Note: this article was originally published at www.earthlightbooks.blogspot.com.
A lot of the weirdness of contemporary life can be laid at the
cyborgian feet of media technology. We don't just live in a world of the
talking, life-like facsimiles of Dan Rather and Bill Clinton and Tom
Cruise--a veritable Hades of talking ghosts. No, our lives are set within a history of fake-live personas. That is, we live in a world where television and film aren't just real; they're even dated. For most of human history, the idea of literally listening to dead people, with them visibly standing right there,
in front of you, was the stuff of magic: a sacred, or at least
ethereal, experience. Now, it's still magic, but our all-consuming drive
for technology has multiplied the number of talking ghosts so far that
they now outnumber the living. Our ghosts are common and banal.
Which is odd, I think: living not even during but after the advent of godlike technologies such as moving pictures (not to mention interactive video games, or how the internet lets anyone
split their soul among a variety of ghosts). I mean, as long as there
have been people, they've been crowded and defined by their histories.
But I imagine it's never been quite so crowded before. Queen Elizabeth
may have been preceded by enough English history to fill a library, and
she was presumably preceded by her own reputation. But what I'm
wondering is, What's it like to be Sean Connery? To be old, fat, bald,
and forever upstaged by the walking memory of your youth as a
Living after the scientific- and
industrial-revolutions also means that we're forever obsessed with
novelty. Our technological progress has shaped our understanding of the shape
of history such that time is shaped like an arrow which moves forward.
"Timeless" and "eternal" are difficult adjectives for us to take
seriously: we know, from our earliest years, that the future will be
new. For us, everything under the sun must be new.
we're forever looking forward. And, because of our ghost-producing
technologies of TV etc., we're forever producing facsimiles of what
we're looking forward to. We're the first era where science fiction
makes any sense as a genre, because we're the first era to take it for
granted that the future will be importantly different from the past.
So--to add to the weirdness--we live in an age haunted by the ghosts of
the future of the past: of what people fifty or thirty or ten
years ago thought the future would be like. We're swimming in an ocean
of yesterdays' tomorrows: The Jetsons, Blade Runner, Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Most of our examples of "the future" look and feel
old-fashioned...which fact must, obviously, have really strange and
counter-intuitive effects on our sense of "the future." And since our
entire identity as human beings is in reference to the future--we are
nothing if not forward-looking--this must implicitly affect our
identities per se.
All of which helps explain why I feel 1) like laughing and 2) utterly terrified when I read that flying panoptic robots are becoming commercially available, to police and hobbyists across the country. (Also see here.)
Politics (401) Quotes (349) Literary Birthdays (335) Book History (328) Useful Information (323) News (319) Daily Bleeds (281) Protests (249) Obits and Eulogies (230) Poetry (227) Reference and LitTools (204) Authors (157) Articles (73) Environment (51) Anarchism (50) Activism (47) Events (41) humor (39) Book Reviews (33) Media (29) Economics (28) Health and Medicine (26) Olympia (26) Weird Shit (23) Nuclear (18) Science Fiction (16) Disasters (15) Technology (15) Reading (14) Drugs (13) Survival (11) Videos (11) capitalism (11) Hacking (10) government (10) Booksellers (8) Conspiracies (8) Counterculture (8) Philosophy (8) Prisons (8) Books (7) Printing (7) Banned Books (6) Food (6) Pacific Northwest (6) Zines (6) Beat Generation (5) Community (5) E-Books and E-Readers (5) Evergreen (5) Censorship (4) Comic Books and Graphic Novels (4) Comics and Art (4) Computers (4) Etymology (4) Storytelling (4) Bicycles (3) Deep Green Resistance (3) Bukowski (2) Cyberpunk (2) Earthquakes (2) Education (2) Philip K. Dick (2) Barter Faire (1) Fukushima (1)