Disconnect of the Interconnected World

In Part III of Paul Virilio’s “Open Sky,” he continues his in depth discussion of how disconnected the human species has become with all of our new technologies and advancements in science. Nothing is tangible anymore when we are devoting our lives to this new virtual social sphere. It is twisting our everyday perception in his opinion.

“In the face of this ‘perceptual disorder’ that affects each and every one of us it might be appropriate to reconsider the ethics of common perception: are we about to lose our status as eyewitnesses of tangible reality once and for all, to the benefit of technical substitutes, protheses for all seasons which will make of us ‘visually challenged'” (91).

In other words, with all of these new technologies developing not only in tangible products, but in medicine and beyond, we are no longer in control of our very own reality. 

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With everyone being controlled by the same technologies, we will reach what Virilio refers to as “the standardization of vision” (92). 

We will be so attached to this virtual perception and life that Virilio thinks we will no longer interact as human beings in a face to face physical setting. He argues this to the point of saying we will no longer even be drawn to reproduce as a species.

“What was till now still ‘vital’, copulation, suddenly becomes optional, turning into the practice of remote-control masturbation” (104).

This may be a litter far-fetched of Virilio to be saying in a book published in 1997, however he has a relative point. “The end of the supremacy of physical proximity in the megalopolis of the postindustrial age will not content itself with promoting a boom in the single-parent family” (106). It’s becoming more and more evident in the age of the iPhone and iPad, that alongside our ongoing technological evolution we are also experiencing a change in our own family values.

Nothing saddens me more than going out to dinner with my family, who still holds on strong to our traditions, and I see young kids playing games or even watching a movie on an iPad instead of engaging in conversation with their immediate families. While it is deemed acceptable to new families in that generation, I find it absurd to think my parents would ever allow me to pull an iPad out in a restaurant, let alone my iPhone (which my Dad demands we all leave in the parked car).

Many important leaders have agreed with me on the topic of gadgets being present at the dinner table. This article in the Daily Mail, is right on target with me in being driven crazy by “people constantly having their ‘noses glued’ to smartphones and iPads”. 

I think it’s about time we as a society have a reality check. Live life outside the gadget.

Questions to Ponder:

1) What is your opinion on family values changing with the introduction of all the new gadgets?

2) Are these new innovations good and bad for human contact?

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The Third Revolution

In Part 2 of Paul Virilio’s book, “Open Sky,” he discusses what he calls the Third Revolution, which is what our society is currently going through. Before the Third Revolution we began with the Transport Revolution, in which occurred in the 19th century with the innovation of the railway and automotive industries. Following this revolution was the Transmission Revolution, which occurred alongside the innovation of radio and television.

Virilio explains this Third Revolution as a “transplantation revolution” that we don’t even realize is occurring. He defines this revolution as “secretly gearing up, not only with the grafting of livers, kidneys, hearts and lungs, but with the implantation of new kinds of stimulators, much more effective than the pacemaker, and the imminent grafting of micro motors capable of overcoming the defective function of this or that natural organ” (51). In essence, this revolution allows us to put the technology within our physical being.

Virilio dislikes the Third Revolution because he believes its purpose is “to miniaturize the world, having reduced and miniaturized its components, the technological objects the world has contained ever since industry first took off” (54). The disadvantage of all of these new technologies is that it makes us inactive and lazy.

This can be applied perfectly to the telecommunications world, “it is better to send an electronic impulse than to carry a sheet of paper, but carrying a letter, sending mail, is better than sending a messenger” (55). Take for example, the postal service. Hardly anyone in this day and age uses “snail mail” when e-mail is a much more efficient way to communicate. However, I now get excited over a letter mail notice from the Furman post office.

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Just as the Post Office has seemed to lose it’s purpose, Virilio believes with the ongoing growth of new technologies, the world is becoming meaningless. He is quoted as saying, “as the world becomes meaningless now it is no longer so much whole as reduced by technologies that have acquired, in the course of the twentieth century, the absolute speed of electromagnetic waves” (61).

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Something I came to disagree with Virilio with was his notion of travel. He believes since we can see what a place looks like from an image, video, or movie, we no longer have the desire to travel there and see what it looks like in reality. He states this belief when saying “with the state of emergency in time distances, that dream fades, soon to be replaced by the telex or by immersion in virtual reality” (65).

As someone who has a strong passion to travel, I strongly disagree with this statement. By looking at an image of an exotic location or watching a movie about somewhere far away, it ignites my desire even more to go there.

Lastly, another interesting point Virilio brought up, which I have noticed more and more over time as our business world expands and transforms, is the notion of no longer needing a central office to conduct business. He uses the example of IBM and how they eliminated their headquarter building entirely and no longer have one. When people are able to do work from any location at any time of the day, there’s no longer a need for a central office building.

While doing this certainly has many advantages, Virlio noted one of the major disadvantages our society faces today, “the fact that we can no longer draw a clear line between work and play, paid work now threatening to swamp all the private space and time we each thought we could do with as we pleased” (77).

Questions to Ponder:

1.) Have you noticed your work interfering with you personal time ever at school? (such as professors e-mailing you about an assignment on the weekend and expecting you to check the email before the next class)

2.) Do you agree/disagree with Virlio’s notion of travel and why?

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