Saturday, February 6, 2010

So I was reading an article for my cognitive science class the other day (I know, right? I must have been sick or something.) and I came across the following, which I found interesting:

"Let's hear it for art, but not for technology, we say, forgetting that the words share a common ancestor, techné , the Greek word for art, skill, or craft in any work. We retreat in horror from genetically engineered tomatoes, and turn up our noses at "artificial" fibers in our clothing, while extolling such "organic" and "natural" products as whole grain flour or cotton and wool, forgetting that grains and cotton plants and sheep are themselves products of human technology, of skillful hybridization and rearing techniques. He who would clothe himself in fibers unimproved by technology and live on food from non- domesticated sources is going to be cold and hungry indeed"

--Daniel C. Dennett, "The Evolution of Culture"

Having grown up in a ridiculously liberal hippy town like the one I grew up in, I found this particularly interesting. Everyone where I am from strives to eat organically (or vegan), to use bikes for transportation, (or to drive hybrid cars), and to, generally speaking, reduce the amount of human-touched items they associate with. It's almost as if they want to be transported back in time where things were simpler, and people were nicer to our "mother earth"-- as long as they can bring their iPhones with them.

What is interesting to me, is how Dennett argues that even these "simple" things that we yearn for are still technological innovations- just not necessarily from right now. It's like how they thought that tapes, then CDs, and now mp3s will ruin the music industry-- at one point they thought that CDs were evil, now big record companies will do ANYTHING for us to buy them.

I have to say that I do try to eat organically, etc, but not because I think that technology is bad or unnatural. I truly believe that it is better to NOT put chemicals in my body. Weird, huh? Why not eat something natural, rather than something that is potentially toxic? This doesn't mean that, if they genetically engineered tomatoes to be bigger, but didn't spray them with chemicals I wouldn't eat them-- I think it is important to make decisions based on single cases. Basically, do what is right, and most healthy, for you.

A very interesting idea from Dennett.

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