Saturday, December 12, 2009

“Everything’s amazing & nobody’s happy.”

Very funny clip.

Lewis CK opens up a great avenue of discussion into why technology will never be enough, a cartoon version of a more serious argument that we become an ungrateful, unhappy society, blind to progress.

While my computer was down (for several weeks), I had occasion to reflect on why technology makes us so neurotic. About virtuality and computer addiction. The constant checking. Its not just computers, but the "message/communication" addiction. Email and social media and blogs and dozens of sites that are constantly updated. The "possibility." What if somebody walked out to their mailbox 50 times a day? That's what email does. And if we lose our connections, we lose our day to day lifeline to an increasingly virtual world. Perhaps, in some measure, technology is a reflection of mind’s nature to be somewhere else.

Failing to connect is *literally* the problem, in terms of why "no is happy." We are becoming increasingly isolated and spending the majority of our time interacting with the world through a screen, rather than we are actual experience. The real secret of our success as a species is our social behavior, and our intelligence tied to the ability to remember all these complex social interactions which gave us an edge....yet people are being pushed into virtual ways to seek the communal, rather than more personal immediate rooms and emails and TV. So the theory is that our society is deconstructing our tribal/communal roots because we're immersed in electronic techno-boredom and reward-driven activities and have no time for that type of investment. Its like the old joke, "We have the tools, we've just lost the handle."

A lot of the "bad stuff" were seeing culturally may be part of that. When you suppress a certain part of human nature, it must come out somehow. Like a balloon; you push in one side, it squooshes out the other. We're suppressing and neglecting our communal nature, and its the most powerful part of our humanity. The more you reinforce individualism, the more you get individualism fragmenting into various groups where its "WE" against the others. That's a natural human and primate behavior. As a result, the social infrastructure is crumbling. "No one is happy" because we're losing the balance in a speed-of-light culture that is totally amazing, yet so divorced from any organic real non-processed life. Compounding the issue, we're pushing ourselves to speeds beyond which it appears we were designed to live. McLuhanites have been expounding the polemic for years. We're all living somewhere between distraction and frenzy, and at the end of the day, all we can remember are our commutes and weather outside.

Technology is not the real enemy, however.  If advances were being used properly, people would not have to work more than a few hours a day, which is possible with the technology available today. If this technology was not used for war and wasteful activities, people could work three or four hours a day and earn enough to take care of any needs. So it would be a world where people have more time for music and art and literature and just living in a human way with others.

In the pre-internet age of the papernet, The Angry Thoreauian zine espoused neo-luddite views about living at the speed of light and information overload in our drive-through "give me more and give it to me faster" culture; Their focus was to study neurobiology and think more carefully about how our culture is evolving. This is a much better alternative to de-industrializing, or relocating to Walden Pond. I believe technology need not be an alienating factor in modern life, and the web2.0 paradigm need not be a "disconnect" if used properly -- as a social media tool that aids us in our instinctual ability to to form extended kinships, work together and live in communities, and have a more caring, integrated society. We need to reunite the tribe. The global village. 

Quoting Richard Linklater, "Whatever you do, don’t be bored, this is absolutely the most exciting time we could have possibly hoped to be alive. And things are just starting.”