A new year has begun. A bit strange if you ask me. 2015 sounds so far into the future, but it’s not. It’s right here. It’s here and it’s nothing like we imagined it would be when we were kids. I thought for sure that by now we’d have flying cars and go on to space vacations regularly (ok, maybe I’m exaggerating, but that’s what we were promised, right?).
What sort of future did we get instead? Is it fun walking around carrying a smartphone sharing your location and private life with anyone willing to listen? I don’t know. I do it too. It’s kinda sad though. All that technology, all that potential, and what is ultimately used for is marketing. To get us to buy more stuff we don’t really need.
I think we can do better. Humanity deserves more than that. I mean we slave away at meaningless jobs, trying to get more money to buy things we don’t really need… wait, is that from fight club? Well, almost. It went something like this “We buy things we don’t need with money, we don’t have to impress people we don’t like”. I guess the point remains: why am I still quoting a 20-year old novel, a 15-year old movie? Why do we still live in a world where money is god? Why, even after (or during) the recession, did we not get it? Why slave away for other people? For faceless corporations, for greedy CEOs, why do we keep making excuses for them? Maybe we just like being peasants working for the king. It’s sort of always been this way, it just had different names over the centuries.
I’ll fight it for as long as I can. I am not a slave, I am not a peasant, I’m definitely not working so that the greedy people “on top” can make more money. I commit to making the world a better place. Through my work, through the technology we are so lucky to have, and through any other action that can actually help. I do not believe in collecting “likes”, I believe in studying, learning, sharing (in a good way), and acting in an organised calculated manner. But knowledge comes first.
It may be simple, but it is what I plan to do this year.
Machines which ape people are tending to encroach on every aspect of people’s lives, and that such machines force people to behave like machines. The new electronic devices do indeed have the power to force people to “communicate” with them and with each other on the terms of the machine. Whatever structurally does not fit the logic of machines is effectively filtered from a culture dominated by their use.
The machine-like behaviour of people chained to electronics constitutes a degradation of their well-being and of their dignity which, for most people in the long run, becomes intolerable. Observations of the sickening effect of programmed environments show that people in them become indolent, impotent, narcissistic and apolitical. The political process breaks down, because people cease to be able to govern themselves; they demand to be managed.
Ivan Illich, 1982
We all need validation. We all need to believe we matter. We fear death, we’d like to think we’ll somehow live forever. But deep down we know it’s not happening. One day, very soon in the cosmic sense of things, we will be dead. And soon enough everyone we have ever known, everyone who has ever known us, will be dead too. Gone forever, with any memory of us also gone. And we’ll be forgotten. As if we never existed. As if we never mattered. And this thought scares us. We all like to think somehow the memory of us will live forever. After all we still remember poets, painters, scientists and all sorts of people who somehow mattered, who made a difference and have been immortalized one way or another. Why can’t that be us? We take no chances these days. We create profiles for ourselves in websites such as Facebook, we take pictures of ourselves and our surroundings and we write in blogs (such as this one) making sure we’ll be remembered. After all, after I’m gone I would have left behind a legacy: pictures, blog posts, movie reviews and a very elaborate Facebook profile that will probably leave a trace in the web for a long time to come.
We have mostly lost any faith in any sort of God, we are all educated and no longer believe in fairy tales of the past. And this new realization brings back a very real and very dark threat: non-existence. We have always existed, we don’t know how to not exist. The thought scares us. And with heaven no longer being an option, we try to find ways to convince ourselves we matter. We know our cosmic insignificance and we fear what we already know is true: we do not matter, we will not exist forever and whatever we do, we will be forgotten. But that’s what life is. A very short time we get to spend in this universe. It’s a wonderful feeling and yes, we are lucky to be alive. You can try to understand life (the universe and everything) but don’t try so hard to live forever; chances are you’re not gonna make it.
“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. an alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.”
It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. And then things get real. And all the fun and games in the world is not worth it. At least it seems that way. For a while. Stepping back, some time later and you’ll see: of course it’s worth it. Not for the fun and games, but for life. Risk not, and you do not live. Risk, but risk wisely. And never something that does not belong to you.
Sure, you’ve all been reading this blog long enough to know I’m a troubled soul. Troubled, in fact, by the very nature of the world we live in and the reality we perceive. I’ve read many theories, and have managed to form a few of my own, about what is real and what’s merely our brain’s way of filling-in the blanks. I have yet to come to any conclusions, mostly because these theories cannot be tested and cannot be easily confirmed or disproved.
I’ve recently stumbled on this page http://www.learning-mind.com/10-mind-blowing-theories-that-will-change-your-perception-of-the-world/ which has lead me to look into the different theories that are briefly explained there and re-think some of them over. Sometimes you focus on one thing too much, you forget there are other ways to go about a problem. And this one, it’s not easy. It’s a fundamental problem and its understanding is key to understanding life and at least try to find some purpose in your own existence. Otherwise, what do we have? We can pretend life is just a brief event that does not affect the universe, or we can at least try to understand. By exploring, searching and learning, we essentially learn that reality, above all, is what we make of it.