Fear of the Empty
I have a friend who is working on a book called “Fear of the Empty.” The roots of it are in his collection of artifacts that make up daily living: sweetner packets, drink cups, boarding passes, ticket stubs.
Artifacts that together form dimensions of the aspects of the lives we lead.
I’m obsessed to a degree with the interpretation of dimensions of our own selves. Objectively we inhabit four dimensions at any given point: the voxel/spatial and temporal. But through this three+one representation we shed various other representative dimensions behind us, growing exponentially more as the cost of representation likewise shrinks.
I live through time and space, but I also live through records and data. My life is the accumulation of points of data that constitute my identity as a human, a traveller, a consumer of gasoline, a purchaser of cars and houses. A tax payer, a voter, a husband and father. A consumer. Through one dimension I traverse the Starbucks’ of the universe and to another I’m but an approximate weight on a passenger manifest.
We are fractal. Our very being fragmenting the closer one gets to understanding the divergence of representations.
There is a concept of the quantified self that has gripped the tech-elite as of late. Devices like the Nike Fuel Band, etc. They take what we do and break them into dimensions for later analysis. They are a digital version of my friend’s airline boarding passes and coffee cups.
I think these devices represent our search for a removal of subjectivity. The more our identities are allowed to fragment under the control of someone else’s means of representation, the harder it is for us to find a way to quantify an objective reality and more importantly an objective memory.
When we don’t own that which represents us – which we don’t – then the very concept of our indelible memory is subject to someone elses whims, movements and progress, which we don’t control.
Half the files I wrote in elementary school can’t be read by any program anymore. Does that mean I didn’t write them? I still can’t download my Twitter archive, so I might as well never have tweeted past nine days.
Our fear is not so much of the empty before us, but the emptiness and hollowness of our fears. We have nothing to hold on to. When those that represent are removed through technological progress, bit-rot, corporate death or otherwise, our collective past selves become simply masses of indeterminate data, no more permanent than our last breath.
We fear losing ourselves to someone else’s idea of what we are.
Then we realize: our fear is that we don’t control the empty, not that the empty exists.