Monday, June 6, 2016

Episode 56: Existential Dread From Our Grand Uncle

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In Episode 56: Existential Dread From Our Grand Uncle, I try my best to convey the denial I realized in the last episode, 55: Weaving Threads From Carved Chunks, the stripping of that denial, and the cold realization that there is currently approaching at way faster than I had realized a crisis in the making, at least for me, professionally. Or politically. Something has got to give, or … bad things.

I don't like bad things.

In this episode, I read some more from John Maynard Keynes' 1930 essay "Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren;" and from L33t Minion's comment to Episode 53. I mention a fact about how dangerous to children those cars are. The other fact is illustrated nicely by this graph:

We don't drive
as much as we used to.

I also played an excerpt from Costas Samaras as heard on Episode 171 of 99% Invisible; I'll link to the web site I discussed concerning Professor Samaras at the show notes as well. And I played a bit of KMO introducing our conversation, one that took place on C-Realm 489: Muscle Power and Microchips. Musically, I worked Jazzhar's "Starting Point" into the narrative. Bruce Livesy introduces the show with an observation about corporate power, backed, of course, by KMFDM.


  1. Very interesting! I'm glad my comment stood up to scrutiny.

    I should emphasize that I'm not taking some sort of a determinist position here. I think there will be significant pro-automation forces, but that won't be the only thing at play. Still, I think it's likely to be a rough transition.

    The bit about kids gets at an issue I really care about. The American (to some extent Western in general) approach to the risks involved in parenting seems to have become entirely insane. Relatively-common risks (like those posed by unnecessary car trips) are ignored, while vanishingly-small risks (like stranger abduction) are the source of panic. Parents shame one another into submission, trying to assuage their own fears with the myth that if things are done in a particular way, all bad things can be avoided. Parents are driven away from any risk by "worst first" thinking about what could happen to their kids, piled onto with worst-case thinking about what would subsequently happen to them at the hands of other adults. You have stories about how kids are no longer allowed out of sight. (And then some of the same people enforcing that status quo write screeds about how terrible it is that college students expect a lot of protection from authorities and aren't sufficiently hard-nosed and independent.)

    Lenore Skenazy's Free-Range Kids is a very worthwhile book on the topic (belongs up there with Kunstler's The Geography of Nowhere), and the related blog is interesting and alarming. You see stories like this, in which a small-town police chief says 16 is the age at which children should be allowed to play outside unsupervised.

    Advertising has a lot to do with that, in particular given the relationship between advertising and the "24-hour TV news cycle".

    1. Hey, again, L33t!

      I think there will be significant pro-automation forces, but that won't be the only thing at play.

      So far, that's the only force being discussed, the moneyed automators. Any resistance is portrayed as a bunch of whiners meditating in a corner, going "Ohm...."

      (Get it?)

      And I fully agree with your kid observation. [Full-on Old Man Rocking Chair Mode Activated!] When I was young, no lie, our driveway was just a tenth of a mile shy of a full mile. That was our walk to the bus stop. It was so long, by grade school we just rode bikes the additional two miles to school, and later just walked the additional five to the Jr. High and High School.

      As a result, to this day I usually walk a mile a day just for a leg stretch. I can't imagine how obese I would be without this exercise.

      Now we're arresting parents for letting their ten-year-olds walk unsupervised for ten blocks. It's disgusting.

      And yes, given how much ads play up dangers and trigger disgust (at sanitation, generally, with animated microbes, for one example), hinting at all the perils that will befall the young should the parents not heed the warnings and product offerings, it's no surprise that this paranoia has escalated to its present silly.

      I will say, a few years ago England was in the full grip of a parenting scare. Don't know if you've heard of it. I'll try to seek out some links if I can remember where I heard of it.