The illusion of dissatisfaction – or how to upgrade your life in one easy download

ludditesFirstly, I am not a Luddite. The real Luddites were textile craftsmen who went around 200 years ago smashing newfangled machines that threatened their jobs. Those men were being replaced by spinning frames and power looms tended to by unskilled labourers who would require far less money and do far more hours of work. Trying to destroy the devices that would replace them was futile, but their anger and frustration was understandable. Who hasn’t felt threatened in their jobs by the unstoppable advances of technology?

Not too long ago, we called people who feared new technologies Luddites. Today, we give that name to those who refuse to join Facebook or don’t own a smartphone or have never sent a tweet.

I am not a Luddite. I am the proprietor of a blog; I’ve written an ebook novel; I have Facebook and Twitter accounts; I work on projects in the cloud; my mobile phone tells me the local weather before I get up and chirps when someone tags me in a photo somewhere online; I have a large flatscreen TV above various boxes that can pause live programmes, let me fight monsters with my son, and play the latest movie releases; there are devices in every room, including the bathroom, where the bristles on an electric toothbrush stand ready to whir into life and clean my teeth.

I am not a Luddite. And yet… computer-wiring

Is anyone else’s home infested with copper snakes? They sleep in drawers. Some dangle from wall sockets, waiting to sink their fangs into various devices and – instead of sucking blood out of them – fill them with energy. Coils of electronic snakes, many-toothed ones, rectangular-headed ones, tube-mouthed ones all slithering about in search of TVs, phones, iPads, laptops, shavers, children’s toys… There’s a tangled nest of them behind the TV unit. Why so many species of copper snake? Could someone somewhere breed a universal subspecies? Or banish them from all the lands through the wonder of technology. Where is the St Patrick of wireless fidelity?

I am not a Luddite. But…

Technology used to be about helping us in our daily lives. Now it is about changing our daily lives. Those spinning frames and power looms two centuries ago did nothing to alter the life of the average person on the street – apart, of course, from the craftsmen themselves. The latest advancement in technology then allowed the average person to purchase better-made clothing at a lower cost. Well done, technology! Thou art a fine slave to society! Today, the latest advancement means we must alter our lives – take Google Glass, for instance, which, if it takes off, will utterly change how the average person even walks down the street. Damn you, technology! Thou hast enslavened us!

I am not a Luddite. However…

Hand-in-hand with advances in technology goes advertising, whose job it is to tell us that our lives need constant upgrading and the latest gizmo will help us to achieve it. There is an unsettling – I won’t say conspiracy – atmosphere permeating the western world. It is the illusion of dissatisfaction. “Your life IS simple, mediocre and dull. You WANT to do something about it. To make it EXCITING, ENRICHING and FULFILLING. You MUST buy this LATEST WHATCHAMACALLIT and BE A BETTER PERSON!!!”

I’m not saying we should all down tools, devices and gizmos and turn our backs on technology. This is impossible. What we must do when utilising the latest thingabob is realise when it threatens to undermine how we live and interact. We must not be subservient to technology; we must be its master once more.

I am not a Luddite. Then again…

CATThe tyranny of technology inspired me to write a short play. It is called The Light Keepers and it was shortlisted for production in the Cork Arts Theatre‘s annual writing competition. It will open next month. The two characters in the play represent old and new technology. The old one has been tending to the light for millennia and now has come the day when the new one wants to take over as keeper of the light. I hope people see it and reflect upon its message… No doubt most of the reviews shall arrive via social media. I await the chirrup of a device, somewhere amongst the snakes…

I am not a Luddite. Yet…

*See The Tyranny of Technology

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One comment

  1. […] a year after finishing the writing of my new one-act play, The Light Keepers, it’s almost time to see it come to life on stage. It’s always a surreal experience to […]

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