FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Technophilia, Technotyranny, Techno-infantilism

It is impossible to work with information technology without also engaging in social engineering.

– Jaron Lanier, from “You Are Not A Gadget”

In the canyon, one shoulders the pack, and the pack contains all that’s needed.  Sleeping bag and extra clothes against the cold of the night.  Lamp to light the way to our sleep, and a knife to carve in elder-bark our sigils soon to be old and gone.  The October days beginning the arc toward winter, the slant-light in the canyons mirrored in the waters of the last flood, the walls high and narrow, no escape here in the bowels of the earth.  My woman’s legs long and arrow-like, the footsteps precise, her face tanned – altogether, above all, her form noble: homo erectus, head high, navigating by stars, and in the carefulness of the silence, setting camp between the few trees that grow on the sandbanks above where the flood ran in the dark of the canyon.

Then back to the city and the human ladder to nowhere.  It is not exaggeration to remark how vaguely demented is the physical life we “professionals” lead in our working hours.  Mostly this life consists of sitting at the computer, tapping at the keys, checking the e-mail, looking plaintively at the cell phone.  It’s pretty undignified and kind of sad.  The constant prompting of lights and flashing boxes and bells, the acceptance that one is supposed to interact with a machine as if this is quite normal and indeed how things are meant to be.   If one could hover out of body over the creature bent obsequiously to the manipulation of the flashing boxes, one would ask: What kind of a man is this?  Has he lost all self-respect?  Is he insane?

Or here behold, on a city street, the creature walking head-down with PDA or cell phone or iPhone or iPod or whatever will be next marketed for the improvement of the species.   Always the electro-plastic appendage demanding service.  It rings, it cajoles, it buzzes and blinks in blues and yellows – it screams, it must be answered, fidgeted with, and, after, gripped the more so in expectation.   Even if this means walking into lightpoles, falling down manholes, running into parked cars; a daily recurrence, reported in every city in the world.   I see the infant with his rattle: On a subway to Brooklyn, all eyes bowed to the techno-toys, all else is out of focus.  I remember when I was 20 I gave up walking around with a Walkman.  It seemed a thing of childishness, to be encased in the music of self when the noise of the world in its actuality called out.   There was a crushing aloneness in the Walkman.

Now the technology demands this aloneness – which is ironic, given the promise of “connectivity” in the wireless revolution.   The delusion is that one must be in connection at all times, to be tethered for business and pleasure both.  Mostly the connection is with one’s clan.   A friend tells me how his brother moved to Seattle but made no new friends there, because he maintained all the friends he needed at his fingertips.  His interactions became perversely closed-in, shut out from immediacy.  The self-announcement in the public use of the cell phone, the conversation imposed in the supermarket or on the sidewalk, the head low over the little machine texting, declares that I am apart – removed to the voices, signs and secrets of the wireless clan.  The act of talking and texting in public is the act of becoming a ghost to everyone else.  In New York City, this has resulted, I would argue, in the near-disappearance of serendipitous encounters with passersby, fellow train and bus riders, all those shy (or not so shy) hellos, smiles, eye contacts, pickups that happen less and less because we are ceding ourselves to the ubiquity of the tyrant machines.

Now to leave home without the electrical appendage is as if you have forgotten a portion of being.   Perhaps you have.  The mind corrodes with dependence, it devolves, and a creeping senility sets in, an Alzheimer’s in middle age.  I used to know dozens of phone numbers by heart.  Now the numbers are encoded in the devices.  The digital hive mind, faith unto Google, becomes the storehouse of knowledge.   And all this, we are told, in the name of the kind of efficiency where the sloped and debilitated figure tap-tapping on the keyboard is considered the zenith of human progress.

CHRISTOPHER KETCHAM, a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY, is working on a book about U.S. secession movements.  Find more of his work at www.christopherketcham.com or contact him at cketcham99@mindspring.com.

 

 

WORDS THAT STICK

More articles by:

Christopher Ketcham is the author of the forthcoming “This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism and Corruption are Ruining the American West,” out next year from Viking-Penguin.  He can be reached at cketcham99@mindspring.com.

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Nevins
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Jasmine Aguilera
Beto’s Lasting Legacy
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Yves Engler
Ottawa, Yemen and Guardian
Michael Winship
This Was No Vote Accident
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Tracey L. Rogers
Dear White Women, There May be Hope for You After All
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Thomas Knapp
Scott Gottlieb’s Nicotine Nazism Will Kill Kids, Not Save Them
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail