New Year Wisdom

By Judy Dykstra-Brown

From the Ojo Archives

new year

 

After going to a New Year’s party for a few hours, I came home to welcome in the New Year online with a friend. I was railing on about the fact that a prompt site for which I wished to download an app only had apps for phones and tablets. When I asked if they had an app for my Mac computer, they said no, the place they went to set up the prompt site didn’t have a setup for a Mac computer.  This, in addition to the fact that more and more apps and software are being set up to accommodate the tiny screens on cellphones and tablets without taking into consideration that some of us are on computers has caused me to wonder if  computers are becoming obsolete!

The fact that many baby boomers are now well into their sixties and approaching their seventies means our eyesight is not going to get any better, and frankly, I need the bigger screen. In addition, somehow those born in previous generations (at least mine) seem to have been born with larger thumbs than more recent generations, for I find it is physically impossible for me to navigate a phone or Kindle or tablet keyboard with even my fingers, let alone thumbs.

I then mentioned how everywhere I went, people were all on their phones—playing games, talking to people other than the people they were with, reading the news or blogs or email. No one was where they actually were! He replied that this didn’t bother him but then seemed to do an about-face by admitting, “I think something big is going to happen that will bring about the end of civilization, but I don’t necessarily know what it is. It might be Isis and it might be iPhones!”

What he has just said has the ring of truth to me. I’ve been thinking exactly the same thing, but never put it so well. I am frightened about how smart phones have taken us away from our surrounding people and environments. We are no longer one place at one time. Even if we are not talking on the phone, there is the potential of every person we know calling us at any time and any place. And most of us make that call a priority over whatever is going on at the time.

My friend then told me about a new app that Photoshops the faces of those talking on the computer, fixing the glitches, covering up all those details that Photoshop is so adept at covering up. Again, I had a feeling of déjà vu, because I’ve been reading Ultimate Jest by David Foster Wallace, and just today, he talked about a time in the future when people on social networks are able to download an app that Photoshops their faces.

Eventually, the app makes changes to the point where people no longer really want to meet in person, because they feel they have become the false representation of themselves—or at least prefer it. No need to put on makeup, comb your hair, get dressed. Virtually, they will be perfected!! The trend reaches its zenith when in time, the app doesn’t even bother to start with the real image of the speaker but instead uses the image of a movie star or other “beautiful person” who most resembles the speaker–eventually coming to the place where what they have in common is four limbs and the same color of hair!

What he describes is so close to what my friend has just described to me that I get a chill down my back and the brain freeze I always get when I’m faced with a startling truth I’ve never thought of before. Is there any science fiction that will not eventually become fact????

David Foster Wallace describes a turn that eventually makes people reject their fake personas and to go back to voice-only conversations that do not even present any images at all. In time, those who use the visual phones with face and body altering apps come to be seen as narcissistic, gauche and behind the times. This is something I cannot imagine happening as our dependence on cyber unreality becomes more and more prevalent.

As we retreat more and more into fantasy and living in the far distance, what will happen to the immediate world around us? Will it cease to have importance as anything other than providing for our immediate creature comforts such as food, bed, warmth, water and medical attention? Will all of our psychological, artistic, amorous, social and familial needs be met through our online devices? And as these devices get smaller and smaller, will we ourselves evolve into miniature beings capable of managing them? Are we evolving back down to subatomic size, and is this a cycle? Has it happened before?

Ridiculous. I’m being ridiculous. And yet who among us, born in the forties or fifties, would have ever imagined we could communicate with both words and pictures through the air, watch a movie on a device smaller than the hand piece of a telephone, or that people would be living their “real” lives out and even choosing husbands and wives on TV for all to see? How do we tell the difference between what is possible and what is impossible anymore? I’m afraid it is hard to predict with any confidence at all.

 

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