TV and Objective Value
By Elliot Temple
Originally posted to TCS List, 9/22/2002

(Note: This post was written in the context of an earlier post by David Deutsch discussing a fictional Anna.)

Once upon a time there was a girl named Anna.  She lived alone in a little apartment and went to university.  She was studying biology and wanted to be a Doctor.  She was a sophomore, just 19 years old, and had a few friends.  She was also a swimmer and spent a lot of time at the pool. Between her friends, swimming, classes, studying, eating, sleeping, and just a few emails, her days were full.  She didn't have a TV or microwave, but felt she could make-do alright without, and didn't have extra money anyway.

One fine October evening, Anna was slightly bored and clicked a link her friend Nick had emailed her.  It was some weird site about parenting.  She glanced at a few articles, but didn't particularly care for it.  However, Nick had seemed really enthusiastic about it, so she decided to sign up for the email list.  She directed the emails to go into their own folder and then forgot about them for a few weeks.

Time flowed on.  Anna went to classes, went swimming, studied a lot, and even went to a few parties.  Her life seemed full, and she was happy.  One day, as she sat at her little kitchen table eating the canned chili she had slowly cooked on her stove, Anna remembered the email list Nick wanted her to look at.  He had reminded her half a dozen times, so she decided to take a peek.  She picked up her bowl of food and carried it to her computer. Surely if she was careful, it would be alright.

Alternating between bites of food and scrolling down, Anna skimmed though the emails.  There were a little over two hundred, and she had no intention of reading them all, so she just moved about randomly.  The ideas seemed radical, but Anna was a bright young girl and realised some were actually quite sensible.  Then the unthinkable happened: Anna spilled chili on her keyboard.  Cursing, she forgot all about the TCS list as she  rushed to get something to clean up with.

Although the keyboard was fine, Anna's hangup was reinforced and she kept her food far, far away from the computer.  Three days later, Anna finished her homework early and decided to go back to that email list.  Something about it had piqued her curiosity.  Time blurred as Anna read through the emails, and she stayed up much later than intended.  She chastised herself, and was a little bit tired at class the next day, but no harm was done.

Anna never intended to actually write any emails to the TCS list.  She was just a young girl, not even a parent, didn't even have a boyfriend; surely her opinions were not what a serious list was looking for.  But the next evening, she found herself drawn back to the list, and as she was reading, she stumbled upon something she just had to reply to.  One of her favorite authors, who seemed to get most everything right, had said something utterly unfathomable.  So she decided to correct him.  He had gone off about the objective value of TV, but Anna was perfectly happy without one. She answered his post, explaining that she had no TV and felt no desire for one.  The next day, he replied with to Anna with some sarcastic comment, and she gave up, deciding he was unreasonable on the TV issue.

Anna's life continued on.  Her friendship with Nick grew closer, especially as they discussed TCS issues.  She was especially intrigued by the implications of TCS in the area of medical consent, and how to treat young patients.  She occasionally wrote more emails to the list, but not often.
She was happy.

In mid November was Anna's birthday.  After reading about TCS, she could see how her parents were not perfect, but she still loved them and enjoyed seeing them from time to time.  She even tried talking to them about it once, but they didn't understand why she would want to spend time sitting in her apartment at a computer.  However, being decent parents, they had an idea.  If Anna was going to spend a lot of her life in her apartment, at least she should have a TV.  So for Anna's birthday, they got her a TV and eight months of cable access (until the school year ended).  Anna insisted she would never use it, but her parents ignored her.  Anna also got a microwave from her Uncle.

Anna tried watching the TV a few times, but didn't really care for it.  It was in her living room, and she spent most of her time in the kitchen or the bedroom where her computer was.  Unless she was studying, in which case she certainly couldn't have the TV on.  One evening, Anna was eating canned chilli (which she had microwaved in just 120 seconds) at her kitchen table. She still had a hangup about eating by her computer.  However, she realised she could try watching the TV as she ate.  She flipped it on and saw some poorly-drawn yellow people screaming at each other.  Shrugging, she ate. By the time Anna had finished her food, the show was only half through, but had captured her attention, so she watched the rest.  It wasn't great, but some parts were a bit funny.

The next evening, while Anna was having a microwaved TV dinner, she remembered the show from the previous night and went back to her TV.  She found the same show on again, and enjoyed it.  All week, and the next, she watched the one show.  She even was careful to eat dinner at the right time to see it.  One evening, as she was watching, Nick called.  There was a going to be a piece about their university on the news that evening, and he thought she might like to watch.  Anna did.  And she also watched the special on the history of competitive swimming that Nick recommended.  And three news shorts about medical advances.  And an interview with a Doctor complaining about HMOs.

Meanwhile, Anna had found herself a part of another TCS debate.  Her favorite author had, for a second time, said something she just couldn't get behind.  He didn't think spills and messes were a big deal, and made fun of anyone who wouldn't eat by their computer.  "Even if you ruin your keyboard and have to get a new one, it's *still* worth the cost," he wrote. But Anna was no fool.  Just once had she eaten by the computer, and that was all it took for an accident.

As months passed, Anna relaxed a bit.  TCS was influencing her, and she was becoming a better person.  Her hangups were relaxing too.  Nick started dating someone, and at first she was jealous, but she soon got over it. They still had their deep conversations about TCS, so why should she mind?

Eventually, the school year ended.  Anna went home and spent the summer with her family.  She worked part-time, and time seemed to fly by.  She missed Nick, but kept in touch with him via email on her parents computer. However, she left most of her things, including her computer, in her apartment and didn't read the TCS list during the summer.

Over the summer, Anna had a lot more free time with only a part-time job and swim practice.  Without most of her friends or her computer, Anna found herself watching a lot of movies.  One week, she even watched a movie every single night.  One evening, she ran into a conflict when her parents wanted her to eat dinner with the family, but her favorite TV show was on.  They persuaded her that there were other good shows too, and after dinner they would show her some.  She bitterly eat in their company, and then they all went to the TV room.  Anna's parents used their intimate knowledge of their daughter to pick just the right shows.  The family watched TV all night, and Anna loved it.  She had never realised what she had been missing.  Of course, during the school year, she didn't have much time for TV, but for the rest of the summer she watched a lot.

When school started again, Anna didn't have cable anymore; it had been turned off when summer came.  But it didn't matter.  Anna was overjoyed to see Nick.  He was having issues with his girlfriend, but Anna's advice cheered him up.  Anna also started reading the TCS list again with most of her spare time.  She never realised how much she missed it until she came back and couldn't stop reading.  She even got got an archive of the summer emails to catch up on.  And it was at this point one of her hangups went away.  Anna was so eager to read the old emails that she started eating in front of her computer.

Anna was still going to classes, and swimming, and doing her work.  In fact, she was getting A's in nearly all her classes.  She still had friends, though besides Nick she didn't see them as often as she used to. They just weren't as attractive anymore.  But something was missing from her life.  Anna couldn't place what it was, and asked Nick for advice. Eventually the two worked out what was wrong: Anna had stopped watching TV.

And they came up with the solution too.  Anna didn't have a lot of extra time, so this is what they did:  With some of the money from Anna's summer job, she reactivated cable, but requested an extra-long cord.  Then with Nick's help, she carried the TV into her bedroom where she could see it while at her computer.  Now, Anna could watch her TV shows while reading email, and even eat at the same time too!  And she did.  And that's the story of how cable TV entered Anna's life.

(read more of Elliot Temple's writing at )