Saturday, November 19, 2005

Less with More

What do I want for Christmas?

Well, probably the most useful thing would be a water-proof digital voice recorder that I could hang in my shower and use it to capture all of my good blogging ideas before they disappear somewhere between the rinsing and the toweling.

As I was taking this morning's shower, I ruminated over Sven Golly's first anniversary post (congratulations!) and his observation that his site is pretty simple--which I like and support. The phrase "Less is More" came to mind. From that thought came the idea that we are living in a world where everyone tries to do Less with More.

Let me explain:

Lulu is busily trying to get her holiday house in order before the arrival of Marky Mark. So she got me thinking of putting together Christmas lists, both for me and for the other members of my family. Doing this is hard and easy at the same time.

It's hard because none of us need anything. So trying to find something that isn't obnoxiously useless, might be creatively fun, and not take up to much space amongst all of our other stuff is challenging.

It's easy because the Internet allows you to search for anything under the sun and place it handily on an Amazon wish list (I am working on it now). These Amazon lists are easy to put together and convenient for others to access and view. But what do they really tell you?

That's where I am going with this . . . we live in a world of More choice, More options, More of everything. But at the same time, we are narrowing ourselves down into the sum of our consumption. Amazon, Netflix, Kroger . . . everyone is tracking the items you buy, the "I Give This Movie BLANK Stars" button and the "I Own This" link. It's useful in that it helps them target market you. (For instance, did you know that I might like "Antics" by Interpol, since I own "Franz Ferdinand.") But, as I go through these lists and dutifully identify my ratings, my previous ownerships, etc. I find that the computer search algorithms are sending up everything I already own. I guess after I spend a day or so cataloging every purchase I've ever made the computer will know me perfectly . . . and then what?

I'm sorry Dave. I won't open the pod bay doors now.
Why don't you take a stress pill and we can play a nice game of chess?

Will the computer then start accurately serving me stuff I don't yet have? And what about everyone else? Do they know me? Do we actually know anyone?

Can you read my blog and get to know me? Sort of, yeah. But wouldn't it be better to sit down with me and ask questions? (Am I gonna stop blogging? No. ) I guess my concern is that the world tries to pin all of us down and try to make sense of all of us, but that won't work. Many many science fiction movies have proven that artificial intelligence always goes bad in the end.

Do I sometimes worry the computers getting all of my personal information? Don't I worry about identity theft. Various bits of my life are already spread out there in the internets and sure, there are people that might try to put it all together, task their satellites, and spy on me in the backyard (I saw Enemy of the State . . . and if I liked that, I might also enjoy The Pelican Brief.)

I dunno. The part of me that doesn't worry about such things thinks that social historians in the future are so lucky. The wealth of information available to them about the comings and goings of Average American will be the greatest in the history of historians. Sifting through it will probably be relegated to computers (uh oh) but the opportunity to accurately distill daily life will be better than ever in all the eons of written records.

I wonder where I'll fit on that scale? Will I be comfortably in the average portion of the societal Bell Curve? Most of the time I am positive of it. We'll let our cybernetic overlords (which, I for one, welcome) sort that out.

What was my point?


Sven Golly said...

Another great post that demonstrates what happens when a writer finds his 'voice'. I'm reading along, the paragraphs are building, "What do...As I...It's hard...It's easy...That's where..." and as we reach the core of the argument with "narrowing ourselves down into the sum of our consumption" (nice), suddenly I'm laughing out loud at Hal's perfectly timed retort.

What was your point? I think it had something to do with the examined life turning in upon itself to meta-examine the examining of lives, etc., which, combined with the preceding Saturday morning play, yields a balanced life, and amen to that.

David said...

Oh Sven, how you do go on!

(Who doesn't like praise?)