Code Overload is a four part series that originally appeared in The Digital Filmmaker July 2011. Because it had almost no traffic, I am taking the liberty of reposting each of the four parts on both my blogs over an 8-day period. This is something of an experiment in an effort to see if the posts get any traffic and, if they do, which post on which blog gets the most traffic. If there is a significant result, I will post it on both blogs. Whatever the response, I enjoyed writing the columns. R.S.
Code Overload: Part 1- The Beginning by Ron Steinman
In 1856, the Industrial Age was starting to take root. The world would never be the same again.
After a visit to Liverpool Ralph Waldo Emerson in his book, “Voyage to England,” wrote the following:
“Machinery has been applied to all work, and carried to such perfection, that little is left for the men but to mind the engines and feed the furnaces. But the machines require punctual service, and, as they never tire, they prove too much for their tenders. Mines, forges, mills, breweries, railroads, steam pump, steam-plough, drill of regiments, drill of police, rule of court, and shop-rule, have operated to give a mechanical regularity to all the habit and action of men. A terrible machine has possessed itself of the ground, the air, the men and women, and hardly even thought is free.”
Substitute computer or computers whenever you see the words machinery, machine, machines, or mechanical. That is only the beginning. When we consider the growing power of computers today, the influence they have over our lives how we use them in the name of progress, there is more, much more and much of it has to do with intellectual overload.
Though written more than 150 years ago, Emerson’s words ring true today. There is no denying his prescience.
It is not far-fetched to invoke “Brave New World,” “1984,” the movies “Minority Report” and “I Robot.” Those who write speculative fiction see the future more clearly in their crystal ball. George Orwell, Aldus Huxley, Isaac Asimov, Bruce Sterling and William Gibson to name a few, have created a future in fiction that is more real every day. As Pogo said on Earth Day in 1970, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
I am not against advances in technology. I would be lost without my computer and the magic I invoke by using it. I do not want to deny technocrats the changes they bring us. But I believe that we should not give ourselves away to what is new in the world of code writing because it looks, feels and even might taste good. If we are doing it for the sake of advancement in society, are we contemplating what the consequences might bring? Are we sure are advances in technology always for the good, for the betterment of our lives or do they exist because the smartest kids in the room are very inventive? Consequences matter.