Brain: David, we have once again successfully arrived at the conclusion of a college course! These past six weeks have been a feast of discussions, knowledge, information, and readings. I have consumed fact after fact, and dutifully processed the words of Bruno Latour, Slack and Wise, Mary Shelley, and Professor Campbell. This course has been quite a different experience than the science courses from the previous year; my right side has been active now more than ever. However, we must now begin that tricky process of deciding what to store in long-term memory. What will stay with us for the remaining years to come?
David: Brain, you know that I always hate this process. Why must we choose to keep some experiences while eliminating others? Can’t we just retain it all?
Brain: You know that such is infeasible. How can we hope to consolidate this entire course? Narrative and Technology has been an immense assemblage, consisting of both human and nonhuman actors. Your fellow students, the blog, the video memoirs, the movies, the computers, the readings, the professor, and even the snacks are just some of the few stars within the entire constellation. We cannot even conceive of retaining the name of each snack or the word of every classmate. Now, we must choose carefully. The ideas and words from this class that we store in long-term memory will be the ones that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. I will now summon long-term memory.
David: Very well, let us begin. We’ll start with Frankenstein. I agree with Latour; Frankenstein’s greatest sin was not his hubris in creating the monster, but rather his fear that led him to abandoning his creation. Had he taken the time to cultivate his creation, it would have been something truly wonderful. Such can also be said of Aramis. It was due to a lack of true love that Aramis remained unrealized. If the engineers, politicians, contractors, corporations, and officials truly loved Aramis, then they would have found some way to bring it into existence.
Brain: This will be consolidated. Whew, for a second, I thought that you wanted me to remember every one of Latour’s philosophies.
David: Actually, you’re still responsible for those.
David: Do your best.
Brain: I’ll let you know how that goes. Anyway, continue.
David: Slack and Wise argue that our technologies are not discrete, autonomous entities. Rather, both humans and technologies are components of vast assemblages. The interrelations between humans and technologies are what give the assemblage agency. Let us not forget the example of the massive power outage in North America; human politics, an underbrush fire, and the flow of electricity were some of the many actants in the grid assemblage that contributed to millions of people losing power.
Brain: This will be consolidated. What else?
David: Well, if we are dependent on our technologies, and agency comes from the relations between humans and technology, then does a lack of love for technology mean that we do not love ourselves?
Brain: I do not understand. Elaborate.
David: Well, if both humans and technologies are a part of the same assemblages, then that means that the action of human actants will affect the nonhuman actants (and vice versa). If we neglect our technologies, then they will not improve. On the contrary, they can elicit many unintended consequences, which can hurt us humans. This interrelation is due to the fact that humans and technologies dependent on each other. Thus, if we do not love our technologies, then we are bringing suffering onto ourselves. Our lack of love for our technologies implies a lack of love for ourselves.
Brain: Interesting idea. However, I have my doubts. I think that our many conveniences like videogames, refrigerators, cars, and televisions indicate that we do love ourselves. Why else would we invent these things?
David: Perhaps the inventors of these things were consumed by the same obsessions as Frankenstein; they wanted to push the human limits that are identified by Slack and Wise: space and time. Maybe they wanted to show the brilliance of their own capacities. Certainly, not all technologies are left unloved. The creator of penicillin could have discarded that bacteria plate fouled with a fungus. Yet, he decided to cultivate this observation by discovering that the fungus secreted the antibiotic penicillin. With his careful work, he created an antibiotic that has saved countless lives. But on the whole, I believe that our race is in our current state because we have stopped loving our technologies, which indicates that we have stopped loving ourselves.
Brain: And your example of this is…?
David: American healthcare. Why is it that we have a third-world healthcare system despite the fact that we are one of the most powerful countries? Our system is old and inefficient, showing that we did not take the time to cultivate and update our healthcare. Thus, people with curable maladies continue to suffer. If we truly loved humans, then we would have changed our system despite economic consequences. How about electronic medical records? I have heard countless physicians complain of the difficulties that they have with the medical record software. Why use such difficult software? Simple: it’s cheap. Like the story of Aramis, if we loved our patients, then we would have found someway to birth effective software, despite the costs. Like Frankenstein, however, we have abandoned the systems that were designed to take care of humans.
Brain: This will be consolidated. What else?
David: Above all, we must not forget love. We must not try to emancipate ourselves from our surroundings, including our technologies. We have to intervene with love. We must start a long-term relationship with our technologies, so that we may save them and ourselves.
Brain: This will be consolidated. We shall remember this for the trials ahead.
David: Yes, for wherever we wind up in five, ten, twenty, fifty years, we must not forget to love the other actants. Without this love, we will have no agency for change.
Brain: This will be consolidated. According to the short-term memory, it is now time to switch the laundry.