Visions of Heaven and Hell: Information Technology and the Future

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Film Description

Visions of Heaven and Hell: Information Technology and the Future (Welcome to the Jungle, The Virtual Wasteland and Selling the Future) 1995. Films for the Humanities & Sciences. Format: VHS Tape

Film Highlights

David Byrne: “I think people pack their bags waiting for things to happens, but in the act of packing bags things happen. As in, people get very interested in the idea of the millennium, so interested that they end up doing things to prepare. Their preparation changes the future, even if nothing ends up happening.

William Gibson: We’re on the cusp of something. But there’s the idea of an aching sense of slow decline of a future with no direction

Charles Handy: The problem is that new technology is not surprising. It looks like a new supermarket or a home computer.

Narrator: Some are afraid we won’t buy into their dream, so they are trying to sell us technology that is easy. This is done through corporate meetings and pitches.

Narrator: They’re not just selling us electronics, they’re selling us community, the very thing that makes us feel human. And they’re selling us community in new electronic forms.

Mark Weiser: The basic idea behind ubiquitous computing is so computers can get out of the way and allow people to live their lives.

XEROX PARC: Everyone has little trackers and displays avatars of people’s faces on maps. When there is a surplus or resource such as ice cream, that resource is displayed on the screen.

Microsoft Gregory Riker, Director, Advanced Technology: “We’ve just been given a much better opportunity to reach what’s important to us much more quickly. Showing an interactive television. “It increases the ease verses the dominance of technology in our lives.

Narrator: For decades we graded the machine as more of an enemy than an ally. We thought it was fighting to take our place. Technologists say this is the moment, this finally is the moment, when we and the machine become the best of friends.

William Gibson: “Technology is the sum total of humanity. All of that is technology. All history” It’s impossible to extract ourselves from this. We’re tied in. Intertwined with this idea of technology. We rely on this technology.

Professor Peter Cochrane: “You switch off the telephone system of the planet and we will starve. The nervous system of this planet is the telephone network, and the synapses are computers.

Douglas Adams: The things that drive our evolution is generally an abrasion with our environment. But we do something different as humans. We make clothes to survive in the cold instead of taking millions of years to evolve fur.

William Gibson: Instead of evolution “we are creating a virtual epidermis”. The physical one was the vehicle, the tools. We can now search as our buffer zone becomes more connected in this way, it’s becoming a virtual epidermis”.

Narrator: The image of the computer sitting alone on the corner of the desk never threatened to change us from the way we really were. Bt we’ve given them away to connect, a 4th dimension we cannot see. But we feel a need to name it, so we call it cyberspace.

William Gibson coined the term in 1981. He describes what he felt like when he watched youth interacting with computers, especially youth playing video games. “There’s this yearning to reach through the screen and manipulate something that exists somewhere else. In reality, they were “relating to a space that was beyond the desktop. Not in the machine, somewhere invisible. “The stock market occurs in this extra-geographical near instantaneous zone where we do so much of what passes as civilization.

Esther Dyson: “Me sitting and my computer is not very exciting, but me and some other person through my computer is very exciting. What really happens is much more interaction among people.

Howard Rheingold: Cars and suburbia have replaced community and torn us apart. Community really happens through informal conversation with strangers in public places. Narrator: We are rushing to find a future that will allow us to escape from oursleves.

William Gibson: I remember a time before television. I don’t remember what we did, but I remember it. Then I remember my dad getting a television. It was a large wooden box with a tiny screen in the middle of it. And that was it. I remember that after we got it, all of us would sit around it watching in the evenings. There’s something here, “It’s difficult for us to know what we lose. And as we lost things it’s difficult to remember what we lost”.

NYU: Neil Postman (also see Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology, 1993). The automobile controls us – we don’t control it. People are going towards computers and technology in the same blind way.

Esther Dyson: Our nerves are wrong. Things are buzzing and blinking. We’re so sick of having to be available for every impulse (see Panic Architecture) We used to look for information to solve a problem. It was slow. Now, Information is becoming a kind of barbage. Now we’re face with a problem not of how to get to information but how to get get rid of it.

Narrator: Information is like no resource before. It does not shrink, but increases. We are searching for the data that makes us human beings. We are increasingly turning ourselves into information.

Purchasing Information

Visions of Heaven and Hell: Information Technology and the Future Mark Harrison and Leanne Klein, producers. 1995. Films for the Humanities and Sciences. $395.95 (series).

  • Selling the Future 52 minutes. $149.95.
  • Welcome to the Jungle 52 minutes. $149.95.
  • The Virtual Wasteland 52 minutes. $149.95.