He explains that the phenomenon of balancing new technology and everyday life is nothing new.
“As it happens, in Shakespeare’s lifetime, there was a new gadget that came along that everybody had to have. It was incredibly popular and it was called a ‘table’. It was a little almanac you carried around in your pocket that had an erasable surface — you wrote on it with a stylus, and then you could erase it in the evening. . . . The idea of erasing something was brand new to Renaissance society. So Shakespeare gives one to Hamlet. In the play, when Hamlet meets the ghost [of his father] for the first time and the ghost has this terrible news for him, he’s so flummoxed by the news he says, ‘My tables! My tables!’ and he pulls out this device from his pocket and begins to write on it.”
This, he says, is akin to what’s going on today with more modern technology. Our smartphones and Blackberries can help us get through the day, but we can really become dependent on them.
“We adopted these devices because they do so many wonderful things for us, which is undeniable, and the goal is to make life better and more efficient and more streamlined. . . . The good side is the connectedness.”
The bad side, though, comes when one refuses to let go of the connectedness.
In the book, Powers tells a story about calling his mother, explaining that hearing her voice and seeing her picture pop up on the phone is an overall pleasant experience when he calls her; however, the experience is only really pleasurable, though, because he doesn’t generally continue using his phone after making a call like that.
“The only reason . . . I had this wonderful experience of thinking about my mom is that I hung up the phone and didn’t make another call — didn’t move on to another digital task. So, the moral of that story is, you have to open up some gaps between yourself and all your digital tasks, or else they never amount to anything.”