We’re in the midst of a technical revolution like no other. And sure, the so-called digital revolution that we find ourselves in has been raging along since as far back as the late 1950’s (as some would argue), but we’re on the verge of something wholly different.
Far be it from me to introduce this idea — we all know it. We’ve been immersing ourselves into the cybernetic waters of technological sophistication deeper and deeper by the day, as our progression has been intimately stitched together with profitability.
There’s no stopping this train.
Much like the industrial revolution, capitalistic venturing (and our salivating curiosities) drives the technological evolution with an exponential force and we’re more eager than ever to dive into each new dimension of possibility.
And, up until now, it can be said that things have been fairly moderate. Lightning fast, yes, but by contrast to what’s coming, we’ve likely been moving at a snails pace. Smart phones, real-time Snapchat filters, virtual reality gaming — these are but mere drops in a computer-generated bucket.
As Elon Musk and co. try to exponentiate our bandwidth and as augmented reality is slowly creeping more and more into the consumer markets, we’re looking at a future whereby we increasingly exist in a technological state — this state then becomes, arguably, the normative interface through which we perceive reality. It’s an odd pill to swallow and, ostensibly, rather absurd to think that the digital world can replace the likes of religion as an interface but we really do have an American Gods situation afoot.
“All your questions can be answered, if that is what you want. But once you learn your answers, you can never unlearn them.”
― Neil Gaiman, American Gods
It can be said that we’re creating new dimensions in our own way as we slowly begin descend deeper into the likes of augmented reality or toy around with the prospect of transcending physical states of existence by uploading our consciousness to an effervescent cloud. Whether we can actually achieve this is something else, but we’re nonetheless keen to get there.
And so it’s rather interesting to view it all from a macro-social perspective — humanity came to exist and, for centuries, lived and died in the name of religion; scientific materialism drove it to explore outwards and adopt a physical standard by which to measure its existence. Unable to break through wall after wall of perplexity regarding the quantum world, and stranded on a lonely planet with an inability to travel beyond the confines of its own solar system, humanity then turned to technology for not only achieving its salvation, but understanding what that salvation is in the first place.
A debatable picture to paint, no doubt, but not entirely false. At least worth a commiserating glimpse.
“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”— Albert Einstein
So — to get to the crux of the matter — what sorts of salvation can be found in technology? What is it that we’re so vehemently looking for in motherboards and processors?
This post will present a handful or two of ideas but, sadly, the answer can’t really be known, or it may be something anticlimactic altogether. Nevertheless, a few musings are presented below, and any comments to supplement or challenge the list would be greatly welcomed.
Convenience, of course, is one thing we always seem to be driven by. To have everything at our fingertips — to be able to browse the pages of history while getting stock updates and setting our smart thermostats. We’ll never reach the limits of expediency and ease.
Transcendence of the physical world. This can mean so much. To not be ostracized due to physical appearance or to circumvent our own mortality. Technology offers a big step in our departure from a physical existence.
Connectivity, togetherness, and a sense community that isn’t blocked by borders or racial ties. Look at what Facebook and Twitter have done to unify people, amalgamate opinion and shatter limits of congregation.
Entertainment. Captivating, mesmerizing, void-filling and boredom-breaking media that we love to cocoon ourselves in.
Power in the form of knowledge and unlimited learning possibility — because we can learn how to do anything in real time. Virtual mentors can help guide us, interactive lessons from across the world can teach us, augmented reality can prove more engaging for students.
Identity is a staple topic of ancient and modern philosophy. Immersing ourselves into a technological reality will blow the limits off being whoever we want to be, leaving whatever legacy we want to leave and prompt us to wonder whether our virtual selves are more permanent than we think.
Discovery is a contentious one. Hanging above all, rather paradoxically, is our pursuit of the technological ability to answer questions about our physical world that we can’t know — to create devices that measure or dissect or see farther into the black waters of space than we ever thought we could.
Profit and Consumerism — hand in hand working to drive our technological progression. As Steve Jobs once said: “Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets.”
There are innumerable factors that propel us ever-deeper towards unfathomable heights of technological achievement. Aside from profiteering, it may be that innate human curiosity that is the main driving force behind it all — that ingenuity and sense of innovation which probably deserves top credit.
Ultimately — as we sail towards the unimaginable at an exponentially rapid rate, it may be worth a moments time to simply pause and wonder what it is that’s really fueling us.
“Feeding our senses a stimuli that is so similar to what we see in reality, that we interpret it as reality. In all other mediums your consciousness is interpreting a medium… But in VR there is no gap. You aren’t internalizing it. You are internal in it. It’s a quantum leap in mediums because the medium is disappearing.”
— Chris Milk