Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities

Simulation: “Getting Rid of the Digital Divide”

In her book Simulation and Its Discontents, MIT Professor Sherry Turkle argues that what simulation wants is immersion in the simulated world that is so complete that it serves as a proxy for the real. Turkle's worry, or the worry she reports from the scientists she studies in her book, is that simulation replaces reality with a deceptive simulacrum that is so compelling that we take it as real even when it is not. I have discussed Turkle's thesis here. And here.

In a fascinating TED lecture, Pranav Mistry--Turkle's colleague at MIT--has a completely different take, arguing that simulation will free us from computers that divide us from the real world. By "getting rid of the digital divide," Mistry argues, simulation will actually make us more human.  Watch the video of his TED talk here and see if you agree?


More human? Less human? Differently human. I think it undeniable that this technology will change our world and our understanding of ourselves.

Remember to attend the Arendt Center's Conference, Human Being in an Inhuman Age.

Roger Berkowitz
Roger Berkowitz is Associate Professor of Political Studies and Human Rights at Bard College, and Academic Director of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and the Humanities. He is also the author of "Gift of Science: Leibiniz and the Modern Legal Tradition", as well as co-editor of "Thinking in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt on Ethics and Politics".

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  1. Very interesting! I wouldn’t call this simulation, though. I’m not clear what Turkle means when she uses the word, so maybe her definition incorporates “augmented reality” interfaces like these.

    As a side note, I am amused about the demo that projects the watch face onto the wrist, and curious about whether we will prove to be so psychologically bound to our technological history that we find the (left) wrist the most “natural” place to check for the time, even once that clock face could be projected anywhere. My bet: my generation will, but younger folks who grew up using their cell phones will not moor time-telling to any particular body part, or to the body at all. Nor will they be attached to round faces with rotating hands.

    So what will that do to our intuitions about time? What have round-faced wristwatches done to those intuitions? I agree with Roger that such technology will profoundly change the ways that we experience the world, and the ways we frame our understanding of it.

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