The places we spend much of our time are not real. Does that mean our lives are becoming unreal?
When I was a kid my bedroom was my own turf. I could do what I wanted with it and arrange it any way I desired. For my family, it was our house that was our turf. As I think about real turf grass and artificial turf grass, I see an interesting metaphor. If my bedroom or house is my real turf, then my computer devices and online spaces contain the artificial versions. They are not real in the sense that they don’t actually physically exist, yet they are my turf. Yes, the devices exist, but the software, information, and online Technojungle places that I can manipulate don’t. The more time I spend in these virtual artificial (human-made) places makes me feel I may be living a partially artificial life.
For much of my life I knew of only two worlds I could interact with, the natural world of nature and the artificial, yet real, human-made world. I lived mostly in the human-made world. Today we have a third world we live in. It is the artificial online Technojungle world of cyberspace.
While we can discuss much about the physical artificial worlds we humans have created, it just seems to me that there is just something far more artificial about the cyber Technojungles we access online. You can’t actually touch these Technojungle artificial turfs we are discussing here because they exist only in cyberspace, thus I say they are cyberturfs.
Most people these days have places in the online Technojungle where they spend significant amounts of their time. These virtual places can include social media accounts with your own area, or your E-mail. I’m writing this book on a computer, but I can’t touch my book, only the machine I am using to store my words in. It’s an electronic world I can’t actually physically exist in. What other online places do you spend your time? Do they seem or feel real to you like physical places? If they exist in cyberspace, then I propose we say that these are not actually real places, but artificial.
I often feel I am being enticed and even seduced into spending huge portions of my life using the artificial places of the Internet Technojungle. What does this mean with respect to my life? I also feel I’m surrendering my privacy and my attention, along with vast amounts of information about myself and my humanity to have access to artificial worlds and my artificial turf. All this is under the auspices of being connected to other people, making hundreds of friends, communicating with each other and having knowledge at my fingertips. How about your life, do you feel really connected to people, actually friends with hundreds of people, have knowledge (keep in mind what knowledge is) at your fingertips? Welcome to the future! How much of this were you expecting as being part of your future?
What I observe is that many people seem to treat their artificial turfs as if they are as real as the real world, often more than the physical real world, whether natural or human-made. What prices are they paying, and I’m not referring to money? Once immersed deep enough, they may not be able to turn back.
Remember, the Technojungle includes our cities, sometimes called the concrete jungle. A city is an artificial jungle that is physically real. As for the jungle idea, that refers to how these aspects of our world are so busy and sprawling, which can be described as wild and out of control in the same way as the Internet. In the city, trees are eliminated to make room for a concrete structures. Can you take a short metaphoric mind safari and compare the city and the Internet? Consider roads and highways too. Find the similarities and dis-similarities. What do they mean to you? What do they mean to us as humans?
Have you ever heard someone say, “Get off of my turf!” Or, “That’s my turf!”? Gangs sometimes have turf wars. We all like to have some place or area we can call my space. An early social media giant was MySpace.
How does a soccer or field hockey game differ from one played on a real grass field? Let’s take a look at this metaphor of an artificial turf field and see what it can show us about the artificial online Technojungle world. After all, we have artificial intelligence as part of our Technojungle world now and we are exploring the artificial Technojungle.
When my son was young, he played soccer. At first, the kids played on gravel fields. As they got older, they graduated to grass fields, but played on gravel if the grass field was wet and soggy due to rain. We used to make sure he took his soccer boots off before getting in the car after playing on these fields. With the former, the car would get gravel all over the floor, with the latter, we would find grass in the car. Gravel and grass fields were often uneven, particularly because most of them were multi-purpose and would have corners that were used later in the year for baseball. A parent would have to go to a shack, often at another field and where other parents were lining up, to get the liner contraption to lay down the limestone lines. There were plenty of issues with these fields. Our physical worlds can be quite messy.
Top: An artificial turf field in Vancouver. Bottom: The artificial-like turf of a circuit board.
Somewhere in their teen-years, the kids graduated to an artificial turf field. No mess, no lining—no muss, no fuss. Artificial turf fields were pre-lined for several kinds of games, for example, field hockey. Players would have to be careful not to confuse the various lines. The game changed. The ball rolled more, the kids ran differently, the field could be used rain or shine. While artificial turf fields were expensive to install, there was only one field to maintain, less real estate, no lining with powdered lime—a better experience for everyone involved. Problems seemed to be solved by using a field created with a much better technology.
Yet, there was a certain realness, grittiness and humanness to the games played on non-artificial turf fields. Sure there were problems, yet everyone still enjoyed the game. Perhaps those fields were more humanizing. Games played on artificial turf fields can seem a bit sterile, not as natural, although, as time passes and games are no longer played on the old fields, the memories or differences diminish and the new become all that is known. Sometimes it is the roughness in life that makes the experience more authentic and human. The new ways become normal and we can no longer understand any other way. Do you ever think that in some ways the online Technojungle world we partially inhabit seems sterile?
Can you see how it is possible look at the characteristics of one thing and apply them to another to get some additional insight? There is more to this story, so I shall go on.
Maybe not so perfect. I used to have crepe soled slippers at home. My wife began to find bits of rubber that she claimed came from my aging slipper soles. She demanded that I get rid of my slippers. But, I found the bits of rubber in the car. Then, at the next soccer game, I noticed that the artificial turf was full of little bits of black rubber. As my son ran, his soccer boots kicked up the bits of rubber and they got lodged in his boots and clothes. So much for the problem-less artificial turf. Here were bits of baggage in this futuristic perfect artificial turf solution.
What can we learn here? I know life is rough for all creatures in the world, this includes humans in the Technojungle. Have you noticed that there are always problems in the paradise of promises—the Technojungle, no matter how clever and perfect they devise the technology to be? Do we often trade one problem for another as we live evermore in the Technojungle?
As you safari, look for the ways we all use our various turfs and notice the problems and opportunities that come with them. Begin to determine how we might live even more human lives. Since our Technojungle turf is artificial, we should always keep in mind that it is not real and our experiences may be somewhat sterile, less life-giving and less humanizing. Yet, for many people, the online Technojungle is a more real world than the real world.
I see that the perfect and sterile is not always the most human experience. If the Technojungle places where we are spending so much of our time are artificial turfs, could our lives be becoming somewhat artificial? This might be an important notion to bear in mind as we spend more of our life frolicking on, or in, the artificial turf of the Technojungle. If the places we humans spend our time in the Technojungle are artificial then could what we do there be described as artificial? It’s just more baggage to ponder.
In what ways are the relationships we have with the Technojungle artificial — real and not real? In some ways it seems like a paradox. We say we go to a website and yet we don’t really go anywhere. We say that we, “…are going on the Internet…” in the same way someone might say they, “…are driving on the Interstate highway.” It is real and not real at the same time. That is why I say it is an artificial experience. When we talk on the phone to somebody, it is as though we are with them, but we are not. Even this page I am writing exists, but at the same time I can’t pick it up until I print it, so to me it doesn’t actually seem to exist. It exists artificially somewhere in my computer. Until it is existing in my real human world, I say it is artificial. At the moment, I’m writing an artificial book.
If I am leaving aspects of my human life, information, around in the artificial turf worlds of the Technojungle, might I be building for myself aspects of my life that are also artificial turfs? How much substance is there to what is on the Internet? Do you want to be artificial, even just part of you? Can you think of ways to be human in the artificial turf worlds of the Technojungle? Could we one day find our humanity has migrated to the artificial turf of the Technojungle and that we truly can live artificial lives? Would artificial turfs then become real? Would we still be human beings?
I see a strange world and my life can seem strange as I understand more about being a human being and living in this world of technology called the Technojungle.
There are plenty of unexpected questions to ask in this Technojungle life of the future. Our artificial turfs can bring us artificial lives. But the information is so scattered and even fragmented, how can this sea of data be useful to anyone, or the Technojungle?