I. “Did you here?” said the woman to the man.
“Have I heard what?”
“About the government’s possible resolution.”
“Well, it happened to appear on my screen when I was sitting.”
“I wasn’t aware they were still doing that government thing.”
“Don’t underestimate them. They are going to phase out the Systems.”
“What? They couldn’t possibly do that. How would we live?”
“Apparently they think we can, or if not, what is there to lose?”
“Why all of a sudden this unwarranted change?”
“The population is the biggest reason I suppose. They say even with the Systems, there aren’t enough now born to sustain society.”
“So make more. What is the big deal?”
“They don’t live long after birth. After a few years they die.”
“How should I know? They do everything they should; nourish, shelter, and stimulate.”
“Instead of forsaking us, they should see what is wrong with the laboratories.” Some time passed between the two as they sat in their apartment.
“What would it be like to raise a child?” began the woman.
“What? Why do you want to know that?”
“To see if it is worth it.”
“You’re not planning anything are you? I can’t… I’ve just increased my daily dopamine sessions. I suggest you do the same if you’re having these… urges.”
“I would see that you slowly decrease them; if what they say is true, we want conception to be as easy as possible.”
“Quit speaking such nonsense. It’s as if you actually want them to destroy us. And where is your electrode? You aren’t terminating are you? As if people think dying is fun. Now how will you summon assistance, or stimulate, or anything. You know it’s dangerous to remove it.”
“It is not as if I suddenly removed it; I slowly began to decrease my dependence…”
“That’s like attempting to increase your lung’s independence from air,” he interrupted.
“I’m still here.”
“Please, you’re tiring me. Leave me to my tones. Let’s see, what mood do I want? How about bliss. How many hertz is that?… Where are you going?!” Abruptly standing from his chair he fell to the floor. “You’ll anger the Systems; they’ll notice you’re unplugged. After all they’ve given you?”
“What they’ve given us is hollow.”
“Where will you go?”
“I am going to the world.”
“What is there?”
“That’s what I plan to discover.”
“What if nothing?”
“Then I’ll go up,” she said, leaving him to summon assistance back upon his chair. “There must be more to existence.” She exited the apartment, followed by the man.
“Perhaps there is something wrong with your serotonin regulator.”
“Why are you following me? You’re unsteady, you’ll fall all the way down there.”
“I don’t know why. Perhaps there’s something wrong with our unit’s neuro-regulators.”
“There is more to life than neurochemistry’s effects.”
“That’s what I intend to solve.”
II. “Postmodernity and the Routinisation of Novelty: Heidegger on Boredom and Technology” by Leslie Paul Thiele begins by a quote of Baudelaire, which explains that boredom is the most dangerous of all human vices and is shared by all. It is difficult to exactly make a distinction between modern and “postmodern.” One must be careful not to assume a “contemporary snobbery,” “epochism” if the reader wills. To define an age, one best starts by going not to technological advancement, but its motivation. Of course many philosophers may debate what drives humanity to advance, however, to simplify, this paper will assume that modernity has existed since the Renaissance, and is or has ended recently. A brief argument in favour of this point looks to that era which most famously prefaces the Renaissance, the Medieval era. Look back upon history and one will easily observe that about 2000 years have passed since the Roman Empire; within those 2000 years, scholars define 1000, one entire half, as the Medieval era. Scholars equally agree that advancement during that time was objectively less than the eras before (collectively called antiquity) and after. As an aside, it is important to remember that there was some advancement, in architecture, theology, philosophy and whatnot, however when compared to its flanking eras, advancement is relatively less. Now is the subjective analysis; why was it as such? The Medieval Era was characterised by the rule of the Church, for as Rome fell, its previous imperial subjects needed unity; the newly-established Christianity provided this. Christianity then was not as it is now of course; the terribly literal sense for which they took the Bible was rather misguided, which led to some good effects and some bad. Again, the good effects were strides in philosophy unseen since Greece (which many would say has led to a more symbolic biblical interpretation), however the lack of technological advancement is perhaps the greatest bad effect. All worldliness was discouraged, only piety was seen as important. They did not focus on their present lives, rather what they hoped their lives would eventually be, their eternal reward for a pious life.
Thus was the motivation behind whatever advancement was done during the Medieval era, now one approaches the Renaissance which this paper would argue defines the motivation behind advancement until the end of the two world wars. The Renaissance began the idea of humanism, the great things of which humanity is capable. The religious would accomplish great things to glorify God, a notable example would be Michelangelo Buonarroti. The less religious accomplished things perhaps because they were bored and there was not the menial stimulation of today (looked at later) or perhaps to prove what themselves and humanity are capable of, in effect humanity is their god. Not much of a change comes of this philosophy for centuries until WWI when things begin to change, and WWII which solidifies the new philosophy. Some overlap exists as always between historical periods, and perhaps only now is society truly seeing the effects of the two great wars. The Renaissance philosophy was shattered by the wars; what took centuries to develop was ruined in one. The effects of this can be seen plainly in Picasso’s “Guernica.” The chaos and confusion as well as the twisted, almost disturbing attempts and the human form portray what the two wars have done to the once beautiful Western society and has influenced “artists” to this day.
So now one asks, what is the motivation behind advancement today? The answer, according to the article, is nothing. Advancement still occurs, in fact she says it has been accelerated. The solution is that advancement is no longer a means, but an end, which is a dangerous thing. The image of humankind’s course is now blurred, which is no problem as it is also unimportant. If one opposes advancement, one is marginalised. The purpose to the essay of all of this is that Heidegger says that the mood of postmodern society is profound boredom, out of which comes unencumbered advancement without purpose.
Heidegger was writing during the Interbellum, further illustrating the change in societal philosophy caused by the wars. Taking a contemporary viewpoint, he was quite ahead of his time. Whereas the Renaissance ideal was what humanity could accomplish, the postmodern ideal is characterised by a subconscious awareness of the limitations of humanity. She says, “The drive for endless economic growth and technological innovation that characterizes much postmodern life, Heidegger’s work suggests, is a product of boredom with the human condition and its worldly limitations.” (491) Technological advancement is both a product and a producer of boredom. The novelty produced by technology feeds into the ravenous mental appetite of a disillusioned and deprived society whilst simultaneously preventing society to content itself. Heidegger says that this relationship between technology and boredom keeps humanity from self-awareness and prevents development of the philosophy upon which humanity founded itself.
The world is seeing a change, a transition from the simple, functional, “everyman” mentality of the latter half of the 20th century into something new. Perhaps one would think that this is something good, however again one must observe the motivation. The Sony Building of New York illustrates this example, particularly when contrasted with any building of the International Style, which unfortunately surrounds us. The International Style emerged around the outbreak of WWII and is characterized by complete simplicity, if it does not collapse, it is acceptable, absolutely no ornament is used. This goes along with much of the philosophy, especially encountered after WWII, of society. Clothing was simplified, only functional, to be comfortable or easily made ready took precedence over appearance. Speech in both public and private dialogue underwent an “unrefining,” fearing snobbery or prudishness, people are encouraged to be ultra-non-judgmental. In art, minimalism was modern. Personal expression took precedence over propriety and sexual “liberation” freed society from centuries of moral bondage. Much of this may seem unpleasant, however, consider once again why. The creeds of modern artists may be applied to all of this society, that it is one’s personal experience that is important. This is a noble concept and can be seen applied to societal aspects. To be visually stimulated in a positive way, certainly accomplished by all of art from Ancient Greece to about 1850, was seen to be shallow. It is what is inside that matters. And by the simplicity and vulgarity of modern speech, it does not seem to matter either how what is inside is expressed. Nonetheless, forms of expression during this time attempted to focus on psychological depth, without burdensome beauty.
Signs point to change, one such sign being the above pictured building. Although built in the 1980s, it is a precursor to so called “postmodernism.” Aesthetics return. What may seem simple, even unnoticed to most, is physical evidence of these changes. This physical evidence is specifically the roof of the building. Wait one moment, that is not a square, nor even a simple triangle. That is a Classically inspired gable, with a stone trim and a circular ornament. There are no longer glass walls, but true stone masonry and circular separations, jauntily and unevenly placed, between the windows that, matching the roof, are reminiscent of Classical columns. What could this mean to a society which rejects beauty for functionality? Perhaps society is turning away from the coldness of modernism, perhaps this is a good thing. Or is it? Return again to motivation.
What could the motivation be for this change? None other than boredom. Society is burdened by technology, now forever obligated to innovate lest the waste produced from past modern technologies finally catch up. Time is now more precious than money. Notice how the common citizen practically spends five days per week, at least eight hours per day, to live for the final two, and the cycle repeats. And when one is not at one’s job on a computer, telephone, or one in the myriad of other identical and superfluous technological devices, they are at home on one, at school, on the bus, at a restaurant, at a movie, in the restroom, in church, visiting with friends or family not partaking in any of those activities. Without now a constant state of stimulation, one almost enters a withdrawal in boredom. This either speaks to the mental strength or weakness of those in today’s society. Perhaps we have expanded our mental capacity to this appetite, or perhaps it has shrunken, needing the lowest forms of stimulation and finding nothing in higher pursuits. Of course the latter is the logical decision. The former implies a certain simple-mindedness or density of former peoples. So why isn’t another Mozart born today, why is not someone writing to compete with Milton or creating to rival Michelangelo, or philosophising to qualify Aristotle, Kant, or even Kierkegaard? The majority of people today are unprepared from when they are introduced into this society of flashing lights to accomplish such feats. Most people today, let alone the creation, find the study of those aforementioned to be boring. Why and how does this relate to a change in architectural styles as an example as a change in society?
People either no longer have the time, nor can produce the effort to appreciate something which warrants one find why it should be appreciated. If a depth penetrating the visual inspires modernists, immediate gratification inspires postmodernists. Instead of looking up from one’s cell phone and contemplating why a building with an utter lack of visual appeal is actually appealing, one would simply like to see a pretty building and go on their way, sending and receiving whatever petty conversations text messages are capable of carrying, or sending what are supposed to be funny and youthful likenesses of themselves via “social networking” apparatus.
Now one may ask to what extent shall this neo-aestheticism carry and will visual beauty ever be again equal to that of previous Classical styles? The answer to the latter question is no, and the explanation is the answer to the former. Classically inspired beauty, to be simple, is too far to the other end. And now a brief though important distinction must be made between Classical beauty (Ancient Greece – circa 1850) and modernist “beauty.” The former incorporates both qualities of which one is lacking from modernism and postmodernism. Visual beauty is lacking in modernism, but deep meaning is lacking in postmodernism. Now, again, this new trend in society, which is already being seen in recent trends in fashion, rhetoric, and art, with newfound popularity in groups such as the Art Renewal Centre and new societal terms such as “camp,” shall not approach the lavishness of beauty and meaning of Classically inspired culture. This is because, without deep meaning, there is simply not enough material to be expressed through Classical motifs. And this is because of the modernist rejection of religion which carries on into postmodernism. Only so much depth can be reached before a venture into the metaphysical, and without such, cynicism takes effect. And such is why the Sony Building’s rooftop represents modern society’s ever-deepening descent into shallowness and the profundity of boredom due to its dependency upon technology.
The conversations amongst various “experts” on this website seem to apply only to those to whom “gaming” is important; that is most likely a small percentage of the population. However the idea of portable devices eclipsing the more powerful though stationary devices is a chilling thought for numerous reasons which apply to the whole of society as it is developing. One thing must be first established. The cases made by the various videos and articles are rather clear that both will evolve and offer their own benefits; however stationary consoles will most likely never be overtaken. This is not the point. The point is that the idea of it happening was thought by enough people to spur such conversation. What does this say about society, that its members in their imaginations foresee this happening? What it says is something rather unfortunate.
The explanation to this possible transition is said by one of the men in the first video. Essentially, what his explanation says about “gamers” can be applied to all of society and that it is that depth is sacrificed for ease. The main purpose of video games is and has always been a relief to boredom. However, the rather decent strides in graphics and gameplay in the past decade have added an element of depth, an emotional encapsulation familiar to those who immerse themselves in literature or film. Even though most plots are fantastical, even those along with the more serious-minded combat games, offer a deeper sense of stimulation, and that is emotional involvement. However, now with increased technology, mobile devices offer a relief to boredom, though are incapable of providing emotional involvement. This is why the idea alone of the extinction of gaming devices at the hands of mobile devices is chilling. For it means the extinction of emotion at the hands of mere distraction, a distraction from the career-dominated lives of modern civilization. Differing preference of video games is only one example; this abandonment of emotional and spiritual depth for base distraction is seen everywhere. Why do people prefer Miley Cyrus to Bach, football to Shakespeare? Music is clearly a distraction from reality, though what else does Miley have to offer? And yet, statistics are unneeded to prove people’s preference for her. Public events, again, serve as distractions. Though Shakespeare offers one a lifetime of challenge, to think and analyse and critique his world-view and ideas and the culture in which he was writing. What is there to football? Many overly-nourished males physically crashing into each other in pursuit of a worthless ball. And most certainly modern society scoffs at Shakespeare and those who find enjoyment in reading him, and glorifies those who enjoy screaming at a television for something which by no physical means can actually affect them. Why has this not always been the case?
It has already been established that a relief from boredom has always been of some importance in the creation of literature, music, and video games. However dependence upon technology as well as an abandonment of appreciation for higher pursuits has made this relief the only motivation. Can one truly emotionally feel a connection to the birds in “Angry Birds?” Now of course that sense of depth may also be lacking from most video games, though at least one began such games with the hope of an adventure away from reality; now it is most truthfully mind-numbing and that is accepted by the consumers. Due to technological dependence, mental capacity has shrunken and contentment is much more easily gained by the most trivial of tasks.
This is yet another example of the growing problem of technology and dependency. Reading is no longer necessary to function, all can be easily said with pretty lights and sounds and attractive advertising models. And what would the base pleasures of a person prefer without deeper thought? Clearly not reading. And this is accepted in today’s society.
VI. “Did you hear?” said another woman to another man.
“That woman who escaped her apartment?”
“Oh yes, what about her?”
“They found her dead.”
“Oh… by what means?”
“Severe withdrawal. Simply a lack of proper transmitter levels.”
“It must be done slowly.”
“Hardly, only the next generation born will be the first in centuries without assistance.”
“I suppose we are now too dependent… Didn’t she have a child?”
“Yes, shortly before she died. The child will be among the first without external manipulation of chemical levels.”
“How will this fare for the future of our species? It seems only two paths remain. I hope we are not past hope.”
“We are never past hope.”