MORE INPUT (Johnny 5 & the Struggle to Unplug)

“Read. Watch. Ponder. Post.”

I’ll admit I really liked the above prompt for this week, even though I’m a bit late to the game in finishing my post. There were a lot of “quotable quotes” from the readings from this week, although I’d like to start here, with Clive Thompson’s answer in his NYT interview.

When Thompson is asked what one piece of technology he would want with him were he stranded on a desert island, he responds: “I would probably take an e-reader loaded down with a gazillion books. (Making the assumption it has a solar ray so I can power that e-reader.) I am frankly really excited that modern technology allows us to read so many books in the way it does now. That was the dream of H. G. Wells and other science fiction writers, that all of knowledge could exist on a single device — which it does now. But, if I couldn’t bring electronics with me to my deserted island, I’d probably bring penicillin.”

I know I’m not alone in my amazement at the rate that technology improves. If you were to go back in time and tell 10-year old me that one day, you could fit endless books inside a device smaller than some of the books I was reading, I would wonder if you were crazy. If you told me you could fit books inside of a cell phone, I would be positive you were crazy.

As a result of this, I spent quite a bit of time pondering the nearly endless connectivity of our culture at this point in time, as “unplugging” is something I struggle with myself on occasion (okay, maybe a lot). After all, it can be hard to put down a device that gives you all the information you could ever want (and then some), right at your fingertips. It’s no wonder that, in response to “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” by Nicholas Carr, commenter Kevin Kelly makes the following observation:  “Question is, do you get off Google or stay on all the time? I think that even if the penalty is that you lose 20 points of your natural IQ when you get off Google AI, most of us will choose to keep the 40 IQ points we gain by jacking in all the time. At least I would.”

I liked this comment because I have definitely opted not to unplug from time to time, if “unplugging” meant losing access to information that seemed really critical at the time. Even when I’m supposed to relax, I find that access to a device (say, my smartphone) is often still a priority. That is, I often can’t relax without knowing that access point to information is there.

What can I say? I like to look up answers! I like information.

As the robot Johnny 5 says in the film Short Circuit, “I NEED MORE INPUT.”

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