solving problems that don’t exist
October 12, 2013, 4:27 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , ,

Telling: Each photograph explores contemporary American life, as well as revealing family dynamics that become most clear at the dinner tableWhen things aren’t working we get busy solving problems that most people didn’t even know existed. For example, think of all the things that aren’t working for people in this age of debt and crisis and no jobs. Now recall how we expend vast creative resources to make gadgets, which are lovely, but which don’t really alter the general landscape that much. Now understand how these trends – the rise of gadgets and the decline of life – are linked.

That’s Packer’s point in his essay Upgrade or Die:

My unprovable hypothesis is that obsessive upgrading and chronic stagnation are intimately related, in the same way that erotic fantasies are related to sexual repression. The fetish that surrounds Google Glass or the Dow average grows ever more hysterical as the economic status of the majority of Americans remains flat. When things don’t work in the realm of stuff, people turn to the realm of bits. If the physical world becomes intransigent, you can take refuge in the virtual world, where you can solve problems–how do I make a video of my skydiving adventure while keeping my hands free?—that most of your countrymen didn’t know existed. Morozov puts it this way: “Last year the futurist Ayesha Khanna even described smart contact lenses that could make homeless people disappear from view, ‘enhancing our basic sense’ and, undoubtedly, making our lives so much more enjoyable. In a way, this does solve the problem of homelessness—unless, of course, you happen to be a homeless person.”

George Packer, Upgrade or Die, The New Yorker


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