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The reconquest of dead time


Long ago I used to ride night buses in South America. Nights are long near the equator. The buses were dark, but often too bumpy for sleep. This was in the pre-Walkman era. So I had about 12 hours to do nothing but stare out the window at the silhouettes of mountains and the Andean sky blanketed with stars.

On a similar trip today, I would have more than enough digital machines to keep me occupied. And if Jeff Jarvis and others have their way, we’ll have a full dose of them even on planes.

So where are we going to get those empty stretches of un-networked time to sit and ruminate, or maybe to read a book? I think it’s something we’ll end up paying for.

It’s all part of a trend in which we pay to experience the lives of our peasant ancestors. They carried rocks and walked miles to market. We pay to go through the same motions at the gym. They plowed. We spend fortunes and weekends gardening. They stopped at brooks or town fountains for a drink. We lug around our expensive water in bottles. For long periods in their (short) lives, they had to entertain themselves with their thoughts. Some of that thinking, it could be argued, spawned ideas which led to the cluttered world we now inhabit. Entrepreneurs who figure out how to package and sell us dead time stand to make a killing.


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