A short stream of consciousness about the impact technology has had in my life.

I cannot stop staring at this photo of a man, wearing a very nice black tuxedo. He is standing, sort of halfcocked, reaching a crescendo in his mind, a breaking point. He is taking his jacket off; he is standing in a room with solid brown hardwood floors and a white wall. On the floor beside him, buckets of paint and various paint tools that have been dropped there in a moment of madness, desperation. He is, like me, a man about to be unleashed, and the beauty of the moment is not in what he will paint, but in the fact that he wants to. The painting that I love is aptly named something fitting, maybe, potential, and please, if you will, make it for me. I would love to see it. Maybe it is already out there.

It is not only the corona virus that has me crazy, but this will that is stirring in me. A desire to explore our world philosophically, and not explicitly tied to anyone set of rules. I think it is weird in academics and art alike, we must learn the rules before we learn how to break them. I don’t really know why we must even ever learn the rules at all. In reflection, I spent all my most energetic and wild years learning rules and pursuing degrees that it doesn’t seem that I will ever put to good use. Almost as if they beat out of me the very things that made me love who I am. I mean, I am obviously not a big fan of the whole of the system.

Up to this point, I’ve enjoyed the comforts of technology, the tension laden peace of globalization, the comforts of industry delivered to my American home. I’m in awe at the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence, Genetic Engineering, Nano Technology, Energy Alternatives, and Space Exploration. I mean, who isn’t?! These things are happening, right now! So, cool. But… there is the real, the right now to consider, you know? The constant distraction of cell phones and computers and video games and the incessant costs of subscriptions and passwords and privacy settings and social media…it’s like a parade of stupidity and narcissism, violence, and sensation, and I spend time on it…to keep the advertisers pockets full, the industry flowing, and the money pouring in and out the sewer system.

If I look back to my childhood, it’s easy to see that I am a living artifact of a big transition from physical to digital. Experiential memories for me would have begun around 1993. Bill Clinton becomes president of the United States. The World Trade Center is Bombed for the first time. Nirvana is extremely popular with the cool kids. The Unabomber is only a few years from being caught, blowing up folks. Monday Night Raw airs its first episode.

Windows 3.11 is released. The first Pentium chips from Intel are shipped. The Super Nintendo was all the rage, and Nintendo was working on project reality, a system that would be capable of rendering 3D environments and characters, later named the Ultra 64.

I was a hybrid child – no phone or internet, and one parent believed “leave him alone” and the other believed “he will rot his mind always playing those damn video games” so I was forced to cut grass, go fishing, do dishes, learn basic handyman and automotive skills, etc. But also… I spent time late at night usually, cruising my way through Super Mario Brothers 3 and later Super Mario 64. The vast majority of my childhood was outside though. I dug holes, built forts, played paintball, and rode my bike anywhere my parents would allow (and plenty they wouldn’t) (but not too far). I learned to play guitar, always wanted to find out where the girls were (even though I was terrified of them), and I became obsessed with fishing for many of my teenage years. I didn’t have a phone until I was ripping up and down the road in my first car, a cool blue Camaro. It was awesome. I didn’t stay on it all the time. I made calls here and there, but no cell phone games or web browsing for me.

During my time in the service I was exposed to the full breadth of current technology and it blew my mind. I saw people holed up when we weren’t deployed playing Halo in large communities, and we would at times move all of our TVs and Xbox consoles or PC’s to a room, where 30 men in their earliest of 20’s would play online…together. Laughing, drinking, and talking smack. I always resented that I couldn’t afford certain movies or game content when I was younger and that I would have to wait a few years for it to come out. So, I was introduced to piracy, and now the whole world’s content was at my fingertips. I also learned about external hard drives, and how computers actually worked. I even took a few classes on computing. These early classes would eventually motivate me to see the true value of education and encourage me to attend college.

A lot has happened in those past 12 years with technology. And now, during a quarantine, globally designed to eliminate the pandemic of my lifetime through socially designed social distancing through digitization, I see now more than ever that my life, true to my stepfather’s warnings, has truly lead me from hopping screen to screen. A recent week I spent 140 hours of 168 on a screen this week, and admittedly, this is an extremely high number for me or anyone, and unusual, this reflection seems sort of necessary.

This is what it looks like:

Wake up. Grab phone. Silence alarm. Check news on phone. Play music from phone while I shower. Check work phone. Sit in. Use Surface Pro. Check Email. Look back at phone. Scroll all the relevant social media platforms to stay relevant. Reddit. Instagram. Facebook. SnapChat. Outlook. Yahoo. Text. Call. Okay, back to Salesforce. There is an app for everything. Speak with group via Zoom. Speak with group via Microsoft Teams. Speak with group via Salesforce. Generate Word Document. Generate PDF. Edit PowerPoint. Manage figures with Quckbooks or Excel depending on the Task. Search the internet for information. Wikipedia. Google. Wikipedia. Google. Take Break. Phone Game. Work more. Turn TV on. Check phone to see news app while watching a trending Netflix piece or Youtube video. Go for a drive.  Xbox. Check Facebook during load screen. Xbox. Check Reddit during load screen. Xbox. Check Instagram or Snap during load screen or maybe during a break point. Walk to bed clutching phone. Go to bathroom holding phone. Lay in bed staring at news apps. Go to sleep with phone at arms distance. It’s my third appendage. It’s my flashlight, clock, stopwatch, library, social comfort, bored safe haven, media player, music maker, note taker, its my mind in a box. I’m already an altered human, sort of being prepared for inevitable genetic engineering. Is this God’s plan? For us to evolve enough to self-experiment so that we can crowd source labor for her? That would be a nice plot twist.

Submitted: May 13, 2020

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