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Leon Wieseltier and

Posted on 1/22/2015

The January 18th edition of the New York Times Book Review led with an essay by Leon Wieseltier. Maybe I was tired the first time, so I read it again today. Mr. W. has serious concerns about our new technology and its impact on culture and our society in general. Book stores are closing, record stores are closing, and writers are hovering around poverty. Thoughtful reflection is unpopular and "patience is a professional liability...Where wisdom once was, quantification will now be." He adds, "The distinction between knowledge and data is a thing of the past" and believes the technology penetrates "cognition and consciousness". After re-reading this essay, I felt a jolt. Over fifteen years ago, I published "Interlock", which I recently re-named, "Beyond The Lock". In that dystopian novel, a Great Upheaval led to a complete loss of faith in human rationality. To overcome prejudices, favoritism,populist surges, and corruption,  societies relied, instead, upon the logic of computers to operate their governments. A great solution, eh? What could possibly go wrong?

     But, in this computerized world, a young technician named Luan is hearing voices. Her friends and her sister are worried about her. She's admitted to a psychiatric facility where she receives the most logical interventions according to machine logic. The staff treat the diagnosis, not the person. Only one problem: The voices are real! There is an enclave that has evolved and they need her. 

     Add to this mix some political intrigue and you have the gist of the tale. Working in the mental health industry, one is often directed to treat a client according to "evidence-based" procedures. Pharmaceutical agents give out a free lunch as they push their psychotropics despite a list of side-effects. The bureaucracy demands compliance to prescribed procedures. My initial inspiration for "Interlock" was the mental health system. But, with a wider lens, I discern the impact on us all. Using electrons as a model, we blow car horns, drive at high speeds, and easily lose patience. Discussions quickly dissipate into sound bites and higher decibels. Reasoned replies are often viewed as weakness while hair-trigger thumping gets the applause. The entire culture is suffering from attention deficit disorder! Does anyone remember Marshal McLuhan? "The Medium is the Message"?

     I still refuse to purchase an iPhone. My flip phone is fine, thank you.

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