Beeps, Sqwaks, Twitters, and Other Noise.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Allow me to preface this blog by saying that I am the least Zen person on earth. I love old stuff (see my 38 year old VW bus) and I love science fiction. I feel sometimes like I really have trouble living in the now.

That said, I feel sometimes like I am the most luddite science fiction fan. I have noticed some trends in society that are starting to scare me because I feel like only I can see the bigger picture of how they're all slowly starting to connect...like three or four big freight trains all heading toward each other with our world at the center.

First, what happened to the days where kids could get a book or a toy that didn't make noise? Case in point: wife and I are at Costco last night and I pass this cart with two young girls sitting in it looking at a couple of Disney storybooks that make all sorts of noise or play songs or something (never was a big Disney fan). Case in point two: my students and their cell phones. Oh my god, their worlds revolve around their ability and desire to interact with it constantly. Edit: We are raising our children to be dependent on technology and on things that make noise and entertain them, not interact and engage them!

Which brings me to two, what happened to the day and age where people did not feel this incessant need to communicate? Don't get me wrong, communication is good, but not when you're driving (whether it's a car on the road or a cart at the store), in class, in a movie/play, in a meeting, concert, or anything else that is just simply more important than the world around you! It's like people who are strange enough to set their car alarms while camping! Now here's where my Zen side comes in: enjoy the world around you, people! I don't care if it's a rose or your own child...it's beautiful! It has to be more important than texting someone or some random call from some random person.

Third, our political climate. We are turning inward, people! We are scared! Fear drives our culture today. Edit: You history buffs know this kind of thing has happened before. Hmm, can we say 1930s Europe?! "Oh my gawd, what if little Johnny falls on that tanbark?" "Garsh, what if Al-Qaeda decides to blow up my local Wal-Mart?" "Jinkies, serin gas is everywhere...and radon...and carbon monoxide...and I need disc brakes instead of drums...and my car has to be totally silent inside so I can enjoy my stereo instead of paying attention to how my car's doing and what's ahead of me!" Edit: We're softening, world! We are becoming lazier and we feel we can tolerate less! Honestly, everyone needs to drive older, well-maintained cars in which there's a decent stereo (hey, I like my music too) but you can still hear the road and the car and are aware of what's ahead of you.

Here's my prediction...it will sound like science fiction, but remember that all good science fiction (note, not sci-fi...science fiction) takes our society's ills and places them in a future context: I predict that our society will continue to turn inward, ever narrowing our world perspective, becoming more and more fascinated by small shiny objects that bleep and twitter and connect us to each other without actually connecting us to each other. Hard currency will become obsolete. More records will go digital. Phones will become more and more centered on music, texting, pictures, video, games, making popcorn, telling you if there's an accident ahead, brewing your coffee, debating quantum theory, and less on making actual phone calls. Phones will eventually just be embedded in our skulls when we turn 13 and the resulting "voices in our heads" will create in the world a great schizm between those of the digital generation and the "luds". Edit: And I have to ask--What happens when all those great electronic networks crash? It's inevitable. You cannot battle entropy forever. The haves will have more and the have nots will have...well, not. The gaps will widen, children will be left behind. America will be left behind the rest of the world. The country will turn ever inward by the dumbing of the populous and a string of fear-driven policies. Eventually, we'll just close our borders and dive into a sort of technology-driven Middle Ages. Perhaps even America itself will splinter into smaller countries...hey, they tried it in the 1800s. Grammar and the English language will go to shit..read some of the other blogs or a teenager's final draft essay...it's already happening. We'll never get off Earth, unless by some very driven privatized effort. And even then the drive to colonize deep space will be a very long time in coming, if ever.

I realize that my prediction may clash with what you think. I know it's not that shiny picture that Roddenbery painted. You may disagree, but I'll probably disagree back atcha. It's also not meant to make you depressed in this holiday season. Hopefully it will inspire us to reconnect with humanity, become more Zen-like, look more at the bigger picture, think more about how we speak and write is seen by others.

There is Hope, Prosperity, and Serenity in the future. But we have to be pro-active in creating it.



Friday, December 24, 2004 9:27 AM


Well, I guess so long as you give all us Firefly Fans residence in the "Haves" section, then it's all good.

Merry Christmas to one and all.

Thursday, December 23, 2004 8:17 PM


Technology has great potential for nifty cool stuff, but the rift between haves and have-nots will eventually give rise to a sort of technocratic social structure if we're not careful. But when I am Emperor of America, this will not matter.

Also, Happy Christmas Eve.


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