A short and sour answer to the question posed by the title of today’s post would be: “Basically because we have very little.”
Of course, technological progress and its proponents sell themselves very well. Like a war photographer who only wants you to see what they’re paid for you to see, the frame is positioned in order to benefit those who would have us believe in their wares. As it is easy to measure the easily quantitative, so the qualitative in life becomes much less important. The soft aspects of relationships, where we express emotions, feelings and love, lose their traction in a society where everything must be measured in terms of monetary transactions.
Technology is good at measuring us in terms of money. Technology is good at measuring itself in terms of what it can achieve.
So good, in fact, its proponents seem to believe – and manage to convince us it is so – that it’s the only possible way to move forwards.
Yet even those of us less enamoured with the development throughout human history of marvellous machines various, inevitably find ourselves in our daily lives unable to resist their bewitchingly gadget-infused attractions. From those stories of Walt Disney’s frozen brain and the overheated magnificence of William Shatner’s “Star Trek” – both populating the Sixties and Seventies of my still scientifically entranced childhood – to the overwhelming success of the original “Star Wars” trilogy, the arrival of the mobile phone, streaming Internet video and now computer spectacles we can wear and inform ourselves with wherever we go, on its own very specific terms technology does – nevertheless – represent progress.
Perhaps more now, for the majority of the population, than ever before.
Even so, myself, I’m beginning to become a little less entranced with this technology I describe – as well as the progress it supposedly represents. There are, of course, the obvious downsides: for every computer we make, there is the pollution it generates. For every TED talk that informs, we have pornography that exploits. Nothing is new in such an assertion. For what appears to have been forever, the natural equilibrium in human existence requires every good to have its contrasting and counterpointing bad.
In a sense, then, God and the Devil are hard-wired into our actions. As, indeed, must be the idea of faith. And in this case, a very 21st century faith. Despite every evidence to the contrary, we continue to believe in the validity of technology and its summative progress. All the rubbish we know more and more about – all the stats and realities which tell a quite different story – are nothing compared to our fervent attachment to the benefits of technological progress.
In fact, I’m getting to the point where I’m beginning to believe that corporate capitalism, a centralising capitalism which generates technological advances like no other in history, is driven not so much by the quest for wealth – nor even power – but, rather, by the unconscious desire to beat death.
Remember, if you will, those stories about Walt Disney’s cryogenics – and multiply them up to our days.
Yes. If those who concentrate such wealth in order to effervescently develop more technologies, even where this is at the manifest expense of a wider societal wellbeing, continue to effervescently develop, perhaps what we have is an otherwise noble desire to beat the impending apocalypse:
[…] Jensen believes we can and should do something to prepare for the coming collapse. For Jensen, how we live now is going to determine how well we’ll do when the great factories of Guangdong fall fallow. Jensen says people should “prepare for it on a local level”, rebuild communities as much as they can, put in place alternative systems of local governance, think about their food supply.
And whilst the rest of us may soon have to get used to the idea of giving up on the future of technological progress – of giving in to this apocalypse some are beginning to speak of – maybe in some strange way the opposite has been the story of capitalism all along. The impatience of perishable lives which recognise, subconsciously, how little they will eventually achieve. Capitalism as a latterday manifestation of that ancient pursuit of the Holy Grail? I shouldn’t be surprised. Everything goes, everything is justified, any means can find their precious ends … if, that is, the precious ends involve successfully challenging an awfully Final Judgment.
Maybe, then, we need to believe in the progress of technology – in the unseemly concentration of wealth, in the considerable phallacy of top-down trickle-down economics – because all of us, somehow, somewhere and some time, have dreamt of beating our fate.
The fate of the civilisation we’ve built, first and foremost.
The fate of the species, next along the line.
Finally, the fate of the planet itself.
And all along, all our achievements only measured on their own deliberately limited terms.
Our choice in the light of the above? Between the progress of a technology for all or the decline of a standard of living for the majority? Is that where we are now? Is that the crossroads? Has capitalism finally given up on its historically implicit – even where, perhaps, disingenuous – assertion that it might, one day, beat the Final Judgment for everyone?
Yesterday, I spoke about how we, as intimate participants, were creating the conditions for capitalism’s own Achilles’ heel. Perhaps those who run the beast have realised this and have themselves given up on any further intent at deception. This may, after all, be not so much an apocalypse now but – instead – an apocalypse delayed.
Time to run our society down.
Capitalism’s assertion was, in any case, only a mirage all along. And realising this is a logical consequence of universal education. In a sense, then, capitalism’s decay is actually our fault. In the past, its success depended so much on our faith, confidence, trust and belief – none of which, in the light of modern mindsets and behaviours, is likely to be easily deposited by us any more.
Not easily, for sure.
Not whilst we begin to acquire the tools to think with intelligence; to reach our considered conclusions carefully and firmly.
One final question, then – a question I ask in all good faith: can we recover that faith, confidence, trust and belief in order that we might avoid the apocalypse I have mentioned?
Oh, to believe in the onwards and upwards march of technology again. To believe in its being shared around. To believe in its utility for all human beings. To believe in reciprocity and kindness.
To recover gentlemen and women as our model to follow.