Monday, January 14, 2008

Boats Against the Current

John Harris notes pop culture's curious retro air. Technology which should be propelling us into the future is, in fact, bearing us back into the past. Harris says - I think correctly - that old technology limited our capacity to wallow in nostalgia, new technology makes everything available all the time. Faced with this landscape of infinite choice, we curl up with the old and familiar, fearful of the new and strange. Meanwhile, the CES in Las Vegas and Macworld in San Francisco are desperately selling us the future. The imagery surrounding these vast promotions is always forward and outward.  But we prefer to use the technology to make it easier to be at home with our selves and our memories. We even use it to pretend to be going to the gym. We don't seem to be good enough for the future. I felt this while partying at the tip of the Gherkin, a monument to our future selves. Transhumanism makes explicit the technnocracy's implicit impatience with our mere humanity. We can engineer our own salvation, say the transhumanists.  But, of course, like Gatsby, we can't.


  1. Harris is right. At the retail level, the latest tech is routinely pitched to consumers in terms of nostalgia.

    E.g., as Harris notes, the endless repeats of 'classic' TV via the Skybox; increasingly clever ways to digitise and display your oldest photos; the ability to download and play old-generation video games on the latest systems (key selling points of Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii) etc. etc.

    Sadly, beneath all the desperate shrieking for attention, CES usually boils down to the annual 'My telly's bigger than yours!' contest.

  2. New technology wants us to think too quickly, or else not to think at all.

  3. Technology is shite. Give me a human thigh bone and a dog any day, that's all i need to be happy.

    The wikipedia definition of Transhumanism is superficial from the superficial attention i gave it. Here's a better:

    apologies, never figured out how to do hyperlinks in comments.

    The lexical origin of transhumanism is Dante's 'trasumanar' - to pass beyond the human. It is meaningless without what one might call a spiritual (or religious) perspective. Otherwise it's just biological enhancements.

  4. There's a good article by Tom Hodgkinson in today's Guardian which looks an one example of this new technology. Same old shysters, different clothes.

    It's hard to go anywhere these days without seeing hordes of folks with their iPod earphones plugged in, eyes down, tap-tapping on their mobiles. They remind me of monkeys, anxiously checking their rank in the troop's pecking order. What a crock the technocrats have sold them. Buy our products or you'll never be a contender! But what's on offer is a sad, brainless world of futile diversions.

    To be fully human you have to be here, now. Give me an open road and the wind on my face any day. And if I see any technocrats and their iShites, I'll be sure to mow 'em down.