A while back, Clay Shirky argued that watching TV is like being an alky and that the Internet is the 12-step cure. Now, Daniel Markham, in his post Technology Is Heroin, says the cure is worse than the disease. If watching television is like sucking on a bottle of gin, using the Net is like mainlining speedballs with a dirty needle. Both men claim to have history on their side. You be the judge.

7 thoughts on “Smackdown

  1. Charles

    Oh dear lord, it’s the battle of the media-criticism lightweights.

    When I read rants like this, I often think back to the amateur media debates I heard when I worked in the movie business in LA. I once overheard a debate between a shipping clerk and a receptionist about what they’d do if they ran the industry. In exasperation, I exclaimed, “Hollywood is the only place in the world where people stay up all night watching movies on TV and call it research.”

  2. Tom Lord

    I hope that your new book doesn’t come out like that heroin essay. It’s glib, reductionist, sensationalist, unpersuasive, trend-chasing, silliness.

    And who would care other than that it’s vaguely about a real and important thing.

    Look, you can’t separate out the form and function of the Internet from the form and function of the built environment and the social arrangements of commerce if you want to talk about “how people are behaving”.

    In a micro-economic sense, the reason people don’t work hard all of the time, work the land, chop wood and carry water is because they don’t have the incentive and often don’t even have the opportunity. Who has access to that kind of land? Who isn’t living hand-to-mouth to such an extent that they can’t realistically make that kind of commitment?

    When the people lose skills it is because the skills lost utility.

    Sure, the ‘net (or more broadly, “technology”) is a time-suck. Sure, the capitalists / con-artists compete in a pseudo-evolutionary way to maximize the amount of “brain time” they collect. That doesn’t cause idleness. Idleness causes that.

    What caused the conditions that changed the environment that idled the people that created the conditions to compete for mindshare of an eerily zombie-like people? Our current, favorite whipping boy: finance.

    Finance, since the industrial revolution and the invention of computing, is the unfettered, coherence-creating force that drives most of the ills here.

    Finance says that if you have $25M you are just insane – flat out crazy – unless you give large parts of it to other people who will leverage it and give you back high returns in one form or another, and quickly. It is “strip mining” abstracted and applied to the built environment and the social arrangements.

    Family farms? Don’t need ’em, don’t want ’em. The returns are too small. Competent, literary people? Sorry, but where’s the upside? What’s the exit strategy?

    The demand-side of labor adopted modern finance as its model and tore just about everything of value down. It surrounded people with ever-increasing surveillance and ever-increasing “intervention”. It tossed everyone in jail.

    The purely time-sucking parts of the net aren’t heroin, they’re pruno.


  3. Jan Massie

    Hi: Not totally related Nick, but can you address why the professional class isn’t getting more aggressive? Why aren’t they going after ISPs and demanding truckloads of cash in return for all the free content they provide them? Why hasn’t the professional class decided to take free culture out the back and beat the shit out of it? I want to see ISPs held accountable for piracy and charged fees for the online content their customers use.

  4. Linuxguru1968

    For hardcore Internet junkies there is a support group to help them kick their habit-it’s called Internet Anonymous. You can learn more about it by going to their website, setting up an account, joining its blogs and chat groups and receive email alerts about online group events to help you stop using the Internet. LOL ;)

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