A few years ago, Microsoft ran a campaign with the slogan ‘Where do you want to go today?’ But it turned out that this was not a question but an instruction. Sensible answers to the question might have included “Back to bed” or “Lunch” but we have started to redefine the concept of human freedom by linking it to notions of speed, convenience and mobility rather than with the old idea of acting with minimal interference from others. We have also started to view ‘things’ like documents, videos and screens as ‘places’ and we now stay awake half the night doing stuff that should have been done during the daytime. While we can do things anytime and anyplace we choose, perhaps the quality of what we are doing, and the quality of our relationships with other people, is suffering.
We have been seduced by another idea too. The explosion of global connectivity over the last decade or so can be liberating but has come at the expense of local and physical interactions. This, in a nutshell, is the Faustian bargain we have struck with digital technology. We are free to work at home. We are free to juggle various electronic devices and personas. We are free to do anything we want in our wired 24/7 world. But in doing so we have started to chip away at our souls. The cold logic of computers has taken the warmth out of human conversation and relationships. We have built machines that allow us to do several things at once but we are becoming clinical, efficient and machine-like ourselves.