City, DateDear Jessie, I hope you are doing well these days. I also hope that you remember our last conversation about technology and its effects on society. Many of our friends commented that it is creating an unseen space, a space in which everyone can enter their comfort ones without physically moving. It may be created by talking to someone who is in another city, country or a continent. And might I remind you that we created a virtual gathering that day via a mobile application.
In retrospect, that gathering represented the quintessential nature of Millenials as everyone contributed to the conversation but remained in their comfort zones. Some of us sipped martinis on the beach, while some gulped down steaming mug of hot chocolate on their recliners. Creative spaces are not new, but the modes in which they are formed, represented, and used are unique to each era. Consider Rainer Maria Rilke letter to a young poet where he talks about spaces as: “most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsayable than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life”. It appears that the space created by art is eternal and this is true as one can be transported back to Elizabethan times by reading Shakespeare and Marlowe.
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Also, these spaces continue to exist because they are mysterious and there are many amongst us whose urge to know them fully, makes these spaces alive. The question is, how can spaces be alive if they do not eat, breathe, and reproduce? I guess this was how we were taught to differentiate between living things and non-living things in the beginning courses of science at school. Perhaps the question is easy to answer as the spaces I am talking about are created through the mind and are apprehended through perception. As there is no physicality ascribed to these spaces, hence, they are creative spaces which are kept alive by pondering over their existence. Existence is yet another loaded term. Frida Kahlo’s self portrait where her back is supported by a metal rod in her backbone, straps all over her upper body, and nails hooked to her face, body, and dress represents existence. Though this representation stems from her personal experience, yet it is relevant to everyone as these contraptions can be taken to a metaphorical level.
The mere act of living has become an ordeal for us. I wonder how the elders in your family take to high suicide rates these days, but let me tell you I usually hear things like young people are unhappy nowadays and they shouldn’t be because they grew up having so much more than we did. I don’t think this is an appropriate comparison because everything has changed with the turn of the century. The Millenials grew up with technology. Technology has become a vital part in daily life. The alarm which sets off in the morning is not on the alarm clock, it is on a mobile phone. I would exhaust myself if I would begin on the various ways in which technology has replaced traditional objects. But why is that considered a threat? If human evolution is considered a positive change then why is the evolution of technology regarded to have a negative impact on the society? After all, the evolution of technology is the proof of the evolution of the human mind.
As Frans de Waal “The more we play down animal intelligence, the more we ask science to believe in miracles when it comes to the human mind”. Though Waal’s investigations are focused towards finding and accepting intelligence in animals, particularly chimpanzees, his articulate expression of the development of the human mind is crucial to my idea about technology’s impact on our lives. I got this brainwave when we were video conferencing with our friends on that mobile application, having our drinks in our comfort zones. We are living in a fantasy world created by technology. The life we are living now has been envisioned in science fiction novels in the previous centuries. And speaking of science fiction, do you remember the first time we read Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein? How we felt pity for Frankenstein as he was shunned by his creator? I think we can replace Frankenstein with robots, but the AI robots are not hated by either the creators or the users.
As Sherry Turkle says that “Although the machine may only have simulated emotion, the feelings it evokes are real”. The robots may be wired to perform certain actions for interaction with humans, but the effect of having a conversation with that robot is almost like having a companion. Though it seems like living in an illusion, but might I remind you of Kahlo’s self portrait which I talked about earlier in this letter? You see, Kahlo was seen to be leading a normal life after the accident, but beneath her clothes she is nailed together with metal and leather straps. The illusion that she recovered after the accident is created by a fine dress which we see her wearing in other self portraits. The idea is that through technology one can attain happiness and be in touch with those who care for you. Where some may claim that instant gratification is the cause of depression and anxiety, but my reply to such claims would be that Hamlet and Antonio (from The Merchant of Venice) had no smart phone or a robot to engage with and yet they are considered tragic heroes. Also, mental health problems have plagued humanity since time immemorial and it should not be assumed that it has been aggravated with the increased engagement with technology.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts about my insight into the dependence on technology.