To unplug, or not to unplug? That is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and, by opposing, end them?

We live in amazing times. To a fairly large extent we can thank science and technology for that. What do I mean by amazing? I mean that it is surprising where society is today, how we got here and the potential we have for the future. The key word in that last sentence was potential. Despite the progress made in quality of life, health, the ability to travel and communicate, to explore and ask big questions, something has gone, or is at least going, wrong. We could be doing so much better.

Harry Tuttle, Modern Cave Dweller, fight the good fight, swords, dark ages

Seriously, people, WTF? It is like we have collectively decided that what we really need is another “dark ages”. We are still sending the faithful to foreign lands to kill to save lives. We are constantly terrified, or should that be terrorfied? The faceless terrorists and terrorism conveniently taking the place of the wonderfully effective cold war threats of communism.

What sparked this outburst? I thought it might be interesting to watch the news on tv… We (the human race) are still running around chasing and killing one another with handheld weapons! And, for the most part, we don’t even know why. Have you ever stopped to think about how stupid that looks? You could say that it was my fault for turning on the tv and expecting to see news reporting facts based on solid journalism. In the end it doesn’t matter what device or technology you plug into, the message is the same:

It’s us or them. Be afraid.

It doesn’t have to be the news, your Facebook, 9Gag, Google+, whatever, feeds all too easily degenerate into the same thing. Even when you take great care in choosing your “friends”, you’re then faced with the problem of living in a bubble – you only hear from and about people that share the same opinion as you. That is an equally efficient path towards stagnation.

So, it appears that this post has descended into a classic “grumpy old man” post. I’d really been trying to avoid that. The manipulation of society is obviously annoying… and nothing particularly new. What is new is the reach and power of this manipulation that has taken advantage of the progress in technology. Even if the message is that science, technology, progress in general, is bad.

Maybe I’ve been thinking about too many dystopian scenarios and are just imagining myself living in one. That would be good, for you anyway. I could simple unplug, stop watching news and reading whatever pops up on the internet. I could dedicate my life to growing giant pumpkins, or some other completely pointless and time consuming act. We could all do that. But that won’t help, in fact it will only exacerbate the situation and the real luddites, racists and religious extremists win.

Clearly, living in an age with such great potential, it would be “annoying” for history to look back on this as the Dark Ages 2.0. Maybe the answer isn’t to unplug, but if you’re going to stay plugged in, you need to be ready to fight the good fight. And by “good fight” I mean something more than just free hugs. The world can be a much better place. It might not even be too late to save humanity itself in the face of climate change, but we need to fight and we pretty much need to do it right now.

Maybe we could all, like, stop killing people and stuff as well.

To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub.

Are you fighting the good fight?

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