Backlash moment

I’ve been flying a lot this week, on a route that GoGo now covers (see map). Each time at the gate, a male-female pair of hip, young marketers (the woman in each case being smarter, hipper, attractive and Indian) offered me and the other lop-sided laptop-bag-toting types in the boarding queue a promotion to get connected via WiFi on the flight.

My reaction progressed in two steps:

Step 1) This is great! I will get on the flight, log on, snap a photo or two of the airplane aisle and then blog it right from my seat so that you all can see what a connected urban nomad I am. En passant, I would be corroborating my own thesis in my special report in The Economist on that topic (ie, “nomadism”).

Step 2) What utter nonsense! Have you lost it, Andreas? This is the last redoubt you have for reading. For the next few hours it is you and your biography of Meriwether Lewis, which is 500 pages and must be read and absorbed for you to make progress in one particular chapter of your own book. For once, no kids tugging on you, no phone ringing, no email alerts. Instead, deep, linear immersion. And you are thinking of giving that up just because… you can?

So you had no posts from me while I was in the air. And I’m guessing that you’re no worse off for it.

Incidentally, I noticed that the other lop-sided laptop-bag-toting types also passed on this opportunity for uninterrupted mid-air connectivity, after the same moment of initial temptation. Have we reached the point of backlash? A civilizing counter-trend?


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7 thoughts on “Backlash moment

  1. I read with interest your most thought-provoking and informative Economist essays on the new virtual nomads.

    It was Karl Marx’s great insight that changes in the means of production caused the profoundest revolutionary changes in any society (or he said this in so many words). And what are laptop computers, blackkerry’s, IPods, and all of that, but changes in our means of production?

    New technology, being neutral (a cliche), can be used for good or evil (another cliche). It can free us or enslave us (yet another cliche). It therefore represents Triumph or Disaster (or both).

    While reading your essays, I remembered a film about nomadic Mongolian tent-dwellers and their camels – living lives almost unchanged from those of their ancestors many generations ago. But should our marvellous communications satellites up there be shot down (relatively easy to do), or our gadgets generally, be suddenly destroyed in some apocalyptic happening (probably a “when”, not an “if”) who will cope better: We, the virtual nomads? or them, the Mongolian tent-dwellers, the real nomads?

  2. Well, first of all, thanks for reading 12,000 words. Regarding the Mongol nomads and the urban ones: we seem to have swapped one dependency for another. They depend not so much on their gersas on their horses and the grass for those horses. As I recall from this great read, if a Mongol loses his horse, he’s in effect dead. As dead as I might as well be when my wireless connectivity cuts out.

  3. Hah! I remember the exact same conundrum, a few years back when I was on a flight from Singapore to London. I chose internet, and I must say, there was something particularly satisfying about making calls and saying “Hey, I’m over the English Channel right now, how are you?”

  4. I’m totally in favour of blog posting inflight. I booked a couple of upcoming trips on AA because I knew they now had WiFi.

    I’m not sure the novelty will last, I have a few books I need to finish too.

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