We were never better than in the tree

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
23 August, 2016
Editorial: 23
Fecha de publicación original: 11 junio, 1996

Date of publication: 11/06/1996. Editorial 023.

To make a hole to cover another one

In November 1974, Isaac Asimov told a group of students at the Newark School of Engineering the subject of the first story he sold to John Campbell, which appeared in “Astounding Science Fiction” in July 1939. Asimov was just 19 years old. The story was called “Trends” and, according to him, it was the first time that anyone had written a story about a return trip to the Moon. However, what caught the sharp eye of the publisher was not that this young man had imagined an adventure of this sort, but that he postulated the idea of popular resistance to space travel. In the story there is an organisation of earthlings who defend our right and our duty to remain peacefully where we are. Any attempt to go out and investigate what there might be out there, makes them absolutely furious and…….dangerous. According to Asimov, it was also the first time anyone had proposed any active resistance to the space race, something which, in fact, did not come up in literature again until it took place in reality.

Where did the future prophet of science fiction get such an idea? He himself explained that at that the time, to earn his bread and butter, he was working as secretary to a sociologist who was writing a thesis on “Social Resistance to Technological Change”. Asimov was helping to find references and this was how he came across a fact which was quite a revelation to him: the history of mankind has been sewn together by a tough thread of technological change, as well by its exact opposite: a tenacious, bitter, exaggerated and, at times, ferocious, resistance to it and its consequences. As Asimov went on to explain, this resistance usually came from groups who were most likely to lose their social, political, or economic power, or influence, as a result of these innovations. However, these reasons were never obviously the fundamental motives of their opposition (there were technological changes which they embraced immediately with the fervour of converts: they made them richer). In fact quite the contrary. In what we could call the “iron law of the tree” –We were never better off than before we were bi-pedal –, these groups always founded their positions on an unconditional defence of the welfare of humanity. Sometimes it was mankind’s physical, sometimes its mental and almost always its spiritual health they were defending, and sometimes all three if the degree of opposition to technological change demanded it.

Having got to this point, I think it’s quite clear exactly what we are talking about. After all, the means I am using to tell you this is not innocent with respect to its content. But it is worth pointing out a few things. Today, humanity, for the first time includes everybody. Therefore, those who defend the spiritual integrity of humanity in the face of the technological changes which overwhelm us, do so, not in the name of those sectors of it that are within their reach, as was the case up to now, but in the name of entire humanity. In other words, they are more dangerous than ever before. Their fundamentalist and opportunistic technophobia has never held such possibilities for becoming a powerful, universal, cultural trend constructed only and exclusively to protect interests which have never openly been stated. This is only one rung in the ladder of the resistance movement. These groups mobilise very powerful cultural resources. Through them, the elemental credo of our times is consolidated among the faithful: yes, we belong to a society based on technology, but always within a certain order. In other words, on the one hand, the passion for innovation is cultivated as the illusory motor for the well-being of all, and, on the other, fear is encouraged by means of the most reactionary conservatism, making due obedience necessary to avoid the risks which “uncontrolled” development of these innovations could bring. Or to be more exact, the developments which they have no control over. This objective, which they have managed to dissimulate behind a barrier of verbiage drenched in altruism, is completely exposed when it comes to Internet, the penultimate evolutionary leap forward in technological change. Now, millions of those human beings so well defended by the “resistance party”, participate in and control, modulate, enjoy and take advantage of this evolutionary advance. The resistance movement will have to change its tactics (it IS changing its tactics) although it will never give up disseminating technophobia as bait for recruitment. Confronted as we are with its doom-laden preachings, its reactionary behaviour and love for the atavistic tree, we now know what it is we have to oppose.

Translation: Bridget King.