By Kyle Hayden, Columnist
First off, I’d like to acknowledge that we made many errors in the writing of “The Age of the Laptop” (published December 2 in The Student, page 7) — spelling and mechanical errors, mostly. We stand by what we said. But we have received comments indicating the readers want more. What are the solutions? Where to go from here?
My primary question going forward is: can you resist if it seems our entire culture is headed in the same direction? That is, our schools and institutions are symptoms of the values retained by a dominant culture. That is, one of speed, effeciency, rationalization and standardization. How can we resist effectively if meaningful action requires not only dissent but also a refusal to use the tools offered by our dominant culture? How do these big systems inevitably leave people behind and impose unintended consequences?
Second, some background: we noticed The Student had reported the goings-on at the library, and hardly anyone has done a bit about it! The AAUP planned a “read in” or some kind of non-disruptive protest to bring attention to the fact that books are being starved, while the techno-culture, IMS and computer fantasy lands recieve bags of cash from the state and laudations from the Board of Trustees.
Our libraries are losing funding. A report to the Board claims, “Flat is the new up” in terms of fiscal support. This is a tragedy. Especially considering the context: more money for “luxury” housing and more money for athletics. Libraries are being sacked in a sense and what we hear is that everything is fine.
The report indicates book purchasing has gone down steadily in the preceding years. The libraries have purchased only 6,000 new books for fiscal year 2017. What happens when all the books are gone? What is the library system going to look like with zero book purchases per year if we follow the trend to its logical conclusion?
Additionally, it has been brought to my attention that emphasis on eliminating or lessening the reach of technology from not only the classroom but also society generally would present issues for disabled persons of all kinds.
I cannot speak for that community alone. I will say, however, the current speed and excess in the classroom is limiting in a few apparent senses. The first is a disregard of class. Not everyone can buy a laptop or a translation device. The second is learning inclination. Not everyone is an image-based learner; some people are blind and some are deaf; many have learning disabilities. This institution makes accommodations but generally our classrooms are tilted in the direction of able-bodied persons. In my view, eliminating technology would decrease the speed attached as a condition of their use, thereby having an equalizing effect (to start) on classroom instruction and access to and digestion
Most people, having lied to themselves their whole lives, reject this information since it doesn’t jibe with their worldview of technological and deity-like human specialness. Nietzsche said: “The most common lie is the lie one tells oneself.” The same is true for people who think computers and technological systems are going to be bigger, brighter and faster in the coming decades and centuries. It is time for a new paradigm emphasizing a downshift in the scale and reach of these features.
That is, we cannot live as if these electronic hallucinations are permanent. They are not and cannot be permanent. These technologies infantilize us. It’s the worst way to be “schooled” if there ever was a good one. Not that I am here to preach solutions; I am writing a defense of our article only to offer a (perfunctory) challenge to widespread preconceptions.
The scale at which our society operates requires the importation of resources at entirely unimaginable levels, thereby making the “global economy” a necessity rather than a set of voluntary economic interactions where things are exchanged because they are made well and desired by people who value their material environments.
Once there is no longer a steady supply of cheap and free-flowing electricity, we are going to be depending a lot less on computers, but everyone today seems to think we are going to power everything with solar panels, wind farms or hydrogen (or something magical yet to be invented). People worship at the heels of people like Elon Musk, who promises a future glory of space colonies and never-ending material expansion
This keeps the members of this culture from realizing that the state of affairs today is really an aberration, that is, a bump in the sensible and sane functioning of
a civil society.
The university (and the larger culture) needs a plan for the future and we have barely even begun thinking about how differently things need to be done.
This means moving away from the need and dependence on these luxuries (as it were) as soon
as possible. I do not want to look back on these decades in my life and think, “Well, they ignored confronting this in the first decade of the 21st century, and the second, and the third…” and so on until it became too late.
It is already too late and it will go on getting even later.
Once we have these technologies: the Internet, electricity, gas heating, mechanical cooling, interstate highways, international logistics enterprises (and mind you, not everyone in the United States, much less the rest of the world HAS these things or access to them), they become “necessities” and even basic elements of our cities (sanitation, water, healthcare, shelter) cannot function without their constant maintenance. I consider this a problem.
Putting us in danger at the present moment is fairly profitable and I think it will continue for some time if our institutions continue to be politically gridlocked and incapable of reform.
Remember when people died in hospitals in California in 2000 and 2001 when ENRON was causing artificial blackouts to increase holdings in the area? Just as back then, people would die if today something “tragic” were to happen to the electrical grid, but I wouldn’t put it past the corporations or their executives to care.
I see this as a sustainability problem. Hospitals and other places surely have emergency scenario response plans, backup generators (powered by gasoline no less) and so on. But they have no serious long-term consideration or plans for grappling with the fact that electricity has only been in use for about 100 years at the present scale and cannot and should not continue forever.
However, the solution to this culture is: “How to keep the grid running indefinitely?” My question is, “Couldn’t we find ways to do without it? Wouldn’t this be a safer way to live?” It’s going to be up to everyone in a particular area, not external, massive entities to take care of each other as the curtain over the era of super-cheap and abundant energy closes.
Bear in mind additionally the corporations (like Kroger or WalMart) are under no humanitarian contract to keep feeding our communities. As soon as it becomes economically unfeasible to transport cheap processed food across the country in large quantities (i.e. when oil becomes expensive) they will go bust and we will have to figure something else out. Our current state of affairs needs to be seen for the aberration it truly is.