The genius of invention

Frankenstein's monsterSeveral of the authors that we’ve read on this programme have felt the need to remind us that humans invented all this technology. It’s a theme that struck me again in the wonderful meat scene, but which I think permeates a lot of this discourse. There is certainly the Frankensteinian fear of the created overpowering the creator (this week it’s been Blade Runner, last week 2001, and there are countless others). But there also seem to be further, less obvious worries…the preoccupation with creating something that is human, only then to react with repulsion when it’s too human (see…just about every movie, not for children, pertaining to robots), or with the ironic disregard shown to the humanoid/nonhuman’s origins in Gumdrop…the projection of invention onto others (Sian mentioned a few good ones in her response to my week 1 summary), thus absolving humankind of the blame for technology run amok…and ultimately that technology will be able to reproduce–or better-produce–itself, and truly trump the human role as creator (Bendito machine alludes to this, although to slightly more subtle ends than the Terminator films).

But this BBC show to which I refer seems to engender the chirpy optimism around invention that (at least since 1820, according to the show itself) has surrounded technological innovation. It seems that the schadenfreude in which we like to wallow with regards to digital dystopia may be more of a response to gushing rather than reactionism. As Hand makes very clear, it is difficult to find an opinion in the middle of the u-/dys-topia debate–and yet I would argue that the two sides have something in common: the treatment of technology as an existential entity with little attention paid to the people (and communities and cultures) from which the technology springs.

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