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Fogged up

EDITORIAL

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December 2020


Fogged up

We’re all of us, all fogged up. Literally, because wearing a mask makes your glasses steam up, and metaphorically because the horizon is looking very murky indeed. We can’t see very much beyond the next few weeks – the next couple of months at best.

W

hen the fog lifts, everything will be uncertain. But when you can’t see what’s right in front of your face, the texture of time itself changes. It loses its elasticity, it congeals. It ticks by far too regularly, as if our personal time had been reduced to that of a watch. One day follows the next, identical to the one before, with the same implacable monotony.

The absence of any long-term temporal perspective is mirrored by the absence of any physical, spatial perspective. We can no longer go and see what things are like somewhere else, because it’s the same everywhere. We’re all masked up, fogged up, walled up inside our homes.

Einstein was right when he said there’s no time without space, and no space without time. Space-time is a world made up of four inseparable dimensions: three in space and the fourth for time.

“Einstein was right when he said there’s no time without space, and no space without time.”

So, fogged up as we are, we blunder around in this frozen dimension of space-time, and search for virtual solutions that might be of some help, as a white cane helps the blind. It helps us to move forward, despite the lack of visibility, but it can’t replace the ability to see. Deprived of direct contact with others, we have all been reduced to remote working, remote communication, remote travel, remote laughter and remote tears.

All? No, not quite all. For instance, the subcontractors we met (in the flesh, just before everything closed down once again) are also navigating through the fog, but they have something solid and real to put their hands on.

You can’t make a watch remotely (or at any rate, not yet – although you can read about the micro-factory imagined by the MicroLean Lab). But you can certainly buy or sell one remotely. You can promote a watch remotely, talk about it remotely, and remotely examine it, but you can’t touch it remotely.

“The wall near to us is a digital wall through which we can glimpse the white whale, but we need to thrust through it to see what lies beyond.”

The same goes for watch fairs, which have vanished from the physical plane, and have become the white whales of this foggy season. “How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there’s naught beyond,” says Captain Achab in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.

The wall near to us is a digital wall through which we can glimpse the white whale, but we need to thrust through it to see what lies beyond. And to find each other again.

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