Paul Virilio is a philosopher who specializes in thinking about the impact of technology. In this 1996 interview with Wired magazine, he discusses the evolution of technology from outside in, large to small, or as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur recently put it, “the trajectory from persuasive to pervasive.” Here’s the Virilio quote:
There have been three industrial revolutions. The first important revolution on the technical plane was that of transportation. The second, which was almost concomitant, was the transmissions revolution, including Marconi, Edison, radio, television. The third, which we are on the verge of, is the revolution of transplantations. All these technologies of telecommunications that had been employed in aviation and missiles favor nanotechnology – the possibility of miniaturizing technology to the point of introducing it into the human body. Just as the geographic world was colonized by means of transportation or communication, we have the possibility of the colonization of the body by technology – as if we had the city in the body and not the city around the body. We are on the verge of the biomachine.
This made me wonder: how will we relate to space symbolically if we no longer perceive it as outside of ourselves? Or as though there is nothing to interact with outside of ourselves? Virilio picks up this point too:
I think that the infosphere – the sphere of information – is going to impose itself on the geosphere. We are going to be living in a reduced world. The capacity of interactivity is going to reduce the world to nearly nothing. In fact, there is already a speed pollution, which reduces the world to nothing. In the near future, people will feel enclosed in a small environment. They will have a feeling of confinement in the world, which will certainly be at the limit of tolerability, by virtue of the speed of information. If I were to offer you a last thought – interactivity is to real space what radioactivity is to the atmosphere.
Ironic to think that “interactivity” leads us to a helpless form of narcissism. We can no longer escape our technologically enhanced idea of ourselves… only if, however, we believe that is all there is.