The future, it seems, is too much for Nick Bilton. The New York Times’s in-house webstud, and author of the book I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works, had something of a Joycean epiphany last week. Perched atop a rocky cliff, watching the sun dissolve majestically into the Pacific, he immediately did, he writes, “what any normal person would do in 2011”: he whipped out his iPhone and started farting around with it, eager to come up with something “to share on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.”
But then a wave of self-doubt broke upon his consciousness:
Here I was, watching this magnificent sunset, and all I could do is peer at it through a tiny four-inch screen. “What’s wrong with me?” I thought. “I can’t seem to enjoy anything without trying to digitally capture it or spew it onto the Internet.” [the guy even talks to himself in stilted prose! -snarky blogger]
That gave him pause. It was like one of those moments when Pandora stops the music stream and asks you if you’re still listening. And so, “after talking to people who do research on subjects like this,” Bilton made a resolution for 2012: he will, he says, “spend at least 30 minutes a day without my iPhone.” He is nothing if not ambitious.
Now, followers of Bilton may at this point be feeling a little shiver of deja vu running up their spines. It was just a year ago, after all, when he announced his resolution for 2011, which was – you guessed it – to spend a small amount of time offline every day. He would, he wrote back then, be “retreating just a little bit from the digital paraphernalia.”
I will leave it to the addiction experts to interpret Bilton’s behavior. What interests me is what he plans to do with his half hour of daily disconnectedness this coming year. He’s going to devote the time, he says, to daydreaming. “Daydreams, scientists say, are imperative in solving problems,” he explains.
I used to think that daydreams just sort of happened, that they weren’t really something you could plan ahead for, like a dentist appointment. But, I have to say, Bilton’s plan sounds appealing. You schedule a 30-minute daily daydreaming slot onto your Google Calendar, and when the moment arrives you switch off the iPhone, iPad, etc., and immediately enter a fugue state in which your subsconscious is allowed to work its magic. You emerge, a half hour later, refreshed, bursting with creativity, and ready for some high-octane problem-solving.
In fact, now that I think about it, maybe this isn’t a case of Bilton retreating, tail between legs, from the future. Maybe, even in taking his daily 30-minute daydream break, he will actually still be dwelling in the future. I bet when the Google Brain Plug-in finally ships, it will come with a Daydream App. For a half hour every day, your brain will automatically be switched into blue-screen mode. Disconnected from the data flow, you will be plunged into a regenerative state of unconsciousness, broken only by the occasional subliminal advertisement.