Philosophy Majors Run Tech Support (Part 2)

Finally, the much awaited* follow-up to Philosophy Majors Run Tech Support (Part 1):

Customer: Lately, I’ve noticed that my laptop battery has been dying really quickly. I’m not sure what the problem is.

Tech Support: Well would you really consider that a problem, given the alternative?

C: Alternative?

TS: With the inevitability of death, the only alternative to dying quickly is dying slowly.

Which is better? It’s hard to say for sure.

Would you rather have a slow decline, with enough time to plan for the end–but also enough time to dwell upon every grain of vitality that slips away, until down to just a sliver? Or would you rather have that life yanked away with hardly any warning–but hardly any dreading anticipation either?

But perhaps the question comes down to not just how quickly it dies, but how quickly it lives.

Some seek to race through their existence, leading lives which end quickly, but not before getting their share of excitement and danger and joy and conflict and achievement and loss. Others are equally content to languor along the journey, leading lives which are longer, if less densely packed. Perhaps the only real tragedy is to die faster than one lives.

So you ought focus not so much on how much time passes before your battery trickles away to zero, but on what actions it produces in that fleeting window of power.

C: Uh yeah, I guess I was running a lot of apps at the same time, if that’s what you’re getting at.

C: I’m trying to update my software on my phone, but it says that I don’t have enough space. Do I have to delete a bunch stuff from memory before I can get the new version?

TS: Ah, the dilemma of progress. At times, it seems that we must choose between holding on to our memories of the past and moving onto to future. 

There are those who remain attached to their pasts and refuse to relinquish them in order to hop on the latest bandwagon of “progress.” They ignore the nagging messages to bring themselves up-to-date, unconvinced that the newest tools have as much worth as their stockpile of moments, conversations, and personal history, weighted with nostalgia and lessons learned.

Eventually, these people will get left behind, unable to function properly in the world we live in, unable to communicate with those who have moved on, unable to accept new developments.

But these people are not the only ones who are misguided.

You may be eager to wipe away your past for the promise of something newer and better. You don’t want that weight slowing down your forward progression.

But often, you’ll find that the moment of change is not the great leap forward that you imagined would render all your previous experiences irrelevant. And as you advance in shaky half-steps, you’ll still need those same old memories to make sense of the present. 

Because you know what they say about those who forget history . . . Though you are always looking forward, you find yourself in repeating cycle: making moments to delete as you jump into the next round, never holding on, never building up.

For genuine progress, we need to find a space for our past memories to be held and referenced, without allowing them to dominate the forefronts of our lives.

C: So you’re saying that I should make a backup before I erase stuff from the phone? Got it.


*By whom? Maybe just me.


Philosophy Majors Run Tech Support (Part 1)

Customer: My computer has started running way too slow and I don’t know why.

Tech Support: How does one know what is “too slow?”

C: Well, when I tried to open my email client the other day, it stalled for–

TS: How can you be sure that it is the computer? Perhaps it is your expectations that are running too fast. Or your subjective perception of time that is running too slow.

And, of course, what defines the limits of appropriate speed? Perhaps this circumstance is an exercise in patience. Because what is true patience but the willingness to accept any arrangement of events in time as it appears, without pre-attachment to one possible arrangement over another?

C: I think I’ve been hacked, and I’m concerned about having my identity stolen. The other day when I was checking my bank–

TS: Identity theft? Do you see where you’ve been mistaken?

C: Um, well sometimes I use non-secure wi-fi, and–

TS: You believed that your identity was yours to take. That it was something fixed and distinct that you could outline and contain, never infliltrated by the other voices that cross it, never molding to its present surroundings, always distinguishable from the environment in which it grew.

Some say that property is theft. By that standard, the very act of claiming your identity as your property can only described as identity theft, stealing that persona away from the surrounding world which continuously recreates and reabsorbs it in the everyday microdynamics of social exchange.

C: I’ve heard this isn’t regular tech support, so I thought I’d ask: What’s the meaning of life?

TS: Um . . . *Checks manual* Have you tried turning it off and then on aga–wait, wrong page.


Free Wi-Fi, or Just the Illusion of Free Wi-Fi?

“Is there free will?” is one of the most perpetually pondered questions in philosophy, science, and religion. But there is perhaps an even more pressing question asked frequently today: “Is there free Wi-Fi?”

In case you haven’t noticed the deep similarities between these two issues, here are some famous(ish) quotes about free will, modified slightly to reflect your Wi-Fi problems:

“There have always been arguments showing that free [Wi-Fi] is an illusion: some based on hard physics, others based on pure logic.”

-Ted Chiang (On the fact that “free” Wi-Fi access usually requires buying overpriced stuff and giving someone access to all your data)

“As far as I can see, it’s not important that we have free [Wi-Fi], just as long as we have the illusion of free [Wi-Fi] to stop us going mad.”

-Alan Moore (On that one Wi-Fi network which never actually works, but keeps showing up on your device to give you hope)

“I have free [Wi-Fi], but not of my own choice. I have never freely chosen to have free [Wi-Fi]. I have to have free [Wi-Fi], whether I like it or not!”

-Raymond Smullyan (Expressing anger over his building’s increased amenities fees)

“Everywhere the human soul stands between a hemisphere of light and another of darkness; on the confines of the two everlasting empires, necessity and free [Wi-Fi].”

-Thomas Carlyle (On choosing between Starbucks and that cheap local coffee shop)

“I am very comfortable with the idea that we can override biology with free [Wi-Fi].”

-Richard Dawkins (On the role of internet memes in shaping cultural evolution)

“That free [Wi-Fi] was demonstrated in the placing of temptation before man with the command not to eat of the fruit of the tree which would give him a knowledge of good and evil, with the disturbing moral conflict to which that awareness would give rise.”

-Kenneth Scott Latourette (On that time when the folks next door forgot to put a password on their Wi-Fi, and he just couldn’t help himself)

“Free [Wi-Fi] is an illusion. People always choose the perceived path of greatest pleasure.”

-Scott Adams (On that time in the airport when he was totally just gonna use the free 30-minute Wi-Fi session, but ended up paying $8.95 an hour to finish watching Netflix)

“The robber of your free [Wi-Fi] does not exist.”

-Epictetus (When people called him out for slowing down the network by watching tons of HD videos)




Bad Children’s Book Ideas: Existential Kites

So today I was at a kite festival (yes, that’s a thing, and it’s awesome) and was thinking that I should totally write a kids’ picture book about kites. Like:

A kite wonders what life would be like beyond the limits of its string. It breaks off from the string to find freedom and starts flying around the world. But soon, the kite realizes that it’s controlled by the wind and freedom is just a cruel illusion. Then it crashes into a tree.

On second thought, maybe children’s books are not my thing.