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Thread: “Technology as Extension of the Human Body”

  1. #1 “Technology as Extension of the Human Body” 
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    “Technology as Extension of the Human Body”

    When most people contact one another there is only a combining of exteriors. Few occasions develop when two people make a significant contact of interiors. James Baldwin put it succinctly when he said “mirrors can only lie”. The mirror exposes only the exterior and says nothing about the interior; I find that, as I grow older, I have less and less exterior about which to communicate and communication about the interior seems much easier with total strangers on the Internet than with those close to me.

    Marshall McLuhan “The High Priest of Pop-Culture” in the mid twentieth century was the first to announce the existence of the ‘global village’ and to express that “we become what we behold”. McLuhan sought to understand and express the effects of technology on modern culture.

    McLuhan was particularly interested in “Technology as Extension of the Human Body”. “An extension occurs when an individual or society makes or uses something in a way that extends the range of the human body and mind in a fashion that is new. The shovel we use for digging holes is a kind of extension of the hands and feet. The spade is similar to the cupped hand, only it is stronger, less likely to break, and capable of removing more dirt per scoop than the hand. A microscope or telescope is a way of seeing that is an extension of the eye.”

    Going further in this vein the auto is an extension of the foot. However there are negative results from all such extensions. “Amputations” represent the unintended and un-reflected counterparts of such extensions.

    “Every extension of mankind, especially technological extensions, has the effect of amputating or modifying some other extension… The extension of a technology like the automobile "amputates" the need for a highly developed walking culture, which in turn causes cities and countries to develop in different ways. The telephone extends the voice, but also amputates the art of penmanship gained through regular correspondence. These are a few examples, and almost everything we can think of is subject to similar observations…We have become people who regularly praise all extensions, and minimize all amputations. McLuhan believed that we do so at our own peril.”

    McLuhan was concerned about man's willful blindness to the downside of technology. In his later years McLuhan developed a scientific basis for his thought around what he termed the tetrad. The tetrad is four laws, framed as questions, which give us a useful instrument for studying our culture.
    "What does it (the medium or technology) extend?"
    "What does it make obsolete?"
    "What is retrieved?"
    "What does the technology reverse into if it is over-extended?"

    McLuhan’s gravestone carries the inscription “The Truth Shall Make You Free." We do not have to like or even agree with everything that McLuhan said. However, we would be wise to remember that his was a life of great insight and it was dedicated to showing wo/man the truth about the world we live in, and especially the hidden consequences of the technologies we develop.

    In the book “The Birth and Death of Meaning” Earnest Becker provides us with a synthesis of the knowledge about the extensions of the human body that McLuhan spoke of and science certified through research.

    Becker informs us that the “self” is in the body but is not part of the body; it is symbolic and is not physical. “The body is an object in the field of the self: it is one of the things we inhabit…A person literally projects or throws himself out of the body, and anywhere at all…A man’s “Me” is the sum total of all that he can call his, not only his body and his mind, but his clothes and house, his wife and children, [etc].” The human can be symbolically located wherever s/he thinks part of her really exists or belongs.


    It is said that the more insecure we are the more important these symbolic extensions of the self become. When we invest undue value onto such matters as desecrating a piece of cloth that symbolizes our nation is an indication that our self-valuation has declined and this overvaluation of a symbol can help compensate that loss. We get a good feeling about own value by placing value in the pseudopod (Pod—an anatomical pouch) as the flag.

    In conceiving our self as a container that overflows with various and important extensions that our technology provides us we might appear like a giant amoeba spread out over the land with a center in the self. These pseudopods are not just patriotic symbols and important things but include silly things such as a car or a neck tie. We can experience nervous breakdowns when others do not respect our particular objects of reverence.

    Do you think of yourself as being extended as a result of using technology? Do you think such extensions are a representation of reality? Do you think that consciousness of such claims to be useful?

    Some quotes from:
    http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/mcluhan.html


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  3. #2  
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    If our creativity is an expression of our DNA and technology is an expression of our creativity than I would say yes; technology is an extension of ourselves.
    I do not think that technology amputates us (at least not in all circumstances). Using the example of the shovel. If, when you use a shovel, you put in less effort than you would otherwise than I would consider it an amputation. But, if you were to put in the same level of effort as you would otherwise than no, the shovel is simply speeding up the progress.

    "Reality" is a very arbitrary term. Also, I don't think I really understand that question. Are you asking if technology is a representation of reality? I just assumed that technology was reality, seeing as how I'm using it.

    I think it is very useful to think of these things. In martial arts weapon training you are taught to make the weapon an extension of your body so that the use of the weapon is just as natural as your own hand. In fact I'd be curious if the cerebellum could somehow store information about these "phantom limbs" that we call technology. A particular weapon of interest here is the chain whip. Often this long, heavy chain goes behind your back where you can't see and you have to rely strictly on body sense.
    Or take typing on a keyboard for example. A good speed typer doesn't look at the keyboard, instead they know the keyboard.


    Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. -Spoon Boy
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    One major problem with technology is what is amputated as a result of technology. I suspect that these hand held phones with and text transmission will seriously diminish reading and writing skills. Just as TV and Internet has diminished reading ob books. These forms of technology will make us less literate I suspect. Just as the auto has made us more obese because we get less exercise.


    Perhaps our ability to create virtual worlds that are very realistic will cause us to lose some sense of reality that can be dangerous. For example by “flying” in an aircraft simulator may create a distorted sense of capability that could prove dangerous in some circumstances.

    I think that our success with technology leads us into depending too much on technology to save us when technology gets us into problems. A good example might be that we depend upon technology to save us from the harm induced by global warming.
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    I don't own a cell phone, TV or car. :P

    I agree with what you are saying though. In fact it is part of the reason I don't own those things (although I'm going to have to get a car soon :x ).

    I think the virtual world thing could go both ways. While a simulator might cause you to be over confident it's possible that this overconfidence is what saves you; instead of saying to yourself "oh darn... guess were gonna crash." I suppose it probably depends on the purpose of the simulation. I is a false thing to think that we should pick up chain saws and mini-guns and start rampaging around town (MONSTER KILL!!!!).

    My biggest concern is the medical technology. We are working on all sorts of nanotechnology and it could prove to have very drastic effects. If we begin relying on this technology to keep us alive than would we stop evolving? Or would we be simply putting evolution in our own hands? What if new pathogens evolve but instead of evolving a defense we create one with our technology. That would make us pretty fragile on our own...

    Eventually we'll all look like this:
    Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself. -Spoon Boy
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    I do believe we've extended ourselves with technology. I can actually see with glasses, and have the ability to even rid myself of them with lasik. Even those who aren't fully conscious are getting some abilities back with the help of electrodes.

    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Just as TV and Internet has diminished reading ob books. These forms of technology will make us less literate I suspect. Just as the auto has made us more obese because we get less exercise.
    I know some researchers are studying the baby talk language used online. Also, who is to say text isn't the development of a whole new language? All to say, perhaps technology is degrading the use of some past traditions, but it is setting the stage for new things to come that may not rely on them anymore.

    And that, was my first post
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtheorie
    I do believe we've extended ourselves with technology. I can actually see with glasses, and have the ability to even rid myself of them with lasik. Even those who aren't fully conscious are getting some abilities back with the help of electrodes.

    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Just as TV and Internet has diminished reading ob books. These forms of technology will make us less literate I suspect. Just as the auto has made us more obese because we get less exercise.
    I know some researchers are studying the baby talk language used online. Also, who is to say text isn't the development of a whole new language? All to say, perhaps technology is degrading the use of some past traditions, but it is setting the stage for new things to come that may not rely on them anymore.

    And that, was my first post
    Welcome and good luck for your future.

    The important question to ponder is what is amputated by this extension.

    "However there are negative results from all such extensions. “Amputations” represent the unintended and un-reflected counterparts of such extensions."
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