P bought me a Kindle for our anniversary and I’ve been re-reading the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on it. If you’re familiar with the book, I don’t think I really need to labour the point about how it was remarkably prescient in terms of technology.
What struck me last night was the part of the book where Arthur Dent has his human assumption that mice were being experimented on turned on its head by Slartibartfast; in fact, the mice were experimenting on the humans. Right now, I feel like humans, far from being the masters of technology, are becoming slaves to it.
If I think about it, I guess this has been going on since the industrial revolution established workers as operators of machinery in a mass organised way, but at least when you look at that, it’s really quite obvious. And you could argue that at least the capitalists who owned the machinery were in charge.
My point is that the technology we see as liberating or at least leisure-giving is actually trapping us. In my more disturbing daydreams, I see people looking into their devices and being sucked into the screens (there’s an episode of Doctor Who that did something like that, come to think of it). It’s already metaphorically happening, what with people’s attention being taken from the here and now and diverted to the information firehose at their disposal. We’ve even got a word for it now: phubbing – the act of snubbing someone by diverting your attention from them to their phone. I’m not perfect but I’m trying harder to put my device away or down when someone speaks to me, even if they’ve actually initiated a conversation while I’m doing something on the device. I’m definitely getting better at not getting the phone out when I’m out for dinner or drinks with someone now, although since that’s a rare occasion nowadays, it’s not that laudable.
P being away means I tend to spend more time on the computer, so I guess my paranoia’s come from staring at a screen too much this past week.
Post title lyric taken from Vampire Weekend – Obvious Bicycle