15-50 Segment 1: Too Much Future: Dialing back on what comes next

Synopsis: We are a culture that’s obsessed with the future and technology. We want to “seize the future” like no other generation before, and become available to anyone 24/7 through the internet, wifi and cell phones. Our guests address these phenomena and discuss why it’s happening and how concentrating too much on the future and the internet affects our world, our relationships and our lives.

Host: Gary Price. Guests: Hal Niedzviecki, author of Trees on Mars: Our obsession with the future. Paul Andrew Sacco, PhD. Speaker, author of The Internet Apocalypse?

Links for more info:

Too Much Future: Dialing back on what comes next

Gary Price: This holiday season, there are more gadgets, apps and high-level technology for sale than ever before. Marketers want you to be on “the cutting edge” of everything from Ultra-HD TV’s, to phones that have more bells and whistles than anyone really needs, to cars that park themselves, and let you listen to music and podcasts from around the world! And even after holiday gift giving is over, we’ll be hearing commercials about the NEXT big thing. Are we obsessed with the future? Are we just too concerned about being on the cutting edge of…whatever? Hal Niedzviecki thinks so. He’s the author of the book Trees on Mars: Our obsession with the future…

Hal Niedzviecki: I have nothing against the future. What I object to is this idea that in our society today, right now, we are giving people the task of owning the future or getting to the future first, innovating the future, disrupting the present for the sake of inventing the new future. And this is the rhetoric that’s going around right now and it’s, in fact, very damaging to the present which ultimately I think is going to lead us to a far worse future than we would otherwise have.

Price: Niedzviecki says that not everyone is enamored of the future or even has time to consider it, what with the problems and hardships they face here, in the present…

Niedzviecki: We have this incredible rhetoric in our society today about seizing the future and how we’re on the cusp of this amazing future and more and more people are struggling to make do to see that bright new horizon in the midst of a mountain of debt and precarious labor and everything else. So this is part of my analysis of this trend, you know, we’re telling people in education, government is embracing this, corporations are certainly embracing this led by the biggest corporations in the world which are now our technology corporations. All these entities are telling us to go and seize the future and become change agents when practically we really don’t have the resources to do that, we’re not empowered to do that outside of the rhetoric and it’s kind of driving us into a very anxious, dark place.

Price: Big corporations have a large stake in the future and of making sure everyone possible is on the own the future bandwagon…

Niedzviecki: Obviously, if Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook says, you know, we’re on the cusp of this brand new future, and we need to make sure that the Internet is in every corner of the world because that is the future, there’s a big benefit for Facebook being available in parts of the world where it’s not currently that accessible. But we have to ask ourselves is it that important to have high-speed Internet in rural Africa when you’re looking at the parts of the country where, you know, 90 percent of the people don’t have access to clean water.

Price: And if you’re not totally taken with the idea that everyone has to embrace the future and technology? Well, you’re not with it, or old fashioned. Peter Andrew Sacco says it’s all about fitting in. Sacco is the author of The Internet Apocalypse: The world without Internet…

Peter Sacco: If you look at a lot of these commercials on TV and it’s just like you have to fit in, be one of them or you’re going to be left out, especially with smart phones and the tablet. So what it is, is so many people are now communicating this way through technology, whether it be Internet, cell phones or whatever, that the people that aren’t doing it are definitely feeling left out, and in some cases totally being left out especially when this is now becoming a required part of your life, especially in many jobs. If you’re not Internet savvy, you don’t stand a chance.

Price: It’s imperative that everyone fit in these days, and perhaps that’s why younger people are so quick to snatch up the newest gadgets and sign on to the latest apps. It’s certainly why the Internet and social media have become so popular. Everyone has to know what their friends and family are doing every hour of the day, it seems. Sacco says that if the Internet somehow shut off, we’d all be plunged back into the 20th century!

Sacco: It would really be interesting because people would actually, first of all, have to communicate verbally, face-to-face with people which would mean making eye contact and recapturing the, probably, a fading away rather fast art of reading non-verbal communication with is roughly about 75-80 percent. I think with that as well, too, you would have individuals that would have to verbally discuss their conflicts, do conflict resolution face-to-face or over a telephone versus posting it on Facebook for the masses to read first, hoping that it gets back to the person they have the issue with so they will then try to resolve it through all the other people online, so it would eventually get back to you. So it’s amicably solved by all the other people knowing about it. It’s kind of real interesting that has actually happened that much, and when I was doing research for this I actually found people breaking up, even ending marriages over Facebook or Twitter and the other person finding out that way.

Price: In addition to learning – or relearning – how to talk to one another face-to-face, Sacco says we would have to once again become more patient with the world and each other since we couldn’t pull out our phones or tablets on the bus or waiting in line. That is if we could get off the Internet and Wifi completely. It would take a total breakdown of the communications infrastructure for some people to get off, and this worries him…

Sacco: What is a real interesting thing that I have learned, being an addiction studies professor now for almost 20 years, is that they’re now showing people who are hooked on texting or constantly needing to use email messaging are very similar in their brain to what is called the gambler brain, individuals that are hooked on roulette wheels and slot machines, that they constantly need to check. And it’s all about anticipation and arousal. So I’m believing without the Internet you have a lot of folks needing substitute that level of arousal. And what we do see in addictions, is when you remove one addiction where somebody has a tolerance to it, they then need to find something else. So my concern would be what would that something else be? Would it then go into drinking and drugging for many? Because that’s an instant release, it removes their sense of psychological pain. It would be really interesting which, hopefully, we’d never have to see that.

Price: Of course, there are people and organizations in this world that are working on ways to keep the Internet and technology going non-stop now and in the future. Niedzviecki says those large tech corporations are trying to make us believe that what comes next is what’s important; that you can’t stop the future and you need to be part of it if you want to succeed…

Niedzviecki: And at the same time we started to see a collapse in a lot of different places, but particularly environmentally and socially in the ability to provide long-term labor, real meaningful work with real meaningful wages for enough people in North America and certainly in other countries as well. So the combination of those two things: explosive growth in one small sector while the rest of the kind of firmament upon which we lay our society is starting to crumble, has led us to look to this future, this idea of this glorious technologically-infused future that is coming.

Price: So how do we deal with our obsession with the future? With being connected 24/7? Niedzviecki says that we need to start thinking about the future differently, for a start. He says we seem to think there is an endpoint to it, where technology solves all of our problems, people live happy and very long lives, and everything is wonderful…

Niedzviecki: We need to really question this and start saying there is no endpoint to future, we can’t own the future, we can’t get to the end of future. And if we pursue the end of future as it is currently being pursued we will become something other than humanity. We will destroy humanity to get to the end of future we have to destroy the whole idea of future and change and optimism and hope.

Price: Niedzviecki says we need to look closely at what we call innovation these days. All of our technology, such as tablets, cell phones and the like aren’t really innovations at all…

Niedzviecki: Innovation historically is understood as the introduction of something new. For much of what we see today is not the introduction of something new. You know, we invented television, we invented typewriters, we invented the telephone and now we’re just packaging these things in different ways and putting them in different formats, letting us walk around with them and all these things are happening. The real innovations generally come from ideas. Ideas about how we can organize our society, ideas like the idea that all people are equal – that was a tremendous breakthrough in human thought. So those are real innovations and we have to get back to that and look at that very carefully as something that we’re much more critical about.

Price: Sacco says that being on the Internet too much can be stressful, hurt relationships and lead to addiction. He says that getting away from it for a while is not only relaxing; it can greatly improve your quality of life…

Sacco: I think if you gradually took yourself away from it and did it in moderation, you’d feel so much better. You’re not dependent upon it and you’re seeing that there’s a great life out there. And I put this out there for anybody who’s listening, how many of you have actually savored the beauty of this autumn, the colorful leaves, the beautiful El Nino weather that we’ve had? Or have you been glued to your computer screen and go “oh my god! It’s snow on the ground. When did that all come to be?” And I think that’s part of the problem: people are just forgetting to live their everyday lives and enjoy it. And I think there’s a big difference between existing and enduring your life versus getting out there and enjoying life.

Price: Neither of our guests is saying that technology, the Internet and thinking about the future are bad, it’s just that they need to be part of our lives, rather than the point of our lives. You can find out how we got so obsessed with thinking about the future and find more ways to work harder to make things good in the present in Hal Niedzviecki’s book, Trees on Mars, available in stores and online. He invites listeners to his website at TreesonMars.net. You can learn more about Peter Andrew Sacco and his book, “The Internet Apocalypse” on his site at PeterSacco.com. For more information about all of our guests, log onto our site at Viewpointsonline.net. You can find archives of past programs there and on iTunes and Stitcher. I’m Gary Price.

 

Advertisements