Saturday, January 31, 2009

Reality and the dangers of tech: is the logic inescapable?

One of the things I worry about (fret about, consider -- choose whichever verb you like) is reality. It is one of the hallmarks - or so I'm told - of Thomistic philosophy and Scholasticism, and also that of the late John Senior at Pearson College. (I minored in philosophy long enough to realize that it made my head hurt. Latin and Greek were far easier for me.) Senior -- together with his colleagues Frank Nelick and Dennis Quinn -- was famous for reminding his students, "Water is wet and rocks are hard." In other words, reality is real. As a result Senior was also a great critic of technology and the way in which it removes us from reality. For example, IIRC he disdained recorded music, preferring instead the venue of a live concert -- or even better, self-made music. It should go without saying that he was opposed to television as well -- not merely for its content, either, but rather for the way in which it divorces us from reality by creating this virtual universe of existence. If ever there was a lesson which spoke to my heart, it was this one. A child of television who grew up in the 60's and 70's, I now think of it as "the plug-in drug" as someone else referred to it. And so it is against that constant understanding that I struggle with technology and its appeal. My friends know that I love gadgets, I always have. Some of my earliest memories of my father were the little electronic trinkets he'd bring home from S.H. Kress (the 60's forerunner to K -Mart) which had a store next to his offices downtown. Dad was constantly bringing home transistor radios, walkie-talkies, etc. much to the delight of my brother and myself. And as I've noted recently, I've been playing around with some Web2.0 technologies in order to update my law practice and its marketing efforts. But I worry about it. I worry that I am feeding an unhealthy attachment to virtual (as opposed to actual) reality, in doing so. Is technology taking us to a place we should not be going? Are we Twittering and Facebooking, and GPS-ing ourselves into oblivion? Maybe. Eric Rauch writes about related issues and their treatment in recent movies in The American Vision @ Go check it out -- its worth a read.

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