Series Review: Electric Dreams

by Steve Lancaster1/13/18
By Phillip K. Dick  •  This is an original series from Dr. Evil (Jeff Bezos) Amazon. I have watched the first four of ten stories. I say stories as they lay out as short stories in a book. I don’t remember reading any of them when first published but they strike a familiar note. The first called Real Life, stars Anna Paquin as a lesbian police officer in a future where they really have flying self-driving cars. She takes a technology vacation as another person, a heterosexual black male sometime in our near future, her recent past. The technology that links the two personas leaves the viewer to wonder which is the reality and which is the electronic dream.

The second is called autofac, short for auto factory. Society has destroyed itself in a nuclear war, but autofac is self-contained and its AI continues to ship unneeded goods to long-dead customers. A small group of survivors in the out lands attempt to break in to autofac and shut it down. The effort turns out to be not what is expected by either side.

The third is called, Human Is. This one stars Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad. In a future earth pollution has rendered the planet almost uninhabitable. The quick fix is a rare element from another planet. The Colonel, (Cranston) is sent to acquire the element and fight the planet’s inhabitants if necessary. When he leaves he is a cold-hearted SOB. On his return he has changed, was it the stress of combat or something else. Only his wife has a clue.

The fourth is called Crazy Diamond, and stars Steve Buscemi of Boardwalk Empire. Again, we have a dystopian future presented, Ed (Buscemi) is unhappy with his job, his wife and his life. He dreams of another life and escape. He even restored a sailboat to make his escape on. Technology has advanced to the point that an individual basic essence can be stored and even transferred to other bodies. These bodies are called Jacks and Jills, but there seems to be some challenges with the programming.

As you can see, these stories deal with the interaction between humans and machines, more importantly they each ask the question want is human? Is an alien lifeform in a human skin more human than the human that had the body? Is an AI that self-programs aware and sentient? Those who are familiar with the questions Phillip K. Dick asked in his novels and short stories will recognize these themes, even the dystopian future.  Amazon is to be commended for maintaining the essence of Phillip K. Dick stories. By watching these it’s easier to understand Blade Runner, the original and the recent sequel. Each story has a twist, some easier to predict than others but so far, the science fiction is just that, fiction with a science background. • (286 views)

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39 Responses to Series Review: Electric Dreams

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I’ve read a very modest amount of work by Dick, and he certainly can be weird. (The Man in the High Castle was written with the help of the I Ching — an experiment he never repeated out of disappointment with the results.) One novel of his I read that also deals with the interaction of man and machine is We Can Build You, which deals with a company planning to build replicas of American Civil War soldiers. (They were going to do both sides, but their first model was Edwin Stanton, who argued that no one would want a Confederate soldier. Stanton also notes that if they build Lincoln, as is their plan, they’d better be fond of Artemus Ward.)

    • David Ray says:

      As long as those civil war soildiers arn’t southern! Otherwise our chicken-shit mayor of Dallas will spend over half a mil to air-brush them from history.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      by Dick, and he certainly can be weird.

      I tried three times last night to watch one of these episodes. One started with a gratuitous Lesbo affair and then went on to military/street violence as overdone now in most movies where the mere sound of gunfire substitutes for a story.

      Another started with a dream sequence. Boring. Overdone again. Another (the second) looked like a retread of a combination of Mad Max and Blade Runner. Everything I saw screamed “amateur.”

      Granted, I understand now that I’m not the market for this kind of stuff. But if I was Philip K. Dick, I would just let it be “Electric Dreams” and take my name off of it. I finally punted last night and watched another episode of “Sophia.” Given that this is MLK day and it won’t be too busy here at work, I may try to sit down and watch another. Maybe I have been crap filter set too high.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I did right now just finish the second episode, “Autofac.” And nearing the end, playing over and over again inside my head, was Charlton Heston shouting, “Amazon-dot-com fulfillment centers are PEE-pull.” I’ll tell you why in a moment.

    This is b-grade sci-fi at its most superficial. If you took The Matrix, Soylent Green, and Star Trek’s Borgian “The Best of Both Worlds” and threw them in a blender — with large dollops of Millennial conceits — you’d have Phillip K. Cliche’s “Autofac.”

    If you don’t mind spoilers, I’m going to tell you the entire plot: A small group of people are being ecologically, politically, and socially strangled by the Autofac (think “”) factory/fulfillment centers that keep running on autopilot even after a nuclear war that has brought humanity back to the social structure of Mad Max. These factories are using up the natural resources, polluting the earth, and basically sending out kill-squad droids if you don’t keep cooperating with their automatic deliver system of stuff-no one-really-needs but that keeps being delivered anyway even though nobody has ordered it.

    One of the problems of this episode was it engaged too much in “tell me” as opposed to “show me.” Just one scene of a starving child opening up one of these auto-delivered packages hoping to find food but finding only the latest video gaming unit would have spoken volumes.

    Instead, this imagination-starved Millennial (I assume that Phillip K. Dick is one of those) bypasses telling the story and simply speaks it.

    Remembering that I’m not a Millennial and don’t share their vapid conceits, the most entertaining (and by far the funniest) part of this episode was the girl techie and the guy librarian (who are a couple) who had completely reversed sex roles. You have to watch this just for that. It is friggin’ hilarious.

    Anyway, the techie girl (who is really a guy…or just plays one) and another leader of this small group decide to screw with Autofac in order to try to bring it down. They have a couple low-yield nuclear warheads they mean to sneak into the factory. So they lodge a complaint online with the Autofac system not knowing what will happen. Will it send a fleet of kill-bots or will they get a automated email reply?

    What they get is a humanoid CSR bot sent in a large droneship. She walks out (add in a bit of “Close Encounters” as well) and greets the amazed people. She isn’t going to kill them. Instead, she asks if there’s anything she can do to fix the problem. (We should already be suspicious of the CSR at this point. There to help them? And she actually speaks clear ENGLISH? This bit of sci-fi is too far out there.)

    Anyway, Ms. smarty-pants techie girl tasers the CSR droid when she (it is in the form of a black female) isn’t looking, straps the droid to a chair, and then apparently loads in new programming in order to make the droid cooperative.

    Lots of logic holes all throughout. You’re not supposed to look too closely at any of this. Some of it, in retrospect, makes better (but not perfect) sense in what is revealed at the end.

    And what is revealed at the end is that this CSR bot was never re-programmed. The techie-girl (who is a de facto guy) had somehow come to an agreement with the CSR bot for the bot to let them inside the factory. Apparently the techie-girl had some kind of #me-too unspoken camaraderie with the black CSR bot so that this cooperation all happened automatically. Again, don’t look too closely at any of this. You’ll get the sci-fi equivalent of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

    So a small band gets inside the factory. One of them is killed in the process by a security bot inside (oops..I mean “Autofac”). One of the stupidest cliches (to me) was when techie girl sends this guy off to find the power source or something. He says “How am I going to find it?” Remember. This Autofac place is huge. And they have no map. The techie-girl (who is a de facto guy) says, “Just follow the ducts overhead.” Yeah. Like ducts have never disappeared into a wall or ceiling. This is just writing at its very worst. But perhaps I just look too closely.

    Anyway, the real man (he’s a man playing a man…or is he?…more about that later) who is part of this team takes off on his own set mission and places the low-yield nukes. Meanwhile, the techie girl (who is a de facto guy) is taken to a special room by the CSR bot and shown The Matrix aspect of all this. This is where Chuck Heston’s “Amazon-dot-com fulfillment centers are PEE-pull” comes in. Turns out there are rows of Borg-like pods where (I think…this all becomes a blended mess of themes) real people are kept as models for the bots (CSR or otherwise).

    And then the real Rod Serling (yes…add The Twilight Zone into the blender mix) moment comes. The black CSR bot chick tells the techie chick (who is a de facto guy) that the techie chick, and all of her kind outside of the factory, are actually robots as well.

    But techie chick (you know the routine) already knows this. And we find out that her bot is modeled on the chick (a real techie-chick human, presumably killed in the nuclear holocaust) who built this network of factories in the first place. And knowing that, she came prepared. She had inserted a logic-bomb inside her computer brain. When black CRS chick connects techie chick to the computer via a cable (as advanced as they are, they still don’t have Bluetooth), the logic bomb is uploaded to the mainframe and the factory is shut down.

    Techie chick returns to her band of “humans” (none of whom know that they aren’t human) and then presumably all will be well. But I kept thinking, without those Autofac manufacturing centers, these robots will eventually break down and thus ends the human race yet again. Not sure this techie chick was all that smart. But maybe they go back and make use of the machines.

    This all sounds like I’m busting the balls of this Phillip K. Millennial Sci-Fi Cliche guy pretty hard. I don’t object to some of the ideas. But he should settle on one and then really flesh it out. Instead we get this grab-bag of stuff. And I doubt such people have the self-awareness to see through their vapid Millennial conceits — at least enough to tone them down. But it would help.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      From the short wiki-bio on Dick, it would appear the man had mental problems. I would not be surprised if this was the case with many sci-fi writers. People who go to such outlandish ways to pretend things are not what they are, would tend to being a little bit out there.

      I await the incoming (figuratively speaking) neutron torpedos.

    • Steve Lancaster says:

      Phillip K. Dick joined the singularity in 1982 at age 53. He was I suppose one of the original hippies, before it became a fashion. He had few close friends and generally told the world to, “F off”. His dystopian view of the future is troubling for many readers. I seem to recall that he wrote several Twilight Zone as did another iconoclast from the 60s Harlan Ellison.

      Brad, its easy to pick apart this kind of fiction. Remember logic is a pretty flower that smells bad.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I don’t think either Dick or Ellison ever wrote for Twilight Zone, though Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont did. Ellison did write some episodes for Outer Limits.

        • Steve Lancaster says:

          Must of been outer limits I was thinking of then, thanks Tim

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I did some checking just now in wikipedia. Dick doesn’t seem to have written any teleplays or screenplays. Ellison did 2 episodes for Outer Limits, both of which I’ve seen. He never wrote for the original Twilight Zone, but did a couple of stories for the ’80s version.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Hahaha. Love the Spock reference.

        I was in the middle of watching more of the first episode. I’ve seen the lead actor naked, so it’s got that going for it. (“True Blood.”) I love Anna Paquin. I mean, I really do. If she axed me to marry her I would. I would even consider risking prison by benevolently stalking her. She’s just the ticket.

        But she’s into dead guys, so I really don’t have a chance.

        I used to think that I’ve read a lot of sci-fi. But compared to Timothy and Mr. Kung, I’m just a novice. But I’ve read some very good sci-fi. And I love sci-fi movies and series TV. Playing “what-if” with reality is interesting. And it’s always a fine line between suspension of disbelief (excepting things such as “warp drive,” for instance) and not being able to do so.

        From what I saw in “Autofac,” suspension of disbelief wasn’t a factor. It was just sheer juvenile uninspiring gadget-type gimmickry masquerading for having an original thought. And maybe the original stories are quite good. I just assumed that Dick was the dick behind the productions. I didn’t know that he had joined the singularity back in 1982. I could just then put this down to a bunch of hack yute wannabe directors with a budget just big enough to make them dangerous.

        But I’m still watching. I wish I could tip a beer (or Diet Coke) back with some of you blokes while watching this. I’m still laughing about the swapping of sexes in “Autofac” between the techie girl and the librarian. Really unintentionally funny stuff best shared with a friend.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I love Anna Paquin. I mean, I really do. If she axed me to marry her I would.

          I didn’t know who she was so looked her up on wikipedia. Be ready to share her with girls. She is ecumenical and likes boys and girls. Of course, she must make a big deal of her perversion.

          There really is something about the entertainment business that attracts weirdos. These are the people in control of our mass media.

          And you wonder why the culture is so screwed up.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I watched “Real Life” this afternoon and that was a stinker. Boring. I’m going to try one more.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I just watched the sixth episode of Electric Dreams: “Safe and Sound.” It’s the first one I’ve run into that I’d call adequate.

    It’s very much along the lines of the movie, The Circle, reviewed here.

    This is really the type of episode where we need to bring the entire StubbornThings brotherhood and sisterhood together in a private theatre venue and then have a panel discussion afterward complete with open bar.

    Absent that, let me outline the major themes. And, remember, I have idea of the author’s original intent or if the makers of this series adaptation is intentionally or unintentionally revealing.

    1) There is a battle for defining reality.

    In this episode (and I’m making some assumptions because it’s not completely clear-cut), the government is falsifying constant reports of terrorist activity in order to make the population pliable and amenable to the “protections” offered. These “protections” at the moment are offered by getting everyone to wear a “Dex” ring around their wrist as well as airport-like intrusive security everywhere you go. It’s like an Apple Watch on steroids. It projects a holographic image that you can interact with, load and use apps, etc. It’s really neat and there is absolutely no question at all that today’s brain dead yutes would sell out their civil liberties in a heartbeat, if only to keep up with the coolness factor, and particular because these are offered free, or nearly so. And, especially, if they give you access to things like, well, just about anywhere you want to go…movie theaters, etc.

    You can’t watch this and think about the legions of people being brainwashed as to what is really going on by the mainstream media, as well as Orwellian entities such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter that filter the news.

    2) Gullibility. And I’ll be nice here. I won’t name any specific sex, gender, 1/2 gender, mix, Palomino, whatever. The weakest part of this episode is (slight spoiler here) how they get this chick (well…I tried) to believe they are helping uncover terrorists. Some guy (or is it Suri?) talks nice to here through her Dex device — sympathy, sharing, blah blah blah — and then he owns her. Guys are way gullible too. There are scientists who truly believe in global warming and a lot of other dubious stuff as well. But I think chicks are especially vulnerable to flattery.

    3) This isn’t a main theme of the episode. It’s touched on in passing. But this chick is going to this one school which has, of course, ultra-tight security so that everyone inside is “safe.” That means, apparently, that guys are free to demand sex from any girl, particularly because they are certified STD-free.

    And there’s no such thing as just being nice. This black guy helps the chick by telling her about the Dex. He then expects sex from her in payment, right then and now.

    There is an aspect of this where women, once again, are victims and men are the bad guys. This episode falls in line with that, although it’s not necessarily front-and-center. But anyone thinks that a buttoned-down security state doesn’t automatically have the ability to do weird stuff like this is too busy smoking dope to have a clue. Think of TSA groping and what-not. Everyone was technically “safe” but this safety had reduced them (and was reducing them) to chattel.

    The end of the episode (another small spoiler, but you can see it coming) is that another terror plot is uncovered and this time it’s cause for the government to implement even tighter restrictions and new technology. And all for “safety,” of course. And as much as the male-abuse thing was inserted in here, it was probably inappropriate because the real issue is the female’s desire for security to the extent that all other considerations are ignored. That is what is driving all this.

    This episode had a mix of themes, which isn’t a bad thing if kept in proportion and ordered within and on top if each other somewhat seamlessly. If you’ve seen “The Circle” you probably don’t need to watch this. But I’m guessing I won’t find a better episode amongst the ten that are offered in this series, particularly after a couple dogs that I watched.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Perhaps this will lead to telescreens to provide both propaganda and surveillance. These days they don’t need to be wall-mounted TV screens; they could be smartwatches carried on the wrist.

    • Steve Lancaster says:

      The first thing I thought about was that Safe and sound was the precursor to Handmaids tale. I watched about 15 minutes of that, threw up and decided that driving nails into my eyes was never going to get it out of my mind.

      On a more positive note safe and sound fits in with the general tone of the series of what is human, what is monstrous and what is alien.

      When we went to school there were no fences, metal detecters, on campus police and yes, violence and tragedy did maker it in the door, but by-and-large our parents, teachers and the neighbors watched out for us and did a pretty good job.

      The real tragedy of this story is that its not so far fetched. My second son went to high school in Sacramento and graduated in 2000. They were debating the feasibility of micro-chipping each student to be able to keep them—-safe and sound.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        The real tragedy of this story is that its not so far fetched.

        Absolutely it is not far-fetched. We must remember that there was a Stalin, and recently. Totalitarian states are almost the norm throughout human history. Self-government is the aberration. As I think Dennis Prager has often noted, people want to be taken care of.

        That a new kind of totalitarian state would wed hi-tech and a kind of nanny “niceness” (particularly playing to feminine desire for security) is not at all far-fetched. The little monsters coming out of university are entering the halls of power even as we speak. These are morally dubious people and quite possibly a little insane. Nothing happened in this episode that isn’t happening now to a significant degree in our own culture.

        Granted, this episode may have bit off a little more than it could chew. Just the one theme of the state defining reality for its citizens would have been enough. We see in our own time this being done, for all intents and purposes, by voluntary apparatuses, not the state. It’s amazing we are doing this to ourselves through the media and the entertainment industry. Of course, government schools help to create and amplify this echo chamber as well as the collusion of bought-and-paid-for science establishment.

        This is one reason I’ve backed out of the daily drama. There is a notion of insanity about it all. To be a person endlessly arguing about this stuff (while doing nothing about it) is to be the very definition of being manipulated. You can be left. You can be right. You can be this. You can be that. But if you don’t come to understand that getting caught inside this Daily Drama serves the purposes of both statist sides then you are the very definition of a useful idiot.

        The broad parameters of this drive for ultimate security I think are twofold:

        + Atheism. If nothing matters then extending your life and your comforts are the only things of importance.

        + Feminism. It is the female wants, not the male wants, that now drive our culture. Let’s acknowledge men’s propensity for war and violence. But the thing men do provide is a clear sense of justice. With all due respect to women, most broadcast at least a mild emotional and intellectual choas with a range of about a hundred yards around them. And as we train our men to be more like women they become less and less able to distinguish right from wrong, to protect and enforce justice, and to just call a spade a spade and put a stake through the heart of nonsense. What “nice” and “tolerant” actually mean is the unwillingness to discriminate between good and bad, desirable and undesirable, and (as we see) ultimately what is nice and what is not nice.

        What we see in so many of these dystopias (whether there is a heavy technological component or not) is nonsense gaining the day because either people are afraid to call a spade a spade or their emotional and intellectual capacities have been so corrupted that they are left with no option but to go along to get along.

        By the way, I got about 3/4 through “The Father Thing” and just had to give up. If there’s a fantastic ending, let me know. But this was one of the most boring portrayals of what is basically Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Another interesting thing about the “Safe and Sound” episode is the inversion of propaganda regarding terrorism. In this episode, state media wants people to believe there are terrorist attacks happening that are not happening. In our mainstream media, they want people to believe that the terrorist attacks that are happening are not happening.

    Granted, there is little separation between the Democrat Party and the mainstream media in our own world. So the mainstream media acts, in effect, as Pravda. In the episode it would appear that that the state owns or completely controls the media. But I still found it interesting that there is this reversal. But the common denominator, of course, is misleading people for purposes of the ideology of the state (or at least those who are running the state).

    Arguably, the state in this episode is not torturing people. They’re not killing their own people. In fact, people seem to be living very comfortable lives. If they are being controlled, one could argue it is for the perpetuation of a status quo which is tolerable and, to use a modern word, sustainable.

    In the case of the Democrat Party, their methods and ideology (apologizing for terrorism, flooding the country with third-worlders) has a component of angry destruction to it. There is no comfortable status quo they wish to preserve. They simply wish to tear down that which exists because they hate it (for various reasons, reasons having more to do with adult temper tantrums and psychological perversions than anything logical).

    As creepy as the control is in this episode, these guys are not the Democrat Party.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      A pleasant form of control sounds like Brave New World. That is at least an improvement on modern totalitarianism, such as 1984, We, “Harrison Bergeron”, or (to some degree) Fahrenheit 451.

  6. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    While we are on sci-fi, I watched the movie “Prometheus” and found it disappointing.

    There were a number of glaring weaknesses in the movie, including characters and time-line problems. There were also some problems regarding the science, which I will not go into as I would have to give away most of what the movie was about.

    Michael Fassbender was the best part of the movie.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Do you mean this film from 2012? Haven’t seen that one and I guess you’re saying I don’t need to.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        That’s the one. I was disappointed with the film. I almost stopped watching it, but decided to stay with it in the hope that it would improve. It didn’t.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I looked it up on wikipedia, and it seems the movie started out as a prequel to Alien, but became a lot more complex — though still involving a hostile and deadly alien race carrying a corrosive poison internatlly.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            still involving a hostile and deadly alien race carrying a corrosive poison internatlly.

            That was only a small part of the film. The bit about the corrosive poison was over in a minute of so.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          That’s one of the three big hopes (or lies): I love you. Your check is in the mail. And “I hoped that it would improve.” I bailed out of one of those Electric Dream episodes because there seemed no hope for it. I really should have bailed out earlier…although I pretty much did, browsing the internet while waiting for “The Father Thing” to do something original. It never did.

          I did that more or less recently with a book. I mentally pulled the plug near the end although I did at least skim through until the end. But at some point, you have to pull the plug.

          I try to have at least a little resistance to pulling the plug in the early going. I’ll give books 50 pages (unless it’s obvious tripe or just not what I thought it was) and movies twenty minutes. Longer for movies if it’s the kind of movie where it looks like it’s honestly setting something up and not just spinning its wheels.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I have occasionally given up on a book before the end, a notable example (as I’ve mentioned here before) being Robert Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast, which I stopped reading near the end because Heinlein identified too strongly with Lazarus Long and had him attack critics even though Long had no occupation that would lead to such views.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              And very rarely (and I’m thinking exclusively of movies) a movie will bale itself out with a strong last third. Can’t think of one off the top of my head.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                I am, generally, pretty patient with both books and movies, but as I get older, I find I am willing to bail out more often and earlier.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                In my case, I pretty much read books I can expect to enjoy. The biggest indicator is the author.

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Speaking of the episode, “Safe and Sound,” there’s a deep metaphysical or philosophical aspect to this:

    + Libertarians tend to believe that all restraints on personal autonomy are illegitimate. The self is supreme. And somehow that just all works out.

    + Liberals, who scoff at any notion of ultimate truths or a God with objective standards, say the state is the ultimate and only legitimate force, guided by enlightened Progressives who always act for the greater good. And somehow that just all works out.

    + There are somewhat fundamentalist religionists who believe God is supreme (as interpreted by them) and any and all aspects of society must be directed according to His will.

    And then you come to the America conception (fast being lost…if, in fact, anyone at all can articulate it today) whereby:

    + Individual liberty is a fundamental element but one balanced with the need for order.

    + We do need good people to lead us, but allowances must be made for the fact that all men are not angels.

    + Our ultimate rights come from God as revealed by common sense, reason, and tradition, but this is tempered by the fact that our societies are not meant to be a theocracy in which the purpose is channeling God as effectively and purely as possible via The State (making The State effectively into an idol). Rather, God’s purpose is worked out through our individual purposes which require a large dollop of freedom. We are not to be just cogs in a machine, even a religious one.

    Given that most people these days have gone insane, holding three distinct, but integrated, notions in one’s head at one time is more than can be asked. But I do think that is a reasonable conception of what we call The American Experiment. Most episodes such as “Safe and Sound” touch on this or that element, and usually in a higgledy piggledy fashion. It can take a while to eek it all out. I’m still not sure that without a firm foundation in the various aspect of The American Experiment that anyone could draw much useful out of these various dystopias.

    Is the message no government? No safety, all freedom? What? What we do know is that basing a nation on godless Leftist morons is not a good idea.

    • Steve Lancaster says:

      I think I would just shorten that to: basing a nation on morons is not a good idea.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Good point, Steve.

        One aspect of this is that civilization itself has always been an attempt at raising ourselves above the level of the beast — or at least small towns organically accumulated themselves into large cities (many of them quite beastly in ways never even imagined in the countryside). More modern farming techniques and the industries that followed inventions allowed for specialization. Man no longer had to spend most of his day trying to get enough food to eat.

        So where do we go from here? The current trend is to move the goal from merely increasing our physical comfort to increasing our psychological comfort. Few here object to modern conveniences. But is it even possible, let alone desirable, to turn entire cities, states, or nations into “safe places”?

        That’s one central aspect of the utopian forces we are facing today.

        • Steve Lancaster says:

          Modern western culture has, for the most part, solved the critical problems of humanity. Food is readily available in quanties and quality unimaginable, shelter and clothing in the same way. Even in the “shithole” countries of the third world there is economic progress, albeit slow generally due to the kleptocracy that runs the country, generally communist or socialist.

          The philosophical question is why are so many well-intended people determined to surrender what could be the beginning of a golden age of humanity to some mystical ideology ?

          I can only attribute it to fear. Fear of the fall of culture, that we may have reached the top of our cultural evolution, that we are the new Rome. I think that may explain the dystopian view of the future that Dick writes about. It is understandable but in error. Humanity will continue, we will make mistakes, some of them catastrophic but in spite of the chicken littles with their heads buried in the sand; I believe in our future as individuals and as a species.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            The philosophical question is why are so many well-intended people determined to surrender what could be the beginning of a golden age of humanity to some mystical ideology ?

            It seems to be the same situation prior to WWI in Europe. If not a golden age it was at least a gilded age. Most were living very well.

            I don’t disagree with anything you said. I just would add some elements, particularly feminism, liberal fascism, and the inherent influence of what is now a large and intrusive state.

            • Steve Lancaster says:

              I saw a study the other day that said if you have a yearly income of $5000 a year you are in the top 5% of income earners world-wide. That does tend to put things in some perspective. Even the most unemployable snowflake makes $400 a month just in terms of food, clothing and shelter. Perhaps we should accuse them of being the 5 percenters.

              There will be another major war that is going to bring some existential questions, but as Heraclitus said, War is the father of us all.

              Maybe civilization need be thrown back from time to time in order to grow.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Perhaps we should accuse them of being the 5 percenters.

                Gratitude is the one virtue missing from most people. Including me. I guess it’s a sliding scale though. But as dorky and cliched as it may sound, we need to look at things as if the glass is half full. We need to be able to look at a pile of dung with our name on it on Christmas morning and think “Wow. I got a pony.”

                The core virtue of this site making a passing attempt at escaping The Daily Drama is because that drama is all about recreational bitching. Nothing feels good like a good complaint, even if dressed up in a black tie and hifalutin’ language.

                And there’s nothing wrong with pointing out things that need improvement. But I would guess that a near majority of people have made recreational bitching their mode of thinking, at least when online. And I don’t think that’s good. And that’s why I don’t do Facebook anymore. And I certainly don’t do Twitter. And I don’t want that disease to spread here.

                I’ve taken steps to try to immunize ourselves against it, if only by self-consciously stating the case. But you can only lead a horse to water. If someone has a good rant in them that is coherent, clear, concise, and interesting to read, I’ll publish it. But it’s with the understanding that this site doesn’t exist merely so you can feed your grievance addiction. All things in moderation.

                The Snowflakes become snowflakes in the first place because they believe they are entitled to have their views always appreciated and never opposed. They feel entitled to always getting what they want. In essence, we’re talking about Snowflakes becoming Snowflakes because they never have to escape being children.

                But adults can understand history and the rest of the world and that even our poor have it better than 95% of the rest of the world.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                Gratitude is the one virtue missing from most people.

                Years ago a friend gave me a book titled, “Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.” The one thing I recall from that book is the line, “Gratitude is the shortest lived emotion.”

                The author hit the nail on the head.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Before the Great War, many theorized that there would be no more major wars, partly because of wealth and partly international trade rendering each state dependent on the others. A book on the air war noted that each major power dominated production of a different airplane component.

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