Like so many, I first became aware of J.G. Ballard through the Re/Search edition of his Atrocity Exhibition, as well as their other coverage of his ideas. To say he was an influence is understating it - indeed, I was obsessed with the whole car crash thing for a long time.
R/S: We're interested in the problem of image thresholds building up in ourselves, because we have been exposing ourselves to more and more images of a horrific kind. I wouldn't call it a morality problem, yet—
JGB: There is an element of that, isn't there? You could end up in that sort of affect-less realm where you suspend judgment on everything. One's got to be very wary of denting one's own feelings, which is what happens to people who, say, work in labs where experiments are done using animals.
There was a girl on TV the other night—there's been some antivivisection activity going on at present, with members of animal liberation movements breaking into labs and releasing animals, many of them locked into electrodes and drips . . . She was saying that in working with lab animals, the thing that frightened her was the fact that she noticed she was becoming calloused or indifferent to the animals' feelings. And, that this was inevitable. If you're a man handling monkeys on a table to prepare them for some sort of operation, after awhile you just give them a goddamn thump! That's what happens, and after awhile you don't even notice it—the situation brutalizes you, numbs you, to any sort of response.
That's the problem with all this stuff—unless you're using it in some sort of informed way, out of some sort of imaginative commitment (I know that sounds like an easy get out, but it's still true), you are in danger of being numbed to the very powerful stimuli that attracted you in the first place. I mean, you end up with the worst of both worlds!
Now he has died and become past, particularly strange because he seemed always to be speaking from the future.