Sunday, July 24, 2011
Riding the Subway
Dmitry Orlov, Dead Souls
In a world of dwindling resources, where each person's share of the physical realm decreases over time, it is no wonder that physical reality fails to satisfy. But thanks to the new, intimate, glowing handheld mobile computing devices, the unsatisfactory real world can be blotted out, and replaced with a cleansed, bouncy, shiny version of society in which little avatars utter terse little messages. In the cyber-realm there are no sweaty bodies, no cacophony of voices to suffer through—just a smooth, polished, expertly branded user experience.
While riding the subway through the Boston rush hour, I have been able to observe just how well these personal electronic mental life support units work in shielding people from the sight of their fellow-passengers, who are becoming a rougher and rougher-looking crew, with more and more people in obvious distress. By focusing all of their attentions on the tiny screen, they are also spared the sight of our well-worn and crumbling urban infrastructure. It is as if the physical world doesn't really exist for them, or at least doesn't matter. But as Masanobu Fukuoka put it, “If we throw Mother Nature out the window, she comes back through the door with a pitchfork,” and as we ignore the physical realm, the physical economy (the one that actually keeps people fed and sheltered and moves them about the landscape) shrinks and decays. The inevitable result is that more and more of these cyber-campers and their gadgets will drop off the network, shrivel, and die with nary a tweet to signal their demise.
Hat tip: Jim K.