Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Essay on Technology

Essay on Technology

Humans have never lead lives purely connected to nature. We have always integrated forms of technology into our daily routines to either aid in tasks or provide alternative recreational activities. Though we choose to take paths to break away from our bonds with technology, humans will never be able to sustain the advancement of the society without interacting with technology. Carolyn Guyer states that "the simple thing to realize is that there is a balance between technology and nature," (163) but with the constant advancement and expansion of the cyber world, it is easy to lose sight of this balance and fall into a disequilibrium, and lose our connection with nature.

Since the introduction of science fiction to the genres of the American film industry, Hollywood has pumped numerous pictures prognosticating the future. In July 2002, Steven Spielberg presented another view of the future, the eerily realistic future of Minority Report. In the year 2054, the District of Columbia still resembles the Washington DC of today, but with a closer look one can find many additions to the city that present a convincing simulacra of the future of our technologically advancing world. Instead of taking an afternoon stroll through the catwalks and overpasses of DC, we are immediately presented with a forecast: the real-time flash images of case 1108, a double homicide. Instead of easing to the main technological focus of Minority Report, Spielberg throws viewers directly into the advanced system of Pre-Crime. An advanced technological system we are to unquestionably believe, foretells murders through the precognitive minds of three humans so unfortunate to have the "gift" of seeing these murders in their minds. Through high-tech design and application, images the Precogs see are formatted into a state of the art floating screen from which John Anderton (Tom Cruise) uncovers the exact whereabouts of the murder in order to reach the destination in time to hinder the future murder.

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Even without the lifeless, inanimate visual analogy to technology, the system integrating human Precogs displays an ultimate loss of human connection with nature. Lifelessly drifting in a flotation tank, cut off from civilization and only able to focus on one thing, murder, these aberrant humans not only portray the "loss of connection with nature," but the "conversion of the real world to technology itself." (Slouka 149) John himself presents an easier way of dealing with the existence of Precogs by stating that "it's easier if you don't think of them as human." Spielberg presents a very common value of our zeitgeist centered on the degradation of human connection with nature. Well-known technologist, Jaron Lanier, observes through viewing Minority Report, that humans urge unconnected activity in synch with technological participation. Today we even air commercials encouraging our children and even other ages of humans to stay active not just for the obvious reason of staying healthy, but to also interact with nature; if not through direct nature activities, then at least through continuing existence in the natural, unwired world (3).

Though the creation of the Precogs was a horrendous accident through parental addiction of impure neroine, a new drug released years before 2054, the concept of being totally void of anything but technology alerts us to the additional "loss of connection with our inner terrain, disconnection from feeling." (150) The assimilation of humans into technology, as shown in Minority Report results in not just a loss of connection with the outside world and nature, but also a loss of self. While in the tank under supervision, the Precogs do not feel pain, suffering, anger, and passion. They are void of the most definite human characteristic: emotion. Without emotion we are merely automatons existing only to continue our existence; not existing to feel and be the nature we are.

In this day and age it is apparent that many humans lose some connection with their selves as they approach a steep imbalance between technology and nature in their lives. However, just like all imbalances, it can be steadied. As Minority Report continues, one of the Precogs, Agatha (Samantha Morton), becomes part of John's future after he steals her from the Pre-Crime headquarters. To the rest of Pre-Crime she was stolen, but to John, she was set free. His "theft" signified the release of mental and physical shackles on her mind and body, allowing her to see the world as "now" and not "will be." Near the climax of the film, she experiences a full blow of emotions at John's house in the room of his kidnapped son. "Only through experience will we find" a balance between technology and nature (161). Agatha tells John and his ex-wife the future of their son had he not been kidnapped when he was nine and discovers her own balance in such a warm moment of love. Minority Report continues the sense of balance all the way through the conclusion, indicating that the "only way to find and keep the balance is to keep moving." (161) Like Agatha and the other Precogs who found their balance only after extreme experiences, humanity needs to experiment the boundaries of it's own balance by passing into uncharted territory. Only by moving with the development of technology will we be able to find a balance.

Loss of connection with nature indirectly surfaces with the expansion of advertisements in Minority Report. Even today we see and hear advertisements that know our names and ask us unnecessary questions (134). Minority Report a simulacra of advertising through holographic screens in malls that identify every person and address them by name. For instance, in a Gap store a woman is asked whether she liked the pack of skimpy lingerie she bought last time and starts recommending other similar products available. Online stores already have the ability to identify a person and suggest products based on past purchases. Movie critic Jack Aaronson mentions that humans would prefer to keep something this personal on the down-low, maybe personally with an actual employee, but certainly not announced throughout the entire store (2). Minority Report reflects the current zeitgeist we have on advertisements and other forms of marketing by providing digitized humans who have replaced the flesh and blood of employees. With the advancement of technology comes the ever increasing annoyance and intrusion on personal life. The intrusion of marketing in Minority Report creeps its way into the homes of people who purchase cereal through the continuously animated character annoyingly dancing around on the box surface asking how the cereal tastes, but is cleverly denied by John's furious throwing of the box that finally "kills" the advertising. Not only do we lose respect of personal space but we also lose our tempers and increased desire to rid ourselves of such menaces. However, with the proper values and limits set for marketing, such technology could prove to be fruitful additions to the entertaining side of advertising.

Visual technology does not stop with the appearances of interactive advertisements. Through advanced cameras and projectors, John is able to record and play videos of his past, before his son was kidnapped and his wife left. Through this technology John comes to see more of himself just as someone today would pop in a video of their great times in Colorado. Complex headgear and recording technology also allow John to see whatever the Precogs see, allowing him to not only see his own future killing of man he does not know, but also to replay that murder. Like any human he is "obsessively rewinding and playing again the disembodied images offered to us," (151) hoping to find some reconciliation. John's vengeance for his son's kidnapper clouded his judgment of the system he blindly believed in. Through his begrudging experience, John not only realizes the human flaw of the system - the fact that images can be fabricated and planted - but also finds his own self through the blurry reflections of a fabricated future. Through visual recordings and representations we can all locate ourselves in the physical realm and ground ourselves more towards a balance with nature.

Some people may argue that there is no balance between technology and nature. If this was the case then the only path for humanity would be to drive ourselves to a completely technological world due to the unyielding halt advancements in technology. "Nature is what we are, and so cannot be opposed to, or separate from, humans and their technologies, even when we push our inventions to the point of self-destruction," (163) says Carolyn Guyer. Technology obviously needs nature, humans, to exist. Humans also need technology to keep up in a world that will never hold back and allow us to find compensation. The world of humans and the world of technology are codependent. They are made of each other, and there is no reason why they should not be together.

Such films as Minority Report goad us to reassess the balance of technology and nature in our lives. Recognizing ourselves and finding our soul in the alien world of technology is the only hope for the safeguarding of our connection with nature. Finding the balance and holding onto it is half the job, but continuing to move on and shifting this balance is what will ensure the continuation of our existence in both worlds. By guaranteeing our connection with nature through a balance, we need not concern ourselves with the asphyxiation of a solely technological life.

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