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The (new) invisibility

The three scenes would be ridiculous if they were not the probable anticipation of a worse social tragedy: of its aggravation and irreversibility. One guy was driving his autonomous vehicle down an avenue wearing his new augmented reality glasses, defying the laws of traffic and prudence. Another, crossing the street, with the same device covering his eyes, stopped to wave his arms and hands as if hunting for imaginary summer mosquitoes. The worst, in my opinion, was a boy who half-smiled as he rode a subway, and to the astonished gaze of the other commuters, poked an invisible spot by putting his forefinger and thumb together. He would shake his head half-blinded like an ornamental bird. And although the scenes and their protagonists were not entirely unfamiliar -having already been part of more than a few fictional films- seeing them unfold in reality is still disturbing and shocking. A new technology for isolation has seen the light of day, bringing with it its own darkness.


Of course, the most sinister dimension of the new Apple Vision Pro is not its condition as a precarious prosthesis of one of the most essential senses for the human species. It is not just that. Its sordidness arises from the fact that it is an artifice designed to multiply consumption; by invading a sphere that is properly human. With its use, which will surely be very popular, the horizon of vision will be plagued (like the biblical locust swarms) with advertisements, offers and algorithms that flood the consciousness with false needs, cognitive biases and cannily lying news. The misnamed glasses will succeed in submerging the consumer (Homo consumericus) in a comfortable reality in which everything pleasurable is multiplied among screens and pleasant options. The world becomes even less resistant, philosopher Byung Chul-han would say, by having everything at hand. The Vision Pro experience, I suppose, is very similar to another overwhelming technology that I confess I have enjoyed: noise-canceling headphones; that absence that seems to erase the outside world. I fear that we are slowly becoming half-flesh, half-prosthetic automatons. The hackneyed dream of the cyborg has been reduced to a being suffering from a serious visual and hearing handicap. A pre-paid consume of deafness and myopia.


In any case, it would be unfair and exaggerated to blame these new artifacts for causing an epidemic - by nature and frequency - much deeper and more complex as "the invisibility". Indeed, the social progression of invisibility (one's own and that of others) has been creeping into people's daily lives for a little over a decade and has become the fundamental essence of human behavior. Not wanting to experience life by escaping it at any cost and price. Just like when I heard that someone felt anxiety at the sight of a ringing phone and having to answer it to hear someone else's voice. Better a text message for that, he said. Incomprehensible and scary. Absenting oneself from the sensitive phenomenon of the other makes him or her disappear. In this sense, isolation, today fostered by virtuality, has overshadowed a fundamental issue: the need for flesh and blood in human relationships. The end of discomfort and confrontation, which potentially is the other, reduces existence to a mere appearance; to a flattened image imprisoned on a shiny screen. The English thinker Oliver Sacks was right when he denounced the situation as a serious cognitive catastrophe of humanity.


It is said that we are living in a crisis of loneliness that has even set off the alarm bells of public health policies. We hear chilling stories of corpses that go for weeks without being discovered by their neighbors until the smell - that other resistance - becomes unbearable. And it all happens before our inattentive gaze. That gaze that prevents itself from seeing the other, from knowing about him, from expressing a different opinion and submitting to the scrutiny of arguments. Intertwined lives that do not touch each other because of invisibility. In this way, loneliness (and many other evils) only seems the natural and logical result between strangers who do not want to see each other.


One of the promises of the Apple Vision Pro is that the viewfinder does not completely flatten the field of view but turns it into a kind of transparent interface: like a desaturated screen that flattens the outside world. And it occurs to me that perhaps this artifact is just the costly and plastic extension of an undeniable and harmful social reality: that of invisible beings by will or the end of human desire for the human. That reality in which it is better to avoid the senses to escape from the others. Close your eyes, avert your gaze, turn up the volume, open the application; everything possible to manifest fear and selfishness. The pair of defining attributes of our age that are now being sold for a handful of hundreds of dollars. Eye-catching packaging that for some reason resemble in shape and color a surgical device. Beautiful amputation machines.




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