Genius apps are the cutting edge of web culture, but others are pointless distractions.
Rather than inspire Neil deGrasse Tyson levels of wonder, suggesting to us its promising potential – a Pilot’s POV with star maps, fuel gauge, and altimeter, or a Soldier’s HUD with terrain charts, ammo count and health monitor – Google’s ad shamelessly seduces, using the irresistible pull of consumer electronics.
With the promo in mind, consider Neil Postman’s quote from Amusing Ourselves To Death:
“But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision , there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World…What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one […] Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy…”
I’m not an opponent of electronic consumption. My crush on Alexia Tsotsis is almost as big as the one I have for Tina Fey. I stream the shit out of Pandora and Netflix. I pay friends beer money with Venmo. I love the GIF of King Joffrey getting slapped. I text and tweet and Gchat. Once, I
out of reflex accidentally typed in youjizz when I really wanted youtube.com
However, for every ambitiously disruptive app or platform (Coursekit, Square, Kickstarter, OPower), there are thousands more whose purpose dumbfounds most (Pinterest). The social web is the new cool. But there are those using connectivity to grapple with society’s dysfunction, and there are others trying to convince us that sexting is better than sex (that digital interaction can replace the human touch). The likes, the check-ins, the status updates, is that what we really mean by sharing?
To scroll through your Facebook feed is to see Freud’s narcissism of small differences in HTML. All of us, so alike, trying desperately to be different in our own “I’m watching this, I’m listening to that” 21st century kind of way.
In a stunning display of withered imagination, Google’s glasses allows “…the wearer to set up meetings with friends, get directions in the city, find a book in a store, and even videoconference with a friend.” This small-minded view of technological innovation is less Carl Sagan and more Mark Zuckerberg. Is Google’s glorified appointment maker, in the way it was revealed, really that compelling?
In much of our best science fiction, humans end all forms of tribalism and fix their gaze outward, toward the stars. So before we circle jerk onto an ad company’s newest piece of plastic, we should check our standards: Do we see ourselves as the splendid dust of ancient suns or as frivolous consumers, too distracted to look up?