Feed by M.T. Anderson
Published September 23rd 2002 by Candlewick
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
“The natural world is so adaptable...So adaptable you wonder what's natural.”
Playbook. Kindle. One-universal remote. Iphone. Playstation phone. Ipad.
All these new gadgets incorporate whim and whit at your fingertips with their appealing touchpad-sleek surfaces, dancing menus and glinting, popping applications, all-tool profiles that serve as your book, your wallet, your credit card, your feet, your office, your mailing system, your camera, your thoughts, your robot unicorn attack game, your television, your eyes, your brain. Well, maybe not yet, but almost.
That’s what Feed by M.T. Anderson is all about, though. Set in the coruscated time of our over-developed world’s future, this dystopian novel approaches the idea that one day we might not need all those Ipads and Youpads anymore, for all these flickering tools that fill us with glee and aplomb are integrated in a chip called the ‘Feed’, located in our very own brains, meaning that it’s time to forget the touchpad and chop off our fingers; who needs them anyway when whatever you want to see, learn, read or buy can be accessed with your mind? Here follows the official blurb of the novel.
“Spending time partying on the moon and riding around in his "upcar," Titus is an average teen of the future, complete with a computer chip implant -- the "Feed" -- that lets corporate marketers and government agencies broadcast directly into his brain. Then Titus meets Violet, and an anti-Feed hacker shuts down their Feeds for a short time; but when Violet's Feed is seriously damaged, she begins spouting some radical ideas.”
This story takes place in a futuristic America, where technology and electronics have been merged with the human mind and body, allowing people to have access to a computer network to which Americans are connected to by the 'Feed'. Life is not as it used to be, and the lazy days of reading a book under a sun-filtered chestnut tree are gone; with everyone equipped with their own miniature super computer, leading corporations are free to monitor the citizen's thoughts, interrupting them with constant pop-up adds of various merchandise and offers. The environment has changed drastically since before the overflow of technology to the point where you now need an artificial sun to shine over your house.
When on the moon during Sping break with his friends, Titus meets Violet, a strange girl that has been home schooled all her life. She’s in need of some action and excitement, and Titus invites her to a lunar party with his friends. Yet, during said party, their feeds are hacked by a member of the anti-feed organization, causing a blackout that leads them all to the hospital, including Violet. It’s from this moment onward that a great friendship blooms between Titus and Violet, their different point of view on the world they live in colliding.
Violet, to the contrary of most people living in this futuristic America, is aware of technology's effect on the environment and society. She sees how obnoxious the people have become, uneducated and led by the media-frenzy they can’t live without.
In Anderson’s world, the feed implanted in everybody’s head is all about hardwired corporation feeding people with advertisement based on a person’s thoughts, feelings, discussions and looks.
With their feed, anyone can do everything from chatting to surfing the net and even invading one’s privacy. Facts aren’t taught at School™ anymore; they’re all accessible through student’s feeds. Reading books? Who needs books when your chip serves as a Kindle. Who needs studying when there all those killer jobs to find, all those bargains to considerate? All interactions have stopped, too. There’s no need to talk when you can message the person right beside you. You don’t need to cross your door to buy those hot new slim jeans. People have become shallow and ignorant, entirely oblivious to the fact their feeds are destroying them and their world. The prospect of such a world is disturbing and uncomfortable.
“…It’s like a spiral: They keep making everything more basic so it will appeal to everyone. And gradually, everyone gets used to everything being basic, so we get less and less varied as people, more simple. So the corps make everything even simpler. And it goes on and on.”
Violet, knowing all this therefore tries to inform Titus about the world's desperate situation. Having been brought up by parents who do not possess implanted feeds, and having gotten hers at an advanced age, Violet tries to resist to the corporation's influence and manipulation. Titus, on the other side, is a boy like any other, who has never tried to properly understand the way the world works. He refuses to let go of what is already part of his life.
This book is raw. Anderson doesn't waste pages for explanations. Things are as they are, and they don't need to be explained, and it's up to the reader to follow the flow of the story. This particular trait can be confusing at first, and destabilizing, but it’s on the other hand refreshing and quick. The story rolls on without halting. It is no fantasy, either. It is a compelling and real look on the future and of what might happen if we don't watch out. It features characters, such as Violet, who fight for the preservation of awareness, opinions and history of the past, and Titus, who are lost in technology's and electronics' influence and who have their opinions and decisions controlled by someone else than themselves.
It’s a book I recommend to everyone, whatever your age, profession or dog’s name, and for the simple reason that we can all relate too well to this bone-chilling prospect of our future. We may not yet have our implanted chips, and we may not yet have regressed into non-speaking and inarticulate beings who have also forgotten how to write, and I hope we never will, but the efficiency of all those gadgets on the market is ridiculously frightening, and I think the best example here is the Ipad. I’m not even considering checking the total number of existing apps, but by the sweetly-tuned commercials that I too often see crossing the screen of my television, I know that there’s little we’re missing.
I am all for the extreme cases where connections and connectivity make anyone’s life better, but I find the prospect of turning every single action into a downloadable application horrifying, and here’s an example: There’s that specific moment in one of Apple’s commercials where the view shifts to a little girl, comfortable seated on her couch, learning how to write her letters with a big satisfied grin on her face, tracing them on the screen of her Ipad.
So what, pencils and papers are overrated now? Or have we gotten to the point where we don’t want our children to know how to hold a pencil? Does that mean that every kid will be equipped with an Ipad when he/she enters elementary school? Will they even need teachers at that point? Will they even need to go to school if all can be taught and learnt at home!?
And the worst of it all is that there’s not much one can do to not be swiped off into the wave of the trendy handheld devices that now govern our lives. It’s hard to not get caught in the wave of clicking, especially when all the celebrities do it and when viewers are asked to follow an event or even the news on the internet using Twitter or Facebook because, well, that’s sort of trendy. It’s hard to not feel like a stranger without all those ‘enlightening’ applications and software that make ‘everyone’s life better’.
Here’s a personal anecdote you can use to make fun of me later if you ever bump into me: when I started college here at Dawson, which is relatively not long ago considering I’m a first year student, the first thing I noticed about people was that they all walked with their heads held down and their gazes glued to their cells, blackberries and Iphones, texting, checking their feeds and such. It’s this reclusive behaviour that really struck and amused me. But I couldn’t avoid feeling out of place, with my old five-year old Motorola that barely got any love and ran on a ten dollar per month plan and wasn’t even able to show me the constellations in the sky. You can be sure I quickly replaced it with something not as sparkling as most of the tool-bag electronics on sale out there but still by a phone that didn’t make me look like a cavewoman, and that ran on a higher plan. That’s right, I might sound a tad self-righteous in this article, but I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to giving into the hype.
But this just proves the fact that as simple as some of us want to be, we cannot progress in this very world without keeping up with the minimum technological advances, both for reasons of acceptance, efficiency and even because it directly concerns our career or job. It’s so very hard; technology is evolving at an incredible spur and it’s all about money, money, money and teaching your little girl how to write on the Ipad.
Will there come a day when we’ll run out of ideas and just decide to stream everything into everyone’s head? If you’re interested in seeing how such a world might just be, I’m redirecting you to the original subject of this article, the dystopian novel Feed by M.T. Anderson. This book is written in a very powerful way, and it offers great criticism on our own world through a tragic story, and I hope this review frightened you enough so that you’ll reconsider buying that fifth version of the Ipad.
“My idea of life, it's what happens when they're rolling the credits.”