"The year was 2081..."

Vonnegut's 'Harrison Bergeron'
The 1961 short story resonates in 2024 and beyond...

A nice little treat from John Gruber: a typeset version of Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron". A Daring Fireball reader noted that Gruber should read it in relation to the DoJ lawsuit against Apple. I also don't think I've read it before (it's a part of the short story collection Welcome to the Monkey House) even though I'm a huge fan of my fraternity brother Vonnegut.1

The story takes place in 2081 (incidentally, what would be my 100th birthday), and the world is in the state of using both technology and physical impediments to "equalize" society. Classic Vonnegut, there's a lot of fun little things in here – including with technology, despite it being published 63 years ago. Our lead character George, is forced to wear "a little mental handicap radio in his ear" to blunt his intelligence which was "way above normal". I'm currently sitting in a cafe where nearly every patron has a small radio in their ears...

You won't find a bigger AirPods fan than me – from day one, before they were "cool" and ubiquitous – but I also appreciate the point here of pervasive and invasive technology. Though in 2024, the smartphone, of course, would be the better means of power and control. But maybe in another 57 years... Certainly if companies like Apple are no longer able to focus on user experience first and foremost, in an effort to "dumb down" technology to equalize it for everyone.

Also, this is fun:

“I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!” He stamped his foot and the studio shook.

“Even as I stand here” he bellowed, “crippled, hobbled, sickened — I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!”

If you're at all like me, you can't help but read this and think about a certain scene in Dune: Part 2... Different outcome, of course...2

1 Vonnegut was a DU at Cornell, where he graduated in 1944. I was a DU at Michigan, where I graduated 60 years later.

2 The short story was also made into a 1995 TV movie with quite the cast: Samwise Gamgee himself, Sean Astin as Harrison, Eugene Levy, Howie Mandel, Christopher Plummer (!), and Anakin Skywalker himself, Hayden Christensen.