October 30, 2004

Response to John Henry: Tech vs. Humanity

I just posted this comment concerning John Henry: Steel Driving Man on Linda's blog:

I think that the "necessary evils" you mention are not evil at all and that humanity is reaching a potential, through technology, far greater than our physical capabilities.

Can you compute calculus equations in seconds? Can you lift a building and transport it to someplace else? No--at least I can't.

While people are still trying to find a place amid all of the technology that is reigning in our time and society is changing because of these advancements, people are the same, just expressing themselves in a different way.

While we do have the things that maybe shouldn't be computerized (i.e. your checkout and gas up experiences) human physical capabilities are sometimes just not enough--that is why our reason--our minds are equipped with ideas that provide these advancements, which in most cases, do improve our standards of living. I mean, who really wants an outdoor toilet, or only communicate with friends once a month as the letter crosses the mountains? Not me. If those are my choices, give me the impersonal checkout any day.

The last little note about checkouts was from past experience. No one should have to be a cashier.

Anyway, about John Henry. While Henry does have the whole wonderful human spirit thing going on, I think he is missing the entire point. Technology is a gift of our minds. Reason is our defense mechanism in the absence of claws, fangs, or poisonous darts (idea from Aristotle). As he goes driving away with his hammer, he is looking stupider with each stroke. I am probably going to offend some with that statement, the whole union mentality, but we should seize technology and remember that something has to make it work--humans.

Something missing in humanity? I don't think so. As for all the hoopla about people not communicating in-person as much anymore, I say I would rather communicate less in person to a smaller group, than not communicate at all with friends and family far, far away.

That was for you, Grandma. :-D

Posted by Amanda Cochran at October 30, 2004 11:40 AM

Amanda, I think you'll find this interesting.

Posted by: Neha at October 30, 2004 4:05 PM

Well, first off, I was in a light-hearted, slightly cantankerous mood when I wrote that...certainly all technology is not "evil", it's more of an expression. I remember the days of writing letters, sending then with a stamp to good friends and there was a real tangible sweetness in our carefully wrought handwritten exchanges. We awaited them with such anticipation! I am part of a generation that didn't grow up with cell phones and email. While I do avail myself of this technology and it is convenient, I can't help but feel nostalgic for a slower pace.(or maybe I'm just getting old) Part of that is also my quieter, contemplative personality. I respect that you love the fast paced life! That's great, you're going to achieve great things. (And please keep in mind, I often speak with tongue firmly in cheek!) Linda

Posted by: Linda Fondrk at October 30, 2004 6:54 PM

Thanks Amanda. ope to have a face to face talk soon.

Posted by: grammy at October 30, 2004 7:05 PM

Your welcome Grandma. :-D

And Linda, sometimes, I too feel like life would be better if we all just would "cool out", but I have to say that I like our fast-paced world. I guess it is a matter of personal preference. I hope your "slightly cantankerous mood" has improved. :-) Keep up your great blogging!

Posted by: Amanda at October 31, 2004 9:29 AM

What about less and in-person AND frequently via the internet??? Sounds like a plan to me :) A familiar plan, come to think of it... ;)

Posted by: Karissa at November 1, 2004 4:00 PM


I believe that technology is a gift for society, because it is making it easier for human labor. However, isn't it rewarding for John Henry to beat against a machine? He demonstrated how manpower overtook technology. You can still live, if you didn't have any fancy equipment. All it takes is hard work, and anyone can be on top.

-Nabila :)

Posted by: NabilaUddin at November 1, 2004 5:24 PM

As Lori quoted in class, Nabila, human power did not win in this case, the steam drill still took the place of the African-American workers.

This story is not about survival in the purest sense you note; it is man vs. machine, and in this case, the machines can win, and man can win in the long run.

Yes, technology is a gift, but it is all in how you use that gift, rather than thwart that gift as John Henry attempts to do.

Posted by: Amanda at November 1, 2004 6:44 PM

Thanks Neha. Frankenstein is one of my favorite novels.

Posted by: Amanda at November 1, 2004 10:27 PM
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