System Animals

What animal is so naive to come into this world as a naked and crying infant, completely vulnerable, helpless, and an easy prey for any predator? Newborn lamb or giraffe’s babies can walk within a few hours, but it takes humans years and years to learn to take care of themselves. Yet, despite our physical vulnerability, we’ve proven not only able to survive, but even to dominate the planet. How come?

Unlike other animals, which have specific organs, skills and reflexes that enable them to survive in their proper environment, humans have never been placed in an environment for which we are specifically equipped. The human physique implies that there is no such thing as a ‘purely’ natural environment for us. We are system animals: technological beings by nature.

Compared to other animals, humans are maladjusted, primitive and undeveloped. Yet, we compensate by being the most enthusiastic system builders of the entire animal kingdom. Although this trait is typically seen as advancement from our primate ancestors – indeed an astronaut has some powers a monkey must live without – we rarely realize that our system craving not only empowers us, but at times also imprison us.

From the dawn of humankind we have constituted system. It is safe to say, we have co-evolved with them, like the bees have co-evolved with flowers. And as in any symbiotic relation, traffic goes two ways. With every technological ‘upgrade’ we relinquish a piece of our selves. A pelt for a coat, hunting for farming, singing for writing, memory for web search. Through our systems we domesticate our environment, yet every new system also causes a new situation, a next nature, which eventually also domesticates us. We serve our systems as much as they serve us.

Image: Bjork video, All is Full of Love, director Chris Cunningham.