The Covid-19 pandemic upended many aspects of society, but fortunately, technology saved us. Thanks to digital tech, we kept working, learning, conversing. Our new remote lives were so wonderful, in fact, that this digital utopia was here to stay. Right?
As we quickly learned through Zoom fatigue and dealing with stir crazy kids attempting to replace the classroom with a laptop, fully digital life kind of sucked. In The Future Is Analog, author David Sax deep dives into several aspects of tech utopia that haven’t quite panned out. He argues that in certain areas of life, we should be wary of claims that modern technology can adequately replace human connection.
In 2016, Sax wrote The Revenge of Analog, a fun look at things that were supposed to have been relegated to the past—books, vinyl records, board games—only to come roaring back in recent years despite digital competition. In his latest book, he examines seven major areas of life—work, school, commerce, cities, culture, conversation, and soul—through the lens of pandemic disruption and shows how these things can’t be easily supplanted by digital means.
Now, before you dismiss Sax as a Luddite, rest assured he’s not preaching complete digital abstinence. He acknowledges the many benefits of 21st century technology. Heck, he himself has worked at least in part remotely throughout his career. But he also cautions against total reliance on it.
With a mix of data, quotes from experts, and his own personal experiences, Sax reminds us, for example, just how brutal remote learning was for many children (not to mention their exhausted teachers and parents). He details how televised music or theater performances just don’t compare to being there live. And he discusses how the positivity social media has enabled (Covid info, pro-democracy protests) has historically been offset or outweighed by the negative (conspiracy theories, the rise of demagogues).
A great deal of debate is currently underway on the merits of remote work versus in-person. Before taking a hard stance on either, you would do well to read Sax’s opening chapter on work. He takes a refreshingly nuanced approach, stating “Debating whether in the future work will take place at the office or at home is actually a distraction from the larger and more significant questions about work that we need to confront.”
With facts, humor, and relatability, The Future Is Analog is an insightful snapshot of society’s current state. Even more important, it’s a call for readers to examine what makes us human and to strive to build more of it into our daily lives.
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