Titus misses his feed. He’s unsure when feeds were invented—maybe a century ago. Before that, people used their eyes and hands to understand the world, and they had to carry computers outside their bodies. Feeds help people be “supersmart” without doing work. But nowadays, people mostly use their feeds for entertainment.
This is the chapter in which, finally, Anderson explains what feeds are—if readers haven’t figured it out by now. Feeds are personal computers, implanted in the brain, which provide unlimited information and entertainment. The feed, one could say, is the culmination of the internet—in theory, it provides infinite information, but it’s been cheapened by advertising and people’s desire for cheap entertainment.
The best thing about the feed, according to Titus, is that it knows “everything you want and hope for, sometimes before you even know what those things are.” Corporations make profiles of each feed user, and then sell these profiles to different companies, so that the companies know how to advertise to different people. Some people think corporations are “evil,” but Titus believes there’s no point “getting pissy about it,” since corporations are the only way people can get their feeds.
In this sinister passage, it’s strongly suggested that corporations use the feed to control the population’s behavior, “nudging” them into spending money on products they don’t need or even particularly want, and addicting them to a constant stream of entertainment. Titus is vaguely aware that corporations are bad, but he’s so dependent on the feed that he can’t conceive of a world in which large, corrupt corporations don’t exist.
In the hospital, Titus is bored. All he can do is look at the painting of the boat. He notices that there’s nobody onboard “to look at the horizon.”
As Titus spends more time without the feed, he actually becomes more observant of the world around him. His remark about the horizon suggests he feels a certain pessimism about the future.