Offline is the New Luxury

Offline is the New Luxury

VPRO (2017)

Film Review

This documentary is about taking back control of our Internet connectivity. Ironically it starts by recommending a new app that allows you to identify increasingly rare “white spots” – areas of the earth that aren’t blanketed with WiFi signals. One MIT psychology professor, who bans cellphones, laptops and tablets in her classes, is part of a movement to create sacred spaces in these white spots – areas where people fully engage with each other instead of their electronic devices.

The filmmakers also talk about the late Steve Jobs and other prominent Silicon Valley moguls not allowing their kids to have cellphones and tablets and sending them to low tech Montessori and Waldorf schools. Increasingly the well-to-do are seeking out expensive retreats and detox facilities to cure their Internet addiction. While growing numbers of law firms and security agencies patronize a highly successful Dutch firm selling Faraday cages and microwave shields to protect clients from electronic snooping and damaging microwave radiation.

The Amish, of course, have a cheap low-tech solution to Internet addiction – namely a value system that rejects most advanced electronic technology.

The video concludes by explaining the concept of “surveillance capitalism,” in which our personal information is “monetized,” ie in which the data Google, Facebook and Amazon collect on us is sold to advertisers.

A key strategy of surveillance capitalism is to use drones, satellites and giant balloons to expand connectivity to remote areas of the developing world. At the time of filming, Facebook was pressuring the Indian government to allow the introduction of Free Basics (free Internet connectivity) to all Indian residents, with Facebook retaining control of their Internet access. Google, meanwhile, is pushing to extend 100% connectivity to Sri Lanka by launching giant WiFi balloons.

According to one analyst, the drive to acquire massive troves of Indian personal data is a ploy to placate shareholders. The latter are understandably concerned about a drop-off in Facebook users in the developing world – due to privacy concerns and the recognition that most Facebook content is meaningless drivel.

5 thoughts on “Offline is the New Luxury

  1. “Internet addiction,” oh geez, the psychiatric field is going to love another mental diagnosis to treat. “Send that internet addict to rehab and right into detox they must go!”

    But seriously, we just create more and more problems and apparently, it is not as simple as throwing out the laptop and the smartphone because have you noticed that paying for that latte at Starbucks by smartphone is now being touted as even better than paying with a credit/debit card? Just point that smartphone at the store payment processor and voila, your espresso or latte is paid for and out the door, ya go. SIGH! We never learn!

    Oh well! Time to buy a tin foil suit to go with my tin foil hat.


    • Shelby believe it or not, psychiatry was a dying profession before the Internet came along. They tried to introduce Smartphone payments here in New Zealand but it doesn’t seem to have caught on. Too many people in New Zealand are “unbanked,” and apparently you need to have a bank account for this system to work. I think the movement to kill cash will be really slow to catch on in New Zealand because too many people are in the informal economy.


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