Digital Immigrant Manifesto

Mankind is running with an infinitely complex pair of scissors. Technology will save us from ourselves or it will annihilate us. We might differ on the likely outcome but let's agree that we're both gamblers. You let it ride on red, me on black, and the silver ball on the wheel of time lands on double zero—house wins. No one can claim to predict what the next five to fifty years will amount to, if anything. But where else can this arc of progress go but streaking past 9 billion towers of Babel while we watch in mute horror as things take a turn for the weird.

We are living in a society of growing complexity, intense specialization, and increasing sensory fragmentation. The attention of our eyes, ears, and hands is pulled, at any given time, in all directions. As a people, we cannot appreciate the bounties of silence and have grown uncomfortable with inner stillness. Our restlessness causes us to judge life moment to moment and we are losing the ability to see events in context. Historical thinking—placing events one after another in a cause and effect linkage—has atrophied. The final nail in the coffin of our consciousness is the ubiquitous smartphone, which has blurred the line between the professional and the personal and is making slaves of us all.

Apart from the personal crises we face, there is a crisis of leadership that hastens our devolution. The people who would have once qualified as our societal elites have abandoned the responsibilities they shouldered for thousands of years and no longer protect those who toil for them, like the monarchs of old. Many of our brightest are drinking the individualistic Kool-Aid that makes modern life all about parties, babies, and granite countertops. Social bonds are fraying and the compact between the haves and have-nots that permits a hierarchical civilization to thrive could tear in our lifetime.

Our leaders have failed but soon we too will fail one-another thanks to the lackluster educational buffet of ideas on offer to children. Technology has a massive, encompassing influence on the course of human events. Despite this fact, grade school is conspicuously absent of any discussion of the history of technology, nor the moral and ethical implications of its playing out.

We learn how to use computers, but not why we built them. Time-saving devices are lauded as ends in themselves, but what are we taught to do with all this free time? The idea of progress as an unmitigated boon for humanity, progress for progress' sake, has quietly triumphed over every other conception of the good life put forward by great thinkers past and present. Technology has created the world's youngest billionaires and concentrated them near a city prone to earthquakes.

We—the vanguard generation that faces down progress as it comes flying out of 3d printers and off of mechanized factory floors—need to make decisions about basic guidelines as to the acceptable use of these innovations and our relationship to them. It is essential to our core essence as humans and participants in a civilization. We cannot delay while the dust of progress settles before deciding what direction the engine of innovation should take us. If we wait too long, that dust will make Pompeians of us all.