Why do people want to be ruled by machines? Why are so many people happy to go mooing along like cybernetic cows, contentedly munching the digital grass served up by the kid geniuses and robber barons of the new age, who laugh as the western world throws away incalculable amounts of time, money, concentration and emotional capital every time they market a new shiny thing or improve our software for us? Do we actually enjoy all the effort to figure out how to operate the new stuff every time our whiz-kid heroes like Gates or Zuckerberg get bored and want to add a few billion to their accounts?
Look, if you want to call me a Luddite, be my guest. I used to read a newspaper. It showed up on my doorstep and included most of what I needed or wanted to know. I didn’t have to buy an expensive machine. Then learn to use the machine. Then twiddle my thumbs while the stupid machine processed endless updates. Then buy an expensive new battery for the machine. Or spend a bunch of money protecting the machine from viruses. Or replace the expensive machine with a more expensive machine because it broke for no discernible reason. Or swear at a service provider because they kicked me off the internet in the middle of something. Or upgrade to more expensive service because the provider decided it was time to interfere with my current service so I would get frustrated enough to upgrade. Or go to Facebook to see what’s up with the cousins and see stuff that I would’ve had to travel to a seedy part of town to find back in better days. Or sift through multiple agendas to piece together something that seems to make sense.
Back when I wanted to improve myself and get a better job I went to night school and learned drafting. Pencil, T-square, French curves and triangles and I was ready to go, just like my grandfather. I am now stealing time from my company to unleash this rant because I am about to explode with the frustration of training for our second major design software change. The training interface works sporadically; I’ll have to email somebody, wait for replies, explain the idiotic problem, etc. just to learn how to do something again that I’ve actually known how to do quite well for the last thirty years. For goodness sake, I’m a professional with decades of experience but not a day goes by that I don’t have the opportunity to feel stupid thanks to some snotty software designer’s idiosyncrasies and my company’s management deciding how to build empires without consulting anybody in the trenches about how the tools work.
But information you say. Communication and stuff. Don’t complain about agendas. There have always been agendas. The information super- highway has broken the monopoly of Big News and Big Entertainment. A conservative like me should be happy about the democratization of access and information. Now the Truth Cannot Be Suppressed.
Look, I remember Cronkite spinning the Vietnam war and the miraculous conversion of KKK Dixiecrats into champions of civil rights. I remember the demonization of the military and the doomsday predictions about air pollution and the mass starvation soon to be caused by Dr. Ehrlich’s beloved population explosion. So yeah, the left had the strategic foresight to capture the radio station long before the right heard the bullets flying around their benighted heads.
But now we’re fighting back, right? Now we have Fox News and Drudge and Breitbart and Limbaugh and Town Hall and mighty armies of bloggers and meme-posters beating back the monster of dehumanizing progressivism, all thanks to our linked up thinking machines, telescreens and two way wrist TVs. Like Herbert Hoover’s promised prosperity, the return to social sanity is just around the corner, right?
Wake up and smell the overpriced latte, you suckers! Since the mighty arsenal of populist conservatism has commenced its march along the information super-highway we have happily elected ever more “progressive” officials in both parties and quietly acquiesced to more and more absurd demands from fanatical lunatics. The Planned Parenthood videos would have shocked everybody back in the sixties and seventies; now they are met with outrage by a few and a yawn by most. Stop playing “Candy Crunch” and camp on that one for a minute. Most people see nothing odd or disturbing about ripping babies to shreds and selling their parts. Men “marry” men and must be allowed to pee in the ladies room along with little girls while the mob effectively derides any dissent from such insanity as “hate.” Religious freedom and freedom of speech are rapidly fading memories. Our next presidential election is likely to be between a dangerously tyrannical crook and a dangerously tyrannical clown, both of whom routinely express disgust with the Constitution. Far from reversing the progress of the disease, our twenty four hour, open to everybody access has supplied the nutrients to strengthen the antibody-resistant strain of the plague that is killing us.
But who has time to notice such trifles? How many people still have the necessary vocabulary to even think about these things? More and more of our brainpower is going into figuring out how to turn stuff on, get the app, post the meme or, on a really good, philosophically oriented day, cough up the canned retorts of our chosen tribe to combat the digital hate from people we’ve never met.
So there you have it. Our mighty, labor saving electronic brains are saving us the labor of thinking, except about how to keep them up, spend money on them and extract entertainment and emotional stimulation from them. How long will it be before they save us the labor of governing ourselves, building relationships and otherwise behaving like autonomous human beings?