I got back from my bathroom-and-bar escape, determined to move the conversation in a less unpleasant direction. And I had noted that Alex wasn’t wearing a mask, even though the bar – at the governor’s demand – had a sign up.
“You’re not worried about the virus?”
“Listen, I can’t have sex anymore and I have three serious health issues, any one of which could kill me within a few days. I’ll be checking out within a few years. I’m not going to spend my time living in fear. Screw that.”
“Sorry,” was all I could find to answer.
“It should be good for you, though.” I looked at him in some confusion. “Your enemies are shooting themselves in the foot, don’t you think?”
That cheered me up a bit. “Well, at least in some ways… shutting down the schools interrupted the greatest source of compliance inertia they had.”
He nodded. “How many families do you think will start homeschooling now?”
“I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up in the millions. Very definitely they pushed anyone thinking about it over the edge into action. Lots of previously uninterested people will be pushed into it as well. However much they trash-talked it before, they want their kids to learn. Video teaching won’t work very well, and two-days-on-three-days-off would be a scheduling nightmare… not to mention the prison camp rules the CDC is promulgating.”
“Well, that’s how I see it too. One of my old contacts is predicting ten million homeschooled kids within the next two years… along with lots of universities crashing and burning.”
I had to have been smiling, because he noticed and smiled with me.
“You guys are gonna win you know.”
Alex and I worked together at a cypherpunk project, so I knew what he meant by “you guys.”
“Maybe not you personally – it’ll still take some time – but your stuff will win in the end.”
“Tell me why you think so,” I asked. “They’ve interrupted their mass conditioning of the children, and that’ll have big effects in a decade or so, but what else?”
“Well, money, of course. You guys finally got your crypto coins working. I know they’d like to kill it, but doing that would come at a huge cost these days… and you guys would work around it anyway. They couldn’t even get rid of pot (cannabis) after throwing a trillion dollars at it. How are they gonna get rid of sound money once theirs goes unstable?”
“I don’t think they really can,” I said. “They’d have to trash the Internet, and the intel bosses would never allow that.”
“Right,” he said, “they’re cooked, and they know it… or at least some of them do.”
“There is one big problem remaining, Alex.” He looked at me and waited. “Mass surveillance plus Big Data.”
“I figured you guys would solve that.”
“Oh, we’ve solved it. The problem is that no one’s willing to pay for it.”
“How much does it cost?”
“Not a lot. Two hundred bucks per year.”
He looked shell-shocked.
“On top of that, there are a ton of garbage sites promising the same thing, for cheap or free.”
“So, the world is being destroyed with the ‘free candy in the car’ scam?”
“Yeah, pretty much. A few serious people come to us, but a tiny percentage.”
He sat frozen for a moment, then got angry.
“Then you guys had better do something about it!”
“I’d love to, Alex…”
“No, you don’t understand. If they get their way, it’s the worst of Orwell and Huxley put together!”
“I know, Alex. I’ve written books about it.”
“Then you’ll have to do more! I have a dozen nieces and nephews, and I don’t want them growing up in that [crap]!”
I agreed with him, but I can’t force people to admit that Google and Facebook are vampire parasites.
“Look, Alex, they’re in too deep. Until they feel serious pain, maybe even face death, they’ll defend their previous investment… they’ll just keep saying, ‘Isn’t hurting me!’ My partner and I are holding the door open for anyone who wants to escape, but how do you convince people of something they don’t want to see?”
He sat silently for a minute or so, thinking.
“Okay, look,” he finally said, “the happily hypnotized are getting old and dying. The young are no longer finding a glitzy world to hypnotize them, and those in-between are being seriously disappointed. Those people are going to start waking up. Pain does that.”
I said, “Well, that’s true, but they find solace… they find status and meaning… in Facebook. And they get an endorphin rush from anything that’s free.”
“So…” he paused in thought. “The new concentration camps have ‘Free Shit’ written over the gates rather than ‘Work Makes You Free.’ Is that it?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“I don’t care!” he said fiercely, “You guys have to figure something out!”
I began considering 12-step programs for Facebook addicts. He sat silently, letting me think. After a bit I raised my eyes again.
“Listen,” I said. “We’re trying and will continue to try. And we’re open to ideas; we already tried several without success. Check with your network, and if you come up with anything, you know how to find me.”
He nodded and muttered a sort of “okay.” I’m not sure I’ll hear from him again, and it would certainly be odd to take ideas from a guy in that profession, but these are strange times, and I try to take good ideas no matter where I find them.
We talked a little bit more about old friends. Then I helped him into a cab and watched him drive of into a foggy night. It seemed fitting.