This is my first Quarantine. I am staying in the loft of Helikos theatre studio. I am legally required to not leave the building, in case I have caught the virus during my 40 hours travel from Australia to Italy. I am in a state of shock and awe witnessing something that feels like the end of the worlds that I knew.
Time is a series of days all identical to themselves.
I listen, I watch, I read. I listen again. News, websites, text messages, video calls. I listen to words, their context, their meaning, their etymology. I listen to the tone of those who are speaking, the emphasis and the motions that appear in their timing, the mood emerging from the silence in between the words.
A new vocabulary is emerging: the words for this crisis have been very carefully chosen and they are defining our experience and designing a new world.
Social distancing, remote work, smart work, remote learning, webinar…
Now in Italy working from home is called Smart work. As opposed to what? Is this an implicit confession that the live work that we had before, with its locations and schedules and real interactions with other human beings was stupid work? Dumb work? Un-smart work?
Actually, that is true: the contact with another person is always stupefying, because it’s unpredictable. Stupid is Latin, stupidus, to be stupefied. An actual real direct contact with another human being will make us more stupid because there will be surprises, there will be conflicts, we may have to change our mind, or even our identity. Emotions might happen, and feelings, and liking and disliking and attraction or affection. It is risky, it is exciting, it contains the potential for mutual transformation: it has always been like this, it is embedded in the social nature of the human species. To enter in a relationship is to become stupid together.
Now that that we’re all hopping to work from remote, the narrative is that we will become smarter. We will eliminate all the stupid aspects of a day at work. The wandering, the travel, the breaks, the errors.
Errare is the Latin for wandering, to follow the randomness of the path.
The illusion of control will grow further. And the design of the software will edit the shapes of our interactions. The same has happened with the smart phones: before, we head just phones, dumb phones that were only good for talking. Now my phone is so smart that it does all sorts of work for me. Memory, orientation, contacts, advises… It can talk back to me, will it soon be my counselor?
We are outsourcing our smartness to the phones and our intelligence to the machines.
Are we going to become dumb or numb? Or both?