home faber and frankenstein

“The march of science and technology does not imply growing intellectual complexity in the lives of most people. It often means the opposite.”

-Thomas Sowell

Home Faber and Frankenstein is like the relationship between any machinery and it’s controlling influence on the makers of the machinery. Frankenstein is the story of a ‘mad’ scientist who pieces together a human being by using parts of dead people, ignited with a bolt of electricity. Frankenstein comes to life, and is uncontrollable. Homo Faber is a term that can be ascribed to the modern human species, a step beyond Homo Sapiens. Homo Sapiens has gone through several adaptations over a million plus years, from early Homo Habilis through Homo Erectus, to Homo Sapien, and now Homo Faber. Homo Faber is the species that fabricates. Modern humans do not just fabricate myriad of tools and gadgets, machinery and technology, but also psychelogical content. We fabricate imagery. Just as we may fabricate within the mind imagery of problems, conflicts, danger as well as pleasure, comfort and joy, which then generates an internal ‘reality’ that can regulate one’s thinking, emotion and behavior, that which is fabricated in the external world becomes as if a warden at a prison controlling the flow of day to day lifestyle. Some very early fabrications such as the wheel transformed, and then controlled, lifestyle. Imagine living today without a wheel!

Machinery and technology of all types has become indispensable to maintain the lifestyle of modern Homo Faber. From handwriting symbols on papyrus leaves to keyboard and computer, from carriages to cars, from telegraph to telephone to television to video transmissions. Each iteration of technological machinery further advances the Frankenstein Effect in which that which we make controls us, restricts us, captures us and, in subtle and disturbing ways, through humans, sustains itself. Like a virus living in a host organism, lifestyle amenities and conveniences, thrive in a population who hunger to control gadgets which make life ‘easier’ but which in effect control the controller, and make life harder, less satisfying, and more disturbing. It is perhaps a paradox that increasing comfort and conveniences would yield increasing distress and ill-health.

“We were never designed for the sedentary, indoor, sleep‐deprived,
socially‐isolated, fast‐food‐laden, frenetic pace of modern life.”

-Stephen Ilardi, PhD

Many people today when daydreaming of some kind of paradise would not include being tethered to machines or gadgets as part of the scenery. Vacations are often viewed as ‘getting away’ from Frankenstein, all the wires and leashes that tie us to our lifestyle, that we ourselves collectively, have fabricated. The fabrication of tools is instinctive in the species. Homo Faber is not the only species that uses tools. It is, however, the only species that has fabricated so many tools on a global scale. In the quest for an easy life of comfort and convenience, automation technology will arrive as if Frankenstein on steroids. On one hand, it can provide a great boon for the species; and, on another, it can bring about the malaise of the age: meaninglessness. When the mind is without meaning it seeks sensational distractions, usually available as a result of early Frankenstein variants, i.e., gadgets such as television, or guns, as well as more ‘low tech’ avenues such as drugs or sex. In the modern world, the great distraction is ‘neurosis,’ defined as: emotional distress over silly superficial situations or conditions. The modern gadget of ‘social media’ exacerbates neurosis providing ample platforms to experience emotional distress.

Social media is somewhat of a misnomer and might be better termed asocial media. Media is not social. It is a means of information transmission. Information can be transmitted in any number of ways, through multiple mediums, thanks to the benefits of Frankenstein, and, at the same time, media can be asocial in that there is physical distance between parties, thanks to the cost of Frankenstein. The question of meaning in life is closely linked to social proximity. That is, we feel together when in the physical presence of others. In the world of ‘screen-based’ social media, one can send themselves to anybody anywhere, and welcome others from anywhere, without physical proximity. Alienation and isolation inevitably intrude into the wonderfully easy and convenient life of social media, making it more asocial, i.e., anti social, than social.

One of the hallmarks of the evolution of the homo species is social mingling, in real time, when the actual, natural, organic sensory apparatus are engaged in genuine interpersonal connection, which can be felt in the mind and the body, almost as if there is a charged electo-magnetic field generated when in direct proximity with others. At those moments of sharing organic experience, in person face-to-face, there is no sense of isolation or alienation; there is a sense of meaning and purpose, because the homo species are a social species, not a social media species. Even more insidious than the numerous Frankenstein fabrications materialized in the modern world that diminish real physical, visceral, proximal social connections and sharing, they have also increasingly diminished proximal connection and sharing with the natural world, the forests, woods, rivers, lakes, oceans, deserts, mountains. The machine-based world of convenient lifestyle cannot provide the clarity, freshness and inspiration that can come from the wild world of pristine nature. Moreover, the machine based world of artificial and synthetic experience atrophies imagination. For example, when reading a book, one fills in a great deal of scenery with visual imagination. With television and video, visual imagination is outsourced and provided for you, without your own imagination. We are, as it were, fed pre-digested imagery thus weakening and diminishing one of our most creative attributes: imagination.

One of the better remedies to counteract the Frankenstein Effect is to intentionally, consciously, volitionally, invest time in sensing the natural world away from as many fabrications as possible. For example, just going to relax alone in a park, or one’s own backyard, for several hours, without any media….no phone, no video, no radio, no music, no books or magazines, no headphones, no games, no internet……to just be calm and quiet enjoying the simple pleasures of one’s natural, organic existence…. seeing sights of colors, hues, shapes and forms, in the immediate real environment, to hear air borne sounds and smell air borne scents, to feel one’s life in every breath. A few hours, away from the artificial, synthetic fabrication of Frankenstein. An even more adventurous remedy is to spend a week, or month, or longer, away from the maddening crowd alone in a pristine natural setting. The natural world is an important factor in considering not just an escape from the Frankenstein Effect on one’s life, but as both a remedy and preventative from the malaise of meaninglessness which looms gloomy on the horizon of automation.

“If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger.”

-Frank Lloyd Wright

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