Moore’s Law, Acceleration, and Getting off the Treadmill of Tech Driven, Sisyphean Modern Life

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

Most of us feel stressed at some point or the other in our everyday life. While being stressed was part and parcel of humankind since time immemorial, what is different about the times we are living is the “convergence” of Isolationism brought about due to Covid, the excessive reliance on Digital media and the associated gadgets that the Smartphone revolution gave us, and the sheer pace of change that overwhelms us and threatens our mental and physical health.

Indeed, the combination of a lack of human contact, the constant and endless scrolling that leaves us both exhausted and wanting for more at the same time, and the incessant need to be “always on” and Uber speed need to respond and finish our daily activities, are stressors that we from which we seem to have no escape.

So, is technology to blame for our post modern ills? Is it that in our quest to be “ahead of the curve”, we are on a “treadmill to nowhere” much like the Sisyphean myth that is illusory and never ending? Or, is it that as a species, we have reached a stage in our collective evolution where our very survival is at stake in the Anthropocene era?

In such a dystopian scenario, one can very well ask what has Moore’s Law got to do with all this “gloom and doom” thinking? Good question! and the answer to that is the “exponential acceleration” that this particular theory espouses and one which is the basis of our fast paced tech addicted world. Before explaining what Moore’s Law is, let us consider the above phrase.

Exponential change, unlike linear change, is something that “doubles” itself at each iteration. Two becomes Four, which in turn becomes Eight, and then Sixteen, and so on till we reach a point where the much vaunted “singularity” happens. So, if you start with Two, you would end up in the Gazillions in no time.

With Moore’s Law stating that the “computing power” of the “chips” in our gadgets doubling every two years, it is no wonder that each release of the new iPhone model is way more “powerful” than the previous one making us “consume” more bandwidth and data, which too seem to be in plentiful supply.

As technology accelerates according to Moore’s Law, so does the pace of life where we send an Email and then Ping the recipient on WhatsApp reminding them to check the same, and then call them up within minutes for a quick discussion, then open Slack, Teams, or whatever tool we use for extended meetings based on the discussions.

In our personal lives, we upload a “selfie” on Facebook or Instagram, and within no time, we are on the lookout for “likes” and comments and respond to them almost instantaneously. With the awesome power of our gadgets, it is possible to live life in “real time” with multitasking the norm and with Doomscrolling for “news updates” and for just about everything in an Obsessively Compulsive manner.

We just cannot resist from “wanting more” even at the risk of putting off healthy eating, exercising, or plain human to human interactions. What is worrying is that we seem to be “losing ourselves” and also “losing it” in a “miasma” of digital ether, much like the Opium addicts of yore. Worse, we seem to be ignoring some perils at our own risk.

I once heard from a friend about how his coworkers were busy updating Facebook even when the Fire Alarm was ringing and they were being asked to evacuate. This, perhaps is the best metaphor for our times and a reminder that there are things that are more important than being in a “virtual dream”.