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What are we for?

May 25, 2009

Matthew B. Crawford’s article in the New York Times yesterday, which I talked about in the last posting, is really taking off – #1 article on their site, and it prompted an interesting Slashdot discussion as well.  It’s an excerpt from his book, Shop Class as Soulcraft, coming out next week.  To blow my own horn, here’s an excerpt from chapter one of my book, as Caroline realizes how precarious a “knowledge worker’s” existence could be in a crash of civilization:

She had an idea for a MMORPG – she’d call it “After the Fall.” When civilization ended, which everyone knew it would soon, who would survive? How? You’d have to be able to get to land that could feed you, and a permanent source of fresh water. You’d have to know how to repair some sort of machinery, how to build shit, how to be of any use to the people with whom you’d have to band together to survive so that they’d take you in, so you wouldn’t be dead weight. You’d have to shoot everyone who tried to invade your little village and take the land, the water. To play the game, you’d have to really know what car parts were what, one kind of nail from another – the knowledge base would be so ridiculously large it would probably take a server farm of Googlian proportions. It entertained her to think of a game she herself would lose instantly; she often thought of all the people like herself, symbolic analysts who’d die by the roadsides in the millions after a real collapse, barely able to pump their own gas let alone build settlements. All the strutting peacocks who would demand to be admitted to the walled fortresses of the survivors, who’d claim their right to be fed and watered because of their “unique leadership skills harnessing synergy.” All these skills she had, up to and including this most decadent one of all, how best to waste time, would become bits of history as absurd to the next generation as the lead-based face painting and religious self-flagellation of yore were to us. Around the campfires children would never believe so many scores of people used to get paid just to sit at a desk, reading and writing and talking.

With any luck, I’ll actually complete chapter four today or tomorrow morning.

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