I get to read from time to time about these hippy digital nomads that seem to be living the best life from some tropical beach. Rarely you get to bring the topic to a conversation and not see the distinctive look of jealousy appearing on someone’s face: tropical life, away from everyday traffic, commute and stress, flexible working hours… what’s not to like?
On the other hand, while this may sound like a dream-life, there are still many good reasons that keep us attached to our “homes”: not just our actual home, but our belongings, the nearby places we cherish like the local church, library or mall, our loved ones, and of course our jobs.
When you think of it this way, it is amusing what we call digital nomads: they only became such by making their home a digital place… it is actually their digital sedentism that enables them to be physical nomads!
The fact is: we are all digital migrants in the process of getting there… they are just a little ahead of the curve!
Every time we upload a picture on the social media instead of printing it, a piece of our selves that becomes digital.
Every time our job requires only a computer and internet connection, we are becoming digitally-enabled.
Every time we give up our physical cd or dvd collection for a streaming account, we are leaving behind one more physical burden.
Every year, small advancements in technology are filling more gaps between meeting in real life, and what we can exchange digitally, be it a chat, a phone call, video conference, or vr conference. There is still a lot to do in this area, but the trend is clearly marked.
Only one or two decades ago all of our possessions were securely stored in our home: objects, memories, our photos, documents, letters from the past, pretty much anything that identified our personal history and sense of self, who we were.
If we look at the current trend, our life is more and more stored on the cloud, and the old analogic bits can often be easily converted and uploaded. All that is left are our “hardware”, our physical possessions: the objects we loved.
Sure enough, 3D printing is already moving the first steps to blur the line between hardware and software. It’s only a few decades away the day in which we will be able to store on the cloud and print on demand a replica of our grandma’s beloved tea set.
Humanity moved to sedentism several thousand years ago. That one step enabled the development of agriculture, and essentially every subsequent cultural and technological evolution afterwards.
Who we are as a society is so engraved in that one step that we have been long tempted to perceive it as a one way transition… like moving from stone age to bronze age, from geocentrism to heliocentrism.
During the latest decade or so, technology is making us reconsider this: sedentism may not be after all a one way evolutionary path, but rather a long parenthesis in human history between prehistoric nomadism and a forecoming form of neonomadism.