Consider this article in the Washington Post in December entitled Techno-skeptics’ objection growing louder. Apparently the new "counterculture" movement involves tuning out, literally. The article profiled a woman named Astra Taylor who "objects to the planned obsolescence of today’s gadgetry, and to the way the big tech companies pressure customers to upgrade." She joins a growing group of "tech dissenters" who don't like what high technology is turning into: a surveillance state and government-corporate partnerships.
"Of the myriad critiques of the computer culture," notes the article, "one of the most common is that companies are getting rich off our personal data. Our thoughts, friendships and basic urges are processed by computer algorithms and sold to advertisers. The machines may soon know more about us than we know about ourselves. That information is valuable. A frequent gibe is that on Facebook, we’re not the customers, we’re the merchandise. Or to put it another way: If the service is free, you’re the product."
Of course I'm keenly aware that I, too, am caught up in this techno-world. And since Blogger (the platform which hosts Rural Revolution) is free, that makes me the product. Wheee.
"Our technology today is so new that we haven’t had time to understand how to use it wisely," notes the article. Young people are especially susceptible, and some Asian countries are offering de-tox centers for people who are so addicted to electronic devices that they forget how to live.
Of course, I resist in my own little way. My family chuckles at my refusal to learn how to text. (And seriously, I haven't the faintest idea how.) Smart phones leave me clueless.
True story: Last summer, before Older Daughter went to nanny school, we had to find her some specialized slacks as part of a casual "uniform" the school required. Since we were unable to find these slacks in thrift stores, we did an internet search (ack! technology!) and found they were available at Old Navy. There's an Old Navy store in Spokane, so off we went.
It was the first time we've bought clothes at a retail store (vs. a thrift store) in years. The sales personnel were charming and helpful. Older Daughter is very slim and didn't fit the regular sizes, so we ended up having to special order the slacks she needed.
To place the special order, right there by the dressing rooms the saleswoman whipped out her store-issued smart phone and began inputting the information. Then she handed me the phone and asked me to fill in our shipping address and contact info.
I stared helplessly at the device, absolutely clueless how to do it. "Oh for heaven's sake," said Older Daughter in mock exasperation. She took the phone and tapped in the necessary information.
When it came time to pre-pay for the slacks, I committed another unpardonable sin: I took out my wallet and handed the sales rep actual cash. (If you remember, we've transitioned, as much as possible, to an all-cash lifestyle.) The saleswoman was literally baffled for a few moments. "This will require a different type of transaction," she said, and led us to the cash register to complete the sale.
And this, my friends, is what my day-to-day resistance is like.
But I'm not alone. Here's a British fellow who now runs a Silicon Valley tech startup company who is entirely (shocking!) cellphone-free. He calls cell phones "digital jails." He says:
There are some practical issues of course. Without a phone, I can’t check things. People with phones seem to spend their life checking things: messages, email, the news, the weather, some random celebrity’s Instagram -- I don’t know what it is exactly, but you all seem to be checking things the whole time. And I can’t do that, obviously. Tragically. Somehow, though, I cope.With regards to cash, my resistance may not last much longer since the world, apparently, is on the march toward a cashless society:
But just in terms of our basic humanity, I find the idea that we should all be connected and contactable all the time not just bizarre but menacing. We used to think of electronic tags as a way of restricting criminals’ liberty -- we can keep them out of jail but still keep track of them. It seems that now, everyone is acquiescent, through their phone, in electronically tagging themselves; incarcerating themselves in a digital jail where there is no such thing as true freedom or independence or solitude or privacy."
"Did you know that 95 percent of all retail sales in Sweden are cashless? And did you know that the government of Denmark has a stated goal of 'eradicating cash' by the year 2030? All over the world, we are seeing a relentless march toward a cashless society, and nowhere is this more true than in northern Europe. In Sweden, hundreds of bank branches no longer accept or dispense cash, and thousands of ATM machines have been permanently removed. At this point, bills and coins only account for just 2 percent of the Swedish economy, and many stores no longer take cash at all. The notion of a truly 'cashless society' was once considered to be science fiction, but now we are being told that it is 'inevitable,' and authorities insist that it will enable them to thwart criminals, terrorists, drug runners, money launderers and tax evaders. But what will we give up in the process?"What we give up, of course, is privacy. Cashless transactions allow micro-monitoring of everyone, because we all leave little cyber-trails wherever we go. Doesn't this just strike everyone as plain spooky?
The Internet of Things and malicious refrigerators. The author writes about gadgets like "smart" refrigerators which "will come complete with sensors, cameras, smart capabilities and a huge touch screen display. It also takes a picture of what’s inside your fridge every time you close the door -- meaning you’ll always be up to date on how much milk and bread you have left. ... You can remotely access the fridge’s cameras in real time from any location through your smartphone, and also use the Family Hub to order groceries online through the new 'Groceries by MasterCard' smart fridge app. The 21.5-inch, 1080p display can also display family pictures and messages -- bringing the age-old custom of magnetized photos into the future. And if the fridge didn’t do enough already -- it also comes equipped with technology to help track and monitor your family’s eating habits."
But at what price? The author continues: "Internet-enabled appliances, which run operating systems like Windows or Android, can be co-opted by hackers’ malicious code in the same way your computer or phone can be hijacked. Once taken over by the hacker software, the appliance is used to send spam or to mount denial-of-service attacks. A hacker who had co-opted multiple Internet-equipped refrigerators and garage door openers could use their combined power to inundate an Internet target with email or other malicious activity."
We're talking refrigerators, folks. Spooky.
Which is I find myself straining for glimpses of the inside of the Bennett family's house (particularly the kitchen) in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice.
Here's a "behind the scenes" view (notice the fire extinguishers).
I think this kitchen is absolutely beautiful. Why? Because it has nothing modern. No fridge, no microwave, no range. It was probably awful to cook in; but it sure looked great, right?
The more high-tech the world becomes, the more low-tech my interest grows. What can I say. I'm a subversive rebel.