Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
If you were a fan of the Talking Heads, you’ve probably been following the unpredictable activities of David Byrne over the years. He looks pretty good, with his white hair and his bicycle. He turns entire buildings into musical instruments.
Recently he wrote a piece for Creative Time Reports called “David Byrne: Breaking Up with the Internet,” in which he lambasts the current state of affairs online and offers a few rambling notions about what a new Internet might look like. Truth be told, he comes off sounding a little like Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man (“That’s the way it was and we liked it!”), but he makes some interesting points.
Namely, this whole Internet thing has gotten out of control vis-à-vis government surveillance and corporate data collection. We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore. Oh, except that it’s all so convenient, and changing things will be too hard.
Byrne first imagines that a band of marauders breaks into a key Internet node and destroys it, then spatters the room with radioactive paintballs that render it unrepairable. (Kind of a stretch, Dave.) What happens now? he asks.
Somehow he envisions a new Internet, but we’ll still have email. He imagines that life will go on after the old Internet goes away, but it will go on more like things were in “the old days” than now. We’ll take a big step backward so that we can move ahead more intelligently from there. We’ll keep the mitts of Google, Facebook, and the NSA off of our private details. Things will be secure because there’ll be no back-door spying, no hackable entryways. But we’ll still have Wikipedia.
I guess, I’m calling bullshit on good ol’ DB. I’m not sure what good it does to make a flagrantly impossible proposal, only to conclude, “Let’s find it within ourselves to give up some convenience and become a little more human.” You don’t see him shutting down his website, though, do you.
Philosophically, sure, I’m on his side here. But coming across as a dreamy imagineer only gives the other side more ammo. Net Neutrality is dying because corporations are funding its demise while we fantasize about radioactive paintballs. Negative changes are insidious and constant, while ideas for positive reform — which always come from the grassroots — are speculative and fey. Shades of Occupy Wall Street.
Byrne’s right about one thing, though. Everything passes, and the Internet as we know it is bound to pass as well. The question will be what influence can we bring to bear on its evolution, or do we simply continue as the good little consumers we’ve been so far?