In this post I will examine Feed by M.T. Anderson and how this novel explores the melding together of humanity and technology and how, through this integration humanity itself is lost. The Feed is something that is transplanted into ones brain that allows them to instantly access databases and all manner of internet 2.0 type things any one can imagine. To begin, what is interesting about the ‘Feed’ itself is where the author decided to place it in his characters. The implant was placed directly into ones brain; this allowed for instant access to all manner of things, it also gave corporate interests direct access to your thoughts and personal information. The author, in determining the Feed should be placed inside someone head, is making a claim that there is no longer any boundary between man and machine. What distinguishes mankind from everything else is our ability to engage in logical, conscious thought, we are creatures of instincts in some ways, but we have the ability to consciously determine our own lives. In the modern era, while it is becoming harder to do so, we can consciously choose what messages to ignore, what advertisements to turn off or ‘x’ out of as quickly as possible. The internet now is just the beta version of what the Feed is in Anderson’s book. Already today corporations and data miners have the ability to arrange your Facebook home page to include advertisements targeting you. If you change your relationship status, within a week you’ll start getting online dating advertisements; if you ‘check in’ to a lot of local restaurants you may start seeing advertisements for other nearby restaurants. This is all happening now, but we can easily ignore it; there is a barrier between us and the machine. So perhaps, in this context we have still maintained our humanity. In the world of the Feed this separation is nonexistent. The Feeds allows private interests to interfere with your thoughts. In a sense, there is no way to exercise any type of control over your thoughts and interference from outside sources; they become one and the same. Before we go any further, there is a matter of human agency. In theory one can stop interacting with the feed, or perhaps not even get the implant (only 73% of people have it) but one has to wonder if there is really a choice here. To begin you have to receive the implant early, otherwise it will have dire health consequences (as Violet’s case shows), and on top of that, is it something one could simply refuse? To do so means communication between yourself and others may be significantly different, perhaps more difficult. If you were to get the Feed, how easy would it be able to tune out a finely working machine that gives you access to anything you want instantly, with products and information tailored to your consumer profile? The Feed seems to turn human agency on its head, rather than do nothing and remain disconnect as is the case today (social networks are available to most people but not all and its easy to stay off the grid if one chooses, also in order to get onto one of these sites it takes a conscious effort to sign up, upload pictures ect), in the world of the Feed, to do nothing is to succumb to the Feed and have your inner most self exposed to all who wish to see it. It takes conscious effort, a herculean effort to stay off of the Feed in Anderson’s book.
The Feed blurs the line between the individual, his/her ‘profile’ and the community and others on the Feed. It seems to degrade individuality into something simply based on what you choose to consume. Everything is part of a larger system except for your tailor made corporate profile, and that is merely a database on consumer preference. Titus experiences this loss of individuality when, at the end of the story, he cannot draw upon anything other than movie trailer quotes to attempt to describe his memories of Violet to her as she lay in a coma. There seems to be no individual experience, just shared ones, perhaps you could also make the leap that there is no individuality.
The novel also seems to suggest that too much technology may be bad for you. Those logged in to the Feed begin to develop lesions on their bodies which some seem to wear as a badge of honor. When Violet’s Feed begins to malfunction her body begins to rapidly deteriorate. Also in the dystopian future the air has become polluted beyond repair and the water has become toxified. All of these things show the negative side to too much technology. This story can be seen as sort of a warning of the not too distant future that awaits us if we don’t change somethings.