Man and Machine–a week late

It may be impossible to maintain a clear distinction between humans and technologies.  The technology alone is usually just an object, it is the technology as used by the person that must be studied, as with Latour’s example of the gun in the hand: “The gun is no longer the gun-in-the-armory or the gun-in-the drawer or the gun-in-the-pocket, but gun-in-your-hand, aimed at someone who is screaming (Latour, p. 179-180).  The gun-in-your-hand changes the person holding it too, perhaps from someone who is angry to someone poised to kill. While it is possible to look at the two separately, how much can you learn from a “gun-in-the-drawer”?

The advantage of thinking about the two together, again to use the reference of the gun, is that when you study what happens when people use guns; then society can impose consequences.  Perhaps knowing the consequences can change the outcome of the gun-in-the-hand of an angry man pointing at a screaming erson.

And here is the advantage to posting a week late.  Last night I saw an incredible story on 60 Minutes.  It was about how paralyzed people (a man with ALS, a woman who’d had a stroke) are benefitting from computers connected directly to their brains.  While it seems scary, like some day “they” will be able to read our thoughts, the life it gave these people seemed to me to be worth the risk!  Here is the link to the piece.

This is a great example of an advantage of seeing humans and their technology as part of an integrated system.  We humans develop technology as a tool, in the 60 Minutes piece the tool allowed the man with ALS to speak.

Is this medium the message?  I don’t think so.  The computer alone does nothing.  The computer attached to the head of a man with ALS allows him to be part of the world.  


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