Sunday, September 20, 2015

[Yasmin_discussions] Caring, cooperative, and creative?

Dear Roger,

Reading this thread, I find myself wondering whether we might not do well to distinguish between technological capacity and human behaviour. It doesn't seem to me reasonable to hope that the majority of human beings will become caring, cooperative, and creative simply because everyone codes or has access to communication technology.

Back in the 1880s, L L Zamenhof created Esperanto as an international language on the idea that if everyone could speak with each other, the result would be world peace. As a young man, I thought this made sense. It did not occurred to me that the deadliest wars in human history have been civil wars, and the great genocidal events involved people who speak the same language, often people from the same nations or neighborhoods.

A perfect example is the American Civil War between English-speaking citizens of what was — at the start of the war — the United States. The Civil War resulted in 750,000 military deaths. This was a far greater number of military deaths than America experience in any other conflict, foreign or domestic. It was both a greater absolute number of military deaths, and a far greater percentage of the population.

While coding, technology, and art are valuable for many reasons, there is no historical evidence to suggest that art or technology will make us caring, cooperative, and creative in the absence of deeper philosophical insight — and a great many changes to our economic, social, and cultural systems.

I think Sophocles got it right in the Theban plays. The final chorus of Oedipus could just as well be describing the powers of technology as the political power and intelligence of the doomed king:

"People of Thebes, my countrymen, look on Oedipus.
He solved the famous riddle with his brilliance,
He rose to power, a man beyond all power.
Who could behold his greatness without envy?
Now, a black sea of terror has overwhelmed him.
Now, as we keep our watch and wait the final day,
Count no man happy till he dies, free of pain at last."

Nothing in the past 2,500 years suggests that technology or art can change this. Technology cannot bring about a planetary consciousness. Evidence of catastrophic climate change suggests quite the opposite.


Ken Friedman

>> On Sep 18, 2015, at 8:48 PM, roger malina <> wrote:


>> I guess once answer is the dramatic increase of on line code
>> developers - how many people write code
>> today - and visionaries like roy hoped there would be a threshold at
>> which planetary consciousness emerged-
>> and certainly we now see large scale collective projects- and as you
>> point out languages like processing enable
>> code sharing in seamless ways
>> here is what roy was saying then
>> Roy Ascott sees our age as one that includes an art of interactivity,
>> involving the human use of computerised communication and electronic
>> telepresence. He believed this approach carries great potential and
>> hope for our emergence into the next millennium as caring, cooperative
>> and creative human beings…
>> Connectivity: Art and Interactive Telecommunications
>> Telematic systems have brought us to the edge of another virtual
>> reality. The last one, conjured out of the thinking of the
>> Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, presented a world of
>> certainty and determinacy in which subject and object, mind and
>> matter, art and science were all quite clearly defined, separated out
>> and neatly categorised. That world is in many ways crumbling; we see
>> now that it was not the world after all. It was a virtual
>> world-necessary to com- bat superstition, sufficient in its
>> mechanistic determinism to feed the dream of reason-but virtual
>> nonetheless. This certainty and solidity seemed at the time to be the
>> real thing. For centuries artists seemed to think so too. But "all
>> that is solid melts into air." [1] The real was only virtual after
>> all. Now we have a different paradox to deal with-actually to
>> celebrate: the virtual is becoming real. With computer-mediated
>> systems of perception, memory, intelligence and communication, we are
>> redescribing and reconstructing the world; we inhabit increasingly
>> what is essentially a dataspace, a telematic environment, a virtual
>> reality.


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