Microsoft has just unveiled the prototype of the HoloLens which is going to “seamlessly blend reality and virtual reality.” People are lining up to gush over the amazingly wondrous potential for removing unwanted furniture from your living room. (It seems – thanks to the HoloLens – you can make it disappear digitally by smashing it with a virtual hammer). Or, for a lot less money, you can actually just pick it up and move it, even give it to Goodwill so that someone else can use it. I don’t want to appear any more of a Luddite than I actually am, but (not to put too fine a point on it) Microsoft can’t even keep my msn account running properly. Why would I want to put them in charge of my reality?
There is also a huge cadre of folks who are already at work soothing any fears we may have that blurring the line even further between fiction and reality is nothing to concern us. You will be happy to hear that critics are just over-reacting. Carolyn O’Hara in The Week reminds us of articles from the 1920s that sparked the worry that the car would turn teenagers into criminals, or from the 1940s that television would be a corrupting influence. Apparently since neither of these are true (unless you look at studies of the effect of television violence on brain formation), therefore we can trust that everyone who lays hands on a HoloLens will benefit. And no one will have any problem discerning reality from virtual reality. Except, of course, the people who do.
Speaking personally, I do not have a problem with technology per se. I do have some real problems with accepting any and all technology with open arms and unquestioning brains. Just because we can do something does not necessarily mean we should do it. Detonating a suicide vest being an excellent example.
But what is really troubling me is not the HoloLens qua HoloLens; it is why we think it is the cat’s pyjamas to disengage further and further from reality. Christina Warren who writes for something called Mashable.com, charmingly reassures (I’m guessing here) investors, that because Microsoft is not intending HoloLens to be worn 24/7 (like the short-lived Google Glass), it will result in folks wanting to extend the experience to everywhere all the time. Why do I not find that reassuring? Okay: watching the PR video convinces me that a team of design folks stretched across the globe might find this device helpful in making modifications to (in this case) a motorcycle. Are they really working on that motorcycle 24/7/365? If so, they need a life.
And that is my current concern in a nutshell: we all really need a life. Not a virtual life. Not an imaginary life. A life. A “right here, right now, on earth, tangible, relational” life. We really need to live the life we have. I read books – books take me to other places, other times, put me in other people’s heads, spark my imagination. But I also put books down and listen to what other people have to say about what is going on in their actual heads. I put away the books and put a tomato plant in a pot, water it, stake it, and watch as the flowers become itty-bitty tomatoes that grow and ripen, and become part of a salad some glorious summer day. I put away the heart-rending account of Beth’s death in Little Women and sit at the bedside of a friend whose cancer is going to mean she will not be here to see her children graduate from high school or marry or have children of their own.
Alcohol can be addictive for some people. Drugs can be addictive. Sex can be addictive. Well, I have to say that technology can also be addictive…and it seems to me that the vast majority of us are colluding with Microsoft and Google (who, in case you think they are merely generous companies with know-how that they want to pour out to benefit the world, are actually in line to make a lot of money off of techno-addicts…and the more of them, the better) in pretending that technology is value-neutral. It isn’t.
We are starting into the spring quarter when our fancies used to turn to thoughts of love (and sometimes more than ‘thoughts’). If I can make a humble suggestion, I would suggest we ignore the HoloLens, and the video games, and the e-mail accounts. I would suggest we even ignore the television, the telephone (whether landline or mobile), and the automobile. Instead, I suggest we go for a walk in the dusk, hand-in-hand with someone we love and talk about what really happened to us today, and listen to the silence together, and watch the stars come out. Let’s practice being real, really real, in the life we actually have. It is more beautiful, more amazing, more miraculous than any virtual projection going.
Text © 2015, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2011 Immram Chara, LLC; 2008, reprinted by permission.
NOTE: If you didn’t get a chance to check out my Etsy shop when the season changed February 1, you will find a set of spring floral cards for 2015. There is also a new fiber piece (Focus: Emerge). Here on the website, there is also a set of spring thresholds, and spring spirit guides which will be available through the Etsy shop next week. You can pre-order by contacting me.