Posted by: markfender | April 23, 2013

Pay Per View Life

The future belongs to crowds. – Don DeLillo, Mao II

bostonIf you’ll forgive a bit of pretentiousness, the quote above is about how media is the last place to affect change.

“Who do we take seriously? Only the lethal believer, the person who kills and dies for faith…It’s confusing when they kill the innocent. But this is precisely the language of being noticed, the only language the West understands.” – Don DeLillo, Mao II

This power can be seen in various tragedies the country has experienced recently. What do the Boston bombings, school shootings, and movie theater shootings all have in common? They took place in crowds, where people gather. We can’t always prevent such tragedies, but we can do something about the targets. If we stopped gathering en masse, there would be fewer targets for crazed people to get attention.

Luckily, the solution exists. Google Glass. Instead of going to a concert, we can buy tickets to a feed from an audience member wearing Google Glass. These could be arranged by seating section with perhaps only seven total people in the audience, each equipped with Google Glass and a secure internet connection. The audience, at home, would be connected to the rest of the audience through things like Google Hangouts, Twitter, and other social media. And, hell, since there’s only seven people in the audience and they’ve all been pre-screened, the band could let them wander around on stage so that everyone actually ends up closer than they could’ve if they’d showed up in person. This same idea could apply to other events. More people watch the Super Bowl at home anyway, so this isn’t even a stretch for how you’d normally experience it.

The same idea applies to school. We don’t need to actually attend if we’ve got webcam access. We can still participate in class discussions, albeit a little more convoluted. You could argue that students at home would spend less time engaged because of constant easy distractions, but I’d counter that they’re all on Facebook anyway while in class, so there’s really no difference. And I’d rather pay for the “3rd-row slacker” video feed than fight for parking at school.

Now, humans are social animals. We need that social interaction. But this method of engaging doesn’t prevent that. There’s nothing stopping those Super Bowl parties. Pooling money to pay for the Pay-Per-View fight still occurs with interested people showing up for a raucous time. The intention is not to wall off everyone into their own social media bubble, but to prevent mass-crowds from making a tempting target for terrorism. Spontaneous gatherings are still going to happen and smaller, more intimate gatherings will still happen.

This won’t prevent all such tragedies. The World Trade Center wouldn’t have been saved because of the need for people to all be working in the same location (although telecommunication could do a lot to lower that). But perhaps the people in the planes wouldn’t have needed to travel. Likewise, fertilizer factories would still explode and oil spills would still happen – these are safety issues more than crowd-issues. Malls would still exist as people will still need to go buy things. Our streets won’t end up being abandoned with this initiative.

So, I suggest Google Glass on a livestream feed would do more to prevent senseless tragedies. The technology has reached a level where this is possible. Let’s engage in different ways with the events that occur and thereby change the future.  Some might see this as giving into fear, but I don’t see it that way. It’s removing the target, in effect deweaponizing the terrorist. Since gun control is apparently impossible in this country, this has to be the next best thing. Avoiding crowds, traffic, overpriced snacks, trough-style urinals, and other indignities of the mechanics of gathering a large group of people together are inconveniences that we live with. But we don’t have to. Embrace the new and avoid the crowd.

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