Road to unreality by Mark Slouka

The essay “Road to unreality” by Mark Slouka, which appears in the issue ‘Engaging with Argument for Reading and Writing’ basically focuses on the role of modern technology in the alienation of human beings from the world of reality. Some of the new technologies include computer, telephone, cars and other hyper speed gadgets. The author clearly enunciates the effects of telephone on the modern day communication system where the face-to-face scenario that used to be is no longer there. This has had far reaching ramifications on the quality of information communicated, as the chances of distortions are quite many.

The author parades the story of a New York Times reporter and the man who murdered his pregnant wife to explain how most people would prefer print media and TV programs to real life experiences. This separation from reality according to the author “threatens to make us stupid and gullible” for we are bound to believe what we are told regardless of whether it is true or not. Mark Slouka traces all these “woes” to the beginning of the 20th century because, prior to this period the life of the majority revolved around agrarian system. He states categorically that ‘the twentieth century altered pace and pattern of daily life forever’.

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The author cites key factors that started us on the road to unreality; this includes urbanization, consumerism, increasing mobility, loss of regionality, growing alienation from the landscape and most important of all, Technology. He illustrates the effects of technology by providing the reader with an analogy of speed- speed of the car, supersonic speed and normal human speed this he says have divorced us from the real world. With the day-to-day encounter to these technology human beings have grown used to and are comfortable with superhuman speed. Analysis

To the author it is even surprising that people nowadays would prefer to watch music on a CD or TV rather than live performance. He further decries the harm of computer technology to the world and foresees a world so detached from the reality. In his attempt to explain the key factors contributing to the separation of man form reality the authors starts by presenting a vivid example to clearly illustrate his thesis. The story of the New York Times reporter and the man who murdered his wife sets the pace for his essay. His captures the clear picture of how people prefer media presentation as opposed to real life experiences.

The author then zeroes in to trace the ‘when’ and ‘how’ of the problem in question i. e. beginning of the 20th century. He presents the reader with key factors responsible for the surge but emphasizes on technology as the major cause, which he superbly expounds in the leading paragraphs. The examples used in the essay to advance the argument are vivid, moving and easy to relate to. The analogy of the human speed, car speed and supersonic speed drives the argument home. The author employs dialogue technique to clearly bring out the message between the reporter of the New York Times and the neighbor of the couple as lifelike as possible.

This makes the reader associate with the story. Indeed, it serves as a good introduction to the argument as it sets a good precedence for the accompanying episodes. The author then ends his essay with the most important and recent of all technological developments i. e. the computer. According to the author, the impact of computer technology to humans’ touch with reality is enormous “ computers have the capacity to make the partially synthetic environments we already inhabit complete: to remove us once and for all from reality”, this powerful ending renders the arguments of the author more concrete.

Response Whereas the author has tried to blatantly use his artistic intuition to grapple with the situation of road to unreality, a number of issues have not been clearly dealt with. It is not very clear what exactly the author implies when he says that intermediaries are notoriously unreliable yet it’s common knowledge that since time immemorial, before the invention of telephones people used to acquire and relay information though intermediaries e. g. use of messengers and so on. But they never got out of touch with reality.

I am aware of the possible distortions that arise with reliance on intermediaries as a source of communication, but that should not prevent the author from narrating facts. The author further asserts that over reliance on fictions makes us collectively gullible, stupid and dangerous. This assertion lacks some validity. The argument does not seem valid for the mere fact that it does not take into account the fact that people watching fictions are knowledgeable and have the capacity to differentiate between facts and fiction.

There is an aspect of ‘narrowness’ in the author’s arguments since he only focuses on the negative aspect of technology. The author provides the reader with the gloomy side of cars, telephones and computer technology but fails to mention the positive side of these technologies. The argument that people will prefer to listen to musical presentation on CD rather than live performance is a bit shallow because it does not consider other dynamics like cost, availability and purpose. Choosing a CD presentation might be necessitated by the cost of the CD as compared to live performance or the availability of the artist.

Finally, the author does not provide solutions to the problem he has tried to espouse; he does not really tell us what we should do to stay in touch with the reality. Infact at the end of the essay you wonder whether the author is advocating for abandonment of new technology as the ultimate way of staying touch to reality. Having painted a picture full of gloom let me also admit that besides all these pitfalls, the author has vividly captured the key factors that are responsible for the current mans’ state of affairs though with a subjective eye, i. e. man’s lost touch with reality