In Which Zero Dutch Worries About the Future

Thus spake Tycho: (read the comic first, if you haven’t yet)

I’m horrified when I think about the shit I got up to online, as young as thirteen.  My mother let me do things I’d never let my son do in a million fucking years, but those things were deeply formative, so I honestly don’t know who is in the right.  My “peer group” then consisted largely of childless adult proto-nerds, real Mark-I models, the almost exclusively male cloister that would eventually pass the mantle to us.

I have seriously been concerned about this, namely, what degree and type of internet freedom should we offer our own progeny when the situation arises? I was pretty much untethered and unsupervised, online, as a kid; mostly, this is because my parents were still roughly at the “How do you copy-paste?” level of technological aptitude until after I departed for college, and had no idea what was “out there.” I largely stayed out of trouble (in that, I did not get caught or in any way suffer consequences for the illegal shit I may have done) but that seems as much luck as skill.

Of course, there are real differences between The Internet circa 1994 and The Internet circa 2012, and FSM only knows what the Net’ll look like in 2025. A higher proportion of the world is online; much more of the place has been weaponized, and I’d wager a higher proportion of its denizens are Up To No Good. But it’s not like the place was filled with happy, altruistic nerds until Y2K, especially not in the places I was hanging out in my long and fruitless search for the mythical leaked copy of Sim City 3000.

But those hours dicking around warez and mp3 communities (long before “pirating” became the nomenclature de jure du jour) were formative, and were kind of crucial in developing the skills and interests that to a large part define me today.

What I fear will happen is that we will become our parents: a generation of people who fondly remember a youth full of raiding construction sites, setting off fireworks, and playing in the woods until called for dinner, yet who fear to go out in public with their own children without a literal leash. That we will look at something so important, so formative in our own development, and then in part because of those experiences, deny the same to our children.

Yet I find our parents’ logic compelling, if only in a don’t-look-inside-the-ark sort of way. Maybe Bizzo’s right; but parenthood doesn’t only make you make poor choices w/r/t politics and non-familial interpersonal relationships, but also re: your own children as well.




One thought on “In Which Zero Dutch Worries About the Future”

  1. I’ll see and raise you their last comic. They were obviously on a wave.

    So many ways we could go with this. So little knowlgedge either of us is working with. It’s what I really think, but I’m a childless idiot, so let’s call this playing devil’s advocate anyway: 

    Gabe and Tycho, dads, obviously have a thing for the happy facist no-rape no-klansmen zone of the Wiiverse. And that’s understandable even to an idiot, when you think about the kind of places a kid, or even an uncalloused adult, can wander into on XBL or Firefox. We just did a whole thing on this, and no way do I think that a small subset of screaming misanthrope white guys throwing animal porn at strangers is “normal” “adult” or “toughening up.” I’m sure there were perverts and grifters and schitzophrenics on your old message boards in 94, but they were a different subset of very determined tech geeks who were too busy doing other things, I think. Pure opportunity cost. When any angry, bored 15 year old or any really hateful 20 year old who knows no code but some photoshop can follow a ten year old back to his social media pages and send and say whatever they want to his classmates, uncles and teachers … I think you’re right and wrong at the same time. Humanity didn’t change and online actually got many more functional and casual people and as a percent, is *less* dysfunctional. But that doesn’t matter to the twelve year old when the absolute number of predators has skyrocketed, and there are no longer fences around your house. 

    So yeah. It probably got worse for a kid, overall. And that isn’t a kind of humanity any kid should have to know about, until later. 

    But then again. The Wiiverse, the creepy white edgeless mandatory smile disneylant … that isn’t the world a child should get used to, or be relegated to, or be trapped in by a parent. You’re also right that the kids on leash thing is … not a sign of thoughtful parenting.

    Explo still haunts me and I have the urge to take this in a kids-as-perfect-reputation-for-parents-machine. And no doubt keeping a child unbruised and untainted by awardless meandering plays a part in this attitude. But not every kid goes to Yale. So the point has to be bigger.

    Disneyland is repulsive. Kids with crippling allergies because their parents hosed their universe with lysol and locked the door are a tragedy. Teenagers who get shit on by bullies because their parent always threated to sue the school when other kids messed with them at 10 are a certain kind of abused. 18 year olds who never got hurt and never did anythings stupid because their mom still runs them from the school door to music tutor to SAT superprep to home to perscription calming medication, and then utterly self-destruct in college and jump out a window, are victims of somehting. And right now, if you can’t face down a hater on Facebook without calling your mom, or avoid falling into money, information and pervert traps online because you _hear about what really happens from peers_, you’re probalby being misparented similarly. There’s a line somewhere. It’s probably blurry as fuck and very scary for parents. But the internet in all its modern forms is, in the end, just one more place to live. In the end you can either test yourself and learn to live there by growing up and getting a little tougher and a little smarter and a lot more aware of what goes on … or you don’t. 

    Tycho misses his own point, I think. He grew up in a different “this,” but close enough that he learned the technique that makes his life better. When trapped with trolls he … turns the mic off,  doesn’t bother with the trap, finds his own friends, and uses the same technology that exposed him to the haters, to enable he and his friends to meet up without them. He closed the fucking window and opened another. He wasn’t naive, or lonely, or confused, or rebellious-for-no-reason enough to stay in there and play the haters’ games. And that came from ancient experience. Including probably, some dumb and disturbing shit. I think that’s where you want a person to be, or as close to that as possible, at 12 or 15. It’s not that easy, there’s real danger, no one is ever totally safe. But, such as it always was. At least with these perverts you can press the Power button. Hopefully early. But you’ll never know that if you’re too protected to find out, until all at once you aren’t. 

    I say, aim closer to the street than the leash. Keep an eye, be available, but work on building strengh, not shelter. It’s the future, but the purpose of childhood is still to grow up. 

    But what the hell do I know. 

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