More Than Technology

Inuyashiki is a show about two people, one a teenager and the other a man in his 50s, who get abducted by space aliens or something (the viewer never really find out) and are killed. The aliens, who seem to have a conscience about killing humans, decide to replace the humans, however they replace them as superpowered robots that have a full range of technical, digital, and healing powers. This all happens in the first episode.

The elder man struggles to learn how to use his powers. He achieves a certain amount of competence to go around saving people in emergency situations, and curing terminally ill patients at the hospital. The teenager learns quickly – the viewer never even sees his learning process, he just knows how to use it fluently. He doesn’t cure people though, he kills people anonymously for fun. Then, the teen begins to struggle with the consequences of his actions.

The meaning of Inuyashiki is pretty blunt: our society is giving powerful technology to younger generations before they are ready for it, before they can understand the consequences of their actions. The adults, who traditionally have passed down society and values to younger generations, are struggling just to understand how the mechanics of society.

Younger people are proficient at using technology but lack substance in their purpose (so the show states, very generally). Society risks falling apart because of this gap. Inuyashiki has strong things to say about smartphone use and trolling, among other tech related behaviors.

This was a good show, a bit disturbing in its violence, so definitely not for kids. It was also a quick watch at only 11 episodes.

“The Gestalt has a head and hands, organs and a mind. But the most human thing about anyone is a thing he learns”

Related – I also recently just finished re-reading More than Human, an old sci-fi novel about a group of odd kids and emotionally unstable people who form a new type of higher being through their telekinetic powers and mind communication.

The message in MTH, we find out at the end, is that this “new being” has always been incomplete because they’ve lacked a sense of ethics or morality. The human that fills this role role of ‘conscience’ is spectacularly unspectacular, but this is what ethics is. Not flashy, and very necessary. This with this new member, the being is able to advance into a new realm of existence. The reader gets a glimpse of this at the end, which is fantastic.

 

Both Inuyashiki and More than Human are relevant today because they are telling us, 60 years apart, that sure it’s great to know how to do things, but unless we have knowledge and balance about what we are doing, things can go haywire quickly. ‘What’ matters just as much as ‘How’. Teach substance.

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Yokai Apato

Yokai Apato (Elegant Youkai Apartment Life) is a show about relationships. There’s not a lot of overarching stories in the 26 episode series, but several short 2-4 episode events. There are too many characters to keep track of, especially because many of these only show up here and there. YA is light, serious, and great.

The events in YA are backdropped by a ghost-filled apartment, a high school, a delivery warehouse, an extended uncle’s family, an eccentric best friend, or with a spirit filled book of magic. Did I mention that it’s also a colorful series?

A high school teen, through these short storylines, learns how to navigate the world of human relationships, finding out what it means to make decisions and to accept responsibility for the consequences.

There’s a slower pace to YA, which I really like. The people hanging around the ‘youkai apartments’ spend time talking about the different expectations and reactions that humans have of each other in all types of situations. The show is tuned into a sense of Emotional Intelligence that isn’t always present in anime suitable for kids, and this is why I love it.

There are a lot of laughs and enough action in the show so that my kids also loved it. I can’t think of a better anime that I’ve watched with them. Life is limited and we don’t have the time to experience it all – YA is a good substitute for talking about experiences we might have and people we might meet, in small ways.

I often post about the the division of “how” and “what” skills/questions, and the tendency for my generation to focus so much more on the “How” of life. YA contributes to the much needed “What”, giving my kids some substance and some humanity to go along with all that digital connective stuff they’re supposed to prefer.

The Language and Culture of Literacies

It’s an entirely different thing to talk about these issues when the very act of asking questions is what’s being weaponized.

https://points.datasociety.net/you-think-you-want-media-literacy-do-you-7cad6af18ec2

For a few weeks I’ve been trying to make sense of this talk by Dana Boyd. It’s jumpy, but there’s a lot in there. One of the underlying messages is that society has been focusing too much on “how”, and not enough on “what”. That is, infatuation with “how” technology is used for communicating, for learning, for anything…and not enough thought into “what” is communicated, is learned, is the subject matter.

She doesn’t stop there though, as this point about ‘what’ and ‘how’ has been made many times before. She goes further and claims that with the ‘what’ de-emphasized, the digital literacy tools and skills that have been emphasized (the ‘how’) have the potential for a strong negative impact on society.

She relates this all to media literacy. And, a question I always come back to, is about how the word “literacy” has changed (and is changing) over the course of my lifetime. Now we have “literacies”, and the emergence of relationships between different types of literacies.

Buried in her talk is a plea for what comes between all of these literacies. At the least, we need a sense of the language and culture to translate between different literacies.

More thoughts on a book by Boyd

More – She also talks about “When tech is involved, it often comes in the form of “don’t trust Wikipedia; use Google.” which is all too true.

Why Study Shakespeare?

There’s a great closing line in this article:

Students should study Shakespeare not because of what job it might get them but because it’s an anthropological guidebook that tells them how to live.

The post of this quote, and the surrounding discussion about ‘21st century skills’, is concerned with the topic What is the purpose of Education?

It is a “What” question, not a “How” question.

Replacing one narrow view of education with another narrow view of education will only substitute one type of factory model for another.

In discussions like these it is worthwhile to pan back and view education with a wider lens. Why do I try to change and learn in specific ways? In order to give myself more options to do what I want to do.

I study Shakespeare not to get a job but to help me decide what it is I want to do with my time here.