Stay Up To Date.

technology is good for youHello. We’re the people selling the stuff that makes you stand in lines to get the latest one.

Our technology is good for you. Don’t think about the time you spend getting it to work, or getting it if you can. Don’t think about how many hours of work it will take for you to afford the new thing that is pretty much like the old thing with some humble improvements. Those humble improvements are going to make you more efficient and more happy.

Don’t worry about all your old stuff going to landfills. Why should you worry about the water table? We’ll make an app for that.

Use technology. It’s good for you. It will make your life so much better. It’s not that it will make you more attractive; it’s that if you don’t have it you won’t fit in. Stay up to date.

We care about you. We’ll gather your information and tell you things about yourself you might want to know – but we definitely want so that we can sell you more stuff. We’ll even map your house for you and sell it to people. You shouldn’t be ashamed of your house.

We’ll even sell your fear and outrage.

Technology is good for you.

Drink deep. We know what we’re doing – and our investors truly care about your money, which is why we make things that last just long enough to get you to a newer version.

You’re saving the world.

Ours.

Not yours.

Fictions

DematerializationAll too often, we don’t recognize how limited we are. We, who would expand our canvases beyond our simple neural inputs, we who would try to do good, are limited to our own fictions as we pull together the information we take in.

It used to be simpler, when it was all just sound. Then we figured out how to scribble things, and things became more complicated. The recorded and transmitted sound captured our ears, where ‘The War of the Worlds’ scared people into thinking that there was an actual alien invasion.

Television came along, first in black and white, then in color – and then in an escalation of realism that makes fictions all the more immersive. While that was happening, we learned to record things – and artists, with all these new canvases, pushed the limits beyond what we collectively thought possible.

Fictions rivaled reality, but reality has always been our fiction – individually and collectively. The world is not as we experience it; the world is as it is and we only experience it through some rudimentary inputs. Science and technology have allowed us different perspectives, launching us into new fictions about the universe around us. They drive us out of both fear and wonder.

Yet the most dangerous fictions are what we tell each other. as we increasingly master how to tell each other things. We make our points by appealing to emotion more than intellect, largely through the study of marketing. We are more impressed by a politician on the news than the people actually effecting change, and we have become more impressed as they are marketed toward us.

Our fictions are dangerous in that we create our own fictions by dehumanizing others to take from them that which we would have. They are dangerous in that we believe them to the point of not questioning them, not even daring to imagine outside of them. Conversations aren’t to be had; they are narrated by those who profit from them – not as the conspiracy theorists might say, but by what sells advertising.

Enter the Internet, where we can now share these fictions easily and in such volume that if they were things of worth they would be valuable – but they are not of worth, largely. They are simply the conversations already narrated, with few capable of having the presence of mind to question.

Society’s fictions have to be mastered, not by those who tell them, but by those that consume them.

Critical thought would be a welcome addition to our society.

Perspective

spaceWe used to look up.

I don’t know exactly who I mean by ‘we’. Maybe it was my generation, when we had seen man actually make it to the moon. Maybe it was people of my mindset.  I’d like to think it was my generation, with parents who had watched the original series of ‘Star Trek’ – and our generation who saw the original ‘Star Wars’. Or,  ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, or even, ‘E.T.’.

We used to look up. We used to stare at the stars, some of us, while laying in the grass.

I’ve spent most of the day watching this live stream, in the background, as I read and did other things. It’s beautiful. It’s amazing. And we take it for granted, we sit there staring at phones, communicating about little of worth.

The things of worth we do talk about are about how we can’t keep things from flooding, or people from doing dumb things, or arguing over which idiot is better than which – we who could put a man on the moon, who could build an international space station, who could go peeking at other planets like a nosy neighbor.

We have the capacity to know where we are on our own planet with accuracy that would make ancient mariners ecstatic, and we have that on devices that Tesla told us we would eventually have. It wasn’t so long ago that these things didn’t exist. We dreamed big.

Then the Internet happened – a complex system of communication, too complex for our communication as we began to talk to people around the world. Kittens and pornography propagated it across the world.

Some were so intent on selling their products, services and thoughts that they got really good at marketing. In fact, they got so good at marketing that their marketing became better than their products, services and thoughts.

Somewhere along the way, I think we stopped looking up with a sense of awe. We stopped seeing what our combined efforts could do if we chose to work together.

We should look up.

Scorned Dreams

Commercial Seafront

“ I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. Goddamn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables – slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”
Tyler Durden (Fight Club, 1999)

People are angry. At the turn of the millenium, though, just about every model showed that there would be more social unrest.

Every day, my generation and those after are inundated with marketing about how products and services are going to make their lives better – with the goalpost of better being set culturally by old ideas that bureaucracies were built to attain. They grew like trees, twisting and turning with the weather of domestic politics in every nation until the Internet, where global politics still sways them like a hurricane force wind.

These are largely all flawed systems that some have grown to depend on. The systems are sometimes failures, based on notions that no longer seem to apply in society, but citizens around the world were told that the benefits of the systems outweighed any negatives. There are generations now that beg to differ.

And they’re angry. Sad. Disillusioned. In the U.S., I’ve seen people my age working 2 and sometimes 3 fast food jobs at a time in a downturned economy where the banking systems quite literally strip-mined people of latent wealth through bad mortgages and loans. In the Caribbean and Latin America, I’ve seen the shifts of global politics make economies tumbleweeds. In Trinidad and Tobago, where the economy was never diversified as it should have, I contrast the people at Starbucks with the people that still use outdoor latrines almost daily.

And they are all told that the world is better than the lives that they have – and they are all lead to believe that things are better than their situation and that if they work just a little harder so that they can spend just a little more, they’ll rise to better lives.

Ahh, marketing. Immigration becomes an issue for the mass media producing countries- the world looks so much better on a flat screen, which used to be only a large white screen for a projector but now includes wall displays, computers and yes, even phones. “We’re wonderful. You’re not allowed here. Special terms and conditions apply.”

And if you do get there, a different reality sets in.

People all around are figuring this stuff out – that they can’t have what is being branded as developed nations. Terrorists, for all the wrong reasons and for imagined good ones, started attacking these ‘evils’ that they see just like a crab drags other crabs down in the barrel. “It is our reality, let us share it with you…” – horrible atrocities, branded under religious fervor but really just really, really bad marketing that directly kills people – a waste of life – too combat the overly good marketing that indirectly robs the majority of the human population with a sense of value.

Every bright eyed idealist and gilded futurist looks forward optimistically. I do so myself, though I’m careful with expressing my thoughts since all these flawed systems came from people not thinking things through beyond political terms, or because of emergencies.

We have been walking into thorny bushes. It might be time to reassess the systems we’re using that lead to all these injuries on our more sensitive parts of society.

These Matters of Mind

A StartMavens swoop down from their perches
Tear at the teaming creatures below
Ripping apart their hearts, their minds
Trying to discern their thoughts
When they cannot speak
Prescriptive, Descriptive
The cognitive war battles on
Yet the masses do not know
The mavens are doomed.

They are the minority.

Written in 2007. In fact, that picture may be of this from somewhere in Panama City, Panama.