Reading all of these articles as of late about how the new augmented reality of Meta, Facebooks rebranding and refocusing, is going to destroy our world has left me with in a weird point of crisis. Perhaps a crisis of meaning.
I’ve spent the last number of years using online spaces to speak about and cautiion towards the potential dangers of social media and streaming. And yes, I am aware of the present irony. A part of the problem is that the physical world has deteriorated to the point where to connect with it outside of social media is often lonely and deeply isolating, be it in the absence of physical relationships, which is more difficult to maintain and foster than I have experienced in all of my 45 years of living, or be it in the general decline of physical, architectural presence and spaces. Yes, we can still retreat to nature, but nature has become a retreat from the business of our online lives. The problem is locating a participating culture in the physical world. Thus social media tends to become both necessary in such a world where the physical functions of life no longer exist in the same capacity, while also representing the problem. Thus the conundrum I find many people face when trying to disconnect.
I have often argued that people are not paying attention to the dangers of this now commonplace technology and that we are as much a product of our age (influenced by the technology) as we are free to be influencers (with free being a relative term open for debate). I’ve had plenty of hard and furious pushback over the years about how I am overpiaying that card and playing the role of the aging generational perspective preaching doom and gloom about the next generations technology. And how it is not the system or the thing that is the problem, but how we use it. People have reminded me that every generation does the same thing.
And yet here we are today. Many of my friends barely use social media or have gone off altogether. There is much being made specifically about the anger people feel over facebooks evident reach of control and corruption, with plenty I talk to these days decrying it for ruining our culture, igniting division and misinformation, ect.. These same voices are also the ones now writing a plethora of articles citing doom and gloom about the meta universe.
I wonder where the line is between this current generation facing potential monumental changes to a once normative system and suddenly climbing into that boat that says “this is what will ruin humanity”, and the next generation accepting augmented reality as the new normal. Is this not just another expression of that phenomenon?And to what extent does accepting a narrative of doom and gloom around the next emerging technology cause us to miss the real problem that people seem to fear, which seems to remain both consistent and beneath the surface- isolation, a lack of belonging and meaning, ect..
Here is what is curious to me too. A part of my pushback on the present technology that transformed the world I knew and became normative in a very short amount of time is that it represents something more than mreely a generational shift. It represents an evolutionary one. And not a natural one, rather an imposed one driven by technological progress. It represents an unprecedented time in history where for the first time technology has outpaced human invention and where the rate of change has no active corelary. Therefore we cannot measure generational change in the same way and by the same means. What we face today is not the same as the change that has governed humanity throughout history. The problem is that where change once happened in gradual increments, allowing humanity to adapt such changes to human activity, the way change happens today humans are forced to adapt to technology. The script has flipped, and with the unprecedented speed the abiilty to reflect on how such technology fits into and enhances human activity has been lost. This is real, measurable and facutal. We see this in streaming, social media, and in all of the interconnected technology that now governs our lives.
Which just begs the question. What is the real problem with Meta? What does the present uprorar reflect? Are we only now realizing the impact of such a world? Do we even have the capacity to make it different? Is transhumanism the inevitable future where human and technology simply merge and become indistinguishable? And if the uproar and fear over Meta represents a unique awakening, how do we attend for the new cycles of history in this present reality? All signs seem to point towards the repeating of history simply making itself known within this new reality, establishing new patterns of evolution anchored in artifical trajectories. As the idea behind Meta becomes a thing, and it undoubtedly will far beyond simply Facebooks reach and in ways that will feel much more practical and seamless, humanity will be forced to adapt to its trajectory. We hate what this means of course, and will intutively resist such reflections of determinitive course, but it is nevertheles true. Operating in a world without it will feel increasingly disconnected and fruitless, and nature and isolation will continue to play its role in filling that gap. While culture will still be created, our habits of consumption will be further driven by services and platforms rather than human generated cultural movements. Ownership and investment will become more and more ideas from the distant past, and with that our relationship to money will continue to change with the digital age. All of this is inevitable, bringing me back to that initial question. Is this merely the recognizable rallying cry against the loss of the old and the emergence of the new, or is there something more going on?
I dont know. Some thoughts for a Saturday morning.