In Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey Dr. Heywood Floyd wishes his daughter a happy birthday from a space station orbiting the Earth via a “television-phone.” Walking down the street in downtown Santa Barbara are two people talking on their cell phones to two other people talking on their cell phones.  There are two conversations going on between two pairs of people and yet there is an almost complete and utter lack of interpersonal contact between the four people.  Each one is using a tool, the cell phone, to communicate to the others.  A couple goes on holiday in Monterey, California sitting at an elegant ocean side restaurant and talk about what is happening in their favorite television shows while ignoring the vast ocean before them and the cries of seagulls overheard.  We live in a word distracted by technology and we don’t appear to notice.  We move forward-looking to buy the latest in technological wonders presented for our enjoyment.  We buy computers based on such technological decisions as whether or not they will match the drapes.  People make cross-country drives and rather than look out at the countryside before them they watch DVDs on their portable DVD players.  Wherever one looks technology is overtaking the world we live in and distancing us from each other.  We think that technology brings the world closer but in the process of bringing that person from the other side of the globe into one’s virtual life, one’s real life is lost in the process and people embrace it.  We live in a world of Twitter and Facebook, of chat rooms populated by people using avatars that represent a caricature of self-identity and egotism.

The neighborhood of the past has been replaced by a cyber world where one can buy real “cyber” property and conduct business, hold club gatherings or “sit” around and chat with one’s virtual friends.  As in Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville where actors simply repeat well-worn pleasantries, “I’m fine, how are you?” these statements seem boldly out of context within the dialogue of the film but the same behavior goes on in real life everyday.  People walk by each other and both give a cursory greeting, “How are you?” and sometimes there’s a response but most often we don’t even notice.

In this world the topic of conversation in the grocery store line is Tom Cruise or Brittany Spears.  The world we live in isn’t even dictated by a computer putting us each into our computer driven logical roles as in the film Alphaville.  We are the characters in Week-end looking toward cinema and television and the World Wide Web in order to live some vicarious life we desire because we have been brought up to desire it.  Andy Warhol stated in 1968 that “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” and in modern culture people are doing everything they can from going on shooting sprees to eating bugs on television to gain the “glory” of being famous.

People are using the technological advances of science such as plastic surgery to sculpture themselves into images that they consider “attractive” and “youthful.”  In extreme cases like the late Michael Jackson, technology was used to  make an African-American male into a person that was almost unrecognizable from the man he once was.  In our pursuit of technology we are role playing gods in computer games and scientifically we are trying to shape ourselves into images of our own perfection.  The camera in photography has created a perception amongst some women that in order to look beautiful they must look like runway models.  The pursuit of technological beauty has created very real and deadly diseases such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa.

In living lives dominated by technology we are not seeking meaning in life through technology but merely existing from one technological fixation to another.  We are not creating tools in order to avoid using the body as a tool in some metaphysical technological aim toward godhood or applying craft to seek happiness.  In the United States we no longer refer to a single statistic for a divorce rate but refer to the divorce rate of a first, second and third marriage.  The divorce rate of Americans is 41%, 60% and 73% respectively for the each consecutive marriage.  In our pursuit of technology we are applying technological ethics of a society in which it is cheaper to throw away a television or computer than fix them to our values of human relationships.  While one might claim that God set up the scientific world view in Genesis it is not God’s intention that we live lives with a “wedge” driven between nature and ourselves.  In our pursuit of technology we have discarded nature as essential to our lives and in our “dominion” over everything as dictated by God in Genesis we are destroying our future, technological or otherwise, in an orgy of self gratification through technological escapism.

Unlike 2001: A Space Odyssey, Humanity is not moving outward in the Universe.  While we have The Hubble Telescope to view the Universe from the orbit of Earth and we send out probes to Mars, the budget for N.A.S.A. was cut more than three billion dollars in 2007 with a 50% reduction in funds dedicated to astrobiology.  The last Moon walk was in 1972. However, a 400 billion dollar military budget increase for the Department of Defense’s “War on Terror” was approved in 2007.

In 1967 Jacques Tati wrote and directed the film Play Time in which the main character is caught up in a technological world so advanced that one can travel from one country to another and it is as if one has not even left home.  The players in Play Time are no longer distracted by the disruption of the technology around them because they have become part of the technological machine moving and behaving in a robotic fashion.  I  wonder how mechanical I am becoming each time I make a telephone call and receive an automated answering service with an IVR (interactive voice response) that does not understand me unless I change the way I speak.  A technological advancement I’m sure.