At a trade show in Berlin, Panasonic was showing a bit of gadgetry based on smart technology that is going to knock the socks off of inveterate couch potatoes. We’re talking about a Movable Fridge, a refrigerator that moves from voice commands. Now Panasonic tries to point out how this contraption could serve the needs of the elderly, and people who can’t move around a lot. But you and I know that this is also going to fit the needs of all the people who are hooked on screens. Not only television, but video games and computers. After all, why should a person break off his ongoing gaze on a screen in order to fill his stomach with some snack?
I know I am being sarcastic here, but it is sarcasm I am using in order to make a point. The Movable Fridge is an enabler for keeping a person hooked on screen reality. Up until now, a person had to break his connection with a screen if he wanted to get some edibles and drinkables. He had to get up from his place in front of a screen, off his ass, and walk into the kitchen. If what he wanted was something that was meant to be served cold or, at least, had to be preserved in a cold space, he had to get it out of the refrigerator. Then he had to walk it back to the screen. In the process, not only did he briefly get some physical exercise, but he also briefly reconnected to the external world, to primary experience reality, where phenomena had matter, mass, and substance. In the process, the phenomena that he encountered on the way to the kitchen and in the kitchen were able to mirror the matter, mass, and substance that he experienced in himself as a flesh-and-blood living entity in the external world. He was able to temporarily undo the vacuumizing effects that came from sitting in front of all the vacuumized phenomena that were to be found on a screen.
It was not only the end goal of getting cold edibles and drinkable that was important in satisfying needs of the screen viewer. It was also the unintended effects of going back briefly to external world reality that was important in satisfying the unconscious need to be a substantive flesh-and-blood human being. Those brief journeys to the refrigerator helped to periodically devacuumize a person and restore his humanity, so that he didn’t simply turn into an avatar of himself.
In other words, those trips to the fridge were for many people the only meaningful life narrative that they had for large chunks of their waking life. Not so meaningful perhaps in terms of making and preserving organic imprints, but at least meaningful in terms of receiving some organic imprints and experiencing some flow of life in a non-vacuumized living environment. People need breaks from screens if they want to remain organic human beings. They need some sensory friction in the external world, even if it is just the walking over the floor, and the opening and closing of the refrigerator door, taking the food and/or drink out of the refrigerator, putting what they are going to consume on a plate, in a bowl or in a glass, putting what they don’t want back in the refrigerator, and carrying what they are consuming back into the screen room. All these activities allow for the creation of sensory connections to the external world.
If the Movable Fridge becomes popular, it means that the only interruption to the trance that screen viewers are in with regard to their fixed gaze on a screen will be some brief commands to the Fridge to come to them. When it arrives, of course there will be a partial break in the intensity of the focus, as the screen viewers will have to reach out a hand to open the Fridge door and take out what they want. It’s a partial distraction, but a brief one. Certainly not as intense or long as a viewer getting up from his chair and breaking his connection entirely with a screen.
The longer a person remains with a fixed stare on the vaccumized phenomenon of a television, video game, or computer screen, the more vacuumized he becomes psychologically and the more he becomes like his own avatar. Going to the refrigerator at least is a partial corrective. What will happen with the Movable Fridge reminds me of the adolescent boys who use diapers so they don’t have to break off their connection to video games that they are playing.
Ah yes! For people who are addicted to screens and who don’t use diapers, there is still the matter of bathroom breaks. Don’t they provide a break in the connection with a screen? Yes they do, but I have no doubt that with all the developments in today’s technology that a smart toilet cannot be far behind a smart refrigerator. All one will need is a few commands and a smart portable potty will be able to come to the couch potato, so that the latter can relieve himself and still stay connected to the screen that he is watching. Granted that if people are sitting together, modesty might become a concern. But for a true couch potato – or desk chair potato if a person is with a computer in his home office or bedroom – if he is sitting by himself, why not let him feel free to express himself and satisfy his bathroom needs without worrying about social custom? Let us make as many people as possible severely addicted to the screen. Let us turn as many people as we possibly can into their own avatars. This is what smart technology is capable of doing. If we only let it.
(c) 2017 Laurence Mesirow
(c) 2017 Laurence Mesirow