On Authenticity

posted in: Philosophy, Technology | 0

My generation – the Millennial generation – grew up with an extreme excess of advertising and material goods. So much was artificial, and still is. Whatever had any original appeal was taken and duplicated endlessly so it could be sold to everyone who might want it, and even many people who did not really want it.

I think this is why there is something charming and wholesome and romantic about all-natural and organic goods and materials.

And the same holds true for authentic people. Someone being themselves whether you like it or not gives you a little break from selling to others and being sold to, and to remember that the world does not revolve around you.

The reason this is critical is not merely that such reminders make us feel better temporarily. The reason is that the world, in fact, does not revolve around us. And this is a relief because we sense the truth and goodness of that fact, and the perversity and dysfunction of the alternative.

All the stress and pressure of the world trying to constantly sell you things, or persuade you of your unhappiness and inadequacy without their products and services – we know the universe is not supposed to work that way, and that it would fall apart if it really did. There is something terrifying and unstable about us being the center of everything, or our desires being all that matter. Yet that sense of brokenness recedes a bit in the face of simple authenticity.

Selling Authenticity

That is, that particular sense of brokenness recedes in the face of actual authenticity.

The trick in recent years has been for companies and individuals to recognize the desire in millennials to get an authentic experience or interaction.  Product development and marketing campaigns have been adjusted accordingly. Now, oddly enough, we are surrounded with artificial authenticity. And the more realistic the artificial authenticity is, the happier we are. Only there is still something off about it. We recognize that subconsciously.

Like Neo in the Matrix questioning whether the world around him is real, then finding out it is all a very sophisticated computer program designed to enslave mankind, we suspect something is amiss. This realization scratches at the door of our mind, and it will not go away whether we choose to open that door or lock and bar it.

I wonder sometimes whether our world is more similar than not to Huxley’s dystopian Brave New World. There the factories churned out goods constantly to keep the lower castes busy with employment. And the factories became so adept at producing that a constant demand for new goods needed to be maintained. So, the public was brainwashed with phrases like “ending is better than mending” and “the more stitches, the less riches.” These reminded everyone to throw away damaged appliances and clothing rather than trying to repair them. And where the pain of their sterile, artificial, and meaningless existence became too much, the masses were given psychotropic drugs and pornographic films as pacifiers.

 

Planned Obsolescence

What do we find today? How many people know how to mend clothing? It is far easier, and cheaper, to replace most broken appliances than to fix them. Many electronics are not even made to be repaired. When they break, we immediately throw them away and replace them with newer, faster, shinier versions.

And they are designed to break rather than last.

Think of iPhone. Apple intentionally slowed down older iPhones using software updates as newer models were released regularly. Conveniently, this increased dissatisfaction with older phones and boosted demand for the new ones. This guaranteed a steady revenue stream for Apple, which is what it was really all about to begin with. Who, after all, can imagine life without their smartphones now that we have experienced life with them?

Such is the world we live in. Our perception of new things is so constantly manipulated with even the subtlest of things, like processes slowed down on our iPhones. And for what purpose? We are manipulated toward constant dissatisfaction so others can profit from us.

Maintaining constant vigilance in such a world is exhausting. It is more than just the limitless and instant availability of information thanks to the internet. What is most exhausting is the inability to trust each cupful in a limitless sea of information to be genuine. Instead, we feel we are constantly being put on by selective cherry-picking of details to coax us in a direction convenient to someone else and unprofitable to us.

Yet ignorance is bliss. We are drawn to the illusion like moths to a flame. And we begin to prefer very convincing lies over truth, and artificial authenticity over the real thing. And the more we do this, I fear, the more broken and nonsensical our world becomes.

 

Follow Garrett Mullet:

Christian, husband to a darling wife, and father to six kids - I enjoy pipe-smoking, playing strategy games on my computer, listening to audio books, and writing. When I'm not asking you questions out loud, I'm endlessly asking myself silent questions in my head. I believe in God's grace, hard work, love, patience, contemplation, and courage.