and the reasoning power that causes it is the “technics” or technology.

Lyotards phrase “-technology wasn’t invented by us humans. Rather the other way around.”(12) tells us that we ourselves evolve to fit the role that technology now ascribes to us. For instance when a new technology is invented say for instance the cell phone—we incorporate it into our lives and evolve to use it and depend on it. When it is removed from us we cannot fathom our lives without it, so in a way we are pacified by it even though it also enables us to do things with it than we couldn’t have done without it. Take for instance when our cell phone networks have hiccups and your phone doesn’t work for 20 minutes or so. I surely get frustrated and anxious because I feel out of sync with the world it seems.

Fredrick Winslow Taylor tries to combat human nature with his Principles of Scientific Management. Every move used to complete a task being timed, recorded, and averaged is a form of technology. Scientific study and adjustments of those moves would seem to go against ones nature because those are moves you don’t think about you just do them. If you are suddenly forced to change how you do something you then have to constantly think about the move you are making and the next move you must make and so on. This would seem to go against human nature, the unplanned movements you make to complete a task is in your human nature, altering that would cause you to go against your nature. Imagine if someone told you that you were holding a pen wrong. Holding a pen has been something you have done since you were very little and if you were suddenly forced to change how you held a pen it would go against your nature. Scientific management’s goal is to pacify human nature in the workplace by eliminating loafing and what he deems unnecessary movements.

In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep human nature and nature period is drastically changed. One of the concepts most basic to human nature—eating has been drastically altered. In the book no human would dare think of eating any animal for fear of being labeled an android because androids have little empathy for animals. Almost every human alive today would fail the empathy test if it were administered to them because almost everyone thinks fur coats and leather seats are commonplace. In a sense our nature is being pacified because all humans would have to eat some substitute for meat or protein, which is unnatural because it is natural for humans to eat meat.

Bill Joy’s essay Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us? talks about human natures uncontrollable quest for the acquisition of knowledge and how it may come to destroy us. My favorite part of the essay is a quote from Robert Oppenheimer “It is not possible to be a scientist unless you believe that the knowledge of the world, and the power which this gives, is a thing which is of intrinsic value to humanity, and that you are using it to help in the spread of knowledge and are willing to take the consequences” (13). The power that comes with the gathering of knowledge is what human nature yearns for. People argue that when a scientist is searching for something they do it not to better humanity’s pool of knowledge but rather for the power, money, and maybe fame that goes with a brilliant discovery. In his essay Joy argues for control of scientific research endeavors to prevent technology from becoming too powerful and destroying mankind. It would go against a scientist’s human nature to stop his or her work because their work may have become too dangerous. They would be blinded by their ambitions for money and fame if they were to come up with a breakthrough, because of this a non –biased (meaning not influenced by the same type of driving nature the scientist has) party must become involved to limit the progress so its not to become destructive to man and destroy human nature itself.

In summary Marcuse’s views about the “pacified existence” of nature are spot on in my opinion. In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep human nature becomes pacified through changing social conditions as a result of a war they must adapt not only their diet but their culture to reflect the changing natural conditions. As a result they have moved away from what was traditionally thought of to be human nature to a new form of human nature. Although Marcuse’s ideas were somewhat difficult to understand at first I now think I have a firm grasp on what he means by “pacified existence.”

Works Cited

Dick, Philip K. Blade Runner : Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Westminster: Del Rey, 1990.

Joy, Bill. "Why the Future doesn't need us." Aug. 2004. 15 Oct. 2008

Lyotard, Jean F. "Can Thought go on without a Body?" The Inhuman : Reflections on Time. By Jean-Francois Lyotard. Trans. Geoffrey Bennington. New York: Stanford UP, 1992.

Taylor, Frederick. Principles of Scientific Management. New York: Cosimo Classics, 2006.


Atun said...

If a person is looking to condemn humanity then he or she will claim that people are naturally hateful and opportunistic. But each of these standpoints is pre-engineered to lead to their own biased worldview.The more people entering the virtual world of the web, the more uglies join the crowd.

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Adam Johns said...

I'd rather see an argument than a variation on the prompt in the first paragraph.

In the second paragraph you make a number of claims about how technology pacifies humanity. These are fairly interesting, if also rather conventional; what bothers me is that you offer no evidence for your claims. In what sense is someone playing, say, an online game with a group of friends passive? And why do you see that a video game makes us more passive than a book? It seems to me like you didn't really think through the details of this claim - I suspect that you're just repeating what you see as conventional wisdom.

What bothers me in the next paragraph, where you're interpreting what Marcuse has to say about nature, isn't whether you understand Marcuse (you make errors, but that's neither here nor there - the point of the Marcuse was to get you thinking), but that I'm very unclear about your fundamental argument. What are you *doing* with Marcuse here? What purpose does this discussion of human nature vs. nature has such serve?

It's not crazy to think that Marcuse is really concerned with "human nature" rather than "nature," but then the third paragraph seems to render the second one pointless, which, again, indicates that you don't have a single clear argument here.

Your views on Lyotard are interesting, but I'm not sure you are using "pacify" in the same way here that you're using it earlier.

In your discussion of Taylor, you're pointing out that Taylor wants to control human nature (which I think is true) - but is controlling someone the same as pacifying them? I feel like there's an obvious distinction here which you could have acknowledged, at least.

I'm not sure what you're doing with Joy.

Overall: One problem here is that you seem to feel the need to discuss lots of different texts instead of focusing on one or two - you might have done more, for instance, by working through Joy (which you obviously find interesting) in more detail, rather than skimming over most of the texts we've talked about. I won't quibble with your understanding of Marcuse, which is at least interesting; what is more problematic here is that you formulate your argument only in the vaguest terms. Because your argument is spread among so many different texts, you offer little in the way of evidence; because you start out by "exploring" the idea of pacified existence, you spend a great deal of time finding your argument, and relatively little time presenting it clearly and aggressively. I come away from this wondering, for instance, if you think it's a *good* thing that technology is pacifying human nature: your reading implies that, but you never actually state it.