Today's technological object orientation concerns apples, but not the kind you might think. Instead I want us to revisit the "apple scene" from Werner Herzog's 1974 cinematic retelling of the Kaspar Hauser story, Every Man for Himself and God Against All. What this particular scene illustrates is the conflict between two different understandings of the object. On the one hand, you have Professor Daumer and Herr Fuhrmann, both well educated modern men who know, as Heidegger reminds us, that objects are just things. They are not "intentional systems," as Daniel Dennett would put it; they do not have a will of their own; and they can, on this account, be manipulated by us in whatever way we see fit. As Professor Daumer explains, "apples do not have lives of their own—they follow our will." Unfortunately, for this man of science and reason, the apples do not necessarily behave accordingly during the demonstration of this fact. As a result, Kaspar provides an entirely different explanation. For him, the apples fall to the ground, because they are tired and want to sleep; they do not do what we dictate but deliberately misbehave and hide in the grass; and they demonstrate their own intelligence by jumping over obstacles and running away.
This is precisely the issue that confronts us in the face of the technological object at the beginning of the 21st century. Our machines—whether smart phones, automated web services, software bots, learning systems, etc.—are no longer able to be defined as mere objects or instruments of human action. Instead we now find ourselves entertaining the possibility that Kaspar Hauser might be right. What used to be described as tools are increasingly becoming (inter)active agents—another kind of subject instead of a mere object. And these other things are, for better or worse, beginning to show signs of "a life of their own." As long as we persist in forcefully applying the modernist perspective voiced by Professor Daumer, we will be endlessly frustrated by the outcome. These "objects" will continue to break with expectations and fail to adhere to our rules and requirements. If, however, we allow ourselves, following Kaspar's paradigm changing example, to challenge the very assumptions of these object orientations, we may begin to perceive other possibilities—possibilities that will undoubtedly have fundamental consequences for us, our technology, and who is and counts as Other.