dreams and science

Dreams or science?

For many people a new year tends to set off with dreams, expectations and good intentions. Just before the turn of the year, on Dec. 14th.2013, the Dutch writer/columnist Bas Heijne read his so called ‘Huizinga’-lecture; a yearly presented text based on the works of the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga who lived from 1872 till 1945. The title of his fine and thoughtful lecture was “the Enchantment of the World” and is – so far, alas – only available in Dutch. (http://uitgeverijprometheus.nl/index.php?option=com_pac&view=boek_detail&isbn=9789044626377)

Heijne’s theme was the suggestion that science has robbed the world of magic, fantasy, dreams and interpretation. While referring to Icarus’ fall to earth – due to his recklessness coming to close to the sun – the example can be interpreted in two ways: first there is Icarus’ courage to achieve new heights with the help of technology (and his inventive father Daedalus) , while on the other hand one can question his recklessness: he did not realise the human limits. Heijne ends his lecture with a warning: “If we do no not regard ourselves and the world as a given, but as something that is given to us, it can shield us for the delusion of manufacturability”. (transl. mp)

Tempting as it is; this is not the proper place to contemplate further on his text; our concern is to determine where does this touches upon the subject of this website: technology as part of science and in particular the IoT. As we know, the Internet of Things came to light around 1999 and was ‘upgraded’ only recently by Cisco into the ‘Internet of Everything’ . This was followed by the ‘Internet of People’ which can be regarded as the acknowledgement that connecting only ‘things’ might be a somewhat limited worldview, despite the fact that by 2020 we will have roughly seven times more connected things than people on our earth.

Since we already experience a situation in which we now already have more connected things than people the question seems justifiable as to which is the world that is ‘given to us’ today; after all, in no time – on the scale of history – our world has changed from practically no connectivity whatsoever into a situation of ubiquitous connectivity. Since our build environment is to a large extend what is making us who we are, we need to recognise the influence this has on the way we act and experience in this artificial space. Jacques Derrida, referring to Heidegger, once remarked: ‘we must learn again how to inhabit’. (Derrida, Point de Folie, p.7, 1986); more important than ever since there is an ontological difference between the environment that ‘acts’ as a passive framework and the one that ‘acts’ as an intermediate/interface between inhabitant and (build) structure.

Architecture can be regarded as the adaptation of space to human needs; technology can assist in determining and realising this adaptation from a viewpoint of service: it facilitates and enhances experience including the assumed lost dreams and fantasy.

Returning to Heijne’s lecture: if we consider the world as it is now again as given to us, we again need to reconsider the differences – and developments – that provide us with this fundamental shift of environment due to increasing technology, which in itself is an element of scientific research. Since however the research on dreams, fantasy and imagination does not keep up with how we experience all this within an increasingly technologically mediated ‘sphere’ we need to rethink what really determines the intimate sphere we call home. In her Onlife Manifesto Keynote-lecture on February 8th. 2013 in Brussels Prof. Julie Cohen remarked: “Preserving breathing room for the play of everyday practice in a networked world is an urgent project for lawyers and policy-makers, for technology designers and engineers, and also for everyone else”

I wish you all a thoughtful and connected 2014.

this article was published on Jan. 1st. 2014 on IOT-World.