Neal Stephenson published the Diamond Age in 1996. I read it while I was in high school (about 1997). I was hooked on the ideas of nanotechnology and post-scarcity presented in the novel. I earned my PhD in bioanalytical chemistry in 2008. I went into my field in some ways because of this science fiction novel. I wanted to learn how to analyze and then build the kinds of nano-machines that life is made of.
I’m not totally sure that the internet has been a net positive in my life. I am “very on the internet.” I have been for about 25 years. That’s almost as long as a person can possibly be “very on the internet” as of 2022. As a consumer, there’s always a new thing to scroll for. And sometimes you get absolute gold. As a producer, there’s always a new metric/milestone to strive for. Hence the comic (thanks to Cruzlogia for making the art!). I put up a video about this whole thing, too.
The late David Graeber said that the internet was really just a more efficient post office, mail order catalog, and public library. And he was right. The Internet isn’t really good for much more than that. It can do much more than that, but little good.
I get the impression that there are not all that many people interested in Utopia (as a concept). Maybe we’re a bit more skeptical than folks were in the 1800s. Or maybe charismatic leaders just don’t gain so much traction in an era with electronic criminal records and background checks.
The good parts of living with room mates were really good. A built in social network and a always-on source of good conversation and affirmation? Yeah. Doing other peoples’ dishes… not so much.
I love that these folks are putting their experiences out there. It’s exciting to see folks trying to build something grand. It’s even interesting to watch the setbacks. I don’t know how much popular interest there is in this kind of thing.
I ran across an article that is pretty interesting. It’s a collection of speeches by Joe Bageant. He’s enamored with South American culture. That’s fine for him, but I don’t particularly identify with that culture. Too much touching. Joe may long for a “daily life in the flesh, belly to belly and soul to soul, lived out in the streets and parks and public places, in love and the workplace,” but that sounds like hell to me. God. The last thing I need is mutual public belly-touching.
However, his critique of American culture is well articulated:
Our daily news is the modern version of Roman coliseum shows. Elections are personality combat, chariot races, not examinations of solutions being offered. None are offered.
I happen to disagree with the implied solution he proposes (emulate the fuzzy tactile family structure of Belize), but I’m grateful that he actually goes so far as to offer up a solution to discuss. I have a different solution in mind. I think we could do a lot better if we spent more time and money on the work of craftsmen. I think it would be great if we were each others’ patrons when it came to individualized beautiful works of art and technology. The corporate, fad-oriented, marketed to death, planned obsolescence, throw-away culture is oppressive. But there’s no need to give up our comfortable “personal space.”
But my dream of a Neovictorian techno-utopia is far fetched. The blogosphere is my substitute for now, though. A place where people can engage intellectually with a little distance from the pervasive corporate interests… and there’s a great book on the subject over at Amazon.com on how to make money while blogging! Buy it through the link at right and support TBU!
(I’m only being half-ironic. Seriously, that button up top? You can buy that too! Know a designer who can spruce that up that design for me for a reasonable fee? Give me a yell.)
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