Tuesday, February 07, 2012


I’m sitting on my couch typing this on a laptop and assuming it’s being read by someone other than me, that person is presumably reading it on a computer screen, so I don’t know what I have to complain about, but I’m going to complain nonetheless.

And it’s an old complaint, so I’ll even complain a bit about the complaint. Lame as it is, it’s this:

When I stopped into the coffee shop for an afternoon cappuccino (yes, I’m a sissy) and looked around at the assembled dozen or so patrons, each and every one had a laptop open at his or her table. Every single person there was there alone and every single one of them had the computer security blanket propped up in front of their face.

Nobody but me was reading a book and nobody was talking to anyone made of flesh and bone.

Is this where technology has brought us? Apparently so.

In Philosophy class today, we were talking about the response to the so-called “Problem of Free Will” known as deep self-compatibilism. According to this form of “soft determinism,” we can say that a choice is free (even if the universe behaves deterministically) just as long as an agent is making an uncompelled choice that springs from his or her authentic desires.

Of course, this gives rise to the question of what qualifies as an authentic desire. How many of those coffee shop patrons, in other words, have really chosen to desire sitting in front of a computer screen? Would they really desire to have that desire if it weren’t for all the societal forces acting upon them to create that desire?

I wonder how many of those screen-starers were staring at pages that were trying to make them want something they were staring at.

It’s hard to tell for sure whether we really do want what we want; I’m pretty sure, though, that I didn’t want to want any of that.


Blogger Deb's Lunch said...

Somehow, though, I think I'd be happier in this coffeeshop-laptop scene than the other technology enhanced situation you've ranted about - going into a bar, and the drinkers on their stools next to you are all on their phones, talking to pieces of plastic over their beers instead of other people. Or maybe I just want to want to like it.

7:05 PM  

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