The Temptation of the Future

Posted: March 9, 2012 in Communications and Technology
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Courtesy of "Laugh it Out" on Facebook.com

James Carey writes in “Communication as Culture” that:

The past and present are rewritten to evidence a momentous changing of the times in which particular policies and technologies will yield a way out of current dilemmas and a new age of peace, democracy, and ecological harmony will reign (p. 28).

This is in reference to the promise of the future being used in order to distract from current societal problems. Why should we be concerned with the atrocity of cancer running rampant when we’re “just around the corner” from a cure? Carey also states that “[t]his exhortation to the sublime future is an attempt to ward off dissent and to embellish cosmetically the blemishes of the body politic with imagery of a greater future for all” (p. 28).

How is the promise of a cure for cancer in the future being used as a smoke screen to distract the public from present affairs? The reality is that cancer research that could be successful is not funded because there is no pharmaceutical company willing to do research without a guarantee of a large financial payout at the end. Our medical system, our drugs, and our access to both, are being dictated by large corporations.

The future of cancer treatment is in technology, so “big pharma” would have you believe. In fact, I found a video for the treatment of cancer using nanotechnology on youtube. I felt like I was watching an advertisement for a car. I can only guess that there are corporations out there making huge amounts of money on this supposed “breakthrough.” I even have “recommended links” turned on for when I write my blog posts, and down at the bottom below my text are five links. Of those five links one is “cancer – promoted.”

Everywhere I turn cancer is being ADVERTISED. So much for the “promise of the future.”

Critique of Communication as Culture: Chapter 7, by James Carey:

This reading definitely captured my interest through the discussion of the politics and the “promise of the future.” Like other readings, such as “Do Artifacts Have Politics?”, I found the political debate in this reading inspired me to think critically. It was a great reading to have at this point in our course because Carey makes reference to past authors we have read, such as Marshall McLuhan and Lewis Mumford. Mumford is cited in regards to believing electricity was a revolutionary force: “in those plans that have been carried through, the realization has retrospectively disfigured the anticipation” (Mumford, 1959, p. 534). The reading makes the case for many errors revealed in the “promise of the future.” One particularly informative passage to me was one within which I found many course concepts came together quite seamlessly:

The first communications revolution was the innovation of printing, which mechanized the production of information, extended literacy, and enlarged the domain of empire. The second revolution occurred over the last century with the marriage, through electricity, of the capacity to simultaneously produce and transmit messages – a process that extends from the telephone and the telegraph to television. Now, this third communications revolution involves the linkage of machines for information storage and retrieval with the telephone, television, and computer, producing new systems of “broadband” communications or “information utilities (p. 34).

It was a long reading, and despite my interest in politics and the refreshing concept of the “promise of the future,” I did find it hard to get through so many pages while in the midst of the mid-term slump. Carey sums up his chapter quite succinctly with the passage:

The future, whether it appears in the rhetoric of the Left of Right [politically], whether as postmodernism or postindustrialism, is one more device for evading the active and directive role our imaginings of the past and future play in the control of the present. Yet, somehow, at this moment in our history, nostalgia for the future, among the pastorals available to us, seems the more pernicious precisely because it is less self-conscious (p. 38).

"Future Technology: Available Now" Image Courtesy of HDWallpapers.in

 

References

Carey, J. (2009). Chapter 7: The History of the Future. In Fernyhough, L. (ed.), Comm 105: Communication and Technology. Course Package: Winter 2012, (pp. 27-38). Victoria, BC: Camosun College Bookstore. (Reprinted from Communication as Culture, 133-154).

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