I’m no anthropologist, historian, scientist, or sociologist, so really my opinions and observations don’t mean donkey-droppings. But I can always pretend…
Every day, something in our lives gets automated or simplified by some ingenious work of technology people would have never expected. Once upon a time, when students had to research something, the only place they could go was the library. Once upon a time, you had to go to a video store to rent a movie. Once upon a time phone books were relevant. Now is already once upon a time.
And yet, I see our generation getting sick of it. Everyone (including myself) loves having smart phones and everyone (including myself) enjoys the social benefits of being on Facebook. But more and more, I’m noticing people opting out of Facebook or becoming increasingly paranoid about its Big Brother essence such that suddenly being able to “like” someone’s status just might not be worth the peculiarly self-tailored advertisements on the side (Polish singles?! YES!). Maybe its better to talk face to face anyway than it is to chat via the most annoying instant messenger ever to grace our unsuspecting web browsers. Maybe the less time I spend facebooking, the more time I can spend doing something worthwhile (like playing vintage Super Mario 3*).
And thus, I anticipate our civilization to revert back to some sort of enlightened primordialism – that is, a cultural state where we take what we have learned from the hyper-technologied era in which we now live, but scale it back in order to remember our basic human needs – i.e. social interaction, privacy, and whole grains.
It’s also not only about a desire for a return to connection via human touch and voice, or the periodic need to escape and be free without being expected to be accessible by phone. The more I read new studies, the more it seems that people were made to do certain tasks like they were done hundreds of years ago rather than how they’re done now. (I’m not going to give citations because I’m lazy and this isn’t a not-a-blog)
Pooping, for instance. Man was not made to poop in a toilet. We were made to poop squatting. Supposedly it prevents modern pooping injuries, if you can imagine such a horrible thing. Nowadays, people are selling mechanisms to allow you to squat into your toilet, although they have yet to catch on for obvious reasons.
Running is another example. Supposedly, since the development of the impact-reducing running shoe, the frequency of running injuries has skyrocketed. Padding in or shoes prevents us from taking in sensory information from the ground we walk on, and we get lazy and complacent in our form. Our knees, hips, and shins suffer, and our posture weakens. Being barefoot forces us to run in the way our legs and back were meant for. Now, barefoot running is becoming more popular, as well as minimalist footwear.
Also food. Once upon a time, predictors of the future saw us having our entire diets confined to one pill. While it isn’t exactly like that now, we do have multivitamins as well as nutrition drinks. Yet studies seem to show that our bodies absorb nutrition most affectively when consumed in the form of naturally-occurring foodstuffs. Pills and nutrition drinks can only serve as supplements to an already healthy diet.
Let’s not forget medicine. While decades ago (up to today), hyper-cleanliness was encouraged for environments in which children were raised, it has since been shown that the children most sheltered from germs have the most health problems later in life. Their bodies were not able to develop sufficient defenses for the microbes of the outside world. Who knew that small amounts of filth would be beneficial to our upbringings? Additionally, pills that hide symptoms of illness may prolong the life of the illness, and things like sleeping aids may ultimately develop dependencies and inhibit normal sleeping patterns. And let’s not forget antibiotics – on the path to unintentionally unleashing the super microbe. Perhaps we are better off, excluding rare circumstances, letting our own bodies react to germs.
Slowly, people in our generation are starting to notice this. The trend is too slow to make a dent in technological progress, but one by one people are running barefoot, quitting Facebook, and embracing perhaps nostalgically a life that might be, in the long run, better for us. So I think that, while the current macro-trend might still be in favor of ever-increasing technological prominence, that trend is getting undermined by a seed of rebellion that will slowly catch on and sprout into the huge tree of inspired simplicity.
And maybe some buildings will explode à la “Fight Club.”
* Part of me wants to invoke Rule 34 with the Tanooki Suit, but I’m too afraid.