Erosion Factors

Are aspects of our humanity being eroded by Technojungle change? What might we be losing?

I remember, as a kid, going to a popular beach/park. There was a little hut that sold the best hamburgers and it was run by two elderly ladies. People used to gather in large groups with family and friends. One day, while I was waiting to place our order, a fellow was just finishing his. The amount for each item was scribbled on a blank pad of paper. There must have been 20 items and in a matter of seconds, this old lady totalled it up. Not a slow, carry the one, etc., but she just came up with the total. I was astonished. So I mentioned it to my mother, who simply said, “Well we never had calculator in my day, so we did everything in our head.” Apparently, by the time I was born, this ability had eroded away from the human race.

Earlier chapters have mentioned some things we have lost due to the Technojungle. Remember the toilet that knows when to flush? Now people have forgotten how to flush. As manual flush toilets became rare, did you noticed they did not get flushed? With autonomous driving cars, do people forget how to drive well—perhaps forget how to drive altogether? Could machines that end up doing our thinking cause us to forget how to think? That may have happened long before intelligent machines came along. Remember Plato’s Phaedrus and the invention of writing?  

Life in the Technojungle is about constant change. This constant change seems to be somewhat like the weather, ever changing and causing more change, sometimes good, sometimes bad. 

We know that wind can erode the Earth, as can rain and other forms of weather and they “weather” the Earth. How do changes in the Technojungle weather, or erode our knowledge, skills and abilities? How about eroding our humanness and humanity?

I mentioned some aspects of life I enjoyed on Bowen Island earlier in the book. Life was slow and relaxing. There was time to think. I used to lay around in a rowboat to just rock with the waves. We used to jokingly state that we were on “Bowen Island time,” or “island time.” Time didn’t seem to matter much. When was the last time you had a significant amount of time where nothing mattered? If you can think of carefree relaxing times, did you ever, or do you now, think that you were wasting time? Not at all, it was all worthwhile. My mother would climb out on to a rock and just sit there looking out over the ocean. 

I remember way back when I was in college. During a break, and at a time I was not working, my neighbour suggested I just live apart from the clock, or off the clock. Eat and sleep when I felt like it and just relax. It was an interesting experiment, but not very practical for busy lives in our overly organized Technojungle world, even way back in those days. Keep in mind that this was the seventies and there were no computers, no cell phones—very little of the Technjungle devices and activities that make life ever more complex today. What do you think of this idea? Could we benefit from being a little less ‘on the clock’? Have you ever tried this?

For years, I have had the urge on hot days in the summer to just lie in the shade of a tree. I had never been able to find the time. Does the Technojungle keep you so busy, you can’t have these extended moments of relaxed time? These now seem to me like rare times very which are very humanizing because time seems to stand still, or not particularly matter. Aren’t we just too busy dealing with the baggage of this unexpected life in the future to have any down time? Do you find something is always nagging you, either in your head, or some nagging device? It’s not what I was promised when I was younger and is certainly a dilemma we need to resolve if we want to remain human in the Technojungle. 

Finally one summer, my wife and I bought a $3.00 waterproof blanket and went out many times to lay in the grass under trees on hot days. It was an amazing time. It was more than I imagined. I suggest leaving the Technojungle behind. We ended up talking and just being together without worries. I recommend this to everyone—even if it is only for half and hour, once in a while. I believe it will make a difference in your life. Oh, if you leave your Technojungle devices behind, the experience will be even better. It can be a time of building back up some of what a busy life in the Technojungle has eroded away.

Our time seems to have been eroded away. Time to think is gone. Has our thinking been eroded by the Technojungle? We seem to have no free time, so how can we be free? Don’t we need time to be free? Aren’t we always in such a rush to get things done and deal with the constant endless flow of tasks and information? Have we taken to using the Technojungle as a crutch to assist us in doing that which our brains could do well only a few years ago? Do we now require crutches because we are cognitively crippled? Our calculators and spellcheckers have eroded our abilities to do even simple arithmetic and spelling. Why bother with certain types of thinking, or certain tasks or activities, when the computers of the Technojungle can do them for you? Might we one day become obsolete and incapacitated?

[Image: A brain lifting a barbell. (This has already been used in book one.) Try a brain with a crutch. TBA]

Why bother with tasks and abilities that seem to be passing from us? I suggest, because it strengthens our minds so we will be able to do other forms of complex thinking. Don’t we all need to be able to do complex forms of thinking and think about what we are thinking? Is it a burden, or is it exercise? Why bother? We can say, to be human, that’s why. 

To be able to do these tasks, don’t we first have to be taught how to do them? Can we conclude here that education and learning have been eroded? Why teach arithmetic, math, spelling, writing and certain other tasks or skills when a computer of the Technojungle can do them better? 

If someday we have AI machines doing everything for us, will we still need to be educated. Hey kids, no school! Send the machines of the Technojungle to school instead, since they are going to take over for us in all our work. Then we can just go play. What if our machines take our playtime and play for us? Then we would be left with plenty of time to think. Or would we? What do you think? It does seem to be quite a dilemma.

Our time seems to have been eroded away. Time to think is gone. Has our thinking been eroded by the Technojungle?

I hear that teaching cursive writing has been eliminated in many schools to make way for keyboarding skills and for learning to work with other technologies of the Technojungle. So how do you sign your name? Wait, that need is disappearing to make way for safer, more secure technological methods for signing and verification, like fingerprint, voice, eye, brainwaves, who knows what? What authorization and verification methods have you used, or do you you use?

With learning to write gone, will printing by hand also be discontinued someday? How will people write in the future unless they have a Technojungle computer? At least today, in the absence of technology, we can still be a human and pick up a stick and write in the sand? Oops, doesn’t the stick then become a technology? What about grammar? Our computers can warn us about improper punctuation and grammar, so why should we bother to learn these skills? Because computers can do our writing, why bother to learn how to compose sentences and structure essays? Come on technology, take over! Help me be more human! 

Do we give up and let the Technojungle machines do everything for us in the future? What would we, or could we, do with all the time we will have? We were promised a life of leisure in the future (today), can you find all that leisure? Do I have to wait for another future to arrive? Could it turn out to be that, it won’t matter what Technojungle advances and future promises we have, life and living will always be work and toil? Might this have begun with Adam and Eve?

My concern is that our knowledge, skills and abilities can be eroded away and that is dehumanizing. We have entered the era of the autonomous driving car of the Technojungle. I asked at the beginning of this chapter about losing our ability to drive if we let technology take over driving our cars. What do you think will happen to our human driving skills? What happens when we need to take over for some reason from the technology? How safe will our driving be if we have not been driving, or even worse, never learned how to drive? Why even learn how to drive when the car can drive itself? Do we really want to put our lives in the hands of the Technojungle like that? The term automobile will then have a literal meaning—auto-mobile, or autonomously-mobile.

I have observed that usually human knowledge, skills and abilities are still required even with new technologies, however, our societies have lost some craftsmanship. Old crafts are still being kept alive, but, with less demand, they stand in the face of oblivion or have reached financial unviability. Some homes and other buildings in affluent neighbourhoods use stone, requiring stone crafts people, or other crafts. Many people who do these crafts in North America come from Europe, or other parts of the world. When humans are displaced by a machines, humans are still required in some capacity, the new role might be just as dehumanizing as in the past, only different.

Here are a couple examples of human knowledge, skills, abilities and craftsmanship that gain with the assistance of Technojungle technology:

Letterpress printing is still alive and is often done with the assistance of new technologies. Letterpress is printing from a raised image that gets inked and then pressed on to paper. On thicker, softer papers, the image can be pressed into the paper to leave a bit of a three dimensional impression. Typesetting and other images can be created on a computer and then imaged directly on to the printing plate. Modern typesetting and imaging combines with old fashioned printing.

Another example I discovered when we needed to have a grave headstone made. The image is designed on a computer the same way as in the letterpress example above. A printer/plotter with a knife attached cuts into a rubber-like material. The image that is to show on the stone is removed. Sandblasting etches (erodes) the stone in the open image areas and the rubber-like material repels the sand protecting the stone. An engraved-like image results in the stone.

In our post-post-modern Technojungle life, we still build with brick requiring bricklayers; stone work requires stone masons. Other crafts are still kept alive. Farmers still till and water their crops using special sprinkler technologies. There are examples (indicators) of people, perhaps tired of the ultra-modern buildings, desiring the more natural crafted look where extra wood, stone, or brick and other more humanizing natural materials are used. Where this is not practical, for maintenance, or too expensive, we see imitations—Technojungle artificial replicas—of natural wood and stone—sometimes called engineered products. Look around and see, can you try to spot the combining, or replacing, of old technologies and crafts? Remember technology is a craft. How does what you see differ today from the past? Are there pros and cons that you can determine?

What other aspects of our lives have, or could be, getting eroded by the Technojungle? How about memory? We looked at this topic in book one. Do you think that our memories seem to be no longer as capable as years ago? I only remember a couple of phone numbers these days. I used to remember many more. Can it be that we have too many other things to remember? What is taking up our memory, or why are we not able to remember as much as in past generation? 

Scientists tell us that we only use around 10 percent of our brain. Are our minds, perhaps more correctly our attentions, over-occupied with minor details and fragments of information? Are these, in most instances, superficial Technojungle noise and not substantial useful knowledge or wisdom? 

Our ability to speak and write coherently has eroded. We are told that it is better to be more casual than formal, and that, at least we are communicating. World-wide language and vocabulary has become Westernized while many languages and dialects are becoming extinct. 

Our time has been eroded to the point where our days have become so condensed and compressed that we can hardly keep up. How often have you thought, or heard someone say, that, “I need a 48 hour day!” or something similar? We crowd our brain with so much useless Technojungle noise that our minds can hardly keep up sorting the fragments out to determine what should belong in long-term memory. Remember, noise can be all types of data and information. This is the dehumanizing dilemma of time with life in the Technojungle.

Consider what you know and experience concerning you attention. Do you think your attention gets eroded by life in the modern Technojungle?

What other aspects of our lives have, or could be, getting eroded by the Technojungle?

Can we say that some of what has been, or is being, eroded due to life in the Technojungle is not part of what really makes us human? Can we find our humanness in other aspects of our life in the Technojungle? 

We need to be able to speak to use the technology of language and we need to write to make it permanent so our ideas can be stored, but is that part what makes us human? If we allow those skills and abilities to erode, can we still be human? Does using casual, less correct or improper, language to speak and write, make us less human? Suppose we allow technology to tidy-up our casual communications and we simply emit ideas to our Technojungle technologies which would then take care to ensure those ideas get communicated clearly and understood by the recipient of the communication? That looks like where we are heading.

Many people are going to Technojungle gyms (technogyms?) for exercise. This is of course a good thing, as in times past, many people abandoned exercise. My kids, who are adults now, are technogym addicts and go everyday. Do you go to a modern fitness factory gym with machines and trainers? With the busy schedules of life in the Technojungle, these gyms seem to be quick and efficient ways to get in some daily exercise. Do you partake in the alternatives when possible and get out in the fresh, or hopefully fresh, air of nature and be with the real jungle to do outdoor activities? 

With so little time, it makes sense to let a technogym smart-machine exercise your body for you. Should you breathe air conditioned air and the sweat of other people while receiving a total body workout by an artificially intelligent robotic Technojungle exercise machine? You achieve in a few minutes a total workout and health conditioning. What if it also had a shower to clean you up too? We could have perfectly fit bodies with only minutes a day in the technogym.

Well, outdoor activities have not vanished. People spend a lot of money on expensive equipment and technologies to do various activities and they go to the gym to get fit so they can do the activities on the weekend. That is fitness in the Technojungle. Still, tree hugging has tremendous rewards that are humanizing.

Take a look around at modern Technojungle cities; do you see the landscape of nature erode away, right before your very eyes? Highways that took out many trees of the real jungle, are now being enlarged and taking out even more natural landscapes. The same happens with buildings. 

The townhouse where I have been living for almost 11 years was brand new. Over the years, the neighbourhood has seen many Technojungle changes. At the end of our cull de sac, another complex was built shortly after ours. Since then several houses across the street have been removed along with their trees to make room for more townhouses. Across the highway, towers of condos have recently been built, stacking more people, one on top of another in tiny units for dwelling. Still another townhouse complex has just been completed outside my window next door. A bridge nearby is being twinned and well over a hundred trees in a park were removed, some over a hundred years old. Our highway nearby is under major construction to allow more cars to travel to, and through, our region. Down the highway, a less than 60 year-old four-lane bridge was replaced with a new 10 lane one and connecting highway was enlarged.

It seems to me the landscape is eroding and eroding again leaving us to become monkeys in a concrete paved jungle world?

Sometimes we can spot a case of de-erosion. I grew up at a time when new food products were introduced every week to make our eating life in the Technojungle simpler and faster. If you are a boomer, do you recall the introduction of the modern meal? Did you ever read the labels to discover most of these faster foods contained preservatives so they could be bought in bulk and left on the shelf for a long period? Did you finally realize that, to make the fake foods more enjoyable and sell more, manufacturers used more salt, sugars and fats as comfort foods? What foods did you use to eat that you don’t eat now?

One can say that our ability to eat healthy became eroded by all these modern convenient Technojungle foods, and that dehumanized us. Fortunately, this seems to be an example where we can find some de-erosion. Some people actually did look and see. They began to read labels and were shocked into questioning the foods they were consuming. As a result, healthier foods have become available and more organic fruits and vegetables are now stocked. My wife got on this bandwagon back when the organic foods were, not only difficult to find, they didn’t look as good as the regular non-organic foods and were much more expensive. They are still somewhat more expensive, but I am astonished at how nice the organic foods look. One can see a great trend toward healthier foods amongst the still rampant fast foods that many people continue to eat. 

The de-erosion of our eating habits is promising. Isn’t food and eating habits a great example of look, see, ask? Can we begin identify other aspects of our lives that we might be able to de-erode and thereby inject some re-humanization into the Technojungle? How about information? If food feeds our body, doesn’t data and information feed our mind? Shouldn’t we be demanding healthier information to consume? If this book can play even a minimal roll in contributing to a humanizing trend for the future when it arrives, then the book has served a great purpose.

Erosion can bring images to mind of weathered cliffs, water carved canyons, or a home falling into a river as the bank is being suddenly eroded away by a swelling river. Erosion can be slow and constant or it can be sudden and catastrophic. It can be hard to notice until it is too late. Eroded places are often desolate-looking places. An old building with character downtown is suddenly gone and a harsh mechanized-looking Technojungle skyscraper stands in the same place as a promise for a streamlined Technojungle future. What comes to your mind when you think of erosion?

Can we say that, perhaps some of what has been, or is being, eroded due to life in the Technojungle is not part of what really makes us human? Can we find our humanness in other aspects of our life in the Technojungle?

While weather erodes the Earth, how does technology attempt to erode, often with our permission, our humanness and humanity? Do we give up aspects of our humanity to the conveniences of technology, the manipulations of our lives by corporations, the promises of the Technojungle future, and the wonderment of what we will be able to do next? Do you think technology might well be promising to become our permanent crutches without which we might not be able to manage to live our lives? Is this the future of human life in the Technojungle? Has this has already happened?

Has the calculator made you better at arithmetic? Has the spellchecker made you a better speller? Have driver assist technologies made you a better driver? Plato would ask if writing has improved our memory? 

Here is my idea. In situations where you can do something using your own abilities, can you challenge yourself—even compete with the Technojungle? Can you do it the human way first and then let the Technojungle show you whether your are correct? Do you believe that in this way your human abilities will get some exercise? Do you know that exercise can make you stronger? Wouldn’t you also be able to learn from your mistakes?

How do you view the erosion of our humanness and humanity? We go to school to gain knowledge, skills and abilities. Are we in danger of serious erosion by replacing all of our knowledge, skills and abilities with technology—giving them all to the Technojungle? Could a time come when we have no need for school, learning and education? If we have no knowledge, skills and abilities that are our own, how might we go on being better human beings and living in a world of technology—the Technojungle?

Could our lives begin to look or seem desolate of any humanness and humanity from our over-use and over reliance of technology? Is erosion of the Earth by weather and other means a good example, analogy or metaphor for our growing lives in the Technojungle?


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