Caught Between Analog & Digital

Day 322 Week 47 Q4  Friday, November 18, 2022

The dream of a digital life without paper continues to elude me. I have so many different digital notebooks, folders, files, hard drives, cloud accounts and communications that it is not even possible to catalog all of them. I remember when my offices, laboratories and studios all eventually became such a massive pile of information, tools, gear and instruments to become unwieldy and impossible to work within. Then you could begin to toss things out and organize and store and prioritize, but you could actually see most of these things and although they may have seemed to be infinite, they were very finite in comparison to my digital world. 

Owning fifty domain names and a dozen websites, and half a zone cloud accounts do become very hard to keep track of. And over time, we all accumulate multiple email identities from all of our various associations, to mention other ways to communicate too numerous to even list. This digital jungle, full of invisible paths and structures, although providing infinite flexibility, also requires a fair amount of maintenance and protection. I. Like most of you, never wanted to become an IT guy, but we have all become forced into it through owning dozens of devices and digital identities, all rearing protection against being hacked and weeding to prevent overgrown morasses. I am sure I have over ten terabytes of cloud accounts and over ten hard drives in my desk drawers, in addition to multiple desktops and laptops and tablets and phones.

I wonder if I could get rid of everything and just have one phone number, computer, and digital identity without forwarding all of those other messy universes into my new clean simpler orderly one. I have been carrying around a simple definition of being organized for several years, which I still am trying to get to.

How about this one for you, creative outliers?

Be able to find anything you own within five minutes. That goes for both your digital and physical worlds. Have you ever bought something again that you already own but could not find? Have you had the disciple to weed your digital gardens along with your file cabinets (if you still have any)?

I am going to try to make the push toward being organized by this very simple definition. If I can not find it in five minutes, then I am not sure how much use it is to me. This is especially true for digital information, but I suspect should be possible for my basement and my garage, and my file cabinets.

You see, the problem is we are analog devices increasingly living in digital worlds, yes, multiple worlds. Originally I was an acoustician who designed sound systems and was frequently reminded of this because our ears are analog. We hear sound waves, not digital waveforms. A slab of electronics producing a time-varying voltage can not be heard by anyone until that digital signal becomes an analog electrical one, and then that analog signal must still take the final step of becoming a sound wave which retries a transducer to change electricity into pressure. These are also called speakers or headphones or earbuds. All of these devices have to be analog, and the kind of analog a human can directly experience. 

An increasing portion of humanity‚Äôs 8 billion souls is digital natives, with the rest of us being digital immigrants. This is even true for those of us who have designed large hunks of the digital universe the natives are now occupying. We all still have to bane the Digital, and the analog and can not get out of it for we humans are actually analog.   

So back to this concept of being organized. Do you think you can reduce your entropy to the degree that you can locate anything in your life in five minutes?  I for one, do think it is possible, but it might require getting rid of 95% of what I have. And this is a hard sell.

But think of how much time you would save. And this searching for stuff time is not generally enjoyable positive time. It may be time to evaluate the return on investment for deep cleaning. I guess it depends on how much time is lost every day searching.

It might even be time to reconcile our digital and analog worlds full of information.  Just as over 90% of our emails are garbage I suspect that over 90% of our stored information is also garbage. In fact, it might even be 99%! What is the impact on the entropy of that? To be organized, we might have to get rid of 99% of our stuff.  And to do these periodically.  I have gotten rid of a third to a half of my stuff in the physical world half a dozen times throughout the years, but still, I have managed to go from hundreds of square feet of stuff to thousands of square feet of stuff.

Maybe this is why nature has to have forest fires. I wonder what a digital forest fire would look like. Could you dump 99% of your data? I bet you could, or perhaps you are so disciplined that you are already doing this all of the time, like taking out the garbage – of so congratulations are in order. But if you are carrying around hundreds of thousands of old emails, pictures, project documents, etc., hmmm, do you really need that stuff? And then there is the issue of rev management. Which versions are the ones you still need?

It makes my head hurt thinking about it, which is why I have millions of files distributed across an unknown number of accounts and devices but I suspect I may need a digital forest fire to do a giant reset.

How about you? Can you find anything in your life in five minutes?