Google Inc. suffered a critical communications disruption that lasted around 24 hours late last month: On the evening of Feb. 25, co-founder Sergey Brin switched off his cell phone.
Unlike the recent Gmail snafu, this particular downtime was planned. Brin's wife, 23andme Inc. co-founder Anne Wojcicki, was hosting a dinner at Hidden Villa in Los Altos, in advance of the National Day of Unplugging, during which the hyper-connected are encouraged to take a day off from technology.
Wojcicki is a board member of a Jewish nonprofit that developed the annual occasion, which begins at sundown tonight and ends sundown Saturday. She held the gathering in advance to encourage people to talk about the role of technology in their lives and take a practice run at unplugging.
"People here are so connected and they're really living their lives online," she said. "I thought it'd be a good idea to see if you can disconnect for the full 24 hours."
Reboot, a New York group focused on updating Jewish traditions to make them more relevant to modern life, created the National Day of Unplugging last year to encourage people to reconnect with the real world.
Though people of all backgrounds are encouraged to participate, the concept was inspired by the Sabbath in Jewish tradition, a weekly day of rest. Reboot devised a "Sabbath Manifesto" that included 10 goals for the day, such as: avoid technology, connect with loved ones, get outside and drink wine. Participants can draw that technology line wherever they please, from light switches to cars to televisions.