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THEY DID A WHAT ON WHAT?

Updated: Dec 25, 2018

by Justice Thelot


If you've been on the internet in the past week, you've probably encountered the mention of a grape going under some kind of surgical procedure.


That is way more grape discourse than usual. Unless, of course, you’re really into natural wine.


This week’s big meme is about a grape undergoing a surgical operation.


“They did a surgery on a grape.”


How did we get here?


The video whence the meme originates is from 2010. It is a promotional video for a health center demonstrating its new DaVinci surgical system.





I quote from their website:

“The da Vinci Surgical System—one of the most advanced surgical technologies available—offers a minimally invasive alternative for many complex surgical procedures. The system allows your surgeon to insert miniature instruments and a tiny high-definition 3D camera through a series of quarter-inch incisions.”



The phrase “They did surgery on a grape” evokes headlines that are becoming increasingly common in our daily lives.


“They built a self-driving car.”

“They made a hyper-realistic robot.”

Etc.


It resembles something one would find in the Facebook group “previously unsaid sentences in human history”, yet somehow, through all its uncanniness, it still feels familiar. That is because we understand the process of the invention, but are alienated from its goal, its telos. We understand that someone somewhere wants to try to make a new cool thing. The sentiment is familiar. What makes this “strange”, and therefore gives it its comedic potential, is the fact that the telos is completely unknown to us.


At times, it seems like technology has acquired a life of its own. Whereas function could be inferred from inventions of the industrial era, most of our modern inventions perplex us even when we are the intended users.


As if no one had even stopped and wondered: why are we making this? (Why are we doing surgery on a grape?)


We’ve reached a point that we could call a “Technological Parnasse” or “Technology for technology’s sake”.


Technology now exists as a self-serving force, self-driving, self perpetuating, accelerating towards singularity.


Each new wave of inventions alters our lifestyles, our relationships, our psyches. Technology is changing us, and yet a lot of the new tech is unintelligible to the most of us. We can understand parts, but we can never predict its consequences on us and the new challenges engendered by its existence reside outside of our current understanding of morals and ethics.

What happens when a self-driving car kills someone?

Can we grant citizenship to a robot?


We are Frankenstein looking at our monster mutating into something we no longer recognize. Or maybe We are the monster and Technology is the Doctor?


Are we the inanimate subjects of technological experiments?


Are we the grape?