A Philosophical Statement: (dis)Connection

September 25, 2013

This video of Louis CK has been making the rounds, so you’ve probably already seen it.  Most of the commentary I’ve seen has been talking up an phone/anti-phone angle, but I think what’s much more profound to consider is the larger context of what he’s suggesting:  that, like many things, while tech has given us some amazing bonus benefits and capabilities it has also provided us the dangerous capacity to subvert our most amazing thing – our humanity.

While phones and tablets are perhaps more “insidious” in this realm due to their portability and thus nearly-always-accessibility, the easy access to all manner of media (and a huge amount of media) on our TVs or computers or game consoles or anything all provide easy access to escape and subvert “being alone with ourselves.”

Pretty much everything in life besides breathing takes practice and experience.  Walking.  Learning how to talk.  Advanced Trigonometry.  So does being a full-dimension human being, so does being with people, so does being with yourself, so does social and societal building and interaction.  In fact, I’d assert those all take a lifetime of practice.  The brain is a patterning machine, a multi-dimensional non-linear processor and pattern matcher, with the ability to craft and create, if we give it a chance.  Like a rat in a cage, we can hit a button now that’ll drive a little bolt of amusement, pleasure, or distraction into our brains, and make it easy to avoid the tough stuff.  Except that it’s not tough stuff, really… we say it’s tough, and we make it tough.  But it’s got the potential to be beautiful – the beauty of being alive and of being human and of connection.   As I heard it put one place:  “It is only by being alone that we can love someone.”

The brain is a remarkably plastic affair, and I know I have seen some amazing transformations in others (and myself) at all ranges of ages.  But I do wonder, and worry, that like language, at which the brain is most primed to develop at an early age, if the early and, especially, the more often that this is subverted and avoided, the greater loss there could be.  And/or to what degree the special ways a young child is hard-wired to survive those first few years are not replaced by new patterns.

It isn’t a matter of technology vs anti technology, as some are tempted to frame this in (aka, don’t take my toys away!).  It is a matter of recognizing that everything has multiple sides and effects.   And choosing what to cultivate.

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