Today, Google is celebrating the life of Marshall McLuhan with a Doodle. There’s a lot that the Canadian philosopher is attributed to. Let’s begin a similar journey here with his 1969 Playboy magazine interview:
For many years, until I wrote my first book, The Mechanical Bride, I adopted an extremely moralistic approach to all environmental technology. I loathed machinery, I abominated cities, I equated the Industrial Revolution with original sin and mass media with the Fall. In short, I rejected almost every element of modern life in favor of a Rousseauvian utopianism. But gradually I perceived how sterile and useless this attitude was, and I began to realize that the greatest artists of the 20th Century—Yeats, Pound. Joyce, Eliot—had discovered a totally different approach, based on the identity of the processes of cognition and creation. I realized that artistic creation is the playback of ordnary experience—from
trash to treasures. I ceased being a moralist and became a student . . .
The world we are living in is not one I would have created on my own drawing board, but it’s the one in which I must live, and in which the students I teach must live. If nothing else, I owe it to them to avoid the luxury of moral indignation or the troglodytic security of the ivory tower and to get down into the junkyard of environmental change and steam-shovel my way through to a comprehension of its contents and its lines of force—in order to understand how and why it is metamorphosing man…
Cataclysmic environmental changes are, in and of themselves, morally neutral; it is how we perceive them and react to them that will determine their ultimate psychic and social consequences.
For his 106th birthday, Google’s gift is to further immortalize the man, Marshall McLuhan, the man who “saw the internet coming — and predicted just how much impact it would have.” He delineated history and therefore his own philosophy into epochs: the acoustic age, the literary age, the print age, and the electronic age. Of this latter age, we still reside in, becoming further and deeper enmeshed in our newest technology than we can perhaps say is true of any other before it, combining the premier artifacts of our existence into it.
Will you change or be the change?