Zen and the Art of iDevices

I’m reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig and a passage caught my eye in light of the late Steve Jobs’ vision for Apple.

Throughout the Steve Jobs biography, Walter Isaacson mentions again and again how Jobs’ vision was to unite technology with the humanities. I found that same sentiment echoed by Pirsig in the following passage about how some find modern technology to be “ugly.” Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way, and Jobs certainly proved that again and again. His products not only looked beautiful on the outside but also provided an interface and design that formed a seamless bond between us and technology.

The real ugliness is not the result of any objects of technology. Nor is it, if one follows Phaedrus’ metaphysics, the result of any subjects of technology, the people who produce it or the people who use it. Quality, or its absence, doesn’t reside in either the subject or the object. The real ugliness lies in the relationship between the people who produce the technology and the things they produce, which results in a similar relationship between the people who use the technology and the things they use.

The way to solve the conflict between human values and technological needs is not to run away from technology. That’s impossible. The way to resolve the conflict is to break down the barriers of dualistic thought that prevent a real understanding of what technology is – not an exploitation of nature, but a fusion of nature and the human spirit into a new kind of creation that transcends both. When this transcendence occurs in such events as the first airplane flight over the ocean or the first footstep on the moon, a kind of public recognition of the transcendent nature of technology occurs. But this transcendence should also occur at the individual level, on a personal basis, in one’s own life, in a less dramatic way.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, pp. 290-291

  1. I think this is how Dominic Go must have felt when he finally got a smart phone!

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