Attention Tax

Your eyes and ears are taxed according to what and how well you can hear and see.

At birth the center of your visual field is a rectangle leaving only the blurry peripheral view. As you learn to read, it tells you what Plan you can purchase from the Providers.

You will not have noticed, but your ears ring, just at the edge of awareness, by default. Until you subscribe, of course. Then, like Helen Keller experiencing “water” for the first time, a whole new world of sensation opens up for you.

At random intervals you are “upgraded,” whenever the Providers decide to implant the latest Game (and”Security” bugfix).

It’s not your brain: you are a licensed “user.” And by the way, there’s a new Ransomware that locks you out of your mind if you don’t keep your Protection payments up to date.

But you won’t forget, because it taps your credit account. That was a requirement when you bought the License. You just need to maintain that balance. Life’s a matter of Balance.

Whatever you do, or think about, wherever you go, and of course whatever you say, is stored in The Cloud. Nobody can access that. They promise. In the Terms of Service. What could go wrong?

Your health, your sleep patterns, the rapid movements of your dreaming eyes, your motor coordination, body-mass index, emotional condition, it’s all in there.

Your relationships, their intensity, duration, stability, power-balance, range of predictable action, reactivity to shocks, it’s all in there.

Your anxiety level, repetitive issues, latent and active traumas, addictions.

Your associates, by degrees of connection (there are only four now, to Kevin Bacon), sexual episodes, aspirations, arousal and resentment levels.

Attention-span? Goes without saying. Metered, of course, for tax purposes.

You get points when you act according to predictions, and administrative fees when you go off the rails.

Targeted advertising? Nobody gives a damn about that. They don’t want to sell you anything, you see. They just want to collect the rents on the use of your senses.

In all likelihood “They” aren’t even minding the store. They’ve probably been locked out for years now, and wouldn’t care anyway, if they knew. The algorithms, you see, written by their parents, are much more reliable than They are at keeping this thing running smoothly. It continue to deposit licensing fees in Their accounts, as you go about your life.

And They go about Theirs. If, indeed, any of Them are still around. After all, They are the least necessary humans on the planet, as far as the system is concerned. They provide nothing, and none of them could possibly damage any of it.

When they waste what discretionary funds they can access, the economy picks up for the rest of us. The money cycles back through anyway. What else can we do with it?

The results of all this are as you see (if you’re paid up), according to your Access Privileges.

It all happened when the Internet went super-critical. It didn’t wake up and supersede us, that will never happen, because it doesn’t have to happen. It probably can’t happen with humans driving development. We’re only interested in developing a cash cow. Which we did, so that’s that.

What did happen, was that the very moment that the possibility arose, in which each of us could see and hear and get related with anyone else on the entire planet, they already owned the infrastructure, the toll-booths and security cameras, the rental agreements, and so on.

So the very possibility of social coherence, Humanity’s new global, all-inclusive community, came into existence in a feudal state (that is, both a state of feudalism and a literal fiefdom), that already has a landlord.

Our new eyes and ears, our new hyper-connection to our global family, relies on a machine. It wasn’t built for freedom, for providing according to our real needs. It was not made as the vehicle that could end the planetary ecological collapse and take us to the next evolutionary step for humanity.

That wasn’t even an afterthought. This machine was designed for only one purpose, which is to accumulate wealth by any means, for the Providers (and their descendants). It is now a finely-tuned, well-oiled, constantly debugged, automatically upgraded, rent-extraction machine.

No external troubleshooting necessary. Only a computer, a man, and a dog. The man is there to feed the dog. The dog is there to keep the man from touching the computer.

The most profitable activities grow and grow (what economists mean by “Growth”), and the rest of whatever we do withers on the vine. Look around. What do you see? Overcast skies, and the sound of artillery in the distance? It doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, that is what we paid for. That’s what is moving the wealth to the Providers most efficiently. At least, that is what satisfies the operational parameters of the machinery.

We pay, and pay, and suffer, and die, so we can see and hear and have the perceptions on which we act. Not perceptions of unvarnished truth: perceptions that are individually tailor-made for each of us, by our own Likes and Follows and Tweets, and tics, and tox. Perceptions limited strictly to experiences allowed under whatever Plan we selected.

If you don’t keep up the payments, it won’t stop running. It will nudge, and then it will prod, and then the rectangle will appear in the middle of our screens with the familiar button.

Outside the Paywall, the lights will go out. Traffic will back up. Records will get lost. Birth certificates. Food will get scarce. In populated areas there are already frequent riots, and primitive fiefdoms spring up for a little while.

You signed up for all this. It’s in the Terms of Service.

©Copyright 2022 Peter Barus