Inordinate Ordnance: The Impermanence of Technology

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Written by Chris Carr

The philosophy of absurdity is crudely defined as living a life always toward death. It is absurd to prepare for the future with every step taking you simultaneously toward your goals, but also, more certainly, an ultimate end. Philosopher, journalist and bad-ass, Albert Camus wrote about the absurdity of life and pontificated on whether a person should end their life (thus ending the absurdity). After all, living in absurdity is not really a good life to live, right?

I wonder what would have changed if Camus had written his life works on an Macbook Pro.

September is next week. With the hordes of new and old students coming back to campus, Guelph begins to come alive with the start of Frosh Week and student bodies. Dorms begin to fill up and Gordon street shuts down while ushering in this year’s batch of eager-learners and jaded seniors.

With this surplus of people, the Guelph economy sees a surge. Groceries stores feed them, movie theatres and malls entertain them and computer stores connect them. Any professor who lectures in one of the larger halls are more-than-familiar with the sea of tiny white apples shining at them from the rows upon rows of brushed-aluminum laptop backs.  Apple corners the market of student computer needs. Death to Dell users, so say we all.

There is nothing obviously wrong with this picture. Apple makes a great computer and fits the needs of practically every student on campus. For the use of this article, Apple is just a place-holder company that represents any vastly growing and producing conglomerate. This paragraph is also a legal place-holder.

But, anyway, my point is this: it seems to me that with each passing quarter of the business calendar, we as consumers are becoming more and more comfortable with a norm of impermanence. Of course, I get it, we all die and life goes on, I get that, thank you Sylvia Plath. However, the turn around from computer to computer is accelerating. It’s a common acknowledgment that as soon as you invest in a piece of technology, it will be replaced by a “better” descendent just as quickly.

There in lies the life of technological Absurdism. We work to pay for a technology that is dying even faster than we are. We consume slower than production, for maybe the first time in history and there seems to be no signs that the trend is slowing. If we take this on a logical path, accelerating and ever-growing beyond the human ability to consume, we are going to have phones and computer more disposable than the boxes they come in.

The pursuit of such an institution is ludicrous—the institution of production over consumption. No longer are manufacturers producing a product to meet the demands of the consumer. The consumer is meeting the demands of the producer by being forced to buy the newest product in order to keep connected, stay up to date and leave shoulders for Big Industry to stand on.

But, even now, I type this on a MacBook. It suits my needs as a student and internet-space-filler. Unfortunately, big companies like Apple are allowed to continue this marketing strategy because their products work, much in the same way Starbucks’ coffee tastes good. They aren’t bad at what they do, it’s the opposite—they are so good that the consumer has no choice but to buy their product so they can jive with the most popular (read: demanding) working norm.

It’s inescapable at this point. Even if one were to choose the contrary (like buy an Acer, over a Macbook) the medium of computing technology has become so proprietary, it becomes impossible to escape the brand.

In the end Camus decided it was best to live a life, even in the absurd, because the incidences within that life have meaning. This makes life personal and meaningful and worth living. The manufacturer’s cold war we find ourselves in—devoid of consumer input—only leads to a path of impermanence (even shorter and more meaningless than the impermanence of life).

However, instead of dwelling on this fact and becoming depressed, we launch angry birds and green pigs in the name of entertainment and satisfied ignorance. Better that, than rebel. There’s something wrong with that picture, even on a retina display.


Chris Carr is Editor-in-Chief of The Cannon. Inordinate Ordnance publishes every Thursday in The Cannon and in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.

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