The Digital Wins Over Digits: Our Tech Becomes More Valuable Than Our Bodies

Photo credit: Todd Jones Photography / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Because I’m morbid, weird, and a pessimist-fatalist, I often find myself thinking about which sense I’d rather lose if I had to: my hearing or my sight. During the time I thought I might make it as a singer-songwriter (that worked out), I obviously leaned toward keeping my hearing. Today, as the father of adorable children and compulsive Internet-user, I think I’d choose to keep my sight. Plus, if I were deaf, I would not need to hear my children whine about their dinner, which really places a thumb on the scale.

Speaking of thumbs! No wait, let me get to that in a minute.

I’ve also fantasized other forms of debilitation (again, pessimist-fatalist), such as which limb(s) I might do without if need be. Could I get by with one hand? (Sort of.) Would I be alright without ever being able to walk? (Probably.)

But these are all questions about what physiological aspects of myself I could do without. But there are of course parts of our lives we more or less take for granted that could be equally or more upsetting to lose.

For example, my dad (a musical genius whose brilliance is criminally ignored by the industry) is a cable guy, the good kind, and he’s told me about customers who, after big weather events, when power goes out and water stops running, will do all they can to get their cable TV back before anything else. It’s a troubling Maslovian flip.

That’s another story though. Let’s get back to the thumbs thing. Ready? Three, two, one…

Speaking of thumbs! There’s this survey that came out recently from Cable.co.uk, a British website for understanding telecom options, and it reports that almost a third of respondents, 29 percent, said they’d rather give up a finger than lose their broadband Internet access. Another quarter weren’t sure.

Now, I think the expected, conventional-wisdom response to this is supposed to be something along the lines of, “Oh, how awful/ridiculous that is, and how indicative it is of a social illness/disconnection from humanity/shallowness.” But I bet you can guess what my response it.

Damn right I’d rather lose a finger than Internet access! No question. Hell, two fingers. As gruesome and tragic as it would be to lose said digits, and as much as I’d curse my fortune and make my wife nuts and drop stuff a lot, I’d still have access to and use of the great global network that facilitates my work, my creative pursuits, and the one means of connection to humans that I can actually stand. It’s no contest.

I don’t see it as an indication of some kind of personal or societal problem, but, if anything, it’s a sign of incredible triumph for our civilization. We’ve managed to create something that, while it does not directly feed, clothe, or shelter us, is so plainly and massively beneficial that many of us would trade body parts for unfettered use of it. Good for us! Go us!

But look, I need enough fingers to use my big-ass phablet. I mean, let’s not be barbarians here.

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