I was on a plane four times this weekend. For anyone who knows me, this means I had a dangerous amount of time to think and write about abstract things.
I make no apologies for the jabber below, except that I was writing for myself, so if it isn’t clear, it’s because I was using a personal shorthand. But, for what it’s worth, a few thoughts on technology, honesty, and privacy:
Our grandparents impressed us with their knowledge of engines and machines, their confident hands, their inability to use technology… the last generation to whom the world changed. For us, change has become a constant — we (unlike them) won’t be surprised by new technology, just impressed. We expect the world to be unrecognizable, while they expected it to be unchanged.
We will impress our grandchildren with our sense of direction, as we navigate based on memory, intuition, and guessing. They’ll look on us as half-psychic, half-blind creatures who have an unnatural preference for guessing, and an eerie ability to guess right. We will impress them with our comfort with silence (some of us) as a good and healthy thing, not a symptom of a bad connection. And we will impress them and confuse them with an archaic division between what we call “real” and “digital” — while to them, growing up in a world where more work and friendship and play and hate is performed online, where commands and preferences are translated into tangible effects, they will perceive our “digital” as birdsong, pavement, electricity, clothing, conversation. It won’t be feared or held in awe: only there, to be used without consideration.
We won’t keep them from this. We can’t. But if we can teach them about physical book-magic, about unconnectedness, and about the medicinal properties of silence, we’ll have done all right.
I don’t want to be ironic. I don’t admire parody as an art form, although it’s alright for a basic joke. Satire is fine, but you know satire from parody because it’s much slower to arrive, and fed by a passion. Irony is heartless, thoughtless, bloodless and (except in literature) meaningless.
I want my words to have meaning. When I look someone in the eye and say, with a period, not an exclamation point, “I love you.” — I want them to know, without a doubt, in that moment, that they are loved. I want to be sincere. I want to use small words for small occasions and great words for great ones. I want people to know where they stand with me. I want my friends to know I’ll fight for them, and my acquaintances to know I don’t know or care much about them. I want to drive people off with sincerity, and draw people in with compassion, humanity, and an analog, sandpaper love for their creaturely souls.
I want to be, at heart, a lumberjack. And if my trees are logos and websites that I cut from the frosty forests of imagination and internal politics, let me know when to lay down my chainsaw-technology, and sit on a log and drink black coffee, eat a sandwich, and listen to the sounds of the world rumbling, chirping, babbling, growing all around me.
What’s my relationship with technology? I’m fine with it as a tool, to be picked up, used, then put away. I’m against technology as clothing, dentistry, glasses. Technology should not be a thing that is always, inseparably with us, as it has become.
So why do I own a cell phone? To answer that, it has to be said that we as a society are more like a country of telepaths than mankind has ever been. With secret devices, we gain silent knowledge and send each other voiceless messages, exchanging knowing looks across crowded rooms.
As a society, we have embraced telepathy with aggressive force and vigor. But I don’t want to grant easy access to my mind, nor for myself to be always instantly gratified with knowledge and communication, except for with one person: my wife. For her, and her alone, I gladly carry a cell phone, so that no matter where I am, her thoughts and cares and comfort and fears and insights and stories and voice are carried in my pocket.
For her, I carry a cell phone. Everyone else can go jump off a cliff.