Davis wandered off to appease his Inc. editor, and Saltzman turned his thoughts to a favorite South by Southwest subject: the revolutionary potential of South by Southwest. “The reality is that these people are going to change the world,” he said, looking around him. “Technology as a growth pattern has grown exponentially in our lifetime to where we’re going to be solving some serious fucking issues and living forever. I know it’s a crazy thing to think about, but we’re solving the world’s problems.”
…But at a party that night, as I was playing the name game with a new acquaintance, the woman paused and said something like, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had bubbles above our heads with all this information?” I couldn’t tell if she was joking.
One day, I walked into the Convention Center and saw a gray-haired man with a notable lack of devices sitting at a round table near the entrance, staring, puzzled at all that was happening around him, as if he were a lost time-traveler. It turned out, he was, sort of. The man was an archaeologist and classics professor, in residence at the Institute for Advanced Studies and in town to use the library at the University of Texas. He wasn’t a Luddite—he’d helped build an Internet archive of Mediterranean transcriptions, and he uses, he assured me, a MacBook Pro—but there was something about the crowd that struck him as off-putting. “I haven’t ever seen so many people staring at their phones like idiots,” he said, observing what I might have if I’d been looking up from my phone. “They actually believe this stuff is worthwhile.” Then he got self-conscious. “I’m too old, I guess,” he said. And I knew, suddenly, that I’d be signing up for head bubbles someday.
Having said this just yesterday, it should be acknowledged that, of course, messianic fever dreams of technological salvation still have a good deal of life in them yet. Is this why North Korea was threatening to nuke Austin? ‘Cause I gotta say…