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.


Tempis Fugit

13 09 2014


Some say it’s a mathematical trick played on the mind. The longer you live, the smaller percentage a year of your life amounts to, so it feels like it goes by quicker. Sounds reasonable, but it doesn’t fly. A year is still a year — 365 days. 24 hours in each day.

Seems to me that what matters is the amount of life each year, each day, represents. When you’re younger, things fill you with more wonder. Each day presents itself with its own small surprises: an open door, a cold night, a light rainfall, new things learned, new people met, new places seen. As you get older, though, you find yourself lapsing into more and more routines. You stop trying to learn, perhaps, because you feel the pressure to already have all the answers. You stop taking chances and, instead, spend your time adjusting to and apologizing for your mistakes.

But time doesn’t have to fly. Let it saunter. Each day at 50 can be just as long as it was at 5. It’s just a matter of being open to life’s small surprises. It’s a matter of seeing, listening, paying attention, being awake.

It’s easy to look back and think, “My oh my, time has flown.” But maybe it hasn’t. Maybe I’m just not willing to think about it as deeply as I should. Maybe it’s actually taken its time. Perhaps time saunters after all. It’s just a matter of how deeply you’re living it.

Will Power

14 07 2012

This is my son, Will, light of my life, younger brother to the apple of my eye, Belle. This is a series of shots taken in one minute ~ just to show you non-parents out there how fast an 11-month old can crawl, and how much potential damage can be done. And how beautiful a minute of life can be.

I think, too, about our lives, about what passes for a minute ~ and what passes in a minute. And what we pass. We lose the fascination of an 11-month old ~ but do we lose so much more in the process? A way of seeing? Of being?

Here’s to the 11-month old in all of us. May we all accomplish as much in a minute, and as blissfully little, as little Will. And here’s to damage done in the name of love.

Where there’s a Will, there’s a Way. Where there’s a Way, there’s Will.

Facebook’s Timeline: Big Brother Just Got Bigger

18 02 2012

Facebook calls it a “personal digital archive.” TIME magazine calls is “a social blow by blow of a person’s total Facebook past.” Mark Zuckerberg, not surprisingly, takes it one step further, “It’s how you can tell the whole story of your life on a single page.” So how do you like that? Your life has now been reduced to your “total Facebook past.” You are your Facebook profile. Neat.

Facebook users, we are told, are being “encouraged” to add photos of their childhood and otherwise invest themselves in managing the content of their own Timeline. Actually, “encouraged” is a bit of a euphemism. Users get a week to figure out what they do and don’t want on it, because when the time is up, whatever is on your profile, for better of for worse, will be added to your Timeline for everyone to see. But not only “see.” As the TIME article once again puts it, “With Timeline, Facebook is asserting itself as a personal archive too — a searchable, curated, data-driven record of your past.”

Don’t you love that? Your life is being “curated.” And by an algorithm, no less. Now, with something called “frictionless sharing,” which is the ability of outside apps to be integrated seamlessly with your Timeline, you will be, in effect, giving permission for third parties to “log your activity on outside sites…” The article explains, “Instead of posting about your musical appetite du jour, music-streaming sites like Spotify, MOG or Rdio will do it for you. . . . Updates end up inside Facebook’s new Ticker, a feed of your friends’ activity streaming in real time. . . . Timeline gobbles up your data and presents it to you later in a set of summarized highlights broken down month by month: most-listened-to albums, books you read or recipes you tried.” You get the picture. Your entire Facebook life on display for the world to see; and increasingly, your Facebook life is your life — in aggregate form.

Now, in case it isn’t clear to any of you out there (all of whom have a Facebook account), Facebook’s intention isn’t merely to allow you to commoditize yourself like some 21st century product, it intends to “monetize” your information. Once-upon-a-time, Facebook was created for you, but that’s all changed. Now you’ve been created for Facebook, and boy oh boy, is it ever making a killing off of that subtle little reversal. It’s not you Facebook wants — it’s your desires, your likes, your buying habits, your “trends” — in other words, your information. But to get to that goldmine of information, they have to deal with that cumbersome thing called… You. So Facebook got an idea. TIME puts it this way, “The more radical move [that Facebook made] was to cut out the need for manual updates — Twitter’s bread and butter — by eliminating the middle-man.” Care to guess who that “middle-man” is they’re referring to? I know, weird, right?

So while you dally around Facebook singing silent praises to the Almighty Zuckerberg for being so fabulous for creating a platform that allows you to re-connect with all your old and new “friends,” it might do you well to realize that nothing comes for free, and Mark Zuckerberg couldn’t give a rat’s ass about you or your friends except to the extent that he can milk that little exchange for cash. You have always been a mean’s to a greater end. Zuckerberg started Facebook with the intention of picking up chicks. In other words, he objectified women for the purposes of getting… well, whatever it is college sophomores at Harvard want to get. But now he has bigger fish to fry. He now has an entire world to objectify, and you have willingly signed on to be a part of it.

The TIME article writes, “Timeline could mark the era in which a person’s digital identity becomes ascendant.” “Ascendant” means “more important,” just so we’re all on the same page. TIME continues, “Information about everything you do — the music you listen to, the books you read, the videos you watch, the news you consume — is being collected passively, provided you make it accessible. And making it accessible is the whole point of Facebook. As a result, your online identity becomes potentially richer and more complete than your offline one. . . .”

By this week, Timeline will be a mandatory feature of Facebook’s platform. And you will continue to post updates, upload pictures, share your thoughts and comments on other’s walls, buy music and read books and make restaurant reservations and otherwise prostitute your identity for public consumption. Just keep in mind that while you go about doing all this, someone is watching. And it isn’t just your “friends.” And that some One is loving every minute of it.

To wit: