The Last Virus

4 10 2014


More and more we’re being told what to feel and think by corporate America (eg. Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, et al). We’ve always been told what to feel and think by corporate America, obviously, but back in the day (like, five years ago), corporate America and our own minds and bodies still were separated by this thing called our skin; by boundaries, however porous they might have been. But with the advent of virtual social media (what does “virtual social” even amount to anymore?), our skin is no longer a boundary. Now they get their ubiquitous messages through our eyes and ears, and with the roll-out soon of the Apple Watch in 2015, they will, as it turns out, get under our skin.

Important to remind ourselves that Apple — like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter — is a private company with a bottom line, and it isn’t your well-being. These aren’t non-profit charities or charitable NGO’s. They are corporate America dolled up to look like your hipster friends. And they want, not just your attention and money, but every piece of you and every secret you’ve got to spare along the way. Don’t know about you, but I’ve got too many secrets that I’m not about to share with a faceless corporation — or with the rest of the world, for that matter. Undettered by this, these companies are out to harvest whatever information they can. And ideally, you’ll not only let them do this, you’ll beg them to. To wit: the recent lines around the block for the iPhone 6.

In one of the latest TIME magazines, there was this slug line: “Technology’s biggest advances have come from making our machines more intimate.” And as our machines have become more intimate, we’ve become more inanimate. Seems there’s always a trade-off on the road to personal nirvana. Sure you still want to play?

We’re constantly told that we’re one touch away from “a world of information,” as if this is necessarily a good thing, that information is what makes life worth living, or as if that’s what we really need more of. Don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty damn sick of information. In the same TIME magazine article, the author asks what comes after the Apple Watch and iPhone: the iMplant? Then there’s this doozy of a paragraph:

“The reality of living with an iPhone, or any smart, connected mobile device, is that it makes reality feel just that little bit less real. One gets overconnected, to the point where one is apt to pay attention to the thoughts and opinions of distant anonymous strangers over those of loved ones who are in the same room. One forgets how to be alone and undistracted. Ironically enough, experiences don’t feel fully real till you’ve used your phone to make them virtual — tweeted them or tumbled them or Instagrammed them or YouTubed them — and the world has congratulated you for doing so.”

Seems that in our inexorable rush from 1G to 4G, we’ve landed in a dark wood and have lost our way, to borrow from Dante. But do we even care anymore? I mean, if you have no direction, can you really ever be lost? Will it take a trip through hell for us to wake up from the real nightmare of virtual technology? And if it doesn’t feel like a nightmare to you yet, take a little gander at this lovely little p.s.a:

And now read Mind Change by Susan Greenfield, then make decisions about the technology you use — which technologies are good and which aren’t. All of history’s biggest revolutions happened incrementally. The real virus? Well, you can dispense with your concerns about Ebola, because this virus is about to be put on your wrist, and it’ll soon be in your brain, and it’s already in your head. Hell, it’s in the air — all you have to do is breathe.


The Tryanny of Experience

17 03 2013


We live in an age when a person’s best authority is herself. What a poor and impoverished replacement that is for what used to count for authority: inherited wisdom, otherwise known as the giants on whose shoulders we stood in order to see farther. But in our hubris, we’ve jumped off their shoulders and claim to be able to see farther and know better, all from our vaulted perspective 6 inches off the ground.

Sure, there have always been things about our past (our traditions and elders) that we’ve needed to repudiate: slavery, the subjugation of women, child labor, bear baiting… But we’ve taken their whole system, all of their assumptions about the world and each other, both good and bad, and tossed it aside. We’ve reinvented the wheel and called it an improvement to ride around on square blocks. That’s the problem with progress… we always assume it means progress; or rather, that progress is always a good thing. Is the hydrogen bomb really an improvement over dynamite? Well, yes, in a way…

By elevating our own experience as the ultimate authority in matters of life and death, we’ve placed ourselves at the middle of the universe and essentially sacralized our perspectives. There is no room here for humility in this new order of things — the order of I (or should I say “i”?), and as a result, we have no claim to final authority, since your experience is your experience, and mine is mine, and whose going to gainsay anyone’s experience?

Well, I am. I’m not only going to gainsay your experience, I’m going to gainsay mine as well. Why? Because I’ve been paying attention the last 48 years of living, and if I’ve learned anything about human nature, starting with myself, it’s this: that much of the time we’re right about things, but almost an equal amount of time, we’re wrong, which means that at best, it’s a 50/50 proposition to hold ourselves up as an authority over much of anything terribly important. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. But here’s the zinger: those things that we stand the chance of being most wrong about are precisely those things that we hold most dear because they valorize our human proclivity for provincial thinking and denial, which is the second thing I’ve learned in my 48 years of paying attention: we live in denial much of the time in order to validate our own view of things, and we do all of this as a coping mechanism for the nihilism that we breathe in all round us.

And where does this leave us? That at the very places where we most need to have authorities outside of ourselves to give us perspective, we are least likely to avail ourselves of them. And so we take the wisdom of our ancestors and reform it to reflect our prejudices, and we fashion the religion and politics of our forefathers and mothers and mold them into our own biases and tastes. We change everything we believe to adjust to our experiences, never for a second thinking to ask ourselves whether our experiences themselves are open to other interpretations, or whether our experiences might actually be misleading. If this is the way I understand what’s happened to me, then by golly, that’s precisely what happened to me! Right?

Never was there a time so many of us trusted so unquestioningly our own personal view of things. Never was there a time our own personal view of things was so influenced by the deluded voices around us.

La la la la la la….