the portable cave

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By EUGENIO BUCCI*

The solicitous surrender to the dictates of technology, which neither thinks nor sympathizes, is an indignity of reason.

Those who follow the press pages have already seen that there is a festive buzz around the launch of the new pair of glasses manufactured by Apple. We are dealing with an uncontainable frisson, as they used to say in pre-internet times – or a siricutico assanhado, in archaic Tupi-Guarani. Articles and reports propagate a strident excitement with that object, which, let's be honest, has the appearance of a shiny but opaque diving mask.

According to reports from the technophile chronicle, the contraption will cost US$ 3.499. They say it's a marketing ploy. With the price up there, the company intends to attract very wealthy customers at the start. These, then, with their proverbial ostentatious rage, will be in charge of advertising the product, stoking restless greed in the poorest. the fetish of VisionPro – that's the commercial name of the thing – will reach the heights. Soon, soccer players will appear on TV getting off the bus, outside the stadiums, with the thing nailed to their faces, as they already do with caps and headphones. Novel actresses. Millionaires on tour of the Vatican. Celebrities at the restaurant.

Then the price will fall and the crowds will gain the right to look at what the gadgets has inside. Experts say that images of astounding definition light up and, just a few centimeters from the consumer's pupils, reveal wonders never seen alongside the landscapes we already know. They call it “augmented reality”, “mixed reality”, “virtual reality”. Reality-more-than-real.

The double eyepatch offers assorted functionality. What will they be? The immediate correction of the customer's astigmatism? The night vision? A powerful zoom, able to close up the full moon craters? Will there perhaps be a microscope on board to catch bacteria floating in the air? It will certainly come with a device that, in two blinks of an eye, opens your bank statement. Even more, lysergic, hallucinatory scenes will be able to coexist with a judicious and exact objectivity. It will be possible to contemplate up close what an LSD trip is without taking LSD. Perhaps a facial recognition application with subtitles will be integrated to help us immediately remember the name of the person who comes to greet us all smiling.

If the new commodity succeeds, we will plunge into yet another radical transformation of culture: every earthling will become a cyborg optical. It's easy to imagine our dentist carrying one of these around to dig out our molars. The surgeon will also have his retinas turbocharged, looking like a fighter pilot. Soon, the Uber driver will also travel masked. The traffic cop will issue fines without so many failures. The teacher. The entire class. The masses marching. The couple of lovers, at night, in the dark room.

One more time and the eyes of human beings will be covered most of the time, hidden. Talking to someone like that, eye to eye will be an anachronistic habit. Walking around with irises showing will be considered an act of obscenity. Showing eyelashes in public will be a lack of composure.

(From here on, this prose goes in parentheses. Perhaps the unlikely reader has never heard of the Luddites. They were English workers who, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, broke machines to protest against automation and secure their old jobs. This was in the early days. of the XNUMXth century. They went down in history as militants of ridicule. Today, when we criticize the impetuous advances of digital technology, we are a bit luddist. Ridiculous. We mobilize vocabularies from the near past – as this article did here, before the parentheses – to denounce the prepotent technique, which throws to the side the human attributes that we are proud of.Playfulness is inevitable.

On the other hand, the solicitous surrender to the dictates of technology, which does not think or sympathize, is an indignity of reason. Let's be Luddist, even if it's not to be unworthy. What matters to us today is not breaking the machines, but breaking the logic that orders them – and, if possible, breaking the global monopolies of their emperors. A drop of humanism, albeit late.

In the Brazilian documentary Window's soul (2001), directed by João Jardim and Walter Carvalho, a beautiful film, the Portuguese writer José Saramago says that humanity needed 2.500 years to enter, all of it, inside Plato's cave. With his luminous but not luminescent metaphor, Saramago criticizes the civilization that he believes more in electronic images than in words and thought. He couldn't be more right.

Twenty years after the remarkable Window's soul: VisionPro comes to offer us the portable cave. The epitome of mass individualism. With its look of a solid blindfold that fits the eyes, with its air of a scopic gag, it comes to us like a chastity belt: whoever agrees to wear it will see nothing else but it. But he arrives with the promise of a thousand pleasures, as if he were an intimate massager, since the look is an erogenous zone. Zone now captive.)

* Eugene Bucci He is a professor at the School of Communications and Arts at USP. Author, among other books, of The superindustry of the imaginary (authentic).

Originally published in the newspaper The State of S. Paul.


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