Miyazaki the Luddite

R. Kelts ruminates on a Miyazaki quote:

All of our young people today derive their pleasure, entertainment, communication and information from virtual worlds. And all of those worlds have one thing in common: They’re making young Japanese weak.

Appropriately enough, I found this through Mr. Kelts’s Twitter feed.


It’s interesting how with each wave of human innovation, moralists decry it as somehow alienating humanity from its purity or strength.  I’m sure if I dug around, I could find a quote from the Luddites addressing the cotton gin or the tools of the early Industrial Revolution the same way.

In any case, as Richard Feynman was fond of saying, “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.”  How is it, then, that Miyazaki accuses these successful technologies of alienating man from nature?  More precisely, what was essentially “natural” about face-to-face human relations to begin with?

Miyazaki is truly great as an animator and creator, but this reactionary statement is reminiscent of Pentti Linkola (“Everything we have developed over the last 100 years should be destroyed.”)  Here Miyazaki sounds more like a reactionary radical than an entertainment guru or visionary.


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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I hope you’re criticizing the scope of the argument more than you are what he’s actually saying (and what the article actually points out). I don’t think you are, but I can’t really tell. And if that still makes him a Luddite, then I’m the world’s worst Luddite.

    After I read that article a few days ago I made myself turn off the part of my brain that loves to do the continuous partial attention thing and went to read a book for a while. Years of using medium-traffic IRC enabled me to handle things like Twitter and such but I really don’t feel comfortable spending endless hours on the computer, as there’s more important things in life, even if that’s sticking my nose in a book for hours on end.

    All this, of course, conflicts with the fact that both my classes are online this year. D:

    • Maybe in the end, our commentary is useless. The Greeks thought it was the Fates; we now think market forces shape our destiny.

  2. On the face of it, he’s only stating that a generation raised on passive entertainment is weaker than ones preceding it. I can find no holes in this to drive a truck through. As for the sticky issue of what’s ‘natural’, whatever that means or implies, it’s to his credit he didn’t use that phrase.
    Um, not to sound all censorious, grant you. This Pentti Linkola character sounds like a tedious Savonarola type, but I don’t think Miyazaki is. Cranky, yes, but not a twit.

    • Is the translation I have above inaccurate? If so, I’d like to know. It states “virtual worlds” are the problem, and that real/virtual or natural/artificial divide seems a very different issue from the passive/active divide you speak of.

  3. I’m actually reminded of so many anti-science or anti-technological themes throughout the history of science fiction. Most relevant is Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, in which people are trapped in a virtual world and disappear when their bodies die.

    Of course, this doesn’t mean that Miyazaki-sensei is right on this point. On the other hand, there’s the phenomenon of virtual world sickness, in which spending too much time in virtual reality (or meditation or dreams) leads to progressive disconnection from reality, which leads to actual physical illness because the human organism needs to be grounded in hard physical reality. In Japan, the problem may predate the Internet: the whole country has been filled with virtual worlds since young Japanese first went mad for manga.

    Maybe Miyazaki-sensei’s point is that too much time online is weakening the nation so that it can’t compete with that vengeful upstart China? I think he may really be talking about Japan’s place on top of the world, which he sees as endangered.

    Of course, I might just be rambling again…

    • Well, it certainly is endangered. I don’t know that – from what I’ve seen – that’s the primary thrust of his commentary.

  4. Reading more of Miyazaki’s comments, I think he’s talking about imagination.

    For today’s youth, their fantasy is spoon-fed to them, and they don’t have time to develop their own fantastic worlds or stories. In the past, kids made up all sorts of characters and worlds through play with simple objects that required imaginative manipulation. Today, all that is “done for them” — they just manipulate a few database fields (name, avatar skin color, etc.) and experience others’ virtual worlds using a highly restricted interface.

    At least, I suspect that that’s Miyazaki’s argument. I don’t completely agree with it, but I think it’s an interesting warning.

  5. […] you thought I was extreme when I called him a Luddite. Published […]

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