Most people on this side of the great divide have concluded that the time for fixing what is broken in America has passed. The historical processes that have been unleashed by past error will just have to run their course. What comes after will be whatever the winners of the great struggle create. What if that is not true and there is a window to stop this process? What things could we do to break this cycle of madness that seems to have gripped the American empire?
One thing that should be done right away for no other reason than to slow things down is shutting off the mobile phone system. Humans evolved to interact with one another in person, not through the virtual reality of the mobile device. Everywhere you go you see people walking around like zombies, glued to their phone. It is like the drug soma from the novel Brave New World. The difference is this drug puts people into a trance in which their senses are bombarded with data that irritate them.
One reason we have become an outrage culture is outrage is the only way to get attention from others. In a world where people are linked to a constant stream of images and bursts of text, getting noticed means being outlandish of outrageous within those data streams. On the other hand, being glued to the data stream leaves little room for real human interaction and even less room for real emotion. Large swaths of the population only feel human when they are outraged by the stream.
This would not be as difficult to do as you might think. The rulers could impose a dollar per minute tax on the service. Sure, the wireless firms would fight it, but the government has tanks and men with guns. Shoot enough wireless executives and the rest either run away or fall in line. The firm slap of authority is best conveyed against the wall of the prison, after a quick trial. It was not that long ago when mobile charges were prohibitive and very few people could afford a mobile phone.
Similarly, the big social media platforms have become a problem. They are nothing more than cauldrons of human misery now. Again, it was not so long ago when these platforms did not exist. If we got rid of Facebook and Twitter, the world does not change in any important ways. People would simply migrate back to small private groups on-line or go outside again. Turning off the big social platforms would have an immediate positive impact on the psyche of the public.
Shutting these down would be easier than limiting the mobile device. Enforcement of Section 230 along with new privacy laws that prohibit them from harvesting your activity on-line would shut them down in weeks. Once they are subject to the same laws as everyone else and they cannot steal from their users, their business model would collapse in a hurry. Small platforms would still exist, but as labors of love or as small businesses run by one or two people with a narrow interest.
Another rollback would have to be the cameras. If you are out in public and have a heart attack or you are attacked by a criminal, people pull out their phones and begin taking pics of your suffering. They rather hope you die so they can get a video that will go viral. Combined with the cameras put up by the government and business, all of us now live in a synopticon. This is a world where all of us are individually monitored by all of us, a mass of camera wielding ghouls.
The solution here is your image is yours and you own it. Anyone possessing your image or distributing your image without your express permission is no different than someone trafficking in stolen goods. If someone wants to post your bad day on-line, they need your permission. The platform hosting it needs your permission. Otherwise, they are liable for possessing your property without your permission. This would also apply to security cameras. They can be used only in a courtroom.
This is not a novel concept. Many states still have laws on the books, for example, against filming a public road. Movie companies used to need permission to use video of people walking down a street. Your image used to be your property. A big part of what ails us is we have allowed the ownership of your information to fall into the public domain. Everywhere you go someone is taking pictures of you and you have no control over what they do with those images.
What is being proposed here, in effect, is rolling back the last 25 years of technological and economic change that no one contemplated, debated, or voted on. This all just evolved quickly before anyone could contemplate the impact. A generation long real-world experiment has proven it was a bad idea. We have created a world of outraged shut-ins and snitches. The only thing everyone agrees upon is that everyone hates the world they experience, either in reality or through their device.
Would people riot in the streets if their phones suddenly became useful only in emergencies as a way to call for help? Would there be protest marches over the loss of Facebook and YouTube? Would Zoomers begin forming militias when they can no longer video every moment of their life with their phone? Obviously not, as these things did not happen over Covid. In fact, people would adapt and maybe regrow the backbone and spirit needed to protest such things.
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