The Long, Slow, Rotten March of Progress

"WhatsApp for the spaceless non-void into which a blind universe expands."

You can no longer expect forty years of drudgery and then a spluttering death from good old-fashioned blue-collar pneumoconiosis. You can't make it through life hating your boss instead of yourself, not when new forms of labour discipline demand that you be your own boss. Your flesh is already obsolete. But there's an answer: to survive in the coming era of automation, you have to bring it in faster; announce its apocalypse, learn to code, add yourself to the army of programmers building an appier tomorrow. [...]

Desperation is everywhere; exhibitors make lunging grabs for any passers-by wearing an "INVESTOR" lanyard, proffer stickers and goodies, scream for attention on their convention-standard signs. These do not, to put it kindly, make a lot of sense. "Giving you all the tools you need to activate and manage your influencer marketing relationships," promises one. "Leverage what is known to find, manage, and understand your data," entices another. The gleaming technological future looks a lot like a new golden age of hucksterism. It's networking; the sordid, stupid business of business; pressing palms with arrogant pricks, genuflecting to idiots, entirely unchanged by the fact that this time it's about apps and code rather than dog food or dishwashers.

None of these start-ups are doing anything new or interesting. Which shouldn't be surprising: how often does anyone have a really good idea? What you actually get is just code, sloshing around, congealing into apps and firms that exist simply to exist. Uber for dogs, GrubHub for clothes, Patreon for sex, Slack for death, PayPal for God, WhatsApp for the spaceless non-void into which a blind universe expands. [...]

Capitalism doesn't know what to do with its surpluses any more; it ruthlessly drains them from the immiserated low-tech manufacturing bases of the Global South, snatches them away from a first-world population tapping at computer code on the edge of redundancy, but then has nowhere better to put them than in some executive's gold-plated toilet. This soil breeds monsters; new, parasitic products scurry like the first worms over the world-order's dying body.

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11 Responses:

  1. MattF says:

    And then there's 'tertiary management'. If you want to know what time it is, you ask someone-- then that someone, the PIM (person-in-the-middle), finds someone with a watch, who then, possibly, says what time it is. The PIM then makes a note of the time and then turns around and then tells you. And everyone (except for you) expects to get paid.

  2. NT says:

    good Jill Lepore comments in the New Yorker:

    "Lately, even dystopian fiction marketed to adults has an adolescent sensibility, pouty and hostile ...
    Dystopia used to be a fiction of resistance; it’s become a fiction of submission, the fiction of an untrusting, lonely, and sullen twenty-first century, the fiction of fake news and infowars, the fiction of helplessness and hopelessness. It cannot imagine a better future, and it doesn’t ask anyone to bother to make one. It nurses grievances and indulges resentments; it doesn’t call for courage; it finds that cowardice suffices. Its only admonition is: Despair more. It appeals to both the left and the right, because, in the end, it requires so little by way of literary, political, or moral imagination, asking only that you enjoy the company of people whose fear of the future aligns comfortably with your own."

    • XupdduX says:

      Haven't read the total article yet(downloaded),and having been here a few times on some drive throughs, that began when I popped-in here looking for some definitions of Lisp's cons -on my journey of Lisp discovery- , I haven't seen any/much mention of the latest SDN's concepts, or of the 400GB fiber optic transmissions ... yee ha ...

    • anon3494 says:

      Perhaps she skipped the end of 1984.

      • Chas. Owens says:

        And Animal Farm (pigs are just like humans and the animals are screwed). And Brave New World (the savage hangs himself). And Make Room Make Room (the world doesn't end, and the number of people born keeps going up). And almost certainly too many to name that I have forgotten.

        • NT says:

          Lepore is a professor at Harvard. She's not dividing this stuff up based on whether it has a happy ending (it's a dystopia, duh). The distinction is about the intended takeaway when the fiction ends.
          Orwell wrote plenty of activist non-fiction to help you understand why his fiction was cautionary rather than thrilling. Meanwhile, you can go on Hunger Games and Terminator theme park rides. Get it?

          • Chas. Owens says:

            Bah, this has more to do with marketability than anything else, see the Lorax commercials and Or the Logan's Run pinball machine: The fiction is still about resistance, but the movies and other side products have always been about how much money the corporate owners could squeeze out of it.

            She mentions books like Little Brother derisively, when they are the very thing she says is missing today. Her entire article sounded like "Back in my day, we had good dystopias. These kids today, I tell you...".

            • NT says:

              She's a history professor at Harvard, kiddo. Understanding how society changes over time is her job.

              • Chas. Owens says:

                Appeal to authority is bunk. She is making the bald claim at the end that "Dystopia used to be a fiction of resistance; it’s become a fiction of submission". This is provably false. There are plenty of current dystopian novels that encourage the reader to fight the system. She also says of Doctorow that he "pounds the same nails with the same bludgeon." in presenting just the sort of hope and call to action to build a better future that she decries no one is writing ("[Dystopias] imagine a better future, and it doesn’t ask anyone to bother to make one."). She either hasn't read the works or completely failed to understand them.

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