From the publisher … Dealing with technology

by Joe Courter

The FUBAR that was the vote counting in the Iowa caucuses, caused by an untested app, the sole reason for which was to speed up the vote tabulation by a few hours, brought to my mind a bumper sticker which I’d noticed around downtown about a decade ago: “Technology is Making us Stupid.” What occurred to me was that it wasn’t so much we were being made stupid, but we were being led to do stupid things: things that while seeming to be an improvement in our lives actually carried negative consequences, especially when we grow to depend upon them.

People used to bring maps along when they traveled, plotted their routes and perhaps found other things to do and see along the way. Now their device tells them what to do, plots their route and, yes, it is quite effective. But go out of range, or have your device fail, well there you are … somewhere. Now our phone remembers most all of our phone numbers, but lose or forget your phone and well, again, there you are.

Well, before you “OK Boomer” me, we need look no further than the looming climate crisis, and the brilliant idea of fracking for natural gas. Yes, it gave us lower energy prices but at what cost? It is an environmental horror of chemicals injected underground (earthquakes in Oklahoma?), pipelines and their risks, let alone building through pristine areas, and perhaps a more hidden but profound effect, making renewable energy seem more expensive and less imperative. The much maligned local biomass plant was made to appear even worse by this effect as the cost of energy dropped, compounding the horrible contract the city signed onto.

And speaking of doing stupid things via technology, the parasitic insurance industry which has a strangle hold on us and our access to healthcare has got to go. There is a meme which floats across my screen occasionally, stating that universal single payer healthcare is so complicated that only 32 of 33 leading nations have it. Yes indeed, the USA is an exceptional nation.

If Bernie Sanders is elected, universal healthcare won’t just appear, it will be a complex transition. But unless we start, we will never get there. The money will be the easier part, the rub is in the many many workers in the health insurance industry and what you do to move them into a more productive role in society. Would they be willing to be teachers or healthcare workers? Can we start another program based on the Civilian Conservation Corps model doing needed societal labor?

Last night (2/19/20) on the Canada-based NPR program Q, they interviewed SF writer William Gibson, and he made an interesting point. When asked about how moving to Canada from the U.S. many years ago affected his outlook on both nations, he first mentioned how the U.S. had changed so much he did not feel at home when visiting, yet Canada was still a bit alien. But then he made this point: That the Canadian healthcare system gave him the freedom to be a writer, to live his life as an artist. How much creativity and artistry, let alone mental health, is lost within our society by the burden of healthcare debt and illnesses untreated, due to fear of the cost? 

Our healthcare is strangled by the technology of an insurance industry with excessive and redundant billing and complicated bureaucratic structures. To just accept it as unchangeable and keep going is stupidity on a massive scale.  So what can we do? It is so easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless, but frankly, those that are in power want you to feel that way, and the avalanche of information that our “advances’’ in technology throw in front of us helps make those feelings happen. TV channels are blatant propaganda. Entertaining little clips mesmerize us. Pratfall videos of crashing skateboarders and such dehumanize our natural feeling of empathy. So we do stupid things … like nothing.

Not to preach, but focus your information sources better. Find an organization and join up with others and work on building the movement we need to build. Take care of yourself and make room for pleasure. Of course we vote on March 17, but that is one small part of what we need to do. A real democracy requires participation. Come on. And just take 8 minutes and listen to Ferron:

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