One of my favorite books is “Lost Empires” by J.B. Priestly. It makes me think about loss and where things go when they “go lost” which, of course, makes me wonder about technology. What happens to extinct technology, where does it go? Do we ever really rid ourselves of anything or is there some way it will all come back to haunt us. They used to say when you were done with a computer you should pull out the hard drive and beat it with a rock so that your data would be securely disposed of but in this world of connectivity how do we know lost is really lost? Can we really be sure we are rid of anything?
In the Harper’s Index there was a statement about the amount of people who had made a purchase on their mobile devices while at a funeral. This got me to thinking about the role of technology in our spiritual lives and it made me ask, is Facebook the new form of prayer? Like prayer when we post we are putting ourselves out to a larger force hoping for at least recognition and at best some affirmation of what we are stating. Perhaps we see being liked as a step to some social salvation. As 20% of people under 30 don’t proclaim to belong to an organized religion – is it possible that Facebook has become the communication with another possibly higher power that they are looking for?
Growing up I remember seeing the Memorex commercials with Ella Fitzgerald where she would sing some impossibly high note have it recorded and the show a wine glass shattering while the viewer heard the high note with the tag line “Is it live or is it Memorex” leaving us to wonder was she singing live or did the recorded sound break the glass. It makes me think of going to see a taping of the Late Show with David Letterman some years ago. We arrived early and felt lucky to get seats close to the stage in hopes of getting good views of the guests and Dave himself. Once seated we waited for the show to begin and noticed the large amount of video monitors in our view. It seems that once the show started the cameras and staff were almost constantly blocking our view making us rely on the monitors to see what was happening.
Recently I heard an interview with the IT director of the Barclay center, the new arena in Brooklyn. He was going about how they have a new app that can be accessed only in the center allowing people access views from all the many cameras on the court around the arena. He went on to say that you can use this app to access views from around the arena, from different angles even play backs of recent plays to see if the referee made the right call. This app works through out the arena so that you could be waiting in line to buy beer and still watch the game on your tablet or phone.
It made me think about what now will pass as a live experience. If are in the same room as an event and watching it on a monitor what is the difference if we are there or hundreds of miles away? How much do we lose when live is replaced by virtual and will virtual replace a live experience? Will seeing a movie about China be the same as being there and are we really seeing it if we only see it on the screen of our laptop as we post images of what we are “seeing”
It was late in the day as I finished my cup of coffee at the coffee shop near my house. I watched an employee- probably a high school student or older rolling up the mat at the front door. What was his job life going to be in this new technical age, this technological industrial revolution where more and more people are replaced by machines in the ongoing march of progress. I was reminded of a something George Orwell wrote- “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever. “ It would be pretty to think that this is only a fiction and that the truth will be much brighter, that the living wage would become the norm and the middle class wouldn’t be defined by lowest income can survive without government aid.
It would be pretty to think so.