The other day I was walking down a dirt path, when I spotted a man who looked very fashionable, and he was in quite the hurry. He was dressed in technology and modernity from his head to his feet. And his gaze looked as if it could penetrate stone.
On his head he wore a mesh baseball cap. But there was no baseball team represented. It was blank. And it was black. His ears were filled with devices that played very loud and rapid frequencies of electronic music. But I saw no wires. His hair and beard were expertly trimmed. From his neck hung a very thin gold chain. His chest carried a tunic of advanced polymer fabric which wicked his sweat away. Each of his wrists carried electronic devices equipped with radios that recorded and communicated his vitals and progress toward his health goals, which were forever beyond his grasp. His shorts were light and strong, and his feet were caressed in invincible polymer layers that gripped his individual toes and protected his soles while putting an artificial spring in his step. His hair and beard were black. And everything he wore was black. His name was Jack. And in his hurry he bumped right in to me.
Rob: Excuse me, good sir. But you should also excuse yourself. For surely our collision was an accident.
Jack: I excuse no man. I only deal with peak performers. Now move aside, citizen, for I am in a great hurry.
Rob: Are you running late for something? I noticed your haste. And it saddened me that you did not have the opportunity to gaze at the beautiful trees and sky and mountains around you.
Jack: I have no time to gaze around like a simpleton, or a child. Now move aside, for I am very late.
Rob: You strike me as an accomplished man. Who could have the power to put you on their time?
Jack: I am on my own time. And many others are on my time as well. My time is extremely valuable. And I would appreciate it if you would stop wasting it. Just now I am being informed that my heart rate has dropped below my plan. This is unacceptable.
Rob: I meant no harm. Are you headed south? Toward the tall tower?
Jack: Yes I am. As a matter of fact, and I only deal in my own facts, I am a very important, wealthy, and accomplished man, and live very high up in the tower. And I must return to the tower at once for a long series of calls.
Rob: I thought you were on your own time.
Jack: I am. It was I who scheduled these calls. I or one of my many secretaries. It was my money, my wealth, that purchased these phones. There are many who await my decisions. So I make sure to spend my valuable time talking to these people and making decisions for them.
Rob: You have more than one phone? Why on earth would you live like that?
Jack: I have thousands of telephones. On them I listen to hundreds of conversations at once.
Rob: Wow. What are all these people talking about?
Jack: It does not matter. So long as they are talking. And so long as they don’t say anything I do not like. It is my business to make them talk. And it is my responsibility to make sure they talk about the right things. For as long as they are talking I am making money.
Rob: Isn’t money great?
Jack: Money is everything. Money and power.
Rob: What do you know of power?
Jack: You do not know who I am? I am the most powerful man alive. For as soon as somebody on one of the telephones says something that I do not like, I simply rip the phone out of the wall, and throw it over my balcony. It takes over a minute for it to reach the ground far below. There is a whole heap of them down there.
Rob: I would get sick living all the way up there. Don’t you fear that you may fall off one day? Or maybe somebody who does not like what you say or do throw you off the balcony like one of your sacrificial telephones? Do you ever worry somebody will silence you the way you silenced them?
Jack: Impossible! They need me. They love me. They worship me. And besides, I control what they believe. They could never believe I am not their savior. It was I who gave them their telephones to begin with.
Rob: I have noticed very few people talk to me like they used to. People spend all day talking on their telephones. They think I am crazy for not having a telephone.
Jack: You are crazy. You have been left behind. You cannot compete in the influence market without using my telephones. And they are free! Why don’t you have one?
Rob: I never saw the appeal. I’d rather try to be a good person than endlessly try to influence other people. And I saw all my friends that got telephones get very stressed, and they started to get all sorts of strange ideas in their head. They quickly started using new words and believing new things that did not make any logical sense at all. But they believed them very passionately. And they said if they did not believe them lots of angry people would call them and chastise them. It never made much sense to me. I guess they got influenced.
Jack: What's the matter with you? You don't like technology?
Rob: Oh I love technology. It's silly to imply that the only technology in existence is the technology of mass media. There is technology everywhere. True technology gives us vitality, and freedom, and gives us better ways to read the book of nature. It seems you only see technology as a means to take these things away from us and serve your own selfish ends.
Jack: You are a relic. An artifact. You will be left behind. Your friends will leave you. You will die alone. You will become irrelevant and starve without access to my digital influencer economy.
Rob: I don’t know, Jack. I grow my own food. I have a family that loves me. And I love them. Is there anyone you love Jack?
Jack: Peasant. I have no time for these delusions, these brain chemicals. I have drugs and entertainment and I constantly bed beautiful women. My life is far superior to yours. If you had a telephone you would realize this and it would make you envious.
Rob: Sounds exhausting.
Jack: I am genetically and neurologically enhanced to not feel exhaustion. I take 60 pills a day that give me bountiful energy and keep me young.
Rob: That’s cool I guess. What do you do with all that energy?
Jack: I destroy my enemies.
Rob: I’d hate to be your enemy.
Jack: I just destroyed one the other day! It was magnificent.
Rob: What happened?
Jack: There are many things and people that I hate. But there is one man that I hate above all the others.
Rob: Tell me about this man.
Jack: He is a horrible man. And destroying him makes me a good man. I hate him so much.
Rob: What is so bad about him?
Jack: He hates people. And he used my telephone to say all sorts of bad things that I did not like! He loves money and power. He makes up his own facts, he wears black, he has committed acts of sexual immorality, he lives at the top of a tall tower, and he does bad things to people he does not like. Oh I hate him. I hate him so much. Finally I got my chance. And I ripped his phone out of the wall and threw it off the balcony and it felt so good. I also spent hours ripping out the phones of many of his friends. And all my friends got together to make sure he could never use a telephone again.
Rob: I don’t know, Jack, sounds pretty familiar. I once read that we become what we hate.
Jack: In a book?! How?? Jeff told me he was getting rid of all the books.
Rob: So why now, Jack? Why did you wait so long to destroy the man you hated?
Jack: He finally went too far. He was encouraging violence. That was my chance.
Rob: That's terrible. But what about you, Jack? Wasn’t ripping the phone out of the wall an act of violence?
Jack: Of course not!
Rob: Jack you got all your money and power by helping people communicate. This sounds like the opposite.
Jack: You do not understand. I cannot let people communicate in that way. They oppress people.
Rob: So you oppress them? That doesn’t sound like it will help in the long run.
Jack: I know what I’m doing. Otherwise I wouldn’t live at the top of a tall tower.
Rob: I have seen that tower swaying in the wind. I feel you may have built too high, too quickly, too greedily, without a strong foundation.
Jack: I used the latest in foundation technology! The tower can never fall. My experts have assured me of that.
Rob: What about the phones? What if people stop calling? If you keep ripping out and throwing away these phones there will be nobody left to call.
Jack: Impossible. They are eating out of my hand. The more I abuse them, the more they love me. That is how the world works.
Rob: That sounds like something the other man would say. Jack I think maybe you should take a break from your phone calls and read a good book.
Jack: I have no time for those obsolete relics. Now I really must go. Ever since I threw away the evil man’s phone there have been many, many more people saying things I don’t like. They must be silenced as well. They will learn to only repeat my facts. Not the evil man’s facts.
Rob: Facts are written by the victors. At one point saying the earth moved was a vicious, seditious lie. This is why censorship is so dangerous. It makes the process of discernment impossible. Jack, you and the evil man are the same. You cannot win by silencing and oppressing the things you do not like. You need to let people make up their own minds, even if they end up disagreeing with you. Before long people will tire of your obnoxious telephones. They will resent what you have done to this man and his friends. They will realize that you are trying to control them just as the other man in black tried. And you will both fail. And one day, your tower will fall, and you will look back on your empty, wasted life, and the altar of false technology you have built. You will remember all the people and ideas you silenced. You will realize that you worked not on the technology of freedom, the true technology, but on the technology of control. You may still have your money, but you will no longer be relevant. You will wish you could exchange your money to correct the mistakes of the past but you cannot. And you will be remembered. Not as an innovator. But as a censor. You have not brought us forward. You have sent us backwards.
Jack: Enough! I have had enough! When I get back to my tower I am going to silence you too!
Rob: I do not have one of your telephones Jack. Now I must go. I have a lot of reading to do. And my tea is getting cold.