One thing that’s always bothered me about sci-fi movies is how bad
everybody’s communications technology is. Well, that and the costumes. Seriously,
if the future is Spandex, I take back what I said about never wanting to
die. But anyway, every brave new vision of the future you see,
the phone system has gone to hell. Alien, Star
Wars, Battlestar Galactica, you name it: people
are flying around, firing laser guns, and talking through intercoms that
make them sound like Stephen Hawking gargling. Even a simple video link
spits and fuzzes as if they’re tuning it through a coathanger. Will the future
really be filled with technological marvels that enhance every
area of our lives but this?
Now I realize: yes. We’re already on the way. I used to listen to music on
CD, watch TV on a television, take photos with a camera, and talk to
people on a phone with a cord. Now I have
internet radio, MP3s, YouTube, VoIP and a cellphone.
Even my home landline is a wireless thing that makes people sound as
if they’re calling from inside an empty beer can.
I don’t yet watch TV on my cellphone, but my phone company wants
me to, even though the screen is one inch wide. I do take photos and videos on it, and that’s what I’ll have
to look back on: a bunch of 8x6 pixel images
and footage so jerky everyone seems to be having a seizure.
You know where this started? Vinyl. Oh yes, we laughed, when the
purists said CDs didn’t sound as good. Well, maybe you didn’t,
you weren’t born. But ask your Dad. Those long-haired
freaks were right.
I was going to let this slide, because
for schools to chase the corporate dollar are
And I like to reserve my outrage for really odious new forms of
marketing. Not just
whacking ads on anything that moves,
but the truly insidious slime you don’t really notice until it’s
smiling you in the face. Like the
offensive” aimed at making the French more polite to tourists:
gives me the heebie-jeebies. Polite French people? That’s just wrong.
I like my French arrogant. If I ever step off a French airplane and
hear, “Missing you already!,” I will take that as a sign of the
But to schools. This particular push for big business to step in to
educate young minds
comes from Professor Brian Caldwell, who calls the
public funding model
He says partnerships with business could be valuable for both parties, for example in areas of science and technology.
“With a company like Rolls Royce you’re getting not only cash support but you’re also getting the opportunity of having top engineers work side by side with your teachers and your students and who also can provide marvellous work experience so yes there is self interest but it’s a self interest that matches the public interest,” he said.
Phew, that’s lucky. For a minute I was worried that the public
interest in delivering quality education to children might not completely
overlap with Rolls-Royce’s interest in stuffing great wads
of cash into the pockets of its shareholders.
Actually, I had thought that if we were brainstorming for large organizations
with scads of money and an interest in public education, we might have
thought of, you know, the frickin’ government. I mean, I don’t want to
blow their cover, but government does occasionally provide services
for the national good. Roads, bombing things, education;
there’s a whole package.
What really bothers me here is the persistent idea that you can
get money from companies for nothing:
Professor Caldwell doesn’t believe there is danger of too much interference, such as for example fast food companies influencing students’ diets.
Corporations are the most ruthlessly rational economic entities on
the planet. They have to be, because if they aren’t, they die. They
are subject to intense competitive pressure, and the evolutionary
effect is that today’s corporate giants are the sharpest, most efficient
wealth-generators in history. Anything they do, it’s because there’s
I’m fine with that. But I’m not letting one loose in a school
without asking: What does it get out of this? Or put another way:
What are we selling?
Advertising is so pervasive is because
everyone thinks it’s money for nothing: you put up some ads, you get
paid, what’s the harm? The non-monetary side of the transaction can’t
What’s the undivided attention of a twelve-year
old worth? What’s the real cost of making our police
dependent on ad revenue?
What’s the final invoice on installing corporate patriotism in our
I don’t know. But I bet it ends with smiling French people.
Regular site defacer Shahab writes:
We need Max’s comments about the iPhone launch!
I think if I was writing Jennifer Government today, it
would be phones, not sneakers.