Tag Archives: texting

Final Fantasy 2.0

This post previously published here.

On February 23, 2008, about 200 volunteers flushed, level by level, every toilet and urinal at newly built Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., to see if the pipes could handle the load.

Imagine a moment when everyone in the world with a smartphone sent each other a smiley face emoji at the same time—not to test the limits of all the networks, just for shits and giggles. Put yourself in the micro-second between everyone hitting send in unison and the possibility that no one would remain on the planet afterwards to respond. Are we not right now suspended between the final fantasy of synchronized global suicide and its fulfillment via technology?

A far more sinister way to end the world would be to realize everyone’s fantasies, a process virtual reality machines have already begun. Realizing every fantasy would destroy the symbolic power of fantasy itself. We’d be left with a literal translation of every metaphor, a logical explanation for every random thought. No more latent content to our dreams—every secret would be dragged out of our minds and streamed “as is” in real time. Before too long, we’d pray to God for nothing less than Nothingness.

For now, we text and carry on—everyone equal before the Law of Communication—forced to send and receive information, most of it useless. Just do it. Just speak.

The most radical message left for us today is to say nothing at all.

Imagine a moment when everyone on the planet with a smartphone refused at the same time to send a text. Or a moment when everyone on the planet flushed a smartphone down a toilet. Dream up a fantasy so spectacular it threatens to end the world and then, for the sake of fantasy, don’t tell a soul.

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Final Fantasy

On February 23, 2008, close to 200 volunteers flushed, at coordinated intervals, every toilet and urinal at newly built Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., to ensure the pipes could handle the load.

Imagine a moment when everyone in the world with a cellphone sent each other a smiley face emoji at the same time—not to test the limits of all the networks, just for shits and giggles. Put yourself in that micro-second between everyone hitting send in unison and the possibility that no one would remain on the planet afterwards to respond. Are we not right now suspended between the fantasy of synchronized global suicide and its fulfillment via technology?

Humans are all equal before the Law of Communication. We’re compelled to send and receive information—useless information. In fact the more useless, the better. Just do it. Just speak.

Technology actualizes every possibility. If our ultimate wish is to destroy reality, technology will make it happen.

The most efficient way to eliminate reality is to realize every fantasy. Realizing every fantasy, however, destroys the symbolic power of fantasy itself. We’re left with a literal translation of every metaphor, a logical explanation for every random thought. No more latent content to our dreams–every secret must be dragged out of our minds like a false confession and streamed “as is” in real time. Data infestations, digital plagues: such is our new manifest destiny.

The most radical message left for us is to say nothing at all.

Until then imagine a moment when everyone on the planet with a cellphone refused, at the same time, to send a text. Or a moment when everyone on the planet flushed a cellphone down a toilet. Dream up a fantasy so spectacular it threatens to end the world and then, for the sake of fantasy, make sure it never happens.

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The Nine Billion Names Of God

In The Perfect Crime Jean Baudrillard references Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “The Nine Billion Names of God” to set up his critique of virtual reality and our desire to actualize the world in its totality.

Clarke’s story centers on a group of Tibetan monks who for centuries have been transcribing with great care the nine billion names of God. Logging the final name, we’re told, will trigger the end of the world.

It’s a tiresome task so the monks call in technicians from IBM. Computers finish the job in a few months.

On page 27 of The Perfect Crime Baudrillard describes man’s fate: “As they walk back down into the valley, the technicians, who did not really believe in the prophecy, are aghast to see the stars going out one by one.”

I believe the monks not only knew their project would end the world but actively wished for it.

The rise of IBM and its solution-focused IT professionals facilitated a quicker exit. Computers relieved the monks of their duties. Ethics and the Middle Way no match for algorithms and HTML.

Computers relieve us all from the burden of being human. Tools for the realization of every fantasy, computers fulfill our secret wish to disappear. Social media posts serving as our collective suicide note.

Smartphones, tablets and laptops communicate for us, but not necessarily on our behalf. “I’ll text you,” we say, as if the text creates you—a “you” we never meet. If the medium is the message, today the message is singular: “Show me your text and I’ll show you mine.”

In the valley of the shadow of tech we are all monks—all “IBMers”—exchanging the pleasure of face-to-face interaction for the stupor of screen-to-screen manipulation.

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Till Text Do Us Part

From the greatest graffiti artist of our time: Banksy (via The Guardian)

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The Grammar Police

My degree in English literature may not have netted me big bucks, but it has paid off. These days, better known as the Age of Texting, grammar is suffering. Many folks now make their mistakes public on Facebook and Twitter, but—armed with my fancy diploma—I manage to avoid the following nine issues, all of which annoy me enough to blog about them.

Lay vs. Lie

You lay a book down, but you lie down in bed. It’s like the difference between set and sit. You set your keys down, but you sit at a table. I blame “Now I lay me down to sleep” for screwing up even professors on this one. By the way, once you’ve laid the book down, it’s then lying on the bed.

You’re vs. Your

This seems simple enough, and yet here I am trying to explain it. “You’re” is a contraction of “you are,” whereas “your” indicates something attributed to you. If you graduated from grade school, you’re smart enough to know your teachers should’ve gone over this rule a few more times with some kids.

Me vs. I

Lots of intelligent people mess this up. Bob gave the book to me. Clearly, it’s not, “Bob gave the book to I.” Somehow, when another person is added, folks forget this rule. Chris gave the book to Kim and me. No way would this be correct: “Chris gave the book to Kim and I.” If you simply remove the other person, you’ll soon re-discover that “I do something,” whereas “something is done to me.”

Who vs. Whom

This one is often hard to grasp. “Who” is a lot like “I,” while “whom” operates much like “me.” Take this sentence: Jim hurt Frank. Jim is the one who did the hurting. And whom did he hurt? That would be Frank. It’s not, “Who should I call?” but “Whom should I call?” because the person on the other line receives the act of your calling.

Commas and Periods Inside Quotation Marks

In Britain, all punctuation marks go outside the quotes. But early American printers were worried that commas and periods would be lost somehow if they ended up outside the closed quotes. So, in America, this sentence should read: Todd never said, “Nate is a fool.” Most people, though, write: Todd never said, “Nate is a fool”. To confuse things further, colons and semicolons always go outside quote marks, wherever you live.

Its vs. It’s

The crowd is on its feet is correct because “its” is attributed to the crowd. “It’s,” however, is the shortened version of “it is.” It’s a beautiful day, you’d write to a friend. This problem resembles the “you’re vs. your” issue discussed in part one. In both cases, the words sound alike, but the grammar rule demonstrates the difference between the two.

Than vs. Then

“Than” is used in comparisons, such as, Mike is taller than Joe. I’ve seen people mix this up with “then,” which is used to indicate a current condition or some point in the future. If you’re too short, then you can’t ride the rollercoaster. Mary will see Sally then. Again, because of their similar sound, these words tend to confuse some writers.

There/Their/They’re and To/Too/Two

This one aggravates me. Here’s another example of words that sound alike but mean something different. “There” is a location, “their” shows that a group (they) own something, and “they’re” is the contracted form of “they are.” Why folks don’t know that “to” is a preposition, “too” is an adverb, and “two” is a number, is beyond me.

Should’ve, Not “Should Of”

Oh my, this one’s amazing. “Should’ve” stands for “should have.” The rather unfortunate “should of” exists in error only. It’s another example of sound confusing sense. Sometimes I wonder if I should’ve let these language issues go, but the English major in me couldn’t keep his good grammar snobbery to himself.

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