Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ludditism and Wall-E

We watched Wall-E again tonight, perhaps the first time we've watched it together as a family in at least a year. The message of the movie really struck me harder this time around, as I've had a little context added in my head on our society's tendency to over-rely on technology, in reading books by Max Hastings and William Langeweische.

It's not consumerism that led to the desecration of Earth in the society Wall-E describes -- it's a mere overreliance on technology. People became too accustomed to having some new gadget be just the thing to fix whatever ailed them. Many of the gadgets they bought did just fine in fixing problems. So effect became cause: Is there a problem? Make up some kind of fancy gew-gaw and voila, problem solved. Yeah, sure, they wear out. But it's just as easy to buy a new gadget to keep fixing that problem. Multiply that my billions, aided and abetted by the BuyNLarge government willing to keep shoveling gadgets people's way, and ka-boom, you've got a trashed Earth. But notice how they try to fix things. They had their windmills, creating power. They had their Waste Allocation Load Lifters, Earth Class, trying to clean things up, while they had their spaceliners and their virtual golf and their meals in a cup. To fix the problem, they depended on technology, while using technology to escape from their problems. That's the problem.

The captain realizes that when, as he's commanding one of his robots to do something, he pauses and then says, "No, I should do it." And he does. Without gadgets.

But note this: I"m not suddenly turning Luddite, nor suggesting that anti-technology is the way to go. Notice how the "Earthlings" go about fixing things: They use technology to help them, but they're not completely reliant on their gadgets any more.

We're not at the Wall-E stage yet. But we're moving further from the technology-as-assistant age into the technology-as-cure-all age. And it's not just technology that's the danger. Overreliance on any one thing -- government, money, technology, religion, reason, science -- whatever you want to call your overindulgence, that's the problem.

But there's nothing that can't be solved by listening to this:

No comments: