And so it’s Christmas. You’re worn to a frazzle. The sleeping herpes virus has awoken and painfully alerted you to its presence. You drive to the doctor. Then to the pharmacy. It’s nothing really in the great scheme of things. A bit of discomfort, especially in the heat, this time of year. But it’s something about yourself you don’t want to share on Facebook, or with your former or future lovers, or with your insurance company, advertisers, or the government – or leave hanging up there in the cloud do you? Well if you own a smartphone darling, it’s thank you for sharing. You are leaving a trail of dots that can be joined. There’s nothing stopping the multi-trillion “Smart things” business now. The internet lives in your wristwatch, the locks on your doors, your car, in your eyewear, in your phone. Our physical world is on the brink of morphing into a virtual one. We’re tiny frogs in hyper-connected water that’s hotting up.
And yet in this interconnected world where we are all stardust, all part of the Great Design, what’s so ominous about being transparent? Is this Western need for individualization and privacy passé? An anachronistic foible of ageing Baby Boomers? A dinosaur in a quantum age?
Christopher Mims, science and technology correspondent for Quartz writes that 2014 is the year of the internet of things. And the internet of things will replace the web and tell us what we want – continually. No surprises. No spontaneity. It will moderate our lives, anticipate our thoughts and feelings – till we’re too dumbed down to wonder, whose life is this anyway? “The web will survive, just as email survived the arrival of the web.” Science Fiction, Double Feature. We are but players, joined by invisible threads that urge us to buy more stuff, that know exactly where we are and what we’re doing. We may feel important, special, seen. But there is a price to pay for our narcissistic specialness.
BI prophet and founder of 9sight Consulting Dr Barry Devlin, writes in a recent blog post: “ The sad truth is that we have lost most of our privacy already, having entered into a Faustian pact to share, both knowingly and unwittingly, the details of our daily lives.”
It’s a trade-off. Like most things in life it must be made with as much consciousness and alertness as we can muster in our dazed and dazzled minds. At it’s best it’s a symbiotic relationship. At it’s worst it’s parasitic. In exchange for everything there is to know about our lives, Facebook and Google give us social networks and information we may find useful – or not .
“Even the acceptance that our smartphones report our location minute by minute is driven by a consensual belief that we may be offered a coupon for a nearby coffee shop at any moment. The payoff for ultimate traceability… Which aisle in the supermarket are you in? What about some very specific retail therapy recommendations? These, and other soon to emerge toys, have the addictive quality of sex to many of the current generation of CMOs and proponents of big analytics,” writes Devlin.
Dave Eggers’ The Circle: A Novel is chillingly prophetic in the same way that George Orwell’s 1984 was 30 years ago. “The world has dorkified itself,” he writes about the insidious encroachment of technology in every aspect of our lives. Oh, but this is just a novel, he cleverly states up front. A chilling read and well worth slipping into your own Christmas stocking. Big Brother is watching us in our dorkified new world – every breath you take. Every move you make. Every bond you break … every time we use our credit card or phone a friend.
So step off the grid this Christmas. Meet those you love in real time. Embrace the spirit of Christmas with real hugs and real kisses.
Smooth Operator songstress Sade’s molasses voice melts the world away…