Thursday Apr 12, 2007

Technology, Time and Space

(Preamble: This is a draft. However, what started as a draft has turned into something more through the dialog in the comments section. So, I'll leave it as it is, at least for right now.)

A farmer in Heilongjiang province of People's Republic of China, a nomad in Mongolia or a bushman in Namibia only need to look into the night sky to observe the canopy of far away stars and to conclude that space stretches to farthest distances imaginable.

When we, individually, come to realize our own mortality, and compare the length of our lives to the life of, say, a Redwood tree, a mountain, Earth, Sun or a distant galaxy, we can conclude, rather easily, how shortly our lives occupy time in its vast stretch.

One would hope that recognizing the apparently infinite reach of time and space should help moderate the ego and bring some humility to all who care to examine what stretches and presents itself in their surroundings. Yet, few seem to have a discerning eye, and we are prone to falling prey to our egos and our own feeble notions of grandiosity.

We often use various tools (call them "technologies") at our disposal to shrink space or time in the practice of this present life.

We produce things that lead to durability and mobility.

In fact, all technologies can be categorized according to the extent they contribute either to durability or mobility.

As time has moved forward and the industrial age has engulfed human life, the emphasis in produced tools has shifted from providing durability to providing mobility.

The Persian nomadic tribes invented the carpet thousands of years ago to carry through various seasonal moves, from place to place, as a floor covering which survived many moves over many years.

The Persian carpet, as a mobile covering, conveyed, also, in its design, a definite sense of stability and durability in life.

Paper, as a recording technology, emphasizes the durability of recorded content much more than the mobility of the content it carries. It cannot be carried as readily as bits of information on a wire but it inherently requires no energy for retaining and presenting the content it carries.

The Internet (some call it the largest copy machine in the world) emphasizes the mobility of content it carries more than the durability of the content it might be said to record.

Why has the modern age focused primarily on provision of mobility? What is lost when tools emphasize mobility over durability? Is there a pendulum that may swing back? Why will it swing back?

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