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Cultural Schizophrenia: Technological Progress vs Environmental Jeopardy

Contemporary humans may be indulging in the ultimate folly of our 40,000 plus years on Earth by promoting obsolescence in the midst of a global environmental crisis. Schizophrenia is the word that describes the compulsion to pursue short term 'wants' that can never be fulfilled, while we fret about long term 'needs' being met in the future. The latter will only be accomplished by restraining the former. Escaping this neurotic push-and-pull mentality requires adjusting our attitudes toward the digital culture we inhabit. Instead of associating it with speed and convience, we must focus on the endless heap of network wires, lines, routers, switches and other very material things that deplete resources and contaminate ecosystems when they are being manufactured, then produce a double jeopardy by re-contaminating ecosystems after they are discarded. The hazards persist whether the electronic devices are dumped into landfills, incinerated, or recycled.

Rushing to proclaim 'obsolete' regarding contemporary media technologies is providing future archeologists with a new kind of fossil because the components of digital media and their effects will linger far into the future.

Whereas electronic gadget manufacturers announce that 'progress' is inherent to quick turnovers, and teams of advertisers and marketers reinforce this message, environmentalists and concerned citizens are fretting about collapse. They know that laptops or mobile phones that promise to be better than previous versions, they will not hold this distinction for long because another update will soon be devised to replace them.

Thus, the temporalities of media objects anticipate the future of archaeology that is likely to disclose irrefutable evidence of today's mistaken impression  that electronics constitute clean technology.

Chu Yun's installation, "Constellation", suggests a scenario of exorbitant energy use, carbon emissions, heavy metal discards, chemical soaked chips, .

Newly emerging technologies suggest that the schizophrenia of the current era will persist. Consider the following:

One the one hand, the problems associated with electronic devices may increase with the development of disposable computers. These small data processing devices, with input/output, memory , and communication capabilities, are intended to be used for limited uses and then discarded. Cypak AB, a Swedish company, produces disposable computers and sells them to OEM s (original equipment manufacturers) for about $1 (U.S.) each. The Cypak device is embedded in packing materials. One of its uses would be to track delivery data in courier packaging. Another is to monitor patient dosage data from within the packaging for medications. According to some embedded systems engineers, disposable networked computers could soon be embedded in almost anything in our environment, leading to an envisioned future situation sometimes called ubiquitous computing. But does that also mean ‘ubiquitous’ polluting?

On the other hand, an environmentally responsible alternative is also being developed. ‘iameco’ is a disposable recycled paper laptop that offers many advantages. Separate layers enable speedy replacement of parts in case there‚Äôs any damage. It uses one third less energy than typical computers to produce. No plastic or metal is used. Because it is built from waste products from the lumber and pulp industry, it is biodegradable and renewable. Furthermore, implanted within the wood panels are seeds from native-tree species. Thus, it is biodegradable and renewable! When the components are buried in a landfill the wood breaks down and  new trees begin to grow!