PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

 

Lamentations of a Luddite



A car parked nearby has its alarm system going off violently, garbling the sermon of the priest during a solemn mass. In the middle of an intimate conversation, a friend sends a text message to someone who had sent a pressing message. Someone’s pager suddenly beeps during a pivotal scene of a movie. The profusion of cell phones among the audience causes glitches in a theater performance.

The TV has replaced parenting, giving birth to a generation of mutant ninja turtles: limited attention span, given to instant gratification, conditioned by visually preprocessed sound bytes, in short, low emotional intelligence.

Kidlat Tahimik, the artist formerly known as Eric de Guia, rightfully dubbed the TV as an ‘idiot box’. We get to watch a lot of shows, these shows become our very life. We end up neglecting to do the things we ought, like, getting a life.

Automation has improved productivity and eliminated boring jobs but robots and computers also cause humans to get fired and made it possible for us to work with absolutely no human contact. The ATM is a fine invention but aren’t bank tellers more attractive? The Internet is a wonderful global medium, but it makes pornography highly accessible and peddles hoaxes and other forms of untruths.

Remote controls have made things faster, easier and ‘clickable’ but also help our bodies stack up fats and we have to invent things like fitness gyms which eat up a lot of time anyway. Fast food at every street corner reinforce a life of instant gratification.

Automation has debased the human race to couch potato-hood.

Why text somebody when you can call him up? Why call up your friend when you can take a few steps and talk face to face with him? Why send an email or e-card when a personalized card or letter written in long hand and sent with the help of the postman would have a more personal impact?

We are just starting to suffer the aftereffects of the Industrial Revolution: greenhouse gases, ozone holes. Global warming is set to melt the polar caps, kill corals by heating up the seas, destroy the favorite breeding grounds of young marine life. Deforestation, indiscriminate poaching and over-fishing gave birth to endangered species.

Urbanization is synonymous to pollution, population explosion, cultural homogenization, alienation. Billboards have defaced unique pastoral landscapes, giving birth to garish and jarring counterpoint to city cacophonies, not to mention contribute to unnecessary energy use-up.

Look at what our work gave us: More work and more overtime. We have invented the washing machine, electric fan, flat iron, and other accoutrements to make us work faster and make our life easier, but we end up in need of rest. We end up creating another vicious circle. We have to double our work to pay for an ever-greater variety of creature comforts.

The clock, which is strictly not a modern invention, has practically enslaved us too. We take things into account down to the last nanosecond, or even into smaller increments. We have come to worship time as a new god, or at least treating it as a commodity valuable as gold.

It is paradoxical that while the world marches in technological development at an exponential rate, a large part of the world is scandalously deprived, diseased and made desolate. Whatever good technology may bring to the poor is being blocked by First World countries, according to a UN report.

Our current fuel resources are said to be soon to be exhausted 20 years from now. And now we are left with dangerous nuclear power plants to contend with. Think about managing all that waste, together with the detritus of the digital age.

And now we must engage in a secret nuclear arms race for world domination.

Media, when not invasive of personal and private space, ends up unwittingly creating superstars of terrorists, coup plotters, kidnappers and all sort of criminals whose crimes increasingly challenge our pro-life position. In their desire to give both sides of the story and being willingly co-opted by commerce, media end up airing pure propaganda and PR (press release) from the very forces inimical to freedom of expression and democracy.

Jet-age travel and Internet-speed communication are increasingly breaking the limits. But so does the transmission of an incurable disease like AIDS, and disastrous computer viruses. The ease of travel has speeded up trade and cultural exchange. It has also created a border-less world and confusing ‘races,’ challenging the very notions of ethnicity and nation.

The speed of technological change for cell phones and other telecommunications gadgets is dizzyingly breakneck, catching all of us as well in an aggressive marketing that offends, pricing schemes that exploit the poor, if they are not outright unaffordable to the poor, and a society of trendoids and fashion victims that further alienate the have-nots.

The advent of digital films like Final Fantasy may make human actors obsolete and the Oscars extinct.

Call me a Luddite if you will. Someone of lesser tact actually called me a dinosaur. One sage (poet Alexander Pope) observed that, “We shape our tools and, thereafter, they shape us.” Have we really come to the point where robots rule over us?

I believe we have the duty to expose the dangers of technology before adapting them for everyday use. We should dissect the moral ramifications of cloning and contraception. We should treat biotechnology with suspicion. We should put all inanimate objects in our behest instead of objects commanding our society into dumb slaves.

We should tone down the intrusiveness of telecommunications, or our miserable lives would all be like the Truman Show. Things irreplaceable might be lost with the advent and sneaky encroachment of new technology.

Let us be efficient, innovative and competitive if we need to. An easier life is always welcome. But along the way, we must strike a balance between the benefit of a mouse click and the time spent sniffing the roses. Let us salvage humanity from the technological invasion. Why, we can use technology itself to do that for us.


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