“The Great Equalizer”

On June 17, 2020, I published “The Great Equalizer” in Triple Canopy. The essay covers the post-pandemic exchange of faces for interfaces, suits for sweats, presence for liveness, and freedom for safety, as well as serving as an introduction to Two Ears and One Mouth, the magazine’s twenty-sixth issue.

The essay begins:

Oil is down, Instacart is up. Global supply chains are down, victory gardens are up. Museums, theaters, and nightclubs are down; virtual tours, limited-time-only online content, and streaming dance parties are up. The United States and England are down, South Korea and Germany are up. Unions and pensions are down, always-on webcams and tattleware are up. Life expectancy for Black Americans is down, luxury doomsday bunkers are up. Carbon emissions are down, birdsong is up. Gatherings of more than six or three hundred or fifty or five hundred people are down; strikes against mega-cap companies with swelling market shares that treat humans like temperamental widgets are up. Productivity is down, depression is up. The policing of white-nationalist militias toting assault rifles and defying the government is down; the criminalization of Black protesters carrying cardboard signs and insisting on equality is up. Airbnb and Industrious are down, Palantir and Clearview AI are up. Barbershops and nail salons are down; technologies that substitute for human presence and shift the risk of exposure from consumers to remote-controlled contractors are up.