The Unexamined Life

“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.” So begins M.T. Anderson’s FEED, a sci/fi story set in a future where almost everyone has an implanted device in their brains that feeds them all the information we currently get from our iphone/ facebook/ ipad/ computer/ tablet devices.

Including, of course, the advertisements. While this may seem to be a form of freedom—no need to carry those pesky devices around—it is actually a form of enslavement. For who owns us, when we don’t own our thoughts.

In our current world, I am reminded of our devotion to and reliance upon our devices when I am in public places, where a get together looks more like people sitting at a table, staring intently at their palms. Is this a good life, I wonder? For sure it is an easier and more convenient life. But is life supposed to be easy, or convenient? Aren’t we supposed to struggle just a little bit? This life of being fed constant information feels like eating dessert all day. The sweetness is addictive and pretty soon all other food loses its appeal.

With no other taste to break up the endless sweetness, don’t we lose our power of discernment? Our ability to judge well what lies between the gaps in the information we are fed?  Recently, I was at one of those trendy coffee/tea places—the ones with the one-syllable name, like ‘Gulp’­­––and my friend ordered iced tea. “We don’t have that,” said the hipster server. “But,” said my friend, “you have tea, and you have ice…?” The server shook his head. Iced tea was not on the menu. And he couldn’t fill in the gaps between the information to make it so.

But perhaps this is the way it needs to be. We are seven billion now. A hundred years ago, we were one billion. Now must come the time of cooperation and communication if we are to continue living on a viable planet. It doesn’t sound like a bad thing. It’s just that I have this nagging thought; something remembered from high school science. Isn’t an ant colony all about cooperation and communication? And I wonder, are we raising a generation of ants who are happy just to be ants?