A Hologram of Humanity

March 30, 2015

Apathy is at the root of modernity. Apathy is the heart of entertainment, and by ‘entertainment’ I mean not only the film or music industry, but the entire, passive philosophy of living which sluggishly floats through the veins of modern life. We would rather receive than give, and in a horrible inversion of Christ’s proverb, even what we have received is in danger of being taken from us. According to the official website, the Microsoft HoloLens will usher in a “new reality.” A reality created by the same people who couldn’t interest themselves in the world beyond their computer screens if it bit them in the face. “When you change the way you see the world, you can change the world you see,” they say. Why you would want to change the world, or what you would want to change it to, they do not say. It is unimportant. As a matter of course, they presume that their world is better than the real world. Everything tastes better with a Ritz; the priests of technology have spoken. But my objection to the HoloLens is not confined solely to hologram technology. I could complain about how it will absorb people, and keep them from nature, and a whole horde of objections rather reminiscent of the 19th century romantics. My objections to it, rather, lie in its motivations. It claims to make life better, but the use of the word ‘better’ assumes some sort of goal, some end towards which the HoloLens will push us. I am to believe that the generous, altruistic creators of this technology did so with an ideal for humanity in mind. I began this critique with a condemnation of apathy. Apathy is the motivation behind the HoloLens. The ideal towards which the HoloLens pushes us is one in which our minds receive more, and act less. You have to work to interact with the real world; holograms are tame, and infinitely malleable. A device which allows us to visualize our dreams runs the risk of making our vision no more than a dream, and just as meaningless. To object that the hologram can have great uses in science, or dramatically improve design efficiency, or be capable of any number of “good” uses, is to use blinders in a discussion with wide, and far-ranging implications. Can holograms aid scientific discovery? I would respond to this and all other such apologies for the HoloLens by objecting that we cannot ask such a narrow, specific question before we consider the larger implications. What kind of man does the HoloLens create? That is the question which must be answered before more specific questions can even be brought to the table, and it is a question pregnant with all sorts of ethical and metaphysical implications: what is a man? what does it mean for him to be good? The version of reality which the HoloLens seeks to create, and the ways of thought which it encourages, are the fruit of the apathy which I have already criticized. As such, the HoloLens must be condemned on the basis of its motivations. Whether intentional or not, the HoloLens is destructive of purposeful thought; it is a castration of the mind. When we seek to live in a hologram of a world, we risk becoming only a hologram of humanity.

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Michael Helvey

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