Sunday, April 30, 2023

Interesting Problem that had a Vonnegut answer

I think it odd sometimes that author KurtVonnegut came up with an answer to a problem most people had not thought about yet. Look at this essay from the Surgeon General today in the NY Times:

The author is not the only person who thought of this. In 2001, the book below came out. Discuss the collapse of shared experiences in American communities. Ties that range from bowling to VFW halls to churches all were breaking down, leaving Americans lonely.

Well in 1976 Kurt Vonnegut predicted this problem in his book Slapstick. It was a poorly received book, like many of his novels were on initial release. But in case, I don't think the book was ever much of a hit. I like it because it brought the idea of human loneliness in a full world. 

Yea, totally creepy bookcover

In Slapstick, the protagonists solution - albeit only partially successful - was to give everyone in the United States an extra middle name. To quote from Wikipedia : 

The siblings created, among other things, a plan to end loneliness in America through vast extended families. Under the plan, all citizens would be provided with new middle names, made of the name of a random natural object paired with a random number between 1 and 20. Everyone with the same name would be cousins, and everyone with the same name and number would be siblings.

I thought it was an elegant and stupid solution to a newish problem growing in America. In retrospect, Vonnegut was, as he often was, ahead of his time.

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