reading notes for “Everything Belongs to the Future” by Laurie Penny

Meanwhile: consider that time is a weapon.

Time is a weapon wielded by the rich, who have excess of it, against the rest, who must trade every breath of it against the promise of another day’s food and shelter.

History shows us that the ramifications of any new technology have as much to do with how we choose to distribute it as they have to do with the technology itself. I am not a politician, nor am I an economist. I am a scientist. But it seems appropriate to hypothesize here that a future where life-extension technology is available only to those who can afford it, or to those whom society considers useful, will look very different to a future where life-extension technology is more broadly available

“It was always somebody else’s apocalypse. Until it wasn’t. The end of the world was an endless dark tomorrow: always arriving but never actually here. For generations, the elected and unelected leaders of the world had weighed the cost of averting drastic climate change via collective, immediate and lasting technological investment against the considerable inconvenience to their personal lifestyles, done some calculations on the back of a napkin and come up with the answer that it was somebody else’s problem. Somebody who probably hadn’t been born yet. If all else failed, their own children and grandchildren would probably be able to afford a place on the last helicopter out of the drowning lands. So, that was alright. The fix changed everything. Suddenly, the same people had to plan for a future in which they’d actually be around to see London and New York swallowed by the hungry ocean. Suddenly, the end of the world was a story about them.”

this is the way the world ends—not with a bang but a bonfire.

Smoking was an affectation shared almost exclusively by fixers and dirt-poor anti-gerontocracy activists with nihilist leanings

The truth is that life extension itself is not sinful. The only sin is to treat time as a privilege. We have been given the gift of extra time to live, to love, to do the work of our hearts. We discovered the fountain of youth, and then we put it behind high walls and poisoned its promise.

Don’t eat the fairy food. Don’t make deals with demons. They play under the table with cards you can’t see, and they can make you pay forever, and they are always smiling.

contemporary, unresolved, forgotten

“Making art was a decent excuse for breathing. Making good art was one of very few ways to earn an honest living. Make great art and you can cheat death.”

“Cells work together like groups, she wrote, but groups don’t work like machines. People get upset and problems happen but that doesn’t mean they’re broken. People find a way to compromise and work together, and that’s what makes the difference. The people here weren’t like the people who delivered Daisy’s patents. They dealt, in their own way, with stories, which meant they dealt in lies. Justice and its meaning. Money and its machinations. Money and justice are all about whose lies are the strongest. But these stories worked together like a lattice”

“The Future Executioners are all about the effect of the fix on the human spirit,” said Nina. She seemed truly excited. “They believe that all art is a confrontation with mortality, and if you take that away or delay it, it cheapens the whole thing. Poisons it. If you’re going to be young forever, what’s the point of writing a book that outlasts you? Or a poem, or a song?”

““Biotechnology is neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral,” he quoted one day, stirring his coffee delicately with one leg of his spectacles in a way that would have horrified Daisy’s mother. “That means that it’s not enough to just come up with a miracle. You have to consider how it will be applied. What good is all this,” he said, indicating the door to the lab behind them, “if it only benefits those who can afford it?” None of Daisy’s training had encouraged her to think this way. Those questions were for philosophers, not pure scientists like her. “My wife is an illustrator,” Saladin said. Daisy tried to keep her face neutral, unbothered. “It’s just as important as what we do—no. That’s not right. It’s not a competition. These things, they don’t work without each other. The precision, the focus, the testing—we can’t do that and think about the implications at the same time. That’s why we need artists. People who think in entirely opposite ways, working together. That’s how we move forward as a species.””

“The thing about art is that it insulates you from consequences,” said Margo, scooping garlic mayonnaise out of a tub and slopping it onto the bread. “As a therapist, I always think of art as a way of rehearsing trauma, making the unutterable random injustice of life legible, or at least bearably illegible.”

Protests, when they happen at all, those can be understood. The world doesn’t change when a bunch of people march from A to B, although it’s always good to get out in the fresh air. Art gets to be something else. It gets to be a provocation. To find the fulcrum of culture and exert pressure.

“This is an old story. For generations, undercover agents in “democracies” have been encouraged to start sexual relationships with women activists. Some of these relationships lasted for years, leading to marriage and even children. The practice was widely condemned, but never forbidden—officers in the early twenty-first century claimed these “relationships” were necessary for agents to maintain their cover. Interviews with the agents spin these stories as tragic doomed romances. The women involved describe the experiences as a violation. We believe them. We believe the women duped into bed by these agents were subject to the same kind of violation. It is impossible to obtain informed consent from a person you are planning to betray—even for the best of reasons. This logic extends to the consent of the governed.”

“What did we ever want? More time. Of course, we never needed chemical intervention for that. We just need permission to live. Most of us never get to simply pass time. Instead, we’re made to spend it. We spend time, and the value of our seconds and minutes and moments depreciates with every week and month and year that passes. Time broken into billable units, and never enough of them”

The aging woman is a special object of horror in this gerontocracy.

“If one puts aside for a second the question of strict political morality with the understanding that it is dangerous to do so for more than a second one soon realizes that the Time Bomb is as much a paradigm shift in human violence as the machine gun, the tank or the atom bomb. Few lives are lost in its detonation, except at the center of the blast zone; strictly speaking, no injuries are caused. It is a weapon at once entirely humane and utterly monstrous. The potential military applications are enormous. The potential social applications are unthinkable.”

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  • Last modified: 2019-01-18 16:15
  • by nik