Culturalism

Hotel California

A few days ago I was driving to work in the very early morning hours, when darkness floods your vision, and one asks softly that the faded hue of headlights refuses to fade away. With eyes heavy from inadequate sleep, I switched on the radio to perk myself up. After a couple of country tunes, the Honda’s audio system began issuing a timeless hit: “Hotel California” by the Eagles.

My first experience with the tune was well over a decade ago, yet at the time I just heard the sounds, and imagined it had something to do with love, or perhaps adventure. To the innocent mind, there is little treacherous about the instrumental, and even the lead singer sounds rather hopeful in certain parts. It was only as I focused upon the words that the undertones became clearer. Was it about pity? Then the clobbering blow:

 Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
“Relax, ” said the night man,
“We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave! “

For all the times in my life that I’ve heard the song, those two lines never registered, but they make perfect sense now. Others have claimed the entire piece is about drug abuse or a vile music industry, all fair assessments. I choose to go further, however. From my perspective, it highlights our state of existence, and perhaps that of our forefathers.

To put things into perspective, consider a video topic I came up with a while back: “Can You Live Without Google?” The segment was designed to get at the fact that people attempting to rid themselves of the tech behemoth were often playing right back into servitude because it was too convenient. Going through the process of finding alternatives, which often do not function as well, would likely preclude the majority of these outraged revolutionaries from pursuing change.

But there were some who resisted. I received a treasure trove of smug comments from folks claiming to have dispensed with Google in favor of Yahoo or Bing, vehicles of two other massive technology companies with spotty records on data privacy. That was the extent of their opposition, marching from one burning pyre to the next, while somehow believing the newest flames are liberating.  

Today the problem is even more grim. People removed from Twitter or Facebook proudly sprint over to Parler or Gab, not realizing how quickly the system will move and absorb (or quash) such threats. The gallant ride of independent knights swiftly takes the shape of a suicide run, for the citadel has long since been breached. Our heroes at this stage are battling on to write history, not preserve their autonomy at all.

Much like a denizen inside Hotel California, we have the freedom to “check-out,” but is it possible to ever leave?

Culturalism · Economic History

How Tech Forces Consumerism

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, or perhaps impoverished, which in the United States sounds worse, I like older things. The simplicity and manual nature may not delight eyes trained for dazzling inputs, but they suit me just fine by allowing for closeness with the device. This becomes more difficult to achieve when everything – and I mean everything – is handled by central logic pieces .

But Big Tech doesn’t allow that, or at least less and less than before. I first noticed the issue after trying to downgrade from Windows 10 (which I don’t like) to Windows 7. Despite having a perfectly good OS copy on hand, I was henceforth peppered with warnings about security violations and lack of authenticity. No matter how many times I regard the messages and try to shut them down, sooner or later they come back, often with a loud notification sound to disrupt tranquility.

Difficulties became worse when I spent the past summer attempting to restore an old Optiplex 745 desktop. Because Microsoft dropped support for Windows XP, the machine was similarly awkward to use, and would not maintain security or time settings. Consequently, even the most mundane websites would spit out multiple alerts and attempt to block access. This includes the likes of YouTube and Google, to be clear.

When I recently purchased an old Nook Color to replace my failing Nook HD, the issues were also prevalent from the start. Apparently Barnes and Noble dropped support for older models in 2018, putting in place security policies that render the device quasi-useless. Many websites deny access, it is virtually impossible to access the Google Play app, and attempts to download browsers are greeted with claims of incompatibility. Ironically, the same messages usually urge users to download Google Play as an alternative.

Although I finally got it working enough through an email backdoor to use the reader functionality, the Nook saga emphasizes a very cynical goal of Big Tech: by making older devices clunky and obsolete through security updates, users are gently shoved towards making fresh purchases. Phone companies in particular are renowned for doing this, with the expectation that you will rush out to grab a new model every 2 or so years, keeping the money churn going. Never mind if a particular product works great and could last 10 years; the fiat must be expended.

What’s sad relates to the realization that older device models are probably not being recycled consistently, but rather tossed out with the trash. Thus all those valuable parts and metals will not make it into new phones, instead sitting in a miserable landfill, forcing humankind to strip more resources and generate fresh pollution in the creation of the flashy digital screen.

But who cares? Just swipe.