Posts tagged dystopian
Posts tagged dystopian
To start this off, I’m going to bore you with a long backstory. Throughout most of my life, technology has captured my imagination. From the time I was a small child, I was fascinated with computers, often spending time at my aunt’s house playing DOS games. Later I would spend countless hours hunched in front of a flickery old CRT, playing Chips Challenge, one of my favorite games of all time. Technology has been ingrained in me from the time I was born, but unlike many other people my age or younger, some older, I had the privilege of growing up mostly without technology. At this point many of you will probably stop reading. Go ahead. If you can’t wrap your mind around the thought of life without technology being a privilege, you won’t understand or agree with any of the more radical ideas contained within this post.
So why do I call life without technology a privilege? Well, I believe that by “missing out” as I child, I was able to gain a unique perspective on a life that most under the age of 30 haven’t experienced. See, I didn’t grow up like most other kids. I didn’t have a Nintendo 64, or a Gameboy, or a GameCube, or whatever was popular at the time, until I was much older. My family didn’t for a long time own a computer. I’ve still never used a DVR or a Blu-Ray player. I don’t know what it’s like to rent a movie on Netflix. Nobody in my family, including myself, owned a cell phone until 2010. Until the age of 15, my home didn’t have an internet connection. I think you get the point. Why did I live my childhood without technology? It’s not that we couldn’t afford it, or that my parents were fundamentally against technology, it’s that they didn’t consider things like the internet necessary, and therefore we didn’t have them.
Around the time I could start spending on my own, and making my own decisions, I got back into my old hobby- no, obsession with computers. I bought an iPod, then an iMac, an iPad, another iPod, another iMac, an iPhone, the list goes on and on. Throughout the last 5 years, much to the dismay of my family, I’ve spent the majority of my time studying, learning, watching, and living technology. In a failing effort to not sound arrogant, I know what I’m talking about. Getting back to the point, this double life I essentially lived has given me two entirely different outlooks on life. On one hand, I know what it’s like to be the average person, which today’s society would call strange. Hip bloggers who cover the tech beat would call these people the “average consumers.”
I live my life around people who share no interests with me. On the other hand, I also have the perspective of a geek, once again, “a digital native” if you will. Most people who live life around technology don’t know what it’s like today to live without a smart phone soldered to one hand and a laptop under the other.
Recently, Paul Miller, a writer for one of my favorite sites, The Verge, left the Internet for a year, to try to emulate the exact lifestyle I spent my entire childhood being forced to live. I’m pretty fascinated by this, and I wish him the best. I have to chuckle though when reading his offline posts on The Verge. Many of the alien experiences he describes are things I’ve only recently grown accustomed to not experiencing. On a more serious note though, I think Paul’s year long journey is really a sign of the times. And let me tell you, the signs aren’t looking good. The fact that it is now difficult to even experience what life was like as recent as 40 years ago really speaks to how detached we’ve become from reality as a society and how disgusting out new lifestyles are. It sickens me every time I hear another brain dead moron talk about how they couldn’t live without their phone. The sad part is, it’s quickly becoming true. How many times have you felt lost or started to panic when your phone died? Don’t lie, I know it’s happened to all of you, I know the demographic I’m speaking to here. You know what, that’s disgusting. Smoking might be on a decline in America, but we have an addiction that’s much more monumental in size, one that nobody even realizes is a problem. The addiction to computers, mainly phones. Today, we all walk around with these rectangular slabs of silicon tobacco, always ready with just a quick light to whisk us away from the real world into an alternate hyper-reality of text messages, status updates, and Facebook photos.
The sad truth is, the definition of the “real world” is changing rapidly. Soon the real world will no longer be what you and me consider to be reality today, but a reality that is anything but real, an alternate state of being we’ve created ourselves. In this alternate reality, which by my standards isn’t too far off, we will not only no longer have a grasp on what it’s like to function independently, we won’t have a grasp on what it’s really like to be a human being. Or perhaps the definition of a human being is changing as well. Is it possible that within 40 years we’ve been able to light the fuse of what could be the biggest cultural shift ever seen in the history of mankind? Perhaps humans in 100 years won’t even be able to fathom what it’s like to live in un-augmented reality. Perhaps the definition of being human will itself include spending the majority of our lives staring at screens, whether it be in the form of an physical display or a virtual screen. (I’m looking at you, Project Glass.)
The dystopian future which George Orwell wrote about in his book, 1984, used to seem far fetched to me, but now I see it starting to unfold in our everyday life. The blurred lines of factual and fabricated knowledge accessible on the internet have already degraded the quality of our information so much that we are increasingly becoming unable to discern fact from fiction.
Older people often like to talk about how technology is changing our lives, and how everyone is addicted to it. More than anyone else, they know what it’s like to truly live, free from the constraints of the digital shackles we’ve willingly placed upon ourselves. I often hear people of that age half-jokingly talk about how all our time is spent buried in our phones, or how kids today seem practically lost without technology. I have a great deal of respect for these people, but many of them thought technology would never progress as far as it has, and therefore can’t imagine much more than we have now. Today, they joke about how we are addicted to our devices, but it’s becomingly increasingly less and less funny. If right now, all the computers in the world would cease to function, our world would figuratively and literally shut down. The economy would collapse, people would be lost. Heck, I’ve been at grocery stores where the cash register didn’t work, and the clerk had no idea how to make change. The Orwellian future predicted back in 1949 is here today, we are the citizens of Oceanian. Orwell didn’t get everything right, though. We don’t congregate in front of large telescreens. We don’t need to because we all carry them around in our pockets.
Who is to blame for the mess we are in? Ourselves. Sure, you can target the media, or technology corporations, or even people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, who brought computers and phones into the mainstream. They’ve all contributed too. But the fact is, we’ve all been working towards a future like this for a long time now, and now we have it. The future is not always what you expect.
We are making ourselves slaves to our devices. Our generation is the first in history who instead of trying to end slavery has embraced it with loving arms. Enslavement doesn’t have to be to another human. We are enslaved to our technology. Social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and even services like Email keep us up at night. We are obsessed with constantly staying up to date, making sure all our notifications are attended to. Each and every one of us is under a great burden, the burden of technology.
The really sad part here is that technology has such great potential. It can be used for science, to cure diseases, to travel into space. Instead, what do we do? Devote a small amount of our effort to these worthwhile causes and instead focus our innovation towards being able to run Angry Birds on a larger screen or distributing memes on Reddit. It’s sad, really.
Most people are ignorant to what’s happening in the world though, and will continue on in life gaping over the newest phone, and how they have to have it, without seeing the real value of these products, or what they’re missing out on in life. I seem to be hearing quite often lately about small children growing up with all this technology, or how toddlers are learning to use the iPad before they can even talk. I feel bad for these kids. Society has so pushed the ideals of computing onto us, that from day one, these kids are being forced into the hyperactive world of the internet and computers. Humans weren’t designed to sit in chairs and stare at glowing screens all day, but if you’re born today, you better damn well learn how. At a point in the future, well within all of our lifetimes, it will literally be impossible to escape the realm of technology in our lives, even in the remotest regions of the earth.
Now I’m not saying computers are all bad. There are many benefits to them, and they really can make life easier. For example, writing this post. If I would have had to write this without a computer, I would have either had to scrawl this all out on paper, or re-type it about 1000 times, every time I made a mistake. On the upside though, in 200 years, my great grandchildren could possibly run across that paper, and still read it. With the majority of digital work, though, even 50 years will be enough to pretty much kill all remaining relics of this era. Digital objects and data are practically worthless, and only a fraction of the information we are creating today will even make it beyond our generation. Even software today is practically worthless beyond our current generation of computer systems. With the decline of the physical object, many of our possessions are becoming unidentifiable bits stored somewhere on a chunk of flash memory. Just yesterday, I went through a box of old Apple II games my grandma had given me. Each piece of software came in a beautifully decorated box, complete with a manual that was more like an illustrated book. Each floppy disk is cradled in it’s own protective, custom designed sleeve, and some games even came with stickers or notebooks where you could plan out your tactics for the game. I even came across one application, a spreadsheet program, which was in a laminated binder, compete with sleeves for floppy disks, and a hard cover case for the binder. Today, what do you get? A box that prompts you for a password, a progress bar, and then a collection of bits dumped on your hard drive. Hardly a good experience. Seems strange to me that as our computing usage increases, the overall experience has stayed relatively stagnant, even declining in some areas.
With all this gloom and doom I speak of, you’d think I would have nothing to do with technology. That’s where the problem comes in. I’ve created my entire job around computers, and my hobby is using and collecting computers. I love technology. Yet at the same time, I realize how our modern society is essentially degrading the quality of out lives. It’s a struggle.
Technology really is ruining our lives, and I’m loving every minute of it.