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Human Machine Entanglement

Hand drawing a sketch inside a smartphone

Your digital persona — work in progress (Artwork courtesy of Aravind Iyer)

The image just came into my head the other day — I was looking down at a copy of myself, reaching out from inside my smartphone, trying to get out! Maybe it’s just the amount of time we spend on our phones and computers, or maybe it was the hours I had spent lately, reading about perspective and foreshortening, in a bid to improve my drawing. Whatever be the reason, it was too good a moment of inspiration to pass up. And this was the result.

Sketch of person trying to get out of the smartphone

The digital alter ego, all grown up and trying to get out. (Artwork courtesy of Aravind Iyer)

But this just didn’t feel like the complete picture, or (sigh!) even an inspired vision. Yes, almost everything we do seems intended to enrich the digital world. Our photos, our messages, our updates, the news, our work documents, our data, our code, our reports, our slides — they make up our digital life and serve to feed the digital world. Our digital persona has all grown up, and we are fatigued from its upkeep, to say nothing of the love or lack of love it receives. We want out. Some times.

But it is also our own doing. It is hard to think of any activities we do which do not result in a digital output. Oh, you cooked? But then you posted it somewhere, didn’t you? Ok, you spent quality time with your daughter? Ah, but what about the not-so-quality time spent trying to create the pose you shared later? Yes, it is our doing, and the more we invest in it, the harder it is to get out. One hand continues to draw us in, even as the other tries to push out.

Sketch of person sketching himself while also trying to get out of the smartphone

One hand draws us in, even as the other tries to push out! (Artwork courtesy of Aravind Iyer)

But even this isn’t the complete picture. Doubtless, we are creating our digital persona, and yes, we get fatigued from its upkeep. But digital is real. It requires real metabolism and real consumption of the world’s energy. It depicts us, our deeds and our work, in the process stimulating real reactions and feelings in our social and professional folds. Digital doesn’t want out. It wants in. And it’s even reaching for your coffee!

Sketch of person sketching himself while also trying to reach out of the smartphone for the coffee on the table

Digital doesn't want out. It wants in and is reaching for the coffee! (Artwork courtesy of Aravind Iyer)

Which illustration do you think best captures our state of entanglement with the digital world?