Archive | singularity

The Digital Sabbath, or Why I Never Reply to Your Emails on Saturday

Hierarchy of Digital Distractions

If it’s Saturday and you’re reading this, I am far away from you.

That’s because every week, I unplug and celebrate what I call the digital sabbath. I know, I know, it’s kind of blasphemous, but it is the best way to think about the activity of disconnecting from the Internet to give my brain a breather.

Many cultures have celebrated the sabbath, or a day of rest. (The etymology of the word, according to Google: Old English, from Latin sabbatum, via Greek from Hebrew šabbāṯ, from šāḇaṯ ‘to rest.’) In Judaism, it’s held on Saturday. In Christian circles, on Sunday. Buddhist rest days follow lunar cycles. Even some secular cultures have had state-mandated rest days. From ancient times, we’ve understood the importance of taking a break. (Even if it’s done for some dubious religious reason.)

Psychological studies have demonstrated that our brains need downtime. Not only to recover from the stress of the constant distractions of work and media, but to harness the brain’s ability to do creative work. That’s right, there’s evidence to suggest our brains are productive while they’re resting:

Downtime is an opportunity for the brain to make sense of what it has recently learned, to surface fundamental unresolved tensions in our lives and to swivel its powers of reflection away from the external world toward itself.

There are many ways to achieve the kind of rest required. It can be as simple as going for a walk in the woods. Meditation works wonders, as do short naps. The new hotness is something called mindfulness. All of these are difficult — if not impossible — to do when you’re being bombarded by distractions from the digital sphere. Which is pretty much everything these days.

So my solution is to disconnect from the Internet. Friends and loved ones can still reach me by phone. I’ll allow myself to read a book (yes, even on my Kindle), watch a movie or play a game on my console. So I’m not totally free of the digital sphere, but I am free of the part that will interrupt me and distract me from my mental downtime. Some Saturdays, it’s difficult. That iPhone just sits there. I know its Twitter app is only a click away. The urge is usually strongest in the morning, and by the afternoon, I’ve adjusted to not communicating online. By the evening, I’ve forgotten that I need to. Often, it will not be until late on Sunday that I remember I have social media accounts that need maintaining, emails to read.

In other words, life slips in during my absence from the Net. I have conversations. I nap. I think. My mind is free to wander without the shackles of a digital feed.

Do I think everyone needs to do this? Not really. I’m sure there are many people who can resist the siren call of their devices without unplugging completely, but I’m also sure there are more who can’t. Those are the folks who may want to consider this, or something like it.

Is this all I do? Of course not. I also exercise, meditate, and drink red wine. (Usually in that order.) I also have a memo taped to my office wall, which helps me keep on track with writing:


What practices do you follow?

Alltop never distracts me from laughing. Incredible infographic by David MccCandless at


It’s morning in the Singularity

cyborg at sunrise

Bob was not a happy cyborg.

He’d had to skip is plasma bath and neural detox that morning because his dick of a boss, a narcissistic self-sustaining photosynthetic artificial intelligence named TODD-bot, needed him to come to work early. And he was late. (Clearly his autonomic clock was in need of some debugging.)

But the early morning sunrise was suffused with peace. Bob watched the local star come up, even though the TODD-bot would rag him mercilessly for the wasted microseconds. (Approximately 300,000 of them, assuming it was only his internal alarm clock that was on the fritz.) His Nazi-3000 Hyper-Optics were capable of discerning all wavelengths of solar electromagnetic radiation, but Bob especially enjoyed the colors that his original eyes would have seen, if he still had them.

He remembered the simple joy of bacon and eggs for breakfast. That first sip of coffee. As if sensing this memory, his cybertronic neural implants signaled his FEED mechanisms, and injected protein slurry into his InCavity. His tastebuds were long gone, so he could only imagine how nasty it was. (And god help anyone who had to smell what came from his OutCavity.)

A Canada goose honked in the chill morning air, and Bob felt that old familiar despair. His implants had anticipated that already, and his morning protein slurry had been dosed with antidepressants, antipsychotics and for good measure, a shot of Nazi-3000s patented Assault Dopamine for Children (it’s “ragerrific”.)

Then, Bob was intensely aware of the weapons array sticking out of his trundle, looking like a toilet plunger, and all thoughts of the sunrise were erased. What kind of idiot designed something with a toilet plunger sticking out of it? he thought, really grooving to the Assault Dopamine for Children.

He would find the humans that did this to him, and . . . he couldn’t help himself. Bob felt himself utter the hated words:



Discover a friendlier AI in The Fridgularity, as it takes over the Internet, and locks all of us humans out of it. Oh, and it has access to the world’s nukes, but still. Friendlier. Honest. Available on Amazon Kindle for $4.95 and now, for all the other e-readers, on Smashwords (same price, $4.95.)

As robots go, Alltop is pretty funny. Excellent dalek pic by Johnson Cameraface on Flickr.