Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Quiddity refers to the whatness of things, and it is precisely this whatness that is lost as we advance ever further into technological bridge building. In his famous graveside speech, Hamlet says, “Where be his quiddities now, his quillets, his cases, his tenures?” referring to a departed lawyer. Cybernetics allows for an increase in efficiency at the price of progress. This is not to suggest that everyone must do the Boston AIDS ride to get a feeling for the distance that is lost when traveling by plane or car. Arguing for purity is like chasing windmills, but there are qualitative things that can be done to improve one’s relationship to the world of objects. In his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Marx argued that the means of production resulted in the worker’s alienation from the world of things. The automobile production line epitomizes the kind of anomie in which workers are chronically estranged from the products they produce, but in modern life, more and more conveniences make it ever more difficult to actually have a hands-on relationship with anything. We push too many buttons. For instance, a new service called Doodle allows people to effectively coordinate group activities through an online calendar. It sets up future human interactions by surgically triaging all its clients before presenting a neat little diagram of availability. Seems innocuous enough, right? But it’s not. Such applications prevent all the usual grousing, bickering and love-hate that accompanies human congregation. It’s proven that even animals need others animals, and of all mammals Homo sapiens are perhaps most defined by their social needs. However, with the advent of cyber universes like Second Life, humans may no longer even have to have first-hand contact to arrange social events. Their avatars will Doodle via Google.

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