Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Another Delphic passage from Alan Watts' The Book. Again, bear in mind that this was written in 1966.
... To most of us living today, all these fantasies of the future seem most objectionable: the loss of privacy and freedom, the restriction of travel, and the progressive conversion of flesh and blood, wood and stone, fruit and fish, sight and sound, into plastic, synthetic, and electronic reproductions. Increasingly, the artist and musician puts himself out of business through making ever more faithful and inexpensive reproductions of his original works. Is reproduction in this sense to replace biological reproduction, though cellular fission or sexual union? In short, is the next step in evolution to be the transformation of man into nothing more than electronic patterns?
This passage is stimulating in how it seems a melange of on-the-mark as well as off-the-mark speculations. 41 years later, "restriction of travel" seems quite off, in light of how all corners of the globe have become more accessible by jet, etc. -- but if he means a "reduction of movement" or "increasingly sedentary life", as in the post below*, well, we need only to think of computer-bound office workers, bloggers, etc. "Loss of freedom" since the time he wrote is also debatable: in some respects, we (or at least a great many of us) have more choice and influence at our fingertips than ever; in others, we feel ever more powerless to affect things. But what he says about cultural reproduction -- again, bang on, my dear Watts!

*this passage is only two paragraphs after the one below, and in between he talks mainly about the "individual getting smaller and smaller" as population increases and resources shrink.

1 comment:

Robert said...

Alan Watts predicts the virtual self. Who would have thought?

The animators of South Park made some great videos with Watts's words: