The term “hoarding” has become commonplace today, usually referring to a mental pathology where an individual accumulates material possessions to the point life is crippled. We all know “those” people who can’t forego their old cassette tapes or Ikea artifacts, or it might literally ruin their psyches, or whose homes are labyrinths of clutter leading nowhere except to forgotten cats.
In The Digital Age we are all hoarders, material possession replaced by the muddle of apps, programs, games, files, and other “necessities” that are far more disabling than stacks of old TV Guides or five electric grills. In these virtual labyrinths, we are all lost and doomed minotaurs.
The stage to this Greek tragedy was set long ago, before hoarding became a comedy meme. Philip K. Dick, in his story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (adapted into Blade Runner), used the term kipple to denote “all the useless crap that creeps into daily life, such as junk mail, gum wrappers and old newspapers.” Think of the J.F. Sebastian character in his isolated existence, his only company scrap robots. Sebastian is a once-proud inventor unable to dream anymore, cast aside by the Tyrell Corporation that drains all of humanity by offering it artificial life (replicants).
Sound familiar? (Don’t think for a moment you’re more like are Harrison Ford or Sean Young, the two characters that end up owning nothing but their love one another).
The concepts of hoarding and kipple have always existed, routinely denounced by religion and philosophy throughout history. But now materialism has been upgraded to a final, diabolical level. After all, time and space have no restrictions in cyberspace—it is endless—and there your life can be cluttered to the point of mental castration. You can’t find relief by just starting a yard sale or giving it all away to the poor.
Simply ask yourself a few questions to know if the kipple upgrade has taken over your existence:
-Does your taskbar always seem to reproduce like bunnies on Ecstasy?
-Do you say “yes” constantly to whatever program gets shoved down your throat, even if you swear you’ll delete it later?
-Do you start new email accounts because old ones become filled with spam and notifications, which once you thought were important?
--Are you a member of more than two Social Networks? (If Pinterest is one of them, consider yourself a minotaur already.)
--Do you have more than one Cloud where you store music and video files that define you as a person to a world that doesn't give a shit?
--Does your smartphone have more apps than you have fingers?
--Do any of these questions piss you off to the point you want to squeeze my head in between your thighs like Daryl Hanna did to Harrison Ford? And if not, do you suddenly have more examples for me?
The stark truth is that, like any virus or addiction, there is no cure to the kipple upgrade. The Tyrell Corporations of this age have turned us all into replicants with little hope to find our humanity. This cyber Feng Shui from Hell can only be negated by abandoning it altogether and getting that phenomena Sebastian himself forgot: a life.
Even if you do go into a state of remission, even if mankind comes to its senses and goes back to beneficial pursuits like television, it seems the stakes are more cosmic than we could have ever imagined. Just listen to Sebastian when he talks to the replicant Pris:
Sebastian - Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers of yesterday's homeopape. When nobody's around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morning there's twice as much of it. It always gets more and more.
Pris- I see.
Sebastian - There's the First Law of Kipple, “Kipple drives out nonkipple.” Like Gresham's law about bad money. And in these apartments there's been nobody there to fight the kipple.
Pris - So it has taken over completely. Now I understand.
Sebastian - Your place, here, this apartment you've picked - it's too kipple-ized to live in. We can roll the kipple-factor back; we can do like I said, raid the other apartments. But -
Pris - But what?
Sebastian - We can't win.
Pris - Why not?
Sebastian - No one can win against kipple, except temporarily and maybe in one spot, like in my apartment I've sort of created a stasis between the pressure of kipple and nonkipple, for the time being. But eventually I'll die or go away, and then the kipple will again take over. It's a universal principle operating throughout the universe; the entire universe is moving toward a final state of total, absolute kippleization.
Indeed, Sebastian, not only is humanity at the brink but the very universe itself. To fight this apocalypse is as heroic and ironic as the very reason I wrote this kipple.