Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Sea of Disconnect

I'm a proud Canadian who loves the country I come from and call home.  The exception to this rule is during the months of January and February.  To escape this yearly period I'd gladly sacrifice every beaver within a 250 mile radius to never experience another Canadian winter again.  For years I would defend them as short periods of time to embrace the outdoors.  I look back at those days as a dillusional period of my life.  I'm now older and wiser than the frozen idiot I once was.  

In short, Canadian winters suck.

Although some deeply disturbed Canucks enjoy the winter experience, the majority share my hatred of the cold, snow, ice and lack of sun.  These vitamin D deficient and beaten down souls will do anything to get a break from it all.  I include myself with the discontents.  I can't begin to admit how grateful I am for air travel to get me out of this frozen mess on occasion.  

A few years back my wife and I were in desperate need of a winter break when some good friends of ours suggested we join them on a Carribean cruise for a week.  Cruising was never on our radar, it seemed like a vacation option retired people on the verge of death did before kicking off their buckets into the next dimension.  We didn't realize that cruise lines catered to a varied mix of demographics and the one our friends had chosen would also appeal to us.  Being open minded to new experiences we gave it a try and loved it.  Now when time and finances allow we try to head south during the winter and sail the Carribean sea for a week of sunshine and visiting new destinations along the way.  I'll leave the open bar escapades for a blog entry at another time.

Last week was the time for our yearly winter escape. The weather throughout the week was ideal as were the conditions of the sea.  The ship we sailed on this year -- Celebrity Reflection -- felt  practically motionless as it sailed from Miami to Cozumel, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica and Haiti then back to Miami.  We were ridden with guilt as we soaked in the sun and heat knowing our friends and family left behind were struggling through a snowstorm back home in Ottawa.

As we sailed I noticed another benefit that isn't mentioned on any cruise literature or website sales pitch; The very expensive price for internet access while at sea.  I know for some of you that may sound like an absolute nightmare, but I've come to realize it's a bit of a blessing.  At a rate of $23 US a day passing up on modem speed access was a no-brainer for almost everyone on the ship.  The positive outcome of this situation was immeasurable. 

Imagine a ship filled with humans that aren't walking around like bent over zombies locked unto their iPhone and Android screens all day long.  The same observation applied to the dining and buffet areas where friends and families were communicating with each other again using spoken words rather than texts and poop face emojis.  I was beginning to think the cruise ship was an oversized time machine that brought us back 20 years.  Who knew these micro non-connected pockets of the modern world still existed?  

The experience made me reflect on a book I read recently;  Kevin Kelly's "The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future".  In it Kelly outlines our changing protopian world that is increasing its dependence on networked technologies, some of which exist today while others that will revolutionize our lives in the next thirty years haven't even been thought up yet.  Bluetooth enabled pills for health monitoring, augmented reality contact lenses to enhance what we see and record our every move are a small sampling of the technologies that await us.  We are indeed in for a crazy interconnected technology ride in the years ahead. 

There's an Edwin Land quote I enjoy.   Land was an American scientist and inventor, best known as the co-founder of the Polaroid Corporation.  It goes like this: "I don't mean you're all going to be happy.  You'll be unhappy - but in new, exciting and important ways."   His wise words pretty much sum up where we are today with technology and where we are headed. 

My cruise last week was short lived, but it reminded me of a time when we weren't always interconnected to each other yet survived with relative happiness.  I'm starting to believe our previous existence oblivious to the second by second minutiae of the social media world was in fact positive for our mental well being.  But alas our world now is a massive confluence of interconnections necessary for most of us to work and survive.  

I predict at one point there will be some pushback to the growing speed of change around us.  Technology free retreats will be marketed as utopian paradises not unlike how winter getaways are today.  In the meantime here's hoping the cruise ships of the world continue to overcharge its customers for on board internet access.  The mental technology breaks they unknowingly provide us with may soon be required to maintain our sanity.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post Glenn.

    I am only 19 but grew up without internet at home and only got a smart phone a few years ago - still don't have any social media accounts though. I can remember long rides in silence on the school bus home as my peers tapped away and scrolled mindlessly through addictive and numbing content.

    I didn't like that my parents didn't give me access to the internet or 'screens' at home and I still disagree with the reasons why they did it, but in effect I beleive I am a better person for it.

    - John