Monday, April 4, 2016
Appearances are deceptive............
Progress, even when it has predominated over regress, has seldom been without loss. Moreover, since we take progress for granted almost as soon as it has taken place, it never quite meets our expectations, at least not for very long. Progress is like a present given to a child who already has too many presents: it causes a very brief moment of delight and then, immediately afterwards is forgotten. Indeed, when it comes to technical improvements, we forget what it was like to be without them. For more than half of my life I did not have a computer, and for more than two thirds no access to the internet; but I find it difficult to recapture imaginatively what it was like to have lived without them. When I see an old film with, say, a scene in an old typing pool, with twenty women clacking away furiously at typewriters, I cannot resist laughing, so alien and bizarre does such a scene seem to me now. Try as one might to avoid doing so, one despises them a little for having been so backward, as if it were their own fault that they were in their prime of life fifty years ago instead of now, and as if we were personally responsible for having made all the technical progress since then. In fact, most of us don’t even know how a light switch works, let alone a computer. We are like rats in a behaviourist’s cage, except that it is technology, not a psychologist, that conditions us.
Theodore Dalrymple, as excerpted from his My Road to Damascus essay