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Sophocles on the perils of the digital age

Sophocles on the perils of the digital age


"Nothing vast enters the realm of mortals without a curse." - Sophocles

From his play Antigone, on the temptation to sacrifice wisdom at the altar of power, and the cost of defying the gods.

Those of us who are old enough to have been young adults in the previous century, straddle two different worlds. Even for us, it's difficult to remember what life was like without the internet, smart phones, e-commerce, big data, and social media.

While I am by no means anti-tech, I often feel nostalgic for the "old" world, when social interactions were exclusively with flesh-and-blood people in real places. Because no one was recording it, sharing it, commenting on it, or performing a role for a current or future audience, human exchanges were by their very nature intimate and transient.

Of course we still go places in real life, we still interact face-to-face with family, friends, and strangers. And of course the internet - and the ability for virtually anyone to communicate at scale with the world - is extraordinary. In some ways, I owe a great deal of happiness to it. But when I think back to that old world, I can't shake the feeling that something essentially human has been lost, perhaps irretrievably. As vast as it is, this new way of connecting with each other came with sacrifice.

The entire passage reads:

"And through the future, near and far, as through the past, shall this law hold good: Nothing vast enters the realm of mortals without a curse. 

For hope whose wanderings are so wide is to many men a comfort, but to many a false lure of giddy desires; and the disappointment comes on one who knoweth nought till he burn his foot against the hot fire. 

For with wisdom hath some one given forth the famous saying, that evil seems good, soon or late, to him whose mind the god draws to mischief; and but for the briefest space doth he fare free of woe."

About the Art

“In this illustration, I was interested in the leaky borders between two worlds, how one simulates and infiltrates the other, and how through its ability to fascinate, influences our perception of the real world in unexpected ways with unintended consequences.”

Art by Evan Robertson. All rights reserved.

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