Thursday, March 6, 2014

apathy
/ˈapəθi/

noun
            lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.
            synonyms: indifference, uninterestedness, unresponsiveness,
                               passiveness, detachment, dispassion, coolness.

It’s the turn of the 21st Century. A shroud of uncertainty looms large as “Y2K” fever grips the planet. The day that would finally prove true what all the tech haters and other neo-prophets had been saying for so long was finally upon us. The day that computers—not irremissible sin or religious prophecy come true—would bring us down. For months before the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1, 2000, speculation had already arisen amongst analysts that computer networks would crash in their entireties, causing widespread dysfunction so vast that a global population already irreversibly dependent on computers to hold, distribute and analyse its most vital pieces of information would simply not be able to cope. Entering into “Y2K” was supposed to bring about the resetting of all data systems—the beginning of the end. But it just wasn’t so, and it all came to nought. Apart from a few scattered power failures in various countries and some anticipated looting, the new year arrived with nothing more than the expected hangover.
I remember standing in the living room watching a countdown concert. Then only 10-years-old, I wondered the same question I asked myself on Dec. 21, 2012: “Which time zone does it start in?”

So “Y2K” was a flop—or was it? We’re now 14 years on from that faithful day. Technological advances have rocketed forward at an exponential pace. Along with the earliest computers came all-new operating systems. My dad used MS-DOS for almost a decade before Windows 95 was released, and now people can’t even wait a few days for their latest iOS 7 update.

The digital age brought with it many things, one of which is an insatiable thirst for information. Information about everything from everywhere: the latest sports scores, e-mails, notifications about riots in faraway lands, links to discount coupons, Vines of Jennifer Lawrence falling over at the Oscars and a photo of our friend Jimmy’s new haircut. There’s so much raw data to process; so much ‘news’ being shoved in our faces through applications on our smartphones and tablets, emails, SMS’s, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr—the list goes on. As the craving for information grows only stronger, I believe it calls for an increasingly responsible approach to the information we choose to expose ourselves to. If you’ve done the rounds on Facebook and Twitter only, it should be clear enough to notice that the influx of information available is both a blessing and a curse; simultaneous enlightenment and impediment, especially for those who don’t know any better.

The youth of this generation, the most gifted and advantageous generation in terms of available material, has become apathetic towards the world “outside the box”. The widespread indifference displayed towards international politics and related world affairs is in particular staggering. And those who do have an opinion don’t give a very good account of themselves either, often turning to violent and emotional slurs expressed with lopsided, unsubstantiated opinions in order to prove their point, which more often than not becomes muddled as a result. I say this because our generation is in (or shall be shortly heading into) adult society at this very moment. The generation that was hailed the “future” by my teachers in primary school and by past visionaries. This is the very generation that major political or economic upheaval would directly influence. This generation, believe it or not, is supposed to produce presidents and prime ministers; scientists and economists that will one day bring an end to poverty and the energy crisis. Or are we just going to be another group of promising young men and women gone by, too busy living in our own detached worlds just because someone didn’t have their fashion senses on par at the red carpet?

Don’t misunderstand. Entertainment is great. I love good entertainment. We’d all be bored to death without music and good cinema, and besides, I, too, enjoy some well deserved downtime. But there has to be a balance. And that balance went missing a long time ago when the tech age brought along its evil twin sister: apathy.

I like to see it as such:

Sometimes when the flow of information being received by our brains is in excess, the mind, as if creating an invisible cocoon to protect us from a violent implosion of data, simply cuts us off at some point. It calls a halt that allows no more packets of large data into our brains, and as a result, we’re left slumped on a cushion somewhere, only able to process cat pictures off lolcat.com or a seemingly funny Vine retweeted by one of our classmates.

Consider this: say our brains have a storage capacity of 100MB per day. Each piece of truly thought-provoking news about an important event would require us to spend 10MB of brain power to fully digest, whereas a cute picture of a cat in a box would require only 1MB. I gather it would probably be easier to watch 20 Vines and see 70 cat pictures than to read one Time magazine article about political reform in Mexico. But what happens when we actually need to or, god forbid, want to look into a certain topic? Could it be that, by that time, our passive, untrained brains are already so full to the brim with whiskers and hairballs that we simply do not have ‘capacity’ left to do so?

This makes me wonder. If one were to change his/her daily morning routine of scrolling through new 9GAG posts, and instead opened another application, say, for instance, BBC News, would it in fact serve to make this individual more attentive towards what others might deem “more important” things? Perhaps.

Perhaps apathy towards politics or major international affairs isn’t brought about by a general lack of interest in the subject per se, but by a general “over interest” in other, more trivial things. JSF. 

2 thoughts on “Barrelled Thoughts #39 – Apathy: Defining an Age

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