We Hath Been Lax!

I'm really not 'blogging very much these days, and I don't know why. It's not like I don't have any free time, and I certainly have lots to write about...
Rus sent me this quote for discussion:

"In the affluent society no useful distinction can be made between luxuries and necessaries."

- J. K. Galbraith

Rus asked me if the rich become blind to the difference between luxury and need, or if it's something integral to their position, and I'd say the latter is more fitting.
If McLuhan is right, and technology is an extension of our body, then we've reached a point where giving up on luxuries like telephones and movies would feel like cutting off fingers (or perhaps even like giving up specific senses...)

What's more dangerous than our perception of our own needs is that we start seeing those needs in other people.
Exempla gratia: the One Laptop per Child Foundation.
The mission of the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) movement is to ensure that all school-aged children in the developing world are able to engage effectively with their own personal laptop, networked to the world, so that they, their families and their communities can openly learn and learn about learning.

Why do children need laptops? What is preventing them from "learning openly" without networked computers? Am I really a better student because I have access to The Google and Wikipedia? Certainly I can be a student in disciplines that many people cannot, simply because I have access to resources they do not, but I don't really think that "children in Africa" need to know about European Medieval Martial Arts manuscript archives...
Another example: Mobile phones for children.
My uncle was relating his feelings on this issue when he was visiting on the weekend. "Why do children need cell phones?" he asked. "If it's really for emergency use, what does that say about the people they're spending time with and the places they're going?"
I had to stop and think about that one.
If a girl needs a cell phone in case something goes wrong at a party or a night club and she needs to make an emergency call, then what has the cell phone really done? Instead of trusting the people around us and staying out of dangerous situations, we rely on a deus ex machina to escape the doom that lurks around every corner.
Sure, it's nice to be able to go somewhere with 5,000 people and be able to find your friends in 10 minutes, but if you had planned ahead and arrived on time at the right location then you would never know the difference...

Then again, maybe I'm missing the distinction between technology and luxuries...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

and maybe that's scary enough by itself...