The DATA command on my ZX Spectrum was an ominous concept. At the time I was happy in my attempts to get my name to print infinitely with a simple GOTO or the astonishingly powerful GOSUB routine, I even managed to do some graphic design, create a character and animate it, draw game levels, add sounds and some form of control. What I did was of course total crap, but that was probably because I never quite got the grasp of that DATA command. The difference between the commands I had been using and this one, was that DATA felt like it had more in common with maths than the raw English of ‘PRINT’, ‘DRAW’, ‘PLOT’, ‘IF’, ‘THEN’ and ‘BEEP’. The DATA command was a storage device and as such its power lay in accumulating nonsense that then could be elegantly manipulated to create the illusion of intelligence.
Apparently, DATA is about to transform all of mankind – for on the horizon is the rather tedious future of ‘LifeLogging’ – at its least consuming this will mean that your intelligent wristbands or communication devices will track your steps and give you a report of how many calories you burned that day, synching with your bathroom scales or website forum where you can either gloat or envy others. The far more tedious prospect, one that has techies or gadget whores peeing themselves with excitement, is the new DATA gold rush that will be TOTAL Life Logging.
This it seems means recording your every movement and every waking second via a camera device with a memory card the size of Wales, which suggests we’re about to embark on some of the dullest holiday show and tells ever in the history of human beings. The beauty in such vast amounts of DATA they say, is when it is combined with a new kind of image search engine that will enable us to instantly recall the name of that lovely bottle of wine we had back in 1986 (or the equivalent of whatever the future 1986 will be) and I guess an endlessly useful bank of presets such as ‘Where did I leave my car keys’ or ‘How on Earth did I get home last night.’ will follow.
Whenever ‘lovely bottle of wine’ is mentioned, my bullshit detector springs into life, for this is the common aspirational pass phrase used to flog either very expensive things or else something particularly invasive, either way, I tend to think if someone actually uses this life log technology then chillin’ and drinking wine is probably not going to be the main experience you remember most.
I rather regard this new development and the lustful manner in which it is being received as the main reason why I will one day be happy to die, for I have no place in such a world nor does the prospect of recording everything I say and do fill me with hope. I rather like the ambiguity of an analogue existence where one can alter the course of the future by manipulating the past to suit the present – if my every word can be cross referenced with actual film footage of me saying something that contradicts a view I’ve since developed, I’m destined to spend my life in agonising torture and having to replace the joyous freedom of spontaneity with a hypercritical, high maintenance form of paranoia, where truth can only be verified after a Life Log image search. Gone will be the traditional method of relying on myself, I can predict a time where I’m just not as dependable as the search application. I’ve already lost the ability to store any general knowledge which I blame on Google and Wikipedia, once I used to attempt to use my brain to remember things; dates, spellings of words, names of my family and so forth, but I don’t tread that path enough these days and that part of my grey matter has become an overgrown dystopia with vaguely familiar buildings decaying under a setting sun. Google has become my memory and my ability to recount historical events.
The potential for abuse should life logging become a real thing is all too clear – the least offensive being that we will be entirely under the control of manufacturers who will have such a specific understanding of our needs and wants, they will literally be given digital levers that can be used to manipulate us to their every desire, in effect they will have digitised our souls and in turn can meddle with that information just as we do presently with genetics, only rather than fixing allergies or cancer tendency’s, it will be about drifting us towards McDonalds or guzzling fizzy drinks, buying shit music or taking out insurance policies for our house plants.
Quite honestly I regard even the mere idea of knowing that every second of my life has been captured as an anxiety filled head fuck, one that is fraught with complex existential issues and profound fears surrounding DATA loss or capture by someone who can cruise through my life watching my criminal activities or monitoring my preferences in pornography. It will raise questions about who the real me might be, for it won’t end at mere photographic snapshots and it is entirely predictable that in time these snap shots will take on a life of their own, eventually inhabiting the computer in a cyber real dimension, having a job, earning money and playing silly computer games on its virtual ipad in the evenings once its virtual kids are asleep.
We can regard this recording of life as the seed of a serious attempt for immortality, it won’t take long before various websites spring up offering virtual cryogenic chambers where by the recording of your life may one day be re-animated into a realistic cyborg version of your long dead self.
But what would you want to live for exactly? Especially if the future is as bleak and as self-obsessed as I can completely imagine it will be. If LifeLogging is as orgasmically successful as it appears the geeks expect it will be we are in for the most unimaginably isolated experience, a world in which there is no longer a need to connect or depend upon anyone else. Won’t our own lives and the constant reviewing of them become so completely time consuming that we won’t have time for anyone else, nor could anyone else be as interesting if all they are doing is reviewing their life logs?
Provided we can somehow tie this technology into porn sites, automated take away establishments, playstation gaming and various alternate realities and Facebook, there should never again be any real reason to deal with another human being ever.
We could instead simply inhabit DATA husks inside of which is a bed, an intravenous drip feed from various life supporting corporations and some fleshy looking interfaces we can attach to our genitals.
DATA should not be an attractive thing, I’d like us to stop fetishizing it with designer digital spectacles or a misguided allure for greater efficiency. In terms of my ZX Spectrum the DATA command was just a holding pen for babble, streams of unconnected words, that would make it seem that the computer might actually be talking to you, but it never was and it never will talk to you. Just because when you’re playing the hobbit and when prompted for an action you typed ‘Fuck Gandalf’ it replied ‘I can’t Fuck Gandalf’ doesn’t mean it was pondering the question, it was just assembling words from its DATA bank and creating the most likely effective response based on the nomenclature of your entry.
Computers are humourless, calculators – why must we degrade ourselves by so clearly desiring to want to assimilate with them so readily, exactly what is this Utopia we think they have to offer?