On the Digital Age
We are cyborgs
The one bit the science fiction writers got wrong is that the machines are not part of our bodies, instead we carry them around in our pockets or dock with them at a desk. Otherwise we are cyborgs. We cannot work without a computer, we cannot go out for the evening without a mobile phone. If the computer chip slotted into the back of our skull and the mobile was embedded in a rear tooth, we would know we were cyborgs, but the laptop is in our bag and the mobile is in our pocket, so we believe we are not.
Maybe we're being clever, making sure we can part company from the machines whenever we like. More likely, we don't yet have the technology for the neck slot and the digital tooth, but we'll get around to it. This is, after all, the Early Digital Age, and it will develop into the Middle Digital Age and the Late Digital Age, in the same way as the Bronze Age did.
Electronic machines enable us to do things we can't otherwise do. They extend our capabilities.
Here's a list:
- Remote contact with family, friends, work colleagues, employers, customers and emergency services
- Social contact with groups
- Knowledge of where we are and which direction to go
- Access to most of the world's printed knowledge
- Access to timetables, opening hours, details of business and leisure attractions
- Entertainment: music, video, literature, games
- Education: facility to learn new skills
- Calendar, schedule, time control
- Dictation, note taking, word processing
- Photo and video recording
- Remote shopping
- News and market information
- Data storage and analysis
It's hardly surprising that we've taken so readily to electronic devices. They do a hell of a lot for us. Few people are prepared to go without these extensions of human ability once they've experienced them. Maybe it's nice to escape from time to time, switch off all the screens and lie in bed or on a beach or in front of a log fire. But then the bed was probably ordered over the Internet, the beach holiday almost certainly was, and just possibly the logs.
There's not much to discuss here. We want most of these capabilities, if not all the time then at least most of the time. Our dependence has reached a level where we talk about switching off our mobile, about places where there is no Internet, but normality is that we're usually switched on and plugged in. Disconnecting, stepping away, is the exception.
Unlike a cyborg, we have the option to switch off our technical enhancements, to leave them at home. And we choose not to. We are cyborgs by choice.