The iPod is Clearly an Early Version of the Feed
For those who haven't read FEED by M.T. Anderson, you should before you continue with this entry if you really like for your books to be a total suprise, for those who think book reviews ignite interest, then read on, for those who have already read it, I'm about to spark your paranoia receptors. This isn't a book review, but I will talk about the book a little. When you really look at it, the iPod is very clearly an early version of M.T. Anderson's Feed. Here's why.
Last night I was running with my wife when I began blurting out seemingly random comments about biotech. I had been listening to a podcast featuring interviews with leading biotech researchers while running on my iPod. Since my wife works in biotech, naturally I wanted to share what I was listening to with her. After listening to what must have seemed incongruent, conjectures about what's happening in her industry, she replied, “All I want to know is whether you have the good feed or the bad one.” I said, “What?” She repeated what she had said and what she had put together finally dawned on me. When I understood what she was asking, it almost made me stop running.
In Feed, people have gotten so attached to the internet and media that they get implants which keep them connected to the web 24-7. This allows spam and popups to go off in their heads constantly, and they can chat through the Feed, etc…. basically everything we can do with a computer, they can do in their mind. In the book early versions of the feed were large and required the person to carry a backpack with an eyepiece. How about a little white box with two ear buds?
I noticed that while I was not online I was listening basically to ads for various biotechs. I even blurted out that I wanted to send my resume to some guy who was being interviewed. I also noticed that I listen to my iPod while shopping with notable rap stars intoning Bentley, Mercedes, and most notoriously Motorola 2-way paging, which has now obviously been supplanted by BlackBerry. But I'm listening to ads while just walking around doing my daily business, even while working. With podcasting it just gets stupid. Just like M.T. Anderson wrote, even though the book is decidedly tongue-in-cheek. However, since I read it in my senior year at CSUH, during a children's literature course, I was reminded of something my professor asked the class. She asked, “Do you see any way the future could be any different?” What she meant was than M.T. Anderson's bleek view of the world in the near future. My answer was no. There is no way we are going to avoid the future he paints. That was when it gave me pause. I was hoping there would be some time before it started, but it looks like its happening right now. The iPod is just the beginning of a continuous trend toward people becoming one with the internet.
It seems funny now, but it is at the same time both wonderful and terrifying. With unlimited access, there are millions of ways for everyone to have access to the sum of human knowledge, but at the same time there are millions of ways for people to get at your knowledge. When Steve Jobs said in that interview that he was standing on a corner in New York, and that he looked around him, to each corner where he could see people with white earbuds and said to himself, “My God, its happening.” He meant that the iPod was becoming part of the American way of life, but I am echoing his sentiment not because I am glad that the iPod is successful, but instead because I know that the separation between man and machine is much smaller than most of us would hope, and it is getting smaller with each iPod sold. With rumors of Wi-Fi enabled iPods that would enable people to wirelessly listen to each other's songs and podcasts, video iPods so we could share movies and TV shows we liked Ads and all while we are on the go, you can easily see where this is going, what could be better than an iPod in your brain?
Part of what was interesting about the book is how it makes you feel, on one hand most people will be thinking, “that is horrible” all the while wishing they had a feed. It was this sensation that made this book so gripping. Also, obviously not for a mean measure of skill on M.T. Anderson's part.
But back to the good Feed, bad Feed thing, in the story a person gets a cheap Feed that ends up causing problems, these problems are more complicated than just a technology malfunction and since I want everyone to read the book I won't go too much into detail about it. My dear wife was just making sure that I had the best feed that money could buy, and I do, now just to make sure that my daughter has an even better feed, and I hate myself for it.