The MOORE the Merrier: Confessions of a January-phobic

By Gwyn Lurie   |   January 3, 2023

Locally, we’re coming up on five years since California’s epic Thomas Fire led to Montecito’s deadly January 9, 2018 debris flow. Which this year got me to thinking about anniversaries, my love of Decembers, and my fear of Januarys, how quickly time flies, and Moore’s Law.

They say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. In my recent memory, Januarys come in like lions and go out like… angry lions.

January 2018: The Thomas Fire and Montecito Debris Flow

January 2019: Montecito’s future uncertain as we slowly dig out and rebuild  

January 2020: First cases of COVID hit the West Coast

January 2021: The January 6 Capitol Riots

January 2022: Russia puts enough troops on its border to invade Ukraine

January 2023: ???

The speed at which our world changes seems almost impossibly accelerated and reminds me of Moore’s Law, that rule of semiconductor science that states certain technologies can and therefore will double their capacity every two years almost ad infinitum.

It being “that time of the year,” it’s also a time I traditionally reflect on where we’ve come from and where we might be headed.

Five years ago, in January, while many of us were evacuated, was when we started negotiating “a peaceful transfer of ownership” of this newspaper from Jim Buckley, its founder and editor, to a group led by myself, which also includes Jim’s son Tim Buckley, my erstwhile business partner, close friend, and political counterpart. The group also includes a wide array of local residents to whom I will forever be grateful for going with us on this journey.

Over the course of this bizarre, head snapping, politically charged last five years, I’ve watched and participated as Montecito got torn up in 2018, and when I assumed the editor position, in the middle of Trump’s term, Tim and I made it a priority to try to restore civil discourse and bipartisanship to our local branch of journalism. Then COVID hit and wreaked havoc on the supply chain. Welcome to publishing.

No one could predict what would happen next. We found that amid the global pandemic, 805-ers had a massive appetite for local news. Sometimes we feel so powerless in the face of global and national issues; there must be something primal and comforting in connecting with our neighbors – regardless of their political affiliation. And certainly, there is some truth to the saying: “All news is local.”

We also could not have predicted Montecito becoming the world’s Zoomtown utopia, the skyrocketing of local real estate prices so soon after the Thomas Fire, or the arrival of the Duke and Duchess… and seemingly everyone else. Montecito became a globally known FOMO destination. And even if we’re not shielded by some of the disturbing national and global trends, I am forever grateful to be living through this time in Montecito, a gentle place except when our geology gets active. It’s also a place where I do not feel our political divisions are at the fore.

As we approach this January, let’s look at yet another trend dominating the news cycle and accelerating at a Moore’s Law pace: A.I. As bots and machines take over previously exclusively human endeavors such as art and writing, it’s interesting to look back on what a prescient young man said a scant five years ago in the documentary Do You Trust This Computer? (By the same people who made Who Killed the Electric Car?)

That wise man said: “Autonomous machines are more dangerous to the world than North Korea and could unleash weapons of terror. Super computers could become an immortal dictator from which we would never escape.” And he compared the adoption of A.I. to “summoning the devil.” The man who said that… is the same man who restored racial epithets to Twitter. It’s interesting to contemplate as we approach the New Year. Which I am oh so happy to be doing here.

Despite my knee-jerk January dread, the eternal optimist in me holds out hope that the daunting science of Moore’s Law can also cause the compounding multiplication of good trends. Like that our capacity as humans and as neighbors to learn from one another and to hear one another, can continue to improve. That our efforts to combat climate change and get to zero carbon emissions can speed up. That our willingness to stand up against hate, in all its forms, can expand. And that our appreciation for how very lucky we are to call this magical place home, keeps growing.

On a final note, and speaking of the upcoming five-year anniversary of the 2018 January 9 debris flow, we’d like to encourage members of the community to share with us any recollections they may have about that indelibly tragic event, so that we can, in turn, share them with our community!

We at the Montecito Journal wish each of you a joyous and healthy holiday, and a New Year we can meet with a renewed energy and commitment to making our world a better place!  


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