Whatever happened to my invisible watch? I can’t have lost it. I don’t remember a day when it disappeared. Was there a time when I still wore it underneath my Swatch watch or Casio? Is it buried at the back of a drawer; or in storage somewhere, wrapped around a much-loved toy? I have rifled through the pockets of old coats but it is not to be found.
How long have children been wearing invisible watches? I certainly had a very fine one when I was young, and I remember it being pretty advanced. Children have been nattering to invisible friends since conversation began, but the invisible watch must have been a far later development. I bet some children had invisible pocket watches.
Now, of course, watch-like devices that promise to bring all the functionality of a smartphone to a tiny screen on your wrist are beginning to take hold in the marketplace. The CPUs are around 800 MHz, with onboard storage of 4GB and 512 MB of RAM – far faster and fitter even than the tired, old laptop computer on which I wrote all my college essays. Tech giants are patenting various ‘curved screen’ concepts, which will bring the gadgetry prophesied in the original Star Trek into being and shift our interaction with and our physical relationship to technology one step further. There’s no going back: we’re fusing.
Wrist-wear seems more palatable than, say, the spectacle of Google Glass, which has yet to permeate our culture. Glass’s limited availability and high price tag, coupled with its distinct aesthetic, has seen it only taken up the initiated – the ‘gluminati’, if you will, or ‘glassholes’, as they’re mostly known. You would hope that the first wave are beta-testers – developers who might broaden the scope of the eye-mounted hardware – as opposed to brash, gloating tech-junkies, in it for nothing more than exclusivity or the crude sense of feeling somehow more ‘evolved’ than their fellow man.
Which came first: the imaginary chicken or the invisible egg?
The anthropologist Hugh Brody talks of a tribe that to this day gathers every morning around the community’s children to listen to their dreams: all of them. The adults claim not to dream themselves; that their dreamspace in inhabited by and for the children. The realm of childhood fears and fantasies, their demons and delights, thereby becomes embraced by every member of the tribe as they go about their day and consequently the fabric of the communal psyche is strengthened.
In data-fying and codifying our reality to the extent that we preempt, distract and control the minds of our young, and ourselves, have we ceased listening to the dreams of our children? What value might lie there, in the beauty and magic of a pre-conscious age of pure being and knowingness, where alternative realities can be perceived, as we trundle ever-closer towards the precipice of economic and ecological disaster? A collective dreamspace could be a beautiful resolution to big problems.
It is days before my daughter’s 4th birthday. We have been chasing pigeons in the square, sweetly aggressing the simple birds before her class begins. As she skips up to her teacher she flashes her wrist with a dramatic swish.
‘Wow! What’s that?’ the teacher says, perceptively.
‘It’s my invisible watch!’ she says.
A memory burst and tripped my heart as I caught a glimpse of her new wrist-wear: it is beautiful. It doesn’t tidy her bedroom (yet) but it does make butterflies fly.
My son recently turned one. He’s not yet old enough to have an invisible watch, though he’s developed a keen appreciation of my old-school, wrist-mounted timepieces, which no doubt I will one day bequeath him (in a rose-tinted ceremony under an old tree, I picture). He will grow up in a world where tiny wrist-computers will be a matter of fact, not fiction. Every day, now, I look at his chubby, little wrists with the disappearing crease line that made it look as though his hands had been screwed onto the ends of his chubby, little arms, to see when (or if) his invisible watch will indeed appear.
In acquiring one of these new watches (and let’s face it, I’m going to, aren’t I?) am I denying him the untold pleasure an invisible watch can bring? Am I bulldozing his dreamspace? Or am I raising the bar: showing him the now and sending his mind racing into the future, planting him and his sister firmly in the next generation? What functions might their watches enjoy that will surpass mine? How might their dreams shape the future?
With every digital minute that clocks by on my wrist the technology dates, requires updates, and falls behind into the past and into that ever-swelling landfill of obsolete hardware; abandoned myriad bytes of images and memories and the music of our youth, lost in the forlorn forests and fields of decaying circuitry. My daughter’s invisible watch, however, is the very state of the art. Its use and design updates instantly, automatically, as required to fit the moment and scenario. (Now it can change traffic lights. Now it shoots flame.) Her watch is a part of her, it is hard-wired to her imagination: its creative thirst for progress makes it completely human. It cannot break and it makes her happy. It is priceless. I look at her watch, I listen to its ticking and I feel the present moment: the time is now. It is whatever we want it to be.