Neverending, allconsuming.

In tech, I’ve met a lot of people who are motivated by the idea that they’ll get rich. And some of them, to be clear, absolutely do get rich. There’s probably more of a chance of that than in many industries, although to be clear, the people who already have wealth and power will generate more than you in the process. But leaving inequitous power laws aside, when you get a big, fat check at the tail end of an acquisition or IPO, what happens then? Do you suddenly become happy? Is your life worthwhile? Or do you find yourself trapped on that treadmill, either in order to maintain that lifestyle or to quieten the internal voice you’ve developed that tells you to keep working? I’ve noticed that of all the millionaires and billionaires I’ve met – and I’ve met quite a few now – none has radically changed their life. Even the billionaires, who have more means than any of us will ever see, go back to the office day after day. Despite their unfathomable wealth, they’re as trapped as anyone else.

Ben Werdmüller on the grind.

2021-10-20T07:01:00+11:0024th October, 2021|Tags: |

Switch.

What I think is interesting about both systems and lucid dreaming resurfacing on TikTok is that, unlike the otherkin headmate mod drama of Tumblr or the brony tulpa psychosis of 4chan, younger internet users now are adapting these ideas to fit a platform that is much more closely tied to who you are irl. Ten years ago, it was much easier to play with these kinds of ideas because the internet was still a mostly faceless place. If you wanted to run an otherkin blog with six other personalities you believe are living in your body, there was really nothing at stake. Same with talking to other anonymous people on Reddit about trying to manifest a cartoon girlfriend with your mind.

In 2021, however, we’re seeing young people experiment with the same ideas, but with a lot more at stake socially. And the fact that they’re willing to endure harassment and film themselves doing so, in my opinion, speaks to something larger about how the internet affects how we both see ourselves and the world around us. This isn’t to say this is good or bad, but I think it’s notable that these ideas are becoming less fringe. I, also, don’t think it’s an accident that a lot of these ideas are appearing on a platform like TikTok that has augmented reality filters built into it. The internet has always allowed us to imagine different identities and realities and as technology becomes better, those alternate digital identities and realities will only become more real to us. Until, perhaps, they won’t feel like alternate realities at all anymore.

Ryan Broderick on the post-otherkin future.

2021-10-19T12:40:37+11:0022nd October, 2021|Tags: |

The trap.

I think the fundamental mistake we made is that we set up the wrong financial incentives, and that’s caused us to turn into jerks and screw around with people too much. Way back in the ’80s, we wanted everything to be free because we were hippie socialists. But we also loved entrepreneurs because we loved Steve Jobs. So you wanna be both a socialist and a libertarian at the same time, and it’s absurd. But that’s the kind of absurdity that Silicon Valley culture has to grapple with.

And there’s only one way to merge the two things, which is what we call the advertising model, where everything’s free but you pay for it by selling ads. But then because the technology gets better and better, the computers get bigger and cheaper, there’s more and more data — what started out as advertising morphed into continuous behavior modification on a mass basis, with everyone under surveillance by their devices and receiving calculated stimulus to modify them. So you end up with this mass behavior-modification empire, which is straight out of Philip K. Dick, or from earlier generations, from 1984.

It’s this thing that we were warned about. It’s this thing that we knew could happen. Norbert Wiener, who coined the term cybernetics, warned about it as a possibility. And despite all the warnings, and despite all of the cautions, we just walked right into it, and we created mass behavior-modification regimes out of our digital networks. We did it out of this desire to be both cool socialists and cool libertarians at the same time.

Jaron Lanier on the damage of insecure men.

2021-10-19T12:34:09+11:0020th October, 2021|Tags: , |

Silo.

[C]onservative-only social networks don’t work. Yes, they quickly fill up with nazis and anime porn, but they lack the one thing that Twitter, in particular, gives them — immediate access to liberals and members of the media to cyberbully. More than that, there’s no sense of domination on a site like Gab or GETTR. In fact, right-wing users are so desperate to carry out violence against others that, when they were all siloed together on Parler, they spent months organizing an irl coup.

I’m also beginning to wonder if all these apps are their own grift in a way. Loudly launch a site no one will ever use, claim it’s a free speech sanctuary for Republicans, do the rounds on all the right-wing news outlets, and wait for it to fill up with the worst people on Earth, refuse to moderate it, wait for Apple to ban it from the App Store, and then go back to the right-wing news outlets and screech about liberal cancel culture impacting your ability to share hentai with white nationalist flat earthers or whatever.

Ryan Broderick on win-win.

2021-09-28T07:11:57+10:0030th September, 2021|Tags: , |

Fake friends.

Yet even this promise of community and self-criticism offered by fandoms is deceptively unsatisfying. Online fan spaces look like collaborative communities only because social media platforms show us a distorted image where everyone is popular and active and engaged. But the vast majority of people on social networks — perhaps 90 percent — are lurkers who rarely contribute anything to the conversation. What look like thriving fan communities are, in reality, parasocial relations within parasocial relations: Most people participate by passively consuming the performed enjoyment of a select few. Lurkers passively consume super-fans’ fan-art, fan-criticism, and love, just as they consume the creator’s personality.

This isn’t the democratic paradise that social media once seemed to promise, an open-ended and unpredictable set of conversations among peers who would grow through free debate. Instead it has turned out to be more like looking through a window at a group of friends having a conversation, who can’t hear you as you laugh along with their jokes.

On fans within fans.

Two frustrating things here: the first is the constant tiptoeing around the “but parasocial media can’t be bad because I enjoy it . . . right?” through-line that all of these articles seem to have, and the other is yet again another thinkpiece about parasocial social media that fails to mention Shannon Strucci, who started talking about this stuff way back in 2017, and really does deserve to be credited with re-popularizing the topic with regards to modern web-based media.

2021-09-23T10:44:19+10:0027th September, 2021|Tags: |

躺平.

The concept struck other users as profound. It resonated in particular with college-educated but downwardly mobile young people who have spent their whole lives endeavoring to get good grades and a good job, only to find themselves either boxed out of the white-collar labor market or miserably overworked in it.

What would it be like to admit defeat, to drop out, to stop striving and simply exist?

Lying flat has since become an internet phenomenon and a media buzzword. Online communities of “lying flatists” have cropped up, trading advice about how to survive outside the traditional workforce. Memes have appeared across the web, mostly showing cute cats in prostrate poses.

The lying flatists’ declaration that they will no longer follow the script, including buying a house and car and starting a family, has alarmed some older people who view the trend as fatalistic and antisocial. Adherents say it beats sustaining or feigning optimism in pursuit of elusive success.

In late May, a poem published online titled “Lie Flat, Young Man!” distilled the essence of the idea. “Come, let’s lie down together, please don’t be depressed,” wrote the poet, who goes by the name Xiaopan. “Everyone has an ideal that is hard to let go. Work hard without complaint and get no reward. When the ideal becomes a trap designed by those in power, lying down is a good medicine for struggle.”

On the new nihilism.

It’s “turn on, tune in, drop out” 2.0: Darker and Edgier Edition.

2021-09-17T06:51:20+10:0017th September, 2021|Tags: |

Twitter famous.

Interesting profile on Yashar Ali, who’s one of those people you’ve surely come across if you’ve ever made the Poor Life Choice of spending a non-zero amount of time on left-wing Twitter, and yet who doesn’t really seem to exist outside of it . . .

2021-09-09T08:48:14+10:0011th September, 2021|Tags: , , |

Neon Dystopia.

In the 90’s, coming off of the Cold War, the dystopia we feared was iron-clad and totalitarian. It made no efforts to hide its dismal nature. The turn of the millennium, however, has proven to us that a more insidious dystopia waits for us, one where corporate control is no less tyrannical, but brings such glossy, colorful convenience that we’ll happily submit. Fantasy Flight abandoned the genre’s classic aesthetic but stayed true to its core.

But they were an outlier. Much like the musical scene it took half of its name from, cyberpunk elsewhere became commodified and reduced into a marketable aesthetic utterly divorced from its political origins. This year’s eponymous video game, after all, was produced by a studio that exploited its workers via grueling six-day workweeks and appealed to its edgiest, transphobic fans in its marketing. “Cyberpunk” became a shorthand for certain sci-fi tropes: cybernetic prostheses, neon kanji, and ruthless ultraviolence, all delivered with a snarky, devil-may-care attitude.

“If your ‘radical’ politics are not fundamentally rooted in love, I cannot trust you.” I’ve lost the source, but I saw someone say this several years back, and it’s stuck with me since. From the outside, radical leftist political movements can look frighteningly forceful. This summer, anti-fascist protesters donned gas masks and wielded handmade shields to defend themselves against police brutality. The history of the punk scene is rife with stories of aggressively ejecting Nazi skinheads from local hangouts. We see these hard tactics, so far from the comfortable civility we typically enjoy, and it’s easy to conflate their wielders’ outrage with hatred. If this is your understanding of radical politics–disaffected misanthropes aiming to tear down the world out of sheer anger–no wonder you’d think cyberpunk heroes must be smug and aloof.

Spencer Dub on the politics of love.

So I came across this article when I was, in fact, playing Cyberpunk 2077 and it was, amusingly, the first time it clicked for me that the game was a franchise adaptation. I’d thought it’s generic mish-mash of tropes was just its lazy worldbuilding, but no! Apparently it was just suffering from a heavy dose of Seinfeld Is Unfunny coupled with, well. Actually being unoriginal, mass-marketed, soulless drek that would’ve been improved by doing nothing new with its source material, as opposed to what it actually did.1

  1. The game has many, many sins but probably its biggest on this specific front is the fact one of its major characters “shows growth” by having the revelation that caring about profit-driven war crimes is, like, bad, actually. And this is portrayed as a good thing! Because apathy, or something. Anyway, the game was terrible. Don’t play it for a hundred hours like I did. Or if you do, some tell me about how terrible it is, because seriously I thought I was over venting but apparently not . . . []
2021-09-09T08:45:22+10:0010th September, 2021|Tags: , |
Go to Top