C&B Notes

The Digital Trap

It is clear that constant connectivity has increased certain kinds of productivity, but does it also overwhelm or interfere with long-term, strategic, and/or creative thinking?

While our technologies may be evolving as fast as we can imagine new ones, we humans and our culture evolved over millennia and are slower to adapt.  The body is based on hundreds, perhaps thousands, of different clocks, syncing to everything from the sun and moon to levels of violence and available water.  We can’t simply declare noon to be midnight and expect our body to conform to the new scheme as if it were a Google Calendar resetting to a new time zone.  Neither can we force our businesses to conform to an always-on ethos when the people we work with and for are still obeying a more deeply embedded temporal scheme.

Instead of our offloading time-intensive tasks to our machines, we attempt to match the speed of our network connections.  Thanks to the Internet, we travel more on business not less, we work at all hours on demand, and spend our free time answering email or tending to our social networks.  Staring into screens, we are less attuned to light of day and the physiological rhythms of our housemates and co-workers.  We are more likely to accept the digital clock’s illusion that all time is equivalent and interchangeable.  But it isn’t.

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This is the digital trap: Instead of teaching our technologies to conform to our own innate rhythms, we strive to become more compatible with our machines’ timeless nature.

We fetishize concepts such as the cyborg or human technological enhancement, looking to bring our personal evolution up to the pace of Apple system updates.  We answer our email as it arrives, we trust Echemistry.com to calculate our best mates, our algorithmically generated Klout scores stand in for social status, and our Nike Fuel bands dictate our fitness goals for the day.

Internet workers are expected to accept the cyborg ethos as a given. Google and Facebook welcome their engineers to work around the clock, providing food, showers, and even laundry service for their programmers.  The bathroom stall doors have daily programming tips to read while sitting on the toilet.  These campuses are lovely, to be sure, but they may as well be space stations or casinos, always on and utterly cut off from the passage of time.