I remember years back, when the first sheep was cloned. “Dolly the sheep” graced the front of a magazine, and as I looked at her, she seemed to be a very normal looking sheep. I don’t know what I expected, really? A sheep born of technology, according to the movies I had seen, should have some diabolical foreshadowing of evil framed in her eyes. She didn’t, but I still had a feeling about it that was hard to describe. We can clone sheep? It’s kind of alarming that we can even do that. This spawned a lot of hurried discussion with friends of mine about technological advances such as cloning, or the mapping of genes. I imagine the same kinds of conversation occurring when the atomic weapon was finalized years ago, and after its detonation. Are we getting ahead of ourselves, or not?
Years have steamed past, and I haven’t thought about cloning for a while. I know, deep down, that we are going to clone a human being. I personally think it’s been done already, but I’m certain we should be able to witness this in our lifetime. I don’t think we can help but to do it, because our curiosity is too strong. It brings up the question though…are we assimilating ourselves into the digital age in a way that isn’t harmful to ourselves? Well, are we or not?
I’ve found rest in the conclusion that we live in a dualistic world, and the digital age fits the paradigm of being bad and good at the same time. It may be that it’s impossible to separate the hemispheres, and we must accept one with the other. Beyond that, the management of digital darkness with transitional light will be the cradle of modern day philosophy. Without a management stratagem, we could slip on the peel and wind up staring into the sky with a concussion.
The digital blanket slowly creeps over our formerly analog world with a fluid sureness, it’s ones and zeroes flowing into the cracks and smoothing over the boundaries. Damn near everything is under the command of a brain or a processor these days, and sometimes even the brain is made servant to the computer overlord. Calling “customer service” is a splendid example of how a perfectly capable human brain is stranded in the airport jetway, while its owner’s fingertips slam away at a keyboard, looking for the permission to grant you a refund, process your order, or tech support your problem…”sorry for the delay, my computer is frozen up” is now an acceptable excuse for dithering away 10 precious minutes of your life, while the socially awkward silence is backed with absolutely toothless hold music.
We make digital photos. We make digital music. We make digital art. We live imaginary digital lives on video games. We have digital relationships and we go on digital dates. Millions of us across the world have an identity point (or points), on social media such as Facebook or Twitter that are filled with digitized descriptions of ourselves posted by us with thumbed acceptance by “friends”. Is it really real? What if all the satellites failed and the internet ground to a sudden halt. Does that thought unsettle you? I bet it does. I shudder at the thought.
Even as I write this, I remember pre-digital times of standing in line, waiting to buy the tickets to go see someone’s show. I stood in line at the same line at the record release, to get their album (now you just download it), and now I’m going to their show (which nowadays will be on Youtube). The line was an event in itself. Everyone dressed up to show up. You could look around and socialize with these people, because you would be going to the show in the same venue with them in the very near future. Was this a long time ago? No. Now, you buy tickets from Ticketmaster at a 4 times markup online, without a line to stand in, and all to see someone who shows up late to lip sync for you to a backing track, and ends their show early so they can get to the afterparty on time. I have a liking for almost every genre of music there is, and I still like going to shows where you might be buying tickets from the band members themselves right in front of the venue. Whether you like Death Metal or not, at the very least, these players believe in what they’re doing. They don’t have top selling singles, and they don’t lip-sync. They give you what you paid to listen to. You have to manage the darkness.
Nowadays, I watch as people stand in line during this current recession, not to buy an evening of debauchery and escapism…but to buy a PHONE. An iphone5 to be exact. This is the rockstar of the twothousandtens. Can that really be true? It is, because at first glance it’s a phone, but it’s more than that. It’s a freaking hand held digital device that has the computing power of ten years ago. It texts, it browses, it posts, it calendars, it calls, it takes messages, it takes pictures, it takes videos, it connects with the digital world outside of the real one, that we all contribute to constructing, and want to be constantly open to. When cell phones were first introduced, if you lost one, you would just go get another, and get all your friends numbers again. If you lose an iphone, you’ve lost your entire LIFE on that thing! It’s way more than a phone. I remember reading Brave New World in school and marveling at two lovers trying to find a secret place to make love outside the camera eye. We are in that world now. There’s a camera on every phone, every building, everywhere. “Big Brother” doesn’t even have to foot the expense…almost everyone has a camera on their phone. One mega-multi-eyed digital omnipotence. Powered by technology. Amazing!
When you look at an iphone5, it’s incredible that this piece of advancement is affordable enough for millions upon millions to rush out and buy it. Recession ignored. Like any technology though, when you remove the future designed outer casing, you expose the inside…the green circuit board, and the ugly components…the odd looking multicolored against gray…metallic components. Unseen, is that for every component, if it could tell its story, is an assembly line worker wielding a soldering gun, who hunched over that circuit board with a pair of goggles over their exhausted eyes, and burned it into the device. In the news, we find out that that worker is Chinese, and they work for FoxConn in China. They make the equivalent of 2 dollars an hour, and they work in hellish conditions. The iphone5 is being touted as the most successful tech product ever made…and as the articles say, that worker in China would never be able to afford one on the salary they are paid. Am I saying this to take a whiz on your parade, iphone5 fans? Not even. I love Macs. I work on Macs all the time, and I dare say that Mac products are more than a line of brilliance…they are a culture within themselves. People judge you differently when you’re on an Apple laptop. The same way the people who drive Mercedes are looked at a certain way. We live in a culture that deeply believes that we can identify with the products we own and which service our lifestyles. My point then, is that the management of digital darkness can only be managed if we know where to point the light. I know the Chinese workers agreed to work for 2 dollars an hour, but does that make it a fair situation? Does the gleaming, angelic looking iphone in your hand defer your thinking away from the reality of how it was made available? Does the fact that the strain imposed upon Chinese workers has caused them to riot at the factory? There is a real story behind that iphone5, is all I’m saying. It beckons you to enter the digital realm of imagery, music, entertainment, and social media…a place where the FoxConn worker is not so visible. On the other hand, a phone that sells by the millions is exactly what is needed in order to get our slumbering economy lurching towards success again. We need the iphone5. We need other stuff like it. So go out and buy that phone! But when you do, know that it’s not all good. Somewhere, and at some time, we have to start managing the dark with the light, because if we climb into the digital glow too completely, the dark may surround it…and we might lip-sync ourselves into forgetting it exists at all.