If John and Sylvia felt trapped by 1970s technology, they could never survive the technological realm of the 21st century. Robert Pirsig’s characters couldn’t escape technology during their ongoing battle with a broken down motorcycle. If they could only foresee what the future had in store, they would surely get lost in the depths of the digital world.
John and Sylvia remind me a lot of my father. This man is a lumberjack by day and cowboy by night (quite literally). I’m from a very rural community in Prince Edward Island. We are quite possibly the last corner of the globe that has yet to receive high-speed internet. For this reason, my father is as familiar with Facebook and Twitter as I am with particle physics. I worry that moving media from newspaper stands to the online world will leave certain demographics without adequate accessibility to news. This includes people like my father, as well as senior citizens and low-income families.
Pirsig speaks of the motorcycle mechanics and how dedication to the craft has been replaced by an obsession with speed. This can be translated into modern-day journalism. More often, we see that speed holds more weight than accuracy. Gabrielle Giffords was apparently “shot dead,” which we later learned was false. It’s not fair to say that journalists today are inferior to their predecessors, because the nature of journalism has changed. Readers no longer wait on their doorstep for the day’s news, they wait by their blackberrys.
Robert Pirsig alludes to the very thing that frightens his friends John and Sylvia.
“The “it” is a kind of force that gives rise to technology, something undefined, but inhuman mechanical lifeless, a blind monster, a death force.”
The inhuman aspect of technology is undoubtedly effecting the way we communicate. Personal contact has been replaced with texting and instant messaging. In many ways, what connects us (technology) is the thing that keeps us apart.