Bert Olivier
Bert Olivier

Germain, Baudrillard and Virilio on technology

I recently came across a wonderful essay by Gilbert Germain — in a book entitled Globalisation, technology and philosophy — on “the human condition in the age of technology”, where he takes a serious look at the reflections of Jean Baudrillard and Paul Virilio on contemporary technology.

What immediately caught my eye is the striking manner in which Germain phrases their assessment of technology: “Baudrillard and Virilio concur that the story of technology is the story of humanity’s decreasing dependence on the earth, and that this growing autonomy from the ‘real world’ amounts to a kind of self-alienation as well. Despite differences in both approach and tone, their analyses corroborate the view that our drifting from the earth challenges a number of key assumptions regarding what it means to be human”.

Condensing it brutally, these French thinkers’ works indicates that the attempt to “escape from the earth” proceeds along two trajectories: a technological surpassing of the natural spatio-temporal limits of the earth through the construction of a separate (but corresponding) virtual reality or cyberspace, and an increasing integration of human beings with their (natural as well as technologically created) environment by way of what is known as “smart” technologies.

Regarding the first axis of development, Germain points out it is less relevant to ask about the efficacy of communications via cyberspace — to be able to cope in today’s world one has to resort to it — than whether it is “suitable” for embodied beings such as humans — whether it perhaps affects human experience adversely in some way.

Turning to Baudrillard’s notion of the “obscene” as a description of the transformed state of the contemporary visual realm, Germain explains this in terms of the “mania for transparency and total illumination” evident in televisual imagery (think of the way Bluray discs and plasma television are promoted as providing clearer images than their respective predecessors). According to Baudrillard, this comes at the cost of a kind of “distance” that the human body cannot bridge in contrast to one’s ability to cross distances separating one from things in everyday spatial reality, as both Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty have demonstrated.

Following these thinkers, Baudrillard suggests that the “charm” of the real world lies precisely in the fact that the chasm between perceiver and perceived in human reality “separates” as well as “conjoins” them: real objects in space “seduce” us because they resist being fully accessible to the eye — they have to approached, circled, scrutinized and respected as possessing their own not-fully-transparent being (what Heidegger called “earth”). Unlike the objects of real perception, however, virtual imagery is not “incomplete” but shows everything that there is to see. As Germain remarks, if the odd virtual object exudes an air of mystery, it has been programmed to do so — it does not come with being an object in cyberspace, the way it accompanies all real objects as a possibility. Hence for Baudrillard virtual objects like pornography, “reveal too much”, which is why they appear hyperreal (more real than real). If anyone does not understand this, let them look at World of War cyberscapes – the penny is sure to drop. “And”, says Germain, “like pornography, this surfeit of visibility captures and fascinates the eye”.

Paul Virilio concurs with Baudrillard as far as this is concerned, for instance where he alludes approvingly to Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological analysis of lived space with its characteristic mutual implication of seer and seen and the implication that the former is able to cross the gap separating her or him from the latter.

So where does technology come in? For Virilio what he calls “distance technologies” work against this “natural” human spatial situatedness, as shown in his discussion of the experiences of astronauts who actually stepped on to the surface of the moon, which demonstrates that human perception is a strictly earthly perception. From Germain’s account of Virilio’s interpretation of the astronauts’ experience on the moon, it appears that what the latter encountered there was “an altogether different reality”, which hinged crucially on the kind (that is, the “quality”) of light found on the moon.

Virilio gathered this from Buzz Aldrin’s observation, that lunar light was “weird”, something he ascribed to solar light being unrefracted by an atmosphere, as it is on earth, and therefore striking the moon’s surface somewhat like the rays from a very powerful spotlight. Not only was this especially noticeable when moving something from shadow into the sun’s light on the moon — which Aldrin likened to entering “another dimension”, but the distinctively different quality of the light there also affected the astronauts’ capacity for judging gradients and distances on the moon’s surface. Hence there was a marked contrast between the ease with which their bodies adjusted to the much lower (than on earth) lunar gravity and the difficulty they had adapting their vision to lunar light conditions.

It is not difficult to see why Virilio infers from this that human vision is not something that functions equally well regardless of place but that it is context-dependent. From Aldrin’s account of his lunar experience it appears that vision, when displaced from its originary earthly circumstances of development renders a completely different visual reality and Germain suggests that the sudden change from shadow to disconcerting light without the mitigating effect of penumbras (the way it happens on earth) may be described as the experience of a “binary” or “digital” reality.

Small wonder that given the astronauts’ account Virilio regards lunar reality as “a three-dimensional analogue of cyberspace”. For him being exposed to the sun’s light on the moon is similar to the way objects are exposed to unrefracted light in the “glow” of cyberspace, accessible through computer screens, and he compares us, in front of our computers, to astronauts. Both Baudrillard and Virilio therefore regard contemporary technology as contributing to the construction of an un-earthly and therefore in-human reality.

  • Paul Whelan

    One wonders how far this will turn out one day to be new or unsettling.

    Lawrence James in his book ‘The Raj’ repeats the story of an Englishman who in the 1770s gifted a ‘liberal-minded Brahmin’ with a microscope. Soon after, the man destroyed it, finding what it revealed so disturbing he felt his soul was ‘imperilled’ by gazing into it.

    And never mind the End of Days a TV set at home was once supposed to presage. Startlingly, today’s omnipresent novel was at first a matter of deepest concern, thought to encourage a withdrawal from the ‘real world’ and inevitable ‘self-alienation’. To traditionalists, long periods spent in solitude over a printed book could only be bad for you.(How amusing now to imagine the terror, say, Heathcliff would have caused, had he appeared on the scene hardly a generation or two earlier – Rousseau had seen printing itself as an ‘evil’ any good sovereign would hasten to rid his state of.)

    In the same way, the more conservative cardinals in the Vatican refused to look through Galileo’s telescope in the belief their senses could only deceive them about God’s true creation and, worse, place them in the devil’s clutches. Later, the first movie ‘The Great Train Robbery’ tampered suspiciously with time and place. What harm might come of that?

    By contrast, Aldrin’s scientific observation that vision displaced from its earthly environment changes reality seems no more than in line with what one would expect.

  • Maria

    Those are good points, Paul, as I’m sure Bert would agree. For myself, however – being quite a Virilio fan – I do think that there is a difference (and not just one of degree) between the process of the “virtualization” of the world that he and Baudrillard describe, and those other overreactions to technological innovations that you rightly refer to comparatively. The things you mention could be done or practised without impacting too severely on social life, although it did introduce novelties into what Husserl called the “lifeworld”. The “virtual reality” opened up by “cyberspace”, however, with all its strange features, is already in the process of sucking in millions of people, and indications are that many of these become dysfunctional as a result of its fascination. That suggests a qualitative difference, and not merely one of degree. If you can, get hold of some information on the impact that the “massively-multi-player-online-game”, World of Warcraft, has had on players’ lives, socially and economically. It is quite an eye-opener, and corroborates what Virilio and Baudrillard (and Germain) are telling us.

  • Brandon Joubert

    Technology is not forcing us to drift away from the earth. Technology is going to drive us closer to the earth, and refine our concept and relationship of human dependence upon the earth. Without technology man survived through employment and economy – with technology human employment is fast approaching the point of unustainability – 80% of the worlds population cannot find employment and are thus cut off and seperated from the essential resources of the earth – starving, sick and homeless. The last frontier of technological domination is the services sector, and already it is almost totally subjected to technology. With technology, technology becomes the worker leaving hundreds of human beings unemployed. We will embrace technology and deride the principle of work for sustenance. Technology will work, and humans will be sustained by the resources of the earth. The world needs this paradigm shift right now – the poor and unemployed – 80% of us, can no longer endure the suffering, based on a simple erroneous assumption – that our survival depends on employment and the fiscus. Technology has made employment redundant – it has become ab extension of mankind — so how now do we ensure the sustenance and survival of humans.

  • Paul Whelan

    Maria –

    Yes, it’s a fascinating mystery and who can trust answers? For 15,000 years religion gave us certainties: now we not only do not know where we are, but even who we are.

    But metaphysical speculation is not me. I turned away from it way back, around 18, and still can’t have to do with it. It wasn’t even that sex took over. It was just not ‘there’.

    What is there and its source seem to me forever arguable. Even if the neurologists fillet it all out one day, the only sure thing now is that some-‘one’ will dispute it. The debate won’t end because it can’t.

    Notwithstanding all that, on one point above, you may feel on reflection that the technological developments I mention had no less of an ‘impact on social life’ – as social life was then. Then had its own problems. In today’s mass society, the (same) impact is inevitably enormously more spread and experienced. How does that ‘really’ change the nature of it?

    Through the fog, it seems to me that since no one can say what the ‘real world’ is (which is why Bert puts the idea in quotes), then our many realities not only exist, but can also be taken as ‘naturally’ evolving (or, if you reject that term, at least metamorphosing.)

    One day the collective may indeed not be human anymore. But whatever ‘you’ and ‘I’ are, ‘we’ hardly need bother becase ‘we’ won’t know.

  • Bert

    Paul – I could not have responded better to your concerns than Maria has; thank you for that, Maria.
    Brandon – You are speaking of a different side to technology – that side which has to do with “real” production, and your remarks resonate with the sentiments of Peter Joseph in “Zeitgeist 3 – Moving on”, which I recommend as essential viewing for today. What I have discussed in this post, however, is the other side, which has to do with the kind of technology that has an alienating effect on the relationship between people and the earth, according to Baudrillard and Virilio. There is a noticeable tension between these two sides of technology, and one would hope that the kind which frees humans from production will not simply send them scampering towards the other, alienating kind, but help them to rediscover the beauties of the earth, as you suggest.

  • Jen

    Technology has advanced so rapidly that it may well be outstripping our ability to assimilate it in a meaningful way. There is some speculation/evidence for example, that 3-D TVs affect viewrs’ vision and cause all kinds of side effects. People are routinely watching movies wearing 3-D glasses. Our eyes don’t have the natural ability to accommodate the technology without assistance (3-D glasses). I am left to wonder as to whether humans will adapt genetically over time, to the new artifical environment that we are creating, or whether it will become sufficiently sophisticated to adapt to us. I suspect that it may be a combination of both, but I mourn the growing loss of traditional social intercourse.

  • Paul Whelan

    Once again, perhaps I have not expressed myself well.

    I try to imagine myself sitting down with (say) St Augustine and being able to show to him and explain my cell phone. I would certainly hope to catch him in a more liberal mood than usual, so that I was not hauled off at once without a hearing and put to some terrible death.

    But – allowing me the fancy and that I could not hope to explain to St Augustine’s satisfaction what a cell phone is – in what way(s) has my cell phone – in itself – and my ability to understand it and use it, made me different from St Augustine?

    What is the ‘essential’ human difference between us?

    Can anyone say there is one at all?

    In the same way, if we come back in 1500 years time, what will be the difference between us and the humans that live on Earth then? (assuming humans are still around in any form recognisable by us).

    More to the point, if ‘technology’ has changed humans into something we do not recognise, what would they have ‘lost’?

    What, for that matter, can we ‘lose’, who enjoy our time here earlier – which includes, in this moment, discussing this fascinating subject?

  • Lisa Weideman

    To make an example of World of Warcraft, it could be said that the technology involved in the game aids an, admittedly bourgeois, group of people to discover a form of utopia within the game.

    These gamers should not be judged as living in a “virtual” world, or for their degrees of withdrawal from the “real” world because of philosophical interpretations of what it means to be “human”, as a universal concurrence on this point is yet to occur.

    However, a Marxian interpretation of WoW can be found within the utopian perimeters of the game- and specifically in the actions of gamers.

    It seems, perhaps unbeknown to them, that gamers strive to achieve a certain “human essence” within the realm of the game. Their appreciation of the often mind-blowing graphics used to construct the virtual world points to a distinct aesthetic appreciation within the gamer. He/ she will recognize the uniquely human ability to create such intricate, life-like worlds.

    Next, the establishment of a character within the game that the player relates to on an almost personal level shows the discovery of autonomy within the virtual realm. This persona has freedom of movement, and choice within the game- a contrast to what is often found in the “real” world of the bourgeois.

    Finally, through discussion with other gamers, and the establishment of an “online community”, a level of sociality is reached. A feeling of belonging and interactions with others allows the gamer to build upon his/her human essence.

  • Garg Unzola

    I do not see how an un-earthly reality is necessarily an in-human reality.Taken to the other extreme, it’s the equivalent of suggesting that aboriginal people are the only true human people, as they are the most entwined with the earth. We are then less human than they are, because we have learnt how to make more efficient use of resources and how to become less reliant on our immediate environment – and indeed how to shape it.

    I think Paul’s examples suggest adequately that the idea of the ought of human behaviour somehow being determined by what is (besides the obvious Hume’s Law dilemma) is which is do we pick? St Augustine’s is? The San people’s is? 1500 years from now’s is?

    Not only can we not determine what ought to be from what is, we can’t even determine what is beyond simulations. This is what our brains do – simulation and pattern matching. We never see what is there, we only see what we think is there, and this is not only in WoW. A cursary glance at how the eye works, and how much vision relies on optical nerves and brain power, will illustrate this.

  • Paul Whelan

    Lisa (& Bert & Maria) –

    I hope I am not too late with this.

    Not knowing anything about WoW, I find your note on it useful – thank you.

    Of course Maria is using WoW as one example or as a metaphor, as I used my cell phone.

    My point remains that whether or not the players of the game ‘should be’ judged to be living in a virtual world, they are in this instance taken to be doing so: philosophical assumptions about what it is to be human are unavoidable here.

    I lack all certainty on the subject of whether we are imposed on by ‘technology’ or whether we impose ourselves on it.

    But if, as it seems most likely to me, it’s a bit of both, WoW’s advent can be seen as neutral – no more than a game for our times, as was the arrival of ‘Monopoly’ in the west in the 1930s.

  • Garg Unzola

    Man is an artifact designed for space travel. He is not designed to remain in his present biologic state any more than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole.
    William S. Burroughs

    According to RAW, primate behaviour only changes under the impact of new technology.

    Prof Bert:
    I’m horrified that a Zeitgeist film can be prescribed to anyone, although this does illustrate that credulity and cinema go hand in hand.

  • Ziphozakhe Hlobo

    The human condition in the Bourgeoisie era undoubtedly locates Max’s ideology of socialism under a thick carpet, for indeed there is nothing more alienating and dehumanizing than its modern technology. The irony is that all of this occurs at the guise of the so-called ‘bringing humans together’ which we keep hearing anyway. But this is because of this human hubris to cross the boundaries of space and time, and hence the world has shrunk to a global village as a result of globalisation. Like you point out modern technology subverts its role of ‘revealing or uncovering’ (emphasised by Heidegger) to voyeuristic objects like pornography which rather reveal too much. Against such backdrop, I think what I also discover in modern technologies is that its relationship to humans is rather hierarchical; is that what not Heidegger tries to warn us against? You only need to look at the fact that people cannot live without their T.Vs, laptops, Facebook, the list goes on. So to answer the question of whether or not modern technology is “suitable” I would say it certainly is not. In which regard I will point out that our gravest mistake would be to trust that the essence of a car is its ‘speed’ for instance. Because then in that case, I can confirm that there is facts in Baudrillard and Villiro’s assertion of modern technology as contributing to the ‘in-human reality’.

  • Bautule Kealatotse

    It is true we are living and being controlled by technology in this postmodernism era. Most people had forgotten their roots, where certainly we originated from. The essence of technology upward very fast, is resulting for most people becoming lazy to simply use their brain to think.
    People are becoming lazy even to the extent of not to visiting their friends, families and instead they rather sit in front of the computer screens or chat with them via social networks or on cellphones. Technology is developing daily as to gratify people`s needs and therefore people have forgotten that there are more to life than just plasma screens televisions and computer screens.. People become so comfortable to live in cyberspace, looking at good pictures thinking that they are real, and some even prefer to interact in a virtual world, rather than to connect with other people face to face.
    Studies have shown that through the medium of technology like MXIT, Kids are becoming more sexual active at their early age, because of pornography exposure and age-in-appropriate interactions.
    People are more obsessed by technology and they see no life without it, for them with technology there is life, which in itself poses the danger of forgetting the importance of life that the Earth has brought for them.
    Though most people seem to enjoy technology, they should not forget its consequences. People have grown huge, some faster than their age appropriateness, because of lack of exercise, always sited in front TV

  • Luzita Naidoo

    To comment on ”whether technology affects human experience” it could arguably be said that it may cause an individual to loose what Marx has termed our ‘human essence’ and robs us of time in certain aspects. Indeed the more powerful our tools become, the harder it is to imagine the world without them. With regard to autonomy, if one observes Facebook for example, when the user is asked what’s on your mind?people google someone else’s quote instead of actually thinking. Then looking at sociality, it affects interpersonal communications in the way that people struggle to sustain interpersonal relations because of online communities and virtual communication systems. Lastly and possibly the aspect that gets most affected is aesthetics. With HD TV and Blu-ray,one no longer needs to leave your sitting room to enjoy nature and its beauty as these images can be captured through your satellite decoder. This highlights the notion of alienation and distancing from the earth. However as most things have an up and downside, it is important not to be consumed by this advancement but the key may lay in promoting a critical awareness that evokes contemplation.

  • Deirdre Kohler

    I agree with everything Paul has said. Simply put, technology is simply one of man-made tools used to stimulate “imagination” in our lives (which I feel is an essential part of being human). If a human wishes to engage the imagination (and thus their human essence) and his sense of wonder let that medium, do it with all your might with whatever tool assists you with that desire. With that pleasure, humanity should not loose sight on its responsibility to those things that sustain world’s physical existence. But hey, let the man read the book, look at the stars or play the game, its a lot better then running out and trashing London.

  • Paul Whelan

    Perhaps you saw that TV ad a few years back for some cell phone company or service (sorry, advertiser, I forget your name).

    For years, two old friends have always shouted out Goodnight to each other across the valley before turning in.

    Today they both have cell phones. They don’t have to go outside anymore. Now they can stay indoors and just phone each other to say Goodnight.

    In the ad that’s what they do … Then, after the call, the two go outside to shout Goodnight to each other across the valley as always.

    Do you suppose that fleeting ad puts its finger on something about our ‘human essence’ that Marx missed, for all his years of profound thought in the British Museum?

  • Bert

    Paul – I would respond to your Augustine example like this: Humans live in what Husserl called a ‘lifeworld’, which has a logic all its own, and from the basis of which all the sciences start building their own scientific ‘systems’ or discourses by abstracting from all those lifeworld-features that simply do not fit into their own discourse. All indications are that the Christian Middle Ages was a time when the lifeworld was theocentric – the literature and the art from that time make this clear. Philosophical debates then concerned topics such as the relationship between faith and understanding, that between state and church, ‘proofs’ for the existence of God, etc., etc. In short, all questions were answered within the framework of a fundamental belief in the world being the creation of God, and all phenomena were interpreted within that framework. On this there was agreement among Christian and Muslim philosophers, despite their debates about detail. To insert a cellphone into that interpretive framework would elicit responses framed in terms of the basic assumptions of that time, which would entail a certain (‘spiritual’) understanding on the part of someone intelligent like Augustine, but certainly not the kind of understanding that is consonant with our technocentric (as opposed to theocentric) lifeworld. That does not make us less human than Augustine, but Virilio and Baudrillard are pursuing the thought that technology MAY just, by seriously affecting our experience of the world, have an impact on what it means/has meant to be human.

  • Paul Whelan


    Thanks for finding time to come back on this.

    I’ve known for a long time that ‘I’ could not have existed even in 1500CE, let alone 500, and take as read differences between mental worlds: Augustine could no more enter ours than we could tolerate the limits of his.

    Nevertheless what drew me in here first and last, I suppose, is what we can be talking about when we talk of changing from, or ceasing to be, ‘human’. If the condition has no innate nature – cannot, indeed, be claimed to exist – it is impossible to see how we could decline from it. And I use the word ‘decline’ advisedly (not impolitely, I hasten to add) because it seems to me always strong moral assumptions underlie your pieces.

    Perhaps that is my problem. Hamlet thought the question was To be or not to be. Four hundred years later, I’m not alone in asking: Am I or am I not?

    But I’ve taxed yours and Maria’s and everyone’s patience here long enough.

  • Maria

    I take your point, Paul. As Bert has also sensed, it is more about the question of being human that you are concerned than about the question of incommensurate lifeworlds. And I, for one, would respond to Virilio and Baudrillard by claiming that, even if cyberspace is a kind of “inhuman” space, the effect of individuals frequenting it would, at most, bring into being different modes of being human. But they would still be human, whatever the differences between such ways of living and what we are accustomed to.

  • Mark Greene

    Technology brings us ease and comfort, tackles the problems of boredom, keeps us safe from harmful bacteria, lets us see more, offers us better food in terms of health and taste. Man is at “home” in technology. If this is so then earth becomes in-human, uncivilized and primal, a cold, virus infected, unforgiving environment from which we are released and invited into cyberspace, which suits us better because we created it and tailored it to our needs. Clearly then we are moving towards ourselves and not away from.
    What it means to be human or at least what it is that human’s “do” is evolutionary in that it is under constant change. Moving closer to technology and further from earthly activities does not makes us less human, if that were the case, then preferring to sleep on a bed as opposed to the ground would make me less human. Also, Farmers would then be considered less human than their nomad- hunting predecessors. Continuing this thought, those of us who do not hunt and never have are we less human than the hunters of our time or our predecessors because we live in cities and ride motorcars, planes and trains?
    So are we really undergoing self-alienation, and in turn losing our human essence through technological advances? In light of what I have said, no, as we are moving towards ourselves when we approach technology and are no less human than our ancestors for doing so.

  • sinazo makasi

    It’s evident to see that the world is changing, along with the people living in it as a result of technology, of course.

    Throughout history humankind has been trying to be a controller of nature. With the harnessing of fire, humans were able to see even during the night, when the sun could not give us light. Industrialization was a great step toward the “progress” on human kind, in that we no longer really needed to depend much on nature. And today technology is on a fast pace taking over nature, destroying planet earth.

    Cyberspace is taking things to even greater extents with the manipulation of the ‘real world’. It’s the power and control that the ‘virtual reality’ gives to individuals that makes it so powerful and popular. For an example with cyberspace gaming, anyone can be anything. An ordinary citizen in a wheel chair can be given the power to dominate, be strong and able to walk. And of course that is impossible in the ‘real world’ unless technology is involved. People spend hours of their time sitting in front of their computers, glued to their cell phone, iPods to escape to the ‘virtual reality’.

    I agree with Baudrillard and Virilio that contemporary technology is contributing to the construction of an un-earthly and therefore in-human reality.

  • Georgi

    Firstly, what is it to be human, and conversely what is it to be in-human? There have been previous comments that discuss the Marxist idea of the human essence (i.e. a combination of autonomy, sociality and aesthetics). I agree that this is a part of being human but can we really limit being human to just these three aspects? I think not. Not only is there so much to being human, but the ways of humans are constantly evolving. To be human in 2011 is not what it was to be human 1911 or 1211 or 11BCE. Why is this if not because of an ongoing evolution of what it actually means be human?
    Baring this in mind, I think that perhaps in today’s day and age, technology somewhat informs our humanity. We would not be the society we are without technology and therefore cannot exist without it. However, is this a good thing or a bad thing?
    Technology has on the one hand alienated us from the earth because it has given us the tools we need to take advantage of it for our personal gain, but it has also brought us closer to the earth in terms allowing us experience nature in different ways. We abuse our natural resources for wealth but we are also able to see and experience so much more because of travel and technological equipment.
    I therefore think that it is not “contemporary technology [that is] contributing to the construction of an un-earthly and therefore in-human reality”, but rather the human attitude we have towards technology.

  • Georgi

    The virtual realities we create such as WoW are merely technological substitutes that humans now rely on to feel connected to something, because we have alienated ourselves from the earth through the use of technology inflicted on the earth to be used as a means to an end.
    We created technology but technology has in turn moulded the society you see before you today. I therefore ask, is it okay to blame technology for the un-earthly, in-inhuman reality that has begun to take over our society? Or is it high time that humans admit to the mistakes they’ve made in terms of colonialism and capitalism. Had the postmodern age not been trained by our predecessors to take advantage of the earth in everyway possible for profit, it would not have been as easy to create technology for the purpose of doing so.
    Through the technology that we have created, we are destroying the earth and more importantly our connection to it. We are destroying our life support.
    What ever it means to be human or in-human, this is the reason for the demise of humanity… not technology itself.

  • Mikelle

    This all seems very relavent to society today. People are seeing technology, such as virtual worlds on the computer and stop seeing the world as it really is. I think it goes along with altering our perceptions of actuality. Once these virtual worlds are being seen by all these unsuspecting eyes that soak up these images, will the outlandish effects start to be reflected by the technology of that time period. I think that is an extremely likely possibility. When futuristic shows come to television, they had divises for speaking to each other quickly, then all of a sudden the cell phone came around. When you look at the movies Back to the Future it seems silly the things that are on the movie, but then, that was the future. We will always constantly trying to widen our scope of technology. Will this cycle start to shut out the real outside world? We already only focus on our phones, computers, or ipads. I have seen people at the Royal Gorge in the USA, a small version of the Grand Canyon, who were texting the whole time, because this massive, natural beauty was to dull for them. Our eyes are clouded by the “here-and-now” of what technology is and has to offer. How can we stop ourselves and realize that there is more than just having the clearest TV or the best computer? I really can say. We seem to be on a path of our lives being taken over by technology and seeing things with untainted eyes will be a thing of the past.

  • Jaydene Bruiners

    I think our obsession with and dependence on technology will lead to our ultimate downfall. Society has become too obsessed with the “benefits’ of having a “cool, and easy to use” device that allows them to escape into a virtual world, where everything is peachy, and no one is dying or suffering. They have lost their sense of autonomy and empathy for each other. Our empathy can now be expressed in an emoticon[], and so can almost any other emotions humans should want to share with another individual, not through a tiny phone screen that does not allow for the intimacy and shared feelings when it comes to expressing ourselves. We no longer personalise our phones to suit our lives, we now personalise our lives to suit our phones.

  • Brita

    Technology takes us to different spaces whether it has been through the means of aircraft or the internet. These spaces are different to what we are used to as one is transported into a space where most things change in terms of your lifestyle. Technology is a pharmakon because it allows us to experience different things, good and bad. It is something that has become a lifestyle, something that has a powerful push. We as human beings are easily influenced by this push because contemporary technology allows us to become more efficient beings and the more we get absorbed by it, the more we are disinterested with our relationship to Mother Earth. Even though the internet and National Geographic documentaries can show us places that we might not see in our lifetime, it takes away the elevating experience of being in the presence of a rainforest or desert. Adorno and Horkheimer have suggested that the culture industry has changed us into pseudo-individuals because we as humans merely want to be entertained rather than elevated.
    We are drawn to a technological space as it forms a part of postmodernism’s “abandonment of the pursuit of the absolute truth, and its preference for the temporary, the superficial and the apparent.” (Ward, G 1997:15)

  • Peter Mantello

    I think Virilio makes a distinction between augmented reality and our increasing separation from the physicality of earth.