The Human Relation With Nature and Technological Nature
Peter H. Kahn, Jr., Rachel L. Severson, and Jolina H. Ruckert
University of Washington
Two world trends are powerfully reshaping human existence: the degradation, if not destruction, of large parts of the natural world, and unprecedented technological development. At the nexus of these two trends lies technological nature—technologies that in various ways mediate, augment, or simulate the natural world.
Current examples of technological nature include videos and live webcams of nature, robot animals, and immersive virtual environments. Does it matter for the physical and psychological well-being of the human species that actual nature is being replaced with technological nature? As the basis for our provisional answer (it is ‘‘yes’’), we draw on evolutionary and cross-cultural developmental accounts of the human relation with nature and some recent psychological research on the effects of technological nature. Finally, we discuss the issue—and area for future research— of ‘‘environmental generational amnesia.’’ The concern is that, by adapting gradually to the loss of actual nature and to the increase of technological nature, humans will lower the baseline across generations for what counts as a full measure of the human experience and of human flourishing.