To connect or disconnect…? That is the question

This post is by Mike Johns, “When I speak, People tend to listen!”, Founder of Digital Mind State who tweets here.

Plugging In to New IdeasI don’t want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity, or love, or friendship is recorded, and that’s not something I’m willing to support, it’s not something I’m willing to build, and it’s not something I’m willing to live under,” Edward Snowden.

The movie title I Know What You Did Last Summer will soon take on a new meaning as the Government and agents of surveillance such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Twitter will know not only what you did last summer but what you did five minutes ago.

From your mobile phone, PC, tablet, game console, and house (even down to your car), you MUST remain online. In fact, most of us have now grown accustomed to leaving our devices’ Wi-Fi on by default because our phones chastise us when we don’t.

Mark my words: the time is rapidly approaching in which disconnecting from all things digital (AKA going off the grid) will be considered suspicious, perhaps even deemed illegal. How dare you attempt to assert your individual autonomy! Big Brother needs to know your whereabouts and what you’re doing at all times!

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” (George Orwell, 1984)

Take companies such as Navizon for example. It has a location-based system called Navizon I.T.S, that allows the tracking of individuals at home, on the job, while shopping, and even out on the town. This service could even be used to examine the foot traffic patterns in retail spaces, to assure that stores are empty of all visitors at closing time, or to pinpoint the exact location of any individual registered with the system.

Did I forget to mention that the system works in concert with Google Maps? Now for the scary part: any device with an active Wi-Fi radio can be tracked. Thus, it should come as no surprise that any device that contains a radio frequency transmitter makes you visible to the ALL SEEING EYE…. the panopticon.

In its Connected Intelligence Report (2013), market research company NPD Group revealed that American homes contain 425 million Internet connected devices. According to this report, while computers remain the most popular (making up approximately 43% of the total), portable devices such as smartphones and tablets together run a close second at 39%.

HDTVs, streaming media, Blu-ray, and videogame systems comprise the rest of the connected ecosystem. All of this means that gadgets outnumber people in the US population (approximately 315 million) by more than 100 million, or nearly 25%. Imagine a world where the same happens on the continents of Africa, Asia and Europe.

“The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely.” (George Orwell, 1984).

Every movement, every email, and basically every thought, will eventually be monitored. Conspiracy theorists have long considered the TV screen and game consoles (i.e. the Microsoft Xbox) ‘Home Invaders’. Even when you’re not watching it, it’s still watching you: Pretty creepy, huh? But wait. There’s more.

Most of us never actually turn OFF our mobile phones or internet connections; plenty of people regularly glue themselves to the boob tube and many use DVRs to record more shows than there exist hours in the day to watch. Our devices are so sacred we carry them with us while using bathrooms, while having sex, even while at church.

The latest Mobile Consumer Habits study, released last week, sounds vaguely reminiscent of the sordid pages of June’s Cosmopolitan magazine: According to the report, smartphone usage is so prevalent in Americans’ daily lives that nearly one in 10 admit to having used their phone during sex.

We have falling victim to the need to be connected. The NPD study suggests that we’re tethered to our devices; we don’t or won’t disconnect. People want to touch them, hold them, keep them close, lest a disconnect is like something odd, why? It is only a matter of time before our devices are implanted directly into us—trust me, researchers are already working on it. We’ll never be disconnected.

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” (George Orwell, 1984).

As this ‘Always on, Always connected’ way of life becomes increasingly addictive, controlling, heavily monitored, and intensely regulated, the less we seem to care. Like the Oceania’s inhabitants in 1984 we have become accustomed and even immune to the glaring contradictions of freedom and mass incarceration of opinions. I’d say we’ve pretty much mastered that at this point.

Although this constant barrage of new technological information and the interconnectedness it brings may seemingly to make us more efficient, our brains and bodies have not yet had sufficient time to evolve and adapt, leaving us constantly exhausted and in search of relief. It’s no wonder that energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster, Five Hour Energy are cashing in, while at the same time, we are now dependent upon pills to help us sleep.

We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.” – (George Orwell, 1984)

“When will it stop?” you’re probably asking. I’m afraid to admit that this is only the beginning: “Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious” (Orwell, 1984). Thus, if Orwell’s prophecy is accurate, things will only get worse before (if they ever) get better.

If a change is to come, it will certainly happen at the hands of individuals who, against all odds, refuse to simply operate as cogs within the machine—individuals such as Nick Rosen, author and founder of online network Off-Grid, where their motto is ‘Free Yourself’. The site now boasts nearly 75,000 visitors a month, mainly from the US and UK, and continues to expand. At this point, you might be saying to yourself, but what does it offer? Excellent question! I’m delighted you asked. is an eclectic mix of practical advice, news from the on-grid world and issues rarely covered by the mainstream media. It promotes the many enterprises that are working for a sustainable future. It campaigns on issues affecting people who live or work off-grid, including zoning/planning permission where we are calling for changes to allow people to receive special permission to set up off-grid homes in places which do not currently have residential permission.

We want to see large-scale off-grid developments in towns and in the countryside, so that the hundreds of thousands who would like to live this way are free to do so. Looks like someone’s been reading Orwell…

So, what can organisations like Off-Grid teach us? Well, if we care enough to know and are careful enough to heed the warnings within the wind, we could learn that freedom comes at the price of convenience and connectivity. If we’re willing to divorce our drive-through way of life and actually take the time to begin thinking for ourselves again, perhaps the change will come.

The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better” (George Orwell, 1984).

Alas, if Orwell is right (which he ALWAYS is), we’ll choose convenience over conscience every time. With the dawn of each new day, we are presented with the gift of new choices. So, what will it be? To connect, or to disconnect: that is the question.

Choose wisely, and may the force be with you.

Mike Johns (13 Posts)

Mike Johns is the Founder and President of Digital Mind State formerly known as UrbanWorld Wireless, the Los Angeles based company that bridged wireless technology and hip-hop culture. Mike Johns is the driving force behind the Digital Mind State brand, responsible for planning, business development, marketing and the company expansion.