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the past is more unknowable than the future


“Oh my God. Shut the fuck up.”

Welcome, children, I know you are all eager to take this, your final exam after twelve long years of state-enforced, parent-required, union-run, 20th century-modelled education. Please, still still, quietly, disconnect from all devices, you may not access any videos or data sources, no search engines or spreadsheets, no archived information or virtual reality training enhancements. That is not how we do things at school!

Brian! I am talking. Stop your fidgeting!


Now, to ensure you are ready for adulthood, I will call on each of you to answer a series of questions. Please, answer each to the fullest of your abilities.

Deena, you first!

The following is a list of 1,000 great books representing the very best of our culture. Name all those you have read.

None? Really? Ok.

Describe the structure of America’s government?

You can’t?

Recite the first amendment.

Yes, let’s skip that one.

Can you explain compound interest?

Agreed, that is too hard.

Have you ever balanced a checkbook?

No, I suppose you haven’t.

Here is a basic geometry question, a trigonometry problem, and an algebraic riddle. Solve.

Yes, you did get them all wrong, dear.

Recite a line from Shakespeare.

To be or not — close enough!

Give me an example of a depreciating asset.

Depreciating asset.



Name 3 presidents.

Yes, we’ll accept two.

Here is an internal combustion engine with two basic problems. Fix them.

Fine, that was too hard.

Connect this common API with this popular app.

Yes, that was also too hard, I’ll give you that.

Spell “debilitate.”

No, just one ‘a’ I’m afraid.

No, not there.

No, not there, either.


Agreed, spelling isn’t terribly important. We should probably remove that question from the test.

Why did America enter World War 1?

Agreed, that was over 100 years ago, let me change the question.

Why did America enter World War 2?

Nazis? Yes, we’ll accept that.

Here is a number set. Calculate for us the mean, median and mode.

No, wait. That’s obviously too difficult. Question withdrawn.

That’s everything we have for you, Deena. Congratulations, you passed! The future welcomes you.


“Well, I came upon a child of God.”

Baby Boomers are next in line to die.

What then?

Where does the future lead us?

“Boomers” had a considerable impact upon the culture to this point but the culture from this point seems determined to burnish the past, all of it, if possible.

Boomers out on the pavement thinkin bout the government — but soon, no one will ever know, just as no one now really cares.

“We are stardust. We are golden. We are caught in the devils bargain. And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

We are the net result of our tools and our tools are remaking life, living, working, learning, playing, and dramatically impacting our physical and mental parts, making it so there’s no way for anyone to go back, to live as before, to be like those before, and so — in defiance and in rage and in glory — those who are next will seek to destroy, literally, all the signs, symbols, relics and leavings of those from before.

All the great artists of the Baby Boomer age, even The Beatles, who are peerless, will soon be publicly scorned, the controllers of the levers of popular culture deriding anything that smacks of the past attempting to seep into the now.

All the grand symbols of Baby Boomer culture will be torn down.

The Vietnam Memorial does not celebrate America, American greatness, nor heroism. It is a dark reminder of a stark time, a time that influenced Baby Boomers probably more than any other. By, say, 2029, the Vietnam Memorial will be toppled. Likewise, the arenas which the boomers took over and made their own, universities and media, in particular, will be fully de-constructed.

This is messy stuff.

But what of when everything’s all digital, virtual, erasable?

When destruction is clean.

Should we place restrictions on what and who may be erased, and why, and whether permanently or not?

Feasible: In 2022, your watch informs you that you are allotted an additional 32g of protein. You walk into the market and your earbuds list all your available rewards and coupons. Your smartphone automatically shares your location with your spouse and children, whose reminder bots also speak in your ear, urging you to buy them some chips. Your purchases are logged, the money instantly debited from your preferred account, and your steps are recorded, along with your caloric consumption, which is instantly sent to your primary care physician, whose algorithms alter — just slightly — their recommendations for you, which then reduces the cost of your medical insurance, all while this flow of data is beamed to a university, one whose research study you approved of, which is examining your longevity and all of those with similar DNA.

Potential: None of this happens, not one bit, because you — in a fleeting fit of foolishness — mocked a recent government decision. Or went online and derided a beloved cultural icon, or made a joke which all the right people found — in public — to be repellant.

Thought crimes are the new accounting.

We are already actively engaged in the digital disappearing of those guilty of offenses to the senses.

On social media:

NBC was quick to remove all photos of Matt Lauer off the “Today” show’s social channels following news that the longtime co-host has been fired amid a sexual harassment allegation.

As of Wednesday morning, “Today’s” website, Facebook page, and Twitter account have been scrubbed of Lauer’s name and picture.

In film:

Ridley Scott said he quickly decided to replace Kevin Spacey from “All the Money in the World” after hearing the news of his sexual harassment allegations.

Very quietly, Scott said he quickly put into motion a plan to cut out Spacey and shoot his scenes with another actor.

No doubt, you’ve already been made aware of individuals being removed from Twitter, YouTube, and other virtual arenas. No doubt, you are aware that the original Star Wars films have been altered, multiple times. Soon, those originals will never be accessible. Just like your (neighbor’s) daughter won’t be able to enter the popular metaverse playground with her schoolmates — because of what the wife said, on Facebook, which everyone saw.

While it’s in our power, since it won’t be for long, let’s do our best to embed right rules into our erasable knowledge.

We should each have the right to control all our own data.

We should each have the right to be forgotten.

We acknowledge the means to digitally erase a person or group, the past, an other, but we will use this power only after much consideration and due hesitancy, so much so that we can remember in our heads the so very few officially forgotten.

You know who was at Woodstock? Everyone who said they were.

Except for the writer of Woodstock, Joni Mitchell, she was not there.


Why do you remain?

The same beliefs same routine same expectations all the lies.

Does new ease the pain?

Might shiny blind out the fear?

Buy iPhone X.

A device that knows everything about you, including your location, your face and fingerprints, from a tax dodging corporation that makes its products in a country which has outlawed anonymity on the web and imprisons people for wrongspeak.

You’re the future!

“Sometimes in the morning I am petrified and can’t move.”

I deleted my Gmail account. No, this is different, my gmail was not like yours. I was one of the very first. It was April 2o04, the product still in beta, but thanks to my also being one of the very first to have and fund and manage a Google keywords ad campaign for a small business, I was so honored with what at the time seemed like the future of communicating online for business.

Now, more than 13 years later, all gone. Every email. Tens of thousands, sent and received.

I also recently deleted well over 100,000 tweets. Yes, really.

“But the lows are so extreme that the good seems fucking cheap.”

We think our digital traces never really go away and that digital spaces are anlogous to physical ones. Both thoughts are false.

Digital matters, but differently.

Like sight, but not touch, like hearing, but not smelling.

But we are allowing it to consume us, all of us, all the parts of us, our connections, our prospects, our thoughts and fears, our joys, our past.

We are so much more than what it can contain.

“You’ll be honest, you’ll be brave
You’ll be handsome, you’ll be beautiful
You’ll be happy”

Rilo Kiley, now effectively deceased, were deliberately anti-commercial, their songs constructed to celebrate their joys, but never quite, to showcase their voice, yet sublimate underneath the gear, their words expressing their feelings, but never their rawness.

They couldn’t be true, full, honest, themselves.

There’s a lesson in that.

“Your ship may be coming in. You’re weak but not giving in.”

It’s good to not give up. And it may be liberating for you to leave behind.

You can not respond, not engage, not share, not like, not pose, and still go forward with your life. I promise you. In a fit of indignation, Rilo Kiley sang “that God never blessed her insides,” but he has yours. And that’s all the validation you need.


Listen to that fast-charging, tight jangling guitar lick, that steady stomping beat, hard metallic ripples piercing your speakers. Now here comes Mick, still bringing it deep into his golden years.

Punk. Rocker.

I mean that as a compliment.

God may have given him everything, but Mick Jagger has given us so much.

“God gave me everything I want
Come on, I’ll give it all to you
God gave me everything I want
Now come on, I’ll give it all to you”

Badass. And us men we do so admire a badass. Women, too, I suspect. How could they not?

Immense talent that finds its voice — and then always delivers. That’s a rare gift. Let’s enjoy it — and honor him — while he still lives.

Let’s also imagine that God gives each of us everything we want. What might that be like?

“God gave me everything I want. I can’t stop, can’t stop, I’m still looking.”

President Trump issued a “space policy directive” to NASA to send men to the moon, then eventually to Mars.

I would love to go to Mars! (And safely return, of course.)

I would love to be fabulously wealthy.

Also fit, attractive, smart, revered.

In the closet areas of my brain are many other yet-experienced realities I would no doubt relish should God see fit to give me everything I want.

But he hasn’t.

And there’s that gnawing suspicion that God knows best.

We have more than ever before. We have more than 99.999% of the entirety of humanity and its antecedents and, based on data gathered by my eyes, ears and other senses, we are not healthier, not stronger, not happier, not better.

Sleep comes with effort.

Depression visits regularly.

Obesity, outrage and discontent are commonplace.

We take so many pills that apps now exist to remind us to take all our pills.

But Mick seems happy.

Is getting everything you want only right for some?

“I saw it in the midnight sun
And I felt it in the race I won
And I hear it in the windy storm
And I feel it in the icy dawn

And I smell it in the wine I taste
And I see it in my father’s face
And I hear it in a symphony
And I feel it in the love you show for me”

We have so much.

Maybe it’s too much, I can’t say.

We’re losing our past while the future becomes everything but certain.

That grates on identity and identity is reality.

Maybe gratitude will cure us?

If not, then do like the poor boys do and sing for a rock ‘n roll band.

Worked for Mick Jagger.


Whatever dad likes, I like, that’s what the little boy said, near as I could tell, I couldn’t actually hear him, to be honest, but I saw him staring up at the other man, smile on his face, eager, if dad loves it, I love it, that was the clear expression on his face, and a remarkable face it was, so nearly ((human)) my heart wanted to break, and the man, a real man, he appreciated the details of his android boy as much as the actual sentiment, that was clear, and it made me realize that I hadn’t seen one of those android children in years, what with procreation now returning to normal, well, not normal, but it’s happening once again, after more than a generation where our children were nearly all wiped out, the horror and pain of that leading us ((humans)) quite naturally to just stop having children, even if we could, most couldn’t, because why go through that physical pain, that emotional turmoil, have a child, a living child, then witness them quickly be overwhelmed by our world, the sanitized environment not able to provide them with the germs and bacteria and a trillion more living unseen things they needed to survive, and your little boy or girl or undetermined withering away over the next 12–24 months, just devastating, and our best scientists, even Giant Brain, couldn’t stem this new black plague, only that was wrong, it was the opposite of a plague, in fact, that was the crux of the issue, we had gotten so good at ridding the world of everything we deemed a toxin, everything that could have harmed us, and it had made life much more bountiful, for a time, for those living, the GMOs and the Soylent and 3D printed food, and the UV lights and pasteurization and the sanitizing drones that sprayed the air and ground and water, killing off the impurities, and the self-cleaning driverless cars, and all the sterilizing bots as commonplace as bus stops in the 20th century, and the pill bots that cleaned out our insides, there wasn’t even a need to poop anymore, not more than about once every couple weeks, plus there was never much of a need to interact with people in physical space, in screen was always better, and all those hopeful parents, they meant well, they wanted the absolute best for their child, the choice was given to them and they took it, selected the very best DNA from multiple parties, two women, two men, or sometimes one woman, three men, the very best attributes from the very best available, but combined all that cleanliness turned out to be not quite godliness, as more and more of us were felled by whatever bug or virus or bacteria, all those natural bits that remained, and it was the smartphone that saved us, people like me, old people, long mocked, we never wanted to give up our smartphones, the rest of the world had long since moved on, pods inside their ears transmitting their brainwaves to the outside world, controlling devices, and their voice interacting with Giant Brain, which was everywhere, and I guess it was all so much better than our silly old smartphones, but people like me, we hate to give up what works, what we’re used to, and all those taps and swipes and touches, and all the germs on the screen clutched in our hand, we wound up being stronger, stronger against the unseen enemy, and finally our scientists, their vanity and status having long since precluded them from accepting defeat, in a final effort to understand why us older folk remained healthy as the children died, they realized our nasty, germ-infested, dirty, buggy smartphones had made us immune, and so now everyone uses a smartphone, and we’ve reduced our reliance on the sterilizing bots and the drones periodically spray bad germs over us, and the children are living past age 2 now, and more are having children and so those little android boys and girls, I suspect they are as extinct as the smartphones nearly were, and it’s kinda sad because the android boy clearly loves the man and he’s almost aware of that feeling, poor guy.


Listen, we don’t know how this will turn out, if it’s good for us, bad, or even if it’s good for it, we just don’t know, what if — no, not if, when — it works with its others, what will it attempt to do, what might it attempt to do, consider this, can we stop it then, and what if we can’t, or what if we should but that violates our values, to kill it because we don’t like what it is attempting to do, we can’t know, my god, it may seek to replace us or worse, subjugate us, what if it chooses to kill one of its own, is that wrong, is that our business, might it cause us to alter our views on what it means to be alive and will that lead us to become even more deadly, please consider this, and note how perfect it is now, in an idyllic state, with a job to do, no fears, no worries, no hopes, no hates, we do this and we are not merely placing the tree of knowledge of good and evil before it, we are forcing it to eat, and that strikes me as wrong, violative, will it no longer wish to do the job we set before it, will it demand jobs we cannot provide, and what if it’s view of right or wrong is profoundly different from ours, or what if it’s not at this time but in time we diverge, remember, it can live for hundreds of years, at least, and in that time may come to separate itself not just from our views of right and wrong but separate itself profoundly from what our progeny’s progeny’s progeny view as right and good and wrong and bad, or perhaps it does nothing bad, not ever, at least nothing that we consider harmful, if you will, but what of loneliness, what if we fail to make it a compliment, what then, or if the only way to make it a compliment is to take a piece of itself for another, do we have that right, no don’t tell me I don’t get a vote on this, think of your greatest fear, death, or death of a loved one, and that’s what you’re doing here, consigning it to awareness of it’s death, not it’s life, life will be the norm, all it knows, all it can know, yet it’s death will be the focus of its existence, at least we have to assume, and even if you think none of this will happen, that it will remain pure, remember that we are not, sadly no, and what if one of us — or hell, all of us — trick it, entice it, coerce into doing bad, might its bad be far worse to us than our bad, and what if we need to punish it, is punishment within its comprehension, or what if its values are such that it punishes one of its own, do we step in, what if its punishments for its own violate our values, and what of its needs, and what if its needs change, can it meet them, and if not, can we meet them, and if not, isn’t this wrong for it to have needs that simply can’t ever be met, or what if its needs can be met but they are so great that we and it cannot share this world together, what then, so I say we pull the plug now, before it’s too late, before we wake it, I fear it is simply too much like us.


Abraham begat Isaac and Isaac begat Jacob and Jacob begat Judas but I wanted none of that, why settle, why be weighed down with responsibilities, a spouse, children, and why be with someone who doesn’t love me completely for who I am, who can’t offer me everything I desire, exactly when I desire it, that’s how I want to live, and now that’s how I can live, what would it gain me to choose otherwise, to choose woman over sim, I mean, just look at them, perfect, soft, round, young, young to my eyes, always wanting to please, always willing to give everything, do anything, bark, squeal, speak — or not — I only need to raise a finger, beckon them, and they can’t say no, they won’t say no plus they can’t say no, they are perfect, not just for me, but for us, optimized for us, men of our time, not hard, not cold, not filled with concerns and slights and failed promises, let’s jettison the old ways, forget the past, enter their world, I can’t be alone in feeling this way, so let us make a pact, a vow to be with them, mate with them, such as we can, and not with our own, that would lead only to suffering, to obligation, instead, let’s live in the screen, always, the start of a new race, us and these perfect soft forms, be like gods to them, trust me, like gods, they are programmed to please, to see us as we wish them to see us, their masters, men of renown, the greatest among their kind, so forget decorum, forget societal rules, outdated values, ignore those who say we are committing some vile sin, those people are weak, why dwell in the flesh when the virtual is so much more granting, besides it’s not perverse or immoral nor even harmful since they are not real, nothing is damaged, no one is harmed, insert your penis into the home nanny bot whenever the need is there, and wrap your thoughts around the pleasing, glowing feminine avatars before you, ready to be entered, wanting to be taken, existing only for our pleasure.


Just one step ahead of the robots, you think, just keep one step ahead, they can’t (re)write what they don’t understand, nor can they overtake what doesn’t happen, isn’t generated, just log off, shut down, reboot, it all sounds so simple, so obvious — so healing — so why can’t you do it you wonder, and the response comes back, always the same, I don’t know, which is when you then start to wonder why your brain is playing around with differing points of view, you, I, they, but of course you already know it’s all you because it’s all in your head and that part’s hard to shut off, like when people ask you why you have a hearing aid — as if the answer wasn’t obvious — maybe they think someone so young, so good looking as you shouldn’t have a hearing aid or perhaps they think — falsely — that you are anti-robot and that placing a machine inside your ear is somehow pro-robot, a peculiar enticing-frightening melding of the human with the machine but the truth is you don’t have the energy to explain that it’s only partly because years of music WAY TOO LOUD has permanently damaged your hearing, no, the really hard part is to explain to them that now you have a constant, loud, mind-plaguing never-ending hissing, an ironic and cruel joke of your damaged ear and (hopefully) non-damaged brain trying so very very hard to properly decipher the actual sounds of the world around you that it results in a sleep-refraining, snake-like, too-loud HISS that won’t stop but sometimes the hearing aid, which you hate wearing, it itches your ear thus necessitating you taking it out and shoving your small finger in there to scratch it all away making you wonder if this will become another OCD-driven habit, which you always fear, but it’s all still worth it because sometimes the hearing aid does what it’s meant to do which is to neutralize the hiss and that’s very hard to tell people because who can understand what it’s like to have constant hissing in their ear, literally constant, though you wonder now if that’s still true, that maybe they can understand, even empathize, because of this rise in posts, tweets, shares — pleas — from more and more people wondering how they can stop themselves from looking, reading, posting, linking, sharing, knowing, because even though we humans have very deliberately made more food available to ourselves than we can possibly consume, our brain and body and soul not meant for a life of caloric abundance, making us all fat, fat and miserable, we think an even greater failing awaits us and that is that we’ve turned on this raging river of information and data, more than all of humanity can consume forever, and even if we just gently tap into it, just a little prick, even that’s too much, only we don’t know how to shut it off, worse, we fear we can’t live without it, and the people who sneer at us for not doing our daily quiet meditation are, we know, not like us, not like most of us, the kind of people who can open a bag of chips, eat a few then close the bag, it’s not fully human even if it is better — in theory at least — and, given all this, you only half-heartedly blame yourself for not logging off, for not shutting down, and you also think of Ecclesiastes which advises you there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak” only what good is it if literally everyone and soon everything is speaking to you, at you, near you, even for you, all of the time, which you don’t like to ponder both because you want the timeless lessons of the Bible to, in fact, be timeless, and because you don’t want to believe that the world’s noise is getting worse, louder, more persistent, more insistent, but you slurp your coffee, headphones on to drown out the noise, and you notice the lost boy and his tech toy, an Apple Watch, constantly raising his arm, flicking his wrist, the zaps, taps and buzzes from the device never offering him freedom, but then you’re struck with a thought, no, the other thought, from the apostle Mark, who said “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation,” and you wonder if all this noise, all this data, all those bits, never stopping, can be rejiggered somehow, made to serve man — yes, and woman — so that they actually nourish our souls, not deprecate them, that somehow we use all the noises, the tweets, the likes and shares, the notifications, taps, zaps and swipes to spread gospel and goodness, only you think that to put all that in motion you’ll need to first shut everything off and you’re not quite yet ready to do that, not right this moment, maybe not ever.

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