Tuesday, 7 June 2011

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace: Part 3 "The Monkey in the Machine and the Machine in the Monkey"

In the late 20th Century we have seen the political dreams of changing the world begin to collapse. Ideologies have become unpalatable and have been replaced by machine-fantasies that suggest that we have no control over our actions.

Adam Curtis in this episode suggests that the ideas that underpin this shift in thinking are connected to the studies of human behaviour and the human genome. Scientists like Bill Hamilton, the evolutionary biologist argued that it was the codes, our DNA that determined our behaviour. The scientist George R. Price is also a key influence in this shift in ‘our’ thinking. These ideas have been recently popularised by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. Human then are merely vessels for DNA code and that it is the code that determines our choices and our behaviour. Human beings are merely there to propagate that code.

This episode interweaves the story of scientific discoveries with the tragedy of colonialism and civil war in the Congo (Zaire) and Rwanda.  The Congo has since the 19th Century been exploited for its natural resources, first by the Belgians until the 1960s and then by the rest of us. . Today its minerals are vital for the continuing digital revolution.

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