Hustle, Bustle, and Muscle

Silicon Valley thrives on bustle and competition. It teems with technocrats, self-described brainiacs rushing they know not where except that they have to get there before anyone else. How will they know where "there" is? Is it more money - the richest in the world list? Is it more power - let's expand, buy out, take over and subsume? Is it a chair with "CEO" written on it? Groups of fawning devotees, hanging on every Tweet? Paparazzi swarming? Editors swooning?

"I'm late", they seem to feel. "I'm late. For a very important date." That this sentiment has been expressed before seems to be irrelevant. They might even quote it without attribution. Why not? This is a society that barely blinks when a teen drunk with stolen beer kills people and escapes prison with an "affluenza" defense. This is a world in which a rapist claims that he is innocent because he is so good-looking. This is an environment which fosters rapists because, underneath it all, women really want it, don't they? They invite it, somehow. They certainly incite it. The Huffington Post tells us that more people watch porn online than Twitter, Amazon and Netflix combined. We decry porn; so who is watching it?

Rush on, young geeks, before you notice that the gray hairs and wrinkles have rushed on with you. Before you realize that you may have touch screens but you have lost touch with those you care about, perhaps even with yourself. The atmosphere has been described as a "pathological fixation on youth".

Tomorrow? We are tomorrow, you say.

History? What's that? It's so, you know, old.

Nature, though, has a few cautions for you. Do you expect to be here in 180 million years? The fossil fern has kept its Jurassic-era chromosomes for at least that long. It may have died a violent death, an unexpected burial in a volcanic eruption, but its individual cells have been discovered perfectly preserved along with two daughter cells in a site in Sweden. As John Timmer wrote recently, "Once nature comes up with an architecture that works, it's prone to stick with it, even for millions of years."

Are you an architecture that will survive that long? Unlikely, since the human species seems destined to expire sooner rather than later. Or to be replaced by legions of self-replicating nanobots that proliferate to other planets, explosively procreating out of control. Fringe talk, you say? Radical rubbish? Nasa's Goodard Space Flight Center recently reported that "global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution".("Earthinsight", Nafeez Ahmed, the Guardian.)

Ah but we have the technology now to invalidate the historical record. No one has ever been as smart as we are.


Perhaps our efforts to prolong life will succeed beyond our expectations. But have you thought of what prolonged death might be like? In a recent article in Gizmodo, the area around Chernobyl, site of a 1986 nuclear explosion and radiation blast, is being called "a landscape of the undead". Nature has been rendered unnatural by its brilliant child-creation called man. Rot and decomposition are unable to occur. Frozen trees and organisms, once organically recycled, are now impotent, stuck in unending death. Scientists fear a catastrophic fire as the petrified leaf litter accumulates. Such a fire would exponentially spread radioactive matter over a wide area. Clouds, real ones, not the kind where you buy storage, will help proliferate the deadly radioactivity over the planet.

So hustle, young muscle. Use your ambition to tread upon others. You can of course choose to inhabit the fetid universe of William S. Burroughs, who once told an interviewer, "love itself is a fraud perpetrated by the female". ("Call me Burroughs", James Parker, the Atlantic, March 19, 2014). Parker goes on to describe Burroughs as "a clinical mind in a voodoo universe". Is this what you want to be?

One day your fearsome tread will resemble used tires, unwanted and replaceable. What will you regret most: the inches you didn't claw at fast enough, the promotions given to others, the glories not rewarded? Or could it be the gentle touch of another human? The sound of a child asking for just one more hug?

Hugs don't bustle. But oh they matter. They really matter.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2014