WIRING THE ARK

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THE WANDERING CLASS

MATRICULATE

My biggest professional regret? Never able to convince former Yahoo CEO Marisa Mayer to waste $50 million on me. Seemed like she handed out cash by the millions to anyone who happened along with a bad idea or bungled business plan.

Guess I was just too good for her.

Too straight, too narrow.

Blame it on college.

Which may no longer be a viable excuse.

Because college may simply no longer be needed, not for the real, not for its fake.

The industrial revolution let us outsource physical labors. The thinking revolution lets us outsource rational effort. Crazy is our future. You can’t teach that. Now throw in YouTube, coding academies, AI, a million bots, all of the Chinese, three hundred million just-as-smart but much harder working Indians, plus this apparent need for line cooks, plumbers, electricians and underpaid outrage peddlers on Twitter, and it’s plain to see that the business of college — learning as an industry — is in the midst of a massive disruption.

There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, but Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen says that half are bound for bankruptcy in the next few decades.

Heh.

In his recent book, “The Innovative University,” Christensen and co-author Henry Eyring analyze the future of traditional universities, and conclude that online education will become a more cost-effective way for students to receive an education, effectively undermining the business models of traditional institutions and running them out of business.

I will shed no tears.

In search of dollars and powers, colleges politicized themselves, becoming one of the largest partisan donor classes in America. They gave good jobs with great benefits disproportionately to individuals of sanctioned groups, got bloated and bellicose off hardworking taxpayers, conned parents and children into believing they were gatekeepers to the future, and happily joined in the grand parade to denigrate our culture and deride our greatness. Sooner they collapse, the better.

Then what do you do?

Where goes your future?

Hit the road.

You may have no better choice.

You, your mate, your friends, others, buy a bus — or, if this is being read ten years from now, an autonomous bus — and drive the roads, seeking work, constructing an economic unit, maybe creating a happy little cultural ecosystem, using Twitter, Snap, even Facebook to promote your homemade wares, reveal your various talents, to barter, build, play, keep safe. Live in the bus, play in the bus, sleep in the bus, all as the vehicle’s AI drives you from Cleveland to Dallas, from Flagstaff to Vegas, Alaska over to Russia, no need for a house payment, no need for a house, everyone sharing expenses as best you can, learning from one another as much as you can.

The nomad lifestyle is upon us, and soon as simple and then-obvious as Uber:

Founded in 2016, Cabin (formerly known as SleepBus) recently launched a chartered bus service between SF and LA that allows passengers to fall asleep in one city and wake up in the next — for about $100 one-way. The logistics are a no-brainer: Get in, grab a bunk, and snooze.

The flat rate makes it more affordable than flying and potentially more convenient than driving, but only if you can handle the tight quarters and 23 passengers aboard the double-decker bus.

The economy is being deconstructed, the cultural gatekeepers are going under, technology is destroying everything, all of which means various pods of people, activity, creativity and community will sprout up, some stationary, many mobile, and I dearly hope this leads to something better. I really believe it can. Less consumerism, less waste, less quiet desperation, more acceptance.

The past is gone, or soon will be, and its gone-ing will be massive and permanent. Shed a tear if you like, romanticize it if you wish. It’s not coming back, not in a form the past would recognize.

You’re the next. You get to build the future. Do it better.

You don’t need a house, a mortgage, a car, the trappings. Literally, these are called trappings! The world at present is poor and bound. Be poor and boundless, start there.

TEN ROCKETS

All of Earth bands together. After great expense, much effort and many years, no less than 40 lives lost, the grand project was complete. The grandest. There now existed 10 spaceships that could traverse the galaxy, possibly beyond.

Not a stairway to heaven but a flight through the heavens.

There was no greater work, no greater passion, no greater focus. Humanity’s representatives were about to personally explore distant worlds, make first contact.

Each craft was able to hold a single man. The planet’s ten most capable were chosen. None so chosen ever considered turning down the honor — despite knowing they would never again see their homeworld, never again know the touch of a human, taste the Earth’s air, or feel the Sun.

In succession, and with the entirety of humanity watching, the 10 craft were launched.

One exploded instantly, killing the man aboard.

Another crashed into a space rock the size of Old Russia, killing its solitary occupant.

Earth then lost contact with the remaining.

One never awoke from cold statis. His ship will drift beyond the Milky Way before every bit of him has fully decomposed.

One landed on a strange new world, populated with strange, intelligent beings, which treated the Earthling as a sort of planetary pet. They did not know, nor could they understand, that he went mad in under two decade’s time.

The fifth craft landed upon an eerily Earth-like planet with a remarkably similar evolutionary history. Only, the beings that were most like-human were scarcely a meter high. The man told them of his homeworld, its history, then quickly used his size and strength to become their ruler. He killed many, raped many, and profoundly altered the course of the planet’s future. Four thousand years later, his body lay in state, and he is still considered their God.

The sixth landed on a horrific planet, hell-like, and the man was cruelly tortured to death, brought back to life, tortured to death, brought back to life, no less than twelve times. Bored, the aliens decided they would build a craft to go to Earth and torture and kill them all.

After waking too early, the seventh found himself in near-infinite emptiness. On the 14th anniversary of his launch, he took his life.

Eighth man landed on a world the craft’s sensors informed him contained sentient human-like life. After five years of searching, he stumbled down a rocky cliff, breaking his back. He lay there for ten of that planet’s days before succumbing to death. His carcas was found by a small band of the planet’s two thousand Neanderthal-like creatures, who buried it with great reverence.

Those who lived on the planet the ninth man landed upon were shocked, amazed — also frightened. Not daring to take a chance, they killed him as he disembarked from his craft.

We lost track of the tenth.

NOEMI PROUD

You stand before the court.

You feel the hostility of those around you, of the hundreds more watching in.

The sentence is read aloud.

You have been found guilty.

Guilty of preferring games filled with non-sanctioned violence. Worse, that celebrate false and hurtful depictions of women.

There’s more.

The evidence clearly shows that a disproportionate number of those you follow have expressed views which suggest they do not accept the science on the lasting harms of racism, sexism, and white privilege.

This is your second offense.

You know the penalty.

The judge motions a young woman forward. She is thin, black, pretty. She looks hungry, you think. No doubt, she will be paid well for this. You cannot hear what they are discussing. She turns to you, she nods along with the judge’s words.

Two large men grab you. You feel the power in their hands. You see only the white coats as they force you to the floor. You feel a foot on your back. You feel a shot into the back of your thigh. You sleep.

When you wake, you are inside her.

You cannot feel your body, nor your arms, nor legs, nothing. There is only your awareness.

Suddenly, a piercing hissing sound. You think you reach to cover your ears, but you have no ears, no arms, no hands. You hear a voice.

For your crimes, you have been sentenced to spend 90 days living through this woman. You will see as she sees and hear as she hears and feel as she feels. Only then will you truly understand how your white male privilege has colored your values and caused harm to the majority of society.

Only then shall you be returned to your own body.

Know also that the entirety of your digital life has been erased. You shall have zero points and no followers upon your departure. This is standard punishment.

You again fall asleep, though not before the nightmares, cutting fears that the rumors are true, that more than 30 days within another’s body causes the leech mind to go crazy. You fear you will go mad, so mad that when you are returned to your body it will be for nothing, you will just be a walking, hollowed shell of a person, with no thoughts to contribute, no work to offer, no goals to guide your life. Silenced to the world, a raving lunatic within.

This is the real punishment, you fear.

You are jarred awake. She is awake. She is seated. Speaking. To whom? You see only her reflection. Then you realize she is staring into a mirror — and speaking to you.

I know you can hear me.

My name is Noemi Proud.

I do this for money.

You have been sentenced to live within me for 90 days.

I have a surprise for you.

And she explains to you that she has done this many times before. The State pays very well. Then she tells you that she thinks what the Corporate Government does is an abomination, that what they believe is foul and repressive.

She believes that gender is not fluid. She is a woman. You are a man.

She believes every human should be judged by the content of their character, not their skin color, nor their identity. She finds the very notion of privilege to be limiting and intolerant.

There are many like her, she tells you. Women, blacks, people who think differently than is taught.

Oh, and she loves videogames.

She smiles.

Oh, and more thing. I love having sex with other women. She winks.

It’s gonna be a fun 90 days, she tells you.

LOGOFFSHUTDOWNREBOOT

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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