In the mid-1900s, at the dawn of the computer age, the excited commentators of the time described a future utopia where humankind would be freed from the need to work and would struggle to fill up the long days with enough time-eating hobbies.
This obviously has not happened….
Even though we, as a species, are quite comfortably the head-honchos of our planet, the majority of us humans still need to work pretty hard at it.
If you were to strip away humankind’s technological advances, human societies couldn’t compare with insect colonies’ amazing efficiency and coordination; thanks to insects’ inbuilt senses that detect tiny hormonal changes and pheromonal ejections, allowing them to perfectly synchronize their work. As a result, insect colonies can build amazing things with minimal resources.
Take away our gadgets, with our relatively blunted senses, humans can’t match the efficiency of our insect counterparts. But who needs antennae when we’ve got brains that can invent wrist watches and Gantt charts?
With the human invention of modern time measurement, we enabled our species to plan and build grander and more intricate projects through our vastly improved synchronisation and management of resources. The invention of mechanical clocks, due to their more convenient and reliable time-keeping, effectively enabled us to pack more into every day.
I am no troglodyte – I am hugely appreciative for the advantages that science and technology have provided. I have it to thank for the Enlightenment values that I live by, my longer and healthier life, and the sense of wonder that I feel when looking up at the stars, knowing that I am staring into our Universe’s past.
But in all its wonder, science and technology has also helped things to turn a bit shit. Inventions and advancements when at inception looked certain to improve the quality of our lives have often become the tools of our captors.
The invention of the town clock tower in the 1500s, followed by the mass production of pocket watches in the early 1900s, were arguably the first steps in humankind’s transition into some kind of cybernetic state of permanent serfdom.
Continue reading “How the humble wrist-watch put humankind on the path to cyborg slavery”