Faust is one of my favourite texts.
I like both Marlowe and Goethe’s telling of the old German story about the greedy Doctor Faust who bored with the tedium of ordinary life makes a pact with the Devil in exchange for knowledge, pleasure, and exquisite experience.
So I was instantly engaged when I heard William Gibson, author of the seminal Neuromancer describe his chief protagonists ‘cyber-faustian’ moment in relation to his relationship with technology during a podcast.
It hit home.
That was me. It was almost everyone I know.
How many of us are beguiled and bewitched by technology, succoured by the promise of infinite connections, and rendered mute by the emotional promise of cyberspace.
Gibson is something of a genius to see that in the future technology would be embedded deep into our DNA, deep enough so that when it’s removed it hurts, when the battery dies it is like a part of our brains dying, that when it vibrates we vibrate sympathetically in a pavlovian response.
I sat on Elwood beach on a recent Saturday morning and watched the people riding, walking, running, and skating by. Every one of them had a phone in their hand. No one was alone, truly alone to enjoy the sun, sand, sea, and the experience of being out and about in the world.
Each person was caught in their own cyber-faustian moment having exchanged the tedium of their own thoughts with the connectedness of cyberspace, (in)finite knowledge, social connections, status, and the opportunity to be marketed to in a really smart way.
It was the loneliest thing I have ever seen. None of them were alone but they were all pathetically lonely, connected only in Gibson’s “consensual hallucination”.
Put the phone down. Be still, be alone, and be with your thoughts.
The great shot was taken by a bloke called Stefan Kluake and is on flickr.