The information age.
A new industrial revolution powered by silicon electronic technology, binary arithmetic and computer science.
I’m one of the worker bees of this epoch. You’ll find me buried deep within the hierarchy of corporations composing symphonia of code on the plastic piano, or perhaps helping those already dependent on technology to cope when a malfunction occurs.
In my spare time I spend countless hours browsing the worldwide web via various devices: desktop – laptop – tablet – smartphone. Or I can sometimes be found dancing to music created on computers much like the ones that I work with. I play games on my X-Box, and when I shop, each purchase is recorded in large remote databases. Through these I become a segment score; my behaviour correlated with marketing campaigns, demographic pigeon holing and environmental conditions until I become a predictable unit of potential sales.
My life is conducted to the beat of the clock cycle (the timing function within computer devices that orchestrates the execution of instructions). It’s my digital heartbeat. I am modern man.
I am also a node in a social network. Linked on LinkedIn, my face is brokered on Facebook.
This same net is also be a device of entanglement and entrapment. That is, it is now a trawling device largely used by marketers to drag us all down to the lowest common denominator for the purpose of profit. It leaves us thrashing about together, gasping for the air that would truly set us free.
Perhaps we should strive to rise above this techno-socio construction of our own fashioning and disconnect ourselves from the machine for a while. We could dance to analogue music, where the lack of perfect syncopation is a joy and flaw is beheld as a form of beauty. We could purchase our goods from small stallholders, and perhaps eschew the segment-creating and de-humanising “loyalty” and “My account” schemes of large enterprises.
Yes! I advocate a disconnection from this, perhaps the largest marketing machine that the world has ever known. The net. The trawler. See how it scoops up the intended and the unintended from the sea bed of society. See how marketers of pornography unknowingly catch young innocents alongside the targeted older audience in their digital dragnet.
We could spend our days in libraries re-acquainting ourselves with the exhilaration of random discovery instead of the tedium of the targeted suggestion. We could look at actual things instead of pixellated representations. Enjoy real relationships, indicate Likes with smiles, hugs and kisses. And really laugh out loud.
Do you know what this technology is doing to our collective psychology? No? Neither do they. Like tobacco, by the time they find out, the roll-call of casualty may already be considerable.
Yes tech is easy, tech is useful, tech is good. But tech can also be bad. It may destroy something valuable within us. I am a worker drone. I helped to create the machine.
And with information technology comes the fetishisation of information, of collection and measurement. “Everything can be measured, and that which gets measured gets managed” cry the McKinsey worker ants. Thus targets for our hospitals, curricula for our children, tick boxes for our old people’s homes, and league tables for our schools.
Tech turns our managers into inhuman adding machines, only seeing value in quantitative outcomes. They become blind to the immeasurable value in laughter, joy, tears and touch.
Tech is easy, tech is useful, tech is good, but too much tech may be de-humanising. We now sing the polyphonic song of life in two-tone binary. Off and on. White and black. One and zero. We ape the machine; twenty first century man seeks to emulate it, to become it. Humanity is being asphyxiated by the terametres of category five cable that repeatedly circumnavigates the globe, until the only colour visible from space will be the grey of plastic sheathing.
The epitaph for our lost souls will be written as a four-byte binary code: 255.255.255.0.
Welcome to the information age.