Ideas that add up #186

Every area of technical/functional organization of modern society can be regarded as a type of instrumentalisation that we are doomed to submit to. Technology stands, in many cases, between ourselves and nature. And it regulates our relationships instead of us regulating them.

Bjørn Berge, Arkitektur (2011), epigraph to Jonathan Davies’s Sustainable Architecture Master thesis: Levels of Interaction: arboreal architecture, floodplain dwelling and forest economy (2015)

So we use these instruments, tools, toys, and with each advance there’s a payoff: plough the field a little quicker, pump more water from the coal mine, fill the smartphone with whizzier apps. But every technology step forwards puts more distance between us and the rest of the living world. It’s as if these instrumental things and processes colonize the brain, crowding out our animal capacity for tuning in to – and respecting – nature’s patterns. 

Maybe that’s how we forgot who we were. 

One telling Swedish study of low energy homes found residents, whilst proud of their automatic climatic control system, displayed an alarming disinterest in how to operate the machinery. Rather than using the equipment to its potential, to actually significantly reduce energy consumption, consumers were instead content to simply accept the stated effect without critical reflection – or actual benefit. Berge, and Guattari with him, would argue that the lack of interest in how to employ the technology is symptomatic of a much larger problem: the ‘compartmentalisation’ of the real into discrete components that are no longer collectively considered or experienced and the consequential alienation from nature that disregards its formative role in human development. 

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