Friday, November 1, 2019

Love vs Frankenstein

Love comes off badly in Frankenstein too – all the major relationships in the book are disrupted by the monster – and the monster isn’t allowed love either. We hear so much about disruptive technologies, and somehow we’re meant to think this heroic, because men (and it is men) seem to have a need to feel heroic, whether it’s killing people in wars or imposing austerity (‘difficult decisions have to be made’), or smashing into a city with something like AirBnB or Uber and feeling like a pioneer when all you are doing is ruining communities and pushing down wages. The social media platforms situate themselves as heroic. What have they done but increase hatred, misery, and anxiety? Oh, and make money. Sorry.

I worry about love in all its forms. Romantic and sexual love – trashed by web porn. Family relationships – how do you have time when you are doing three jobs to put food on the table? Friendships – again, how do we find time? And those other sorts of love, like volunteering, like charity work, like coaching a kid, like taking an old lady shopping.

The neoliberal project was bound to end in tech hell – everyone atomized online. Virtual communities replacing the interaction people need. Shopping malls replacing free public space. Extraction capitalism.

For me, it is all about love. What do we love? How do we protect what we love? And that is a big lesson of Frankenstein. In my book, the whole sexbot thing is funny and meant to be – because we need a few jokes these days, but it is also about the commodifcation of human relationships. The corporatization of everything.

I am not at all anti-tech. But we really can’t leave this stuff to socially stunted white boys and corporate greed.

The free market doesn’t make life better; it makes some people richer. With tech this could become dystopian very quickly. We need regulation – and most of all we need reflection. Victor Frankenstein, and my own Victor Stein are visionaries, but they are prepared to sacrifice all the things that make life worthwhile for most people; love and affection, community, stability, a measure of control.

 Jeanette Winterson