We like to think of the Age of Aquarius as the time of peace, love and understanding:
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation
It’s a nice fantasy, and while Aquarius is indeed concerned with issues of fairness and equality and honesty, we mustn’t forget that Uranus, the modern ruler of Aquarius, is the planet of liberation and revelation, but also of technology. Bill Gates’s keynote speech in 2009 to the Consumer Electronics show delivered a vision of the “Connected Experience” as provided by Microsoft, which connects everything we need for 21st century life so we never have to leave the house. Saturn is the traditional ruler of Aquarius, and the tendency of Saturn to be cold and hard takes a bit of the bloom off the fantasy of the Aquarian Age as being a utopia of kindness and love.
Don’t get me wrong – I am a technology addict and acclaimed gadget geek, and I love the connectedness that the wired experience provides. But there is a danger that a wired life of technology is beginning to replace real life. We’re connected via internet, television and cellphones, but how connected are we to our communities and family? At the dawn of the technology revolution it’s very exciting, but my friend Tim Boucher (whose blog is now defunct) looked down this road and delivered this chillingly prescient report:
How many years this will take to happen, I can’t say. Maybe five years? But the world is going to look like this. You are going to walk around with an augmented reality device, as well as a variety of devices whose purpose is to record, sort and “index” audio, visual and other information about your experience of life. You will become the spiderbot for Google walking around and “crawling” the physical earth. You will be paid a modest amount for your data-collection efforts. We think of these technologies now as “tracking” and “surveillance” but those terms will fall away and be replaced by terms which more accurately reflect the breadth of cultural change these devices will entail. By way of analogy, you could think of your experience of life as going something like this. You walk around and perceive augmented or mixed reality through your headset.
Most people will eventually gravitate towards *only* perceiving reality through these devices because they add increased levels of richness of information. Then they will of course be implanted and you’ll experience only this world from birth. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before that time, companies will begin to store fully immersive digital simulations of your entire life experience. Think of it in terms of the online virtual world, SecondLife. The devices which are constantly monitoring you and recording your experience will transmit this information to an engine which will parse it and use it to create a stored 4-D copy of your entire life, from start to finish. At any time you like (if you have enough money), you will be able to access your own memories and fully experience them as though they were happening to you again. You (or the government-company which graciously leases you this technology) will also be able to license content from your life to other users, and be able to directly trade experiences. People who have a certain level of shared or common experiences will form clusters of consensus reality, consensciousness. What do you think your MySpace friends [remember this was written in 2009] are for? Social networking online? Reality clusters. Who you allow into your shared experience of life. Who you give your world key to.::snip::
There will be an immediate and furious backlash against this destruction of human identity, time and space as the outer biological limits of the human mind and information-processing faculties are quickly reached. A resulting planned push towards posthumanism will be made, based upon the arguments that most of our experiences at this point are all completely stored electronically. Ghost in the machine. Uploaded consciousness will be offered to transcend these processing and bandwidth limitations of reality, at which point what we think of as a “human” would be more compatible with what we think of nowadays as a “subculture.” We will consist of language patterns and inter-locking sets of shared experiences.
Science fiction? Perhaps, but I believe that the future holds experiences that go beyond what we can imagine today. When this article was first posted in 2009 we were already seeing problems with media addiction, a problem with its own label (internet and communication technology addiction, or ICT). With the advent of Facebook and Instagram that has only gotten worse. With information coming only through the media, we lose the ability to process information independently and live as autonomous beings; instead we will become cogs in a huge wheel that is controlled by the media machine. The better alternative, I believe, is the choice to live a real and authentic life.
*(lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni from the musical Hair. )