The new book, released tomorrow, suggests that the digital revolution hasn’t turned out the way most of us had hoped, and people want to return to reality.
Sure, we’ll still order things online or work remotely if we have to, but most of us yearn to get back to a more grounded, face-to-face existence.
The pullback from the universally digital future has, if anything, become more pronounced after suffering through the loneliness and disconnection of the pandemic, after the collapse of crypto and NFTs, after social media’s content-moderation fiascos, after Facebook’s fizzling efforts to launch the Metaverse, and after AI image generators have sucked up and replaced the work of creative people.
The glowing promise of the digital future has turned to ashes. We were sold a utopia of virtualized connections and products, but it turns out that what makes us human is the time we spend with each other and with real things.
The book is divided into sections that explore work, school, commerce, the city, culture (mainly performing arts), conversation, and the soul (religion). Sax asks whether the choice to ‘go digital’ is inevitable in every one of those categories, or whether we can choose options that may be a little less efficient, but that are better for us psychologically, socially, and culturally.
He’s not advocating for a Luddite future, but for a more conscious and deliberate one by asking the following questions:
“Can we reject the downsides of digital technology without rejecting change? Can we innovate not for the sake of productivity but for the good of our social and cultural lives? Can we build a future that serves us as humans, first and foremost?”
These are the questions that, according to Sax, we need to grapple with now. Let’s face it: the future will be a blend of technologies, old and new. We all have to make our peace with computers, cellphones and the internet. But Sax sensibly asks us to question the inevitability of the digital future that the tech lords have laid out for us.