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Shady Illuminations

Problems Solved

by John Shade

Generic image illustrating the article
  With some problems, the only problem is thinking there’s a solution, John thinks.  

You won’t find me on Facebook. I don’t need fake “friends” who will ask me to voluntarily self-defriend if I don’t feel worthy of their friendship or when they have reached their friend quota. Like Mal Reynolds, I prefer real friends who will stab me in the back to my face.

In the real world, false friends eventually sort themselves out. You don’t know whom you can trust. You get stabbed in the back. Problem solved. Generally, I’ve found, things have a way of sorting themselves out. It’s what makes me such an optimist.

Evil Corporate Monopolies

Take evil corporate monopolies. In the middle of the 20th century, IBM dominated the computer industry. Corporate purchasers bought IBM to keep their jobs, not because of any technical supriority of its products. IBM employees wore the company uniform, sang the company songs, and toed the company line. IBM’s competitors were referred to as dwarfs. (That was the official spelling of the plural of dwarf before Peter Jackson wrote “Lord of the Rings.”) And then there was the whole supplying the Nazis thing.

Mainly, though, IBM represented the dehumanization of humanity or something like that. People were being folded and spindled and mutilated. I forget just what. It was bad, though. And when, in 1981, IBM revealed its sinister plan to take over the personal computer industry, too, it was clearly the beginning of the end for humanity.

But by 2004, IBM had sold off its personal computer division to the Chinese and was but a shadow of its former dark power. Problem solved.

In the meantime, Microsoft had replaced IBM as the evil corporate de facto monopoly to fear. Microsoft, as any sensible person could see, was going to crush all so-called “competitors” and embrace and extend all the life out of the industry and, with its commercials, all the joy out of life.

Then Microsoft began to fade. It would be fun to blame it all on Steve Ballmer, and personally I’m fine with that. Now Microsoft has posted its first quarterly loss and I’m sure we all agree that it’s all downhill from here. Pretty soon they’ll be selling off their software operation to China and will focus entirely on cloud services.

Meanwhile, Apple has become the evil corporate de facto monopoly to fear. (Google, of course, is protected from temptation by its magic do-no-evil mantra.) Apple, it turns out, was evil all along, but it never had the power to crush its competitors and enslave developers and users. Now it does.

But just this year the cracks began to form. You’ve seen the Genius commercials. You know where they are leading. Pretty soon Apple will hire Jerry Seinfeld or Jerry Lewis as its spokesperson and it’ll be all over.

My point is, there’s really no point in worrying about the unlimited power of some corporation over every aspect of human life because eventually that company is going to be dethroned by some other horror from hell.

These things have a way of sorting themselves out.


Or take guns. There’s apparently some sort of debate in the US about access to guns. As a coward, I naturally avoid debates that involve weapons. It would be my policy to befriend those who have them and hang out with those who don’t, except that I’m not into befriending or hanging out.

But soon the whole matter will be moot. It will be sorted out, as all important issues are, by technology.

It is now possible to print your own guns at home on your 3D printer. Proof of concept created, 200 rounds fired, debate resolved. Oh, and I said “gun,” but I guess we’d better make that “assault rifle.”

So check that one off. Before long practically everyone will have the means to print their own guns in any quantity they want, in the privacy of their own homes. (Once you’ve printed the first one, you have the means to acquire the money to print as many as you like.) Guns are going to go from a topic of national debate to a track at Maker Faires. These things have a way of sorting themselves out.

Lessons Learned

So if I can leave you with three lessons, they would be: ignorance is bliss, procrastination now!, and leave it for the night shift.

The TV series “Breaking Bad” almost didn't happen. As its creator explains, if he had known about “Weeds,” a TV show about a single mom supporting her family by selling pot, he wouldn’t have had the nerve to pursue his TV series about a dad supporting his family by selling meth. The moral of the story is, what you don’t know can help you. Also, if you can’t support your family on your coding skills, there are other options.

Yes, we could solve the problem of global warming if we had the will to do so, but if we procrastinate, the problem’s not going to go away and in the meantime we may put an end to the puzzle of why Greenland is icy and Iceland is green. Also, Greenland’s melting ice may expose large stores of precious metals. So there’s your silver lining.

Leaving it for the night shift is going to have a new meaning when workers who don’t sleep invade the workforce. Yes, unemployment is still unacceptably high, but remember that you’re only unemployed if you are actually looking for a job. And it looks as though the long-awaited robot workforce may be starting to arrive, making that problem moot.

These things have a way of sorting theselves out.

John Shade was born under a cloud in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1962. Subsequent internment in a series of obscure institutions of ostensibly higher learning did nothing to brighten his outlook. If ignorance is truly bliss, he doesn’t want to know it. Send him your feedback or discuss the article in the magazine forum.