Part II: Jon and Kate Plus Truman

It’s been four months since I mentioned there would be a Part Two of Jon and Kate Plus Plastic Surgery. Since then I have learned never again to make a promise to a sequel article. The sequel has haunted me and set expectations of what to write I didn’t want to live up to. So here it is. I hope the stream of consciousness works for you the way it works in my head.

To start off, I must address what I promised in Jon and Kate, for this second part I wanted to move to the kids. When I think about the kids I can’t help remember watching The Truman Show. When The Truman Show came out it was stunning to me. The film was illustrative, to me, of what happens when we get a great technology, don’t think about the technology, and decide to use it however we see fit. In the film, it shows how, in the beginning of the show there was the in utero camera to watch Truman. From there it goes on to show, how with each recording technology that was invented, the producers where able to watch more and more of Truman’s life. With the growth and adaptations of the technology the viewers or voyeurs were able to become a part of Truman’s life and his journey’s right along with him. A huge building was resurrected to contain Truman and until the very end the audience watched with anticipation. In the movie, there was only the one voice of reason that continued to point out that the situation was wrong, Truman’s love.

No what in the world does this have to do with ethics and emerging technologies you might ask? Well, while it is not super cool nanotech or dealing with global catastrophic risks it has to do with the technology and society of the present. Because even though people saw The Truman Show, felt for Truman in his captivity and was upset with the voyeurism of the audience. Even though as a movie audience we might have walked away thinking, well, that was just wrong of them to do when they had the technology and vision to do it. We did not heed the movie’s point about doing it. Now, I realize you readers might not be fans of Jon and Kate Plus Eight, but I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines. An audience, admittedly me included up until the last year, we watched these children. We didn’t stop and make an action to the fact that maybe we shouldn’t be so involved in these children’s lives. We watched every week waiting, like the Truman fans, for what the Gosselins did this week. Truman got out before things went too far. The Gosselin 8 are not out of it yet, and we still watch and they are still in the news.

So my concern is with the general public and us and the decisions we make went it comes to emerging technologies. When a new technological tool comes to us, are we going to think, or are we just going to use it. Are we thinking about the people involved? How shameless of me to say think of the children, but in this instance what of them? Were they really thought of over the dollars, over the ability to do something? Once the wheels of the show, for example, were set in motion it’s not very easy to stop. These children, unlike Truman, can’t walk away when they figure out what is going on in a larger context. The importances of discussions by the IEET are to explore and discuss ideas of emerging technologies, global catastrophic risks, etc. before they become an everyday reality. The societal aspects of interaction with the technologies and use of the technologies seems important too. I don’t want to be stuck in the sphere with Truman and the Gosselins.


2 thoughts on “Part II: Jon and Kate Plus Truman”

  1. Excellent site, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, A definite great read…"Part II: Jon and Kate Plus Truman" is a very nice article and news….——Girish——wow gold–wow gold

  2. I think one potential problem with the viewpoint from which you are proceeding is that this kind of technology-aided (indeed, technology-created!) voyeurism (J & K +8) is less about the subjects and much more about the viewers themselves. No, most viewers are certainly NOT thinking about the people involved, the humanity behind the spectacle. The appeal, the obsession people have for these shows hinges on the fact that we see the subjects only as a reflection of our own values, choices, and intentions. Viewers literally *use* the spectacle to confirm and/or compare their own choices and their own levels of ‘humanity’ by action.

    It’s, IMHO, irrelevant to viewers that the reflection involves other actual humans: Technology assures we are separate enough from ‘them’ to perceive them only as characters in narratives that reflect our own experience – or, more aptly, viewers take comfort that their own experiences and conditions do NOT generally align with those of the subjects!

    Technology/media in this case serves specifically and intentionally to dehumanize. Without the separateness of the screen, the specific episodic encapsulation of others’ lives unfolding, and the ability of the viewers to literally disengage by turning off the TV, of course there would be (would have been?) an (earlier?) outcry about the intensely insensitive and unfeeling (inhuman?) way we allow the children to be treated, the way we accept the adults’ portrayals, and the way we tacitly approve of the caricature of the show’s representation of marriage/divorce and childrearing.

    I like this idea, but I am more interested in what motivates a viewer to accept – and often desire! – the desensitization that TV and media make possible. Of course, we just bought the first TV I’ve owned in over 10 years … I’m not a junkie, precisely because I’m so troubled by the viewers’ complicity in consuming/creating this kind of disconnect.

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