A NY Times article by Ross Douthat
Yes, I am posting it on my blog. Irony can be pretty ironic, eh?
So far, in my ongoing series of columns making the case for implausible ideas, I’ve fixed race relations and solved the problem of a workless working class. So now it’s time to turn to the real threat to the human future: the one in your pocket or on your desk, the one you might be reading this column on right now.
Search your feelings, you know it to be true: You are enslaved to the internet. Definitely if you’re young, increasingly if you’re old, your day-to-day, minute-to-minute existence is dominated by a compulsion to check email and Twitter and Facebook and Instagram with a frequency that bears no relationship to any communicative need.
Compulsions are rarely harmless. The internet is not the opioid crisis; it is not likely to kill you (unless you’re hit by a distracted driver) or leave you ravaged and destitute. But it requires you to focus intensely, furiously, and constantly on the ephemera that fills a tiny little screen, and experience the traditional graces of existence — your spouse and friends and children, the natural world, good food and great art — in a state of perpetual distraction.
Used within reasonable limits, of course, these devices also offer us new graces. But we are not using them within reasonable limits. They are the masters; we are not. They are built to addict us, as the social psychologist Adam Alter’s new book “Irresistible” points out — and to madden us, distract us, arouse us and deceive us. We primp and perform for them as for a lover; we surrender our privacy to their demands; we wait on tenterhooks for every “like.” The smartphone is in the saddle, and it rides mankind.
Which is why we need a social and political movement — digital temperance, if you will — to take back some control.
Of course it’s too soon to fully know (and indeed we can never fully know) what online life is doing to us. It certainly delivers some social benefits, some intellectual advantages, and contributes an important share to recent economic growth.
But there are also excellent reasons to think that online life breeds narcissism, alienation and depression, that it’s an opiate for the lower classes and an insanity-inducing influence on the politically-engaged, and that it takes more than it gives from creativity and deep thought. Meanwhile the age of the internet has been, thus far, an era of bubbles, stagnation and democratic decay — hardly a golden age whose customs must be left inviolate.
So a digital temperance movement would start by resisting the wiring of everything, and seek to create more spaces in which internet use is illegal, discouraged or taboo. Toughen laws against cellphone use in cars, keep computers out of college lecture halls, put special “phone boxes” in restaurants where patrons would be expected to deposit their devices, confiscate smartphones being used in museums and libraries and cathedrals, create corporate norms that strongly discourage checking email in a meeting.
Then there are the starker steps. Get computers — all of them — out of elementary schools, where there is no good evidence that they improve learning. Let kids learn from books for years before they’re asked to go online for research; let them play in the real before they’re enveloped by the virtual.
Then keep going. The age of consent should be 16, not 13, for Facebook accounts. Kids under 16 shouldn’t be allowed on gaming networks. High school students shouldn’t bring smartphones to school. Kids under 13 shouldn’t have them at all. If you want to buy your child a cellphone, by all means: In the new dispensation, Verizon and Sprint will have some great “voice-only” plans available for minors.
I suspect that versions of these ideas will be embraced within my lifetime by a segment of the upper class and a certain kind of religious family. But the masses will still be addicted, and the technology itself will have evolved to hook and immerse — and alienate and sedate — more completely and efficiently.
But what if we decided that what’s good for the Silicon Valley overlords who send their kids to a low-tech Waldorf school is also good for everyone else? Our devices we shall always have with us, but we can choose the terms. We just have to choose together, to embrace temperance and paternalism both. Only a movement can save you from the tyrant in your pocket.
The latest installment of my mistress project, a mil-SF short “Zombie 6”, is up.
This one is dedicated to the work and memory of Mr. Bill Paxton. Thank you, sir. May you Rest in Peace.
Click on the link below or the drop down tab in the Top Menu.
More Arts and Crafts glass work. Installed today. Two panels for the sun porch in a private residence on the bay in Orleans, MA. 80% salvaged antique glass. Period design to match existing work in room and around the home.
Back to writing now.
Took advantage of a slow week to hammer out the next installment of my ongoing mil-SF story Zombie 6.
Click on the Tab in the top menu bar, or here –> Chapter 5: #RighteousFlames
Hope you enjoy. Have a good weekend.
Bit of writing news for the new year.
I’ve decided to alternate fiction projects in 2017. My first and main effort continues to be the post-apocalypse fantasy novel Shattered Worlds, (currently hammering out Act II, Into the Scorned Lands) while the second, ‘mistress project’, is a straight up military science fiction novella presently titled Zombie 6.
Focused on a spec-ops team ordered to support the embattled Colonial Administration Security forces on the mining colony Mèng Tiān, Zombie 6 will be offered free here on HSSJ as it progresses. I have added a tab to the top header menu. The first three chapters are up already and I plan on posting new ones bi-weekly. I’m getting a kick out of where the story is taking me and I hope you enjoy it as it develops too. Feedback is welcome and comments are always appreciated.
In other fictional realities, the second Eshu International book, Shift Tense is now available in print. You can pick up a copy here at Amazon. For whatever reason, reviews for the Kindle version have not, are not, (will they ever?) carrying over to the print listing, so would some of you nice folks who have read Shift Tense fire off a few lines or Copy-n-Paste your Kindle review so it doesn’t look so forlorn there? Thank you very much.
Finally, thank you all for your continued support. The older I get the more convinced I am success is defined by creativity, community, and contribution more than anything else. I’m fortunate to have such excellent family, friends, and fans. Thank you and happy new year.
Finally finished this personal project: an Arts and Crafts light fixture. White-cedar fence posts rough-sawn into 3″ x 3″ beams. 1″ copper bands for accents. Over all dimensions are 48″ x 36″. Four, 6′ x 9″ panel lamps in a modified Roycroft design at each intersection, fabricated with Youghiogheny Restoration glass. The wiring runs through copper pipes to junction box above the ceiling. (which is a shame as I purchased some nice, period cloth-wrapped lamp cord. But hey, at least I know it’s there) A Christmas gift for my wife, it was finally installed last night.
Today is going to be a writing day.
Method 1 – Not a movie prop.
According to Task and Purpose, AMP Suits, Mech-Warrior, and other Big Stompy Robots aren’t that far away. Just add some Chobham armor plating and a chain gun and off we go.
Let the stable still astonish:
Straw-dirt floor, dull eyes,
Dusty flanks of donkeys, oxen;
Crumbling, crooked walls;
No bed to carry that pain,
And then, the child–
Rag-wrapped, laid to cry
In a trough.
Who would have chosen this?
Who would have said,
“Yes, let the God of Heaven and Earth
Be born in this place”?
Who but the same God
Who stands in the darker, fouler rooms
Of our hearts
“Yes, let the God of Heaven and Earth
Be born in this place.”
More ‘graphs from my latest mil sf WIP, ZOMBIE SIX.
Rucker and I watched Tien Chang burn.
Not like we hadn’t seen the effects of an orbital strike before. But there’s just something about fire.
We were across the river, five kilometers away, and could still hear it roar. Buildings were torches. Signs, light posts, cars, flared like kindling. Downtown was a shimmering inferno of melting asphalt, glass, and steel. It is hard to believe those things burn like that. But they do. A city of a hundred and forty thousand people turning to cinders.
I could see flames raging higher and higher, gasping, grasping into the night sky for more air. Soon a vortex would form, pulling everything inward to the white-hot heart, and a pillar of fire would rise on scorching winds over the city center, writhing and howling like Hell’s own tornado.
“Damn,” Ricker grunted. “Admiral Sota is not fucking around.”
“No, he isn’t,” I said.
Lights flickered south of the city along the riverbank. I cranked my optical neurochems and zoomed in: a string of trucks was racing down the highway away from the blaze. Compensating for the light-wash, my tacti-comp ID’d them as Isuzu bulk haulers. Might be insurgents. Might be civilians. It didn’t matter – the evac deadline had passed twelve hours ago. The drone cordon would take them out before they got another kilometer. “The Admiral is not a ‘fuck around’ kinda guy,” I finished.
Rucker nodded absently. He had spotted the trucks too and was tracking them. “So I’m thinking the Timmies said ‘No’ to the Council’s offer of a cease-fire?”
“Word is they shot the diplomatic android first,” I explained. “Then told the rest of the negotiating team to chī shǐ back to the 18th generation. That hurt the Admiral’s feelings, so he decided to send a message.”
Rucker gave a harsh laugh. “Yeah, but Rods from God? Who’s left to hear it?”
I jerked my head south where Xuan Chang and Wen Chang, the two remaining colony cities, stood. “The Turkistan Independence leaders. I mean, nothing quite says, “Listen Up!” like hypervelocity tungsten telephone poles fired from Low Planetary Orbit, right?”
Rucker shrugged. “Well, when you care enough to send the very best….”
It was my turn to laugh. I snorted, looked back across the dark, flame-lit water. “I just hope they listen.”
Rucker shrugged, and started to walk back to our camp. “Bah. I give it two days, boss. Fleet has the entire system on lock-down. Absolutely no traffic from the moons, Belt mines, or orbitals unless it is UNE authorized and got a military escort. Meng Tian is cut off. Methinks the Tim’s glorious revolution just got strangled in the cradle.”
“Can’t argue your logic, but…” my voice trailed off. I had a feeling about this one.
Rucker spread his hands in mock surprise. “Seriously?”
He pointed across the river. “Once word of this spreads, they’ll have to come to the table. Who wants Chang Two and Three lit up like that? The Timmies may be fanatics but they’re not stupid. The Planetary Council won’t go for it. Not the U.N.E. either, not really. Crisped miners, slagged infrastructure, delayed ore shipments… bad for business all around.”
Rucker spit, shifted his Steyr-30 to the crook of his other arm. “Fifty yuan says we’ll be back on the Hephestus in forty-eight hours, cryo-ed, and zip lining our way to the UNE’s next cluster fuck.”
“From the Freezer to Hell in sixty seconds,” I intoned. “Or your money back. Guaranteed.”
“Zombie Six. That’s how we roll.” he said.
I thumped my chest plate despite the itch at the back of my mind. The Kepler solar system was effectively blockaded, Fleet Marines had landed at New Shenzhen, Tien Chang was burning. I so wanted Rucker to be right. But…
An A.I. generated, strategic, socio-psych profile can be as meticulous as it is wrong. People are spectacularly illogical. Brute truth is sometimes a kick in the head makes people give up – sometimes it just pisses them off.
I could feel the anger coming off Tien Chang in waves.
He raised one eyebrow. “You’re not taking my bet.”
“Hey, I’ll take your money,” I said. “In the meantime though, make sure our ammo and power cells are topped off. Chandra has first watch.”
“I’m not jinxing us,” I said. “I want Zombie Six to be ready in case the Timmies won’t see reason, is all.”
Rucker saluted. “Semper Gumby,” he drawled, and went back to the rest of the squad.