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March 9, 2020 46 mins

The rise of “cloud clubbing” from your living room, as people are ordered to stay inside. Digital raves. Virtual connection as a means to deal with an isolation bubble.


As people in China grapple with an uneasy reality, isolation, and the uncertainty around the Coronavirus, a new trend is emerging: the rise of Isolation Tech. Concerts are canceled. People are rethinking physical interaction. Nightclubs are shut down. So millions are meeting in digital clubs in the cloud where they can watch live DJ sets on Chinese apps. Welcome to The Matrix.


Instead of finding ways to depart from their devices, people have gone all in, living life in a digital bubble. Entrepreneur Zander Shapiro, who has lived in Beijing for nine years, describes his new reality in "the bubble" -- days beginning with virtual work outs, afternoons filled with remote meetings, and evenings where he joins a virtual concert, meeting other avatars for connection. He calls this moment an excellent "experiment" of what's to come in tech. Expect more extremism, less humanity, and money pouring into the business of virtual connection.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
First Contact with Lorie Siegel is a production of Dot
Dot Dot Media and I Heart Radio. The last chance
to pull people back from this digital bubble is now.
If we would all do it now, it's gone. Right,
There's going to be a moment where you're gonna go

(00:22):
into a digital state through a period of time because
of a version of a corona or some kind of
a disaster, and you're gonna see and if you like it,
there is no reason for you to come back. The
stigma is going to slowly disappear from the guy who's
currently living in digital bubble land right right. I mean
I am isolated. I'm isolated with other people. I'm in

(00:44):
a bubble. And even the guards where used to chat
with me to a door had masks on, are giving
me distance. So there's warmth and interaction, but it's all digital.
This is a special edition of First Contact. I'm super excited.
We are broadcasting from Deer Valley in Utah. I'm at

(01:07):
a conference. It's a bit of a who's who of media,
and someone pulled me aside and said, I've got to
tell you about a trend. A lot of people here
are talking about coronavirus. A lot of people. Obviously everywhere
we're talking about coronavirus. I think there's a lot of
fear of the unknown right now. And a well known
venture capitalists who I've known for many, many years, pulled

(01:28):
me aside and he said, I gotta talk to you
about a trend we're seeing that. You know that this
idea of isolation tech, which I thought was fascinating. Um,
you know this, this idea that people are spending more
time alone and craving connection and turning online in these
really unique ways. And I believe the term cloud clubbing

(01:50):
was used, and I just thought, oh my goodness. So
that brings me to our next guest, Xander Shapiro. He's
an entrepreneur living in Beijing. And Xander, you are currently
in Beijing right now. It's it's six pm my time,
but it's nine am your time. Ye, good morning. I'm
joining my morning coffee. Great, good morning. How are you

(02:11):
doing good? I'm getting used to working at home, not
just on an occasional basis, but for every day for
the last over four weeks. Yeah, I mean, I guess
let's start with that. How's it been. It's been really good.
I was surprised it's the isolation has I guess it's
pluses and minuses. Um, the isolation is kind of weird

(02:33):
because you're being isolated from other people. So you can
go outside and take a walk, you can take a
bicycle ride, which is always a good idea of Beijing.
But you shouldn't congregate with people. And even when you're
eating meals, the government says no more than three people
at one table. Wow, I want to get into that.
Give us a little bit of a background on on you.

(02:53):
You're originally from New York. I know you worked at
Spotify for for a bit. Give us a little bit
of you know why you're actually there in Beijing. Yeah.
I was working originally in technology and an investment banking,
and I eventually switched over into branding, especially because I

(03:14):
found that some of the developments in telecommunications weren't as
interesting and as human oriented as I'd like them to be.
So I went over into branding and marketing. And I
got a coal when I was working out of Germany,
I would like to work for a media and marketing
company called d MG and China, and I knew nothing
about China. They made a really attractive offer. I came

(03:36):
to Beijing nine years ago, which for me was a
well I'll check it out. If I like it, I'll
stay and I did so. I've been doing all kinds
of work with technology brands and with consumer brands, with
marketing both digital and classical for the last nine years
and really enjoying my life here in So tell me
a little bit about what the last couple of months

(03:58):
have been like for you as someone who's been living there.
How you know, what what's been the feel And I
want to get into kind of this new phrase that
that I'm hearing kind of in the inside baseball tech
circles of isolation tech. But what's been the biggest change
over the last couple of months? And how are you
feeling well? I mean, there's obviously fear, which is something that,

(04:20):
especially being a corner you get used to, the fear
of the unknown. Will I be allowed to stay in China?
Will something happen between China and the US? Has been
a lot of rhetoric, especially under Trump, but this time
around it was fear of me getting sick, getting so
sick I could die with the virus that people didn't
really know that much about, even though in the end

(04:41):
of the day viruses aren't unknown, and even coronaviruses have
been around for a while. However, there was constant reminder
of a growing number of infected people and a growing
number of people that were dying. And on a practical level,
I was simply told I was not allowed to go
to work. I could not go to my office, I
could not go to to any large gatherings, movie theaters.

(05:03):
I wasn't allowed to go to bars. I wasn't allowed
to go to clubs. I wasn't allowed to go to
football stadium, which is down the block from my favorite team, Quan.
So it was very very strange and very isolating. And
there's a lot of news, of course on social media
and China through way Ship, there's a lot of chatter
going on in Facebook and Instagram. So it was very
very confusing, and in the beginning I felt very very unsure. Yeah,

(05:29):
I mean, is there any picture you could paint? And
I think it's very weird because the people who work
in my building suddenly we're all wearing masks. Asked to
take my temperature if for some reason I had taken
my mask off to look for my keys or for something,
or the mass are very hot and uncomfortable. One of

(05:50):
the guys, who knows me for years and it was
always super friendly, wouldn't leave his house, which he sits
in while he guards the front door, and sort of
takes this look at me, like, how dare you not
wear a mask? Every time I wanted to go into
a store again, mask on temperature checked. Um, It's just
it's a very weird feeling of distance. People are told

(06:11):
not to stand close to other people. And what's crazy
is that Beijing is such a warm and people driven city.
It's the streets are always full. It reminded me of
New York when I first came here. Is one of
the reasons why I felt so comfortable was that the
city never really sleeps. You can always get something to eat,
you can always go out, you can always talk with people.
People are very straightforward and direct. Their dialect is very charming.

(06:34):
So it's a very kind of a rough and bustling
feeling to the city. It's always very much allied. And
suddenly the streets are empty, the skies are incredibly blue
because there's no more pollution. People are suddenly not looking
at you and questioning you in their typical friendly way.
They're suddenly looking at you and wondering from afar. So

(06:56):
all that intimacy, all that hustle and bustle, all that
great all that movement suddenly disappeared, and Beijing became this
incredibly calm, quiet, beautiful, clean air and skies, a very
very tranquil place in comparison to the way that it was,
and it's very very eerie. Again. I think the other
issue too is online. It was presented by the government

(07:19):
is we Chinese, we are fighting a war, We're bonding
together against this virus. And so it's a very scary
feeling to have this notion that China is mobilizing, especially
for you as a foreigner. I stand out. I don't
wear my masks. People will come in scold me and
tell me to put my mask on. So you start
to have this feeling of isolation, not only because the virus,

(07:41):
which doesn't allow you to get in contact with the
friends you've developed in the closeness you have to the city.
But suddenly as a foreigner you're seen as head you
have to follow our rules. Now you have to work
with us. Yeah, this is kind of difficult. And also
of course the news media, whether it's being pushed on
propaganda channels owned by the government or from my friend
and colleagues, a lot, a lot of fear. We must

(08:03):
do this, we have to hold together. Just sort of
felt very much like propaganda, felt very one dimensional. This
is one of the things, obviously that I'm scared about
in China in general, as well as just a virus.
And I think those psychological issues and that kind of isolation.
It was really really hard in the beginning especially, And
and so you have this, as you're kind of describing this,

(08:24):
like you have this almost beautiful, eerie, ominous on the
outside like picture you've painted, and then you have more
and more people spending time alone in their homes and
wary of each other and and worried about this virus
and getting sick. And something else is happening, which is
people are turning online in a way. And China has

(08:44):
always been ahead when it comes to these online communities,
but something really interesting is happening. Um, so I'm hearing
at least from my tech contacts, um, which is people
are connecting online. And these trends that we were already
kind of seeing a little bit but have just been
magnified by what's been happening. Um, so tell me what
what you're seeing and how are people kind of connecting. Yeah,

(09:08):
it's kind of strange because China is already hyper digital.
I leave my house, I don't carry a wallet, so
whenever I go home to New York, it's always weird
because I have to suddenly carry a wallet again. So
there's ubiquitous platforms like we Chat or the Chinese version
of pretty much all of our messaging platforms that's used

(09:29):
by everybody. And so suddenly instead of having this feeling
of I guess I shouldn't be spending so much time
on my phone, I really got to try to get
out more, do more things, you know, try to control
my use of technology now fully in So everything is
going over my social media channels, everything is going over

(09:51):
my messaging platforms. I used to go to the gym
on a regular basis. I loved my gym, like the
people that were in it. It It was in a really
beautiful location. And now I'm working out at home. I'm
ordering food in and cooking more so. Chinese love to cook.
So there's some issues about the ability of fast food
change to survive because people here in China when they're

(10:12):
at home actually cook, so ordering tremendous amounts of fruits
and vegetables and meats to their homes, and there's great
services here in China, even get directly in contact with
smaller farmers. So all my friends now are starting to
contact me. So the coldness outside is being replaced by
a social media warmth. People are asking me, am I okay,
what am I doing? Can I help them with things

(10:33):
that they're writing? Can we do sports or exercise together digitally?
And of course listening to music. I have a friend
who's a DJ who's been helping me with a project,
who's and her famous growing and growing, and she tells
me about a new concert that she's giving online. So
she goes to huge clubs across Asia and growing success

(10:53):
in the US. And now she's going to do a
DJ set as part of a digital club offered by
QQ Music, which is the leading musup provider in China
and owned by tent Set. And so I'm able to
join that basically digital disco and listen to her music
and her set, catch the set of other DJs, catch
the comments from people, catch videos, upload pictures, and then

(11:16):
suddenly I'm able to do sports at home, eat at home,
hang out with friends at home, be able to enjoy
music and play at home. So it's starting to change
everything dramatically. And I don't feel guilty now for spending
so much time on my phone or on my laptop,
because that's just what you can do, that's the way
things are. We just totally dig into all of this

(11:38):
because all of the things you're saying are so fascinating, right,
like this idea that people are like going to. I
think that the term that that someone said was cloud clubbing,
and so I think a lot of these services, whether
it's cloud clubbing or exercise get at home by numerous
digital platforms, has been out there for a while and
it's been slowly growing. As you know, electronic gaming is

(11:59):
huge groups. But once you're unable to go out and
meet with friends and there's a very clear restriction, then
these opportunities go from fun and nice to have too essential.
So for me, it was really nice. I could say, Wow,
I'm going to have this really awesome experience. I'm not
going to be isolated. I'm going to hear these really
cool DJs. I'm gonna be able to pop in comments.

(12:21):
Read the comments from other people, upload videos or pictures,
be part of this community. I can click people that
have comments that I like. The comments are coming in
in all different languages from all over China and all
over Europe, and so it's a pretty cool experience. Again
in relationship to me watching a video that I'm streaming,

(12:42):
or me just listening to music, how does it actually work?
Like take me to I mean, I don't mean to
to kind of dig into but like what are you
dancing at all? Like, like what is it? Right? So
I think for me because it's electronic music, so there's
a lot from my perspective, I'm a nice comfortable chair.

(13:02):
I'm moving my body and bobbing my head as I'm
listening to the music. So this is the other funny thing.
So I can dance or I can jump around and
take a little video, but I want to comment to people.
I want to share pictures. So this is again the situation.
You can sort of just rock out if you want,
but you can also interact with other people. If you're
gonna interact, you need to type. So you need to type,
You need to sit down, or you need to be

(13:24):
sort of standing as we all are used to with
our with our smartphones, so it's a bit of a combination. Um.
I think also for me, dancing by myself is phone
for a couple of minutes, but at some point I
get a lot more of my sports. As I mentioned earlier,
watching a video of a plotis instructor from New York,
or yoga instructor from Hawaii or a hit trainer from Shanghai,

(13:45):
So that tends to be more my thing. I like
looking out my window having my headphones on. I can
eat the snacks that I want to have, I can
hang out. I can also invite friends to come and
do this with me. Then it's more of a dancing
When I'm here with my uh girlfriend, break eat, then
we can dance together. Then it's more fun. But sort
of dancing by myself, I prefer to sort of sit
in chair and sway and enjoy the beats and type

(14:07):
two people and share things digitally while I'm enjoying the music.
And have you noticed more of your friends doing a
lot of this since the coronavirus, since a lot of
this stuff started happening. Yeah, of course. And I think
what you're always doing is you're looking for ways to
share fun stuff with your friends. So when I heard
about this concert, of course I share with my friends.

(14:27):
I shared it with our mutual friend in New York,
so he really got into the idea. And so you're
always looking for fun things to share. It's like things
to have a conversation about online. So when I meet
with people in real life, we chat about what we're
up to, what we're doing, So I've got to find
those similar things. So being able to join these kinds
of events, and the events provide a lot of cool

(14:47):
images which you can download, it becomes a nice conversation topic.
I can then share tunes from one of the DJs
I heard about um and listen to them afterwards. So
it's a nice way of integrating your life. But the
crazy thing is that this cloud big experience I have
is occurring about fifty ft from where I sit and
do my work, so I haven't stopped working, and actually

(15:08):
I've been working pretty efficiently. So the place where I'm
doing conference calls and writing documents and editing and brainstorming, etcetera.
Is also the space where I'm doing my sports, where
I'm grooving out to my favorite DJs, or where I'm
chatting with people. So things start to float together, and
I like to view up my window because reminds me

(15:29):
of exactly where I am. But these kinds of separations
between work and play and sports and sleep start to
melt together. And I've enjoyed that, but I'm not sure
that's always necessarily helpful for all people. And I've heard
that from friends. Some of them are able to work
even more efficiently at home, and other people are having
more issues getting motiveated. Okay, we've got to take a

(15:52):
quick break to hear from our sponsors. More is my
guest after the break. So you've kind of described like

(16:13):
how play has changed for you. I mean, it just
sounds like it's just not around other people to a degree.
Do you do you miss human connection? Like do you
miss being at a dance club and dancing with other people?
Do you miss that? Yeah? No, I totally do. And
that's the eerie thing is that it doesn't feel the same.
It feels different. It feels good. I mean, it's really

(16:35):
nice to be connected. It's great to have a super
productive conference call with your client because everybody is totally
focused on the call because there will be no fiscal meeting,
not between you and the client, and not between the
client and the other members of the team. So real
decisions have to be made so you can listen to
people much more carefully. People are taking your documents more shares,
and we've got to make a decision on this call.

(16:56):
You know, we're on zoom, we're sharing documents. It has
to come to something. So that's a good feeling, but
it's not the same feeling of seeing that reaction on
somebody's face. Yeah, I mean, I kind of read the
message I got tweeted. Cloud clubbing clubbing from your living room.
During virus restrictions an extension of peloton to DJs and
going out with nightclubs closed and music events canceled for
the foreseeable future, a number of DJs and clubs in

(17:18):
China turning to cloud clubbing. Club clubbing is where people
can go watch live DJ sets and send in messages
to give them the feeling that they're in the club.
The cloud clubbing events usually take place in apps, you know,
like China's TikTok. I mean, it's fascinating to me, um,
you know, just that the culture change that is likely
happening because of that, and the and the almost it
feels like what you're discussing, what you're talking about so

(17:41):
casually just feels like an alternative universe. Uh does that
make sense? Yeah, I know it does. Mean it's it's
your isolated. So just imagine if you couldn't meet with
your friends, you couldn't go out to public places, you
had to do everything on your own. So one of
the great things for people that are traditionally I ssolated
to people that have physical issues, people that have issues

(18:04):
with their way, people that are scared of crowds. There's
a large number of people that are already extremely isolated
in our society, so things like social media, things like
digital worlds allow them an alternative to the classic social
lives that we need. In places like Japan, these kinds
of trends of order gone to extremes. There are people

(18:24):
who are already very seldom leave their rooms or their homes,
and I think there are a lot of negative sides
to all of this. However, it's an interesting experiment, and
I think that Beijing and Shanghai, and obviously cities like
Wuhan and Guangzo that are much more affected by the
virus are excellent excellent laboratories for people to see what's happened.

(18:48):
And I hope that researchers and reporters spend time when
this is all over, because it will most likely end,
and to check out what happens. What happens when people
aren't able to congregate in traditional patterns are the positive
and negative issues. I don't know what happens in a
place like New York when there's a blackout and people
shouldn't go outside, but very often those kinds of situations

(19:09):
and technology also doesn't work. The interesting situation here is
that all of the digital networks are working perfectly, all
the systems are working perfectly. The only issue is this
unseen virus which is out there encouraging to stay inside.
So again, I think if, especially if you have somebody
to stay with or a small group of people that
you can see on a on a periodic basis, it's

(19:30):
kind of an interesting world. I love how you describe
it as like an experiment, like when all this is over,
like what experiment did we just do? Like what do
you think this moment represents for technology? Because this has
always been out there, like this idea of like kind
of you know, we've had second life in the past,
we've had this idea, and people and tech are talking
about augmented reality, virtual reality, living in these virtual worlds

(19:53):
like peloton right, Like this idea of even working out
with people and you know, and having people in the
background and you're kind of virtually we're being out with
other folks, Like this is not you know, this idea
of personal tech, like this isn't new. But something about
this and something about this world that you're painting for us,
and this picture that you're describing of your life right
now as you sit there kind of isolated from from

(20:15):
other people. It certainly seems like an interesting experiment as
to where we could be going and where some of
these trends are, and like, I don't know where we go,
you know, yeah, I think if if you take off
the parental guidance of your teenager, your child who just
loves to chattel day with their friends and spend time

(20:36):
on their laptop, what if you just let them go
for a week and they never left their room and
you brought them food. It would change everything. And I
think this is also we spend time trying to control ourselves. No,
don't go out with your friends and look at your phone.
The entire time. We try to control the encroachment of
digital technologies in our life. But when this quarantine had

(21:00):
and suddenly you stopped doing that, so you're just like, okay,
I'm in the digital world now. I no longer say
to myself, Shapiro, put down your phone and go outside, like, hey,
go meet with your friends. So it's all of a sudden,
that's all gone. So there's no longer an excuse or
push or a rationalization to take yourself out of the tech.
So you just fall into it, said, well, this is

(21:20):
my life right now, so I don't have to go
down the hall and talk with Lily or with Leon
or the other members of my team. I can just
chat with them. So, all of a sudden, all those
physical means that we normally used to interact with people
to have experiences, to go out and explore gone. So
we use the digital alternatives. We take them much more seriously,

(21:42):
We carefully look at it. So suddenly I started to
explore apps that I said, do I really need another app?
Do I really need more digital in my life? Now
It's like, hell, yeah, give me more digital. I've got
to find more fun things to do. I've got to
find new ways to communicate with my friends and my clients.
So something which I tried to keep to three or
four hours a day, Boom, it's eight hours a day.

(22:03):
I think it's an interesting experiment, and I think again,
instead of just fearing it, people need to sort of
imagine an experiment with what would happen if they didn't
go out for a week, it didn't interact with their friends.
What are the positives and the negatives, and how they
can manage better because there's obviously a dark side too.
There are people that can completely disconnect or have largely

(22:27):
disconnected from society, and without that push or that feeling
that this isn't really a good thing, that there are
side effects, it becomes a difficulty. I had to take
this to you, right, Like we're speaking so broadly about this,
Like what about you. You're spending more and more time
online as you talk about in this isolation state, You're
you are the experiment right now, you're living the experiment.

(22:48):
What's the negative impact for you? Yeah? I think the
negative impact for me is that I stop really planning ahead,
I stopped questioning. I really like a flow lifestyle. I
tend to work towards that anyway, dealing with issues as
they come, I'm extremely critical. It's part of my job

(23:11):
doing strategy to constant question things. But I start doing
it at a much much higher rate. And I've also
stopped filtering as much. So and I see information that
I really like digitally a comment right away, now this
is really great. Wow, this is awesome. Thanks for sharing.
And when I see things that are superficial or that
I feel to be ill informed, when I catch friends
in the States making fun of the coronavirus or silly jokes,

(23:35):
I start defriending them. So all of a sudden, I
started taking a lot of the things on social media
and digitally a lot more seriously. I started pulling them
apart more because it becomes so much more important, and
I'm in the past I would say, well, that was
just silly. Let it slide. Somebody's just posting something dumb
on social media. People don't think on a regular basis
that person is not very critical. They're just cutting and

(23:57):
pasting because they feel they need to make a post. Now,
all of a sudden, I'm like, no, it's not okay
to post useless, superficial, or hurtful things. And I don't
want to flame this person. I don't even want them
on my stream anymore. So it's it's interesting I've started
to disconnect myself from people that I feel don't post
quality things, don't know how to write a proper message,

(24:19):
aren't really dealing with things. And then I've seen other
people who have responded, whether it's in the U s
or here in China, who have been very very thoughtful,
who have reached out in very constructive, intelligent ways. And
I'm starting now because I'm so dependent on this stream
to edit out anything that isn't of a certain quality level,
and I think that's obviously going to affect my my diversity.
It's made me much more critical and focus and I think,

(24:42):
to some extent, more extreme digitally when it becomes such
an important aspect of my life. M it's almost like,
you know, we're having this conversation about technology and how
we really need to moderate our use and take a
step back from it, and it's almost like you just
like swallowed the red pill, right, Like you just like
went all the way in and this is kind of
your your mechanism to survive this moment. I used to

(25:06):
go out and do sports all the time. Now I
don't go and do sports. I do everything in my
living room. There's so much stuff online for sports. It's amazing.
What do you what do you do? Like? Can you
just like paint a picture? Like can you give us
like a visual image of what your day looks like
in your home? Right? So the most important thing is
when you're into sort of cuckoo and phase is to
jump start good morning. Right, so get out of bed.

(25:28):
Got to sing a little song to myself, jumping the
downbake noises, gotta say okay, now the day is starting
to throw up all the curtains. I've been doing a
lot of pilates and yoga first thing in the morning,
which I never did before. So I hate the morning.
I don't want to get out of bed. I'm not
going to go to the gym first thing in the morning.
But Brigida and I wake up, we drink our coffee.
We try to do yoga or pilates right away. Because

(25:50):
yoga plots are made for an apartment, so the videos
in the sports that we can do have to be
carefully made for a space which fits in with our
living room. We have open up the shades, we look outside.
We can open up the windows, but we get into that.
We can do an hour, we can do uh ninety minutes,
we can do two or three different videos. We like

(26:11):
to find people that have funny accents. So we found
this woman who's a pilates instructor in Australia and shells
his noise. Yeah, we have a guy in New York
who's motivating us to get going. There's people from Japan,
there's people from China who are talking and helping you through.
There's an old yoga instructor named Rodney who does a

(26:32):
yoga class on top of a hill in Hawaii's a
very very very different experience. Then, of course you've got
to take your shower and then slide checking your phone
after you've turned it off because you're working out. All
of a sudden, there's messages, clients want to speak for them.
You have to organize phone calls, you have to organize meetings,
you have to look at work, and then that goes
into that flow, and then somehow we figure when it's

(26:54):
time for lunch, when our flow digital information calms down
and we both find a good spa, we can then
turn our phones off and try to enjoy a lunch.
But of course then suddenly the phone little buzzes. So
this issue of your free time, talking with your partner,
enjoying your meals, enjoying your spare time, all flows together.
So I'm answering messages from friends, from colleagues, from clients,

(27:18):
from strangers who are contacting me through other friends who
want to know how I'm doing, We're asking me questions.
All very very elegantly flows together. And I think that's
the scary part, is that the day goes by really fast, right,
So there's almost no period of time when I'm like
super bored. There's not a period of time where there's
something missing, So just all flows together. And then suddenly

(27:39):
it's it goes from being not in the morning when
I started working, or not at thirty or ten to
one o'clock, and then having some lunch which slows things down,
and then boom, it's suddenly six or seven, and then
we stopped for dinner. We can go out for a walk,
place some frisbee outside, but again it's just the two
of us. When we come back, we can spend time
looking at entertainment together, something to music together. But it

(28:01):
all flows a good day goes by really really quickly,
so digital time for me, especially if you're doing something interesting,
it's much much faster. So suddenly todays have flown by.
What do you think about this term isolation technology? Yeah?
It is. I mean I am isolated. I'm isolated with
other people. I'm in a bubble, but I'm not going

(28:23):
out and talking to people, so I'm isolated here in
my apartment. I don't receive visitors. If somebody brings me
a package, the package has to be left at the door.
I'm not allowed to interact with people. I don't really
thank the delivery guy like I used to. I don't
chat with him like I used to. So it's me
and my bubble, requesting things, looking at things, interacting with things.

(28:44):
But there's no people. Like I said, even the guards
who I used to chat with and who I adore
had masks on, are giving me distance. So there's warmth
an interaction. But it's all digital, so it changes everything.
And so as you know, digital technologies are always a
watered down or disrupted version of our life. So a
real conversation is much more impactive than a digital conversation.
So there's all these multiple flows of much softer, much

(29:09):
less impactful conversation. So it creates this this very dreamlike
flow in your life, and there's not as much ups
and downs as you would have in the real life,
where expressions or tastes or interactions are much more powerful.
So here suddenly things are much softer, things are much
more gliding together. If something doesn't work, I can quickly
slide into something else. I can ask things I'm not

(29:31):
really looking at time the same way I'm looking at
more in terms of blocks, but not really in terms
of a larger concept. Everything is relatively easy to do.
I can quickly establish a call, I can quickly order food.
But the level of impact and effectiveness, or the amount
of emotions I feel with each experience as much left.
But it's just a lot more. Okay, we've got to

(29:54):
take a quick break to hear from our sponsors more,
is my guest. After the break. Do you worry that
in some of this, like cloud clubbing or I think

(30:16):
someone used the term peloton discotheque or something, can you
describe that really quick for us? Yeah? I think for me,
having the sort of peloton discotheque concept of life where
you're just having these experiences with other individuals from far
flung locations. Creates this feeling that the world is like

(30:40):
your digital concierge. You should bring you things. The more
you pay, the higher level of service you have. The
more you pay, the more features you get. And why
not have music services brought to you by Peloton? Why
not have other social interactions? So this is always the dream,
and I suppose it's justified evaluations, is that Peloton screen
should do more for me right now after staying at home.

(31:02):
I want the videos and the experiences I pull from YouTube.
I want more. What if I want to pay for
somebody to provide a service to me via that video
screen as pelotons, I want to upgrade it. I wanted
to go into other areas. And I think that's the
scary point, you know, Why go out and listen and
experience or take up a one on one class or
a lesson with somebody when I can have many more

(31:24):
experiences digitally, So that will that time has been traveling
and all the rest disappears. I mean, for me, it
was a real shock the Peloton was so successful after
soul Cycle and all these other locations were showing such
a strong growth as well. Why would somebody who's successful
and wealthy want to sit in their living room and
spin where they could go to a really cool class downtown.

(31:45):
But now I don't know why. I mean, you understand
it now in a new way. You think, Yeah, no,
I totally do. So I get to do more lower
quality things. And so I can't imagine that being on
a peloton is better than going to kick a soul
cyclo class. I mean, I've tried both, and I'd rather
be a sold pycloclass. But what I do appreciate now

(32:06):
is the ability to get out of my bed, go
into the living room, do an amazing workout. I can
then get through. I can then have the kinds of
beverages and the food that's super healthy, slide right into
work and it's all super seamless. Now, if I have
to get up I have to go out to the gym,
I'm gonna go to the gym. I'm gonna have this
intense gym experience. But then I'm probably go out and

(32:27):
eat at a restaurant afterwards, and probably not gonna eat
as healthy. The entire experience is probably to be four
hours five hours. If I had kept it all at home,
probably all be about two hours, So I can do
much more by never leaving my house now if I
have the resources and the finances and the knowledge that
I have. I mean, so the relationship with time changes,

(32:48):
your relationship with people change. What do you think is
the biggest thing that's getting lost during this whole digital
experiment that you seem to be swimming in. Yeah, I
think I'm obviously losing time just by myself. So even
though I'm isolated, I'm constantly connected. So that walk that
I take now by myself or with burg it is

(33:10):
really important because I get to disconnect and not constantly react,
which I think is really important, just the need to
just do nothing. So even though I'm isolated, I'm not
doing nothing. I'm constantly playing with devices. I've gotten to
this digital world totally, and it's really important to turn off.
So I've lost a lot of that turnoff time, which
I thought would have happened more it is. And I

(33:32):
think it's important periodically to be a bit bored, to
just see what happened, to stumble into things. And I
think now our digital words are so algorithm that we
don't really just stumble upon things anymore. We hear about
things from friends. We search for things in our searches
are are are pushed and pulled in different directions, so
that ability to sort of like go through a flea

(33:53):
market and see what happens. Walk down the street and
randomly things jump out at you. There's a kid, and
there's a stranger, there's an old ladies singing. That's all gone.
So everything feels very very much put inside of an
algorithm driven channel for me where things are organized by
other people, and that kind of sponsaneity doesn't exist online anymore,

(34:13):
doesn't exist digitally anymore. People know my patterns. I can
see it now. So it's just the more and more
you spend, the more and more your devices learned, the
more and more you lean into them, you just start
flowing into these patterns of behavior which are really scary.
I mean they're nice, it's like fast food, but it's
really really you find yourself just taking these easier digital
perhaps instead of exploring these things. I can't help but think.

(34:35):
We had a We had Professor Morons Surf on First
Contact UM an episode called like Hacking your Brain to
Order Dreams on demand, and it was a fascinating episode,
and you know, I asked him, what do you think
is the single most important ethical issue coming down the pipeline,
and he said, young people as they grow up. He's like,
people are going to stop having I think you said

(34:56):
something along the lines of like aren't going to have
sexual relationships anymore. People are going to stop connecting in
like a sexual way. Um, And so I guess I
think about this from what you're talking about with the
rise of isolation tech. You talk about having a girlfriend
and and it sounds like you're lucky that you have
a girlfriend during this and that you guys can spend
a lot of time together and what seems like a

(35:16):
very isolating, scary, lonely time in China. But we talk
about cloud clubbing, right, this weird concept, but it sounds
like millions and if you look at some of the stats,
and there's been some writing on this, millions of people
are showing up in these virtual clubs to spend time
with one another in comment, but no one's touching, like,
no one's talking, no one's making out right, Like I mean,

(35:40):
you know, physical connection is the thing that seems to
be lost in some of this digital overdose. So do
you worry that as we you know and and hopefully
we will get through this scary time. But do you
worry that with the rise of this and this is
kind of like this microcosm for this moment of digital

(36:02):
and what's kind of coming down the pipeline, And maybe
this is just putting this out there in a bigger way,
But like, do you worry that that maybe as we
see this trend happening, like we're all going to be
spending time with one another, but not being with each
other and having intimacy. No, I mean totally agree, and
I think it's already happening. So if you look at

(36:24):
as I mentioned before, countries like Japan, even here in
China and the US, rates of just having sex are
going down. People are no longer as intimate as I
used to be. With the whole me Too movement in
the States, I can also assume that these kinds of
sexual interactions are becoming much more fraud It's just easier
not to do it. And now with all the digital

(36:44):
alternatives through pornography or other forms of sexual expression digitally,
it's going to push it even further. So this is
again for me, extremely frightening. I mean, I grew up
in the seventies, and I'm used to as much physical
contact or that can possibly muster with the people that
that I adore and playing sports like basketball in New York.

(37:08):
That's all going away and it's going to continue, and
in this situation where the coronavirus just exacerbates it. I
think what's interesting again is that we sust always joke
when I was growing up that there's always one day
of the year when you're an alcoholic where not an
alcoholic anymore, and that's of course on New Year's Eve. Um,
there are a lot of people that just don't find
it comfortable or easy to be with other people, that

(37:29):
don't find it comfortable to be social. And right now,
for them, it's like New Year's Eve. They have no
stigma there, can stay at home the whole day, they
can have no physical interaction. I've also heard over the
years that i've been here, where people know colleagues that
don't really want to go two rooms or talk with people.
They're they're they're messaging people that are in the cubical

(37:50):
twenty feet away from them having intense conversations, which I've seen.
So I think that isolation friend is already going on now.
For me, it's horrifying. But the question is, is you
know for another jet narration that they prefer to live
in isolation. Yeah, it's scary for me and it's sad,
but I see it really as an inevitability. And what's
crazy here in China is that people didn't suddenly revolve.

(38:12):
Teenagers weren't saying, yeah, let's just create our own underground club.
Fuck the rules, just go out and have fun. They
didn't do that. You know, people were much more critical
about how the virus was being handled. But people were
okay with staying at home. People were okay when not
going to work. People are okay with ordering all their
food at home or cooking at home. People seem to

(38:32):
be able to manage it. There wasn't a huge amount
of unrest. There wasn't a huge amount of reactions to
this as the work for example, to Hong Kong, to
other political issues. So it's kind of scary, but I
think that this is just another example of how this
direction will continue. I mean, we're not going to get
less digital. I think the other fascinating thing is that

(38:53):
simpler is better, So the technologies people are turning to
are not more and more complicated. They're just using those simple, fast,
easy flowing to technology is more and more, and maybe
that's one of the reason why Pelotan works well, because
it's so easy to use. You don't have to learn
a new piece of software, you don't have complicated formulas
to fill out. And most of the technologies that are
taking off here and the delivery services that are working

(39:14):
well although same old classical services. So a Facebook or
an Instagram or snap are just going to grow. So here.
J D dot COM's the delivery online retailer for food
and for most essentials, is the biggest distributor of food
related items, had a tremendous quarter. There's stock skyrocketed yesterday.
So I don't see that Stampa, you know. And also

(39:35):
we're facing so much uncertainty in the world right now.
It's wildfires one place, it's you've got coronavirus, it's political unrest,
and so I can't help but think there's this this
other trend that we're seeing online and that there's just
there's something there and people connecting, I don't know, and
people kind of retreating in some capacity. Um, I don't

(39:56):
think it's random. I think that there's certainly something about
this moment that feels very uncertain. Yeah, but but the
cloud disc goes there for you. You know, it says,
don't worry about it. You know, come to the Peloton Discotheque.
It's cool. Man. So it's all crazy out there, but hey,
stay at home. You don't have to go out. You
don't even have to. You know, you can engage in politics,
just do it all digitally, like you can do your sports.

(40:17):
You can do everything. Why bother going outside or why
even bother starting a physical relationship with one person when
you could have hundreds of superficial digital relationships. I mean,
this is the thing that shocked mean when it first
came to Asia was going out to really cool, totally
lit up disco with a majing DJs. And some of
the discos in Beijing or in shine Hot or in

(40:38):
Tokyo have some amazing visual effects, or in Soul and
you see a table full of twentysomething's, super good looking
and really well dressed, anywhere from eight to twelve of
them all around the table with big bottles of alcohol,
and they're all looking at their phones all the time.
There's a really nice DJ going, nobody's dancing, so how
far away is it from this? Did we just write

(41:01):
a Black Mirror episode together? Or are we living in?
What I think with the crazy thing is that the
Black Mirror episode is happening in slow motion relatively speaking,
so we're sliding into it. So this is the question, like,
it's gonna happen, right, We're going to get us into
a situation where people are living more and more via

(41:22):
social media, as if we already weren't. Right, you know,
there's all the joke about, oh what happens if you
lose your phone? What happens to your life? And we
joke about it, but should we really be joking about it?
So the last chance to pull people back from this
digital bubble is now. If we would all do it now,
it's gone. Right, there's going to be a moment where

(41:42):
you're gonna go into a percent digital state for a
period of time because of a version of a Corona
or some kind of a disaster, and you're gonna see
and if you like it, there is no reason for
you to come back. The stigma is going to slowly
disappear from the guy who's currently living in digital bubble land,
right right, But I was already here I mean, that's
the thing. When I go back to New York, there's

(42:03):
a lot more interaction, right, I don't have the same
kind of an issue of asking my friends to put
the phone down or watching this group. So it is
still a much more of a go out and enjoy things.
It's already slid into that direction. I just have a
feeling that it's not going to stop. Do you feel
like you're in the matrix? Oh? Yeah. I think the
thing is that the matrix is there for everybody. It's
just that are you in the matrix? You know? Are

(42:27):
you in the matrix four hours a day or eight
hours a day? And everybody has their own matrix. So
I think that's the thing to this sort of belief
that there's sort of one big matrix out them roll
in it. Everybody's got their own matrix. I wish a
lot of the digital services knew me better and what
stopped sending me advertising or information that I had absolutely
no interest in. So my matrix is consists of my clients,

(42:50):
it's consists of the people that I love, It's my family,
It's I build my matrix, and now that I'm in
it more and more, I'm grooming it more. I'm keeping
people out and information for this out apps out and
putting other ones in because hey, wait, this is my
world now, so I'm taking much better care of it,
which is good and bad too, because what it does
is I'm sort of creating a matrix that has less resistance,

(43:11):
that has higher quality, which in turn then meets my
needs more and pushes me further in. So I think
the important part is at some point to just not
turn it down the volume of my matris, but literally
turn it off. And I think that's something that I'm
beginning to realize and trying to do more and more.
It's literally, leave all the devices at home, go outside

(43:33):
for a walk. Have things happened to you in a
random fashion? Because things in the digital world are controlled,
and they're controlled by you, and they're repetitive and they're
easy and they're comforting. And that's a problem. If I
want to really challenge myself and seeing new things, if
I want spontaneous things to happen, I gotta go outside.
Algorithms are not spontaneous. My last question for you, um,

(43:56):
standard are you afraid? So yeah, I'm afraid all the time.
I like fear. I mean fear for me is really important.
That's one of the things that I hate when I
go back to those states is that people aren't really critical.
You know, people don't want to be scared of things.
People hate, conflict, These are all really important things. So yeah,
I'm totally scared. I think the interesting about coronavirus is

(44:17):
reminds me that the most dangerous thing on the planet
is other people. When I look at politics, either in
China and the US, again, it's people. So I getting
really scared of people. I get scared of what people
are able to do. I get scared of what people
are able to believe. I get scared of of how
quickly people are willing to do without things as you
had mentioned, like physical contact or sex. That willing to

(44:37):
give that up for me is frightening. At the same time,
the compassion and the warmth that I've experienced from people,
and when I take good care of my digital networks,
how many amazing conversations and experiences I can have just
sitting down and carefully writing texts between another intelligent person.
I know for a while how good that can be.
Writing letters back and forth basically two friends, or hearing

(44:57):
their voices or talking more now to my mom, which
I haven't done enough. And this isolation has allow me
to reach out more and do some of those things
calmly in an an appropriate state of mind that I
want is really really hopeful. But yeah, I mean it's
it is frightening. It is very very scary to imagine
a world where people just don't touch each other anymore.

(45:18):
Mhm um, Well, I think it's a good way to
end it. Maybe also a good reminder to call our
parents are good or tell someone we love them. Uh, So,
thank you for that, and and we'll be thinking about you.
And uh maybe I'll see you in a cloud club
one day or maybe in real life. Hopefully in real life,
have a wonderful one and take care of yourself. Okay, Okay,

(45:40):
thank you. Okay, guys, So, if you're sitting at home
and listen to this by yourself, I'm assuming you're feeling
a little bit weird. That obviously gave gave me a
lot to think about. I don't know about you, but
I would love to hear from you. What do you

(46:01):
want to hear more of? How do they make you feel?
I'm trying out this new community number so you can
text me, and I swear this actually goes directly to
my phone. The number is zero three zero, So text
me and here's a personal request. If you like the show,
leave us a review on the Apple podcast app or
wherever you listen to your podcasts, and subscribe so you

(46:23):
don't miss an episode. You can follow me I am
at Lorie Siegel on Twitter and Instagram, and the show
is at First Contact podcast On Instagram and on Twitter,
you can find us. We're at First Contact pot First
Contact is a production of Dot dot Dot Media. Executive
produced by Lorie Siegel and Derek Dodge, and this episode
was produced and edited by Sabine Jansen and Jack Reagan.

(46:45):
Original theme music by Xander Sing. First Contact with Lorie
Siegel is a production of Dot dot Dot Media and
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