Worldview: The Grind Issue

by Cary Elwes

By Cary Elwes
I fear that as I embrace the newest technologies on my smart phone, tablet or computer, I have also joined the grind and embraced the very tools that have done more to widen the gap between physical contact in our society. There can be no doubt that virtual space has begun to consume the physical on our planet. Rarely can any individual be found at any time now without their hands on their devices, their fingers dancing over a touch screen. Most of our information comes from them. We play games with them. Listen to music on them. Learn from them. Keep private information stored in them. You don't think they consume our very thoughts and feelings? Take another look in the mirror the next time you lose your phone. Or even think you did. Our devices have almost become, not merely an extension of ourselves, but a “virtual existension,” if you will.

I sometimes wonder if we are not drifting into an Orwellian dystopia under the guise of a Wellsian alternative. Thanks to Social Media, there is a whole new generation of kids out there who live for being the most "Liked"; to be "Trending" more than anyone or to have the most virtual "Friends." Our fingers can now aid us in putting off spending actual, real time with each other and replace it with “virtual time.” It is the rat-race of new digital society, which has developed it’s own etiquette and morays, with the internet the winner in that it is secretly storing all your information in a way that has even impressed the NSA.

The very first person to accurately write about how dependent we will become on computers was the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke. In 1968 that novel was made into a seminal film directed by Stanley Kubrick. In it, he and Clarke explored not only the first tablet, but the extent to which computers (in this case the "HAL 9000" Series) would eventually manage our lives; much like Siri or the Galaxy S5 S Voice are starting to do now. In fact, Steve Jobs was such a fan of the film he designed the iPhone to resemble the monolith.

Kubrick and Clarke would take this theory of dependence a step further, exploring the idea that besides becoming a supreme artificial intelligence, computers might eventually develop feelings and even conscious thought. In 1997, Clarke did an interview with Wired magazine in which he stated that he believed that for a computer to have real consciousness it would have to show a genuine sense of humor.

This one tried to spell check the word "wonder" with "wonderfreud." Mmm. Maybe it knows something I don't.

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