Thursday, March 31, 2011

Questions Concerning Technology

There have been many, many long talks about technology at the residency in Finland. About my technology and my failure to bring a proper power adapter with me from U.S. and about the role of technology in human existence. There are strongly held opinions in many different camps about the role of technology and how technology exists. Some feel it is this monolithic (<--- this is my interpretation) entity that has agency and power outside of human agency. There are those who feel that technology is leading to a desensitization to the "natural" world. There is my opinion that technology is an attempt by humans to build prosthetic devices that make our ability to sense the human experience in a more focused way and to extend the capacity of the human body beyond individual means. All seem to share a feeling that there is a destructive capacity in much technology and the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan have made the dangers of the rapidity of our technological advances physically palpable and tearful for us.

Though the title of this was lifted from Heidegger, I won't speak about Heidegger right now. I awoke thinking about technology and the human impulse to refine their environment. I recall a story that my mother or my mother's father told which may have mixed with other thoughts in my brain to become an amalgam of many thoughts. I can't guarantee the accuracy of my recounting of the story but I'd like to share it anyway.

My grandfather worked for a company (or knew someone who worked for a company) after WWII that was making advances in metallurgy. They had created this very fine copper wire. As the Americans understood it, it was the finest copper wire ever created by humans on the planet. This was during the Japanese post WWII era when the standing army had been eliminated and the country of Japan was in a technological and economical revolution. Focusing on improvements in technology as a means of rebuilding. The U.S. felt very much in competition with the Japanese (and the Russians, etc.) during this Post War Era. So, the U.S. company that made the finest copper wire ever made sent some to a Japanese company to show the advances of technology being made in the U.S. The copper wire was sent back from the company with no correspondence. Just the wire. The people at the U.S. company felt they had really shown the Japanese what U.S. engineers could do! They believed the Japanese company had simply sent the wire back as a concession to U.S. greatness. However, someone at the U.S. company decided to take a closer look at the wire. They put it under a microscope and discovered a technological message in the wire. This was the finest, thinnest wire / metal strand ever produced in the U.S. When examined under a microscope, they discovered that the Japanese company had drilled holes in it.

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