21 Jan 2019
It started in earnest in March last year, when my wife and I visited Stockholm to participate in a photography class and visit an old friend of mine. I brought my then a-year-and-a-half old iPhone 7. Since I have just about no sense of location what so ever, the plan was to use appropriate apps on my phone to navigate the city and find the right tube trains to get us where we needed to go. The problem was, Swedish winter temperatures and an aging lithium ion battery did not go well together at all. It was impossible to get more than a few hours of charge out the phone. My wife (who had an equally old phone) and I needed to constantly be on the look-out for wall sockets, where we could put our charging cables. Minor chaos erupted at the photography class, when all the other participants had to do the same and we ran out of wall sockets. It really was ridiculous.
That evening I wondered what the hell had happened to us all. How could we all put up with being chained to a lithium ion battery like this? The next day I looked up all the directions I thought I needed and wrote them down in a pocket notebook instead. It felt safe to keep that in my front pocket.
Our digital systems have been a godsend in many ways, but they are problematic too. I can hardly be left alone with a smartphone without squandering hours surfing social media och looking things up on the web. It always leaves me feeling weak and filled with self-reproach. It might be a character flaw of course, but when I look up I see much of the world being as stuck as I am. We are no match for the host of behavioral experts employed by the social media companies to reel us in even further and keep us glued to the screen. Why does not this make us all furious?
The world increasingly turns away from the old ways of getting things done and is growing increasingly dependent on data centers and digital infrastructure. Does not that make us vulnerable? What happens when the systems go down? I want my life to be more robust than that.
There is a movement now towards digital minimalism and a more analog world. It is time to re-examine how things were done in the past. Maybe I will discover that sometimes the old ways are just as good (or even better) than their digital faksimiles.