#42 Technological Imprisonment

The cops pulled me over. I knew it was bad. Although I didn’t know exactly what I did. It was dusk and the air was restless. The mood of that evening reminded me of the first episode of the Wonder Years when Kevin went for a walk only to find Winnie in the forrest after her brother had just died in Vietnam. Except with this story, there is no comforting end and no Percy Sledge to ease my woes.

Instead of coming to my driver side window the cop opened my back door, sat down as if a taxi passenger, and read my Miranda Rights. An unusual practice I thought, but who am I to discern protocol at this point.

I was being taken to jail still not knowing what I did. I looked to my passenger side once more as a beckoning call for someone to save me. I could have swore someone was next to me earlier.

We got to the police station and the redolent smell of urine, sweat, and week old Chinese food permeated through the cemented thick grey walls. I was fingerprinted, asked to smile before taking my picture, and then thrown into a cell with a pimp, crackhead, and a gentlemen in a nice suit. Of the four of us, he’s the only one that didn’t belong. He probably committed some white collar crime like going to an underground Thai massage parlor or buying drugs from the dealer that just happened to be undercover that day.

Prison was horrible. The four of us were cramped in one room with a broken toilet in the center of the room.

A few hours before lights out, we were given some food — but you could hardly call it that. The mashed potatoes looked rancid carrying with it a yellow hue that could easily be mistaken for butter — but wasn’t. The fork had some brown crud on it that you couldn’t beat off with all the S.O.S in the world and I couldn’t distinguish if the jello like cup was fruit punch or some type of medicine.

We also received an unmarked bag that we all opened immediately — a hand-held device of sorts. We powered them up in unison. We were instantly hooked. It had everything I wanted and needed. Books, games, reality TV, music, and dirty pictures of every female I’ve ever fantasized about.

The next day, we were released. We had a choice. Either go home and give up the the device or stay one more day in the slammer. We chose the latter.

A digital prison

Perhaps my story is too dramatic and maybe slightly reminiscent of the Netflix series Black Mirror, but it’s still a cause to think clearly about what is happening in our world.

In one of my favorite futuristic episodes titled, “Nosedive,” people have contact lenses imprinted on their eyelids. This enables them to see another’s rating. If you’re perfect you are a 5. Everyone has a smartphone that completes the rating. If someone snubs you the wrong way or smiles at you — you are able to rate them accordingly. The main character was a 4.1. She was on her way to becoming a 4.5 or higher so she could enjoy the comforts of living in a wealthy community, first class seats, and hobnobbing with other elites, but shit goes sour and a string of events leaves her at a 0. At which time she goes to prison, has those contacts removed, and her smart-phone taken away.

After her lenses were removed, she was able to see the dust particles in the air. She started to cry with a joyful disposition. She saw another prisoner across the room and they had a verbal confrontation. They both felt free because there was no fear of being judged or rated. They both were liberated. The irony of the episode? The first time she felt free was when she was in prison.

Technology and the future

Technology is wonderful when used consciously, but through my own experience and what I have observed, it’s clear to see the mass consumption of this digital pixelated world wreaking carnage on our minds.

  • Discipline is a hard thing to come by unless you are completely aware — that’s why most great inventions for the masses become problematic.
  • Alcohol and other recreational drugs are great in moderation. They can even stimulate creative thinking and make social gatherings pleasing but they have become reprehensible tools for the addicted.
  • A home was a great piece of technology but now people have more space than they need, thereby destroying the terrain of this planet.
  • Planting vegetables and eating animals we raise was once an admirable living but now we are involved in the mass execution of 100 billion land and sea creatures annually. We carry no conscious care, whims, or quarrels. It’s the biggest magic trick of them all.
  • The smartphone is a powerful piece of technology yet if you ask many of my millennial counterparts what’s important in life, they can’t give you the slightest answer. However, if you ask them about the latest celebrity news, they will gladly share that information. We live in a culture where people will share the depressing news of the day followed by some nonsensical humor. Information is so ubiquitous that we don’t have the patience to empathize with any of it. We are losing the capacity to care.

I could go on and on about what I foresee, but I choose to control this moment, because that’s all I have.

In the past year I have been mindful about technology. Many friends and family will get upset because often times I am inaccessible, but living in this manner has kept my sanity in check and let my creativity flourish.

Tips that have helped me

Be mindful of social media — The people we see and the things they do are just pixelations of 1’s and 0’s organized in different patterns. Although the image of what we see may seem real, it will never be an alternative to having a real conversation, sharing a meal, or hugging a loved one. Keep this in mind and use social media wisely but don’t obsess over the lives of those that you see seldom.

Not everything has to be answered immediately  Everyone wants answers instantly. It’s the age of convenience. I won’t reply to an e-mail much less talk to a person unless I am in a state of mind where I can deliver 100% of me.

Go on a technology detox  See if you can make the last few hours of your day a technology free zone. See if you can read a book, go for a walk, meditate, or meet up with a friend without your phones.

News  It’s important to be informed about the world, but most news today will favor which ever side you’re on. They have algorithms that measure and pinpoint this for you so looking for credible sources is not even a concept anymore. Be mindful about what you consume. By having less news in your life, you might be able to have a great conversation with those that hold opposing views. Think for yourself and not what others try to subjugate onto you.

You will die — The moment we are born, our time is ticking. How do you want to spend your time? Is it relishing in the lives of others? Is it getting worked up over politics in which you control nothing? Is it constantly looking for tips from others on what strategy to adopt without ever adopting anything?

You have all the answers within you. You are much stronger and smarter than you give yourself credit. Trust yourself and you can tap into something uniquely and special to you.

With Love,

Anand Swamy

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