The Cycle | March 21, 2013
>>> one of the ways the simpsons plays with modern society's sense of irony is having episode begins with racing home to watch tv but also in a different way. reminding us we're watching tv while mocking tv conventions. i write with about the way they mock conventions. so does our next guest in his new book present shock which explains what happens when we all exist in a distracted presence and don't pay attention to what's in front of us. part of which robs us of conventional meanings. it is a fascinating book that will help you understand the modern world . it is an honor to have him with us now even though now is a loaded world in his world. how are you?
>> hi. good to be with you.
>> in your book you talk about how we're filled with these devices that allow us to never fully be in the moment. not just the iphone and the ipad but also the remote control which allows to us click, click, click and never allows us to be in the here and now. what is the impact on our world?
>> i guess the main one is that you don't know where you are. the thing that i, that bothers me, i guess, about the constant pinging from everywhere else is that we think we have to catch up with our devices. if you don't catch the latest thing on your twitter feed, you're somehow behind. when in reality it is the twitter feeds and everything else trying to keep up with you. what i'm trying to do with present shock, you can be in the presence without being in shock of even though we've lost some of the great industrial age narratives and goal oriented ways of thinking, we can still be centered. we can still have purpose. as long as we don't let these things distract us completely.
>> it seems like for a long time, the idea of dystopia was represented by utopia was that these technology wos solve our problems. now is utopia your idea of saying, quote, yearning for a simpler life devoid of pain, pinging.
>> in some ways we're all entitled to an hour devoid of pinging.
>> i don't know that we can do do have a segment without saying pinging.
>> we talk about the idea of preparing for the apocalypse. it is almost this wish gratification that we want a simpler life. if that has to come at clam us the ruin.
>> believe it or not, i've always believed. digital technology can make for a simpler life. when i was first exposed to digital technology , i thought this will make it easier. i can work at home , in my own time, i can exchange goods with other people directly without working for the men. it seems like part of the slacker era. then the futurists came on and said don't worry. it can save the stock exchange . there will be new places for capital. what we did was exacerbated the worst of the industrial age . we all tried to keep one digital technology rather than using it to create --
>> to simplify our life.
>> the other thing you talked about was that culture, that add has affect our governs. it was like the culture doesn't want the government to do anything unless there is an urge encrisis. on the other hand, we have a washington right now, obsessed with cutting the deficit. a very long-term problem that has been sold and masqueraded as a short term crisis. your book is called present shock. have the hawks used present shock politics?
>> in some ways. without time, without real linear time , it is hard to have a narrative. they keep complaining obama cannot really tell a story that's compelled by the american people . we don't respond to stories. where are you taking us? what is the eye on the prize? what ends will justify the means. so we end up in this crisis management . always responding to each thing. being a deficit hawk , we're going broke. we won't be able to pay our bills. that's pretty immediate. what we have to do is, i mean, long term, look toward a more steady state sustainable economic policy rather than always looking toward the next crisis just to get us through moment.
>> is that really true though that we don't think in stories anymore? to me stories and story telling are so central to human beings and the way we think about the world, our lives, our trajectories. has technology really changed that?
>> i don't know if technology has changed it. we did not have history until we had text. we didn't have --
>> we had stories before we had text.
>> not the same way. we did not have human history . we did not have the idea of judeo-christian progress. we did not have contract that's created accountability in the future.
>> didn't we have an oral tradition before we had written text ?
>> we did. but those stories were very circular. very different kinds of stories. they were not we are a people marching toward this end. that we're going to make things better over time . we're going to write laws together and improve the ethical condition. that notion of progress, of history really came in the age when we could write things down and see a future. and i feel like the digital age may be just as big a shift. it will take a while. more than this year or next year. we're seeing the inklings of people responding less to stories. say even in a christian narrative. what will happen when i die, more to the little thing around their wrist saying what would jesus do. very in the present in terms of performative behavior. i like how break it down, the reality show taking over traditional television drama, narrative. the book is fantastic. thank you for writing it and thank you for being here.
>> thank you for having me of.
>>> up next, single parenthood is no joke unless you're a stand-up comic in which case everything is a joke. the comedian describes how to conquer fatherhood without sacrificing manhood. ee.