Pardon me for using the “guns don’t kill people” metaphor. But people are now using the incredible power of technology and the Internet in ways that are disruptively changing our entire culture: some of it awesomely positive, but some of it ominously negative. The myriad of positive effects is accelerating on a daily basis, immediately recognizable as providing “better, easier, quicker, more convenient, more sustainable, more experiential” and on and on. Yet, in my opinion, there is a darker side that threatens to alter our culture in a very negative way.
Today, humans are born with a mouse in one hand and a smartphone in the other. “Digital” is the ‘D’ in our DNA. That is to say that as we evolve generationally, the importance and utility in our lives of newspapers, books, libraries, movie theaters, concert halls, designers and on and on, become irrelevant. Exaggerating a little bit, but you are getting my drift; and we are, indeed, participating in this cultural evolution whether we want to or not.
Seriously, our attention span, curiosity, and interest for anything other than sound bytes, snapshots (including those moronic “selfies”), and any communication longer than a nanosecond, is plummeting. Deep analysis and strategic thinking; reading a 40-page white paper or a 20-page article on neuro-science; or you name it, are endangered species. Short is the new comprehensive. Even in college, a study done by the Pete Peterson Foundation found that 65% of the students when asked if cheating was wrong, answered, “only if we get caught.” Preposterous!! Is this not an indication of “short-cutting”? And we all know how the Internet is used for copying, pasting, or plagiarizing. Many universities and colleges have instituted programs such as “turnitin” to prevent online highjacking for papers
The daily deluge of information jamming into our faces 24/7 forces us to scan everything, and to neither deeply understand or give adequate thought to anything. It forces us to keep our faces in front of the screen 24/7 so as not to experience FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). It leads us to believe everything we see or read is true, however short or inaccurate. This all has led to a breakdown in credible, thoughtful journalism. It has created a business for information and news aggregators who simply rewrite in sound bytes. Worse, it leads to everybody as an overnight expert, pundit or thought leader, writing anything they wish to write about because they are confident that the “face” on the other side of the screen is going to believe everything they say.
Karl Lagerfeld and Michael Kors are commoditizing their brands, as have other designers, not only to make more money or to survive, but because the general public doesn’t understand or appreciate what a real designer is or a couture design is anymore, except what they see on the “red carpet.” So, like newspapers, hard bound books, academic research papers, and so forth, designers will go the way of the buggy whip. It’s just a matter of time. And why not, since everyone can design their own thing, make it with a 3D printer, and even launch it on their own website overnight. The last straw on this imminent decimation of design, style and taste is manifested by Kim Kardashian appearing on the cover of Vogue this month.
And while I’m at it, high frequency “speed” trading in the stock market is yet another example of algorithmic invention by and for our newly emerging culture. This is the newest and most exciting way to become a billionaire in a millisecond. It is akin to throwing chips down on the blackjack table in Vegas. It is not about investing in real companies that make real products for a better future. Fast this, fast that, faster and faster, scan, “blink,” whatever. Future? In fact, how would we define the “future?” Is it now? Is it in two minutes? Future: an interesting concept.
Forget the philosophical debate. It is all about immediate gratification. Speed living is not sustainable, and as the rate of speed accelerates, we will be thrown off the wheel of life because there is actually a speed limit within which we must abide to live a balanced, healthy life – even just to survive. Speed kills and technology is racing out of control.