In his introduction to Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth, journalist Bill Moyers reports that Campbell thought Lucas put the “ the newest and most powerful spin to the classic story of the hero” by showing that “… Technology is not going to save us. Our computers, our tools, our machines are not enough. We have to rely on our intuition, our true being.”, and he holds a tragic hero of modern times, Goethe’s Faust, a witness to this reality.
It is rather odd that the general opinion on humans’ true being holds that it is static and stable, and as society progresses we move further away from it. This is why, many new-age schools of spirituality define reaching your true being as a voyage back or into yourself. It is also odd that postmodern people who hold a distinct dislike towards things unmoving, unchanging and define them as dogmatic are so infatuated with this true self that waits shores away.
At another point of the same book, Campbell expresses his fascination with how the main principle of agricultural living, the plant dies, gets buried, and its seed is born again.” was seized upon by the world’s great religions as the revelation of eternal truth — that from death comes life, or from sacrifice, bliss.””
The idea the people’s main means of sustenance has such a profound effect on their spirituality renders Campbell’s earlier denouncement and antagonization of technology doubtable and shows the arch of spiritual life is held above by the pillars of earthly life, meaning that they are more intertwined than conflicting, and meaning that the seed of humans, our true being, is also subject to the life cycle of thing; it dies and is reborn with a different chemistry, each time, into a different world.
As humans learned to grow seeds and use the earth for their benefit, their spirituality and their metaphysical beliefs were shaped around this experience. Today, as people bury fiber optic cables instead of seeds under the earth, their spiritual understanding and belief shape around the harvest of these cables; instant communication, a shocking change every day, hope for previously incurable diseases, worries over data and surveillance, life being more automated and convenient every day. When simplified, these phenomena refer to prayers answered too quickly, an omniscient authority, constant expectation from multiple figures of power and wisdom. The representations of these phenomena in the abstract space correspond strongly to elements of spirituality that are existent in every religious, cultural, and folkloric belief system. Every system built upon reward and punishment, a moral code, a conceptualization of self within a larger context finds a home in the contemporary. This means that the self is ever-present in the world, but it puts on different skin in every era like an eternal being whose existence happens in cycles, and although its façade might change, its existence is carved into the world with a name; like a flower, a fruit, or a tree, like time itself.
In the end, Campbell is right. Technology won’t save us unless we weave it into the pattern of the rug we know as life, the world, or meaning. If we think that machines will replace our values instead of representing them, we are doomed for we are choosing to dig a shallow foundation instead of adding upon a great edifice with roots deeps in the heart of the earth; the human history. We will fail to harvest meaning from the seeds of technological change if we fail to make it a part of our spirituality and mythology. In fact, it is already a part of our mythology, all we need to do is to make the connection. Because, who can say that the fall of Google Glass wasn’t due to hubris? A wrong sense of control over the market, therefore people and their desires, turned millions into waste. Who can deny that big data analytics isn’t the modern soothsaying? Who can deny that with their oracle-like powers, today’s data scientists helped governments and citizens tackle disasters through early warnings? They made kings and destroyed kings. Who can deny that Google Duplex, an AI-technology that can mimic the vocal qualities of human language, is not a legend realizing itself, a harbinger for things to come?
Giving these products, concepts, and actors a place within our mythology makes meaning and life better attune and ameliorates our sense of loss and nostalgia. Accepting these as part of our mythology bestows continuance to our history, saves us from being the disruptive element, the disowned child of history. But most important of all, accepting these as parts of our story, our mythology helps us to find the right measures to evaluate these developments. Oftentimes, we are confused as to how to approach to all this change, whether to accept or reject it, whether to deem it good or bad. Through mythologizing, we make the unknown familiar. If all the actors active within the tech sector participate in this act of familiarization, fair and informed discussions can be invited into our lives. Then the natives and migrants of the tech era will be no more, and the public will be given a voice. But pulling these terms within the realm of the known, realm of the history and intuition is the job of the players in the tech field. If we stop antagonizing technology; this undeniable and major part of our new life as a whole and see through dualities, then we can reclaim authority over fate and even resolve the ages old problem of agency. Our time invites us to be actors, not with axes and swords, steamboats and machine guns but with cables and steel, chips and grease. We have something in our hands that has immensive constructive capability, and staying uninformed, refusing the debate or antagonizing it will prompt a self-fulfilling prophecy and redistribute the roles. This is why we should take action to change our fate, the storyline, and the mythology.