Life Before Internet: From Dinosaurs to the Divine

cyber-dino
(Source Unknown)

I recently read an article on LinkedIn entitled What it feels like to be the last generation to remember life before the internet by Magali Lopez, Ed.D. She discusses two recent books that examine the qualitative, everyday difference between socializing online and off, and noting that it is easy to judge your own worth on how many “likes” your profile picture has gotten. I am one of those who has experienced both the BI and the AI (Before Internet and After Internet) worlds. Working all day with, and being a mom to, millennial generation adolescents, I have had a chance to observe first-hand the difference the Internet has made in our lives.

1) Constant Connection — Millennial teens always have a smart phone within buzzing distance, and it goes off literally thousands of times a day. Whether it’s a text message or a SnapChat or an Instagram picture, they’re in constant touch with their network. I personally would find this maddening, but it is accepted as a commonplace part of life. Sometimes I wonder why I’m so unpopular–why don’t I get a thousand buzzes a day? Another aspect of constant connectedness is the willingness to share everything–pictures, information, opinions, etc–online. I think my generation was taught to be a lot less sharing with information.

2) The Deification of Technology–While millennials are quick to adopt and learn to use new technologies, I have noticed that the word and concept of “technology” has taken on an almost mystical status among non-millennials (BI’s), who are always looking forward to the next “best thing.” Tech developers create a mystique around newer, smaller, gadgets and faster, more biometric, more geo-location capable apps. Voice, fingerprint, and face recognition technologies are emerging into the consumer electronics sector. It’s true that data can be measured, tabulated, and communicated in modes many orders higher than previously. It is also true that following Moore’s Law, the speed and efficiency of technological devices doubles approximately every two years. And it is futher true, as Arthur C. Clarke remarked, that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” That which we can’t understand must be magic. Businesses, individuals, and the education industry are swept up in the promise of this new, magical technology, which to some seems to take on almost divine proportions. Its followers are the believers who don’t yet fully understand its scope or implications, but who nonetheless sense that by purchasing on the “cutting edge,” they are headed toward the light of superior knowledge and power. They know innately that it is better to be associated with those who have the latest technology than with those who don’t. Companies such as Apple and Google capitalize on the magic, almost religious cachet of their products, perpetuating the heat-seeking cult of the techno-divine.

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 2.48.52 PM
The Timex Sinclair 1000 (1982) (www.cracked.com)
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Things to Do While You’re Alive

 

Detail of a lamp I created for a festival called "Blooming Boxes" at Westmoor High School
Detail of a lamp I created for a festival called “Blooming Boxes” at Westmoor High School ©2014 Anne Campagnet-Reed

“I’m getting old,” I moaned to my 19 year-old daughter, attempting to share my state of self-pity and disillusionment, as part of a larger existential malaise. “Well, you’re not dead yet,” she said, with trenchant insight.

You know, looking at things from the perspective that you’re about to die really gives you clarity about what’s important. And then, when you realize that a lot of people really are close to death, and possibly really depressed about it, you realize that your moping and dejection are really foundationless. You look up at the sky, take in a deep breath, and realize, “Yes! There is so much more I can do!!” There is time to chase my rainbow, to right (at least some of) my wrongs, to move forward into joy and meaning.

I have been looking for my career to be my inspiration and my solace. When I lost my job, it seemed like my life was over. A part of it is. The social interactions I had every day are gone. I am nagged daily by the “need to make money,” that ugly little mosquito that constantly threatens a malarial bite. Its uglier big cousin, the “Need to Define Yourself by Your Job” is lurking even more menacingly, just out of visual range; a true vampire waiting for the nightfall of my self-esteem.

It’s time to turn on the lights, stand up, and tell the Boogey Man to go away. My daughter is right. I’m not dead at all, dammit, and I’m going to continue my quest to be enlightened and to do good. Maybe I’m not sure how, yet, but I have confidence that my path will come apparent.

This thought liberated my mind enough for some global reflection on society for the past 75 years or so:

It’s all about communication. Letterpress newspapers and telegrams have given way to e-magazines, tweets and text messages. Google Glass is showing us that you no longer need a keyboard to look up a person’s data; you just need to literally look up at the person, and a stream of their personal data appears. Other interfaces soon to be invented will allow our thoughts to control devices and communications, making any 3-dimensional media obsolete.

I’ve always been wary of Facebook and its seeming disregard for any shred of privacy we once thought we had as individuals. More insidiously, the web crawlers and cookies that are scattered everywhere we tread (like the breadcrumbs Hansel and Gretel used to find their way home) track our every move, and seemingly even our thought patterns. I don’t have a Facebook account, but I know that every keystroke I make imprints another portion of my identity into the eternal “cloud.”

You know, I need to take a moment to demystify the cloud. Calling is a “cloud” gives it greater cachet and significance than it deserves. The “cloud” is just a collection of remote data servers, basically hard drives, located outside your computer or device. It does not share the heavens with the Almighty, but lives in scattered, sometimes isolated rooms, in buildings here on earth, fed by long, steel and fiber-optic cables buried underground and under the ocean. It is simply a system of remote data storage, and nothing more. Big deal.

Now back to my mistrust of Facebook. Young people don’t seem to share my paranoia.

The hate of the 1940s caused society in many countries to close itself off and compartmentalize, as a means of survival. Hiding from Nazis and other fascists, extreme circumspection, a lack of sharing of any kind of personal information, were frequently the only defenses against annihilation.

If you look at all of humanity as a huge, collective being, maybe World War II can be viewed as a period of disease in our collective body, brought on by self-doubt (the need to blame someone else for economic and other woes), resulting in self-injury (the brutal targeting and massacre of specified groups), and the consequent need to seal off the wound in order to recover (lack of communication and ultimately the Cold War). Sealing off from other people assured survival. Or at least it seemed so to millions of shell-shocked individuals.

Maybe the Millennium is finding out that being closed off to other people is not the answer.

Maybe we’ve learned something from that. Maybe it’s that by reaching out to others as part of ourselves, we are affirming ourselves and assuring our mutual survival. It seems that the most prosperous human beings are socially adept and enjoy working with a range of other individuals; sometimes to achieve a common goal, sometimes just to catch up, empathize, or exchange stories. This is what makes social media—a vehicle for connecting with large groups of individuals—so attractive.

The impulse to continue to fight and “win” (currently exhibited by more than one aggressive group on the planet) is really an inconvenient anomaly, like an illness, or a virus, and the rest of the collective “patient” (humanity) needs to be patient and optimistic while the disease runs its course. Can you imagine if your liver declared war on your stomach? Or if your hands decided that your feet were an inferior race, and rallied the rest of your body to eliminate them? How far along would you be then?

Glad I could put everything into perspective. What do you think?

My Phone Will Never be Smarter Than Me

Little Bubble #2:
Smart Phones

Xmas tree

Did you have a good Christmas? Were your spiritual and material ambitions accomplished? I had a nice couple of weeks off of work. We had a few low-key holiday celebrations with family and close friends. Perhaps the most memorable thing I did was to lobby for, and help plan, a family vacation in the snow. We’ve been up a few times before, but it has been a few years since our last visit. The kids are teenagers now, and it was a good time to get them out of town and doing something different—that they enjoy. We also spent time visiting with some good friends we hadn’t seen in a long time.

As far as presents go, I’ve learned that if you really want something, you need to get it for yourself. I got myself a smart phone, bringing me irreversibly into the 21st Century. I fought it off for a long time; I really did.

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