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Hedonism and the Experience Machine

kawaiidaigakusei at 12:00AM, April 27, 2020
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As a sector of the working world scrambles to see how they can move a typical work day to a computer screen, observing a population of people stumbling to transition to face-to-face video conferencing apps like Zoom has been like watching the first ten seconds of an infomercial—the transition to technology seems like an impossible feat! We are seeing people who are fully capable of driving to their work destination in the morning commute, brewing their own coffee, and balancing the books of a Fortune 500 company having to learn new methods of communicating such as sending out a link to a video conference meeting, and even that task seems daunting to someone who is used to face-to-face interviews.

As I look at the computer screen of the Drunk Duck website through my own personal device, not much has changed from the interface since before the quarantine and during the quarantine. Members are still updating their comics, continuing the stories they have been telling for years; reliable photo-editing software like Photoshop, Canva, and GIMP are still being used by users across many servers, and the comic creator community is still around, posting updates on the forums. I think that the term Webcomics versus Traditional print and paper comics is a way to show that we have been on the world wide web for decades and that there was very little difference between our transition to life making comics on the Internet from before to now.

Over the last two months, I have found the fusing of real, tangible life (such as work, socializing with IRL friends) and the Internet to be a juggling act of social networks, as many people keep an online persona that is distinct and completely separate from their real world persona. Meeting up with friends for lunch has become a mutual meet up on Zoom for afternoon tea where everything is orchestrated to resemble a face-to-face social hour through a video call where everyone is drinking tea.

As a person who has nurtured many college friendships through video calls and facetime apps during the Pre-CoVid-19 world, I have noticed an overcompensation of people trying to maintain a social link right now than ever before with late nights spent watching movies and television shows with friends in other cities as well as attempts to emulate the experience of actual board games nights with downloaded game apps and a carefully positioned phone camera to frame an entire experience.

In Robert Nozick’s book Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), Hedonism is defined as the pursuit of pleasure as the highest good and proper aim of human life and the avoidance of pain or suffering is one of our greatest motivations in decision making. Nozick brings up this idea of an “Experience Machine” that is a literal machine that plugs-in, such as a personal computer or an electronic device, and manipulates experiences that can add pleasures to our realities even though the experiences we would have on the experience machine might not be grounded in our physical reality (think about Cypher eating a juicy steak in the Matrix scene). Are day-to-day work interactions modern attempts to emulate our daily social interactions through video conference calls? Is there an inherent need (as humans) to normalize our routines through an experience machine type of experience?


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anonymous?

Avart at 6:39AM, April 27, 2020

Excellent article @kawaii. I really have learn to change many things in my personal life and in my job too. To be able of using new ways to communicate and get things done. I like to think that, as many important periods in history, this is an important one and we are being part of it.

Banes at 5:03AM, April 27, 2020

Interesting stuff - and an intriguing title I HAD to know the meaning of! It’s a strange time - feels like a transitional time, work wise and lifestyle wise. But it’s unclear where it’s all going to end up, and when we’ll see the other side. I guess we’ll be learning how it’s affected us for years after the situation passes.

hushicho at 2:45AM, April 27, 2020

I think it's more just life finds a way. And in a time like this, a lot of people don't know if they might lose someone special to them anytime. It's caused many people to examine their values and practices, and try to do the things they feel are important -- really, genuinely important and not some nonsense charade for the benefit of no one -- and so they do it however they are able. More people than ever now spend time together more virtually, digitally, than in-person because so many of us live in different places. This is more the world being forced to catch up with the rest of us who had already been doing this for quite some time, and especially the business world being dragged into a way to function that was always better, which they resisted pointlessly for far too long.


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