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 a freelance writer.  You can write him at cketcham99@mindspring.com or see more of his work at christopherketcham.com.

Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail