Monday, February 02, 2015

WHY I AM CONSIDERING ENDING MY (DIGITAL) LIFE

I am a 70 year old man who tries to keep up with the digital age in which I live. I have a smartphone (Android OS), a tablet (iPad) and a laptop  (MacBook). I spend a lot of my time using these marvelous devices in a variety of ways. And it has truly ruined my real life.

My digital life is dominated by the apps on my smartphone, the apps on my tablet, and the software on my laptop. All of my devices are synced in various ways, mostly in the cloud. The apps shared by me and my wife, such as google calendar, enable us to keep track of our individual as well as shared schedules, as long as we don't make any mistakes when entering data (which we sometimes do). My consulting business relies on my devices, apps and software to communicate, coordinate, collect information, create reports and letters and memoranda.

I have 92 apps on my smartphone (probably a small number compared to many people), including apps to: measure the amount of propane in the tank of my outdoor grill, measure the inclination of a hill, do mathematics, magnify and take photos of things, measure sound level, convert units, convert money, translate languages, record sounds, check the river level, check the weather, buy movie tickets, waste time on facebook, check email, send and receive text messages, take photos. And cables and chargers and dongles - a boatload of them because Apple cables don't fit Android devices and visa-versa, and every device has it's own charger, and I carry a travel-size extension cord when we travel because most hotel rooms don't have enough outlets for the phones and computers we carry.

Photos - I have taken uncountable thousands of pictures with various cell phones and digital cameras. I have these scattered throughout the cloud in various free storage services, most of which I've maxed out without paying an annual fee. This is why I now have a flickr account - they give me 1 terabyte free! But what do I do with all of these photos? Nobody else can see them unless I post them somewhere like facebook or google+ (has anyone heard of google+?). But there are so many photos I don't even remember what they are, or how to find the ones I do remember.

And the convenience of my digital life. I don't have to leave the coach to go shopping - Amazon.com is all I need. (Does anyone else remember when Amazon was just a book seller?) And books - I read on my iPad. I have a banking app on my smartphone, so I can deposit checks and pay bills and all of that from - yes - the couch.

My digital life is becoming more of who I am than my biological life. I have a lot of friends - digital. A lot of people "like" me - digital. I go to exotic places in the world - digital. I read a lot of books, newspapers, magazines and technical journals - digital. I map out where I am driving or cycling - digital. I write to people and have nice chats with them - digital. I have discussions with people who see me and I see them - digital. I write about life and politics - digital. I schedule events and appointments on a calendar - digital. I watch movies, TV shows and listen to music - digital. I keep notes and journal items - digital. I print labels and postage on packages and have them picked up by the postal service - digital. I explore new digital applications for my digital devices - digital!

My digital me is always afraid. My digital being is constantly threatened by hackers who want to steal my identity and rob me of my credit and money. To defend my digital self I need passwords - lots and lots and lots of passwords and user names and secret questions with answers I'm supposed to remember. And the passwords can't be simple, they need to be complex. And I am told to change every password frequently. My digital self is so nervous about safety that I think I need digital drugs to calm me down!

I am no more than 0's and 1's, a vessel of data harvested every nanosecond of my digital life. Minions of madmen ad men algorize my digital being non-stop looking for clues and patterns so they can sell me to those who push advertisements at me. I have no secrets. My own government tracks my digital self everywhere I go, every key stroke I make, every search I google, every email, text and chat I have is harvested and analyzed and stored for the future in vast server farms scattered around the planet. My digital self consists of billions of fragments.

I grow flabby from lack of exercise because more and more of my shopping, banking, communicating and everyday activities are as a digital being rather than a biological being. How will this end?

Can I end my digital life? Is it possible to commit digital suicide - digicide? Is there life after the digital life? After all, my jillions of on-line posts and photos and messages will still be in the cloud even after I've pulled the plug.

If I do commit digicide, how will you know? Maybe you will notice that I haven't posted stupid things on facebook for awhile, or posted to this blog, or tweeted or tooted. Will you notice? Will anyone?  Especially once I install this new DigitalMe app; you know, the one that analyzes everything I have ever done on-line and then starts to generate posts from the digital me, without the biological me having to do anything. The ultimate app for digital immortality!

In fact, how do you know if the digital me or the biological me wrote this blog post?

---

6 comments:

Geoff Fishman said...

Dear Paul,

01000100 01101111 01101110 00100111 01110100 00100000 01110011 01110100 01101111 01110000 00100000 01100010 01100101 01101100 01101001 01100101 01110110 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01101001 01101110 00100000 01110101 01110011 00101110 00100000 01010111 01100101 00100000 01100001 01110010 01100101 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01101111 01101110 01101100 01111001 00100000 01100110 01110010 01101001 01100101 01101110 01100100 01110011 00101110

gebloom said...

Going to play Devil's advocate:

As Gregory Bateson said, natural systems have the concept of enough (corrective feedback), man-made systems do not, which leads to addiction (regenerative feedback). Hence, besides nutrition, we eat junk food, consume junk entertainment (the Web has replaced TV more than it's replaced anything else), and read junk magazines, junk books, and junk newspapers.

Just as with anything compelling, such as donuts, ice cream, and pizza, TV and crappy reads, you have to find methods (self-control doesn't work) to not consume too much junk. Don't keep junk food and deserts in the house; you have to leave the house to get it. Use your iPad in only one room of the house, with only apps that do a few things. Do FB on only your computer, and use the computer in only one room. Delete 60 - 70 of your phone apps.

Doesn't have to be all or nothing. Don't depend on self control. Humans have none. Experiment with life hacks to find a balance.

David said...

Maybe it is not so bad to be digitally challenged. I have trouble even getting into my own accounts, to the point where I have considered hiring a hacker who would follow me around and hack into those accounts that I need to access. So there is another alternative - the minimalist digital life. Frustrating at times but it encourages you to takes days off from the digital world

Paul said...

What Geoff wrote: "Don't stop believing in us. We are your only friends."

My reply: 01001001 01100110 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100001 01110100 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01110100 01110010 01110101 01100101 00101100 00100000 01001001 00100000 01100001 01101101 00100000 01101001 01101110 00100000 01110111 01101111 01110010 01110011 01100101 00100000 01110011 01101000 01100001 01110000 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100001 01101110 00100000 01001001 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101111 01110101 01100111 01101000 01110100 00100001

gebloom said...

Pretty sure that's a run-on sentence.

Keith J said...

I think the decision to make here is: do I want to have 10x digital experiences, or 1x real ones? After a while, the digital experiences are pretty hollow. I am afraid my kids won't understand the difference. So I should probably take them camping this summer!

Twitter