French cultural theorist Paul Virillio on the integral accident

November 30, 2018 — Leave a comment

When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck; when you invent the plane you also invent the plane crash; and when you invent electricity, you invent electrocution… Every technology carries its own negativity, which is invented at the same time as technical progress. – Paul Virillio

Virillio believed in this idea of the “integral accident” — that any technology is paired with the accidents it can create…

The integral accident (wikipedia)
Virilio believed that technology cannot exist without the potential for accidents. For example, Virilio argued that the invention of the locomotive also contained the invention of derailment. He saw the Accident as a rather negative growth of social positivism and scientific progress. He believed the growth of technology, namely television, separates us directly from the events of real space and real time. In it he suggested we lose wisdom and sight of our immediate horizon and resort to the indirect horizon of our dissimulated environment. From this angle, the Accident can be mentally pictured as a sort of “fractal meteorite” whose impact is prepared in the propitious darkness, a landscape of events concealing future collisions. Aristotle claimed that “there is no science of the accident”, but Virilio disagreed, pointing to the growing credibility of simulators designed to escape the accident— which he argued is an industry that is born from the unholy marriage of post-WW2 science and the military-industrial complex.
Paul Virillio is new to me, but there’s a lot here to unpack I’m going to be diving into.
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