A jeremiad is a long literary work, usually in prose, but sometimes in verse, in which the author bitterly laments the state of society and its morals in a serious tone of sustained invective, and always contains a prophecy of society’s imminent downfall.
The biggest collective mistake of humankind is the Digital Revolution. It makes civilization impossible.
In Understanding Media, Marshall McLuhan accurately predicted the changes to the social order that have taken place over the last half century, recognizing that the way we have looked at existence for the last five centuries would evaporate as the age of print gives way to electronic communication, which is happening before our eyes. McLuhan was famously aloof and matter-of-fact about the coming changes in how people relate to each other, without making any judgment about the wisdom of where the new technology and the media created by it would be taking the human race.
The cutting edge of the digital age was the Internet. It allows universal and practically instant access to data. This universality of access is what makes the “hack” possible — unauthorized access to data. At the most fundamental level of folly, we have turned “money” into data which can now be hacked. The battle between banks and bank robbers was very one sided. The money was behind steel and there were armed guards to keep thieves away from it. Electronic “money” does not exist anywhere, and it can be hacked and stolen without anybody pulling a gun.
I represent some of the unionized work force at Sony and I have spoken with a number of our members who were impacted by the hack of their system a few years ago. Trade secrets, Social Security Numbers, inside information all gone in a flash — and to this day there is no resolution of the mystery.
In our pathetic culture we now have profit making companies who will help you clean up the mess made when somebody hacks your personal finances. Sony bought such “products” for its employees after the hack because there was nothing else that could be done. What a typical American solution to a problem. Worried that your life might be destroyed by a hacker? Here is product you can buy that will solve your problems.
So now we have no privacy and no security for all the “information” that defines our Age. But it gets worse, the more you look at it.
The progress that enables me to write this screed has already almost destroyed the profession of writing. Now everybody who can afford the few hundred dollars it takes to buy a computer and get internet access can communicate with everybody else. That is definitely progress, ending the gate keeper game played by the publishing industry and the profession of book reviewers. But in ending that game, the new technology also made it impossible to protect your copyright, and we now have therefore “democratized” writing — while making it almost impossible already to make a living at it.
The same thing happened to music recording.
OK, that is not so bad, is it? By itself it is plenty bad, but hey — starving artists are the only real artists? Right?
Maybe so, but take a look at the American presidential election. In the first place, there is no argument at all about whether the Democratic National Committee’s private email traffic was made public. Rather than ponder what this means about how we communicate with each other, or how elections are now conducted, or even about why privacy is now obsolete, this has led to the most fascinating speculation as to who got the material to Wikileaks and why. Allegedly Wiklieaks was “weaponized” to help Russia and/or Vladimir Putin to manipulate our election. Whether that is true is a matter of controversy. What is not controversial is that it is possible that Putin and a whole lot of other shady characters have both the means and the opportunity to rig our elections.
And leaking purloined emails is not even close to the most effective way to rig an election. Flipping votes is, and there is no way for any of us to be sure that “electronic” votes are counted correctly.
Excuse me. This is insane. I don’t really care at this point whether it was Putin or some pimple faced geek living in Stockholm who snooped into the DNC email data. The fact that a wide variety of suspects has both the motive and means to manipulate elections makes me wonder what the hell we have done by doing away with paper, which can be locked up in a vault and replacing it with the medium of digital communication.
If elections are vulnerable, if major global corporations are vulnerable, if governments are vulnerable, what is the answer? There isn’t one.
Finally, looking ahead to even more of the jolly benefits of the digital age, next up is the self driving car and the self driving truck. This technology will put another five million people out of work. But that is just the beginning. If you can teach a robot to drive a car, you can teach a robot to repair a car, or a truck or anything else. In fact, there are very few paying jobs that cannot be either eliminated or drastically shrunk by developing digital technology that will be soon be operational.
So there you see the glory of the Digital Age. No privacy. No security from hackers. No jobs. The trend lines are set and appear to be irreversible.
I submit that you cannot have civilization if it is impossible to prevent the hacking of everything. Nor can we have civilization if robots put tens of millions more people out of work. Neither of the major parties has a word to say about this unravelling of civilization. Nor does anybody else, save for a few esoteric intellectuals.
Unless our political institutions face this burgeoning social catastrophe caused by changing technology, we are all just biding our time until civilization collapses due to its utter dysfunctionality. We live in a world in which property itself becomes meaningless — an old lefty dream that really just adds up to chaos.
Obviously there is no turning back. The “efficiency” of digital communication runs every previous mode of commerce out of business, eliminating jobs relentlessly. The graphs showing the explosion of Income Inequality are usually cited to indict neoliberalism — but they also depict the reality that the accelerating efficiency is exploding profits, while speeding up the work place, and killing “unnecessary jobs.” That is, making human beings unnecessary.
There is no way to impose a rejection of this alleged “efficiency.” You cannot put the digital genie back in the bottle.
So we better come up with something PDQ.OzoneTom, davidgmills, arendt and 5 othersFanBoy, Shlabotnik, id-entity, elias39, jwirr like this
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