Ōkārito, Aotearoa New Zealand

March 14, 2021

Analog.

It's the times I find myself saying, "Alexa, what is..." that really catch me.

There's no Alexa out here. No Google Assistant, no Siri. No Google docs, no Coda, no Dropbox. No Spotify.

In the span of a few weeks I've had a partial lobotomy, disconnecting me from the cloud-based parts of my digital brain.

These days, when I have questions - "what do swans drink when they're sitting in the ocean?" - I jot them into a page at the back of my notebook, and ponder them.

When I have things break - my water pump stopped working last Sunday afternoon - I take them apart, figure out how they work by examining them, fix them, and put them back together.

There is no online shopping. No "just replace it" as an option.

But what I've found - is that the digital space has been filled up with other things. I can tell what time it is by the sounds of cicadas. I notice which way the winds are blowing, so I can sleep upwind from my van's old engine. I gauge the distance from mountain to stream as a measure of its frigidity.

My hours are measured as much in sunlight as they are ticking clocks - and I eat a whole lot less, as a result.

Over the years, as I've built AI and all kinds of digital tech - and wrestled with whether or not they're a good thing for us, I've continued to concluded that on balance, yes. Just like cities. They make it possible for us to have the number of people we have on earth with the finite resources we have to work with.

But out here, disconnected, I think there's something I've missed in those calculations. There is something essential to me - or in me - to being wild.

I do still think that in the big picture, tech and AI are good, and we absolutely should be figuring out how to get everyone to longer, happier, safer lives. But somewhere in there, we need to figure out how to stay connected to this, too.

Swimming in rivers. Climbing trees. Walking barefoot through grasses.

Hearing the stars turn.

Because way back when we came down from the trees, started agriculture, started staying - I'm pretty sure nobody agreed to stay out of the trees forever.

Have a wild week,

-Steven

p.s. The best things I saw all week were out here, on the rugged West coast. But the best thing I can share is this couple who are building a different kind of resort, connected to nature, out in Tonga.

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