The Deadest Generation

Most folks I know are pretty cranky lately. They cite the economy, or the wars. But I don’t think we’re being honest. My generation is dead. We did die before we got old. But we only know it on a subconscious level, and that makes us cranky.

Our last hurrah and last attempt to change the world was in the late ’90’s with the Internet Boom – although that was largely driven by the next generation. Now we’re just running on Cialis. It’s the only thing we care about anymore, or which gets a rise out of us. Dead.

I work at the University of Wisconsin, which had been a hot-bed of violent youth revolution in the ’60’s. Now, when a part time instructor named Barrett raises questions about 911, the university threatens his job. (Even as Syd Barret passes quietly away.)

John just wrote a great blog about serious and enduring issues that will have meaning long after 911 is a footnote, but even he doesn’t wants to talk about 911. Who wants to be thought of as a weirdo? Don’t say such things! I hope interest rates don’t get much higher. Have you tried Flomax?

Surely, the idea that 19 losers wreaked all this havoc, orchestrated by a guy in a cave in Afghanistan, is the looniest conspiracy theory of all time! Imagine a US government that thinks nothing of breaking into the personal files of its domestic political opposition, breaking the law to destroy its bureaucratic opposition, waging war without reason, spying on its own citizens, ignoring treaties, and “temporarily” but indefinitely closing the Whitehouse press office. This is reality, and we’re not outraged? Dead. Now, I can’t imagine that such a government could have deliberately orchestrated 911, but mostly because I think they’re too incompetent to have pulled it off. (Hey, I want to keep my university job!) I don’t know what the reality is. Either of the two opposing conspiracy theories is equally depressing. But I think that folks of my generation are old enough to sense bullshit when we hear it, and we know at some level that we’re up to our eyes in it from all sides. I believe that the recognition that we don’t truly care enough to act on this – or even discuss it – is what’s got us so down. If you’ve still got a pulse, I encourage you to Google on the 911 conspiracy videos.

About Stearns

Howard Stearns works at High Fidelity, Inc., creating the metaverse. Mr. Stearns has a quarter century experience in systems engineering, applications consulting, and management of advanced software technologies. He was the technical lead of University of Wisconsin's Croquet project, an ambitious project convened by computing pioneer Alan Kay to transform collaboration through 3D graphics and real-time, persistent shared spaces. The CAD integration products Mr. Stearns created for expert system pioneer ICAD set the market standard through IPO and acquisition by Oracle. The embedded systems he wrote helped transform the industrial diamond market. In the early 2000s, Mr. Stearns was named Technology Strategist for Curl, the only startup founded by WWW pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. An expert on programming languages and operating systems, Mr. Stearns created the Eclipse commercial Common Lisp programming implementation. Mr. Stearns has two degrees from M.I.T., and has directed family businesses in early childhood education and publishing.


  1. WRT the actual mechanics of 9-11, Al Qeda was not 19 guys in a cave. I see no problem with the fact that Al Qeda and other terrorist groups operated a loose alliance with friendly governments to set up a network of activists capable of hijacking planes in the dissaray that was American security prior to 9-11 (and hasn’t changed much since).

    It doesn’t have to be that way, but it is not inconsistent with the evidence to date. If identity thieves and child pornographers can use modern tools to set up complex networks to move money and illegal material around while eluding various world government enforcement efforts, why not terrorists?

    But, as always, I take issue with the idea that our generation is dead. Rather, it has been so long since we have troubled to think for ourselves that we are out of the habit. We keep waiting for permission or instruction on how to be citizens again.

    As the eternal geek, I often think of Tolkien’s “Rousing of the Shire” and how thoroughly modern storytellers like Peter Jackson can’t get their heads around it. People sense something is wrong, and that they have lost something important. But they don’t have a good sense of what to do about it.

  2. Agreed. My feeling is that neither 911 possibility is significantly more technically unlikely than the other.

    Interesting point about being out of the habit of thinking. I do feel it goes deeper — that we’ve lost the desire to think. Or at least, lost the will to let it get in the way of a really good night’s sleep.

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