“If the possibility of acting instantaneously without having to move about physically to open the blinds, switch on the light or adjust the heating has partly removed the practical value of space and time intervals to the sole benefit of the speed interval of remote control (thanks to the feats of the live transmission revolution), what will happen when this capacity for action or, rather, for instantaneous interaction, with the biotechnological transplant revolution, migrates from the thickness of the walls or floors of the wired apartment and settles not on, but inside, the body of the inhabitants, introducing itself, lodging itself inside their bodies, in the closed circuits of their vital systems?” (Virilio 54, 55)
When reading this particular excerpt from Part II of Paul Virilio’s Open Sky, I realized, first and foremost, the main reason his writing is so difficult to comprehend: because it’s packed with sentences like this one. (I enjoy using complex sentences myself, but seriously – would it really hurt to throw in a simple sentence or two?) That said, Part II was much clearer than Part I (physics has always and will always fly right over my head [at 299, 792, 458 m/s….heh]), and to me this quote was a good demonstration of Virilio’s desire to minimize technology before we become (literally) consumed by it.
After his thorough discussion of technology’s effect on time and space in Part I, Virilio applies those theories to issues that are more relatable to the reader – issues with which we contend throughout daily life. These issues regard the “law of least action” as well as the ways in which digital technology factors into “globalization.”
According to the law of least action, when individuals are given the choice between several different actions that produce the same result, the individual will choose the one that allows him or her to achieve that result with the smallest amount of effort possible. We often choose, for instance, to ride an escalator instead of climb a set of stairs, or perhaps when taking notes we will type them instead of write them by hand on a sheet of paper. We are no doubt a society that revolves around convenience, and, in many regards, our general “less is more and faster is better” mentality makes it so that we have come to expect products that achieve this and grow impatient with those that don’t so that technology ultimately controls us more than we would like to accept.
Globalization occurs as a result of the dismantlement of time and space. With the advancement of telecommunications and modern transportation, distance is continuing to shrink and physical space is becoming less of a barrier. Virilio describes “urban ecology” as a parallel between the physical pollution of earth’s environment as well as the virtual pollution of time and space, a connection that is destroying the contiguity between us and the natural world.
Naturally, all of this makes me think of the 2008 Disney movie WALL-E, in which humans have not only destroyed the earth to the point that they can no longer inhabit the planet but have also become so reliant on technology that that technology has come to control them.
And, by consequence, they look like this….
Like I said in my last post, I’d really like to think the human race would just sort of catch itself on before our world began to bear any resemblance to that portrayed in WALL-E. However, Virilio brings in some sound evidence (like for instance, technology’s contribution to the decrease of unique cultures and customs across the world), and, while some of his theories sound like products of paranoia, some sound just plausible enough.