Empiricism, algorithms and smartphones are out – astrology, art and a life lived fiercely offline are in
Cultural upheavals can be a riddle in real time. Trends that might seem obvious in hindsight are poorly understood in the present or not fathomed at all. We live in turbulent times now, at the tail end of a pandemic that killed millions and, for a period, reordered existence as we knew it. It marked, perhaps more than any other crisis in modern times, a new era, the world of the 2010s wrenched away for good.
What comes next can’t be known – not with so much war and political instability, the rise of autocrats around the world, and the growing plausibility of a second Donald Trump term. Within the roil – or below it – one can hazard, at least, a hypothesis: a change is here and it should be named. A rebellion, both conscious and unconscious, has begun. It is happening both online and off-, and the off is where the youth, one day, might prefer to wage it. It echoes, in its own way, a great shift that came more than two centuries ago, out of the ashes of the Napoleonic wars.
The new romanticism has arrived, butting up against and even outright rejecting the empiricism that reigned for a significant chunk of this century. Backlash is bubbling against tech’s dominance of everyday life, particularly the godlike algorithms – their true calculus still proprietary – that rule all of digital existence.
Across the globe, this summer has been unusually, unseasonably, and scarily hot, with the United Nations announcing that we’ve entered the era of “global boiling.” Scientists say this extreme heat wave would be impossible if it weren’t for the warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels. And yet it’s hard to grapple with the damage caused by extreme heat. It’s the deadliest kind of climate disaster, and yet victims of heat often die out of sight of the public eye. FEMA doesn’t even respond to extreme heat waves in the way it does to other “major disasters.” Jake Bittle is a staff writer at Grist covering climate impact. In this conversation, Bittle speaks with Brooke about the invisibility of extreme heat, and the challenge it presents to news outlets, and the potential value of naming heat waves.