On a whim and with some pushes from @dearsarah I decided to attend a film I've hitherto avoided, "We Live in Public" at it's LAFF premiere. I've avoided the film as I knew it included lots of footage of friends employers and lovers, past and present, and frankly some of which I have happily buried in my psyche to safely release later when I'm 73 and suspected of senility. (Disclosure, I know many of the subjects of the film personally and in fact Josh' story line informed some of the storylines in On_Line the 2002 Sundance film I produced about on-line dating and cybersex that none of you have seen either.)
However, I somehow felt it was time to caste out these ghosts of lives gone past, I suspect the rented red muscle car and the weekend of Father's day classic rock blocks on the radio while I drove around with the top down in my former home of Los Angeles helped fortify for what was to come.
The movie starts off a bit more focused on Josh, than is likely fair, or reasonable and in many ways doesn’t celebrate his very real success (Jupiter) and genius, it does, however accurately portray the craziness that ensued thereafter (though I think some of that party footage was Razorfish not Pseudo parties, but who’s' quibbling. I think it did an excellent job of capturing the party-turns-orgy-turns-Lordoftheflies downward spiral moment. Some nice flourishes to that bit as well - and I agree that the millennium officially ended on 9-11 (though I thought we spent a few frames to long on that).
However, I think the most important part of the movie, was tucked into its tail end, after the chaos, orgies and the automatic weapons. Even after the fascinating process of watching a human being lose his lover, house, car, money, family and fame... It's what he sought after that I found fascinating…
First he went to family, they denied him - though the film doesn’t' really tell us why (I have some guesses). Then he sough solitude and work (channeling a Paul Simon theme song ) in his apple orchard. And finally he moves to Ethiopia, in a move the movie says is to avoid AMEX collections agents.
But I don't believe it for a second.
Josh, after craving, receiving and consuming all of this attention, press, media and people around him - suddenly craved something much more personal. Quiet. He wanted to unplug from the grid - in a Quaker like straight-edge effort to bury himself in the craft and work of the apple farm he though he could escape, reinvent anew and unplug from the media/knowledge/relationships/tweets/email/internet monster he helped create.
Of course, failed completely as up-state New York is still on the grid, So he picked an even more remote, emerging market, Ethiopia, and by all accounts he's dome some amazing things there with his orphanage and life. Yet - and he said this on stage in the Q&A - you can try to escape the media/technology beast, but it follows you, its everywhere feeding you its diet and warping your every thought, action, and affecting; overtly and subversively - your work.
Not that I had as much system re-tuning and rebuilding to do on my departure from the BBC before beginning at AND, but this same desire for disconnection drove me to pick BALI and to leave my blackberry in my Villa for most of the trip - partially unsuccessfully for those of you who saw the flickr/facebook feeds –But the net. But NO, the network was there almost 100% of the time, via blackberry, iPhone, WIFI at Ku De Ta, and on the beach of most of the tourist spots. Not being connected and the noise and drivel of communications, media, technology and society – was inescapable as was the experience pollution it they bring with them. Like the Starbucks and McDonalds - who conquered the planet before the Internet. There is no uncharted territories in meat-space any more, there is no THERE. (see my favourite William Gibson quote below):
"Totally ubiquitous computing. One of the things our grandchildren will find quaintest about us is that we distinguish the digital from the real, the virtual from the real. In the future, that will become literally impossible. The distinction between cyberspace and that which isn't cyberspace is going to be unimaginable. There is where they don't have WIFI." - William Gibson
Which leads me to the point I’ve started to make at the end of my speeches lately, a point people either dismiss as too obvious or snicker at as to it's impossibility.. The resorts of the future will be THERE, they'll be at a place, disconnected from the planet, probably secret in it's location, (maybe under the sea, or on a mountain (or in a bunker under one) they'll be self-sustaining to minimize peoples need to interact with the outside world and people will have to go to great lengths to get in (and to be proven not journalists) - If the future goes the way it seems to some days there may even be automatic weapons involved…
In Short, Josh's vision for the world, "QUIET" is the future - a place totally connected; yet simultaneously disconnected.... A point subliminally made in the film, but one I think is absolutely an important one to consider. What is the correct level of connection to the world, to each other, to our “watchers” and how can we evolve a modicum of decorum, language and personal space in the digital social fabric so as not to have to ignore the 23000 people who add us as a friend after seeing us speak at a conference. (wait, don't take that personal Steve, your cool)...
In short, this technology both as an entertainment medium and as a platform for society’s very existence is still woefully immature and ill developed. Like many teens it has a healthy respect /fascination with sex, weapons, interpersonal communications and fame. What it's lacking is any sort of teacher/leader who can help it, and us – its older siblings - make sense of it all, as even those of us closest to it can't really see it for what it is.
In the Q&A someone mentioned Ray Kurzweil's singularity to me tonight which makes me smile every time (including its mention in the Matrix movies). Yet I'm fascinated and enthralled by what the combination of behavioral-targeted advertising, the elimination of privacy and the evolution of brands into ephemeral fashion do to our culture. What survives in a world where everything is dismantled, re-assembled, attribution lost and personal contribution mangled and everything, always 24-7 is for sale. The line between signal and noise moves in completely unpredictable ways.
For me, I find myself seeking, more and more – the same thing as Josh. Ways to steal away from the chatter, discussions, technology, progress, media, markets and things… yet I also find myself wandering into bars of strangers with distant friends for company where I can hide.
I’ve realized that what I REALLY want in the world is to easily be transported to a place that embodies MY idea of Quiet, quite different from Josh’s. A place to be alone with your thoughts and away from the “watchers” and “participants” sort of the inverse of Josh’s worlds in that I don’t mean a bunker in Manhattan full of naked girls and automatic weapons (though those parties we some of the more interesting ones I’ve attended) I mean the real kind…. But I’ve looked and searched – and have come to the painful and inobvious conclusion that it does not really exist.
So of to bed, after I post this, add links and tweet about it - Ciao
Originally posted on rxdxt.vox.com