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Not My Forte

Mar. 19, 2023

by Dr. David Fialk, Editor / Publisher

Technology is not my forte. I was late getting into computers, and didn't buy my first cellphone until two years ago. Before that I got by for a number of years with an old iPhone 5 that my then-girlfriend Veronica gave me when she upgraded. The only reason I broke down and bought a new one when I did was that I needed a modern one to keep an eye on the (Android) app we had built for Lokkal, to make sure it was behaving properly.

I'm not the most likely person for the job. I'm ambivalent about digital technology. If it has been a blessing at all, I figure it's been mixed.

The internet makes moving money easier. But, as it also concentrates wealth in fewer and fewer hands, we have less of it, so paying the bills has actually been made harder. Digital technology makes it easier to communicate, but we seem to have less to say. Perhaps there is something about the difficulty involved in saying things that makes what we say more meaningful. The ease with which advertisers and the powers that be can shape consensus online is largely dependent on their ability to manipulate our sense of community, dividing us into opposing camps, us and them.

Being part of a community, along with purpose, and regular immersion in nature, each make for a healthier, longer life. So, it is not a stretch to assert that belonging is one of the greatest human needs. You can have your own opinion on the subject, but living longer and healthier seems like the most objective measure to me.

I've already lived pretty long and healthy, gracias a dios. I was an antiquarian, and now I'm an antique. I like old things.

So, it was with a certain I-told-you-so glee that I recently watched a short video from a 20-year-old nanny. In it she complained of being out somewhere and unable to reach her 12-year-old charge to ask the girl to get ready to go to an appointment. The 12-year-old wasn't answering her phone or tablet, so the nanny had to call the girl's 14-year-old brother, who was annoyed at having to convey the message to his sister. The nanny suggested that some inventor develop a phone for the house as a whole. She noted that it would need to have a cord fixing it to the wall, so that it could not be removed from the house. She was sure that it would be a money-maker. Never having seen one, the dear was reinventing the landline.

I think the internet, to a great degree, is a fad, like hoola-hoops or bell-bottoms. I think, culturally, we are like that one-year-old with the cellphone (you've seen the video?), who cries ferociously when his dad takes it away from him, and is immediately pacified when he again has its flashing screen in hand. We are like monkeys, and the internet is a shiny object.

Clearly, we are not wholly animals. But we do immediately get into trouble when we forget that we are partly animals. The healthy benefits of regular immersion in nature (mentioned above) are not just due to the beauty of the forest or the negative ions of the seashore. The deepest benefits stem from being in touch with the limits of the real world, having our feet on the ground.

When you go to the park, you can act however you like. But when you are actually living in nature, as I did in northeastern Vermont, you have to keep your wits about you.

When I leave my house, I only occasionally take my cellphone with me, and then only to take photos. When I do, I put it on airplane mode so it's not madly trying to connect with distant cellphone towers while it is next to my crotch. I'm not so important that people need to reach me immediately.

I also never buy minutes. I stopped this practice years ago when I noticed mine disappearing from non-use. If I have to call someone, and I can't do that over the web (WhatsApp, etc.), then I use my landline. (I told you that I was old-fashioned.) My cellphone is still able to receive calls. At least it was until the other day, when I discovered that after a long time of not buying minutes, the phone company retires your number, "I'm sorry, but the number you dialed does not exist." Nor, as a recent trip to the phone store revealed, can it be revived.

I came home and erased the old phone number on the few internet accounts where I was using it for two-factor authorization. Importantly, WhatsApp still recognizes my number. Apple (Lokkal is building our iPhone app) still recognizes my old iPhone 5, even without the chip in it.

I will get a new chip with a new number, but I'm in no rush. So un-technological am I, that I might let things continue as they are indefinitely, except for my fear that at some point the system will reactivate my old number, give it to someone else, and then things will really go to hell.

The third factor, mentioned above, that guarantees (as much as such things are possible) a longer, healthier life is purpose. I find purpose generally when considering that the more we learn about science: intelligence, biology, physics... the less it seems like any of it could have evolved randomly. Particularly I find purpose in believing, as I do, that the technology into which I've been investing all my time and money, Lokkal, is the key to creating a better world; localism will save the planet.

As the poet put it regarding the caterpillar spinning its cocoon, "It leaves room in its involucrum for antennae yet to come."

Lokkal, internet as a public utility (like public broadcasting was for TV) imagines the shape of a vision, a model of the world yet to come. Lokkal sketches out the form of a healthier internet. It creates the shape of better community, online and off. Like the butterfly's cocoon, it leaves open a space into which society can grow.

Techno-averse as I am, I'm not the most likely person for the job. But with the state the world is in, personal preference doesn't count for much right now. Won't you please lend a hand? Join and contribute content, and/or click the donate button below and contribute funds. Or contact me at abc[at]lokkal[dot]com. Thank you.

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Dr. David presents Lokkal, the social network, the prettiest, most-efficient way to see San Miguel online. Our Wall shows it all. Join and add your point of view.

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