Live from TEDGlobal 2013

The dangers of the digital now: Abha Dawesar at TEDGlobal 2013

Posted by: Thu-Huong Ha

Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Indian novelist Abha Dawesar explores the self and technology’s — ahem — impact on the self in the penultimate session of TEDGlobal, “Tech Impact.” Dawesar reflects on how time-warping technology, like social media and mobile devices, has changed our perception of our own personal narratives and perception. We live, instead, in what she calls the “digital now.” Here are 10 memorable quotes from her talk:

  • “The self as we once knew it has ceased to exist. An abstract digital universe is now a part of our identity.”
  • “The self and fiction are both stories, interpretations.”
  • “The longer arc of time — with a past, present and future — gives us the distance to see things for what they are, to separate signal from noise and the self from sensations.”
  • “Technology has done two things at once. On the one hand, it has enabled us to measure smaller units of time than before, giving us a more granular understanding of the material world and self. On the other hand each innovation has widened the gap between what can be measured and what we can perceive.”
  • “[The digital now] isn’t the now of a shooting pain in your foot or the second you bite into a pastry or the three hours you lose yourself in a great book. This now bears very little physical or psychological reference to our own state.”
  • “Travel can be liberating, but when it’s incessant we become exiles without repose.”
  • “At all times I can operate at a different rhythm and pace from you while I sustain the illusion that I’m tapped into you in real time.”
  • “Technology perpetuates the illusion, for those who have it, that everyone does.”
  • “Time-warping technology challenges our deepest core.”
  • “Love and attention are the same thing.”

Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Abha Dawesar’s talk is now available for viewing. Watch it on »

Comments (5)

  • Lee Allis-Hayes commented on Aug 15 2013

    Is the video of this talk available somewhere?

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  • commented on Jul 18 2013

    This is a fascinating and though-provoking concept, identifying the underlying relativism that all change management practitioners address: ‘those moving at a different speed, relevant to me, digitally or otherwise, being able to understand the path that I travel, while being apart from it.’

    This is also the underlying issue of ‘the red herring’ that all governments fail to comprehend: We value, protect, crave individuality and multiculturalism, yet we fund, treat, project manage, plan and make policy for ‘commonality’. No wonder we get it wrong so often.

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  • Priya Ramankutty commented on Jun 15 2013

    Wish you would make the video of this talk by Abha available too. Reading the blog about her talk is not same as actually watching the video of her presentation.