In a move that’ll probably complicate the publishing of this blog post, one of the few friends I actually send these drafts to has gone on a sabbatical from Discord, singing the virtues of IRC for some aesthetic reason I don’t properly understand. I’d ask her for more clarification as to why she actively cares about chatting apps but that’d require actually installing an IRC client – something I really can’t be arsed doing (mainly as it’s already half-three in the morning and I’m still on the first paragraph of this blog post), even if it means that I lose whatever little Neocities cred I have. Back when I was younger I was always obsessed with technology (despite never being able to coherently understand it) – hopping between random Arch-based Linux distributions (mainly just as they kept on breaking on me), tweaking terminal configuration files (despite having no coherent use for a terminal in the first place), and spending ages messing with random open-source software (if I learned Photoshop instead of GIMP I would have probably ended up as a graphic designer and perhaps that’s the most depressing fact about me). Because of this, I’ve spent a scary amount of times in communities that base themselves around “alternative” or “ethical” software – in other words, communities of people that act superior for running an operating system that only supports three programs and base their personalities around being that one friend who only texts people on Signal. There’s something quite interesting about this impulse to move away from “traditional” software and websites, even if it seems depressingly futile. In other words, I’m going to use this post as an excuse to rationalize away my Twitter addiction as actually being the fault of capitalism or something – this is pretty much what always happens when you let me write about things that aren’t music-related.
It’s quite easy to write about how social media melts your brain – to the point where I’ll spare you the four paragraphs I’d waste trying to explain as such. However, something that we have to be aware of is that the problems inherent to social media are more universal than we like to pretend – our brains still melt when we cut social media out of our lives, just at a slightly slower speed. These attempts at escaping “harmful” aspects of communicative capitalism are harm reduction at best – sure you may feel slightly better (and the all-seeing race science AI will have to use a bit more CPU power to recognize you), but you haven’t really changed much of anything. Everything online is going to sit on some random person’s server somewhere regardless of where you post it – whether it’s in order to sell you dumb shite you don’t need, for some lazy college project, or just outright surveillance. As the Cambridge Analytica and Clearview scandals have made blindingly obvious there is no actual escape – you can reduce harm all you want but you may as well end climate change by avoiding plastic straws while you’re at it. The way forward isn’t going to come from retreating to open source software so obscure that nobody else can compile it, it’s going to come from actually diagnosing and recognizing the reasons why we’re headed into this mundane cyberpunk dystopia. If there isn’t a coherent escape, we need to focus on energies on working out what we need to escape from.
Humans are always the weakest link in any technological system and despite what Nick Land says this isn’t a bad thing. Most of us just fundamentally want to trust and help one another, even if that frequently ends up being our undoing. This is something that we need to embrace and normalize, even if it is slightly embarrassing. Our brains are permeable and can be rewired by the systems we live under (even if we criticize said systems) and the people around us, this shouldn’t be a source of shame but instead something that we pay active, analytical attention to. This brain-melting effect can be perfectly seen within the world of technology, where programmers and designers are alienated from their labour to the point where they can develop cyberweapons for shady governments and corporations without actively realizing the ethical implications of what they’re doing. I’m reminded here of Deleuze and Guttari’s obsession with the trend of schizophrenic dissociation among technical and scientific workers – these workers apparently become “so absorbed in capital that the reflux of organized, axiomatized stupidity” coincides with them. In Robin Mackay’s ‘#Accelerate’ this point is expanded on with the use of the quote “Dear, I discovered how to clone people at the lab today. Now we can go skiing in Aspen” – our current era could probably be described with the quote “Dear (read: some random 14 year old on discord with an Asuka profile picture), I built the world’s largest facial recognition AI today. Now we can go see Ben Shapiro”. The problem isn’t just the technology itself (therefore avoiding the technology doesn’t actually avoid the problems), it’s also the alienation and brain-melting we’re all subjected to under our current economic system.
Because I refuse to actively structure my writing I’m now going to talk about an idea that was originally intended to be used within my last internet bullshit-based blog post ‘one must imagine tyler happy’ that I somehow forgot to include in the actual draft. One of the funniest things about the internet is that it gives us all some minute form of power or control that feels deeply tangible to ourselves but means fuck all in the grand scheme of things, leading to god knows how many controversies or misguided actions as a direct result of maintaining (or abusing) said internet clout. We all have a shouty 2000s forum moderator somewhere within ourselves and the internet is unnaturally good at enabling said moderators, leading to oddly comical (or depressing) results. Arguably the best example of this (besides that whole Valve News Network story) is Mirai, one of the most powerful botnets of all time (and presumably the only botnet to have a James Ferraro albums inspired by it – for now). Mirai was a genius piece of malware, targeting random insecure Internet of Things devices, installing its own modified firmware onto the device, and essentially turning your useless smart-appliance into a zombie machine that could participate in devastating Denial of Service attacks (imagine refreshing a page over and over on a thousand devices until someone’s server died). After Mirai surfaced there was widespread speculation as to who was behind the malware and what they intended on doing with it, with most people assuming it was programmed by some intelligence agency. The reality was more mundane (and slightly more farcical) – Mirai (one of the most interesting pieces of malware at the time I want to point out) was developed to take down competing Minecraft servers. The idea of someone sitting down and programming one of the most powerful pieces of malware just to take down some random server for a game intended for children perfectly encapsulates how the internet has melted out brains and why I keep on writing these silly blog posts about that fact. The internet gives us five URLs where we have some form of control or clout, making us all go mental as we try to maintain it. Our brains aren’t wired for this reality, leading to these funny anecdotes and these boring non-music related blog posts. Our brains are all soup and this is something to realize if we want to make things slightly less dystopian.