Few things have depressed me more recently than this post by Charlie Stross. In fact, the night I read it I stayed up til 4 am having a full on panic attack about, um, the future of the world I guess. Which sounds stupid. It is not a reason to lay in bed making dramatic lemur eyes at the ceiling.
And yet, there I was.
Five years ago I was so much more optimistic about the state of the world and the future than I am now. Which is insane, because Bush was in power and things were shitty then, too. But I had such confidence in my generation and the power of awesomeness to win out. Is it just because we had, I don’t know, A GODDAMN DEPRESSION in there? That I’m over 30 now, so contractually obligated to be miserable about everything and pessimistic and want everything to be how it was when I was in my mid twenties? I don’t know.
It sucks to live at the end of a world. And we are–this is the end of industrial culture, kids. The tail end of the revolution. We live in the Shire, a hundred years post-Saruman’s Patented Electricalfantastik Oppression System. Industrial life has given the developed world all it had to give, and now we’ve offloaded the horrible parts of it to parts of the world we don’t like to think about and I don’t even know what we’re moving toward instead. I’m not that good a science fiction writer.
What I see in that post and in many other futurist predictions is that the only job in the future is Robot Maintainer. I simply believe our (American) government would rather see us all rot and die than take the smallest step toward a post-wage (ZOMGSOCIALIST) economy, and if everything can be automated, well, that 1% will have no reason to tolerate the rest of us as much as they do. And since I’m one of those assholes the internet says has no worth at all and deserves to starve because I got a LIBERAL ARTS DEGREE OH NOES (possibly I should stop reading reddit?) well, it seemed obvious to me at 4 am with my ceiling for company that my job would vanish into the black pit of WhoEvenReadsAnymore in the next few years. At least my husband has some Robo-Relevant Skillz?
It feels like dystopia is our only option. No wonder everyone’s writing about it. One of the comments on that post talked about replacing teachers with AIs to instruct kids and my brain just screamed INSTRUCT THEM TO DO WHAT? If even teaching, that most human activity, is offloaded to AI, and it will be, because AUTOMATION IS TEH BETTERZ and also current American culture has never met a job it didn’t want to get rid of or pay someone in a developing nation a penny and a half to kill themselves doing, what can we possibly educate kids in EXCEPT liberal arts if all the real world applicable stuff isn’t applicable at all because anything a human can do Apple has made an i____ to do?
Dmitri says I’m crazy, the post wasn’t dismal and he can’t understand why it would upset me so much. I’m not sure I understand. We fear change? Shit, even the cornerstone of my internet activity, long form blogging, is dying incredibly fast. I don’t like what’s replacing it, microblogging and UGH Facebook, which apparently people think is a permanent public utility now? And fairly soon I’d bet even microblogging will die off, so people can just be advertised to and play Farmville until they’re dead. I miss the days of the internet feeling absolutely positive to me, rather than something that has destroyed a scary amount of industries (and yes, made some, too) and given us once more, bizarrely, a monoculture. Entire, well-followed Twitters do little more than spout internet memes like a gross shallow fountain, and half of television just culls from YouTube for programming. I was happier when I read more Livejournal and less reddit.The internet is a beast, it owns our world, and the best is good and the beast is bad. But you can’t avoid the beast.
AND THIS IS OLD PEOPLE LAWN TALK. I hate myself for even saying it. Yes, yes, be the change you wish to see. Except that most of everything I as an individual have no control over. That’s been one of the biggest lessons of being an adult for me: the system does not care, and you can’t really affect it except in small ways. Climate change has happened already. It will keep happening. Even if I never eat tuna again that fish will go extinct in my lifetime. There is fuck all I as a person can do about that. And this is what keeps me up. Everything changes and you can’t even know if you are changing sufficiently with it. I started playing Skyrim, the game everyone says is the MOST AMAZING EVAR, and I got bored after a couple of hours and knitted instead. I am an old lady. I would rather cook in the real world than in Skyrim. I even got excited to snow shovel this morning because it makes me feel alive rather than numb in front of a screen, which is probably the ideal state of a human as far as companies and culture is concerned.
Maybe I take it hard because I grew up in the 90s, when the internet was new and briefly we thought everything was going to be pretty great for the forseeable future. Smile, we were all on Candid Camera.
Or did we not think that? Am I doing the thing, the Boomer Fallacy, where I think that when I was a kid things were good and easy because I was a kid and I didn’t know anything so the SHUT UP THE FIFTIES WERE THE BEST LET’S COSPLAY THEM FOREVER?
And maybe it’s not so bad. I come to my blog to wriggle out of my anxiety and it kind of works. I worry about 2032, and 2052, and will there even be such a thing as a “university” or a “job” for our kid, or even “winter” or “peacetime.” I think Occupy Wall Street was pretty much right about things and no one cared. I try to think that every generation despairs but things keep going somehow. And I try to hold on to this silly thing I wrote a few years back because it’s all I’ve got at 4am when the lemur eyes have settled on open, open, open forever.