*NOTE: This blog is not funny. It basically explains how mankind, as we know it, may come to an end. HINT: Sex+Technology=Extinction
It seems like yesterday I was rolling my eyes at my parents for refusing to get an answering machine. “If we’re not home,” my mother would say with her chin set, “then they’ll just have to call back when we are.”
This resistance to technological advancements seemed beyond my comprehension at the time, but now, as I face the ever-increasing glow of the digital screen, I wonder if perhaps Mom wasn’t right.
As a tech-skeptic, I am struggling against the gravitational pull of Facebook, the most popular social network of the 21st century. Granted, Zuckerberg’s ingenious string of code helped foment uprisings in countries oppressed by overlords. The irony of Arab citizens utilizing a Jew’s invention to overthrow their oppressors may even help bridge a gap of religious understanding. Facebook, this hero of zeroes and ones, is an organizational tool that has become indispensable to our new world and a best friend to millions of otherwise lonely people.
But Facebook, now claiming 600 million users, also represents the tipping point of a generation that has become so dependent upon technology in all its forms, that many, in good conscience, are beginning to fear the genie fresh out of the bottle.
As Douglas Adams of Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy stated so wryly, “Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.” I know I sound like a Luddite, or maybe just my mother, but will we actually know when we’re going over the edge?
The Information Age is changing the fabric of society in subtle yet alarming ways, and while its merits are touted on Wikipedia as economic super-grease and monster information disseminator, it’s also seen as a bit of a menace to those of us who seek eye-contact and the glow of natural skin untouched by screen light. As a friend and co-worker to the obsessed, flesh and blood human interaction and job performance do suffer. Like the climate changes that are diminishing population of marshland creatures, the slow disengagement of face-to-face connections may be opening a crack that becomes a chasm.
Several ambitious college studies show that interaction between texting humans may increase a form of relationship that does not develop face-to-face. Most people who text, send emails or use Facebook will admit to their discomfort with real connection. It’s possible that these relationships, like the looming Erotipod fantasy machines, may become the relationships of choice in our mechanized culture. We won’t just interact with our machines, we will love them.
Science fiction writers gaze ahead and construct a vision—a guess—of what the future may hold. An easy extrapolation, based on the trajectory of the red-headed step-child of the web—pornography—is poised to develop a 3D technology coupled with robotic synchronization scenario wherein we are swept away by carnal delights to the detriment of our most fundamental human need—subsistence (in other words food, water and sleep). It is not so far-fetched to believe that entertainment, now represented by the 10 billion dollar a year video game , gambling and streaming industry, may at some point become too convincing, addictive and fatal. Love will turn to lust.
I admit it. To remember when things were different, and to pine for them, is a knee-jerk human response that pretty much defines Old Fartdom and a myopic view of the fruits of convenience. But the progress of technology is a two-edged sword, and most of us are grateful for the orgy of delights that have made our lives easier, our children more knowledgeable and customizing pizza in our PJs a snap. The sharing of digital pictures, video and audio, and the ease with which we can send documents, files and information of all types is enough to convince us that technology has its rightful place in the world. Who gives a damn about eye-contact when you can stare into a video screen with eyes shining back in pixellated concern, joy and lust?
As observers of the larger experiment, how do we measure this loss of face time? How do we split our brains between the real and digital realities? How do we absorb all the cats playing piano and clips of car crashes and six hundred friends orbiting in the ether? How do we divide our time and attention to the Facebook friends that are all posting more about themselves than we ever need to know? That the faces of Facebook are flat and visionless may actually be a blessing. God help us when they learn to lean in and kiss.
The answer to all these questions is, we will live through the digital tsunami and adapt. And while we sit across from one another holding devices instead of hands, the new channels of connection will be forged, pushing our souls towards satellites whose sparkle may be too divine to resist. Let’s just hope that our ingenuity doesn’t trump human need, intimacy and our own fundamental need to protect the one thing we are likely to forget:
We are human, and we need real humans to survive.