December 12, 2017
Dissatisfaction in High-Tech Futures: Low-Tech equals comfort
As time progresses, we tend to believe that the world around us will continue to advance with the use of technology. Many studies, articles, and journals show that an astronomical amount of money in research is spent on devices that are supposed to improve our quality of living. I may sound crazy to some, but I believe that our world will eventually revert back to a low-tech society. We’ve become accustomed to working like slaves for progression, but a tech-savvy world will eventually display its side effects. Lori Nolen states that “Science fiction is, as noted in one of our class discussions, practice for the possible struggles of life.” I believe that humans use technology as a way to avoid many struggles that life may possess, but when is enough actually enough? The narratives that we’ve read this semester give us a change of heart about our future. They show us that the technological advances we desire, will eventually be dissatisfying, which will force our society to go back to past ways.
The Onion and I is the perfect example of dissatisfaction with a high-tech world that the future has brought us to. In this story, we see a family living in a virtual reality where the opportunities and possibilities are endless. However, it is all pretend because they are living inside of a computer (which we know is both impossible and far-fetched). I found this story somewhat comical because it reminded me of playing “dress up” or “house” as a little girl. Computers have become a very important part of our daily lives, but that doesn’t make it a living organism. I believe that human beings should make actual connections with other real-life beings, as opposed to escaping to a fake utopia and being out of touch with reality. We see that the high-tech world didn’t make the cut in the father’s regard. The boy’s father’s connection to the earth and onion was an on-going battle throughout the narrative. The connections and bonds that the real world offers to us should not be put on the backburner because this is simply how humans remain…human. Low tech definitely outshined high tech in the father’s mind. He knew that no matter how perfect the virtual life was, it could never match the satisfaction he received from the touch, smell, and feel of a real onion.
On the same accord, Drapes and Folds delivers a blend of both high and low tech. Both Diana and Pearl live in a high-tech world, but throughout the story; we see them doing everything possible to salvage bits and pieces of the past. FabricLaws have been put in place, in which the higher powers believe that clothing, fabric, and fashion as a whole creates individualism (which they are opposed to). The Powers (government) are moving towards a more “futuristic” society where robotic characteristics will outnumber human qualities. Sexual intercourse will no longer be needed as a means for reproduction because turkey basters filled with sperm will now do the job. At one point, Diana began to experience “hardening,” where the inside of her head was dry and as hard as a rock. This was a result of the New Society erasing old information and memories from Diana’s brain, in order to pull her further away from her past life. As the story goes along, Pearl tries her hardest to cling to the remaining designs and fabrics that she has left. She felt a sense of affection and warmth in her old fabrics that she has yet to feel in the cyber world. Pearl caught a glimpse of one remaining piece of fabric at the end of the story. It was a bag that her granddaughter, Xera, had kept in a safe place. This experience with Xera brought along a sense of warmth and love that Pearl never received in the world around her.
In Burning Chrome by William Gibson, we see low-tech characteristics taking place in a high tech world. Automatic Jack (who has a myoeletric arm made of Duralumin, which gives a high-“tecish” vibe) takes a trip to The Finn’s place, which is a black market known as Metro Holografix in search of “hot software”. However, this really wasn’t the case at all. The New York black market was an area filled with outdated gadgets such as assault rifles, audio cassettes, and other random pieces of dusty scrap. I also noticed how the low-tech guns were being sold at a relatively high price. Even though there were high-tech weapons available, the old school outshined the new in this scenario. Dissatisfaction shows up once again in Johnny Mnenomic, where low-tech devices play a key role in a high-tech future. Shotguns were used in the narrative as a weapon of choice. Most wouldn’t think of a basic shotgun as the first option in an extremely tech-savvy world like this. However, we see the past making itself known in the future through these weapons. Towards the end of the story, we also see the main character, Johnny, become irritated with technology advances the future has placed upon him. He is being used as a data courier, who has an implanted system that stores information too sensitive for computer databases. Eventually, he wants to get rid of his robotic mind and revert to a time where people once thought on their own.
Lastly, we get another great post-apocalyptic story from the incredible Octavia Butler. Speech Sounds is a low-tech narrative with organic human nature in a high-tech world. A “stroke-like” illness has spread through the region and killed a vast majority of the population. Those who remain are left illiterate and unable to speak. Rye is the main character who lives in a world of misfortune and longs for a return to the life she used to know. Throughout the narrative, we see Rye struggle with the death of her children and her inability to effectively communicate with others. Butler’s dystopian future society involves a lot of violence as a result of angry and hopeless people who contracted the illness. In the end, there is hope for Rye after she rescues two abandoned children. We learn that she could talk all along, but she acted as if she couldn’t in order to blend in. It is also evident that Rye gains a new sense of hope and sees some purpose in this chaotic world.
The four previous narratives show us that longing for the past isn’t a foreign concept. High-tech seems to be what we think we want, and what we continue to strive for. However, many realize that the past provides a much more comfortable way of living.