Space Ramblings

Ray Bradbury, Luddite

Around the time that internet became culture, the internet developed an odd relationship with Ray Bradbury. Bradbury’s books were still popular, but his unabashed opposition to the internet and ebooks made for some uncomfortable moments.

“When did Bradbury become such… well, such an old man?” Graeme McMillan at Time Magazine complained. Bradbury was never old or he was always old. This was who Bradbury always was and it was odd that anyone could read his books without realizing that.

His best known book was an attack on a society filled with technological entertainment. Fahrenheit 451 isn’t just a book about book burning, it’s a book about an America where everyone watches television because it makes people easier to control. Where the television is fully interactive and you can participate in the stories together with your friends.

You can make fun of Bradbury for talking about “internets”, but he saw MMO’s and social gaming coming and he didn’t see anything good about them.

Bradbury was enthusiastic about some kinds of technology. He was in favor of space exploration. The technology that he was suspicious of was mobile entertainment and communications technology. He disliked portable radios playing music, phones and surveillance equipment. He distrusted technology that dehumanized or diminished life.

Was Bradbury wrong about television and the internet? Kind of pointless to talk about it, since he didn’t use the internet and probably didn’t understand it. The internet has its own pros and cons, but Bradbury’s criticisms have been made by even its biggest enthusiasts. It distances us from people.

Bradbury’s cynicism about technology was more popular when it was fashionable to talk down television and worry about the reading culture. When the internet became culture, suddenly Bradbury was being treated like an “old man”. And that reaction justified his distaste for the medium.

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