Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

The Pre-Game Know


I have written here about the neophiliacs, the lovers of the new. They are just a subset of a much larger group: the lovers of the now. (If you know the Latin for this, let me know.) These people think their time is not only the most interesting but also the most important moment is human history. The past has no bearing on their lives—they think.

Eight days ago, the biggest thing on the planet (if you believed the hype) was the Super Bowl. Watched by over 100 million people in this country, this event has nearly a fifty-year history. Go back another hundred years and you’ll find more history.

The San Francisco Forty-Niners are named for the miners of California’s famed 1849 Gold Rush. But the phrase, “miner, forty-niner” comes from the popular 1883 song, “Oh My Darling, Clementine.” (Popular enough to be the title of the 1946 John Ford western —about Wyatt Earp, not miners.)

The rush was not to mine or even pan for gold. It was to pick up gold nuggets lying on the ground! That discovery was in January 1848, but the rush became official in December when President Polk informed Congress. Fortunately, the US had acquired California back in February. Dreams of easy riches lasted for decades, eventually creating modern California—where they still dream.

California was only one place, 1849 one year, and gold one precious metal. In Roughing It, Mark Twain wrote about Nevada’s great Silver Rush ten years later. And so on, until 1897: The Klondike Gold Rush. This generated a whole slew of Jack London Yukon stories as well as Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush.

Back in 1849, a dreamer died in the city of Baltimore. His name, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, was Edgar Allen Poe. Among his many works (in forty short years) was “The Raven,” a poem of ominous portent. It became the name of the winners of this year’s Super Bowl.

The present is never isolated from the past. The lovers of the now are time-provincials, as people are provincial about their country, state, or city. Like small children, they are only aware of their own time. They have yet to learn how the events of the past shaped their present. Until they do, they are The Children of the Now.

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