Hoping for an end to technology

It is Sunday evening and the last moments of the first weekend of July. I’m at home in my living room in Windsor Ontario. The last two months have been the driest in a decade and area farmers are using words like ‘frightened’.

I’m back after a week’s vacation in Denmark. Can we now define ‘vacation’ as designated time in which we find more novelty and enjoyment IRL than online?

Forgive my weak attempt at aphorism. It is one of many after-effects (after-shocks?)  I’ve been feeling after reading The Age of Earthquakes by Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist. [This interview of the authors  is a good introduction to the work].

The Age of Earthquakes is a re-working of The Medium is the Message by Marshall McLuhan. While McLuhan’s court jestering in the House of Don Draper always left me cold, I found The Age of Earthquakes much more emotionally resonant. Perhaps this is because I’m currently struggling -and I really mean struggling – with how much of myself I want to be online.


The only section of the book that I didn’t particularly enjoy was dedicated to the idea of the Singularity. This is a terribly dark thing to confess but I don’t believe our planet’s resources are plentiful enough to carry us into to a future in which we have to worry about our computers reaching consciousness.


What’s a much more interesting idea, to me, is the idea of the ‘End of Technology’ which Douglas Coupland recently put forward in his essay, What if There’s No Next Big Thing in e-flux magazine. That being said, this particular piece is more about the possible end of “capital A” Art than of technology. For more about the  possibility of an end to technology, I would recommend listening to the episode The Future in which Benjamin Walker both considers how our present social media landscape was predicted years ago on television as well as the end of Moore’s Law.

Is it wrong to desperately want an end to technology?

In her recent dystopia, Oryx and Crake, which concentrates on biotechnology, Margaret Atwood also portrays the collapse of civilization in the near future. One of her characters asks, “As a species we’re doomed by hope, then?” By *hope*? Well, yes. Hope drives us to invent new fixes for old messes, which in turn create ever more dangerous messes. Hope elects the politician with the biggest promise; and as any stockbroker or lottery seller know, most of us will take a slim hope over prudent and predictable frugality. Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capitalism.  — Ronald Wright, “Rebellion of the Tools”, A Short History of Progress.

First we need to lose hope? Perhaps yes. Perhaps we need to lose faith in a future that can be solved by technology so we can – perhaps – see the alternatives and perchance, utopia.