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Modern mythology

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Svrtnsse, Nov 24, 2013.

  1. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    Something came up in chat earlier that I found intriguing. I'll sum it up as follows:

    What are your thoughts?
  2. Quillstine

    Quillstine Troubadour

    I think Mythology, at least in part, has always served to explain what a culture, society, individual could not find an explanation for. So in a way it makes sense a techno-mythology could be evolving out of what is slowly turning into our growing computer dependent lives.
    How ever I feel there is still to much knowledge into the general operation of the functions of the techno world for it to be considered a "mythology" per-say. We may not know why our computer pulses to life when we hit a button...or why an "f" is put on the screen when we hit the corresponding key. But we DO know that some guy sitting in a building without windows, wearing coke bottle glasses, does know! We also know if we had the sudden urge to find out we could enroll in some classes and find the information quite readily and accurately. There is difference between the inexplicable and the no interest!
    As your quote said, we blame lag, bankers, computer programs etc.... not god's or goblins!
    I see we are still a few centuries, at least, away from a computer or techno based religion to evolve in our society. We need to get thoroughly disillusioned with both our and the techno role as it currently stands....maybe we should also build sentient machines, because that always makes the story cooler!
    And I think Google would be considered the God of this mythology!
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I think some people think too much about these things.

    Goblins did not exist. Politicians, bankers and lag do. Maybe "crooked politicians" is shorthand for "it's a complicated situation which never gets solved because politicians are divided upon fundamental partisan lines and have trouble investing in the valid interests of people who vote are likely to vote against them." But nonetheless, "crooked politicians" are not a myth.
    Sparkie likes this.
  4. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    I see it as a difference/divergence between the Truth and the Facts.
    The Truth is our day-to-day explanation for things.
    That feeling that some one is looking at you but you cant see them... it used to be explained as demons, then gods, then god, witches were in there and angels too, aliens came along and now we think it is Google and the NSA tracking our every move. Any or all of those could be right.
    The Facts are absolute and unchanging but possibly unknown and unknowable.
    That feeling that some one is looking at you but you cant see them...
    It probably has something to synapse lag between the left and right hemispheres of your brain or possible quantum harmonic interference from one of the umptynine other dimensions. I don't know the answer and no one may never know...

    I don't think any one for at least 500 years has even had a claim to understand anything. what matters is do you try to understand what is important to you.
    I feel that too many people [and I include myself in this] just accept too much of what they see as normal without asking why. If something works, why question it? Most of us never ask if it is working well or if there is a better way to do things...
    And then there is always AC Clarke's third law:
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    I don't know if it's modern mythology. I'm inclined to think of it as a person's general ignorance on something, so they use their limited knowledge and pick something that sounds right. They don't necessarily believe what they're saying is the actual explanation, and if confronted with their ignorance, I bet they would own up to it. There's no god of lag, which you pray to in order to speed up your connection. And there's no hero of the net that will come slay the nasty virus on your computer.

    IMHO modern mythology is more akin to urban legends. I've heard some say comic books are modern mythology, and even professional wrestling. They each contain larger than life characters that do amazing feats.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2013
    Svrtnsse likes this.
  6. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    Perhaps mythology is the wrong word? It carries with it a lot of associative baggage of gods and magic and old dudes in togas throwing lightning around.
    Maybe folklore would be better?

    I'm working in online customer support and most of my "experience" with this comes from that. A lot of the people I come in contact with have a very limited grasp of online security. They do understand that their accounts can get compromised, but instead of educating themselves on how this happens and stop it they prescribe hackers near-magical abilities and come up with their own convoluted schemes for keeping their accounts safe ("I keep my password in a file on my desktop and copy-paste it three letters at a time backwards every time I log in - how can I get hacked?"). Optionally they blame my company for screwing them over in order to trick them out of money.

    Similarly with lag. Everyone knows it's something to do with their connection but their experience of it is more akin to an evil force of badness affecting their online experience, kind of like bad luck or a season of heavy drought ruining harvests.

    Another example:
    Let's say you have some farmers a few hundred years ago. They've had a bad harvest due to bad weather or something. They're complaining about it and believe it is gods wrath and they're disappointed as they pay taxes to the church and all.
    Now, today we have two workers that got laid off from their jobs are the factory. They're blaming "the economy/bankers/cheap foreign labor" and they're disappointed as they pay taxes to the politicians and all.

    Neither farmers nor workers will know the exact reasons for the drought/layoffs but they'll have a vague idea of the source of the problem as they understand it.
  7. Scribble

    Scribble Archmage

    I've thought of this a bit.

    Religions attempt to address the Great Concerns of humanity: Life, Death, Belonging, Ritual, Morality, & Significance. When Religions are no longer practiced, they become Mythology.

    When I look at what is in the Western zeitgeist, what appears to me to be building as New Mythology to address these , I see quite a few threads, but I'll mention these in particular:

    - Science fervor
    - Celebrity and Sports Professional idolatry
    - Vampire and zombie fascination
    - Health fervor
    - Environmentalism

    Science Fervor

    People love science these days, and not just scientists, but the average person. Average Joe knows some bits and bobs about quantum theory, neuroscience, evolution, space travel. They might get the details wrong, but they know the key words.

    In our modern times, we've solved the riddle of Birth. We know how that works, we've taken the magic out of it. No storks or magic rivers involved, it's cellular biology.

    We've solved the riddles of Mysterious Death. Viruses, infections, cancer, heart disease, genetic diseases, we have something to blame, there are no little demons.

    From knowledge of kinship with all living things, we can derive meaning, belonging. We understand out origins, we are star dust. Quite poetic and based in facts, it is a deep and meaningful story to many people, the story of our origins.

    But what of our future? We know that the Earth will die eventually, we know the sun will explode in a few billion years - so, where is the Shangri-La for humanity? Distant planets. We are agog with the search for Earth-sized planets in the so-called Goldilocks zone.

    Celebrity and Sports Professional idolatry

    This has been around a while. Demigods are made of actors, and people have a hard time separating the on-screen characters from the actors, and follow their exploits, worshiping through television and magazines.

    Sports teams endlessly fight out mock battles between the forces of good (us) and evil (them), and the combatants themselves are deified. We seek to be like them, and product merchandising provides a way for us to emulate them: we wear the clothes they promote, drink the sports drinks, buy the car insurance they recommend.

    Vampire and zombie fascination

    Vampires provide a modern myth that deals with aging, remaining young, avoiding death. So many of our religious and mythological stories involves heroes transcending death. In the vampire myth, we transcend death and remain beautiful. This is particular in a society which currently worships youth and eternal beauty.

    Zombies represent two psychological elements. 1) It gives a politically correct "other" to hate and fear, and destroy. In these days of political correctness, there is nobody left who we can hate and fear in our media. Zombies are safe. They can replace any of the cultures or races we previously hated in our media.

    Aliens are still a popular choice for a hated "other", but it seems that zombies have definitely taken the lead.

    It may seem difficult to obtain a Morality component from zombies, but the stories created using zombies explore many moral issues. They may be harsh philosophies, but they are born in a crucible of fear. Vampire stories also deal with Moral issues, and frame questions about the price of immortality, what is the value of life, what are the perils of using people to your own ends.

    Health Fervor

    The great evil has become sickness. It is what we fear, and so we look for ways to take control of it, to purify ourselves. Rituals of daily food preparation, exercise, all work towards a sense of control over Life, and to a degree, Death. Health clubs are not unlike temples of bodily cleansing.


    Just as we find meaning in cleansing ourselves, we also find meaning in cleansing and protecting the earth. We find comeradeship with others who feel similarly, and we find Significance in doing a part to contribute to that.

    More thoughts...

    I can't go into all my thoughts on this in the space of a single post, but I welcome any questions or challenges on this.
    Svrtnsse likes this.
  8. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Yeah, I guess it could fit in as modern folklore. Part of folklore is popular beliefs. But I wonder is this a fleeting thing? I mean how long will the general public be ignorant of how stuff really works? I'm of the generation that grew up in a time where barely anyone owned a PC. My family had a black and white tv until I was 12. Now days, kids are born with the technology in their hands practically from day one. I have a friend whose niece was doing stop motion claymation on the computer at age 8. And it was good, not just good for a kid.

    Today, the average education of people in the first world is greater than that of generations before. I think it will continue to progress in a similar way. Maybe in the future, computer programming and hardware education will start in elementary school.
  9. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    Call my a cynic, but I think the general public will only get more ignorant about how things work, not less. By this I mean that the gap between the average understanding of how things work and the way they actually work will become bigger.

    The appliances we use will get more and more complicated, but at the same time they will also become easier and easier to use. Less and less knowledge about how things work will be needed to operate them.
    We already have the ability to control things by voice commands and these machines are only going to get better at recognizing our voices and what we try to tell them; becoming more and more similar to someone actually listening to us. It's not far fetched to think that people will start to ascribe their appliances personalities. It may even be possible that you can get systems that tailor their answers to your tone of voice. Then hook that system up to all of your home electronics and you'll essentially have your own house spirit that you can talk to.
    This is probably still a bit in the future.

    Growing up with something like that will teach you how to interact with it and how to get it to do things. You'll learn how to use it, but not necessarily how it works.

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