Wednesday, September 13, 2006
I was at the big Apple event in London yesterday. Sundry hacks, geeks and, for some reason, French people gathered to watch Steve Jobs deliver his latest revelations on a big screen fed live from San Francisco. It was, as I expected, more like a prayer meeting than a product presentation. Brilliantly, Jobs has turned Apple into a cult rather than a company. That's okay by me, I bought my way back into the cult about a year ago and am now embarked on a programme to eradicate the loathsome PC from my life. And so, like everybody else, I gasped at each revelation from our Dear Leader. But, in fact, I emerged disappointed. I wanted to hear about computers, creative machines, not about new ways in which we can be distracted by bad music, dumb games and awful films. Ingenious and beautifully designed as are all Apple's entertainment devices, the world they portend is one of permanent, passive distraction. 'Our steady state,' said Saul Bellow, 'is distraction.' It is hard, in that context, not to agree with the signatories of a letter published yesterday in the Daily Telegraph. Signed by, among others, Philip Pullman, it claims that distraction - notably 'sedentary, screen-based entertainment' - is contributing to the increase in childhood depression. New entertainment technology is all about perpetual novelty and creating the expectation that every moment of consciousness can contain something different, fast and exciting, something distracting. But what are we being distracted from? I understand precisely how this can lead to depression.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 6:34 am