Nowhere to go but up in 2019

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

Like many of us, I presume, I am more than a little astounded that we survived 2018. With the reality – or at least the prospects of – civil war (as in Syria, Yemen, Sudan), economic collapse and hyperinflation (Venezuela and many others), breakage of economic and cultural bonds (like Brexit), near nuclear war with unstable adversaries (like North Korea) political and election interference around the world from major players like Russia, China and North Korea), trade wars fueled with the adrenaline of vindictive tariffs and border disputes, record national indebtedness and threat of international bankruptcies (Japan, France and the USA) and, of course, a fire and flood, drought and storm season like no other in our nation’s history.

I waited until January first to write this because I had the haunting premonition that we would end the year in some sort of crazed 2018 reality TV series cliff-hanger season finale. I guess a paralyzed government and federal shutdown is enough. It is certainly enough for me.

I always feel that there should be some kind of respite between the years, kind of like a recovery time before we start a new year. But the calendar never stops. Photo: Morf Morford

I always feel that there should be some kind of respite between the years, kind of like a recovery time before we start a new year. But the calendar never stops. Photo: Morf Morford

Layered over, under and through all these complexities and contradictions, we have the intrusive dominance of what has become known as FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix & Google). Taken together, these technologies define, allow and monitor virtually everything we do.

Ever have a conversation with someone and your device pops in with “Sorry, I didn’t get that”?

Alexa, Siri and who knows who (or what) else are listening to us nearly constantly.

Who needs spies when we are being tracked, monitored, followed and guided almost everywhere?  (1*)

And we are willing and, for the most part have paid for the privilege.

But that was 2018, will 2019 be any different?

Maybe.

2019 will be the last of the 21st Century’s “teen” years. Unfortunately, I expect 2019 to be just as turbulent as 2018, maybe even more so. 2020, in more ways than any of us could imagine, as with 2018, will be a year of upheaval and reorientation, but maybe, just maybe, 2020 will hold a bit more stability and cold-eyed realism – and do I even dare use the words maturity, accountability and a sense of reckoning to define the beginning of the third decade of our millennium?

Technology, and technology companies, once the object of obsession if not infatuation, will begin being seen as the ultimate disrupter – and not in a good way.

The FAANGs have grown quickly and have made themselves essential aspects of our daily lives. But are they?

I would say no.

In fact, they have disrupted our sleep, our language, our ability to read deeply or think critically (2*), they have even some say, disrupted our hormones related to growth and sensory perception. (3*)

In fact, I would propose that we all stop zoning out in front of Netflix or Facebook, buy from anyone but Amazon, cut back Googling and instead, talk to actual human beings, leave your beloved device at home, use your local library and read physical books.

And yes, eat actual food, something from the earth or from a tree, not from a frozen package or fast food place.

Take the time to prepare your own food – not with a microwave, but with actual direct heat and your direct attention, preferably with friends or neighbors.

2018, in more ways than could be counted, was a careen through the unreal and unexpected, where forces large and small intruded upon us and assaulted our identity and basic human decency. It was the year, among other things, when we discovered that of people tested for plastic residue in their blood and feces, 100% did.  (4*)

2019 must be a year when we use our technologies intentionally, refuse to drift and use things mindlessly, like plastic straws or Netflix, and instead spend our time doing things we actually enjoy or help us learn new things. Pick up a book instead of a flickering device. And don’t forget to step outside more often.

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No article on a new year is complete without at least a few projections, so here are some of mine;

In the coming year, I expect some of the major tech based companies, especially those essentially defined by a single figurehead, to take a major credibility, if not financial hit. I’m thinking particularly of Elon Musk’s Tesla, Jeff Bezo’s Amazon and Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook.

And I have the haunting feeling that Apple, the highest valued company in the world just a few months ago, has problems that are just beginning to emerge.

At some level, the technology infatuation is over. Many of us are put off by the “cost” of these “free” services and the inherent loss of privacy and identity. Google, for example, knows more about us than anyone should.

Many of us are longing for a place, a vocation or even a relationship – or even better, a community – defined by us – not our demographic or search history.

We are tired of vanity space projects where those we have enriched beyond any human scale, strive to spend the billions we have lavished on them.

Some of us actually like the idea of working and “earning” money instead of questionable stock option plans that make instant billionaires out of early investors – and not much more than the minimum wage to those who do the actual work.

Political and celebrity scandals will certainly continue, but I do believe they will reach their tipping point in 2019.

Could we even see a revival of interest in those things beyond a cash value or return on investment like friendship, solitude and a quite sense of satisfaction or accomplishment?

Either way, I just have a sense of relief that we made it through 2018, the year that seemed like a decade. If we can survive a year like that, we can survive anything.

 

(1*)   If you have the stomach for it, more details can be found here – https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/talkingtech/2018/05/28/how-listen-what-amazon-alexa-has-recorded-your-home/649814002/ or here https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/nov/21/amazon-echo-alexa-home-robot-privacy-cloud.

(2*)   Or not. For another view, check out this NPR segment – https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/short-and-shallow-reading-on-the-internet-not-so-fast.

(3*)   https://www.businessinsider.com/what-your-smartphone-is-doing-to-your-brain-and-it-isnt-good-2018-3

(4*)   Fuller story here – https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/10/news-plastics-microplastics-human-feces/