The literarily gifted Warren Ellis has a new piece of work out for us all to feast on. It’s a novel of sorts that comes in four parts entitled Normal. The story follows a futurist who is doing a stint at Normal Head, a rehabilitation centre for futurists – those who look into the bleak almost probable end of the world and try to subvert the fate humans have put on ourselves by developing strategies that offset that end. Normal Head exists because these futurists often need a break, either by choice or by force, from this vocation, especially prone to what Ellis names ‘abyss gaze’, a depression that comes from gazing into the abyss of the future. To add to this, at Normal Head all patients are completely disconnected, meaning they have no access to technology, often bringing on withdraw from their tech addiction.
This point in particular interests me about the series. The idea that people need to be forcibly cut off from their tech, surely this is something most of us can relate to. While I love the connectivity our crazy future world currently allows us it can no doubt be detrimental to how we function, and people are, without question, addicted. For myself I couldn’t tell you the last time I went through a waking hour without looking at some kind of device, let alone a day; not to mention the amount of times I’ve picked up my phone and checked it for messages despite the a fact I’ve had it with and know none should exist. I can at least claim a resistance to the urge while driving, something others are less capable of. All to often I see someone steering with one hand while they try to talk on their phone or type a message with the other, as though forgetting that they’re currently in control of a fifteen hundred kilo machine moving at up to one hundred kilometers an hour. That’s a pretty wicked addiction right there, one that’s sure to hurt themselves or those around them. Of course there are plenty more examples of how this commonplace addiction affects us; from people who shun their friends when out to look at their phones, to those who fail to even get out of their house for fear of disconnecting.
One bit of tech that’s popped up in the last few weeks that seems to use our collective addiction for good is Pokemon Go. I haven’t got the app myself but it seems designed to get people out of the house, forcing them to move and be social in order to progress through the game. I think that’s kind of awesome. The game rewards people by walking set distances and physical connecting with others which means it’s designed for a group of people, gamers, that makes them do the exact opposite of what they’re known for…and it’s working! No doubt the popularity of the game will breed others of its ilk, which is great. Not only will the games work to entertain people, and make them more healthy and social but if also paired with apps like Charity Miles – an app that raies money for charity whenever you exersice – then it will be doing an even greater good. Of course the argument could be made that people should exercise, be social, and give to charity without the need for for technology making it fun, but, as that argument doesn’t involve believing you may one day become a pokemon master, it’s pretty easy to argue against.
Back to Ellis and his intriguing new novel. It’s currently getting released in four parts over four weeks in whatever digital format you choose, which quite appropriately means you need some sort of device to read it. For myself that’s a kindle, and I’ve already pre-ordered all four parts which means they’ll magically show up on my kindle over the next month. If you however wish to take your own sabbatical from technology it will be out later in the year in a physical form.
In the meantime I’m taking my own steps to slightly disconnect from technology, which at the moment involves putting my plane on airplane mode at night. Admittedly it’s not much, and is mostly to ensure I get a good night’s sleep, but, hey, at least I’m doing something to combat my addiction. I’m basically a hero.
While we’re on the subject of technology check out this cool device that turns any surface into a touch interface.