I’ve been thinking about stuff we are largely not thinking out as we should.
Last week, OpenAI’s Sam Altman appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and demanded it regulate the very industry that his company is at the forefront of. We’ve already chatted out all the reasons why letting the tech bros do the “thinking out” on the potentially life-exterminating products that they’ve created is probably a crook idea.
I’ll add another. When we allow the Altmans, Musks et al of the world to run this conversation, single action bias kick in. We see a bunch of “experts” tinker around some edges and we figure the issue is being dealt with - thought through, thought out - by some adults somewhere. Tick. Nothing more to be done by us.
I’m not sure how we are possibly going to nut out all the stuff on our plate, but I thought I’d plant a few random ones that we – here at least – could get started on.
But before I do, I think we need a bit of a Mary Oliver interlude:
1. The impact of anemoia, a nostalgia for times we couldn't have experienced
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows coined this term to describe a particularly sorrowful liminal space ahead of us.
Young people in the future, not far from now, will no doubt have a deep homesicknessfor life as it once existed. Because they will have read of camping on beaches before 40 per cent of beaches washed out to sea and sleeping anywhere without AC turned deadly; they will know that it was once possible to live close to dirt and to play and not be technology-tethered. Their longing won’t be a trifle “yearning for the days of yore”. Theirs will be a home-sickness for the fundamentals of our sense of belonging as humans.
Indeed, the particular sorrow is already being felt and discussed. Anemoia has become a meme on creepypasta forums where the sadness of this “liminal space” is explored in detail, mostly as a whimsical aesthetic.
I worry, though. How will these young people be comforted or guided through this home-sickness, this profound, hard-to-point-at “ambiguous grief”, beyond the aesthetic memes?
It’s hard to conjure a feeling into the future that references the past. But it’s a useful cognitive practice. The inverse, upside-downess of it get shake us. It reminds me of the poster I mention in Wild and Precious that I saw posted down the road from where I live: Daddy, what did you do to fight climate change?
2. What will become of the withdrawing vaping teens?
Australia recently announced it’s banning vaping, in big part in response to the number of kids and teenagers who’ve become addicted to vaping. It’s a world-first move. Health Minister Mark Butler cited stories of kids as young as four caught up in the addiction when he made the announcement.
But has anyone thought out what will happen to the vulnerable nervous systems of these children as they go through withdrawal en masse? They are already over-taxed from a pile-on of stimulants and distractions. How will they focus? How will they perform, as per the current neo-liberal imperative?
How will we respond? Will we prescribe medication, pathologise with a diagnosis, some kind of attention/focus/performance deficit? Have we thought this through?
3. Will our care run out?
Racheal Rauch, a regular here, posted a comment a few weeks back that exposed this not-thought-out thing. Racheal asked if I’d watched Extrapolations, the Apple TV+ sci-fi series which starts out set a mere 15 years into the future (it progresses from there). The remarkable thing about this first episode is that the world looks strangely familiar, with a few techy upgrades. Significantly, young people are still protesting climate ruination (this time via a hologram simulacrum of a Black Greta) and the rich and powerful are still in convenient denial, raping and pillaging the rare resources left about the place.
I’d watched the first episode, so I knew what she was talking about.
“The world looks both similar but also terrifying” Racheal wrote.
“I had a brand new thought when watching this: "I really don't think I'm gonna be able to protest this shit for another 15 years and be getting nowhere with it, while the Earth is in even worse shape and tech bros saying that capitalism is the solution (vomit!)." That's possibly the most terrifying of all. That in 15 years, we will have made next to no progress.”
TBH I hadn’t thought out things this way.
I’m not sure I will be able to keep protesting this shit, either. Will anyone? The slowly boiling frog phenomenon will no doubt suck us all back into the stew. And then what?
We will need to find a fresh way to do all this, won’t we. I’m not talking about finding new ways to fix things. I’m referring to finding ways to hold all of these hyper-objects, the “meta-crisis”, in our souls as we live as humans. MTK.
Other things you are thinking are not being thought about? Post a comment.
Nostalgia stems from the Greek word for homesickness
First off - good luck with the apartment, what a pickle! I cringed reading this as I have been in similar situations myself.
What a shock / honour to be quoted in your newsletter! I'm very much looking forward to reading other people's thoughts on this. I watched the whole series of Extrapolations and was thoroughly broken-hearted by the end because (SPOILER ALERT) they show a world where the corporations / one-percenters continue to reign supreme and our beautiful planet is thoroughly destroyed and although a few people still try to turn things around, most don't and so it's too late. The thought of this actually being the future of humanity and our beautiful planet terrifies me.
This ties into my dismay just this week after listening to a 7am podcast about how crap Labor is being on climate action: they are still approving new fossil fuel projects here there and everywhere, their Safeguard Mechanism is a paltry start and we're not likely to get anything else out of them this term of government. This last Federal election was supposed to be the climate election because we must make bold climate action this decade. Yet we are already in 2023 and our government is doing the bare minimum. I write letters to MP's. I sign petitions. I post on socials to share info. Things are not changing fast enough and I am losing hope that we aren't going to be in the situation Extrapolations paints for the future.
I've been thinking lately about trauma. Not so much the big T trauma but the more invisible or discounted trauma. I've been listening to/reading Gabor Maté (a Canadian physician who has specialized in his retirement in addiction and trauma--- he would be an amazing person for you to interview, Sarah!!). He was given away to a stranger as an infant during WWII by his mother to save him from starvation in the ghetto. He was returned to his mother 6 weeks later but that sense of abandonment lived in his cells throughout his life. Trauma that happens before conscious memory seems to be the most insidious because it makes you feel crazy (I have first hand experience with this) Luckily for me, my mom talked freely about the birth trauma I experienced so I was able to connect the dots. I wonder about all the traumatized people in the world already and how we can help them heal and how there are going to be many more traumas due to climate change. Because hurt people are doing more damage everyday.