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Metal Machine Music

Posted: 01.02.14

2013 is the year the computer began to fade away, just like Tinker Bell when all the little children stopped believing in her, just like Santa Claus, who once he is done with his trip goes into hibernation for 10 months. We’re writing almost as much about mobile devices and technology for cars, glasses, and wristwatches as we are about graphics chips, boards, and PCs. No, they’re not gone yet, yes we’re still chained to the damned things, but their hold is weakening. That’s not to say we’re getting our freedom—in the end, we may well have less. Now, we’re just time shifting, putting off until this afternoon in the coffeeshop what we should have done this morning in the office.

This isn’t progress and it’s not much help. If there’s one thing the we don’t need it’s a new way to procrastinate. It would be nice, though, to get to information that’s actually useful. The good news is that will happen; the bad news is, there’ll be so much of it.

After 2014 comes a new age of information. Instead of battling wave after wave of data, we’ll have simply voluntarily drowned ourselves in a warm bath of information that we can breathe in and use and breathe out and forget. I’m pretty sure this will not be a good thing in the long run. Given what we’re learning about the United States’ spy machines, not to mention the Google spy machines, and Facebook, and China, some reflection would seem to be called for. But what’s pretty much a fact is that most of us are going to attach the antennas right onto our heads, or wherever, and broadcast our coordinates and our inner most thoughts to the great out-there. It’s crazy on the face of it, but it’s not surprising to anyone who has seen the movie Citizen’s Band. People just gotta communicate.

Where there is hope, there are jet packs 

In the last couple of issues, we’ve been excited about the new game consoles and 3D sensors that are enabling our devices to see in 3D and letting us capture 3D. I think this is more than simply a matter of scanning an object and spitting it back out again. Or cap-turing an object so we can render it like a kid with a better coloring book and crayons. When our devices can see 3D more like the way we can see 3D, we’re one step closer to experience rather than data and we’re stepping beyond dimensions into a marriage of data and experience—context. So, maybe on some hike in the future when you almost step on a pretty snake and your poor brain is working on childhood warnings, red and yellow friend of fellow, red and black … wait …? Instead, your sensor enhanced brain is able to say, yipes! Coral snake. Jump! And maybe a little further down the road, when that happens again, your legs, enhanced with motors for emergencies, will help you jump really high and run really fast. After all, Nvidia is telling us their sensors can make our cars see more, do more, sense everything, shouldn’t we be enhancing these poor out-of-shape bodies as well? It would seem technology at least owes us that much. (It might also be nice if all this fabulous technology could pipe up say that there seems to be an awful lot of coral snakes in the neighborhood.) 

Moving on 

Considering what the world could have experienced, most of us are probably looking back at 2013 and thinking, thank god, it sure could have been worse. As it turns out, 2013 is one of the most successful years in the New York Stock Exchange’s history, but people in the U.S. and the rest of the world don’t have jobs or they have jobs that don’t pay enough to live on. We don’t seem to be making much progress on the path to transcendence, but maybe the course of actual devolution might slow in 2014.

It feels to me like we’re just waking up from a long, comfy digital dream where we tried to create experience out of 0s and 1s. As the last few issues of 2014 suggest, it looks like we’ve had it backwards all this time and we should be spending more time in real life. Just because the computers seem to be disappearing, and we seem to be assimilating them, doesn’t necessarily mean we’re winning. We’re still in danger of letting these things rule our lives. Don’t look back, that singularity thing might be gaining on us.

Happy New Year.