Long Blog Post #1: Excessive information does not necessarily make our lives better

While Anderson claims that his intention of writing Feed “wasn’t really to predict future tech” in the Epilogue of the book, it is hard to deny that the novel indeed presents us a highly potential situation of our future life—a life swamped with boundless information provided by new technologies like the feed.  On one hand, the unlimited input benefits its users.  As the novel suggests, the feed is a high-end apparatus that only people with a certain level of economic power could afford, since it equips you to a full extent that you can easily get all different kinds of information without taking efforts to look for them.  Yet, the feed has disadvantages as well.  Through Titus’ perspective of his and his friends’ lives, we get to see that the feed, as a representative of the new technologies that enable people to access immense information, actually prevents people from learning, from sensing the real world going on around them, and from thinking on their own.

The novel indicates the feed’s negative impact on education in an implicit way.  Rather than directly criticizing SchoolTM, it shows that people, especially teenagers, are becoming lame in taking in new knowledge, as they can easily look everything up using their feeds.  Violet’s description of her parents, who did not have feeds during college, pointedly shows the fundamental changes that the feed has brought to the traditional way of learning:“ I guess it was really hard.  They couldn’t remember things the way everyone else could, or see the models that were in the air, you know, of chromosomes or stamens”(p225).  Consequently, Titus and his friends no longer need to worry about memorizing things, where they even start to lose the ability of precisely expressing their thoughts, as they usually cannot find an appropriate word.  For instance, when the group try to break into the minibar, Marty could only say “You broke off a…a thing. You broke off a fuckin’ thing” while he actually means “a caster”(p32).  Similarly, Titus is unable to recall the word “bowtie” but has to depict it as “the neck bat”(p35).  Violet also confesses to Titus that he is “the only one of them that uses metaphor”(p63).  In other words, the literary accomplishment of Titus’ generation is indeed becoming alarming because of the ultimate convenience the feed provides.

Besides, the overwhelming information from the feed also bewilders its users, leading them to blindly pursue the trend created by the corporations and stop thinking about what they really want independently.  For instance, Calista gets an “insane macro-lesion” on her neck since “now that lesions are ‘brag’. Now that they are the spit”(183).  Likewise later in the novel, Quendy even gets her entire body covered in these fake lesions.  While lesions were considered as flaws and disgusting, they suddenly become symbols for coolness and impressiveness once the feed starts to promote them in the way.  In this sense, users of the feed like Titus and his friends are not necessarily thinking about the contents that the feed advocates, where their value system could substantially change under the feed’s manipulation.

Last but not least, the feed has gradually changed people’s way of living, leading them to even ignore the real physical world around them.  When Titus and his friends walk around the moon trying to do some shopping, they cannot find the incentive to buy anything from the “stupid physical moon stores” because whatever they need, they can “get better ones off the feed, and have them sent to [their] house”(p31).  The adjective “stupid” likewise suggests Titus’ generation’s scorn for the physical stores.  Therefore, the feed is no longer a medium for its users to explore the real world, but almost becomes a barrier.  Another example is when Titus gets into the bar.  Instead of enjoying the heated atmosphere, his attention is quickly caught by the tachyon shorts that some of the guys are wearing, where “all of the prices were coming into my brain, and it was bam bam bam”(p35).  In other words, the limitless information from the feed is indeed preventing users from wholly sensing the real world around them.

In general, despite of the feed’s benefits, the negative impact from its excessive information on people’s lives should not be ignored, as the meaningless information makes people shallower rather than more intelligent.  Titus claims that “our heads felt real empty” after waking up in the hospital with his feed stopped, which clearly implies how people have lost their own agency to the machine (p46).  Meanwhile, Violet’s remark further specifies the point: “I think death is shallower now. It used to be a hole you fell into and kept falling. Now it’s just a blank”(p145).  In other words, the feed is depriving people of their motivation to explore the world and to live a real life.  Is that an implicit accusation from Anderson on the new technologies?  Whatever the answer is, readers of the book should likely be alerted about the excessive information that we are getting in nowadays.

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