Human Reliance on Bees

Humans have been using bees as a resource for ages. Bees are mainly used for honey collection and pollination purposes. Through bees, human society has gained not only honey, which is a valuable source of calories, but also they have gained the ability to grow various fruits and vegetables for human consumption. With these things in mind, it is easy to see how important bees are for human life. Despite this, people have failed to keep bee populations from declining. Ever since World War 2, bee populations in the US and around the world have been constantly and consistently diminishing. There are several reasons for this, most of which revolve around changes in agriculture practices. Another issue currently being explored is the effect of specific pesticides on bees. Bees are an essential part of human life, yet humans are the biggest threat to bees as a whole.

While there is no precise estimate on when humans started utilizing bees as a resource, cave paintings showing things such as honey collection, honeycombs, and bees have been found around the world and can be dated as far back as 40,000 years ago (Wayman). These days, bees that are kept by commercial beekeepers produce honey and then that honey is sold for human use. In some places, like the Dakotas or California, honey production is a large source of income. In addition to this, there are businesses that rent large quantities of bees for pollination purposes. Farmers with a large plot of land filled with crops that are required to be pollinated by bees, such as almonds or grapes, are able to rent colonies of bees. The colonies are stored in boxes, which are transported by truck to the farm. The bees are then released to pollinate the plants, and when this is finished, the bees are loaded back onto the truck and taken back. Each year in the US, over half a billion dollars in pollination fees are collected, and as bee populations continue to drop, these pollination fees are rising (Bond, Plattner, and Hunt PAGE). With this in mind, it makes sense that human society would want the bee population to increase. An increase in the bee population would allow pollination and honey prices to drop, which in turn would allow the prices of certain foods to drop as well. With more food at a lower price, human society as a whole would benefit.

Although renting bees for pollination is profitable, society as a whole benefits more from the act of pollination itself. Without bees, crops such as carrots, cucumbers, apples, onions, broccoli, and cotton would no longer be available. “[Bees] are critical pollinators: they pollinate 70 of the around 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world” (“What Would Happen If Bees Went Extinct?”). Bees supply an enormous amount of produce, so without them it may not be possible to sustain the current human population. Without bees, produce would become scarce, and in turn, expensive. In addition, although cotton is not something comes to mind when people think of plants that must be pollinated, it is an exceptionally important crop and it is pollinated by bees. Many of the fabrics that make up clothing are made from cotton, and cottonseed is also fed to cattle. The extinction of bees would result in not only a drop in available clothing, but it could also affect the number of cattle available, further affecting the food supply. With fewer cattle, there would be a decrease in dairy products as well as meat, making the task of feeding the human population even more difficult. With fewer fruits and vegetables, less meat, and fewer dairy products available, it is difficult to imagine that the current human population could be sustained.

It is clear that human life relies heavily on bees, yet each change in agriculture seems to have a negative impact on bees. The bee population started declining around the same time that World War II ended, and during that same time, the first big changes in agriculture was taking place. The first was the switch to synthetic fertilizers. Before World War II, farmers would plant clover and alfalfa as what were called ground cover plants because those plants are natural fertilizers. This was good for the bees because bees are able to feed off of those plants (Spivak). When farmers switched to synthetic fertilizers and stopped planting cover plants, bees could no longer live in farmlands. With only a few crops to choose from, and those suitable food crops only blooming at a specific time of year, it became very difficult for bees to survive in or near farms.

Another change that came with World War II was the use of herbicides. These herbicides kill weeds growing around crops. “Many of these weeds are flowering plants that bees require for their survival” (Spivak). Weeds that could grow alongside crops would provide nutrition for the bees as they passed through parts of a farm that did not have crops that they could feed on. Unfortunately, those weeds are undesirable for farmers because they competed with the crops that the farmers were trying to grow. However, without those weeds, a large area of land that used to be a great place for bees to feed became a food desert.

This problem became even worse as farmers began using more land for only one crop, a practice called monoculture. As farmers started adopting the monoculture practice, they created large plots of land where bees had no plants to feed on unless that one crop that the farmer had planted was in bloom. Even if the farmer planted a crop that bees feed on, it is only in bloom during a specific time of year, leaving the bees without food for the majority of each year. Because of this, bees were no longer able to inhabit farms. For bees, this was a form of habitat loss, which had a serious impact on the bee population as a whole. Now that bees are incapable of living in harmony with farms, farmers are forced to rent bee colonies from commercial beekeepers. Truckloads of bees must be transported in boxes, which is not only stressful for the bees, but also expensive for the farm owner.

These problems became even worse with the introduction of stronger and more versatile pesticides. Pesticides differ from herbicides and insecticides in that they are able to kill not only weeds and insects, but also bacteria, fungi, or other organisms. Pesticides allow farmers to increase crop production by reducing competition with weeds or keeping pests from feeding on the plants, but some pesticides can be harmful to bees. When bees take pollen to their colony as food, at least six different pesticides can be found in each load of pollen that the bee brings back to its hive (Spivak). This means that all of the bees in the colony are being exposed to pesticides. If any ingredient included in the pesticides is particularly harmful to bees, it could potentially harm a large portion of the colony if not the entire colony.

In addition, there is a relatively new class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are different from other pesticides in that they move through the plant. Typically, the seeds are coated in the pesticide and as the plant grows, the pesticide continues to move through the plant. Lately there has been a lot of controversy over these pesticides and their potential relation to something called Colony Collapse Disorder. Colony Collapse Disorder is a strange phenomenon in which bees disappear from their hives during the winter. “…although other studies have suggested that CCD-related mortality in honey bee colonies may come from bees’ reduced resistance to mites or parasites as a result of exposure to pesticides, the new study found that bees in the hives exhibiting CCD had almost identical levels of pathogen infestation as a group of control hives, most of which survived the winter. This finding suggests that the neonicotinoids are causing some other kind of biological mechanism in bees that in turn leads to CCD” (“Study Strengthens Link…”). While it is not yet clear exactly why these pesticides are affecting bees the way they do, it is generally accepted that they are harmful to bees. Despite this, these pesticides continue to be used throughout the US. In the EU, however, neonicotinoids have been partially banned as a result of concern for bee populations. Unfortunately, several member states have been granting derogations to farmers who wish to use the banned products, which has mitigated the effects of the ban. This ban was only set to last for a short time until how neonicotinoids affect bees is better known.

While it is clear that something needs to be done to protect the bee population, actually fixing the problem will be complicated since it involves not only banning certain pesticides, but also changing current agricultural methods. It was because of bee activists that the EU was able to ban certain pesticides, but derogations for farm owners have allowed the problem to continue. In the US, business is also indirectly involved in politics, and so harmful pesticides will continue to be used. As Ann Cvetkovich said, “…trauma forges overt connections between politics and emotion” (pg 3). As the bee population continues to decline, food prices will rise, and the issue of hunger will cause current agricultural methods to be forced to be reconsidered. Once people are fully aware of how seriously the decline in the bee population will affect them, they will surely fight for a change.

In the past 70 years, the bee population has significantly declined, mostly due to changes in agricultural practice. Fortunately there is still hope for them. As research on pesticides continues, certain classes of pesticides will be banned, allowing the bee population to once again increase. If a time ever comes that the bee population becomes dangerously small, it will not take long to see the effects that a world without bees would have. Such an event would quickly result in changes to human farming methods, and a new appreciation for all that bees do. On a personal level, everyone can help sustain the bee population by planting bee friendly flowers and refraining from the use of pesticides in personal gardens. For everything bees do for humans, they should at least be allowed to remain unharmed as they pollinate peoples’ gardens.

 


 

Works Cited

Bond, Jennifer, Kristy Plattner, and Kevin Hunt. “Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook: Economic Insight.” U.S. Pollination-Services Market (2014): n. pag. USDA. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

Cvetkovich, Ann. An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2003. Print.

Spivak, Marla. “Why Bees Are Disappearing.” TED. June 2013. Lecture.

“Study Strengthens Link between Neonicotinoids and Collapse of Honey Bee Colonies.” Harvard School of Public Health. Harvard University, 19 May 2014. Web. 01 May 2015.

Wayman, Erin. “Humans, the Honey Hunters.” Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian, 19 Dec. 2011. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

“What Would Happen If Bees Went Extinct?” BBC Future. BBC, 03 May 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

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Final Paper: Healthcare as an Archive of Feelings

Matt Kasson

Final Paper

 

Medicine in the modern era has been defined by incredible discoveries and miraculous cures. Vaccinations, antibiotics, as well as new diagnostic technologies now allow physicians and other medical professionals to eradicate disease more easily than any other time in human history. We have new understandings of how diseases and viruses operate, from the common cold through complex cancers. However, as with many other aspects of our modern culture, medicine is not perfect. In the United States especially, costs have skyrocketed while results lag behind. In 2013, we spent $2.9 trillion on healthcare alone, and these costs increase every year. (1) Before long, it is quite possible that our economy will be literally bankrupted as a result of this wild spending, and arguments abound as to what the best solution to this problem may be. While the issues at hand may seem complex, and many people may claim to  have the correct answer, the truth of the matter is that there is no clear cut solution to our problem at hand. Medicine and healthcare are extremely personal, intimate topics. When political decisions literally affect people’s lives it is no wonder that tensions and emotions alike flare up at every debate. Undeniably a complex issue, I believe we have a duty to at the very least understand this archive and out relationship with it whether one agrees with it or not. In this paper, I will try to examine both the specific causes of our healthcare crisis, as well as the current state of healthcare itself. Finally, I will evaluate our culture’s relationship with this issue, and how the technologies it represents shape the world around us.

One major source of cost for healthcare is that of prescription drugs. Many people are shocked at the idea of spending thousands of dollars on a single pill, however this a very real aspect of modern healthcare. As a result, many are often quick to point to large pharmaceutical companies as major drivers for these ridiculous costs. This may be true to an extent, but not so much as people might assume. One of the major reasons that medicines often have such high costs is not their actual manufacturing, the the research and development (R and D) that must go into each medicine before it can be sold. This process often takes years, and after a drug has been successfully created it must still pass the regulations and testing of the FDA, which again can take years. Add all this time together and it is not unreasonable to expect a single drug to cost a company billions of dollars to create, while taking up to a decade to even go to market. Hospitals are another often blamed culprit for the skyrocketing costs of healthcare. We have all heard the stories of people going to the emergency room for a look at an annoying cough, only to be slapped with a bill in the thousands of dollars. this aspect comes down mostly to an administrative issue, as well as a centralization problem in all hospitals. On top of this, the emergency room has in itself become known as an almost “ground zero” for the issues plaguing American healthcare. The ER is supposed to be used, clearly, as a place to go when you are faced with a true medical emergency. They are required and regulated to maintain enough professional personnel, diagnostic equipment, and supplies to handle any and every health problem which it may encounter. As a result, in my example of the thousand dollar bill for an annoying cough, the reason was not the visit itself but the resources needed to make that visit possible. Truly, however, all parts of the American hospital cost exponential amounts of money simply because are system lacks the organization to manage it as efficiently as we need it to.

As a system in this country, many would argue that the healthcare system itself is inherently flawed. One of the main arguments behind this reasoning is that private insurance companies, which in the past dominated the healthcare market, have the ability to determine which hospitals and which physicians they are willing to pay. In addition to this, often times they will simply refuse to pay for certain procedures. For many people who never purchased health insurance, the situation was even worse for both the patient as well as the system as a whole. This relationship held between the individual and this system can be illustrated in the following example: if a pregnant woman in labor was to walk into a hospital uninsured, what would the hospital do? Of course, they would have to care for the woman. It is in fact a law that they MUST care for this woman. (2) However, because this woman has no insurance it is very likely as well that she doesn’t have nearly enough money to even come close to paying the thousands of dollars needed by the hospital and its staff to carry out the procedure, in which case Medicare covers the cost. However, Medicare will likely not come close to covering the full amount needed. So then, who is responsible? In this case and in most cases, it is the hospital which must “foot the bill” so to speak. The hospital must pay for everything involved with the procedure, and cover the cost elsewhere. But where else can money come from? In truth, it comes from those people who DO have insurance. In order to cover the costs of those people without quality insurance, or any insurance at all, they must hike up all prices across the board. This reasoning is one of the main driving forces behind the Affordable Care Act. There is a paradox in this country that people without insurance are driving up insurance prices, which in turn forces less people to be able to afford and purchase health insurance. By forcing people to purchase cheaper and more flexible insurance from the government, many hoped that this cycle could be broken. In some ways it has. For instance, as of mid-2015, 11 million Americans gained health insurance coverage under the ACA, and the percentage of uninsured Americans dropped from 18% in 2013 to 11.9%. (3,4) While this helps, people fear that it will not be enough. By tackling all of healthcare, the government risks the possibility of bankrupting itself. Unless enough people take advantage of the program it is likely to collapse, the results for the national economy being devastating.

Now that I have given a background for the issue at hand, I’ll now attempt to evaluate the role of healthcare as both an archive of feelings in modern culture and a technology with which we as people have an ongoing and developing relationship. In “An Archive of Feelings,” Ann Cvetkovich related experiences of trauma to her own personal development. She writes that some of our most important personal and interpersonal growth comes as a result not of happiness but instead moments of intense stress or worry. She goes on to write that, “As a name for experiences of socially situated political violence, trauma forges overt connections between politics and emotions.” (5) For Cvetkovich, this trauma stemmed from the politics of lesbian and gay rights, and the toxic political discourse these things promoted. However, I believe and clear connection can be drawn between this topic and the topic of healthcare in America. For instance, both items detail the relationship of the government with our personal lives. In the case of Cvetkovich, the government attempted to strangle in many cases the feminist and gay rights movements, and in others it was often just the culture of the United States itself which attacked her. On the issue of healthcare the government and our culture alike also attempt to control what people can and cannot do; how we can and cannot live. We archive in hospitals, doctors, and nurses many emotions that we are unable to talk even to our own family’s about. Some of the most personal and emotional facets of our lives will take place in whitewashed rooms filled with men and women wearing lab coats. I think that for this reason, the healthcare system is one of the most unique in our current world. Few other places are concurrently so modern and open to the world while remaining secretive and silent for the people it serves. In “Alone Together” Turkle writes that, “We have to love our technology enough to describe it accurately. And we have to love ourselves enough to confront technology’s true effects on us.” (6) I feel that one of the greatest barriers most patients have in the world of medicine and healthcare is the inability to confront not only its abilities, but also its limits. We love the machines and pills that save us, but we hate the financial and emotional costs that they have.

Turkle wrote on technology as if it was a being separate from mankind, but one which we grow closer to each day. It was seen as a tool for our use, something apart yet integral to our daily lives. Medicine is very much similar to this, however I feel that in the near future this line of separation will grow thin. Healthcare as a whole is a monster in our modern world. It is a service which people need for their very survival, however it is something which can bankrupt entire families in the blink of an eye. Medical technology each year grows more and more advanced. Soon, much of modern medicine will become less a tool and more an extension of our own bodies. The consequences of these developments are some which humanity has never faced before, however there are facts on the table which cannot be denied: Our nation needs healthcare. We need it, and we need to change it before it is too late. It is something which impacts each and every person in our country and the world, and before we can reap its benefits we must come to learn how to control its consequences. Truly it is a problem which needs solving today, despite its true consequences not being felt until tomorrow.

 

Sources:

1) http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/NationalHealthExpendData/downloads/highlights.pdf

2) 42 U.S. Code § 1395dd – Examination and treatment for emergency medical conditions and women in labor

3) Jenna Levy. “In U.S., Uninsured Rate Dips to 11.9% in First Quarter”. Gallup Polling.PMID 041815

4) Alonso-Zaldivar, Ricardo. “Number of Uninsured Fell by More Than 11 Million Since Passage of Obamacare, CDC Reports.” Huffington Post. 

5) Cvetkovich, Ann. “An Archive of Feelings.” 2003.

6) Turkle, Sherry, “Alone Together.” Basic Books 2011.

 

 

 

The Future of Music With Technology

  imgres Music has been enhanced with every new technological invention and is a marker of the technological capabilities of that time.  With this realization I would like to explore, by researching, the newest innovations in music technology today and analyze their potential impact on the future of music.  New innovations in music equipment allow artists to have expanded possibilities of creation musically, sonically and production.  The innovations in music technology has had impacts on two aspects of society, the professional artist and the average person who plays and produces their own music.  The effects on the artists are expanded capabilities in aspects of production and sound possibilities, while the effects of the mass consumption of music are the ease of recording and producing to allow the average person to create decent music, affordably.  It is my goal to research the effect of current music technology is on both of these routes and seeks to answer the question, what will the impact on music in the future of the newest technological innovations in the music production field be? The mass consumption of music is primarily through midi controllers due to their ease of use, portability and convenience.  The emerging music technology that will be geared toward the consumer market is the Artiphon.  1)Artiphon is a newly kickstarter funded midi controller that promises anyone will be able to make music with their device.  A midi device is a controller of some sort but, doesn’t contain any actual sounds programmed to play but, can connect to another device that has sounds such as a laptop music program and play those sounds.  This device hooks up to a laptop or computer through USB connection to play sounds from a music software program.  It holds 5 customizable banks of sounds that can be switched with a knob for ease to transition from playing one sound bank, like an instrument, to the next.  The touch pads, what you hit to trigger a sound to be played, on the surface of the remote shaped object are grooved with guitar frets and string lines, for a more precise playing experience of those instruments, in addition to the middle, smooth flat pads for playing piano and percussion instruments.  A quite sophisticated USB remote, with an all in one functionality promises users to be able to play and learn how to play instruments on their device.  This has the potential to be a game changer by promoting people to play music using their device as a hobby and spreading the love for playing music.  The idea is tested and proven by the (2)1.4 million dollar they raised on a kickstarter campaign and now a developed brand with demands exceeding their supply on their website on back order.  Although the Artiphon will spread interest in playing and creating music that can only be good for music in the education it provides in a convenient shape and size, but this is really not an innovation in anyway.  I will be a consumer of the Artiphone but, it is simply a midi technology controller with a different shape. The technology that has the potential to affect music production for artists in the future is Soundtrap.  This website/software is making a breakthrough in the area of connectivity and collaboration for artists at two different places simultaneously.  Collaborations between artists are at an all time high, especially in the EDM and rap/hip-hop genres where so many DJ’s are remixing other DJ’s songs and collaborations between rappers on tracks has been happening for decades.  The site (3)Soundtrap, with their software, is trying to change music collaborations by allowing artists to simultaneously collaborate with each other remotely.  Currently the process for collaborations is one artist creating a part or something then if they wanted to collaborate with another artist they would send this work in progress to the artist to have him add their take on it then send it back when done with his additions and revisions.  Real, in person collaborations, rarely happen anymore due to the hectic schedules of artists that work on the go or that live in different cities.  This current model leaves a lag and disconnect between the artists because it’s just one artist sending music with their view and then the other person takes it and puts his view on it and it’s not a real collaboration effort.  What Soundtrap is trying to do is allow artists a platform to create together simultaneously from different places.  I believe it adds something being able to collaborate in real time between two artists so they can bounce ideas off each other or make changes together.  While this technology is not currently perfect, it has a great idea and the potential to add another dimension of collaborating with artists and shows what technology brings to music production technological advancements.  The idea of collaboration between artists through technological mediums isn’t new, for example electronic artist/producer, deadmau5(4), live streams his studio sessions with his fans, looking for input and sending out ideas on platforms such as soundcloud, a free music uploading community.  This transparency and insight from everyone is a great idea for a next step into music by allowing small, unknown artists like Chris James a platform to be one the top singal’s on deadmau5’s record The Veldt.  The collaboration is discontinuous though in uploading and downloading files in the sense of not really collaborating but revising.  While the idea of collaborating through technological mediums isn’t new the way Soundtrap is developing the technology to push a new advancement. The impact I believe these technologies will have on the future of music is to continue the move toward solo artists/DJ’s who will create and produce their own music and collaborate with other solo artists.  Jim Morrison, the now deceased lead singer of The Doors, in a 1970 interview shared his prediction for the future of music stating, “I can see a future where a single artist will use tapes and sounds to create music”(5), which turned out to be a very accurate forecast of what has become the current model of music.  These solo efforts came with the progression and innovations in technology at that time that had music implications.  This thought of collaboration through technological mediums reminds me of Always On(6), a chapter from the sherry turkle selection we read for class.  One of the ideas of the chapter is that machines are inventing social life by creating groups online where these groups can collaborate to play games and communicate with each other.  It relates in that these artists are collaborating with the technology to produce the sounds they need, in some senses a cyborg.  The trends with new innovations in technology has led to a disconnect in the world of human to human interaction and human to technology device/app and an isolation of society behind tv’s and computer screens.  This is resulting in artists being enhanced by mechanical or technological devices to create(7), a cyborg.  The advancement and affordability in recording and production technology along with the commercialization of these technologies is promoting this sense of cyborgism to be what we call artists.  But as great as these new technologies may be is this too much of a good thing, turning artists to be dependent on technology for creation?  Or is it that technology is creating a sophisticated and intelligent musician by taking their knowledge of technology and applying that to music making.  This movement toward isolation draws a direct parallel from The Machine Stops.  In that society people lived by themselves connected to the world from their intelligent “home” machine.  They became so dependent on the machine that when the machine started malfunctioning, the residents were helpless on their own(8).  This would translate into an extreme case in the music world if all technology just ceased to be but raises the point that the future musician may be more of a programmer or someone with knowledge of electronics and how to make sounds rather than a musician who is trained to compose music and learn how to use the accompanying technology.  This relates to past trends in music innovation where developments came from people like Bob Moog, a electrical engineer who invented the synthesizer, people outside of the music field but in the technology and engineering fields. After further analysis however, I’ve actually learned that i’m disappointed in the current music technology selection and capabilities.  There are a lot more startups like the artiphone, that function more for convenience and are geared toward hobbying musicians. and a lack of innovative technologies that harbor usefulness and ingenuity.  Maybe this is the shift of music, more musicians are gearing toward convenient playing than the next advancement in technology.  However, I still wanted to continue with an analysis of Soundtrap because I believe it is paving the way a future way of collaborating.  If i had to predict the result of a lack of innovations in the market today it would spark ingenuity in artists to create more with what they had and refine it even more.  Either that or music would start to sound stagnant and you wouldn’t hear progressions of artists and music. I believe that there will be an emerging technology that will have an impact on the future of music production but it will be a technological or software developed with applications to music.  That is where society is at this digital time and it will be interesting to see the influence these advancements will have on music production.  Though the Artiphon won’t have much of an impact on changing the future of production methods, it’s design and application will have an impact on the spread of knowledge of music as a hobby.  Through analysis of the emerging technologies and drawing parallels with past music innovation trends and themes, the technology Soundtrap aligns itself with these trends and themes and I will predict that it will have an effect on the future of how music production happens.    

  1. http://www.artiphon.com/
  2. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/artiphon/introducing-the-artiphon-instrument-1
  3. https://medium.com/@pavelc/future-of-music-production-and-creative-collaborations-e0ecea44169c
  4. https://medium.com/@pavelc/future-of-music-production-and-creative-collaborations-e0ecea44169c
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWmMVmiGJD0
  6. Sherry Turkle. Alone Together. page 153.
  7. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cyborg
  8. Forster. The Machine Stops.  1909

Expanding Our World, Limiting Our Experiences?

If you ask me what I want to do with my life, I will say that I want to be in a position where I am lucky enough to be able to spend a lot of time traveling. Travel has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I believe that it has been the single most important thing that has shaped who I am today. Travel makes me happy, as it is both a way that I inject change into my life and a reminder of something bigger than myself, both key aspects of happiness that were discussed in the movie “Happy” (1). That being said, travel, and the way that I experience it, has changed as dramatically as I have. For example, I remember when I was around eight or ten, I would take stacks of books on family road trips out West. Even more recently during high school, I went on two service trips during which I did not have access to the internet for two weeks. These experiences are completely unimaginable today. During the most recent spring break, I went to Madrid, Spain. I had several movies downloaded onto my iPad, and rarely was without Facebook at my fingertips. Even on the eight hour plane ride, I didn’t read, like I would have done in the past. Instead, I watched movies. Furthermore, while I was in Madrid, I was lucky enough to experience many aspects of a different culture, from things as simple as eating lunch at three in the afternoon, to bigger things such as a different language. (Which, luckily, I spoke.) However, my culture that I had left an ocean away was never truly more than a few taps away on my iPhone. I believe that technology has had an irrevocable effect on travel, and though many of its effects are positive, there are many negative aspects what we may tend to ignore. These negative aspects are something that we need to have more awareness of, in order to truly appreciate our surroundings.

When I talk about technology and its effect on travel, I wish to refer to its ability to affect the way that we experience a place. Of course, to analyze this, it is important to consider what it means to experience while traveling. Does it mean interacting with those who live there, making an impact, leaving a footprint? Or, does it mean keeping our distance, taking photos, looking through museums and leaving without a trace? I tend to lean towards the first option. Travel is a way through which we access new perspectives and expand our horizons, something that can even be scary at times, perhaps because “in our culture of simulation, the notion of authenticity is for us what sex was for the Victorians – thread and obsession, taboo and fascination. (2) However, as I (and I am sure many others) travel in search of connection despite our initial reservations, I cannot forget the ways in which we are already connected through technology. After all, it may even be possible to say that “what people mostly want from public space is to be alone with their personal networks. It is good to come together physically, but it is more important to stay tethered to our devices.” (3) This tethering from technology affects many aspects of our travel experience. After all, what do we need to do in order to fully experience a place? Do we see as much as possible? Or do we find a place where we can watch people pass by and go about their days? (In this case, I tend to split the difference and do a little of each.) Technology can help us to accomplish both of these tasks, but what effect does this have on our trip, and furthermore, ourselves?

Of course, technology is not all bad, and in many ways it is a resource as vital as oxygen when it comes to moving throughout the world. In this day and age, “the family circle has widened. The worldpool of information fathered by electric media – movies, tel-star, flight – far surpasses any possible influence mom or dad can now bring to bear.” (4) This globalization has been ushered in by technology that quickly becomes more and more advanced, and overall I view it as a privilege to have access to fast and efficient methods of movement. For example, the airplane, something that we perhaps take for granted, or even as an annoyance, is something that did not even exist one hundred years ago. Yet, this technology is indispensable when planning a vacation overseas. It enables me to travel from Ohio to Europe in less time than it takes to drive to Florida. Without the plane, the train, the car, or even the bicycle (for the more intrepid among us), travel would be dramatically different, and perhaps a foreign concept for the average individual.

It isn’t just the “vital” technology that improves the travel experience these days. There are countless new web-based technologies that allow us to tailor our vacation to our preferred specifications, and help us to simply do more, connect more, and live more. At the very basic level, wi-fi gives us internet access everywhere, which permits us to harness the internet’s many resources. (At least, it’s available in most “American” restaurants overseas -I have noticed a distinct lack of free wi-fi in Europe.) Beyond wi-fi, Websites such as Google Flights make traveling to our destination cheaper, which in turn permits us to spend maybe another night there, or take the short day trip to a little town about an hour away. Other technologies such as Airbnb and Couchsurfing combine cost savings with enhanced connections. Both provide relatively inexpensive lodging for the average traveler, while at the same time facilitating connection on both ends – the traveler is often able to stay with someone who lives in the place they are visiting, giving them deeper roots in the community, and the host is able to interact with someone from a completely different area, allowing them to see their home through different eyes. Furthermore, social media, something often decried as a destroyer of true connection, can be viewed as a technology that has had a positive impact on travel in the modern age. Instagram allows one to share photos of your experiences with those who may not have the same opportunity to travel, or those that want to see reminders of a place they have been to. People even use social media to plan vacations, getting inspiration for upcoming journeys, sharing their plans with their friends for suggestions, or using sites such as Tripadvisor to find activities (5) Facebook, Whatsapp, and other similar communication tools make it easier to stay in touch while out of the country, with 74% of Americans using social media on vacation (6), even though most cell phones do not work internationally, at least not without paying exorbitant prices. This, however, may even be changing for some – the European Union wants to end roaming charges for its citizens as they travel throughout its member countries. (7)  This change is not uncommon with travel technology. New frontiers are being explored with wearable technology and travel, automatic payments, and translation software. (8) As technology changes, travel will change with it, and in my eyes the vast majority of these developments and changes are for the better.

That being said, technology has also brought about many negative changes that take away from our experiences while traveling, either overseas or domestically. Even looking at the way we plan vacations with sites like Tripadvisor, we may put too much stock in negative or positive reviews, and forget to consider what we expect from a destination. See, for example, this one-star review of the Grand Canyon, titled “Grand Canyon is Crap!” – “I’ve been to a number of so called landmarks in my time – but what the hell was this? Just an overblown sandy ditch. Really don’t get the fascination! Took two hours to get there – should’ve stayed in my hotel and watched a DVD instead…” (9). Clearly, perception is everything, and this perception can skew experiences if we put too much weight into others’ experiences.

Photography, something generally considered as a great way to make our own mementos of our vacations, can also impact travel in a negative way. In “Alone Together”, Turkle discusses the possibility that “archiving might get in the way of living” (10). In the case of travel, photographing might get in the way of experiencing, and might even allow us to mislead those who see our archives. See once again the Grand Canyon (11):

Beautiful, right? Serene, peaceful, empty. Exactly what one might want from a National Park. However, other photographs tell a different story. (12)


There are typically many tourists at places such as the Grand Canyon, and while tourists are obviously unavoidable, people may tend to forget about their presence when they see pictures such as the one above, and be disappointed when they show up expecting solitude. Beyond the potential misleading nature of photography and post-processing (something I am admittedly guilty of myself), the entire action of viewing our surroundings through a lens, or through a phone screen, takes us out of our environments. After all, McLuhan declares that “media, by altering the environment, evoke in us unique ratios of  sense perceptions. The extension of any one sense alters the way we think and act – the way we perceive the world.” (13) It would be foolish to say that photography has no impact on our travel experience. We may spend more time searching for the perfect shot, the perfect filter to maximize likes on Instagram, instead of letting our mind be the camera, and preserving what we see in our heads for recollection on a day when we feel a little bit more wanderlust than usual. It can even be asked, “if technology remembers for us, will we remember less? Will we approach our own lives from a greater distance?” (14) Social media’s negative effects, and the way that “life in a media bubble has come to seem natural” (15) may even be considered an extension of those from photography, with archiving getting in the way of experiencing, and true face-to-face connections being rejected in favor of those that come through a screen.

It is obvious that technology has had a far-reaching effect on travel, both enabling its existence and limiting the experiences possible while on the road. For me, the important thing to remember while traveling and harnessing this technology for my own use is awareness. I believe that through being aware of our actions we will more easily be able to see their potential consequences, and make decisions based upon what our desired outcome is. Technology can be so useful while traveling, making us safer, helping us communicate, and helping us explore. In fact, it is even hard to scratch the surface of the tools we have available to us while traveling, the number of resources is so vast. However, as we have seen with new technologies in the past, there may often be outcomes from the use of technology that we don’t realize until it is too late. Therefore, when it comes to travel and technology, I preach being aware of what we use on a daily basis. Maybe, you can even put the Google Maps away for a little while and just walk and see what you find. After all, it is okay to rely on technology, in this day and age we all do to different extents. However, as in all things in life, we need to seek balance, and seek to be aware of the choices we make, even unintentionally, and their consequences.

Endnotes:

(1) Happy. Dir. Roko Belic. Wadi Rum Productions, 2011. Netflix. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

(2) Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Perseus Book Group, 2011. Print. (4)

(3) Turkle, 15.

(4) McLuhan, M. (2001). The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. Corte Madera, CA: Gingko Press. (14)

(5) “The Impact of Social Media on Travel and Vacation Planning | Vacationing the Social Media Way [Infographic].” MDG Advertising. N.p., 6 Aug. 2012. Web. 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.mdgadvertising.com/blog/vacationing-the-social-media-way-infographic/&gt;.

(6) MDG Advertising.

(7) Strachan, Donald. “How Technology Will Change Travel in 2015.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 29 Dec. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travel-advice/11316023/How-technology-will-change-travel-in-2015.html&gt;.

(8) Strachan.

(9) H, David. “Nature Is Crap!” Rev. of The Grand Canyon. n.d.: n. pag. 8 Jan. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2015. <http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g143028-d103752-r248232755-Grand_Canyon-Grand_Canyon_National_Park_Arizona.html#REVIEWS&gt;.

(10) Turkle, 305.

(11) Grand Canyon Sunrise. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2016. <Happy. Dir. Roko Belic. Wadi Rum Productions, 2011. Netflix. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.>.

(12) Mandel, Pam. Pictures of People Taking Pictures of People at the Grand Canyon. Digital image. Nerds Eye View. N.p., 4 June 2014. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3864/14158297779_0473c8ce5f_b.jpg&gt;.

(13) McLuhan, 41.

(14) Turkle, 300.

(15) Turkle, 16.

Cellphones as an extension of humans

evolution-of-cell-phones-technology

Did you know more people in the world have mobile phones than toilets? It is true. Can you imagine a life without your cellphone? Would you survive without your cellphone? Many of us would think we can’t survive without them. But people in the past were able to live without cellphones why wouldn’t we be able to? Is it because cellphones were created as an extension of humans? Were they changed over time to adjust to humans?

Cellphones have a long history and to explore the connection between cellphones and humans, I have decided to relate it to my parents. The reason why I am choosing my parents is because I believe they can give a relatable story on cellphones. Unlike many people from my generation, my parents did not always had a cellphone. Even when the concept of cellphones existed, they didn’t have the money to afford it. So how did they contact people? They would use public phones and write letters. By the time I was a little kid, my parents had a cellphone. In the beginning, even though cellphones had the capacity of adding contacts, my parent would rarely use it. They still memorized many phone numbers and would dial it manually. Over time, my parents learn to use the basic functions added to a cellphone. The main function they would use is contacts. Now, they didn’t have to memorize that many phone numbers nor carry a small phone book with them. It wasn’t necessary for them. The change from a cellphone to smartphone made my parents’ life easier in terms of carrying extra technology. They still didn’t use their phone fully even though it was a smartphone. They used it to call people, take pictures, record videos, and listen to music. They didn’t have to carry a camera, a video recorder, and a music player anymore. They were satisfied with that for a while. During my senior year in high school, I already had plans on going to a school out of state. Because my parents saw the convenience of FaceTime, they decided to buy an iPad for my mom. The reasoning behind it was for my parents to be able to “see” me while I was in college. During that time, I downloaded an app called WeChat on my mom’s iPad. I told her that she could leave me voice messages since we couldn’t text each other because of language barrier. My mom would use it from time to time. She wasn’t always using it. In contrast, my dad who was in Mexico at the time, started using WeChat too. The difference, he used it 24/7. And that is how cellphones changed for my parents. They went from not using it in the past to now not being able to put down their phone during dinner.

From the beginning until now, cellphones have evolved but those changes complemented our lifestyle. Looking at my parents, the lifestyle they had in the beginning and now are different. They were busy almost the whole day so cellphones weren’t a necessity for them. They were in one place for most of the day and could use the restaurant phone. Now, cellphones are a necessity for them because they travel a lot now. But that is just one case and it doesn’t completely explains how phones are an extension of humans. To further explore the relation of cellphones and humans, we have to look at the history of cellphones.

The very first cellphones that were known as car phones were invented in 1956. They were too big to hold that people had it in their cars. With disputes and upgrades over signals and frequencies by 1971, AT&T became the first company to come up with a system in which modern phones use. In 1973, Motorola invented the first cellphone, the Motorola DynaTAC, which looks similar to present cellphones. The cellphone was invented by Dr. Martin Cooper (Keith). Then by 1983, the phone is upgraded to the DynaTAC 8000x. Although the cellphone is huge compared to our cellphones now a days. It was the first cellphone that was considered small and portable back in the days. The DynaTAC was expensive when it first came out. Only few could afford it and it was only used in the business and sales world. The cellphone quickly became shown in many different media such as movies like Wall Street and television shows like Saved by the Bell. As more upgrades to the phone came along over time, the cellphones became smaller and more portable (Ray).

The appearance of the cellphone has change greatly over time. The DynaTAC was really big. It was like holding a brick. It had the numbers and dial buttons. It didn’t have a screen. It was similar to many house phones nowadays but bigger and without a screen. Then by 1989, the Micro TAC was introduced as a personal telephone. Although it was expensive, it wasn’t just limited to people in the business and sales world. The Micro TAC was a lot smaller compared to the DynaTAC. It had an antenna and flip case to protect the number buttons. The Micro TAC added more buttons to the phone. In pop culture, the Micro TAC was used in the Star Trek series. In 1997, cellphones had a big upgrade with the invention of the internet. The Synergy by Philips Consumer Communications introduced the many other features now seen in our cellphones. It was the first cellphone to have a screen that was “touch screen” and used wireless connection. It used wireless to connect to e-mail, internet, and faxes. It has change the purpose of cellphones by adding new features other than calling. By 2002, texting became a popular thing to do that T-Mobile introduce the Sidekick. The Sidekick has a screen that flip out and a full QWERTY keyboard for faster texting. The Sidekick had features that built the current cellphones. It had apps, games, a camera, and access to the internet. In 2007, the very first iPhone was introduced to the market. The iPhone wasn’t just a cellphone anymore, it was a smart phone. It was fully touchscreen with apps, camera, and music player. The appearance and system of the cellphone started as big and simple. The very first cellphones were big and just had one function, calling and talking to others (Washington Post). Over time, cellphones became smaller and smaller so it would be easier to carry. The system of the cellphone became more and more complex. Functions were slowly added to cellphones and now cellphones have become like our personal assistant.

With the physical and systematic changes in cellphones, did the purpose of cellphones shift into another direction? The main purpose of cellphones in the past and even now is to talk. Cellphones were invented so people could call others no matter where they were. Although the purpose of a cellphone might still be to call someone else, other purposes have been added over the evolution of cellphones. Present cellphones allow people to not just only call others but it offers a way for humans to interact and communicate with others through not only phone calls but apps and functions. In other words, the purpose of cellphones has shifted to communicate. Other than the basic functions such as making a call and sending a text message, current phones are smartphones. Applications can be downloaded to fit anyone’s lifestyle. For example, Samsung phones have added a new feature called S Health where it counts how many steps per day you walk and also it can check your pulse. Nowadays, people are so busy that they don’t have the time to always exercise. Because of that, they can try to increase their steps per day. Which is something even busy people can easily change by using stairs instead of elevator and parking at a farther location. Another function that is now helpful for our current lifestyle are reminders functions and applications. Alarms on cellphones have been able to replace physical alarm clocks. Other applications can be used for as reminders for upcoming deadlines and work schedule. Another example is the addition of email. Email was created to adapt to people’s lifestyle. Many businessmen needed to check their email to contact and communicate with other businesses. Slowing email wasn’t just used by professionals and businessmen. Now, email it is used by almost everyone which is why it is very convenient to have it linked to our cellphones. We are able to access it even when we are not around a computer. Email being linked to our cellphones have decreases the usage of regular mail. Many business prefer to send out an email to customers because it will be easier for them to access it and possibly use it when they are at their store without needing to bring a physical paper or coupons. Although the new features and applications are changes to fit our lifestyle it is also because we dislike talking on the phone. From Alone Together, “Teenagers avoid making telephone calls, fearful that they “reveal too much”. They rather text than talk. Adults, too, choose keyboards over the human voice”. (Turkle, 11). This shows that it isn’t just the lifestyle but also our likes and dislikes that matter.

Cellphones have been helpful over time. There are many advantages of cellphones. Cellphones have become like our personal assistant. Cellphones make our lives easier by storing information so we don’t have to memorize it such as phone numbers. One can set reminders and alarms for deadlines and activities. It allows people to communicate with friends and family whether it is through phone calls, social media, or text message. Being able to carry a cellphone anywhere you go is also helpful in case of an emergency. Although cellphones have many advantages and were created for us, there are disadvantages when technology improves. Cellphones or smartphones have so many capabilities that we forget about real human interactions. People can go on dates and they would have their phone with them and check social media when they can have a real interaction. Sherry Turkle mentions that social media is there to help us connect and it is a good thing but because we are so focused on the content we see on our screen, we tend to forget to have a real conversation and interaction. We are together by keeping each other updated with technology but we aren’t really together. That’s why we are together alone. As it is mentioned in her book Alone Together, “Digital connections and the sociable robot may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of a friendship” (Turkle, 1). It shows that we like that we get to pick and choose what we want using technology. Cellphones have also caused serious accidents that are fatal. Many tend to use their cellphones when they are driving which has caused serious accidents. They are so focused on checking that text message or notification from a social media that they don’t pay attention to the road and cause accidents.

As it can be seen cellphones have change a lot over time. How does the changes correlate to humans? It isn’t a surprise that over time humans have become more complex and busy. Our duties have become more complicated than ever just like cellphones. The very first cellphones were simple. All it was able to do was make a phone call. Now cellphones are able to multitask by storing data, making calls, connect to the internet, and notify one about different news and weather. In the beginning humans had one task, to survive. Now humans not only have to survive but also work, go to school, make money and etc. Humans have become more complex and smarter over time. Because humans have become more complex and smarter, our cellphones have also become more complicated and smarter. Cellphones are an extension of humans. Just like McLuhan mentions “All media are extensions of some human faculty – psychic or physical” (McLuhan, 26). For example, “the book is an extension of the eye” (McLuhan, 34-37) and “electric circuitry, an extension of the central nervous system” (McLuhan, 40). Similarly to the comparison McLuhan makes, we can infer that cellphones are an extension of humans. When you combine all the features cellphones has right now, we can see how it is an extension of us. The camera in the cellphone is an extension of our eyes. The recorder and music player is an extension of our ears. The speaker is an extension of our mouth. The memory space inside of a cellphone is like our brain. It stores different things whether they are things we can see or internal codes to make the cellphone work. The internal codes are like our organs, they work together to make the cellphone work as a whole. An example of how a cellphone might work as a whole is recording a video. It requires the camera/lenses to capture the picture. Which is like our eyes. Then while recording the video it is also recording the sounds. That part is like our ears. We listen to our surroundings. Then when the video is stored and when it is played back, it is like our brain memorizing a moment and recalling it.

Since cellphones have become a part of us or at least an extension of us, does the functions and capabilities of cellphones meet our needs? As our lives become more and more busy cellphones are there to make those busy schedule not seem as bad. We can organize our schedule into calendars, alarms, and reminders. In that sense, cellphone do meet our needs but because we are constantly thinking of new ways and ideas cellphones can met our needs even more. Because we are experimenting with different technology and making technology advance at a really fast rate it isn’t surprising that cellphones will be improve even more in the future. Although I can’t say that I have a solid idea of the future of cellphones, no doubt those changes will be made to meet our needs and make our lives easier. Improvements to intelligent personal assistants such as Cortana and Siri will be made. Those personal assistants will become smarter in understanding you. Some other changes that connect cellphones to humans even more are that cellphones will become smarter at syncing with our biological reflexes such as our eyes movements, thoughts, cultural and social preferences.

Cellphones have change greatly in the little time it has existed. Those changes wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the changes in humans. Humans becoming more complicated and smarter enable changes in cellphones to make our life easier. Different functions and applications are an extension of a different body part. It aid us when need it. We can use our brain to memorize more important things. In conclusion, cellphones as a whole is an extension of humans and the changes in purpose and function were created to adjust to the human life.

 

Citations

(1). Keith, Robert D. “The Cell Phone Timeline.” History of the Cell Phone. University of Florida. 2004. Web. 28 April 2015. <http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/fall04/keith/history1.htm

(2). McLuhan, Marshall. The Medium is the Massage, an Inventory of Effects. California. Gingko Press Inc. 2001. Web

(3). Ray, Amanda. “The History And Evolution Of Cell Phones.” AI Blog. Art Institutes. N.d Web. 28 April 2015. <http://new.artinstitutes.edu/blog/the-history-and-evolution-of-cell-phones

(4). Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together. New York. BASIC BOOKS. 2011. Web

(5). Washington Post Staff. “The History of the Mobile Phone.” The Switch. The Washington Post. 9 September 2014. Web. 29 March 2015. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/09/09/the-history-of-the-mobile-phone/

Ancient Egyptian Funerary Technology; Embracing Death through Cultural Beliefs, Rituals, and Mummification.

Final Paper, COMPSTD 2367.04, SP 2015,
George H. Uhrman, Jr., DVM, 04/24/2015

Ancient Egyptian Funerary Technology;
Embracing Death through Cultural Beliefs, Rituals, and Mummification.

Pic1 (8). The Weighing of the Heart ritual, shown in the Book of the Dead of Sesostris.

I believe our respect and reverence for life itself brings us, as Homo sapiens, to respect and revere death; not as an aspect of life, but rather, as its own entity, a new journey, an uncharted travel to a place no one has ventured before. Moreover, Egyptians embraced death even though no one had personal experience with it and developed their unique funerary services, or technology. Ancient Egyptian Funerary Technology emphasized two mandates; first, an adherence to cultural beliefs and rituals laid out in The Book of The Dead, and second, mummification as a means of body preservation. The Egyptian Civilization believed it was necessary to have rituals and spells to access the Afterlife and a functional body for the soul to inhabit and navigate the Kingdom of the Dead (1).
Across Mother Earth we have found many cultures and ethnicities celebrate varying funerary practices with respect to their clan. We can look to early Greek narratives for insight into funerary practices, as they are the only “earliest” recorded narratives, ca. 2200 BCE (Before Common Era) — 135 CE (Common Era), to have survived, for many reasons. They speak to the role of myth in the classical world; famous Greek heroes such as Gilgamesh, Herakles, and Theseus tackle “Classical Greek issues”, such as death and dying. The Greek Myths helped everyday Greeks understand the questions surrounding their lives; death, the most allusive of all ideologies.
As with the early Greeks, most individuals of this time period saw death as an individual experience. With the advent of Christianity, arose the concept of an apocalypse; an all-consuming, world-wide event capable of destroying all of humanity. Even with this idea of Apocalypse, many cultures and ethnicities stood by their “individual death experience” and continue to follow “traditional” funerary practices; “traditional” for their people. This narrative will address one such “early” funerary practice or “technology”, which is depicted in the Egyptian “Book of the Dead” (1), (3); a cryptic collection of tailored, individual instructions for prominent, “Royal” Egyptians to succeed in the afterlife, an afterlife travel guide if-you-will.
The “Book of the Dead” was not a mass-produced collective of funerary technology; but rather, a catalog of hymns, epithets and magical spells tailored exclusively to protect the owner, and his family, and magically assure their continued existence in the afterlife and unencumbered journey in the Underworld. These hymns, epithets, and magical spells were recited by a priest at the embalming of the body. Outside being written on papyrus scroll, these funerary directives, or texts, could also be found inscribed on the inner surfaces of coffins or tomb walls (2). The “Book of the Dead”, most often written in hieroglyphic script and illustrated with vignettes, was placed in the coffin or burial tomb.

Pic2 (9). An authentic “Book of the Dead”, on display at the British Museum, Nov. 2010.

Each individual “Book of the Dead”, contained spells, some to be spoken by a priest during the embalming or mummification of the body of the deceased; others to ensure their safety, and yet others allowing the deceased to engage in the world around him. Egyptians looked to Osiris, the mythological Egyptian god of death, for guidance when they were selecting hymns and magical spells to customize their personal “Book of the Dead”. The Osiris Myth contained hundreds of ritualistic magical spells, epitaphs, hymns and litanies that an individual could choose from. In addition, paintings and illustrations were often personal enhancements placed in “their book” to gain favor with the guardians of the gate to the Afterlife as well as Osiris (1).
Egyptian funerary technology of the time would have placed great emphasis on the process of mummification. By definition, mummification as a process, is a series of physical and chemical applications, in addition to, ritualistic magical spells, epitaphs, hymns and litanies recited by an Egyptian priest at the time the body is embalmed; all of which is designed to minimize or arrest tissue decomposition (1), (3), and (5).
Anthropologists and historical scholars alike credit the Egyptians with the origination and refinement of the funerary technology known as mummification; despite other discoveries of mummification from other cultures around the world, i.e. Peru, Guanche mummies in England, and the Canary Islands (5). To understand why mummification originated with the Egyptians and the process and refinement as a technology we first must examine Egyptian Cosmogonies.
Cosmogonies are narratives, or stories about how everything in existence came into being; also referred to as creation myths (1). To early cultures in the Mesopotamian region of northern Africa, creation myths provided a foundation for religion, cultural morays, and in many respects an ancient “Mediterranean Family Tree”, if you will. These cosmogonies established religious directives for the polytheist societies of the time; crafting a fundamental means to worship many gods in a way that offered answers to philosophic questions, such as, “Is there an after-life?” Egyptians believed that death offered so much more than the act of dying; provided, the individual be of high social status, they have accumulated wealth, and that they believe they can influence and actively participate in their final outcome. Egyptians understood death as something to be managed and in turn life could be restored. Guided by their dedication and worship to the god of death, Osiris, ancient Egyptians turned to The Osiris Myth to choose from a litany of thousands of magical spells, hymns, and epitaphs to create an individualized, custom Pyramid Text, Coffin Text, or Book of the Dead (1). The Osiris Myth also validated how Egyptians understood the necessity for cultural rituals and mummification of the body.
Of parallel, if not paramount, importance to Egyptian funerary practice was the preservation of the body to the best of their capabilities; a procedural technique called embalming. But through the translation of Egyptian funerary texts and narratives by Greek and Roman authors we now know that embalming of the body was more than a series of physical and chemical applications, i.e. mummification, designed to minimize or arrest the decomposition of tissue. Rather, embalming was the mutual employment of traditional tissue preservation practices plus ritualistic magical spells and religious hymns and litanies recited by an Egyptian priest (1) (3). Through the many spells, epitaphs and hymns of The Osiris Myth, Egyptians came to understand that the soul and the body must be kept fully functional in order to navigate the kingdom of death. The religious rituals applied to the soul and the mortuary practice of mummification preserved the body.
Mummification began with the descendant lying face up on a flat stone in the mortuary. Mortuaries were typically built in catacombs or subterranean crypts were cool and often arid air conditions were present, facilitating desiccation, or water loss of the body tissues. Removal of tissue water content is essential to successful mummification. Next, the abdominal viscera and organs are removed, washed and desiccated; then individually wrapped in small packages for return to the abdominal cavity at the final stage of preparation, wrapping of the body in linen. Next, the brain is liquefied and removed from the skull using a special implement and one of many possible entrance/exit sites created in the floor of the calvarium. At this point the abdominal cavity is washed thoroughly and dried; the body is then flexed into a fetal or sitting position and lowered into a concentrated salt bath, in a large jar, with the head exposed (5). The degree of desiccation and the relative time frame to complete this is directly proportional to the ratio of skin surface area to the underlying body volume. The desiccation process is complete when the epidermis of the skin easily abrades. At this point the body is removed from the salt bath, rinsed and dried thoroughly with meticulous detail paid to replacing any finger nails or toe nails that have unintentionally fallen loose and coating the abdominal cavity with a mixture of oils and fragrances. Next, the small packages of abdominal organs are placed in the abdominal cavity and the wound is traditionally closed with a plate of wax (1). Finally, the body is coated in a mixture of oil and fragrance, wrapped twice with long tapes of linen and then covered with a mixture of oil, fragrances and resins. This final wrapping ensures the maintenance of tissue desiccation and to prevent insects from desecrating the body (4) (5).
In conclusion, Ancient Egyptian Funerary Technology centered on two mandates; one, an adherence to cultural beliefs and rituals as laid out in The Book of the Dead, and two, mummification as a means of body preservation. When we consider technology as a construct our attention tends to turn to the more modern technological advancements we surround ourselves with each day. Despite their seductive allure, today’s technologies may be purely for profit; but, a closer look at some of man’s ancient technologies often uncovers a collaboration between religious ideals and rituals, mythological themes, human necessity, and early applied science. Egypt’s funerary technology is one such early civilization technology that is a complimentary blend of mythology and early applied science. Our insights into Ӧtzi (7), the Iceman mummy discovered in the Alps, demonstrated that technology does not have to be modern, it just has to be an advanced practice of that time. From the Iceman’s clothing, flint, wood used in his equipment, and his copper axe, scientists were able to get a glimpse into the Iceman’s technology at that time. But what is not readily apparent in the technology are his religious ideals and rituals; not to mention, the full human necessity inherent in his life. We will never know about Ӧtzi’s beliefs surrounding death; we can only speculate on how he lived. Fortunately, through ancient narratives and concrete evidence found in pyramids, we have more information on how a whole civilization, the Egyptians, faced death with reverence.

Citations:
1) Lopez-Ruiz, Carolina. Gods, Heroes, and Monsters. New York, NY. Oxford University Press, 2014. p. 23 – 27, p. 445 – 451. Print
2) Lichtheim, Miriam (1975). Ancient Egyptian Literature, vol 1. London, England: Universitym of California Press.
3) ASSMANN, JAN, and DAVID LORTON. Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2005. Print.
4) Mummies. Lynnerup, Niels. American Journal of Physical Anthropology vol. 134 issue S45 2007. p. 162 – 190.
5) Dawson, Warren R. “Contributions to the History of Mummification.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 20.6 (1927): 832–854. Print.
6) Dunn, Jimmy (22 August 2011). “An Overview of Mummification in Ancient Egypt”. Retrieved 9, November 2013.
7) “Ӧtzi–the Iceman homepage.” South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology | Part. IVA, 2013. <http://www.iceman.it/en/node/226&gt;
8) Pic1. Detail from the book of the dead of Sesostris, 15th century b.c. (Vienna, Austria]).
9) Pic2. Robertson, Graema. The Guardian 2010. In Pictures: the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead at the British Museum.