top of page

two .




Pedro Piovan

September 12, 2020

Ramo em um frasco de vidro

How do we get to a space-place that only allows us to produce

And wasn't it the machines that were going to let us walk around? That's the question I ask myself when I see the name of this magazine. In the 19th and 20th century, we idealized technological advancement as a way to make human beings more free to rest and be creative, letting machines generate wealth for us.  

But that's not what happened; perhaps the opposite: the greater the technological advance, the more we held them hostage to the idea of progress and began to get into a gear of self-consumption, replicating the gadgets within ourselves and expecting the same result that the cold parts of machines produced.


My idea with this article is to reconstruct what was our romantic format on technological advance and the concept of progress, until we reach where we are today: while in the 20th century we created a man-machine relationship, now we have a metamorphosis of actors who become confused in objective and existential terms, living in a "man-machine"-"man-machine" relationship. And of course: how this new late concept of work (which seeks the idea that we are all entrepreneurs) reminds us of the death of the tour and the empire of exacerbated productivity.


I will allow myself to go back to the Enlightenment, as it was at this time that we built the foundational concepts that sustain the death of the tour we have today. The eighteenth century was when we founded the idea that the human being always progresses; we are always constantly evolving as if progress were an inertial movement, not a pressure that we should constantly be applying.  

In addition to the ode to progress that we started to consolidate with the Enlightenment, we also created the idea that freedom and brotherhood would be fundamental human rights and that everyone would benefit from it, and that who would bring this would be the illumination of reason and thought.  

The Illuminists maintained that, with these ideals, we would finally have time; we would have enough wealth for all human beings to have time for themselves, to create their art, to dedicate themselves to the family, having more and more machines producing for themselves and generating the necessary wealth to sustain themselves.

It is important to assess who are the supporters of this ideal that was born in the century. XVIII flourished in the nineteenth century and built in the twentieth: Adam Smith, David Hume, the entire "troupe" of the founding fathers being directly influenced by these ideals, John Locke and a few others. The essential detail that is rarely spoken is: the huge majority of Enlightenment thinkers and many of their precursors intellectually defended (and some even tried to scientifically justify) that their ideals could exist together and from the slave culture, some of them being shareholders of slave companies and slave owners, such as John Locke and Thomas Jefferson, respectively.

Therefore, the ideals that solidify the Industrial Revolution, the construction of North American democracy and its independence as a country are not only based on intellectuality, on reason as a way to guarantee their freedom and progress, but fundamentally that these ideals could only be consolidated if there was still the slavery and racial supremacist base to sustain itself. And understanding this is essential to understanding the death of the ride.


We entered the nineteenth century with the idea of progress as the only way for the human species to evolve with strong exponents: the American nation, as an objective representation of this idea, England, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and Holland sponsoring this ideal in invasions of other nations and forcing that this ideal reigned in their colonies.  

Meanwhile, the first and second Industrial Revolution objectively represented, as a guiding thread, the advancement of progress: the construction of machines, increasingly perfected and systematized, bringing the concept of productive scale to the fore and demonstrating to the human species that they would have tasks that we would no longer need to perform; our creatures would do it themselves and deliver the product to us practically ready.

Therefore, the two industrial revolutions represented that progress could provide an answer to the need for human beings to emancipate themselves; not everyone, of course, just white men. At that time, there were many struggles for conquests of space, independence, equality and rights: with a lot of struggle, labor rights were conquered - if it weren't for the workers' movements, the idea of 8/8/8 (8 hours to work, 8 to sleep and 8 to rest) would never exist in our imagination - and independence movements of many nations and peoples.  

We entered the 20th century with factories booming, bringing people from the countryside to become part of this great engineering that showed ever more promise of "progress" and "evolution", demonstrating that we were indeed making progress. To further oil this structure and ensure that it grew, without restraint, we created advertising: a way to subjectively guarantee that everyone would "buy the idea".  

Once again, it was very successful: the level of industrial production gained other proportions, now managing to standardize products and their production model, ensuring that we would be able to produce more and more with less and less human interference.

We cannot fail to mention here: the expansion of production models at that time, and still today, were based on exploitation, slave labor and land domination.

We have reached the 2000s, with mass and pasteurized production taking over power structures; here, acceleration takes over productive environments and more and more is sought after late productivity; as machines start to get close to their maximum performance, now it's time for the human productive forces to demonstrate their productivity, that is: let's decrease the cost and expand the profits, not only of the machines, but also of the human force.

We live in a century in which the precariousness of work takes over the productive forces, which sells the idea that we should all be entrepreneurs and the only responsible for our workforce, without the guarantee of labor rights that ensure a minimum of security for their "employees". We have reached an era in which the examples of financial movement are intermediary companies of supply and demand, which are not responsible for what happens in their supply chain.  

And the result of this? Precariousness. Instead of technology fulfilling its role, promised by the Enlightenment, which was to leave human beings with more time to dedicate themselves and their arts, it ends up making them a hostage and with only one alternative for their livelihood: to work more.

If the Enlightenment dream was to see us well, with time to be artistic and free from work, with our machines producing the necessary wealth for our livelihood, then we would be in their nightmare: humans, stuck in their work routines, having to work more and more to achieve less and less.  

The subjective idea of progress won, but bringing with it the objective condition of precariousness and, in many places, slavery. Let's not forget that the world has not given up on slavery yet: there are still 45.8 million slaves, according to a data from the Walk Free Foundation.

Today everyone is tired, looking forward to a vacation from work, living in a world where the diseases of the century have turned into anxiety and depression. We lose the opportunity to live in between, to live the rest, leisure or the simple fact of not doing.

Once again, with the victory of progress, the ideas that we can never stop producing will also win. And it is the simple fact of stopping producing that guarantees our mental health and the possibility of thinking about something different.

In other words: we were swallowed by the very contraption we created; what used to be us who oriented the machines, now we are oriented to be machines that have, in some cases, a lapse of humanity. We become "machineman" in relation to other "machineman".

And what's new: we can't take it. That's why I'm going to paraphrase Byung-Chul Han: we live in a society of tiredness.


Where do we go? We arrive at an idea of progress that asks us to measure time and sees it as an opportunity to explore to maximize our result. This is how we are relating to time: "I have an hour here until the next call so I can see an episode of the series, and I have another 14 minutes for me to do a 5 minute meditation and I have another 9 minutes, of which I will put the clothes to wash and there are 3 more minutes left and I'm going to prepare for the video call".  

Is this insanity? No. This is the victory of productivity against being sensitive to human beings and thinking of them as an animal that feels, desires, plans. tool of work and, within us, creating the productive logic as a model for looking at life.  

When we have this look, it is clear that we will not have time for the non-productive: the walk, as an art of not having a defined and measurable objective, must be excluded because it does not pass the parameters of the productivist vision of our time and ours. effort. 

Anything that is not productive and does not maximize the result is excluded. Of course, it's the logic of productivity: standardize models, eliminate waste, automate the operation and scale.

And I'll allow myself to catch the waste here.


Waste is fundamental to forming us as a civilized being. It is when we get in touch with the excess, with what is not necessary, with what is fluid, that we begin to form our identity.

Walking, in this sense, is an art of non-commitment with the result that forms us as a civilized being, able to look at the world around us, interpret it in our own way and with our repertoire and form a point of view .

And of course, in times of pandemic and social isolation efforts, this becomes even more serious: added to the idea that we cannot be unproductive, we now have to remain secluded with those who live with us, being the only possibility to expand our repertoire through the same screen that some of us stay 8, 10 or 12 hours a day.

Therefore, the "waste" of time is fundamental to form us as possible beings to be civilized. It is only by observing other forms of life, on our walks, that we gain our references of possibilities of existence, places we can inhabit, ways of relating that we can have with others.

I repeat: there is no better form of education than to live in a space, live in a collective environment and walk around different points of view. That's how we discover what the limit really is, respect, affection, caring for the other, danger and planning.

An example: if the human being had stayed in caves, he would not have discovered the art of hunting, the organization of tribes, how to communicate with different people and how to use hunting skin to keep warm.

The tour is fundamental to form us and sustain us as a civilization. The imminent danger of the trip's death is that we lose, as a species, the ability to deal with the different, to relate to the other and expand our repertoire. The more we holed up in our condominiums and their high walls, the more we got used to pasteurized and the less our ability to co-create collective solutions.




The scenario is not favorable: in times when productivity gained the perspective of our gaze and time became our enemy, as we always say that we are against it, everything that is uncontrollable and susceptible to serendipity is lost and we keep getting poorer culturally and existentially.  

The alternatives for us to go back to strolling in an uncompromised way with the final objective and in friendship with time are increasingly scarce, as our production models imprisoned us more in themselves than they delivered the promised freedom.

At the same time, strolling through new ideas, different thought formats or strolling through everyday games with our family and friends works as a form of syncope; for a moment, the rigidity of progress and productivity breaks down and time expands in another space-place as an alternative for the future that we can live. Disengagement, in this sense, opens up a possibility for a future that is different from what is already programmed by productive discourse.  

I echo here a speech by psychoanalyst Maria Homem, in a live held in September 2020 together with Maria Rita Kehl and Bruno Torturra: "the culture of progress promised and did not deliver: freedom, equality and fraternity". And I add here: what actually delivered was a possibility of morbid existence, closer to a zombie-existence from which we all race against time and toward money, while our incentives to form citizens and people of integrity its existence dies.

I reinforce here that my provocation is not intended to destroy what has brought us here; the idea of progress and evolution of the human species, when properly allocated, brought us countless benefits to even make us alive. My provocation is both in terms of bringing a historical reading from another point of view and also about what we are going to do going forward, how we are going to deal with the material we have today to build a future that promises a look full of life, and not of death.


So I don't intend to exclude productivity and progress, but to put them where they belong (and clearly not at the top of the empire, as we have these two concepts today).  

But now, how to resist the culture of productivity and progress at any cost? I dare to give a chance here, after this pandemic passes: what do you think of going for a walk?


We have some tips  to give you the next Pico .

receive weekly

bottom of page