18 Warning Signs of a Deadly New Lifestyle – by Ted Gioia: — but they’re not all symptoms of the same disorder — or anyhow not in the same way.
“Anthropophobia — the fear of other people — is on the rise” is the chief theme, and “Time spent alone is rising for all demographic groups” and “People no longer build friendships” are related phenomena. But others may reflect quite different motives and concerns.
For instance: “After centuries of intense urbanism, more people now want to live in the country — away from bustling cities, suburbs, or even small towns.” This could be a symptom of anthropohobia, but it also could arise from a desire to reconnect with the natural world, a world our social order hopes to make irrelevant. (“Why move to the country when you can watch this YouTube video of snow falling in a wilderness cabin? — and without ads for a nominal monthly fee!”) So a desire to move to the country might be related to a settled and well-earned suspicion of Technopoly’s ability to meet all our needs.
(I know some folks who left big cities for small towns or the countryside during Covid and now couldn’t be brought back at gunpoint — and it’s not because they dislike people. They meet fewer people in the course of any given day, but the ones they know they know better, more meaningfully, than they knew the people they saw on a daily basis in the city.)
And: “Even humanities professors don’t want to deal with human beings.” The essay that Ted links to discusses, among other things, the difficulty that editors of academic journals have in getting peer reviewers for the submissions they receive. Until fairly recently, here’s how that worked: A journal editor wrote to me and asked me to review a manuscript. If I said yes, he sent me the manuscript and I wrote back with my thoughts. But now? An editor writes to me, tells me that he or she has taken the liberty of assigning me a username and a password at a website that manages a “reviewer database,” and at which I may fill out various forms and click various checkboxes on my way to providing a review that meets certain pre-specified criteria.
To that I say: Oh hell no. And my refusal is the opposite of not wanting “to deal with human beings”; it’s my declining to accept a transaction from which the humanity has been surgically removed by robots.
(Also: Why do editors have recourse to such semi-automated systems? Because they get so many submissions. Why do they get so many submissions? Because publish-or-perish is still the core principle of academic employment, and in an ever-shrinking academic job market humanities professors are cranking out scholarly articles at an unprecedented pace to try to make themselves viable candidates for the tiny handful of jobs still available. The real problem lies far, far upstream of my refusal to become another entry in someone’s database.)
So the various examples that Ted gives of this “deadly new lifestyle” point in varying and in some cases opposite directions. Some of these developments show people succumbing to Technopoly; others involve resistance to Technopoly. And that’s a big difference.