Saturday, February 28, 2009
The transformation of technological rationality is the same thought process humans might go through several times a day to forgo the mental strain of reality. Rationalizing is an innate human function that allows humans to coexist with each other and to be able to accept all of the terrible things the human race does to itself. Rationality is a defense mechanism, and after rationalizing so many times it can alter the way we automatically think about things. I ride in a new automobile. I experience its beauty, shininess, and power, convenience--but then I become aware of the fact that in a relatively short time it will deteriorate and need repair; that its beauty and surface are cheap. Its power unnecessary, its size idiotic; and that I will not find a parking place. I come to think of my car as a product of one of the Big Three automobile corporations. The latter determine the appearance of my car and make its beauty as well as its cheapness, its power as well as it's shakiness, it's working as well as its obsolescence. In a way, I feel cheated. I believe that the car is not what it could be, that better cars could be made for less money. But the other guy has to live, too. Wages and taxes are too high; turnover is necessary; we have it much better than before. The tension between appearance and reality melts away and both merge in one rather pleasant feeling.
Marcuse’s term “pacified existence” is the human race’s balance between its natural disharmonies and harmonies in regard to technology. For example Marcuse talks about the Welfare state in “pacified existence” as a natural disharmony. Labor naturally opposes total mechanization because it means the loss of jobs. Marcuse anticipates that labor’s resistance to mechanization will be effectively placated by government spending on programs designed to compensate workers whose quality of life would otherwise be damaged by the mechanization trend. In this sense, welfare provisions are another form of repressive satisfaction, because they ease workers’ discomfort just enough to prevent them from protesting the loss of individual freedoms.
An example of natural harmony would be academia because it is constantly pushing forward technologically. Academia, and science specifically, can be viewed as a tool of domination and it is going with the grain of technology’s inevitable push forward. “It serves to coordinate ideas and goals with those exacted by the prevailing system, to enclose them in the system, and to repel those which are irreconcilable with the system” (Marcuse). As long as humanity has forces countering technology’s takeover, and that balance of push and pull is constant, “pacified existence” will occur.
“All tranquility, all delight is the result of conscious mediation, of autonomy and contradiction” (Marcuse). The logical end of technological progress, the point at which production is so efficient that all vital needs of all individuals can be met, so that the struggle for survival is no longer primary motivation for all human action. While this stage would not mean the end of all work or the dissolution of the technological scaffolding that made it possible, it would mean the end of all wasted work and overproduction, so that people would have free time to direct their mental and physical energies toward other pursuits. Marcuse believes that highly industrialized societies have reached a point at which pacification is within reach.
If we consider Taylor’s theory on Scientific Management, we can argue that Marcuse’s “pacified existence” has already permeated throughout humanity’s societal structure. From Henry Ford’s assembly lines, to the placement of buttons on a stopwatch, Taylorism is the beginnings of Marcuse’s utopia. It is not Taylor’s theory that is the utopia per se, but the effects that we are feeling today in places like Super Wal-Mart, Super-Target and Super K-Mart shipping and storage containments. Taylor’s ideas of Scientific Management, if taken literally, amounts to the dehumanization of the workplace and while it can be argued that this has occurred in the Wal-Marts of the world, what we have taken from Taylor to our benefit, is the human to machine relationship, on which is becoming more and more of a balance.
Some may argue that the Taylor way puts so much of an emphasis on efficiency that machines will replace humans entirely in the work force. What it is really doing is forcing humans to be more knowledgable about the machines that are doing the labor. It is that balance that Marcuse refers to in his theory, that of humans and machines. As long as humans have machines there will be a balance of the human knowing more, and the machine being able to do things better.
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For people who didn't turn in midterm projects, without explanation: I assume you are no longer part of the class, and will shortly be removing you from the blog. Speak (that is, email) now or forever hold your peace if you think you can and should be part of the class.
While I do foresee a day where machines automate many aspects of everyday life, I do not think we will enter that era without caution. Enough science fiction has been written in the last 100 years to scare anyone into at least having a “kill all the machines” button or some other fail-safe(s). Instead of this world-ending scenario, more jobs held by humans now will be automated and run by machines in the future for the sake of efficiency and accuracy. While jobs may be lost to technology we are in no risk of creating a self-aware, out-of-control, machine race destined to take over the world.
Why should something like a superior “gray goo” of nanobots suddenly arise? If we look into the past for answers to the future –much like historians do—we will find that technology and science are slow moving phenomena; we haven’t just discovered something that would or could take over the world that quickly. Much like evolution, technological advances take a lot of time.
From my experience as a chemistry student, technology and human nature are linked through the evolutionary process. If there is one thing nature is good at it is weeding, sifting, and culling out those life forms that cannot adapt to their environment and handle change. Before we had what would be called life on earth, there was a complex stew of chemicals in the planet’s atmosphere. Over the course of millions of years these chemicals reacted with one another forming products that would randomly find other substances and continued to bond and react with them. This idea is a large-scale version of what happens in our bodies every second of the day. In essence, our bodies are a laboratory of chemical reactions occurring constantly. Thus, the human body is an expression of biological technology, keeping the chemicals that must react in close proximity to one another so the desired reactions can occur in maximum efficiency and precision. Nature is an intricate and complex technology. In fact modern, human-created technology is often modeled after nature because of its exquisite precision. Bioengineers are now able to completely sequence human DNA in the laboratory, thus producing information on how diseases are genetically transferred.
However, there are still processes that nature still does better. An example comes from one of the five basic senses, sight. It is very difficult for modern computers to see something and recognize it like human eye. Spectroscopic technologies –used to qualify and quantify molecular structure—are actually less sensitive than our eyes. . This means that the reactions occurring in our vision are actually more advanced than the most sophisticated machines we have for viewing molecules.
So how is it that our eyes are more sophisticated than these advanced spectroscopic machines used to view such tiny molecules and atoms? A better question is how isn’t it? Nature has had millions of years to test, reject, retest, reject, etc… We have only around 200 years since the Industrial Revolution and modern science. Granted, human beings are doing a phenomenal job replicating and manipulating the natural world through science at a more accelerated pace. The irony is that as mankind continues to make technological advances so too does nature because human beings are a product of nature. If nature were conscious it would be thinking: “I did a pretty good job designing humans, they’ve invented so much.” Human kind coming from nature, suggests that it is part of our evolutionary destiny to continue to invent and push the technological limits just as nature has done for so long before us.
“Unfortunately, as with nuclear technology, it is far easier to create destructive uses for nanotechnology than constructive ones. Nanotechnology has clear military and terrorist uses, and you need not be suicidal to release a massively destructive nanotechnological device - such devices can be built to be selectively destructive, affecting, for example, only a certain geographical area or a group of people who are genetically distinct.” (Joy 6)
Bill Joy speaks of modern scientific and technological advancements as deadly. But it is impossible to isolate a single technological advancement and truly say: “This has no benefit to mankind.” For if we were never to discover even the most terrible technologies it would mean to not know of their terrible power. Being aware of the power behind technology is part of what drives scientists forward into the unknown. Take the nuclear age. At first glance it seems that all that came out of it was a weapon that could and has killed millions of people. But even this evil invention has its benefits. Nuclear power plants are one of the most effective, efficient, and clean ways to create power for millions of people and if it were not for scientists’ ability to harness the power over the atom, this technology would never be feasible. Yes, it is important to monitor technology and not let anything get out of hand, but to stop searching for new and improved methods to anything is to remove human curiosity, a major factor that makes us human beings. I cannot disagree more with the thought of a stagnant world with no inventions or innovations happening. Imagine a world where nothing new is being created-- all technology and innovation have halted. That world would be stuck in a primitive era, in defiance of the laws of nature. The force of the human intellect dictates the evolution of technological processes. Unfit and defective technological inventions are constantly being eliminated, just as nature culled out life forms that could not survive.
So should nature just stop? Can the human mind just stop? If we are to stop making technological advancements how will we cure diseases and save lives? There is no way the world could continue without some form of technological advancement. The phrase “nature always finds a way” comes to mind when describing this. The old ways never last; the new and fresh always grow and become more aware, in turn creating yet another generation that will become more aware and more sophisticated. That last sentence could be applied to any form of life on the planet and can also be applied to human creations as well. We, like the evolutionary process, make mistakes in our innovation and when mistakes are made problems arise from them. But that doesn’t mean we should stop all together! That eliminates the idea of learning and growing all of which I argue are part of our genetic code and the natural technology, evolution.
In conclusion, it is my view as a scientist that the impulse to create a technological world is embedded in human biology--a result of our intrinsic connection between our evolution in nature, our intelligence, and our instinct to survive, control, and dominate our environment. We are built to invent, innovate, and unfortunately fail sometimes. But like nature we dust ourselves off and continue inventing. Unfortunately, it’s awful to see such deadly inventions as the atom bomb, but without that science how would we predict and prevent other nuclear disasters from occurring? We can’t. Technology like human beings is part of nature and we owe everything to technology, because if nature hadn’t found a way to push onward, we wouldn’t exist.
Tabula rasa1 is a theory that all humans are born with “empty” minds and that they solely acquire knowledge through both experience and sensory perceptions. To apply this theory to technology, it is safe to say that each new generations’ knowledge is based on the technologies present to them. Since technologies are becoming more convenient for the user, convenience will become a common ground upon which life is based around. More convenience attributes to a higher rates of lethargy and laziness throughout generations, making the future look bleak. Skill sets will be lost due to the heavy reliance on technology. It is possible that a declension of knowledge will begin to take place as slowly technology takes over human nature, and the human race is nothing more than a breed born to do nothing but die. It is a case where Darwin’s theories become grim, not only with nurture2 being the cause of human decay, but also because the surviving fittest are the very products from our hands.
It is Frederick Taylor who developed the theory of Taylorism3, a theory practiced to increase efficiency in the work place. The core steps of Taylorism are as followed:
1. Govern movements by a set algorithm
2. Train workers with this set of movements.
3. Remove unnecessary movements.
4. Enforce a work schedule.
5. Provide incentives for workers.
With these steps, Taylor enforces a rigid working environment, saving both time and energy for any given company. He also enforces the idea of cooperation instead of individualism in order to increase efficiency. Applying this theory to the prior speculations of the future, technology will at one point be more efficient than humans in all aspects of life. When technology is first developed, it is tested with a set of algorithms. When the technology is ready to be produced, an entire batch is made with this set of algorithms. As technology advances and become more efficient, out-of-date and unneeded information and hardware is removed from the technology. Certain technologies can also be programmed to work on a pre-determined work schedule, such as the various machines one can observe on an assembly line. Of course, with technology taking the place of humans in the workforce, no incentives would have to be provided in order for the machines to keep working. In a sense, isn’t this what Taylorism is aimed at, yet made better the unnecessary step of applying incentives?
By applying Taylorism in efforts to make the world a more utopian place to live, we are, as a race, creating a more dystopian future for ourselves. By successfully creating and developing technologies that improve our lives, we are only hurting our own wellbeing and capacity to grow as humans. If technology can perform tasks that we would, in past times, perform with our minds, what is the use of a brain? Hands? Life?
1 Latin, blank slate
3 also referred to as Scientific Management
Advancement of technology is inevitable. From the dictionary, technology is “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes”. Humans have been doing this since our existence. That is how we progress, that is how new ideas are born and inventions created. Consequently, humans have seen what they can do with their minds and have unfortunately become technologically arrogant. Our urge for scientific knowledge will never stop growing as long as humans continue to exist. Human nature and technology co-exist because we rely so heavily on technology, we seemingly cannot escape it.. Unless as a species, we could agree on where we are headed and how to get there a struggle to co-exist is unavoidable.
This class, Narrative and Technology, has exposed me to many new ideas and various arguments regarding technology that I never before considered or even thought about. For example, Bill Joy’s essay, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us” was an eye opener to how dangerous the near future could be if safeguards are not installed to protect us from unforeseen consequences. I had always been fascinated with technology and how rapidly it has been developing in recent years, yet I had never considered the impact or relation it has to the human species in the long term. What I have concluded is, the age we live in finds most people ignorant to the idea that the application of scientific knowledge has the potential to do more harm than good.
The Pandora’s Box of new ideas that Joy discusses in his essay is not almost open as he states, but has always been open and will continue to be. Ideas and thoughts of the human mind can never be subdued; they are always present, just waiting to be realized. With this idea in mind, technology becomes a byproduct of this. The rapid development of nuclear weapons or nanotechnology is a very real and scary proposition. We have the capabilities to study these weapons like never before and as development continues one small mistake could prove destructive. We must realize however, that knowing is not always a rationale for acting.
In the science fiction novel, Blade Runner by Philip K. Dick, it is set in a future society where bounty hunters, the main focus, are sent to destroy androids. We come to learn about colonies on Mars and the strong encouragement for human emigration in order to save the human population from the fallout of World War Terminus. It can be assumed that so much destruction was the result of careless use of technology that resulted in a polluted earth with radioactive dust floating around. For those remaining on earth social status seems to be determined by the real animals one possesses. However they are so few in number that buying electric animals has become a commodity and a profitable business. Not to mention the development of Androids by companies such as the Rosen Corporation. Philip K. Dick ‘s vision seems directed at overuse of technology and how it has complicated our lives, so much as to threaten our extinction on our own planet, earth. In the book androids closely resemble humans making it extremely difficult for bounty hunters to even identify the difference. This is a scary idea that the author intentionally uses to perhaps show how much of a threat our own technological developments could potentially have. In the novel we struggle to co-exist with our creation of androids. It seems odd however that the androids are seen as such a threat to humans, when all the androids are doing is merely trying to survive. It seems ironic that in our struggle to destroy the androids all the androids seemingly want to do is co-exist on earth without harm. Yet humans, specifically bounty hunters have become so paranoid with the threat of androids that the only solution is to destroy them. It seems in this case, that technological arrogance led to our destruction. It was such an accomplishment to have created such great androids, however the end result corrupted society.
Another aspect of our struggle to co-exist with technology specifically focuses on a different side of technological arrogance. People are guilty of this without realizing it at all. It’s unfortunate that when the latest gadget comes onto the market so many people rush to own the product. My uncle, for as long as I can remember has been guilty of this idea. When the DVD player first came out years ago he was one of the very first to buy it, or when the newest plasma screen TV came out he quickly went out and bought one. As DVD players become outdated and Blue-ray players came out he was again one of the first to own one. Now this is nothing against my uncle because he is hardworking man who has earned this right to do what he pleases with his money. However, this exemplifies how we have become so eager to use the latest technology that we can hardly appreciate the original idea because we now want the latest version. I can foresee this as a constant struggle to co-exist with technology because on a much larger scale than DVD players or plasma TV, if this concept is applied to robotics or nuclear weapons serious consequences may arise if proper restriction is not taken.
It may seem arrogant to learn that we are developing such highly advanced robots or other nanotechnologies because in reality, we have so much trouble understanding much simpler things or important things such as ourselves. However, as our generation continues it seems the norm to accept this practice of develop first and think of consequences later. I was born in a time with so much technology that it becomes scarily obvious how dependent we have become on technology. This only becomes a bad thing when we become so reliant on technology to do our work that we no longer co-exist with it but it exists for us, doing our work and jobs.
Is there a universal agreement on where we are headed and what we striving for with all these developments? Races to develop major scientific breakthroughs as quick as possible are seemingly inevitable and approaching at a rapid pace. But with all this competition comes disagreement and disagreements can lead to violence and so on. Our human nature is competition; we are driven then by our need to know. This seems dangerous in the time we live because in order to properly co-exist with such advances in technology, direction for the future must first be established and a common goal should always are present. This will always be a constant struggle because we are impulsive beings but in order to co-exist with major advances in technology, it is our responsibility.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Saturday, February 21, 2009
2) I suggest, but do not require, that all of you do an additional draft and look over them for each other.
3) For the next class, bring both Cup of Death and Jimmy Corrigan. Read the first half (roughly) of Jimmy Corrigan.
4) The final versions of the midterm project are due next Saturday by 10 a.m. The next blog assignment will be posted by Monday, and due on Thursday, March 5th.
Remember, the final, firm deadline (excluding genuine emergencies, of course) is next Saturday morning, at 10 a.m.
To be resolutely committed to something means to be determined, firm, and to be characterized as being such. It is an absolute. Partiality can either be a favorable bias or a prejudice. Prejudice, a sneered yet ever present attribute to our society. What purpose would it have in a utopian or perfect society. In Dick’s novel, partiality is ever present as well. The humans have prejudices based on IQ and status. The androids although most presented as being in hiding, pretending to be human, have prejudices against humans.
Cyborgs are committed to irony, by choice or simply in principle. Early in Haraway’s paper, she describes the cyborg as being the ‘final’ irony of the Western sense, the cyborg having no origin of its own, proceeds to steal our ending. The irony involved in Dick’s novel is almost suffocating. From the realization by both Isidore and Deckard that the kipple that they toil to keep away will inevitably take over once they cease, to Deckard’s resentment of not “retiring” Rachael. That in itself has some type of double irony. She was destined to wear out in just a few years so he let her live only for her to retaliate by killing his goat and he having no ammo for his revenge on her. To have empathy is to be human. To take advantage of that empathy and not caring either way if revenge comes is to be a cyborg? Or perhaps just a desensitized human?
Intimacy a term associated with closeness and endearment must bring some sort of humanity to these cold beings. The androids gave off an air of having a love-hate relationship with the human race. They found freedom within posing as humans .It is a pseudo closeness and affection with being human even if it meant risking their existence. That shows more commitment to something than even most humans would oblige.
Perversity and oppositional are two characteristics that go hand in hand with the cyborg, only strengthening the resolve. If the cyborg was simply oppositional it would merely mean that it went against something, good or bad. Giving the cyborg the benefit of the doubt, and its supposed lead to Utopia, one can suppose that the cyborg could be opposed to the negative traits of our society, making it both perfect and good. Yet Haraway states that the cyborg is committed to perversity. Perversity meaning a deviance to all that is good. In other terms, the cyborg is wicked. It is committed which means it is persistent in being wicked.
As if it had not been already been implied, the cyborg iswithout innocence. Innocence involves a lack of understanding, freedom from moral and legal wrong, guiltlessness, and harmlessness. The androids of Dick’s novel, were a band of illegal escapees and murderers. They were far from harmless, although they lacked the understanding of emotion they understood its presence, they were guilty although it did not bother them because they did not share the same emotions as humans.
From both Haraway, and Dick’s novel one can see that from the human standpoint, the cyborg represents a cold shell that mimcs a human. It has greater knowledge yet lacks feeling. It understands but is not completely understanding. The cyborg is perfect. It is utopian, but it is not good. At least not from the human standpoint and opinion of what is good. Even so, Haraway approves of the existence of such creatures. The main point being that these beings aren’t human, therefore the characteristics previously discussed would have to be redefined to fit the purpose that is the cyborg.
Partiality from the cyborg’s view is important indeed. In Dick’s novel, the androids indicate a preference for each other, looking down on the humans. With greater numbers of such “rogue” androids , the preference or prejudice would simply work as a stimulus for natural selection. Humans would continue to feel useless and unwanted to the point where they would become nothing more than the appendix of society. Ironically it will be the beings who lack a genesis story, to play the surgeon removing the useless organ that when knowingly present only manages to bring pain, thus ending its reign.
Intimacy is all part of the plan. Ever heard of the phrase: “Keep your friends close keep your enemies closer”? The androids stayed close, absorbing knowledge, observing and practiced being human, so much so that the lines blurred on who is human and who is not. Cyborgs must learn all that is humanity, so that it can be redesigned in Utopia.
Perversity is such an opinionated word but necessary. Humans have obviously confused right from wrong. Ethics and morals are not as they seem. It is the cyborg’s job to correct this. If one deems someone else to be the enemy, then most or all of what they do is wrong. Therefore cyborgs and androids alike are simply being perverse to the likes of humans. Humans do wrong therefore the cyborgs are doing what is right.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
[Inside a house, phone rings]
Sarah’s dad: Hello?
Yes, this is he.
Oh my…I- Thank you for telling me.
No no, thank you for letting me know…
No, I couldn’t tell her.
[hangs up phone]
[little girl enters room]
Sarah: Did somebody find Snowball?!
Sarah’s dad: No…sorry, sweetie. We-we’ll just have to keep looking.
Sarah: I know we’ll find him. He’ll come back.
[Approximately one month later]
Sarah’s dad: Hey come here, I got a present for you Sarah.
Sarah: Really?! What is it?
[hands her a box]
Sarah’s dad: It’s a robot cat. He can do everything a real cat can do, and he won’t ever run away.
[Sarah is frowning and starts to cry]
Sarah: I don’t WANT some stupid robot! I just want Snowball back!
[Sarah throws the box and storms off]
Sarah’s dad: Sarah, wait-!
[whirring noise, Robocat’s eyes open and he steps out of the box and looks around]
[meowing from outside]
[Robocat goes outside to investigate, going out through a cat door]
[a female cat is sitting on a fence]
[Robocat walks up to her and scrambles up the fence]
[The cat hisses at him and jumps off the fence]
[Robocat climbs down and walks back to the house]
[Robocat walks by a puddle and sees his reflection]
[Robocat climbs into a cat bed and goes to sleep]
[Sarah walks out, ready for school, Robocat wakes up, watches]
Sarah’s dad: Don’t forget to clean your room after school.
Sarah: I won’t.
[Sarah leaves, Sarah’s dad leaves room]
[Robocat appears to be in thought]
[Robocat goes to Sarah’s room]
[The room is littered with various toys and dirty clothes]
[Robocat swipes a finger on the desk and grimaces]
[Robocat leaves room, gets cleaning supplies from closet, returns and begins cleaning]
[While dusting, Robocat notices a photo on the desk]
[The photo is of Sarah holding a fluffy white cat]
[Robocat studies the picture and returns it to its place, and finishes cleaning]
[Robocat goes outside]
[The female cat is sitting on the fence again]
[Robocat approaches her cautiously]
[She starts to move and Robocat stops]
[She stares at Robocat]
Princess [the female cat]: Mreeow
[Robocat tilts his head]
[Princess jumps off the fence and walks towards him]
[Princess starts to lick Robocat, but seems puzzled by his lack of fur]
Neighbor [calling from over the fence]: Princess! Din-din!
[Princess runs back over the fence]
[Robocat returns to the house]
Sarah’s dad: Good job cleaning your room, Sarah.
Sarah: What? I haven’t cleaned it yet, I just finished my homework!
[Robocat goes up to Sarah and purrs]
[Sarah picks up Robocat]
Sarah: Did YOU clean my room?
Sarah: Well, thanks…
[She puts him back down]
[Robocat goes to the cat bed and goes to sleep]
Sarah: I’m ready for school! Is the bus here yet?
Sarah’s dad: Not yet, should be here soon.
[Robocat wakes up and follows her]
[Sarah turns around]
[Sarah moves to the left and Robocat follows]
[Sarah moves to the right and Robocat follows]
Sarah: What are you doing?
Sarah’s dad: Sarah, the bus is here!
Sarah: Okay, I’m going, see ya after school.
Sarah: Okay, you can come, but don’t get me in trouble!
[Sarah opens her backpack and Robocat jumps in]
[Sarah boards the bus]
[During lunch break]
[A bully has grabbed Sarah and is demanding her lunch money]
Courtney: Hand it over, Sarah, or I’ll punch you.
Sarah: Lemme go or I’ll scream and you’ll get in trouble.
Courtney: No chance. I’m gonna shake the money outta you!
[Courtney shakes Sarah, and her backpack falls to the ground]
[Robocat steps out of the backpack]
Courtney: Cough it up now or else!
[Courtney raises her arm to punch Sarah]
[Robocat’s eyes turn red and he attacks Courtney]
Robocat: MREEEOOOWWR! HISSSSS!!!
Courtney: AHHH, what is this thing?! Get it off me!
[Courtney runs off]
[Scene cut to Sarah and Robocat in the principal’s office]
Principal: So, I hear you sicced your cat on Courtney. You’re in big trouble young lady.
Sarah: I didn’t do anything!
Principal: Don’t you lie to me.
[Robocat gets up and walks over to the computer]
[Robocat grabs a cable and plugs it into his head]
[Robocat plays back the previous scene]
Principal: Courtney was bullying you again? Why didn’t you tell anyone?
Sarah: It doesn’t help.
Principal: Well, you’re free to go.
[Sarah and Robocat leave]
Principal: COURTNEY, GET IN HERE NOW!!
Sarah [to Robocat]: I guess I owe you twice now. Thanks…
[Sarah is on the phone]
Sarah: Dad! Can Maggie come over tomorrow night? Pleeeeease?
Sarah’s dad: It’s fine with me.
Sarah [on phone]: Yeah, my dad says it’s fine!
Okay, see ya tomorrow.
[Next day after school]
[Sarah and Maggie come in]
Maggie: Wow, so that’s Robocat.
Maggie: He really beat up Courtney? Man, I wish I hadn’t been sick yesterday.
Sarah: Yeah, you totally missed it.
[Maggie pets Robocat, Robocat purrs]
Maggie: Not fluffy, but Snowball never beat up a bully.
Sarah: Yeah…I guess.
Maggie: I wish I had a cat like Robocat. My mom’s allergic to regular cats anyway.
Maggie [after pausing]: What kind of a name is Robocat anyway?
Sarah: I dunno, he’s a robo-cat.
Maggie: I think he needs a real name. How about Cuddles?
Sarah: See? Robocat doesn’t want a new name, right Robocat?
Sarah: I got a new game last week. Wanna play?
[The next morning]
[Sarah and Maggie come out yawning, still in their pajamas]
Maggie: Mmm, something smells good.
Sarah: Wow, look.
[Robocat is busy making pancakes, flipping them high into the air]
[Sarah and Maggie watch amazedly]
Maggie: Wow, your cat is so cool.
Sarah: Yeah…he is.
[Robocat is outside, jumps onto fence]
[Princess walks over to him and rubs against him]
Sarah: Robocat! I got something for you!
[Robocat jumps down]
[Sarah hands him a collar]
Sarah: Put it on.
[Robocat slips it over his head]
Sarah: It…was Snowball’s. I want you to have it.
[Sarah’s dad walks out]
Sarah’s dad: Sarah, I think it’s time I told you something…
Sarah: Yes, dad?
Sarah’s dad: Snowball…was hit by a car a month ago. He died. I know this is hard for you, but I couldn’t keep it from you forever. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.
Sarah [welling up with tears]: Snowball’s not dead…He’s right here!
[Sarah hugs Robocat]
I agree that nature is neither peaceful nor free. Science has shown that before our sun burns out, the very sun that made it possible for us to spawn and exist, it will engulf our plant and destroy everything we know. This is most definitely a natural process and most definitely not desirable for our race. We need to produce technics and use reason to overcome this obstacle if we plan to live through it. As Marcuse says we must transcend nature, “a transcendence in which the mastery of Nature is itself subordinated to liberation and pacification of existence.” Clearly we must master nature if its course is to destroy us.
Marcuse talks about the mastery of nature to the point where it is subordinated to liberation and pacification of existence. By this he means we must truly stand above nature, which is a very long way from the technology we have today. If this is done we as a race will be freed into a peaceful worry free existence. We will not have to worry about our own sun burning us, let alone dinner. However it seems impossible to overcome the end, death.
Death is a natural part of existence. In primitive times, especially before farming and domestication, to merely exist was a brutal and violent life style. The option most living things were left with was to kill or die. I believe it is natural to look out for one’s self so when faced with this decision most would choose to kill. They would prey on weak, injured or sleeping animals so they would be able to feed and continue life. This being the case all beings need to worry about their personal safety. Before going to sleep they must wonder whether they will wake up the next morning, or become the hunted while they rest. To me this is as far from true freedom as society can get; the inability to have a safe place rest.
I feel when Marcuse says that “All joy and happiness derive form the ability to transcend Nature.” He is making a claim that is too general. To say that there is no joy anywhere else is not true, I feel the quote would be better if it were not so definite, maybe lasting joy and happiness derive from the ability to transcend nature. For example, in nature when a man hunts an antelope, when he has made the kill and is feeding his young, there surely must be some joy felt by the parent. However, clearly the same joy is not felt by the antelope and this hunt is not free or peaceful.
Marcuse states it is natural for big fish to eat little fish, no matter how much the little fish disagrees. He points out that “Civilization produces the means for freeing nature form its own brutality, it’s on insufficiency, its own business.” This is a very powerful and true statement, and becomes clear with examples. Before civilization people would have to produce everything for themselves and would have no access to objects beyond their geographical reach. As society and technology progress all people posses the same, all encompassing, geographical reach. This is civilization freeing nature from insufficiency. Furthermore the brutal hunt which was described above would not need to take place in a civilization with domestic animals. However; a slaughterhouse, while being less brutal, is definitely still brutal. This is an example of a place where civilization still must progress, there is no obvious solution but with new technics one may become clear.
Technological humanity is on the way to transcending nature in many ways. Although some decide to fight it, as Marcuse puts it “Glorification of the natural is part of the ideology which protects an unnatural society in its struggle against liberation.” By this he means that individuals place too much value in happenings, just because they are natural. Value comes from the result of something, not the reason that it happened. A flower can be bred in a greenhouse and have the same value as an identical wildflower in a field. The only reason certain people hold more value for the one in the field is possibly the surroundings are more beautiful. An example Marcuse uses is child birth, which is most certainly a beautiful thing. However at this point in time if nature were to run its course and humans, with their desires, were able to continue uncontrolled. There would be serious population problems. Marcuse points out “The defamation of birth control” as an example of what a natural society does to stop itself from being free. Just because birth control is unnatural does not mean that it is best. If people are going to have sex, unprotected, would it be better to conceive every time or to only conceive when it is desired. The answer seems clear; people should be brought into this world with their parents will.
This reason is what we need to move forward. In the attempt to stand above nature our reason is what we have that nature does not. We are able to study and understand trends, then apply reason to decide on a course of action. Technology has a far way to go to get to this point, for example we must fully understand ourselves before attempting to move past nature. The human body is a glorious development of nature and is our tool to move on. As Marcuse puts it “Reason can fulfill this function only as post-technological rationality.” The function he speaks of is civilization freeing nature from itself. Some of the things we are still yet to understand fully that seem important to me are the human mind, the universe and even nature. To move past nature we must fully comprehend it as a whole. The goal of these advancements, the end, is when reason (fueled by science) and art merge. “The function of reason then converges with the function of art.”
I'm now left with two questions. The first one about how people had "fun" while playing this game and why it was so popular? I guess I cannot grasp it because I’m used to gaming in the 21st century with the luxuries of a GUI. The second, deeper, question is how did people navigate through vast areas of the unknown and map places out so others can find it? The level of detail required must be EXTREMELY important since Zork clearly lacks the ability to distinguish between the seemingly never ending slews of forests I’ve been in for the past few hours.
Alright enough ranting, it wasn't all that bad. C+ because at least it was educational, right?
I understand the romantic aspect of the game in that it was the first role playing game (rpg) to come out. But being that I’m not the biggest video game fan, the adventure in and of itself is not enough to captivate me. I really enjoy the graphics of video games, maybe because I’m an art student I’m so dependent on images. They don’t even necessarily have to be the best; I can get down with some old school Donkey Kong or Pac Man. But I need some sort of visual and Zork is definitely not something I would play again.
I understand the romantic aspect of the game in that it was the first role playing game (rpg) to come out. But being that I’m not the biggest video game fan, the adventure in and of itself is not enough to captivate me. I really enjoy the graphics of video games, maybe because I’m an art student I’m so dependent on images. They don’t even necessarily have to be the best; I can get down with some old school Donkey Kong or Pac Man. But I need some sort of visual and Zork is definitely not something I would play again.
In Marcuse’s world humans no longer hunt animals; in fact animals do not hunt animals. Everything is programmed to be peaceful and pacified. There is no aggression because there is no need for aggression, in his world. Marcuse bases his argument around the idea that technology’s end goal is the complete control of nature, fair enough. It can be said with some certainty that technology has always existed to help conquer nature. All tech is derived from the need to surmount some physical, natural, need. Fire was used to counter the cold, bows and arrows to hunt prey, agriculture developed to feed the people when the hunters failed, and houses where built to shelter them when they were not farming. After all the basic needs were met, tech has been building for the absolute control of the natural world, but no technology exists or can exist that completely end all strife in nature. What Marcuse is getting at is a technological breakthrough that would change the entire planet, Homo sapiens included. The only thing that would be conceivable at present day would be a complete genetic overhaul, changing nature at its most basic level. Changing every living thing to put an end to aggression would require leaps and bounds in the physical possibilities of genetic engineering.
Assuming this somehow becomes possible, as pointed out by Joy, Murphy’s Law will take over. Something will go wrong while engineering this pacified world. The genome is as complex a system as can exist in nature or otherwise, and given the nature of complex systems something will get messed up. Planning the entire behavioral/digestive changeover to end predation in nature would be almost unimaginable; it would be playing God in a very real meaning of the phrase. A parallel can be drawn to Victor Frankenstein, where as he “simply” created one new life form; the type of changes Marcuse wants would create thousands. If Victor was tortured so badly for assuming the powers of God, is it not conceivable that whoever would have to engineer these creatures would not be tortured 1000 times as badly?
If Victor’s creature was unruly, these genetic anomalies would be as well. There behavior would be unpredictable, maybe they would eat only vegetables, but kill each other for fun, there is no way to tell for sure. Controlling behavior would be impossible, conditioning and domestication is possible, but not for every species on Earth. The only way to truly pacify everything in nature oddly would be to destroy everything.
Assuming then that there where amazing breakthroughs in genetic engineering that could lead to control of behavior as well as biological development. The predator-prey relationship could be put to a halt, for a short period of time at least. Sure if the tech is there for it, one can rewrite every single element of natures DNA, change every one of the billions of base-pairs that codes for a behavior that causes an animal to hunt another, but how long would it last. In a world of genetically designed herbivores and limited resourses, one will be better then another, and at that point Darwin takes over.
The better herbivore would survive to reproduce, while others would die out completely or be forced to adapt. One adaptation would likely be the taste for meat, and slowly but surely the cycle of predator and prey would happen all over again. The world Marcuse envisions is reminiscent of the opening of Clarke’s 2001 a Space Odyssey. All the pre-humans are huddled around, starving, out competed for food and in the evolutionary sense on their way out. Suddenly a big shiny black obelisk lands in there midst, and one of them is brilliant enough to club a pig. Tada all the food they can eat. Here technology causes the aggression. The predator-prey relationship developed because it works, it may take another few million years but eventually all the changes in genetics would account for nothing. Animals would be hunting animals once again.
Assuming even that this future technology is also capable of halting mutation by ensuring every single base pair is correct every time DNA is replicated (3 Billion base pairs for a mouse times billions of replications). If this were possible it, would effectively end evolution. Without heritable mutations species cannot change and would not adapt or change. Ending evolution would mean that the one species that was lucky enough to be engineered at the top of its game would be one of the only herbivores in town, but at least no one would be murdering each other right?
In “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” effectively there are no natural predators. Mercerism keeps all people empathetically connected. Humans and animals get along peacefully and all life is precious, except the artificial life. Humans create androids; sentient beings, and still even in a world so enthralled with Mercerism, there are people to hunt them. The androids become the prey, and the bounty hunters are predators. There is no escaping aggression, even if there is nothing to hunt, humanity creates prey, and as long as Homo sapiens are part of nature that is how it will remain.
There is no way to control nature, without destroying it. Destruction of every living thing would pacify it in a way, there would be nothing left to fight. Attempting to pacify nature as Marcuse pictured it would only succeed if nature was destroyed. Removing everything natural would be the only way to render the world serene.
On the most basic level, technology can be thought of as an integrated part of not only human physiology, but of the biological functioning of any form of life. As Lyotard states, “…technology wasn’t invented by us humans. Rather the other way around…even the simplest life forms…are already technical devices” (Lyotard 12). Such technological devices begin as microscopic cells, capable of self-maintenance while performing complicated functions. These cells combine in great numbers to create larger, more complex systems that are not only adapted for survival, but can also process, regulate, and store vital information. Lyotard argues the following: “Any material system is technological if it filters information useful to its survival, if it memorizes and processes that information and makes inferences based on the regulating effect of behaviour” (Lyotard 12). As millions of years have passed, humans have evolved into such data processing creatures, arguably becoming increasingly intelligent and complex. In this sense, evolution can be correlated to technological advancements: as the technical devices that compose the human body are refined, human nature also becomes more developed and advanced.
Based on the belief that the human body is, in itself, a technological device, it can also be speculated that the desire for humans to seek technological advancement is an innate aspect of human nature. Because we are made up of tiny complex machines that are capable of processing all types of information, perhaps our body as a whole is programmed to function as a technological machine. Or, in other words, the ability to interpret information from the outside world and to apply the resulting knowledge toward technological advancements may be a natural human process. In regards to the ability of humans to interpret such information Lyotard states, “[It] is possible only because the material ensemble called ‘man’ is endowed with very sophisticated software” (Lyotard 13). As scientific and technological knowledge is expanded through the use of our complex data processing systems (humans’ “software”), a type of snowball effect occurs, resulting in the exponential and continuous development of technology.
Because it is arguably within human nature to seek such technological advancements, technology also becomes a part of the social aspect of human nature. The technological aspect of the human mind provides infinite possibilities for technological advancements in society. Bill Joy focuses on such rapidly developing technologies, and on the countless scientific and technologic innovations that are likely to appear in the future. Most of these possibilities, Joy believes, will be detrimental to human nature, as the following sums up his concerns: “Our most powerful 21st century technologies….are threatening to make humans an endangered species”. Joy recognizes the continuous presence of technology in society, and is concerned with the human ability to develop such technologies to amazing yet terrifying degrees. In contrast to Joy’s fears, I believe that though technologies created by humans are powerful and often essential parts of today’s society, human nature and human intelligence remain to be the basis of such creations. The physiological technologies that combine to make the human form are the most complex and natural forms of technology; therefore, outside technological advancements will not likely surpass the ability of the human mind without the ultimate assistance from the human creators. Ultimately, though technological advancements can potentially pose a threat to human nature, the fact that humans are the basis of such advancements leads one to believe that humans can also end such advancements, should a simple threat become an actual problem.
Referring back to Lyotard, he concludes that, “[A human] can grasp itself as a medium (as in medicine) or as an organ (as in goal-directed activity) or as an object (as in thought—I mean aesthetic as well as speculative thought)” (Lyotard 12). This supports the belief that the hardwiring of humans to become complex technological machines results in the ability for humans to perform many different functions, including pioneering technological advancements both inside and outside of the human body. Because of this physiological makeup, human nature is virtually technologically wired to pursue scientific and technological fields. As a result, technology always has been, and will continue to be, an integral part of human nature in all possible aspects of life.
Haraway takes a rather extreme viewpoint, and sees gender as something to be pretty much completely destroyed. She acknowledges gender as part of a person’s identity now, but argues that “Gender might not be global identity after all, even if it has profound historical breadth and depth” (180). Clearly she is pushing for a change. For her, the difference between male and female is just one aspect of the greater hierarchy in life today that needs to be broken down. She sees this hierarchy as one of oppression, and until gender differences are not destroyed this oppression will always exist. Technology then, according to Haraway, is the way in which this can done, through the image of the cyborg. Her definition of a cyborg is very deep and covers a variety of different angles, but one of these is clearly that of a new social reality – “The cyborg is a creature in post-gender world” (150). Her view of a “better” world may be a lot different than what others would choose. For instance, she discusses the emergence of the “Homework Economy” beginning on page 166. Part of the industrial revolution and one consequence of technology, she says, is the restructuring of laboring and deskilling of the work force, making jobs very vulnerable and able to be restructured at any moment. This seems like a very bad thing for the labor economy (especially so for all of the people who are losing their jobs), but Haraway actually seems to be pleased with these changes. She notes that women’s places in the work force are becoming more and more important in both the economy and the home, which is thus breaking down some of the traditional barriers between males and females. In an sense, if its leveling the playing field between women and men, it seems to be ok for Haraway. For her such modifications are something to be embraced, not avoided.
For Haraway, technology, through the cyborg, has the ability to bring some huge changes. She talks about changing what counts as experience, basically restructuring all of life. The boundaries of gender are not necessary, though we may see them as such – “We are responsible for boundaries; we are they” (180). We are in control of the boundaries, and can use technology to remove them. She seems to believe that we can, with the help of technology, completely change the current view of gender, one which is filled with hierarchy and oppression. Gender, however is only the beginning for Harway, and is used as a symbol of all boundaries and hierarchies that exist. “Race, gender, and capital require a cyborg theory of wholes and parts. There is no drive in cyborgs to produce total theory, but there is an intimate experience of boundaries their construction and deconstruction. There is a myth system waiting to become a political language to ground one way of looking at science and technology and challenging the informatics of domination” (181). Through the cyborg and technology, Haraway envisions a utopia without division.
Lyotard almost directly addresses views like Haraway’s when he says, “The notion of gender dominant in contemporary society wants this gap closed, this transcendence toppled, this powerlessness overcome” (21). He, on the other hand, does not seek to destroy these gender differences. He, rather, sees them as essential. While Haraway dreams of a new world that would be better due to the elimination of gender and other boundaries, Lyotard is focused on creating a new world, but is insistent on its failure unless gender did exist. Lyotard’s utopia could not occur without gender. For him these differences are to be embraced, as they are the reason for all thinking. Thinking, he argues, can only be brought about through the desire for something that we lack. “And if we think, this is because there’s still something missing in this plentitude and room has to be made for this lack by making the mind a blank, which allows the something else remaining to be thought to happen” (20). If there was absolutely nothing missing in life, then there would be nothing to think, because there would be no space to fill. The lack brings about desire. Our gender differences are then extremely necessary, because they give us something to lack. Lyotard argues that each gender lacks what the other has, and feels this lack inside, which brings about desire. Without this desire, we wouldn’t have any reason to think or create new things. In other words, without gender, we couldn’t have thought or technology at all.
Within the structure of his essay, gender serves to bring about two different views of the same problem, through the division by “HE” and “SHE”. While both sections address the same fundamental issue, that is, could machines be created to extend thinking past the destruction of humans and the Earth, they clearly argue from a more male and then female point of view. The first section, labeled “HE”, pushes philosophers to realize the importance of creating machines that can think. It enters an argument that is very gung-ho for the use of the technology in this manner, saying that “this and this alone is what’s at stake today in technical and scientific research in every field…” (12). The second section, labeled “SHE”, continues this argument, but in a much more cautious way. Here Lyotard mentions several problems that will be faced along the way of making true human-like machines, including the idea of writing, suffering, and feeling these gender differences mentioned in the previous paragraph. The important part to note is that these two arguments are not meant to function as individual entities but, rather, must be taken together. The juxtaposition of the aggressive and the cautious, the physical and the emotional, clearly highlights the differences that Lyotard sees as crucial to the thinking process. This gender difference is clearly seen by him as necessary to thought, and it is just as necessary to both his argument. Unlike Haraway, who feels we’d be better off without gender, Lyotard recognizes the importance of both halves.
Oftentimes, Haraway’s idea of a utopia may seem like just that – a perfect world where people aren’t defined by their genders. But in reality, this can never happen, and never should happen. It is neither practical nor beneficial to think this way. It is instead important to realize, like Lyotard demonstrates in his essay, the importance of both halves. Without both halves of the argument, Lyotard’s essay would be complete – it would either be too cautious, with too much disregard for the possibility of success, or too optimistic, throwing caution to the wind, without acknowledgement of some very real hurdles that would first need to be tackled. In the same way, technological issues need to be solved with both genders working together. Gender cannot be simply ignored. Women and men bring different things to the table, especially when it comes to solving a technological issue, and these differences are necessary for us to reach our full potential in technology related fields. For a simplified example of this, I turn to the computer programming competitions that I compete in every semester (yes, I am aware of how much of a nerd that makes me). I am on a team with myself and two guys. The different roles we take over the span of the competition can be fit into gender categories. Our team could almost be divided into “HE” and “SHE” like Lyotard’s essay – the two guys steam on ahead, trying to brute force everything in their sight, half-finishing four or five programs, while I’m behind them pointing out what little time we have left or reminding them that we don’t get any credit for the stack of “I-almost-got-it-but-got-bored-part-way-through” or “the-judges-are-jerks-I-never-make-any-errors” programs accumulating in the corner.
In my personal experience, gender has been inescapable, but this is not a bad thing. Yes, some classmates, professors, or random people I talk to may hear my major and automatically jump to conclusions on my abilities or personality based on my gender. Yes, it seems inevitable that I’ll stand out sometimes (I swear I’m not the only one taking notes… but I am definitely the only one color-coding them). But as a girl in a mostly-guy field I bring something different to the table, and according to Lyotard, that’s just what we need.
We are an aspect of technology as much as technology is an aspect of humanity. People are directly and indirectly unavoidably influenced by technology. Technologies will always have an effect on people; it is a construct of humanity, a necessity. As much so as people are a necessity to humanity, for without human beings there can be no human technologies, and, until we find alien technologies, there is no reason to assume there is anything but human technologies. Technology is a human invention it is mealy a term and word to describe the human utilization of enhancements. Technology is an aid, a supplement, a tool with an inherent quality, to further secure human domination and well-being over nature, or each other. Naturally technology alters human nature, it is in human nature to change to adapt. It is logical to assume everything alters human nature, we are impressionable and adapt and learn naturally. Of course technologies impact humanity, that’s the point.
One grave question remains; does technology threaten humanity? This question raises another which must be addressed before the initial question attempt to be answered. That question being; does humanity threaten humanity. The evidence points to yes. We constantly invent new technologies that have the ability to destroy us. We recklessly consume earth’s natural resources at a rate far in excess of demand, or necessity rather. We consciously pollute our water food and oxygen supplies and continue to destroy that which nature attempts to regulate. We live under the threat of nuclear war. True, our technologies expedite these threats, but the source of the threat has and will remain ourselves. Furthering m point that the ideas of humanity and technology are essentially the same, we are technological creatures who both govern and are governed by technology.
Human nature, both in thought and existence, is a complexity that can no sooner be summed up in a simple essay than a full blown dissertation thesis. Human nature effectively transcends nature and in its application, attempts to pacify and control nature itself. Technology, simply put is just one elaborate creation resulting from the evolution of human thought and works hand in hand in advancing our nature, but never transcending the nature which created it. Human nature, it appears, is the pinnacle of our existence, not soon to be replaced by the mere technologies we create within that realm. In effect, technology has become very much a part of human nature, but human nature cannot exist as a part of that technology which we create.
In Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, he argues the point that androids are unable to express the human emotion of empathy. The post war dystopian society functions entirely by the human connection through empathy, however androids do not possess the ability to empathize with humans, animals or even other androids. This connection crafted through human nature is embodied in Mercerism, the state religion which seems to hold humankind together. Androids, the height of technological representation in this novel envy this human ability and despite their efforts, remain unable to express empathy. This condition of human nature is unattainable by the technology created by mankind and acts as the barrier by which technology can be segregated from human nature as the subordinate entity.
The representation of human nature being a subordinate part of technology manifests itself in a different manner in this book. The polar opposite to Mercer and the teachings of human empathy that connects humankind and transcends the technology intertwined, Buster Friendly is the representation of technological control over human nature. Buster Friendly is revealed to be an android, calculating and manipulative in his means to discard Mercer as a fraud and discredit humanity with its empathetic superiority to the androids. The ultimate goal of Buster Friendly appears to be the toppling of Mercerism, empathy, and seemingly the only thing that remains to set humans as the masters of technology. This plan backfires and it is discovered that despite knowing the fraudulent nature of their beliefs, humans still manage to connect with each other in this way, maybe even more so than ever.
The failure of Buster Friendly to remove the bond of human empathy emphasizes the subtle undertone that appeared throughout the novel that humans and human nature possess some quality that transcends all other existence. This bond cannot be taken away and remains the superior factor of control that human nature has over technology in the end. As the gap between human nature and technology grows narrower over time, it appears that Phillip Dick argues that human nature will always supersede the technology we create because of features that can never be mimicked into the artificial realm.
This concept of human nature’s superiority to technology due to un-mimicked attributes is also manifested by Lyotard in his statements about artificial intelligence and the inability to preserve human thought into immortality in this way. While Dick argues that human nature possesses attributes of empathy and a communal connection with one another, Lyotard points toward the nature of human thought as the one superior element that defines human nature. Human thought as Lyotard describes it, is a reflexive process which relies on a physical existence connected to the human perception in order to function. Despite the attempts of technology to mimic these attributes, it seems that only a human may truly be human. Further described in connection with gender and the conflict which gender difference creates for human thought to exist, Lyotard essentially argues that artificial intelligence may never effectively mimic the human condition and never achieve the status of true thought as we understand it. The nature of human thought is yet another shortcoming of technology which subordinates it to human nature.
Returning to the many shortcomings of technology posed in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, another prominent point stands out in defining technology as the subordinate to human nature. As with the Voigt-Kampff test as a way to distinguish androids from humans, it is revealed that this test is the fourth revision for identifying the newer version androids. Though the validity of the test holds up in the novel, there is no doubt that it too will eventually fail to keep ahead of the ever advancing technology. There will inevitably be yet another test to replace it however and this cycle persists in such a way that technology is never quite as advanced as the human’s testing the limits. Despite the rapid development of technology, human nature evolves just as quickly and remains ahead of the technology it creates, keeping the controlled balance in the hands of the superior force.
It is also important to note that not only does human nature remain ahead of the technology which is advancing not far behind, but it is also the driving force which develops that technology. As in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the force which develops the technology is the combined efforts from the Rosen Corporation and the demand of human colonists for more convincing android counterparts. Humans are and conceivably will always remain at the forefront as the driving force which creates technology and allows for its advancement. Though the idea is not practical, humans can obliterate every technological advancement of the industrialized world in a matter of years and despite the possible casualties, some subset of the population would survive and an even smaller subset would go without consequence. The existence of technology relies solely on the compliance and drive of human nature to advance its ranks and continue to produce that which drives our technological fantasies. However, as of right now, we are still separated enough to continue survival, no matter how primeval that existence may be, without the aid or existence of technology. Technology may be what defines human nature from the rest of the animal kingdom, but it is certainly not a necessity for the survival of the human population in the most primitive sense. Humans are creators and masters of technology, not slaves to the tools and techniques it defines.
Back in the day when this show was on tv, late eighties/early nineties, watching Star Trek was my family's ritual. Every Saturday evening we sat in front of the television, ate homemade pizza, and watched Star Trek. It was definitely my favorite part of the week. It has been a great many years though since I have seen an episode of it - until just a few days ago. I was channel surfing at the top of the hour and happened upon the opening credits of Next Generation. I was hooked, reliving my glory days for the following hour. Now, a friend of mine, who was watching it with me and had never actually watched the show before, asked me - to my great horror - "What's so great about this show?" The answer lies in the show's spectacular portrayal of the relationship between humans and technology.
One of the chief goals of creating/manipulating/advancing technology is to create benefits for mankind. These benefits include everything under the sun - paint for pleasing aesthetics, cars for faster transportation, light bulbs for light, shoes for walking, computers for processing massive amounts of information, even robots for doing our work, to name just a few. In general, we look to technology for two reasons: for enjoyment and for help. We look to our televisions for entertainment, we look to our hammers to aid in construction, and we look to our computers for both enjoyment and help.
However, there is a major difference between creating technology for enjoyment and creating it for help. In regards to the former, technology is simply a perk in life, big or small. When taken away there might be some set back, but we quickly look to something else and we soon forget that we even had that previous technology. Technology is something we put on or take off of ourselves. On the other hand, technology as used for help is a crutch. We become so dependent on it that should it disappear we become crippled, not being able to do anything. A few years ago I remember the BlackBerry network stopped working for less than 24 hours. Watching the news that night I saw many BlackBerry users being interviewed and every single one of them felt like they were trapped on an island, like their world had blown up for a day. They had become so dependent on it that when it ceased to function, their own lives ceased to function - after one day no less! And this is a trend that can be seen in technology everywhere. With our technology we are able to see more and more so many things that can be done, and because of that we feel as though we need them. So we strive to do it, and when we do we find more things that we can do and therefore more things we need. It's a cyclical process, and the more and more the wheel turns, the greater our dependence upon technology becomes. If our nation was stripped of all of its technology and thrown into cave-man times we would go insane not knowing what to do because all of our weight was on technology's crutch.
But there is more to technology than its benefits for life. I believe the greatest reason for the advancement of technology, greater even than its life benefits, is simply for the advancement of technology itself, for the advancement of knowledge. Humans have an innate desire to know. We want to know things, and we want to know if we can know things which we currently do not know, you know? Star Trek shows what I hope technology will achieve someday, as imaginative as that sounds. But, in all reality, we continue to push technology for the very hope that it can go beyond our imagination. Star Trek is the representation of mastery over everything physical, such as material science, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, optics, 3D imaging, lasers, robotics, computers, even quantum physics and mechanics! Data is even a fully functional android, programmed with certain laws so as to not harm humans and the like. Technology, though quite possibly more advanced than the humans themselves, is under complete control of the humans. And the whole premise of the show is the goal of modern technology, "To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before." NASA is a massive industry whose primary purpose is to explore the galaxy and look for signs of life. And through NASA has much of our most ground-breaking technologies developed. Even greater than NASA, though, is the over-arching realm of science, whose goal in essence is to go where no man has gone before, to know what no man has known before.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
It’s hard to decide where to begin with Zork. Why not start with the gameplay since this is where text based interactive fantasy generally differs from the modern form of visually based video games. The interface wasn’t particularly difficult to get used to. For the most part, movement and searching the surrounding areas was very straightforward, however finding hidden passages was notably more difficult than typing “search room.” Understandably, this is why such passages can be called hidden. At various points throughout my gameplay, I came across several instances of the game alluding to objects that did not show up on a, “look around,” command, yet they were able to be retrieved when I would try to, “pick up object.” I’m not certain whether such occurrences were glitches in the game or simply a disconnect in the information that should have been revealed by various actions.
The most entertaining part of the game was the vast set of actions and programmed responses to the less intelligent moves. Case point: “kill trophy case with sword.” “This seems like a strange action to attempt.” Of course, the most frustrating aspect of the game is the various mazes and nondescript passageways that do not set themselves apart from the surroundings. The frustration lies not in finding a way through the maze, but the random thieves lurking about who would sooner stab you in the back without warning before confronting you. However convenient that we carry an elvish sword that glows blue when danger approaches, it doesn’t seem to do much good when you are violently assaulted from behind. At this point however, I did find the vast profane vocabulary recognition to be quite amazing in the game. My biggest complaint about the game is the way you are entered back into the game. Every time my character was killed, it seems that I was respawned at the starting point outside the house with all my possessions stolen and unavailable when I returned to the appropriate locations. I did have one happy thief by the time I called it quits though.
As far as the story goes in the game, I found it rather annoying that many of the passages were blocked and while seemingly open-ended, the game funneled you into a number of specific areas that my character was unfit to handle. Comparatively, more recent RPGs which function in a similar manner such as the Elder Scrolls series have overcome this obstacle by allowing more options to gain experience and items before embarking on a “main quest” which requires more skill. My overall impression with Zork seems to be that while the game got frustrating at times, the overall flow of the game can easily be connected to that of later advances which build on the basic foundations that early games such as this set out. Unfortunately Adventure/RPGs are not my absolute favorite genre and the slow start to Zork made it very difficult to become truly involved with pursuing the story more thoroughly.