Invisible Technologies

There is a brilliant quote by Mark Weiser which underpins the discourse surrounding how different technologies, as common and ubiquitous as a barbed wire, progressively evolves to become invisible, and exerts determinism in the way how the world evolves.

“A good tool is an invisible tool. By invisible, I mean that the tool does not intrude on your consciousness; you focus on the task, not the tool. Eyeglasses are a good tool — you look at the world, not the eyeglasses. The blind man tapping the cane feels the street, not the cane. Of course, tools are not invisible in themselves, but as part of a context of use. With enough practice we can make many apparently difficult things disappear: my fingers know vi editing commands that my conscious mind has long forgotten. But good tools enhance invisibility.”

Barbed wires are artifacts that signaled our march into modernity. They are technologies of power and control. They were first patentend in 1867 by Lucien B. Smith of Kent, Ohio, and was later modified by Joseph F. Glidden of DeKalb, Illinois, 1874 and later manufactured in scale.They were bascially invented to dig into the flesh so as to prevent animals from wandering but later appropriated to limit freedom/wanderings of humankind.

We erected them globally to include and exclude — who should be in, who should be out, who should be marginalized, and ostracized. They were successful in limiting the native Americans before they were quartered; segmenting Jews before they were sent to gas chambers, in Russian Gulags, trenches, in South Africa (Apartheid), Cambodia (PolPot), Vietnam, Serbaia, Armenia, Rawanda, If you think I have missed a few or more iconic places, it only reinforces the global argument.

Beyond leveraging them as tools of ‘barb’arity we began using them to confine land, and geographies. We have maps, because we have fences. We have nation states marked by boundaries made of barbs to include, and exclude. We have an address because we have geofences. Even the computers/mobiles that you are using to read this blog might have a fire wall. We finally became civilized because we have these “fences” and for better and for worse, they are here to stay; invisible lines that regulate and control our day-today lives.

The funny thing about these invisible technologies is their long staying power. They are like weeds ready to sprout when there is a suitable environemnt.No matter how hard we try, there is a level of path dependence which prevents us to uninvent them. Though we all know that the current keyboard we use is not ergonomically designed imagine making the masses adhere to a different keyboard that is not QWERTY. Uninventing design is hard and close to impossible. However, there is Hope.

Two millennia before in a place we now call Middle East, a man was dragged to a place outside the Jerusalem city walls called golgotha — translated Cranium, the part of the skull enclosing the brain. He was flogged to the core, and was hanged on a tree for his claims of being Son of God and being a counter culture — he broke the caste barriers and freely embraced the the Dalits (Sanskrit: दलित,meaningbroken/scattered”people) of the society and stood against the dominant and oppresive economic, social, cultural, and political system, and the hippocracies of the priests, rulers, and bureaucrats of the day. For this very reason, they pinned him to a tree. With flesh barely hanging to the bones and ligaments, he lay there naked wearing a crown made of barbs that dug into the very cranium of his mortal body. In that suspended state he reconciled, and imploded the walls that seperated God and humanity unleashing freedom, hope and redemption of the cosmos.

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Ashok

Ashok

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