Our digital civilisation is more dependent than ever on artificial and technological stimuli.

Truls Lie
Editor-in-chief, Modern Times Review. Also head of the Norwegian monthly newspaper NY TID. Based in Oslo/Berlin.

We let demand for individual happiness, freedom and material welfare displace our ability to love. Modern technological civilisation stimulate the liberated and playful human, the Homo Ludens (from Latin meaning ‘man the player’), to freely seduce or let himself be seduced by the fun and games of our media age. However, this magic is usually short-lived. The superficial images of clichéd-filled advertising media contrast glaringly with what create strong friendship or love – what makes someone go out on a limb or care for someone else. Love cannot be bought, and if you are obsessed by freedom, you will not have the time for it. A gift such as love, is given when least expected. But, you must possess, which Kierkegaard deems ‘the urge for love’ – if you do not, you will be the poorest of all.

Modern French philosophy contributed several original and dynamic perspectives on our freedom-affirming, technological society. The French post-modern – which I deem trans-modern – technological thinking, has moved within several fields. The technology is described as pure speed (Virilio), simulation (Baudrillard), rhetoric (Barthes), aesthetics (Lyotard), and as technology of the subjective (Foucault), or as machines of desire (Deleuze/Guattari). Canadian Arthur Kroker, on the other hand, characterises the communication society as obsessive individualism. The point being that the current social guides let life be characterised by the virtual media reality. We are surrounded by media such as computers, mobile phones, iPads and TV, and influenced by the ensuing expression racket. It is almost possible to re-programme the human experience through the digitalisation wetware – the enormous media machinery which is indirectly connected to us. We have already surpassed, at least the MTV-generation has, the dialectic between human liberation and oppression. It is no longer about simulation or alienation. The virtual or aesthetical media room of freedom, will gradually substitute the physical and interpersonal real of experience. We let ourselves be obsessed by a new world where our digital dreams come alive.

Freedom enables you to understand life, but love gives you the possibility to seize it.

What the French describe is the full on aestheticized phase. Much of the thinking that follows virtualisation – the media society with increasing number of film stories, advertising images and other optical illusions – tend to view the world as a continuously nascent place. Humans have always wished to avoid their own mortality and the body’s fragility, and so diligently create ever more emergency exits. Herein lies what Nietzsche deemed a malicious resentment; a reluctance towards the bodily organs’ lack of immortality – for instance, gene manipulation as an attempt to postpone the cells’ aging process.

Humans have always been good at hiding the finiteness of our existence. Through the freedom which virtualising entails, a language is constructed, using ‘the theology of hope’ – we hide our knowledge about the body’s fragility by considering the virtual self freedom. Technology and science are light years ahead of humanities. Scientists will always attempt to liberate humans from nature’s limitations. But, this type of freedom does not work in the long run. After the welfare society’s abolishment of material suffering, we imagine the same can be done to the existential – helped by virtualisation. The problem, however, is that humans suppress their own existential conditions whilst alive. But, the body’s fragility is real enough, and in the end, death will get us all.

Only by recognising life’s experiences and interpersonal encounters – and instead of craving freedom will endure dependency – will humans be able to preserve their love. Russian Andres Nekrasov, pointed out, with his film Love is as Strong as Death at the Gothenburg festival, that ‘the West lacks suffering’. The film ends on the following prediction: ‘Of all the things death robs humans of, I will mention three: First of all the material, possessions and medals. Secondly, spiritual gifts, prayers, meditation – all that soothes the soul. But this is not all. Death robs humans of the hope of ever atoning their sins. No more than a hair’s breadth does she get close to Heaven, but will benefit from all that she has already earned. Love does the same to humans as death does. But, love, like death, is the soul’s separation from the body. Thus she is robbed of all comfort, and all hope of making anyone responsible. Such is love.’ Seduced by technology, or the communication society’s race for freedom, humans lose their ’urge for love’.

Freedom enables you to understand life, but love gives you the possibility to seize it.

This article was initially published in Morgenbladet, 20. February, 1998.


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