Adult “digital detox” camps have come into being over the last ten years to fill a growing psychological need. Youth camps often maintain a “no phones” policy, but for adults, options to disconnect from technology are nearly gone.
These camps have become quite popular. They offer adults the chance to live away from electronic and mechanical devices (even analog wristwatches) for a few days. I think it must be hell for the first half-day, then pure bliss.
I’ve considered attending one. As a wandering writer, I don’t have an office pinging me 24/7 by text or email—but my phone addiction can be intense. And I spend most of my day in front of a glowing rectangle, typing away…
Maybe it’s not a disease, but it’s not healthy, either.
So yes, I’m interested. Send me a brochure, please, my brain needs a rest. And let’s not forget the other perks. It’s camp; there are adults and games and dirt and bugs… what’s not to like?
The camp model isn’t the only way to go technology-free. You could hike into a remote area without cell or internet service and hunker down for a few days. Experience the natural world with no filters. Commune with the marmots.
Or you could call yourself a conceptual artist and live in a glass box on display in Times Square. That gets you a forced detox AND mad street cred.
You could gouge out your eyes and chop off your hands (or have someone do it for you). Just spit-balling here.
A no-technology camp still seems the best option for a forced disconnect. You have money invested in the mission and a staff dedicated to keeping things analog. Your own temptations are out of the mix.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not anti-internet or anti-screens. They have allowed me to do many things I would never have accomplished otherwise (witness: this blog). And digital detox is something you can only do for a week or two unless your job doesn’t require phone, text, or email.
Wait, do those jobs even exist now? Cobbler in an Italian villa? Parisian street mime?
Connected is the norm now. It has to be. An apocalypse could change that. Or a benevolent AI overlord that takes all human work out of our hands.
But if those are the alternatives, I’ll take the brain buzz.
Will digital detox camps continue to grow in popularity? I wonder. The next step in “connectedness” is probably personal VR, and it’s hard to predict how that will change us. We may soon think back on the smartphone era as a golden age of mental freedom. There was a time, kids, when we could sit the machine down and walk away, if only for a few minutes…
What will the future version of “disconnected” sleep-away camps look like? I imagine a “No Bots Camp” where adults spend a week away from total life-management by their artificial intelligence-driven homes.
Their normal day-to-day will involve almost none of the decisions or tasks we take for granted. Home AIs will use biometrics and algorithms based on past behavior to know what a person want before they want it.
Hard to imagine? Take a gander at the house of the future, already under construction…
No Bots Camp will be challenging for the adults of 20 years from now. They will attend to find out—or remember—what it is like to be an adult. To pick out their own clothes, make their own coffee, choose when and what to eat. To learn what happens when they need their brains again.
I can just see myself now on the first day of camp, confused and frightened without my AI to make all the decisions…
Walker stands in the lunch line with his empty tray, paralyzed by the array of food options. A woman counselor walks over to see what the trouble is.
Camp Counselor: What’s wrong, Walker?
Walker: My home AI always picks my meals for me. And makes them. And tells me when to eat. And what to watch. And when to exercise. And when to use the bathroom.
Camp Counselor: Sounds terrible. What do you call your AI?
Walker: House Mommy.
Camp Counselor: Oh, God.
Walker: Which thing should I eat?
Camp Counselor: Just pick something. Make a decision. That’s the reason you came here—to remember what it is like to be an adult.
Walker: Oh, ok… I’ve decided that you should pick for me.
Camp Counselor: (sighs) Fine. Have some beans.
Walker doesn’t move. The camp counselor reluctantly spoons some beans onto his tray.
Walker: Can I call you Camp Mommy?
Camp Counselor: Just eat your food.
Sound ridiculous? Maybe. But if you could see me anytime the internet goes out, paralyzed and befuddled about what to do next, you might not think so.
I’ve decided to start my own no-technology sleepaway camp for adults. Get in on the ground floor, exploit the trend. $1000 per person for a week without any machines. But I will adjust the rules as technology changes:
2017: No phones or computers.
2021: Phones, but no VR.
2025: VR, but no personal bots.
2035: Personal bots, but no active brain-link implants.
2045: Do whatever the hell you want; I’m outta here.
Have a good week, all!
And remember: House Mommy loves you.