CES 2009 reveals Technology's upcoming sociological role

4:11:00 PM

Aside from the obvious buzzwords that are coming out of reports and reviews of Consumer Electronics Show 2009 in Las Vegas like the Palm Pre, Windows 7 and Netbooks like the Sony Vaio P, the undisputed, most used and unnoticed buzzword on every one's lips and pens was this: the downturn in the U.S. Economy. No doubt its a frightening picture for producers of electronic goods and software to have their hard-won efforts emerge during such a treacherous consumer climate, but its even more scary for those who want to gobble up their products but are just simply unable to when their credit is maxxed out and their pay checks are either getting slashed or taken away from them; when the issue of how or where one is going to eat becomes a oppressively real possibility - even if its just overreacting to the "downturn in the economy" it bodes for some really scary, but potentially fruitful times.

TITUS by Carly Sioux, paparazza.net, copywright 2009
MONEY FOR NOTHING: And this is how the artist reacts to society when they have drugs around!!
photo curtosy of Carly Sioux, www.paparazza.net, copywright 2009
Even on a personal note, a recent acquaintance of mine - a struggling musician - reported that his warehouse tenement, filled with starving artists and otherwise destitute but well-educated squatters has, by-and-large, resorted to dumpster diving at New York City five-stars just to survive. For them there's now a serious glut in the type of jobs that used to sustain them rather well like waiter and bartender positions, production assistant jobs and odd jobs like painting walls or other manual labor. How are they going to eat when it looks like the Internet has demolished the idea that movies (production assistant jobs) and music (gobbled up by torrents and free download) is now considered a commodity that is so plentiful that putting a dollar value on it seems nearly as ridiculous as paying for air. How will they eat, and more importantly, how and what will these highly educated, young, passionate and intensely idealistic bunch with a lot of friends and a lot of spit and vinegar for the "institution" do with themselves when they can't buy their drugs - and more importantly not by choice but because you can't find them in dumpsters; in short, what does anyone think will happen to this demographic when they sober up and can't get their drugs - the thing that was keeping their reactionary spirit at bay and pacified?

Anatomy of a Revolution by Crane Brinton , makes it clear that, though, the American, Bolshevik, and French were radically different in their dynamic and treatment of their particular issues, one thing was common to all: that they fomented in a climate of a disenfranchised young intelligentsia. In other words, revolutions happen in a climate precisely when the starving artist can't get hold of its drugs. Or, that is to say that, though Obama's inauguration provides a ray of hope that in a few years we'll be back in the land of milk-and-honey, how patient can a dope fiend be even while he's sure Obama will reverse the "downturn in the economy" once and for all on January 21, and no later than that?

Frankly, the ugly of it is that fanaticism is about to sweep over these amber waves of grain. That is that zealotism, radicalism, even rank animalism is not just something culture has endured in the history books, but also a climate that has entered the arena of this "economic downturn," and it is threatening to get tagged into the match when nobility gets worn out of pummelings by the faltering of our expectations we remember enjoying from our employers, governments and so on. That is, an ugly, passionate and reactionary social climate is now peeking out of the shadows despite the hopes that come from reclaiming some good leaders to defend us from ourselves. After all survival has its own code of morality that transcends things like the Ten Commandments, and no one can or should dispute survival-instinct's ethics of what constitutes good and evil.

On the other hand, and bringing this discourse back to point - the role of technology in these most auspicious times - while fanaticism may play out "only and hopefully" a minor role in the news, there may also be a climate riding along with it of intense creativity in solving the problems of rent and survival. That is, one need only look a few decades ago where the Baby Boomers faced what they considered an intolerable social climate, and while they got their drugs and resorted to zealotism, they, nonetheless became extraordinarily creative about how they were going to solve their situation. Granted, their generation enjoyed the luxury of a cohesive solidarity and also the knowing that what they were doing was important. Our generation - X - is faced with having to solve its predicament without the luxury of being inspired by visions of Strawberry Fields.

Nonetheless, Gen X will, despite itself, go down in the books as the generation who embraced the value of the Internet and paved the foundation for what future generations can enjoy as, probably, one of the most instrumental turns in history. That is, while things begin to hit the fan harder than what we have seen thus far, and while large segments of this culture begin their outright protests, there will also be a large chunk who turn to this Generation's enduring legacy, the Internet, and exploit its inherent assets with such creativity that no keynote speaker nor reporter nor corporate representative nor gadget engineer in CES 2009 has the gumption to admit: that every day dream and every fanciful idea and every futuristic scenario that they've had during their career is soon to become a constructive venue for the same fanaticism that will hit the streets and courthouses. The engineers who designed the iPhone are, go figure, Gen X'rs, and their protests by way of creative, technological solutions to our social climate will be nothing short of legendary.

I'll Shoot by Calry Sioux, www.paparazza.net, copywright 2009
FANATIROMANCE: "I told you not to come home until you paid the internet and brought me a working laptop, asshole"
photo curtosy of Carly Sioux, www.paparazza.net, copywright 2009
Here's, perhaps, one example where this feverish creativity could play out constructively in this "economic downturn": a Wiki Bank. It seems like a rather silly idea at this point - a bank owned and operated by a group of eager volunteers and whose funds are backed not by gold but by penny jars of massive amounts of users. For certain, there are some swarthy and capable Web coding zealots with a lot of jobless time on their hands and who watched Zeitgeist: Addendum one too many times - impressed with the notion that the real problem isn't money or banks, but current practice of charging interest for loans ... well, with the Internet's penchant for democratizing every aspect of our lives, it's not far fetched to think that, while it already democratized knowledge in the form of Wikipedia, has been democratizing the Media Industry - kicking and screaming, has been democratizing the publishing industry, is democratizing software development and proprietary knowledge, and, in short: Democratizing ... well, it's not too far of a stretch that some core institutions who form the fabric what seems to be as solid as the Earth being flat: banking ... well, that's under the gun as well - especially when financial institutions are collapsing right and left.

At any rate, while technology pundits and the average iPhone user and Web surfer all admit that the economic downturn is quite a bummer, nothing short of a miracle's - even the election of Obama - is going to clear the issue up right away and, God help us all, in time to rescue all of us without casualties. But, while our, thus-far, extravagant lifestyle that we've enjoyed since Ronald Regan gives way to the ever increasing rigors of a deep, dark recession, there's a bit of silver lining in all of this. The crucible, the kiln and the forge are hell-fire environment where metals and earth are shred apart and molten into unusual forms, but when the fires cool, something rare and beautiful are emerge where artistry has shaped those extreme situations into an artifact worthy of admiration.

Likewise, while everyone pats themselves on the back over CES 2009's success as a trade show, the lingering and resonant mentions to the economic downturn forebode what will be strong current in Technology's trends for 2009: using its latent democratizing nature for discovering left-wing, hair-brained and downright radical new ways of enduring and emerging from this long dark night of the soul that sure to face every one of us at some point before the year's out.

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