According to the Mayans, who may turn out to be less than accurate, the world will end on December 21st 2012. If you’re planning ahead, that’s a Friday, which is a real bummer for those of us who really look forward to the weekend – especially the one before the Christmas week when I typically start drinking for 2 weeks solid. On the upside, you can forget about buying all those expensive Christmas gifts and forget about the repercussions of the orgiastic debauch that’s called “The Office Party.”
However, for some folks, apparently their world ended on June 29th, 2012, when Amazon’s North Virginia cloud server went down, a hubric victim of Mother Nature’s nemesis by way of a humongous storm. Oh, the irony – a cloud wiped out by a cloud! This resulted in the almost unimaginable shutting down of Netflix, Pinterest, and Instagram. Thank God Twitter and Facebook were still up so people could get their social fix and complain bitterly about how their lives were now ruined because they couldn’t watch Family Guy and post a picture of themselves watching Family Guy.
I have to admit that when I notice Twitter is down – and that’s becoming less common as the company improves its up-time – I have a nervous feeling of “missing something,” although it’s hard to work out what precisely is so important about Twitter than I might “miss.”
So it struck me that maybe I, and many others, are becoming a little too tech-dependent – almost pathologically so. A friend of mine took a vacation on the island of Tenerife recently and deliberately left all his technology at home. That included his phone. He took books, paper, pens, and suntan lotion. He said it took a few days to adapt but once he got past the cold-turkey, he was just fine. What ss more curious is how much resistance he got from work colleagues who felt it was their right to be able to contact him. On his vacation!
So the Dudes are promoting a new idea: going NUDE for a day!
NUDE is a backronym that stand for “National Unplugged Day Experience” when people around the world switch off their phones, laptops, tablets, and try to live a day without the trappings of technology. This is not an experiment in neo-Luddite living or some insane gesture by a few old geezers who are having a hard time with the modern world, but an opportunity to reconnect with our essential humanity rather than hide behind electronic walls that make us less social rather than more. The paradox is that the more “friends” we have on social networks, the less connected we really are. I’ve mentioned before the excellent book Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology And Less From Each Other by Sherry Turkle but it really is worth reading, In fact, to whet your appetite we’re posting the DudeNotes version in our Boxnet account. One of her concerns is how the world of ever-on is preventing people from having critical “alone time,” and this is especially true of adolescents who have grown up in an always-connected world:
Adolescent autonomy is not just about separation from parents. Adolescents also need to separate from each other. They experience their friendships as both sustaining and constraining. Connectivity brings complications. Online life provides plenty of room for individual experimentation, but it can be hard to escape from new group demands. It is common for friends to expect that their friends will stay available—a technology-enabled social contract demands continual peer presence. And the tethered self becomes accustomed to its support.
This is why going NUDE with a Dude is important. It is a reminder to us all that solitude and reflection are psychologically necessary, and that they are seriously at risk of being trampled underfoot in the Brave New World of consensual social integration.
There’s a reason why the Borg  of Star Trek are seen as an enemy to humanity; they represent what the ultimate technological network could become. The writers made them physically scary by presenting them as half-human, half-robot, but if you want to imagine them much scarier, make them look just like you and me; human.
Google want us to wear glasses and be connected all the time, but that’s just a step to contact lenses, to ear implants, and to small chips physically connected to the cortex. At that point, I have seen the Borg – and they are us.
Dystopian futures aside, we’re open to suggestions on the date for NUDE day. It’s going to be really, really difficult to find a day that works because, of course, everyone will claim that it’s impossible to do their job without technology. That is, doubtless, true. Nor would anyone be able to tweet about it – the hashtag #Imgoingnudetoday is tautological – if you’re using it, you’re not doing it! So in all truth, it’s unlikely to be a perfect event.
However, if we can get people to acknowledge it in principle, and take part in as many ways as possible, that’s as much as we can hope for. If all someone can manage is to turn off the phone and wear the T-shirt, that’s OK. If someone can leave their iPad in a drawer for a day, that’s also good. The point is to raise awareness  that being disconnected is (a) possible and (b) good. And to quote Turkle one last time;
At the extreme, we are so enmeshed in our connections that we neglect each other. We don’t need to reject or disparage technology. We need to put it in its place. We will begin with very simple things. Some will seem like just reclaiming good manners. Talk to colleagues down the hall, no cell phones at dinner, on the playground, in the car, or in company.
…or go NUDE!
 This is to be expected in the New World Order of ever-on. There is an unspoken expectation by employers and colleagues that we are always available, regardless of time, location, or health. I know of women who have used their phones to keep up with work immediately after giving birth! So there’s the double challenge of (a) turning off the tech and (b) telling your boss, and everyone else, you’re doing it. Don’t be surprised if your friends find it hard to believe you’re doing it. They may even give you reasons why you must have your phone (“What if there’s an emergency?”) Of course, not much more than 20 years ago no-one had cellphones and apparently went on vacation and dealt with “emergencies” just fine.
[b] The word borg derives from the longer word, cyborg, which is, in turn, a clipped form of the longer cyberorganism. The word first appeared in the 1960’s and became a standard of sci-fi novels to refer primarily to human-robot crosses. Typically a cyborg is technologically enhanced human: think Steve Austin, the 1970’s “Bionic Man,” a popular TV series that made prosthetics cool. Interestingly, the word cyberorganism uses the prefix cyber, which is actually a back-formation from the 1940’s word cybernetics, the science of communications and automatic control systems in both machines and living things. Ultimately, cybernetics comes from the Greek kubernētēs, which means “a steersman on a boat.”
 “Awareness” is the term of choice these days for any cause. “Raising awareness” is much easier to sell than demanding some kind of measurable change in something. Thus we have groups who want to “raise awareness about the dangers of smoking,” presumably targeted at the two, maybe three, people in the world who don’t already know this. In fact, many campaigns are called “X Awareness,” where X is the word for whatever it is you want to talk about, and many campaigns are designed to make you aware of something about which you are already aware!