Saturday, July 30, 2011

By candlelight

In the past couple of weeks, I've witnessed a bungled software upgrade that rendered email unusable for a day, a computer meltdown, and a denial-of-service attack that took out a social network for the better part of a week, in addition to the usual random errors, freezes, spam, phishing, and glitches that are a general part of digital life. This was topped off by a total power failure in my neighborhood last night.

I tweeted only a day or two ago--and this was before the power failure--that the current quality of our technology and our digital infrastructure makes me less than confident that we're ready to migrate our entire civilization to online platforms. 'Tis a fragile thing indeed, I reflected last night, while reading a print book by candlelight. (Yes, I was rockin' it like the nineteenth century!)

And let us not forget that one woman with a garden trowel recently took out the internet for most of Armenia and parts of Georgia and Azerbaijan.

I wouldn't call myself a Luddite, but let's just say I have a healthy amount of caution about Our Digital Future, and based on what I see all around me, I think that caution is warranted. I'm not throwing out my candles just yet, 'sall I'm saying.

But the power failure had one good effect on my writing: it gave me an excuse to step back and let my current work-in-progress marinate. I could have written something in longhand, but I had reached a point of frustration with it, a murky patch where I couldn't see the way forward, and the direction I thought I needed to take was resulting in scenes that were either boring or overwrought. Instead of wrestling with it again last night, as I surely would have if we'd had power, I stepped back from it. Of course, I could stepped back without a power failure. Let's see if I can remember that next time.


  1. Yes. Yes. Yes. I impose an artificial power outage every Saturday evening for 24 hours. And early Monday mornings I set aside time to work through plot issues, disguised as a long hike in the woods.

    Having studied a bit about electromagnetic pulse (EMP), I will not be surprised if we one day reap a bitter harvest from our dependence on electronic devices.

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  3. Sometimes we need the force of another hand to actually step back from work. In my case, I think I need the force of that hand to come back to my work.

    As for the technology issue, I am afraid I have become way too dependent on this thing we call the internet. Especially with all this cloud computing going around. Now I feel like printing out everything, just to be safe. *panic-attack!*

  4. Technology does have its ups and downs--and since so many people are dependent on it these days, the effects of a failure or outage can be significant.

  5. Angelina, Mieke and Eagle: There are so many angles to consider. It's helpful to ask, "What is this giving me and what is this costing me? Am I happy this way? Do I need to adjust my balance?"