The time has come, I'm buying an iPad. I am writing to tell the world of my transition in thought, from Luddite to Early Adopter.
I am perhaps the last person who owns a dumbphone. Yes, I have reveled in my un-wired-ness. I was the last person I know to get a cellular phone. In college, I developed for a Java class on a computer without internet. I have not owned a TV since I threw mine over the balcony in a symbolic (drunken) ritual at age nineteen. (We had to throw it off several times until we were satisfied.)
Why I have been a luddite
I am a futurist of the apocalyptic variety. I am convinced that someday the internet will become sentient and arise like some undead yet incredibly sophisticated thing to impose a peculiarly rational and terrible order upon the world. Of course I am kidding. Or am I?
Technologies become a part of the working mind and we adapt with immediate alacrity. But there is a dark side to the mind's adaptation. We do not simply gain, that which we leave behind, we lose. It is not so much that we are improved so much as changed. I am suspicious of new technologies, and have preferred to let the beta testers work out the bugs on their own gray matter.
I am also skeptical of consumer products, as they are generally infused with the blood of workers. That is, they are created in ways that are problematic to both the environment and to human rights. I strive to live simply as a matter of faith and social justice.
Why I am now an "early adopter"
If the internet is to arise as an unkillable automaton, I want to be there on the front lines working to chainsaw it to death. It is those on the cutting-edge that shape the debate and will be first responders in case of full-on internet sentience. Here, I am actually kidding, but using internet sentience as a trope for the real perils to humanity that arise from our love affar with the Machine.
I have also learned, that as a programmer and activist, I will be most effective working for social change if I am able to bring to my causes cutting-edge thought based upon the use of innovative technology. If you read further down in the article I linked to earlier, activists are using Facebook, youTube and other technologies to hold the vendors of coltan accountable.
You decide, is it moral to buy smartphones when our demand fuels this conflict? I will not answer the question for you, but I will say that workers in most industries do not actually call for a boycott until they are entering into union negotiations or some other bargaining in which the boycott can be used as a trading chip, like in the very successful Coalition of Imokalee Worker's campaigns. If you boycott when there is no boycott called, you may be depriving those workers of their jobs and livings. But it is important to also respect the boycotts called by international unions. And remember, the earth still groans with each of our purchases. So do not decide lightly.
I have found that regardless of what I have tried to do, as a thinker and programmer, my mind is formed to the modern internet. I have traded already. I find myself less able to focus on the long-form media like books, despite my struggles, I find myself distracted by questions and answering those questions on the internet. I often rabbit-trail, despite my best intentions (though I will never abandon my books!). The question becomes how to harness its power, and how to use it more effectively, not how to shut it out and maintain mental virginity.
Smartphones are revolutionizing the way that the human mind works, incorporating the internet's vast store of knowledge so that it is accessible upon the merest stirring of curiosity.
Which is to say, sometimes living simply is not as easy as it once was. To drop out is an enticing spiritual option, as it allows space for meditation, prayer, and reflection, but one must be connected to the struggles for justice across the world if one is to participate.
Microblogging is the next phase of communication in a cultural battleground whose prize is your focus. It is impossible to fully participate in these forms in traditional ways. You have to spend your day going back and forth from life to laptop and back, or you use a less obtrusive device to record your immediate thoughts.
I lament the loss of long-form focus, but that is not sufficient. As a writer, the struggle is now to inject something of substance into a 140 character medium.
Why an iPad not an iPhone? If you examine my dumbphone, you will see that I am not kind to my tiny, pocket-borne electronics. Also, carpal tunnel and big thumbs.
But do I really have an answer? No. But I am making the leap and I'll tell you later. Delivery: July 23rd.
Though I am somewhat of a dropout and contrarian, I am learning what it means to be plugged in. I'll let you know how it goes.