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Every day it seems I have less and less patience with, and less and less interest in, the internet. It overwhelms. It's built to overwhelm. It distracts. It's built to distract. However my mind works, it isn't compatible with the internet as it exists today. And aside from issues of cognitive dissonance, I'm increasingly uncomfortable with various internet-based and -fostered subcultures, including ones in which I actively participate (gaming, for example).

And here's what I think.

Here's what I think I think.

I was born into a world that was doing a pretty decent job in terms of communication: print, actual letters delivered by an actual postal service, AM and FM radio, manual and electric typewriters, telephones, network television, motion pictures, dictophones, carbon paper, photocopiers, a vast range of still photographic tech, phonographs and vinyl records, ruled notebooks, pencils, pens, and...probably I'm leaving something out. We even learned cursive. Yeah, there were computers. IBM was out there, and Texas Instruments, but computer technology was a nascent and expensive thing, and few people were directly touched by computers. Let's say that I was born into and came of age in a period of interpersonal communication and mass media that spanned 1964 to 1982, birth through high school. I didn't use a computer until 1986, and I didn't use a computer for anything but writing until 1994. I was thirty before anything resembling today's "social media" touched me – when I got an AOL account and was introduced to Usenet, Gopher protocol, and GEnie (General Electric Network for Information Exchange). The next year, the web went public.

In the intervening twenty years, the world has been changed by the web in ways that I only begin dimly to comprehend.

But I do see that the world is not a better place for it. It isn't a smarter world. It certainly isn't a smarter America; quite exactly the opposite. We are not better people. We are not more humane. We're just busier, more distracted, less focused people, buried in (almost) infinitely more white noise than humans had to cope with two decades ago. Most days, it seems that the internet spreads ignorance and hate more rapidly than it spreads anything else. There are hundreds of millions, billions, who no doubt disagree. I don't care. I'm not saying this to spark "a dialogue." In a very real sense, my world – the world that I understood, that I understood how to function within – slipped away in the early nineties. And it has been replaced by something that I'm very tired of trying to keep pace with.

My science fiction is, without exception, dystopian, and only recently have I truly begun to understand why.

This isn't my world, and I'm very near to completely opting out of the technological rat race. There's nothing available to me now that I need as a writer that wasn't available to writers in 1964, nothing. And the irony that I'm using a blog to deliver this message doesn't escape me, nor does the fact that a blog, paradoxically, is very appropriate to the delivery this message.

But there's some shit I have to figure out about how I'm going to live the rest of my life.


Yesterday, I answered a lot of email, and I did the E entry for The Aubergine Alphabet. I sat down and puzzled out my short story deadlines for 2015, and the picture isn't quite as grim as I'd thought. Still, I have a 15,000-word novella I have to write for Centipede Press due no later than July 31st, and that alone is almost enough to freak me out good and proper.

The anti-distraction curtain I put up, to block out the sight of the snow, proved to be a boon:

Neil was at home for about twenty-four hours. He dropped in for half an hour last night, and he met Hubero, and Hubero seemed very much to approve of him and he of Hubero. Selwyn hid in bedroom. Spooky, Neil, and I talked about the End of the World.

Here's the world's most out-of-focus photograph of a writer meeting a Siamese cat.

Tomorrow, we head back to Providence for one night. I don't expect to have time to make another entry until Friday morning.

See You Then,
Aunt Beast


( 10 comments — Have your say! )
Marc D. Goldfinger
Feb. 17th, 2015 05:09 pm (UTC)
It's ironic that 1984 is not at all like Orwell's depiction of it. He should have named the book 2015.
Feb. 17th, 2015 06:48 pm (UTC)
Siamese cats are the best cats! I had one named Loki for years and then moved, left him with ex, now when I call my ex years later, Loki still remembers my voice. Clever kitties!
Feb. 17th, 2015 07:51 pm (UTC)
That's exactly the way that I feel about the Internet - though I'm a few years younger than you are. Other than a handful of blogs, I learn nearly all of my Internet-based information from people who read about and relay it to me. A couple of decades ago, I stopped watching live network television for the same reasons.

When I started writing, I did it on a portable word processor. I moved to a computer a year or so after that, then got home Internet access a couple years later. Nowadays, like you, I work with computers for a living.

I remember when I first experienced streaming radio, thinking about all of the “potential” for information to be sent and received online. I was so excited about it. (I was living out in the woods with a woman and a couple of cats and not many neighbors.) When I spoke about it with people, they didn’t get it.

Now I’m the one who doesn’t get it.
Feb. 17th, 2015 08:42 pm (UTC)

Now I’m the one who doesn’t get it.

It's a strange, strange feeling.
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 17th, 2015 08:41 pm (UTC)

The honeymoon is over and the breakup is looming,

Yes. And you're welcome.
Feb. 17th, 2015 08:04 pm (UTC)
Safe traveling to you and Kathryn on your trek to Providence and back. Hope you enjoy the concert.
Feb. 17th, 2015 08:06 pm (UTC)
the world has been changed by the web in ways that I only begin dimly to comprehend.

I was reading a study how childrens posture has been affected by hand held devices because they are walking hunched over to fiddle with their phones/tablets/whatever and not walking upright.
Feb. 18th, 2015 02:56 pm (UTC)
There this book titled 1978. Apparently the world reached it's peak in nineteen seventy eight, and it's going down hill ever since. Who am to argue?

Edited at 2015-02-18 02:59 pm (UTC)
Feb. 19th, 2015 01:23 am (UTC)
I was just having this conversation -- or thinking out loud, rather -- to my spouse. I blabber. He listens. Then he blabbers. I listen. Somewhere in there we find commonality. That commonality is that once again humanity has missed the boat on opportunity.

Raising children in this age is why most of my SF is dystopian, too.

Edited at 2015-02-19 01:23 am (UTC)
Feb. 19th, 2015 12:47 pm (UTC)
Way back in 1990, I was taking a course at UGA on artificial intelligence. You were encouraged to come up with your own definition, and I slid towards the side that thinks thermostats are a form of AI.

As a side note, as part of this course, I was given an account on one of UGA's 3 multiuser SUN systems, called "Athena", and was introduced to the Internet thereby.

So when it came time to write my term paper, I chose how artificially intelligent algorithms were going to make society more divisive and radicalize large segments of society. I had to present my paper to the class, and got a lot of err... what's this to do with AI? looks and a hope that the next paper would be more relevant. I think the paper has aged well, considering.

But then, when I was working for refugee and human rights groups, we suddenly had tools to get information out of places like Burma where owning an unregistered fax machine was a felony and sending soldiers into the jungle to enslave the men, rape the women, and burn down the villages was official policy.

So the thing that boils around in my head nowadays is that it's like any other communication technology. It makes things more democratic, and that's great for Us, but we wouldn't like Them to have the same access and ability that it gives.

And now, the Them is global corporations, banks, and anyone else who trades items of value using a virtual technology like "accounting", using imaginary stuff like "money".

So I mourn the drowned, but I also am grateful for the flood, and am trying to find out how to grow coconuts on this suddenly bare beach.
( 10 comments — Have your say! )