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Not so smart

IMG Auteur
Published : February 25th, 2013
713 words - Reading time : 1 - 2 minutes
( 38 votes, 2.8/5 ) , 6 commentaries
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Category : Editorials





One striking but little discussed element about the new Netflix Washington political drama series, House of Cards, is that every time a character picks up a cell phone, something bad happens. The character's phones shadow them at every turn like evil twins, giving the impression that the US government, and everything in its orbit, is run not by human beings but by cell phones. The people attached are merely puppets of the phones.

I don't think this is a sign of the rumored "singularity," the point at which human and machine intelligence supposedly meld into a shimmering synthesis of silicon masturbation fantasies. Rather it's just another demonstration of the diminishing returns of technology -- or how thinking you're so smart actually makes you stupider. Surely we are a stupider nation politically than we were before the age of texting, drones, and high frequency trading.

I have no predictions about what exact effects the so-called Sequester might bring about when its dreaded hammer rings down on Friday. But something that works as a bitch-slap upside this nation's tattooed head is apt to be salutary, if only to demonstrate to the apathetic masses and its grifter leaders that anything which can't go on forever, eventually won't.

What disturbs me, a non-right-winger politically, is that the US government should not try to replace a functioning real economy of volitional exchanges, especially if necessity compels that economy to change. That is what our government has been attempting by stealthy increments for decades and now with reckless abandon in the new era of a permanent contraction that no political figure can fathom. Lately, this trend has been ramped up under the wishful hypothesis that some magical new technology or financial "secret sauce," will eventually bring back a return to the nirvana of techno-industrial boom times, if only we can be "smart" enough. The wishing is evident in such con-jobs as the shale gas bubble ("We'll soon be energy independent") and the idea that a few new Apple fabrication factories, staffed largely by robots, will save the remnant American blue collar class from their fate as tattooed convenience store layabouts.

Of course there is plenty of real work to do around the USA in transitioning to the next phase of history, but we're not interested because it might violate our narrow comfort zone. We need more people to start working at local farming. When agri-biz fails it will happen hard and fast because of its seasonal nature, and the familiar distribution networks (supermarkets) will fail with it. American political leadership won't inform its citizen-subjects about this beforehand, or shift policy supports away from their ag-industrial client-patrons. To be fair, American citizens can't see themselves working in the crop rows, either. They will choose to starve rather than do what they've seen Mexican migrants do for a couple of generations -- and they will starve, eventually, too, even with The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills playing on the flat screen in the background.

If we weren't such a stupid people in thrall to our "smart" phones, we'd be rebuilding the US passenger railroad system for the day, not far off, when the grand entitlement of Happy Motoring rather suddenly vaporizes for a significant chunk of the population. The lack of interest in that project is really something to behold. Politicians who systematically "de-fund" the rail corridors, which is the case here in the Northeast, do it because they are as clueless as their constituents about what's really coming down. Rather, both the politicians and the public place their bets on "self-driving cars" powered by an as-yet-to-be announced sovereign replacement for liquid hydrocarbon fuel. The net effect of that stupidity is that your children and grandchildren will lead lives in which they rarely travel more than ten miles from home.

What also gets me about the aptly-named tele-drama House of Cards is the way all the leading politician characters are seamlessly conveyed around Washington D.C. by chauffeured limousines, even two-bit congressmen from states where people don't eat with knives and forks. Cossetted in their air-cooled back seats, they relentlessly romance their smart phones, making more trouble for themselves and for everyone in this sad-ass feckless country. What a tragic conceit for the nation of dunces we have actually made of ourselves.



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James Howard Kunstler has worked as a reporter and feature writer for a number of newspapers, and finally as a staff writer for Rolling Stone Magazine. In 1975, he dropped out to write books on a full-time basis. His nonfiction book, "The Long Emergency," describes the changes that American society faces in the 21st century. Discerning an imminent future of protracted socioeconomic crisis, Kunstler foresees the progressive dilapidation of subdivisions and strip malls, the depopulation of the American Southwest, and, amid a world at war over oil, military invasions of the West Coast; when the convulsion subsides, Americans will live in smaller places and eat locally grown food.
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Latest comment posted for this article
Diesel electric or Natuaral gas buses can move many more people to where they need to go without building hugely expensive new passenger rail lines. The roads are already there. Railroad engines either use oil or electric wires for power, fed by coal pl  Read more
rimrock - 2/27/2013 at 9:36 PM GMT
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Diesel electric or Natuaral gas buses can move many more people to where they need to go without building hugely expensive new passenger rail lines. The roads are already there. Railroad engines either use oil or electric wires for power, fed by coal plants.
In any major city you are only about 3 weeks away from completely running out of food.
The question people have to ask themselves is...what is the likelihood of that occurring?

If you cant work it out just DIAL A FRIEND ON YOUR SMART PHONE.
Rate :   8  0Rating :   8
The whole farming issue with its attendant transportation element is the crux of the matter. Just look at all the runs on supermarkets leading up to big storms. Now imagine an economic storm that halts freight for weeks or longer. No matter how adept you are at gardening, it no longer exists. The human locust will ravage it and perhaps your home as well.

The citizenry have no survival skills. The skills don't come with attending night school or an internet-based course.

However with adequate remuneration, a qualified farm manager can be hired. The manager will have to arm the hands.

And don't kid yourself for a minute, technology won't die. Some, perhaps most, of the infrastructure will be operational on a sporadic basis for awhile. But it won't die.

Many years ago I wondered why anyone, outside of a very small percentage, would need a cell-phone. I failed to grasp the compelling need for the status the latest phone offered. All efforts to condition the consumers are good for business. Status works just fine. Bald trained monkeys. Smart is NOT a requirement and has been known to get in the way of the conditioning process.

Avoid all appeals to intelligence. Fear is one of the most powerful motivators. Appeals to baser instincts is always profitable.

Logic tends to support your opinion JHK. Nothing like a mass panic to bring out the worse in folks.
Rate :   8  0Rating :   8
And Kunstler's answer to the current world economic mess? From this self-affirmed "non-right-winger" politically the answer is this: "We need more people to start working at local farming."

That's right, bring out the bean seeds and hoes, the shovels and manure, and plant and dig. You see when liberals (non-right-wingers) take over the govenment and destroy free enterprise moving back to the farm is the only option. It never enters Kunstler's cranium that perhaps the problem was government interference in the first place. Well, maybe it did. You can't control people unless you destroy their lives and move'em to the collective farm.

What is Kunstler's constant attack on 'smart phones' about? He says, "If we weren't such a stupid people in thrall to our "smart" phones..." He says of politicians in Washington, " they relentlessly romance their smart phones..." And this, "The character's phones shadow them at every turn like evil twins, giving the impression that the US government, and everything in its orbit, is run not by human beings but by cell phones. The people attached are merely puppets of the phones."

Now I don't wish for Kunstler, or anyone else for that matter, to suffer chest pains alone while driving or in some relatively remote location -- but should that possibility occur I don't doubt for a nanosecond that Kunstler would be grabbing for his 'smart phone' and dialing 911. It would be the smart thing to do.

Rate :   8  4Rating :   4
Remote location ?
If I personally present myself at a first aid clinic with those symptoms they may throw me out !
Not enough money to show !
Rate :   0  3Rating :   -3
Quote:" From this self-affirmed "non-right-winger" politically the answer is this: "We need more people to start working at local farming." Unquote
Who needs whom ?
JHK believes that if you have "MONEY" it would be better to move towards farming.
Most of my money I spent on women and booze the rest I just wasted.
If I had any I wouldn't mind sharing an agricultural project with him in a community.
e.g. I admire the Amish. Problem is that I don't believe in God. Only His creation.
Got gold and silver though. Don't know if that's money yet. But I keep on hanging on.
Rate :   4  5Rating :   -1