If you asked around, I dare say you wouldn’t have much trouble finding people afraid of one day being rendered obsolete by technology. Everything seems so automated now, so connected. Every day another task is taken out of human hands.
But what if we’re losing more than we believe we are? What if besides losing human interaction and gainful employment, we’re also losing our sense of history and legacy? After all, when the lights go out, how many letters and photographs from an entire generation will be lost? (Yes, I see the irony that me asking that question in this space, as it would likewise be lost too. Work with me people)
LO AND BEHOLD: REVERIES OF THE CONNECTED WORLD is the latest documentary from renowned filmmaker, Werner Herzog. The film travels back to the beginnings of the internet, and shows just how far we’ve come from those quaint days of a few thousand cybernauts. The film looks at what our lives have become, what great leaps have been made, and what dangers we have already fallen into.
If that seems like a very broad subject to tackle, well, it is. However, our trusty tour guide, Mister Herzog, does a good job of keeping the group together and getting us to all of the must see stops on the tour. While we are left to marvel at just how far we’ve come, and giggle at what used to be, we’re also given ample opportunity to wonder at our role in this technological revolution.
Are we striking the proper balance between the knowledge we gain and finding ways to apply it? Sure, you can learn how to play a guitar just by bringing up video after video on YouTube…but do you take the time to learn what your guitar sounds like in harmony with someone else’s guitar in front of a campfire?
Between visits to people living off the grid, and people working past internet addiction, we are also reminded of how vicious people can act when they do not fear consequences of their actions. There is a question or two, but we don’t really linger on any of those moments. It’s as if the film says “I know you know, but I want you to know that I know you know. You know?”
LO AND BEHOLD isn’t all that interested in asking whether or not living in the information age is a “good thing”. The film – and I dare suggest Herzog himself – would never propose going back to before. Instead, what we’re presented with is a meditation on our new reality. We’re left to wonder what our responsibility is in this new world order, and where our place in it may be going forward. As is sometimes the case when the question comes from Werner Herzog, the question is as much a theological and philosophical one as it is an ethical one.