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“A fragment of concern on Technology”

“A fragment of concern on Technology”

Like Heidegger, I too have profound concerns with the emergent state of technologies. If I understand Heidegger correctly on this, his concerns seem to be that with the constantly advancing array of technological prosthesis and interfaces mediating our worldly exchanges and lives, what comes directly under threat is ontological being itself. A more drastic point is that, not only, is it philosophy that should be concerned with this, but Being itself, human sentient Dasein. If being is fundamentally relational then how might technology come to distort or make further ambivalent our relational posture(s) toward one another? If we are no longer face to face, but instead inter-face to inter-face, how long might it take before the fabric of recognition erodes to the point of liquidity?

These days, most of our day to day exchanges take place through some type of abstraction or inter-facing. Certainly we still come face to face with one another, exchange words in person, perhaps even kind or nasty glances, winks, hello’s, goodbye’s, and vague allusions to the weather or weekend plans. But if you’ve ever been to a park in a major city, you might notice just how many people are there, sitting side by side, on a bench, with urban nature abounding, as much as it can, all around them, birds, rodents, the gyration of leaves in the warm wind, rushing water artificially contained in a decorative fountain, sound, smells and sights of ‘world’ itself, immersed in their smart phones, i-pads and pods, checking their twitter feeds or facebook messages, completely oblivious to others around them, perhaps even, only vaguely aware of the bench beneath them.
Does that mean that we should all be having real conversations with strangers instead? I am more than a little hesitant to answer that outright, in part because I wonder if there is such a thing as a ‘stranger’ in the relational playing field, certainly their are many strange ones or uncanny types, and I think it is appropriate to concede with Jean Luc Nancy on the point that it is ‘curiosity’ itself that exposes us toward one another. So, perhaps that comes closer to my concern on this matter, how is curiosity toward and about one another, being effected or un-affected, by the performance of removal that technology seems to induce into our immediate relational world?

What happens to things like empathy, laughter and displeasure when they are no longer the types of emotional states we share with one another in a more em(bodied) way? My fear is that technology, social networking, texting and tweeting and snap shooting our reactions and realities about the world around us actually subtracts the world around us, and by proxy, subtracts also the people and things that are in that world.

Heidegger, I think, after all, had a unique historical experience of what can happen in a world where the fabric of being, or ontological Dasein, begins to erode to such a point, inter-relationally, that something like World War 2 Germany could begin to form. That is, I admit, an extreme example, but perhaps it is also what Heidegger had in mind when he was writing about the pernicious possibilities of technology. My feeling is that attempts to change the course of abstraction induced by technology will have to begin in small ways. Partly, because I think, fundamentally, our curiosity and awareness of one another takes place through small exchanges, glances, nods, smiles, and frowns. The world may need some protecting, after all, but in that world, also, we may need to be a bit more, much more, face to face with one another to be up the task of ‘caring’ for things, that is, of having concern. Dasien is that, for which, his very being is a concern. And Dasein cannot help but be concerned about the being of other Daseins as well.


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