there’s an elemental spirit for every appliance

You may not have known about it, but the elementals of technology want to be loved. They want to be our friends, and needs us to talk to them.

Technikwesen wollen gemocht werden. Bei einem Freund schaltete sich der Saunaofen immer bei 65 Grad aus. Wir sprachen mit dem Wesen und erfragten seinen Namen. Bei den unterschiedlichsten Geräten war es immer das Gleiche: Das Gerät will gemocht werden. Sympathie muss da sein und noch besser ist es, wenn man es anspricht: »Du warst heute gut!«, wenn man Danke sagt: »Du hast heute gut die Wäsche gewaschen!«, oder: »Super, jetzt bist Du auf 70 Grad hochgekommen!«

That’s from an interview in Erziehungskunst — the german journal for waldorf education — with an anonymous man who communicates with nature spirits. Not only that, he speaks with the elementals of technology, too, except with those in the television set. That is because contact requires sympathy, and the telly doesn’t inspire such sentiments in him.

In the computer, there is a helpful elemental. I always thought Ahriman was the one, but apparently that’s not all. Personally, I’ve had gnomes stuck in my system more than once. As everybody knows, when the computer is acting up, it can sometimes help to threaten it. ‘I throw you out of the window’, I tell him. I don’t live on the ground floor. I’m getting new ideas from Erziehungskunst’s expert, however; is it possible it might be more effective to be loving and kind? I have issues with my computer, of course, and I’m going to try another approach, since I’ve now learnt that it’s important to appreciate it, or else it won’t cooperate. And it’s not only about the computer. We should talk kindly to all appliances, vehicles, gadgets… These beings are everywhere!

Einmal hatte ich ein Computerproblem, er half mir, indem er sagte: »Bleib ruhig, reden wir erst einmal damit!« Jetzt kommt der Punkt: Mit wem reden wir, mit Sora Barabam oder mit dem Computer? Dabei habe ich erfahren, dass sich mit jedem technischen Gerät, sei es eine Waschmaschine, ein Auto oder eine Kaffeemaschine, bei der Produktion ein Naturgeist verbindet, der dieses Gerät solange begleitet, bis es verschrottet wird.


Die Technikwesen wollen geliebt und angesprochen werden. Dann versuchen sie, wann immer möglich, das Gerät in seiner Funktion zu erhalten.

Naturally, there are elemental beings in cars too. Which makes you think a little about the lack of wisdom in Basil Fawlty’s approach.


23 thoughts on “there’s an elemental spirit for every appliance

  1. I’m reassured that the elementals do not, after all, have a particular preference for inhabiting photocopiers.

  2. Well, the more literal they are, the less likely they become (and the more approaching ‘nonsense’, if one wants that word, but I think they’re still a bit too funny to be only nonsense). When Verena Staël von Holstein communicates with nature spirits, and they pronounce their opinions on various mundane matters such as chocolate pralines, it’s very difficult not to smile — and see it as, if not nonsense, then a great fairy-tale.

  3. I mean, elemental beings formulating and expressing opinions on humans’ consumption of pralines. That is funny. Quite regardless of the existence of elementals (in whatever realm).

  4. Yes, that is very understandable. But now the crucial question: is an elemental being connected with your PC? I am curious what someone in Sweden would say on that subject. For me it is a little bit different; i can feel and think it is not very good to work with a computer on about a daily base (now for almost 23 years), But when the texts I have to write or edit are substantial, I think and feel it’s worth working this way. And I thank my PC I can rely on it, all the time it is accompanying me in a good way in this striving of me.

  5. Certainly, if there is one, it’s of a very different breed than the one in the old typewriter.

    And, unfortunately, the one in the computer has access to an invisible off-button. It sits in there, blinks at me (through the screen), sings ‘nanananananana!’ and shuts the computer off before I have time to save anything. And, to make matters worse, the elemental in the computer and the elemental in the printer have fallen out and refuse to speak to each other. I don’t so much care if they speak with me, but they could at least communicate with each other, I think! I’ve tried to mediate, but to no avail.

    So I wouldn’t call my gadget elementals reliable. I think they’re sometimes a bit choleric, like Basil Fawlty.

    It’s interesting, though, how electrical/techonolgical devices feel so alive, so — almost –sentient.

  6. OK, that’s clear. But I have another question. Does artifical intelligence exist, I mean, is it really intelligent? And above all, can it ever become independent from humans? And if so, in which way will it develop? I understand of course that machinery doesn’t live like we do, or like plants and animals. But is there a possibility A.I. will grow autonomous in any other way, will become bigger, greater and more intelligent, more than we are?

  7. If we confuse intelligence with performance, I’m sure they’d outperform us (already!). I don’t think that’s necessarily intelligent. And I’m sure technological processes can run out of hand — but if so it would be a part of their make up (or ‘faulty’ make up) not because of independent thinking. As with humans. And even if they were constructed to more and more imitate, mimic, sentient beings, they’d still not be sentient, they’d still be cleverly performing machines — increasingly well-performing –, but not clever, not intelligent in that other sense of the word, they wouldn’t be thinking or be independent from their programming. Even a plant, who can’t think, is more alive (it’s that ether body thing, ha!).

    So, I’d say no, I don’t regard artificial intelligence as intelligent, even if ‘it’ can perform its programmed tasks better than I would ever be able to, even perfectly. Even if programmed to mimic independent decision-making, it will be mimicry. I’m slightly limited, though, in that I’m not all too acquainted with science fiction (except the kind provided by der Herr Doktor ;-))… So what machines could potentially become able to do, I’m not sure I can envision.

  8. I think they might be better than a very stupid friend!

    That mr Bean video makes me think of some waldorf school organisations. I don’t know why…

    But at least the Mini is a pretty car.

  9. I have a Sony laptop running on Linux. It’s moody. Been ok for weeks but last thing yesterday evening it began to act up again. I hope it can return to being harmonious again. For a while. I guess that the techno-being I’m supposed to converse with (according to the article) is about to desert the device. They stop working then.

  10. What Linux distro? Some are friendlier than others. My laptop has Ubuntu 12.4 and I don’t think it likes me [unlike 11.4 which seemed to love me ].

  11. I have a slightly older one, 10.10. I installed it a year ago, hoping it was solving the problem that the computer had begun shutting itself off. Didn’t help… Still using the same computer, but think I will have to get a new one.

  12. Ugrade to 11 I highly recommend that one. It’s higher being loved me. 12 does not, so I might go back to 11 on my Dell to see if that still loves me. Good on you for using Linux though.

  13. I’ve been hoping to move to linux for many years… I still need to run AutoCAD so I think I’m screwed. I don’t suppose they have a Windows emulator that would run it do they?

  14. I don’t dare update to anything, because my computer is crazy… On a new computer, though, I’ll try it. Though I guess it’s easier to get a later version, thinking of supported updates and such things.

    I moved from windows to linux ubuntu… I don’t know, it’s probably like 7 years ago, when I got a computer that had no OS installed. I found it surprisingly easy to use and reliable. Then that computer crashed and I got the one I have now, and I immediately replaced windows with linux. I’ve gotten used to it. Most of the things I need, I have. Though GIMP is not perhaps the best photo-editing program (but I’m not so into these things anyway, I only need and know how to use the very basics).

  15. Actually, I don’t know what I’m missing either, but I just assumed it wasn’t as good as the commercial programs people rave about! (One thing that I’m not too happy with in Gimp is the black & white conversion. But then… some people *buy* special programs just for black & white conversions… I wouldn’t know how to use them anyway…)

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