I AM living in the information age, so I am informed. But the great sea of information is reliably unreliable. Perhaps I am really in the opinion age, where reliability is not required, and quantity is quality. I know I am in the urban age. Opinion and information agree that I am in the majority who live in a city and not in the country. We urbanites have been herded together, where opinion says it will be cheaper to look after us and where we will be less of a drain on the earth’s resources. In cities we are housed, fed, educated, employed, entertained, and cared for in growing numbers and densities. We are racked, stacked, and packed. We have air-conditioning and the internet so there is no need to venture out, putting more strain on the infrastructure that creaks and groans all around us.
China is leading the urban race, according to Google, the source of all information. She has fifteen cities with populations of more than ten million, Shanghai is the biggest city in the world with thirty four million people, and Chongqing with half this number is the world’s biggest factory. A tsunami of urbanisation, information, opinion, and the faster, cheaper, better production of more stuff for our urban information age.
How big can a television get? How many hundreds of people can travel in a plane or thousands travel on a cruising liner? How tall can apartment buildings be, how big can a corporate office become? How many tens of thousands of students can fit into a university or a sporting arena? How many hundreds of shops can fit into a shopping centre? How big will food packaging become, and when will we buy ten instead of two for the price of one?
There might be news running every hour of every day, but how strange to find there is less of it. Gardens and nature strips are disappearing. Kitchens have become passageways, and dining rooms are a memory. The office at work has become a shared spot on a bench, or a laptop on the kitchen table. There are more batteries, but promises of long life seem false. There are more printer cartridges that are empty when they are needed. Jeans need replacing just when they get comfortable. Electric appliances expire early in life and cannot be fixed. Cars need replacing much sooner than seems reasonable. Drawers and cupboards are filling with broken and useless junk.
There are vast numbers of colours and sizes for things, things that are left handed and right handed, with added features, and there is the promise of something just for you, while in the book of a thousand names you will not find the one you want. With more choice, tribal instincts rise, brand loyalty and the desire for prestige are the new survival essentials, and we see that we are all same after all.
Maybe I live in the age of more, where I am free to ignore information and opinion and plunder the abundance as I like. In the biggest newest shopping mall I might ever explore, I find I am surrounded with more choices than I can comprehend, but strangely I am shutting down, suffocating, drowning, tiring, and wanting to sleep. Claustrophobia traps my senses and real choices fade, I need an escape to somewhere that is unpredictable. With my mobile device, I can go anywhere I choose. Ulysses, Gulliver and Leopold Bloom would be amazed at what I can see without rising from my chair. At my whim, I can talk with friends and family nearby and far away. I can shop for food, refreshments and clothes, be entertained, hear the news, sift through old photographs, and get the latest weather reports. All I need is my charger and an internet connection.
Come sunset, what have I done? Experts say that memories hold the key to my future happiness, and that memories need strong emotions and remarkable situations to ensure they are not lost forever. When my memories at sunset are just a repeat of the day before, what then? Sitting in a forgettable place in an emotionless fog with my senses craving for more than the sight of a backlit screen. Day after forgettable day. Ulysses, Gulliver and Leopold Bloom would laugh at my virtual existence, which compared to the richness of their travels and the wanderings of their imaginations, is unlikely to make the fodder of tales to be retold over centuries. They would see my virtual world dulling my imagination and starving my memory. They would sense that my virtual freedom is a prison and that more is really less. Unless I learn the art of making less out of more. Then it will be all the more the merrier!
December 4, 2016
I enjoyed Tim’s further reflections on our road to oblivion as an individual, as a society, as a memory. The trap is set and welcoming into the desolate world of mindlessness where we lose our ability to think or create, but remain only to observe, be observed and compliant.