The future as a satire on the present 1948- 2005

Winston Smith - Googlezon styleMuchos gracias to James for pointing me to Frank Kane’s piece in the Observer today about the Cass Creatives debate earlier this week.

Mr Kane chaired the debate ably, but in his piece he focuses way too much on the EPIC2014 animation that we were shown at the top of the debate. (I’d recommend watching the updated EPIC2015 too Frank, you might find a little hope at the end, or maybe not – btw, I think Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson would call themselves journalists, because that’s what they are, as well as bloggers and futurologists) And rather than listening to what was actually said from the floor (mostly facts), he gets depressed by what he saw in the film (mostly fiction). I disagree with James a little on this point (though it’s probably pedantry). In my view EPIC is most Orwellian in that just as 1984 satirised post-war Britian in 1948, EPIC satirises today’s technological developments rather than presenting a prediction of tomorrow.

What it says to me is, the problem with all of this new stuff is that it’s entirely technology driven – if we carry on like this (unlikely) we’ll end up with computers writing our news for us – it’s the same wake up call about artificial intelligence as HAL in 2001 and I, Robot. Humanity is the hope here. If we start doing something about it now, if we engage with the technology, we humanise it. If we use it for human tasks (talking to each other, building friendships and alliances, showing our souls, creating beauty) then the robots don’t get to win.

EPIC2015 (OK SPOILER ALERT… oops too late) finishes with a vision of citizen-created media made ubiquitously available as an antidote to the Googlezon machine. The joke is, this is what we’re trying to do right now.

My interpretation of the animation is “Don’t give up hope, don’t run away just because this stuff looks frightening. Go up to it and say ‘Hello’. You’re human and it’s not. You have intelligence, emotion and compassion on your side. Work out how it could help you express yourself as you really are to a global group of people. Team up with your friends to see how you could use it to build on your existing relationships. Don’t be afraid.”

The issue in the debate that he picks up on was James’s intervention when he called them ‘arrogant’ and ‘self-appointed arbiters of editorial truth’ (heh! ever thought of a spell in the Diplomatic Service James?) Frank sez: “Yet I cannot help thinking that a daily news feed that gives you only the things you want, the nice comforting familiarities, is counterproductive. If the new media-consumers limit their input like this, aren’t they the ‘arrogant’ ones?”

Doh! No (and I said this in the session, I really did) Having a news feed that gives you what you want doesn’t equate to only having the nice comforting familiarities. Blogs are written by people. Some days they’re clever, some days they’re not. Some days they’re dull and inarticulate and then there’s a nugget of gorgeous rich prose. Some days I sit and nod my head vigorously at the screen. Other days I scream at them, and then get on and respond. Is it arrogant to have an opinion? Is it arrogant to make informed choices about what you read and what you ignore? Am I being arrogant if I choose not to read Heat magazine, ‘cos I’ve seen enough ‘celebrity’ cellulite accidentally flashed for this lifetime?

How sad that Mr Kane couldn’t do a little bit of research to find out that it was James Cherkoff who made that contribution. I’m assuming that the same person who e-mailed him about my piece on the evening (I heart my server logs), had also seen James’s blog. What a shame that online readers of Mr Kane’s article have to work hard to find out his e-mail address in order to let him know what they think of what he’s written and that he really should look at the updated version rather than printing a transcript of something out of date. What a shame too that neither he, nor his readers will know without some serious digging, that there are alternative points of view and people discussing what he’s said online right now. And how lucky do you feel, lovely readers, that you have such privileges, in spades, as esteemed consumers of my organ?

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5 thoughts on “The future as a satire on the present 1948- 2005”

  1. I wish I’d been there now. And great comments. I think the Kane piece confuses the technology with the people it serves.

    Reminds me of David Weinberger’s point made at Reboot recently, comparing the NY Times home page, with loads of links but only to the NY Times; and Doc Searls’ site with hundreds of outbound links. “And they call blogs an echo chamber!”

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  3. When will people realize that Satire does not equate Prediction? They did it with ‘1984’ ‘Brave New World’ & “Farenheit 451′, Now it seems ‘EPIC 2015’ has achieved that status of Brilliance Misunderstood. The first time I watched it I saw it for the commentary on our current age that it is. How hard was that to miss?

    Great comments about blogs, BTW. That paragraph is legend! For a fellow who’s been keeping his cards close to his chest, this is a Royal Flush.

  4. Johnnie, would that you had been, we’d have marmalized ’em.

    Neal, you continue to be too kind. Don’t ever stop. I continue to be amazed at the level of debate – we are all more intelligent than this.

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