“Luddite” Humanist?

I’ll admit it: I haven’t kept up with all this “new-ness” that just seems to have come out of nowhere!  Give you a quick example.  Seems there’s a “Cloud” out there somewhere, a sort-of-menacing Cloud but one you can never see, not even on the edge of the horizon.  And get this. It’s a cloud-to-beat-all-clouds, filled with “Information,” they say — maybe all the Information in the World!  Instead of good old H-2-0!  I don’t know if I can give much credence to such talk — sounds plain nuts to me! — but that’s what a lot of folks have been saying.  Can you beat that?  I didn’t know that.

But there’s more: the word on the grapevine is that all-of-a-sudden people have gotten super-friendly. Seems they’re making new “friends” left and right, by the dozen or even a hundred!  But it’s on their computer, see.  Can you beat that?  So they connect up, they’re “in touch,” with this whole carload of new friends, but they never laugh together or sing-a-long or, get this, even touch one another!  But I suppose these young folks have invented all new kinds of ways of getting acquainted.  I didn’t know that.

For instance, another rumor — even stranger if you ask me! — is that these strangers, I mean, friends, can even fall-for-each-other and start carrying on a secret liaison but all on a computer!  Doesn’t sound so alluring, does it? No hugs and “intimacies” but plenty of “texting” and all!  But maybe they do come down to Earth, eventually, and actually meet “in the flesh” — if their heads-are not-still in-the-Clouds!  (My little joke, get it?)  Me, I’m kind of “demonstrative,” affectionate, even if it’s just a pat-on-the-back.  But lately I see folks — seems like everybody in the town has gone mad! — jabbering away, day and night, on their “smartphones.”   Checking and checking things — in between their talktalktalk!  (But look at me, I should talk — talking you into an early grave!)

But I guess what perplexes me the most is that people have latched on to the idea that being an ordinary human being just doesn’t cut it anymore!  People are restless, dissatisfied, tinkering around — not content with what Nature gave them.  They’ve gotta have a new nose or maybe a more “buxom” look, or something, or maybe no wrinkles at age 70!  Then there’s all this talk of “Intelligence”–how artificial is better than the brains we’ve been born with — and how, wouldn’t it be great (“awesome”?) to “upload” their whole brains into a computer!  Or something.  That, to me, just doesn’t “compute” (get it?).  Then some nutcase got the bright idea that everybody should get a microchip implanted — you heard me — implanted in their brains [NY Times, 6/10/19]!  I wouldn’t even put one in my poor cocker-spaniel — offense to his dignity!

Well, I guess you can see that I just haven’t kept up with all the “latest.”  And I’m sure these folks know best, and have found new-and-better ways to enjoy being a human being!  Me, if I stay inside for more than a few hours, I feel pretty low so don’t expect to find me sitting staring at a computer all day any time soon!  It’s just that the beauties of life, and life itself, are very fleeting.  For instance, as I sat out back early the other morning, the dew still glistening as the sun poked through the mist, a baby deer took its first, awkward steps.  Mighty precious to see that, all that delicacy and innocence rising up in confidence to view the world for the first time.  But the best thing is the birds.  They swoop down to my feeders, reckless and unafraid, dressed in their bright plumage–and then just as quickly soar aloft, and with a kind of “nonchalant” poise (I can get a bit poetic!).  It’s just that — it’s hard to explain — they’re absolutely ”free,” carefree, you know — “free as a bird”!

But I’m sure, when all is said and done, that all these people everywhere, billions of human beings, can’t be wrong–how could they? — and that this overwhelming avalanche of computers and screens and gadgets invading the world will, in the end, make our lives more gracious, kindly, and dignified.  It’s just that I didn’t know that.

William Manson is the author of The Psychodynamics of Culture (Greenwood Press). Read other articles by William.