The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait. —Gilbert Keith Chesterton
They were right. As they’d predicted two decades ago in 2013, half of humanity now lives in cities with nearly 60 percent of our world’s population as urban dwellers. Cities have not only grown in size and population, their very interface has changed.
Back then, citizens were enthusiastic about the layered effect of our data so we could search, sort, friend, follow, retrieve, and archive it in the interest of exactitude. Google, Twitter, Foursquare were changing technology — which is to say, culture. These, and more, increased the opportunity for specificity as they decreased the chance for serendipity.
But humans grew uncomfortable. Things got smarter. Time sped up and time compressed as people became more informed, more efficient, more connected, faster. While the rise of the slow (at first, slow food, then slow web, slow cities) began as rhetoric, it took as a movement.
With more inhabitants than ever before, cities had become not a place for human interaction, but for precise location and retrieval. Entering addresses and finding exact points on the map (with recommended walk/drive/transit directions!) left little up to chance. As humans found more, they had less. Media inventors of any notoriety launched apps and services that provided shortcuts: shortcuts to getting lost, shorthand for privacy, short forms of disconnecting.
Meantime, undigital became luxury. Spas, once islands of tranquility and beauty, became islands of undigital luxury goods. Free “off the grid service” services sold out. This pastoral new concord has had an effect. Humans choose longer lines, the slow lane, practice inexact query formation. Because without the slow, the good was not recognizable.
The divide between the connected and unconnected continues to demonstrate an economic discord: those living comfortably are also living un-connectedly. Unubiquitious computing demands have inspired developers to rush to build unconnected communities. The new connected is to be disconnected. Deadspots are the new hotspots.
Moving toward is moving away, and hence, the notion of density and progress has changed. It’s our job to pause, coordinate, and design opportunities for chance.
In the future, you have access to all your data. Memory, or the lack thereof, is no longer discussed. It is only assumed, a feature of modern life, since you can now relive all your past data as experiences. But because of “technical constraints,” all of your experiences are taxonomized and merged for ease of efficiency/retrieval. To access your past, then, is to relive each experience — in real time, all at once.
You spend seven weeks holding your iPhone to your ear on hold.
You pull to refresh for seven months, click to refresh for nine.
You miss 30 Thanksgiving dinners restarting your laptop.
12 Valentine’s Days restarting your iPhone.
You swipe past iPad ads for 48 hours before ever seeing content.
You deliberate for two hours clicking the back button.
You waste four hours feeling guilty about not accepting invitations.
You go nine whole months accepting LinkedIn recommendations.
Six months seeing who’s followed you on Twitter.
One hour clicking away from ads you clicked accidentally.
For two months you stare at your browser default page.
You power through eight years of anxiety trying to unfriend people on Facebook.
You hunch over your desk for seven months downloading unregistered software.
Three straight weeks stealing someone else’s WiFi.
You tell friends you’re “off the grid” for 48 hours.
You scroll through Twitter for one year without clicking a single link.
There are 16 days you missed the point when your calls are dropped through AT&T.
And 14 hours of confusion as you try to work Skype video.
Three years of watching YouTube videos.
Sixty-five minutes liking.
Forty hours tapping.
Ninety-seven whole days right clicking.
You spend fourteen whole days without contact as you stare at the fail whale.
Three days confused as you update your WordPress install.
Two years behind updating your iPhone apps.
Seventeen months with strained eyes while you debug code.
Two years cursing Adobe Creative Suite.
You spend six months with slumped shoulders as you click “forgot password?”.
You reflect on older times. Passwords were forgotten once, and forgotten again — the next day, the next week, the next month. The thought seems idyllic. A life where small errors are experienced in lovely, small scales — one at a time.