Bradbury’s classic scientific tale describes what can happen when virtual reality and “smart home” technology clash with Freudian psychology. As Freud himself once wrote about modern human beings: “In reality, they have not fallen as far as we feared because they never rose as high as we believed.”
Some of you have been asking when I’d get around to including some Phillip K. Dick on this site, but now the suspense is at an end – or, more like it, it’s only just beginning, because this story, like the rest of Dick’s writings, packs a pretty punch. Dick left us over thirty years ago, but he saw a lot of things coming a long way off. Like this comment, resurrected for the Snowden era: There will come a time when it isn’t ‘They’re spying on me through my phone’ anymore. Eventually, it will be ‘My phone is spying on me’. That time is today. Touché, Phillip.
Regarding tonight’s podcast: I’ve never much cared for ticking clocks and watches myself, let alone chimes and cuckoos, and this story goes a long way to explaining why.
As tonight’s story shows, there’s no quicker way to appear as a fool than to try not to appear as a fool. The English novelist and short story author Hector Hugh Munro was born in Akjab, Burma, in 1870 and was felled by a German sniper at the battle of the Somme in 1916.
Both Guy de Maupassant and Alphonse Daudet dedicated a number of their short stories to the events and aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War, France’s national trauma. While we today tend to forget the horrors of that event, their stories preserve the misery and shame of those years. These stories remain a powerful indictment of aggressive war and its all-too human consequences.
In this classic essay, Vernon Lee shows us how life and discovery are phenomena that occur while we are busy running after trains. Lee (1856-1935), a member of the Aesthetic Movement, lived long before our current digital age of high tech toys, but she nevertheless already realized its implications. As she wrote in one of her essays:
There is an unlucky tendency … to allow every new invention to add to life’s complications, and every new power to increase life’s hustling; so that, unless we can dominate the mischief, we are really the worse off instead of the better.