Yesterday I was replying to a work email, trying to send my electronically signed contracts back. Google was concerned: was I aware I had not attached anything? It had recognized the word “attached” in the body of the email and was worried that I had not attached. (The word was used by the sender, not by me, but that made no difference to Google.)
“NO, Google, I DON’T have an attachment, and that’s just the way I want it!” My finger stabbed the mouse pad impatiently as Google verified and re-verified my rash decision to ignore its warning. “YES, the email is free to leave! No encumbrances! Send it already!” Reluctantly, or so it seemed to me, Google sent back my contracts, sure I’d regret it later.
Fast-forward to this morning: I’m in the kitchen, preparing my coffee in my favorite, time-honored, ritualistic way. As I filled the kettle and ground the beans, I thought of the current catchphrase There’s an app for that. “Not for making perfect coffee!” I thought, smug in my coffee snobbery. Mentally, I clucked disapprovingly as I thought of all the lazy folks out there doing nothing, yet feeling they were getting so much done. I thought of how they have all their books on their Device of Choice (better the Device you know, eh?), while I had the real things, right there in my study. If the power went out; if the Computing Cloud in which Big Brother stores our data suddenly shuts down; they would be lost!
I wandered into the study, my coffee slowly steeping its way to perfection on the dining table. I looked lovingly at my books, some still in stacks, some on my newly made (out of my unpacked boxes) bookshelves. “I’ve got the real thing!” I thought, contented. Then I looked at my piles of photos and albums. “The real thing!” I thought again, smiling at all the lovely memories those pictures represent to me. Then, not quite so contented now—in fact, beginning to feel distinctly edgy—I looked at my piles of bills, unread correspondence, grad school papers, and teaching materials old and new. “Is there an app for this crap?” I wondered. “It’s real, too, and I’ve got it bad.” These piles, in fact, now loomed larger than the books and photos. My attachments.
Whoever thought of the word “attachment” for the IT world was probably a frustrated Buddhist. The ultimate goal, from what I understand of Buddhism, envisions freeing oneself of all attachments so the soul/spirit can float freely and fearlessly. Viruses, as we have all experienced, love to travel in attachments. (Remember the Love Virus? Bet that Buddhist techie was behind that one.)
Think about it: email attachments say something about the sender, do they not? All business? All FWD jokes? Art? Music? Gossip? Mundanities? News? Blogs, even?! Or is it a balanced mix of items? As much as I dislike sitting at the computer (for example, I hand-wrote this blog and am just typing it now), and find the majority of people hopelessly enslaved to their DOC, if the current were switched off those I tsk at would actually be free! If the Big Duracell in the Sky dies, all the electronic toys will be useless. Their owners, suddenly, would have no attachments.
Even now, today, the App-y crowd have nearly reached the ideal state Chopra describes as “doing nothing and accomplishing everything” (pure App-iness?). As I look at my piles of crap, still there after merciless culling, I realize I am still a long way from that perfect state. Sure, if the electricity is cut, I’ll still be able to hand-sew and crochet and whatnot, but it may be more of a “doing everything and accomplishing nothing” scenario. I remain attached, “free” only to work way harder than all those layabouts with their useless Droids. (And we are not wise to trust ’droids, as Sci-Fi has warned us for years.)
In fact, those who can live “off the grid” may have to provide for everyone else. The very folks who are already sustaining so many will find themselves with less freedom than ever. Being the caring souls they are, they will shoulder the burden of feeding all the people who know only how to download information, not upload or provide it to others.
Maybe those of us with books will be able to trade them for food. There will still be a place for teachers (they’re used to working for next to nothing anyway), of course. Artists will still be artists, creating beauty and truth from whatever materials are still to hand. Musicians will still play, from instruments they fashion themselves. Natural healers will still be able to practice their art, too, for they do not depend on electricity. Big Brother, with no way to spy on us all, will have his sphere of influence cut from global to what he can reach with his own lily-white hands, hands fit for pushing buttons, not plows.
I see Armageddon, if there is going to be such a thing, less as a global armed conflict and more as a hand-to-hand fight to survive. There will be a bored teenager who discovers a large switch somewhere in the Computing Cloud. He’ll say (because, I’m sorry to say, it has been my experience that boys are FAR more likely to do this sort of thing than girls), “I wonder what’ll happen if I switch this off?” Presto, change-o: Instant Karma for all. With no power, the Switch cannot be turned on again. The whole thing’s off, I’m afraid. The world is free! Free to kill for food and shelter, and free to enslave others to provide the basic necessities for them.
I just hope it happens before I have to pay all those bills.