This past Friday I went to see the documentary "We Live In Public" and found myself transported back in time to when computers and cell phones were barely part of our lives. To see where we are now gave me a shiver that continued throughout the night. The message of the film was how all of us have a need to be seen and heard. For the lonely and isolated their only source of comfort is knowing that perhaps someone saw a comment they made, a video they put up on YouTube or a picture they posted on Instagram. In the documentary the main character, Josh Harris, an Internet pioneer and dot come millionaire sets up an experiment in a bunker type environment where 100 artists are recorded and broadcast 100% of the time. Over a month the scene deteriorated from performance art into darkness as people willingly gave up their privacy and degraded their standards of morality for more and more peer recognition. Josh Harris accurately predicted what our need for social contact and the coming technology would eventually allow everyone to display their entire lives to the public.
I wondered what the effect of public attention had on the willingness of participants to commit the more morally repugnant acts. What was the tipping point?
What I thought about most is how today it is considered perfectly normal to be socializing physically and virtually at the same time. What does it mean to exist in two realities at once? With the advent of Google glasses and the experiment conducted successfully allowing brains to connect via the Internet we could potentially be existing in the multi-realities of any and everyone. We will be able to share with the public our exact visual and aural viewpoints and access millions of others.
When you consider Hofstadter's proposition (which I find intriguing) that our souls or our Iness is a collection of electrical patterns (patterns of events, memories, perception categorized and catalogued) that can be transferred to other mediums (suggesting transference of self, albeit degraded), it at once becomes obvious why our need for peer recognition can overtake all other facets of our lives. Just as spreading our physical genome is a core social driver, so is public recognition because with each intake by others of our words, images, thoughts so is our longevity after death increased.
The real question with technology is whether or not stepping into the virtual reality will cause a deterioration of morality or will gaining access to viewpoints and perceptions of others increase our empathy. I am trying to process all of it but am overwhelmed.