Dean Clough

April 28, 2023

Portico Darwin: Things Are Moving Too Fast For Humans


< 3 Minute Read

Today's post is heavy for a Friday, but it's an important topic, and an extension of one from a couple of weeks ago.  In that post, I mentioned the premise that a 1,000 page book covering humanity's 250,000 year history would have everything that occurred from 1773 forward on its very last page.

In other words, for almost our entire existence, nothing happened, and things evolved slowly, and I mean really fucking slowly.  Because think of it - not all that much for 999 pages, and then a tidal wave of technology (industrial revolution, electricity, telephone, computer, Internet, smart phones, social media, and artificial intelligence) is on the last page?   

But humans aren't built for the instant evolution this requires, and that fact is revealing itself now in America's children.  Sadly, I will illustrate by using some communications from a close and longtime friend.  He is having a very rough time with his teenage kids, and has been for a while. 

But I don't think what this parent is experiencing is unusual.  At all.  And it's not just technology, per se.  Because my friend conveys vividly the problem of digital immersion and its impact on all of us, but especially children.

Let's compare it by generation; I picked a somewhat arbitrary date of 1998 as a tipping point in terms of digital penetration into our world.  We can argue on the year, but the modern world was fully digital not 5 years earlier nor later.
Screenshot 2023-04-23 115757.png

Regardless of the essentially unlimited analog power of our brains, I don't believe it can handle the sheer volume of transformations wrought by digitization.  And a lot of those that have been the most immersed - let's say anyone younger than 20 today - are not dealing with it well.

We've all seen the stats.  Young people now are much more likely to have ideations of suicide and self-harm, and/or suffer serious anxiety, than any previous cohort; girls and LGBT kids are in the worst shape. 

Here's an indicative chart of the problem from

If one looks at teen mental health trends, you'll find that things started to go wrong - very wrong - not in 1998, but right around 2008.  And what products debuted right around that time?  The iPhone and an app for it called Facebook.  Now, look at my Digital Immersion chart again.  What generations have existed ONLY in the age of the iPhone and social media?  Z and Alpha.  And what generations are now really struggling?  Z and Alpha.

Yes, I've heard once or twice that correlation does not imply causation.  There are certainly any number of factors in play with the problems teens are having today.  But it is the speed by which humans went from a completely analog world to a digitized one that I believe to be the core issue. 

Indeed, my parent friend blames his own digital immersion, as well as his children's, for the malaise in his home.  He posted this recently on Instagram.
Screenshot 2023-04-23 135740.png

I followed up with him personally, and what I heard was not good.

Because my friend's kids have been subsumed by a cold, digital world from which they can't seem to get out, and they're obviously not alone.  Worse, their need to be online has grown so strong, they're threatening self-harm if their devices are taken away.  Said my friend, "They don't want ANYTHING except to 'not have anxiety' and there's a giant drug/refuge/alternate reality waiting to enable them to do that on their screens.  And down we spiral."

Yes, many families struggled with the difficult teenage years of their children before digitization.  But this is different in its depth and breadth, and that's because of how fast tech is moving us:  way too fucking fast.  And folks, I am many things, but I am no Luddite - I do not question the wonders and benefits of digital technology in all its guises.  But the fact is we weren't built for what it's doing to our individual and collective worlds.

So I wish my friend (not a blog reader, BTW) and his lovely but struggling family the best during what must be an awful time.  You, too, if you're facing the same or similar challenges in your own life.

Me?  I'm going outside, and encourage you and your loved ones to do the same. 

Because if you do, you might see things like this, as I did a couple of weeks ago.  This is a grazing service hired by SF to trim a meadow near the top of Pacific Heights. 


And there's nothing digital about it.


Thank you to any one that is reading this newsletter.


"Too Much Information", "Somebody Take The Wheel", or "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times"?  Brain Salad Surgery, The Downward Spiral, or Modern Life is Rubbish?  Or maybe something from Kraftwerk?

No.  Instead here (on both TIDAL and Spotify - yes, what follows is that good) is M83 and the complete, and completely Diamond Certified, Digital Shades.  If these two albums, combined here as a playlist and released 12 years apart (2007 and 2019) as Digital Shades Vol. I and DSVII, don't soothe, nothing will.  

This music, almost entirely instrumental, is similar to ambient in style, but it is so very much more.  It's a relaxing must for the addled of any age, with any (or no) musical taste.

About Dean Clough

Plans To Enjoy Life.