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E4. Lou Reed's Nephew on Literacy
“You know what’s a scam?”
Lou Reed’s Nephew looked up from a magazine, which he handled carefully. His cube was spotless, except for a whiteboard he occasionally scrawled things on, and he never carried anything except his phone. He walked free, unencumbered, and I sensed that he regarded all physical objects—from checks to magazines—as threats to his breezy existence.
“QR codes?” I guessed. “Augmented reality?” I guessed again before he had a chance to respond. “Haptic feedback?”
“No,” he said. “Literacy.”
“You are against reading?”
“Reading is fine,” he replied. “It’s literacy I’m talking about.”
“You’ll have to explain.”
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“Everywhere you look, there are charities and government agencies spending millions to expand literacy.”
“Your point being?”
“My point being that you don’t see do-gooders teaching people to watch other people unbox athleisure outfits or have strangers crinkle Thai baht notes in their ears, yet all those activities are doing fine. Massive growth, year over year.”
“Or scan QR codes.”
“Or scan QR codes. Exactly! If the government made it its mission to stamp out ignorance of QR codes—by banning paper menus or launching a worldwide pandemic—we would be outraged. And rightly so. Let the QR code cartels foot the bill! Yet spending taxpayer money to expand the user base of these letter puzzles”—he slapped the magazine with the back of his hand—“is treated like some unassailable virtue.”
He was so mad he was spluttering.
“You’re just angry texting lessons aren’t covered by insurance anymore, aren’t you?” I asked.
“No comment,” he said.