Thursday, May 15, 2008

Entertaining ourselves to death

There is a book on my shelf by the late Neil Postman entitled, Amusing Ourselves to Death. In the book, Mr. Postman attacks society's love affair with technology, reasoning that it would inevitably lead to our ruination. Mind you, I personally have only read excerpts of Postman's writings. His book sits on my shelf with at least two years worth of dust on it. In the articles that I have read, I've only found a hint of the technophobia that Postman is accused of spreading. And while some of his ideas are rightly laughable given our knowledge today, there are some sound arguments that should be brought into light.

We need not look further than pollution to see that the world is going to hell in a hand basket because of our technology and our attitude towards technology. It is said that the next generation is the last chance humankind will get to clean up their mess. To some, that's a scary thought, to others, it means that they don't have to worry about it. Unfortunately, the actions of the next generation are partially determined by nurture and a pedagogy dictated by "do as I say and not as I do" has rarely encountered success. We love our cars, electricity and consumption too much to even slow down and try to make a minimal difference. Not to point any fingers, but I'm sure that everyone is guilty of being unwilling to give up something that would have benefited the future of the Earth.

This mindset is our irrational love affair with technology. Even though we know better, we make excuses for ourselves to get out of them. Naturally there are many people doing a lot for the good cause, but there are still more things that even they can do. Again, this is say without the intent to offend. Cynicism is a theme of this blog after all.

So I was sick last week. I ended up playing a lot of video games while I was bed-ridden. While I can understand the need for modern day conveniences like fast transportation and illumination after sunset, I still don't know why there is so much investment in entertainment. This is not directly technology related, but is something that has been on mind every since the Playstation 2 was announced.

The PS2 is apparently so powerful that it can be used to direct a warhead. To use such technology and other resource to entertain children seems to me to be equivalent to harnessing the nuclear power of the sun to make a single lollipop for a 3 year old. Economy and "market opportunities" are a subsidiary nuance born from our love affair with technology, stemming from the industrial revolution and onwards. While I do love my video games (ask anyone), it still boggles my mind that there are people out there who can do incredible work to forward the significant progress of mankind and they are, instead, working on the next Mario game.

It is strange to think that we are dooming ourselves in entertainment and convenience, but I suppose of the motives for such actions are escapism and laziness, then it is merited. I still have more to say on this topic, but this is a suitable introduction.

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