Emotion vs. Reason

Gonçalo Prudêncio

2003

For a lecture at Experimenta Design

“The big problem with information technology is that it tries so hard to be rational.
By contrast, humans are happy to be rational only a part of the time. Most other time (apart from the fact that they sleep so much) people operate in very different modes: of daydreaming and pondering; of joy and melancholy; of hope and despair…”

Jakub Wejchert, Foreword in Anthony Dunne & William Gaver (project leaders) The Presence Project, CRD Research Studio, 2001, p5

Every new achievement consequent of Man’s enormous curiosity about the World he lives in, was, is, and will always be difficult to understand by the majority of us. History proves it, and Galilee died because of it.

But, if history proves what was just said, it also proves that Man’s posture towards the World was always deeply interrogative and analytical. Man was always very sensitive to the Nature surrounding him. He decodes the Nature he finds, producing a “nature” of his own. Through Man, a difference between Natural World and Artificial World was originated.

Knowledge, is what happens when Man tries to decode the stimuli issued by the Nature that surrounds him. Technology, is what happens when Man tries to produce something with the knowledge he collected before. If we accept this as true, we also have to accept that technology is always a consequence of Man’s rationalization upon Nature.
However, an interesting thing happening, is that Man’s curiosity is being deviated from Nature to the Artificial World he is creating, and technology is also becoming a result of Man’s rationalization about his own creations!

If we agree that technology is the consequence of Man’s capacity to gather and use the knowledge he collects from Nature, and if we also agree that, nowadays, Man’s curiosity is being deviated from Nature to the Artificial World he is creating, we have also to agree that Man is trying to rationalize upon what is already a consequence of a previous similar process: the World got into a process of double-rationalization.
Therefore, reality is now so rational that less and less space is left for each individual’s improvisation upon what he sees and uses. Now we have to use, and we are terribly afraid of misusing. The Trying and Error process is something from the past. The consequences of misusing things in the Age of computation are generally seen as dramatic. But probably, the exact same thing happened with the first machines that now we relate to the Industrial revolution!

The advent of computation can be seen as the cause for this process of double-rationalization. With it, Man began to (re)think the ideas and values issued by the Industrial Revolution. But computation is just one more stop on the long path of Man’s evolution, and not its final destination. From that path, we know what’s back, but we can only imagine and speculate about what’s to come. If we loose the capacity for imagination and speculation, how can we continue to walk on the path of evolution?

About this process of double rationalization, one could use a dialectic way of thinking for the analysis. And if we do so, we can say that before computation we have the analogical systems which constitute the thesis for the analysis, and after computation we have the digital systems which constitute the antithesis. But for the dialectical process to be completed a synthesis has to be achieved. And as a synthesis, we can predict a third system that will melt together both analogical and digital ones. Which is the same to say, that reason and emotion will walk together in harmony. This, I think (and hope!), will be the next stop on the evolution path Man is walking on.

If the correct use and understanding of things is important, misusing and improvisation upon things is also crucial to step forward on the path of evolution.
Man will be no more, if he stops acting emotional to use reason only.

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