I was on a call recently with some very important people talking about the climate crisis. I asked where they had bought properties for the coming apocalypse, and they laughed. I now know why: I should have been talking about cyro chambers and intergalactic spaceships, not bunkers here on earth.
If you don't know what I'm talking about then you haven't seen the Netflix film "Don't Look Up," Adam McKay's brilliant, biting satire about a Mount Everest-sized comet headed for planet earth, and mankind's apathetic, disinformed response.
If you have seen the film and find yourself criticizing it, then you aren't paying attention, or worse, it's about you and you're not ready to admit it.
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The film does a wonderful job honing in on all the ridiculousness of our everyday modern digital lives and the direction we are headed in if we keep our heads locked down at our handheld devices, rejecting science and supporting divisive, emotionally-driven and ineffective populist politics.
When I watched it recently with my family I recognized myself depicted on the screen and laughed so hard I snorted – a woman, any woman, absorbed in her cellphone watching the downfall of the world in real time, but on a small screen.
Only the hermit that lives in Colorado and tracks snowfall has escaped the clutches of the tech giants. And thank God for him, or we wouldn't know how bad the climate crisis actually is.
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The film also reminds us that the end of planet earth's existance isn't the only thing to be depressed about. Kindness, logic and humor appear nearly extinct, too.
Thanks to the speed with which information travels digitally, we react before we read. We no longer roll the words around in our mouths three times before sharing them with the world. Instead, we instantly, and without filter, spew our thoughts into the vortex of the internet, where equally lost souls, amygdala on overdrive, share headlines without reading.
A movement is started without anyone having to read a complete sentence; reality TV stars rocket to the Oval Office. But that's not a film script – that's real life.
Sure, there have always been the doomsday warnings. There has also always been marketing: from ancient Egypt until the modern era. But digital media has enhanced the swiftness with which campaigns reach our inner sanctums and mess with our neural pathways. They clash with our lives in real time, telling us what we are doing isn't valuable unless we see it mirrored on social media. That's why all the social media billionaires are on Netflix documentaries telling you not to get on social media. We think our choices are ours, but they aren't. They are a result of our conditioning to think that we need this or that, that this is good and this is bad. This is desirable or important, and that is not. And now, thanks to the algorithms that we feed with our incessant clicks and shares, we are well-studied subjects.
We are the commodities in this new era of digital neofeudalism, with tech giants ruling the economy and our choices. Don't Look Up makes that point tragically clear.
In an interview with The Verge, the scientist who advised the film crew, NASA astronomer Dr. Amy Mainzer, talked about the importance of using humor to deal with difficult subjects. She said, "Hopefully, people will enjoy 'Don’t Look Up' as a comedy because humor is partly how we do cope with serious news. And that’s what helps us keep going."
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"Don't Look Up" was a warning that the world could be burning up in front of our eyes and unless we have a major reset, nobody will do anything. Or worse, we have been led to think that by clicking, or liking, a post on social media, we actually "did" something.
America needs a do-over: but we clearly aren't ready for it. I hope to God it doesn't take a massive comet to make us look up.
Carli Pierson is an attorney, former professor of human rights, writer and member of USA TODAY's Editorial Board. You can follow her on Twitter: @CarliPiersonEsq