Mar 29, 2012
Yesterday, amidst the rainy despair of Seattle spring, I found myself sitting in a talk given by Michael Huesemann entitled “Epic Technology FAIL”. I thought I was going to some sort of talk on internet memes and cats pining for cheeseburgers. I should have known better.
I should have known better when the guy in front of me in line wrote out a cheque to pay the $5 admission ticket.
Sometimes I forget that being a nut-job isn’t the strict purview of those who eschew contraception, and drive Ford F-350s. After this experience, I am reminded that the ultra-left is just as scary as the far-right, just replace religious zealotry with a haze of Pacific Northwest environmental fundamentalism.
Huesemann’s stance is that our unchecked enthusiasm for technological development isn’t making us “happier”, but instead is rotting our minds, fostering individualism and destroying our environment. To an extent, I agree with the guy. Technology gives people a easy checkout from any sort of critical thinking, exploration and creativity. When I see somebody engrossed in Angry Birds, or some other permutation of ‘bubble bursting’, its like watching a car stuck in neutral. But hey, thats better than dying of smallpox.
Now he doesn’t say all technology bad, just that which is beyond that needed to support a basic means of living. His canonical example of good technology was something he called a “digging stick”. Which begs the question, who is out there digging anything with a stick?
He eschews the notion of “progress” as an artificial distraction dreamed up during the Enlightenment and which has taken humanity on a 200 year detour. Detour from what? The unbridled joy and happiness of life during the Middle Ages? Damn you Voltaire!
Just like Republican talk radio, the real entertainment is when the audience gets to chime in. One woman in particular deserves special mention. With a look of genuine fear and concern, her two part question started off with ‘what do you think is the best way to confront these techno geniuses?”. I’d recommend Twitter, he recommended organizing “citizens panels” to review all new technology before its developed. Somewhere out there, Lenin’s ghost is smiling.
She wasn’t done though, her second question was the cap-stone to the entire experience: “is it too late to save the oceans??”
Seattle, you never disappoint.