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Response to Virilio, Open Sky pt. 1

This week, we read part one of Paul Virilio’s Open Sky. As pro-technology as all the other readings have been, this one is certainly different. Virilio doesn’t care much for the latest technology. Telepresence, the ability to appear in two separate places at once through teleconferencing technologies such as webcams and the Internet, is shortening the distance required to communicate. You can communicate with someone anywhere in the world without leaving your house, and because of this we don’t get out as much. Just as cars and planes have shortened the distance around town and around the world as far as physical transportation, the entire need to go anywhere has also disappeared. Someday, people may all just lay in bed and virtually project themselves into robots that deliver impulses to our nerves at a distance, while never needing to even move. The example that Virilio mentions is the Datasuit, developed by NASA scientists that allows you to feel, see, and hear just like you’re somewhere else at the same time. This telepresence is going to destroy us by obliterating distance according to Virilio. Without the need to wait, everything also needs to happen immediately, in real-time. The flow of information is overwhelming. Virilio talks at length about physics and how they relate to time, and talks about different types of optics, large-scale and small-scale optics, and the difference between them. In the future, he says, we’ll have a tele-existence and become terminal men and women. It reminds me a bit of Jonathan Mostow’s Surrogates (2009), which warns of the dangers of this type of technology in which a giant company controls all sorts of robots that interface with humans.

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