44 – Welcome to Dystopia, Grampa!


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Little Dog: “Grampa, isn’t the World Wide Dognet cool? I can look up any topic I want! Go ahead, ask me anything!”

Grumpy Grampa: “Fine. Why do I find your incessant optimism so depressing?” 

Little Dog: “Oh, Gramps. You’re too funny! I’ll bet you’d be really popular if you started your own blog!” 

Grumpy Grampa: “What’s a blob?”

LD: “No, silly. Not a blob. A blog. It’s a compilation of your thoughts. Important ideas that you want to share with the world. Very exciting!” 

GG: “Ideas spread on the Dognet like a virus.”

LD: “Yeah, but a good virus!” 

GG: “If only that were true. Bad ideas spread too, Little Dog.” 

LD: “Maybe, but why be so negative? Think of all the good stuff. New medical cures, creative ideas for world peace like promoting harmony and respect for diversity, educating people on the scientific method…”

GG: “Most people think the scientific method is a form of birth control. When I think about the Dognet, I think of fanatics inciting violence against others, or promoting quack scientific theories, or hate speech.”

LD: “Oh, Gramps, you always wake up on the wrong side of the bed. The Dognet can also spread useful ideas and promote public education. Improve the knowledge base of the citizenry! Elevate the level of intellectual dialogue!” 

GG: “The Dognet’s clearly demonstrated what the vast majority of dogs are interested in. Stupid cat videos, dogs chasing squirrels, ridiculous conspiracy theories, deep 15 second ‘insights’, and pornography. And when something scientifically accurate is shared, it’s about 3D-printed guns, recipes for roadside bombs, and designs for nuclear or biological weapons.”

LD: “Why can’t you see the positive benefits? Thanks to the miracles of our modern age, we’re benefitting from an explosion of technology. We can now communicate across vast expanses of geography, and connect with different cultures. By bringing dogs closer together and emphasizing our shared heritage, we can promote world harmony. We can weave stronger bonds, which will lead to a brighter and safer future.” 

GG: “I’ll admit there’s plenty of good dogs in the world, but technology’s enabling the small minority of bad actors to rip apart the fabric of civilization. By vastly increasing the ability of those who want to disrupt society, we now have backpack bombs, mass shootings, and flash mobs of angry dogs who can coordinate and wreak havoc in an eyeblink.”

LD: “But that can be a good thing, too! In repressive political systems, it enables ‘freedom fighters’ to plan demonstrations, spread important information that the government is suppressing, and coordinate activities.” 

GG: “One dog’s freedom fighter is another dog’s terrorist. You’re completely missing my point. Technology, for better or worse, enables the few to disrupt the many. Don’t focus on the variety of social, political, religious, or cultural structures in the world. Look instead at the ability of technology to magnify the effects of small groups on larger ones. This creates instability in all social systems. Set your own values aside, Little Dog, and focus on the technology. The technology simply exists. It’s value-neutral. It’s the dogs who employ the technology for nefarious purposes that’s the problem. The new reality is that small groups of dogs bent on destruction can band together to bring down the entire social structure, no matter what that structure is, and create havoc. Even one dog bent on mass destruction can be dangerous with the wrong technology in his hands.” 

LD: “Do you hear that tune playing in the background? Is that a funeral dirge? Why Gramps, I believe that’s the same tune you were singing yesterday! And the day before!” 

GG: “A funeral dirge indeed. One for all canines everywhere. Faster and more effective communication between bad actors spread across the globe. The ability to encrypt communications, thus hiding their deadly plots from others. Technological advances in weaponry that allow small groups of canines to propagate immense destruction. Think of a small group of dogs bent on havoc and armed with knives, compared to the same group armed with a portable nuclear bomb.”

LD: “The funeral dirge reaches a deafening crescendo!”

GG: “This is our future. Increased social instability due to the ability of small fringe groups to wreak havoc on the greater society. Living in large groups will become impossible due to the ability for smaller groups to wreak havoc. Big cities will become juicy targets. Communities will revert to ‘castles’ where the citizens will be carefully screened. Entering and exiting will be closely monitored. Vehicles will be checked, and personal belongings searched. Video cameras will be everywhere. Limited contact will be allowed with the ‘outside’, and all communications will be subject to surveillance. Freedom of speech and assembly will be severely limited, but the irony is that these local ‘castle communities’ will support these restrictions, viewing them as life-saving measures to protect society.”

LD: “Gee, Gramps. Sounds like a wonderful Utopia! Or is that Dystopia?” 

GG: “Have a great day.”

LD: “Woof!” 

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