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Monday, March 7, 2011

Who's Dominating Your Feed?

Post by Jenny Ramaley

Our theme this month is 'blown away.' M.T. Anderson's book, Feed, did it for me. His story sent chills down my spine. First published in 2002, this story feels eerily prescient. Especially if you have teenagers who embrace technology.  (His web site is pretty cool:  http://mt-anderson.com/ )

This young adult science fiction book tells of a future when computer/transmitters are implanted deep inside people's brains, like the ultimate wireless device.  Most communications are done internally over the 'feed' piped into everyone's head. The 'feed' is produced and provided by a corporation that encourages everyone to shop around the clock.

Over time, people have become dumbed-down. They've lost the ability to speak effectively (who needs to talk when you can constantly send email-type messages), and to learn and think for themselves (who needs to memorize or struggle with concepts when you can instantly pull up data and info from the 'feed'). 
The story follows rich boy Titus after he meets a fellow teen, Violet. Unlike Titus and his friends whose wealthy families had them implanted at a young age, her 'feed' was implanted late, around 7 years old. 
SPOILER ALERT: Although her family never wanted to have her implanted, her father tells what changed his mind: "Then one day … I was at a job interview. I was an excellent candidate. Two men were interviewing with me. Talking about this and that. Then they were silent, just looking at me. I grew uncomfortable. Then they began looking at each other and … smirking. I realized that they had chatted me, and that I had not responded. They found this funny … that a man would not have a feed. … I did not get the job. It was thus that I realized that my daughter would need the feed. She had to live in the world."
The problem is that things can go wrong when implants are done so late in life. At 17, Violet's 'feed' becomes infected. Her family cannot afford the repairs. The corporation behind the 'feed' refuses to help fix her transmitter. Why? Because Violet doesn't shop enough or spend enough money, and therefore isn't "a reliable investment at this time."
Violet dies.  
I couldn't help but think that if her dad hadn't bowed to societal pressure, her body never would have shut down from a malfunctioning implant. But if her dad had stood firm, Violet would have grown up professionally and socially handicapped from the lack of a feed. 

Why does this story give me chills? I remember when young kids started getting their own cell phones. We thought getting expensive electronic devices for middle-schoolers was crazy. But soon all the kids my children knew had them. We resisted as long as we could, but eventually we broke down and got them their own phones.
Technology. It draws us in then controls us in ways we never expect. We're sucked further and further into the abyss with a never-ending stream of new devices that we have to have to function in today's world.  
So what will you do when implantation becomes a reality and everyone is doing it? Will you implant your kids?
Are you sure about that?

1 comment:

  1. You picked a great book to be blown away by, Jenny. I almost picked Feed as my book to review, too. It's eerie how realistic this story is becoming. I think about it often every time my children tell me they need to be able to text message their friends. What happened to a simple phone call... or talking in person?