Monday, March 29, 2010

Elevator to Nowhere

Audio File / Podcast:

It had been a long day. Tinguely Querer was ready to leave her office. But, the elevators were malfunctioning again.

Not relying on the technology to repair the new, streamlined elevator, Tinguely decided to take the old reliable workhorse, the freight elevator.

How appropriate, thought Tinguely, as she felt she was getting a bit husky these days. It was hard to keep up the level of exercise she needed in order to maintain her weight. She was nursing a strained foot from the “turbo Air” footware that failed to live up to its promise of an effortless, injury-free run.

"The will to mastery becomes all the more urgent the more technology threatens to slip from human control." (Heidegger, Die Technik und die Kehre, 1954)

The lobby of the high-rise office building smelled of the latest “green” biocide used to keep the mold and rodent problem in check.

The freight elevator door opened slowly. Tinguely saw two men tumble into the door from the street entrance.

“You need to give me back my wallet. Now. I am serious.” A 60-something man was shouting to a young black man wearing a dark brown shirt, tight khaki jeans.

“You need to have a little respect. Respect. Now.” The young black man was on the verge of hyperventilation.

Lalica, the evening receptionist, leapt to her feet. Lalica had dark brown hair, and she tended to wear floral blouses.

“Boys! Stop it right now! There is glass in here! You could get hurt!”

The young black man sank slowly to the floor, put his head on his knees. He was sobbing. The older man pulled the young man’s shirt. “Give me back my wallet. You had no right.”

The sobbing was disconcerting. Tinguely was uncertain what she should do.

“You had no right,” sobbed the young man. The 60s-something man was frantic to get his wallet. He tugged on the young man’s shirt, his pants, groped in his pockets.

“Don’t take that – that’s my new iPod!” wailed the young black man. “It’s the only thing I’ve got that works!”

The malfunctioning elevator door yawned open wide to the dark cavernous shaft.

Pulling something from the young man’s pocket, the 60s-something man darted toward the elevator, not realizing what the door had opened to. He plunged through the open elevator doors.

Tinguely dug out her BlackBerry. “911.”

Lalica nodded. The young man continued sobbing, oblivious. As Tinguely dialed, the foot injured by inadequate running shoe technology throbbed. The malfunctioning elevator door went into spasms of opening and closing.

“It’s going to be hard to get through that,” commented Tinguely.

“The fall probably broke his iPod,” said Lalica.

"Technology comes to presence in the realm where revealing and unconcealment take place, where aletheaia, truth, happens." (Heidegger, Die Technik und die Kehre, 1954)

Tinguely walked slowly toward the wall of mailboxes in the high-rise apartment building where she was renting a bedraggled two-bedroom apartment. A tenant holding a paisley backpack was fumbling for her key. A tall, slender 70-something man held his restless Pomeranian.

“Bella. Relax. We’ll take a walk soon.”

Tinguely read the notice on the wall:

“Water Off from 6:30 am to Noon. We apologize for the inconvenience. West chase only.”

“No water again?” Her voice was indignant.

It was better not to say anything. After all, there was nothing to add. Her words would not influence the functioning of the plumbing.

“Another suicide. They have to turn off the water. Some kind of repair,” said the paisley backpack girl tenant.

“Well. Having the water off again will surely inspire another suicide. I do not know why it takes them so long to flush out the drains.” The 70-something man was huffy.

“That’s the third suicide this month,” said Tinguely.

“The curling iron in the bathtub may have been an accident.” The man did not seem to like the conversation.

“As was the death of the guy whose GPS unit instructed him to jump off the balcony from the 23rd floor?” asked the paisley backpack girl.

“Our machines are turning against us,” said Tinguely.

“Machines still save time,” said the man. “I love my high-speed coffee grinder and my new microwave.”

“Save time for what?” replied the paisley backpack girl, darkly. “Degradation and mind games?”

The Pomeranian barked, whined, shook her head, rattled her collar.

“Bella, is your ear still bothering you?”

The man’s brown eyes watered, and he patted the dog’s head lovingly.

“We just implanted a chip in Bella’s ear. This way, I always know where she is. She can’t run away from me. Ever again.”

“I wouldn’t trust it. The tracking device,” said the paisley backpack girl, glumly. “Bella is a girl dog. Bella, tear that chip out of your ear! It will only oppress and enslave you!”

“My dear, your comments are most unwelcome. Bella wants me to be able to find her,” said the man. He pursed his lips.

“Me, either. You’ve got to know your machines. You have to show them who’s boss,” said Tinguely.

Bella leapt from the arms of her owner. Her reddish-gold fur shimmered. She barked fiercely at Tinguely.

“Don’t worry, Bella. I’m on your side. I know someone who wants to chip me.” Tinguely looked down at her new Google phone which had built-in GPS, synched to Google maps. People in her Facebook network could tell where she was at all times.

She sighed. It was time to pay someone to take her Google phone and to drive aimlessly to random places, just to teach anyone who would track her movements that she was not going down without a fight.

It was not right to reduce her to a pixel on a digital map, and make faulty conclusions about her supposed movements.

Unfortunately, freedom and privacy were going to cost her money. She would have to get a new cell plan for herself.

The girl with the paisley backpack pushed up her sweatshirt, revealing Japanese calligraphy tattoos. She addressed Bella.

“Look Bella, it’s like this. You are negotiating with a hostile nation. You can’t go in and offer concessions right off the bat. You have to have a few kills under your belt. That gets their attention. It garners respect.”

“Do you realize you are talking to a dog?” asked the man. He placed Bella on the ground, attached a leash to her collar and strode away.

The door to the street opened and closed as the man left, Bella leading the way. The glass panes were clear. The lights of the city were twinkling. The empty parking lot and the abandoned gas station across the street were bathed in an eerie glow.

“You’re going to go on a walk on a night like this?” asked Tinguely.

No one responded.

The door opened and closed again. The night air outside smelled like lilacs and burning plastic.

“This is the way things really are, I guess,” said Tinguely. The chemicals and particulates in the air burned her eyes.

For the first time, she noticed that charred polyethylene smelled oddly of brimstone.

She suddenly could not imagine herself living here long.


"Technology is a way of revealing" (Heidegger, Die Technik und die Kehre, 1954)

Mathematical Knowledge Is Constructed:

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679): Mathematics and the political state both constructed from arbitrary states

Giambattista Vico (1668-1774): History is made by humans in collective action

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): The mind is active in the formation of knowledge, and creates categories.

Gottlieb Fichte: The mind “posits” reality and its positing is prior even to the laws of logic.

Hegel (1770-1831): Categories develop through time and history, focus on non-Being from Being to produce the synthesis of Becoming

Marx and Engels: Frameworks (or ideologies) are terms in which people understand the world; math is an ideology?

Poincare: Mathematics is built up from mathematical induction.

Jan E. Brouwer: Mathematics is built from the ability to count

Rudolf Carnap: Logical positivist – we build our idea of knowledge from sense data (logical constructions from sense data)

Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934): Cognitive development is in stages; focuses on the social dimension of the development of a child’s conceptual framework