LAS VEGAS, NV—This week, 140,000-odd people from nearly 150 countries piled upon Vegas for what would have to be considered a Luddite’s nightmare—the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This event gets bigger and bigger every year because A) we’re obsessed with newness, especially in electronic advances and gadgetry and B) we’re obsessed with the path of least resistance, therefore stand by appliances and devices that are presumably made to do away with the laborious tedium of complex things, like keeping a Rolodex or looking at a map. In other words, CES is the kind of event that is best attended obsessed.
Which we are, we are obsessed.
And it dawned on me immediately that these two items are just symptoms of a larger, more alarming obsession: That of being distracted—or, more to the point, our willingness to be distracted. All of it without the slightest bit of apprehension as to what that means to the very human connectivity that we’re supposedly broadening.
After all, aren’t those cell phones just invitations to freely interrupt one another whenever the urge strikes, or the wafer-thin plasma televisions meant to substitute for thought while maintaining a minimalist elegance? Aren’t GPS, DVR, DVD, CD, PDA, ETC just a thousand coldish acronyms for desensitizing LIFE? Because if you never have time to think, it means you no longer connect over the meaning of life as every scrap of living matter did preceding this Information Age. Instead we’ll be connecting over the life span of our distractions, which each year can be improved upon, better modulated, made faster, leaner, clearer, less obtrusive, intelligent and upgraded with greater capacities than before—and we as a global entity were doing just that at CES.
Somehow this begins to exceed all levels of nerditure, I thought—it could rain blood and it’s doubtful anyone with badges would notice or even care, unless somebody texted them to put on a sheet.
And then I finally got through the media luncheon line, and stopped thinking about such things.
A stroll through the three jam-packed halls at Hilton’s Convention Center got the better of my enthusiasms, and I saw Yoko Ono unveil a Buck Rogers-type book mobile bus that is as high-tech as it gets for kids wanting to record videos because, as she said in her curt address, John Lennon would have wanted it that way, and I saw giggling Japanese girls in tight outfits and Xbox games through 3-D glasses, and the whole goddamn sinking ship was at once beautiful and the collective resignations of the whole mass looked a little better in HDTV. CES is not about innovation, it’s about giving up! I once said that technology fits the direction of the world, but not necessarily the point. I was wrong. Man is nothing more than a sack of passing megapixels, and the world is just a hard drive that can hold five billion yobibytes of information, all of which is highly crashable and will one day be swallowed by the sun.
No wonder we want to be distracted.