1.3. Balance and Separation

If my first point, then, was that technology can serve as midwife to the birth of the individual, the second is that this midwifery requires a well-calculated balance between the challenges we take on and our self-possession, our wide-awake, conscious resourcefulness. This sensible calculation is part of what it means to be grown up, notwithstanding the widespread, if impossibly foolish, notion today that whatever can be attempted ought to be attempted.

There's a third point here. The Cyclopes, unlike Odysseus, lived in a kind of state of nature, and they spurned all advanced technologies. Never faring upon the open sea, they refused voyages of discovery. Odysseus describes them this way: "To the land of the Cyclopes, violent, innocent of laws," "we came; leaving it all to the gods" "they put hand to no planting or plowing;" "their food grows unsown and uncultivated," "wheat, barley, vines which produce" "grapes for their wine; Zeus' rain makes it grow for them." ". . . ." "For the Cyclopes have no red-cheeked ships," "no craftsmen among them, who could build" "ships with their rowing benches, all that is needful" "to reach the towns of the rest of the world as is common " "that men cross the sea in their ships to meet one another;" "craftsmen would have built them handsome buildings" "as well. --George Dimock "

If "nature is good to the Cyclopes," observes Dimock, it is "not because they are virtuous. Rather, the kindness of nature has deprived them of the stimulus to develop human institutions." To venture out to separate themselves from the womb of nature would have brought risk and pain, but it could also have brought self-development. Technology, I would add, is an instrument, a kind of lever, for this necessary detachment of the individual self from a nurturing surround that otherwise can become stifling, as when an infant remains too long in the womb.

My third point, then, is this: technology assists the birth of the individual in part by separating him from the natural world. To begin with, this separation, this loss of paradise, reconstitutes the world as an alien, threatening place, continually encroaching upon the safe habitations fortified by human techne.



Devices of the Soul. Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines
Devices of the Soul: Battling for Our Selves in an Age of Machines
ISBN: 0596526806
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2007
Pages: 122
Authors: Steve Talbott

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