Erosion

Two tills in my local Tesco Metro have been replaced with automated robot tills. Fewer staff in there now to be paid, and they can say it’s for our safety. And so it continues.

Hardly anybody is flying anywhere from the UK but when we try you can bet it’ll be hard work. Right now you pay for a test, then you pay for another on the other end. You usually pay for a hotel too where you have to isolate for weeks. But even take Corona out of the equation, it’s gonna be harder to do things now. Visas and documents galore, and you can bet there’ll be a fee. There’s no short term EU touring visa so it’ll be easier for me to take my work to America than to go on an EU tour. There’ll be fees for all of that as well though – you can bet. Fees fees fees. Tests and certificates and forms, oh my. All the infrastructure, all coming in to bleed us dry if we want a sense of freedom.

Meanwhile the internet is falling. Given to us for free by Tim Berners-Lee, other people have made it into a horrible place where we mostly go to get radicalised or to buy stuff. AI algorithms are pushing us into little intolerant clumps where we pat each other on the back in tiny circles, and defend ourselves against outsiders – we are basically splitting into tribes with no view to geography. The language and rhetoric of war is slipping in where ideas are concerned: “Whose side are you on?” “It’s treason!” “It’s a revolution!” Also the language and methods of religion are getting applied to random world-views. Zealots with no theoretical basis and no hard first hand evidence attack anything they think of as faithlessness or complacency or heresy against their prophets either behind a lectern on national TV, or in front of a flag on YouTube.

It’s all fine for all the megarich colonists of the internet. So long as people keep watching the YouTube clips and clicking the adverts it doesn’t matter what they are getting excited about – just that they are getting excited. So they let the algorithms keep on polarising.

It’s an easy formula. “You have an unexamined belief. That unexamined belief is provably incorrect. Therefore everything you believe is wrong and should be replaced with what I want you to believe.” My first crack was dad’s death. I drove my own wedge. “You thought your dad will last forever. He’s dead. What about your other assumptions? That your mum is immortal too? That you’re immortal? That you’re even important? That you can make change in the world? What about the people that you believed on TV? Nothing can be trusted! Examine everything! Question everything!” I hit depression for a long time and then came out of the long rabbit hole wide angled as a kind of chaos-positive radiator. But I was lucky. Lots of us were. Nobody took advantage of our cracks when they happened. We took ourselves through our long processes and came back stronger and stranger with slightly harder eyes. Others weren’t so lucky.

Catch ’em at the right time. Find the crack. Drive the wedge. Welcome to the fold, soldier.

And yet there’s something in all this frothing at the mouth we’re seeing, even if some of the mouthpieces are idiots, extremists or zealots. The erosion of personal freedoms, once a gradual chipping process, has turned into a landslide. Nobody could miss it.

It’s nine years since ID cards were scrapped in the UK after public outcry. Not even a decade. Since then, the vast majority of people including myself have clicked agreements for the sake of convenience which make your phone into much more of an ID card than anything we fought against in 2011. And now the machines are moving in properly. This disease has caused a lot of us to get used to just living on handouts, to constantly obeying and enforcing tiny rules, to walking in smaller and smaller circles, to switching off personal ambition. Rushed laws are put through that have unpleasant consequences long after this disease is understood and controlled. The people shouting about it the loudest also posted something last week saying that Donkeys Are Actually Aliens, or The Pyramids Were Built By A Giant Octopus Cat. But even a stopped clock tells the time twice a day.

Tim Berners-Lee is making a new internet it seems. That’s the advantage of having him still alive. Get stuck in! Fascinating. Internet mark 2. And why not start again? Early days but interesting stuff. I’m regretting giving so much of my information away, and you’re hearing that from the dude who has written about his life daily for over four years now. I’m in.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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