On the politics of the Other
I am an analog guy and would go back to the pre-Internet era in two seconds, but I appreciate you pulling back the veil of our own assumptions about tech to make the obvious case that these companies are bumbling bureaucracies just like the ones where we work. I still can’t stand the culture, but this makes sense.
"Much of that flattening is just cognitively mandatory: the world is too big and complex to understand in all its nuance."
I've tuned it out by now, but it used to frustrate me when people would take a complex issue (ex: inflation, to be topical) and boil it down to a simple fix (the Fed should halt QE). This happens a lot on Twitter (character limit), especially from politicians. Rarely are things as black and white as people make them out to be.
"Do you really want your kids to be raised in the tech equivalent of 1990?"
I want my kids to be raised in the tech equivalent of 1890!
But seriously, I have a close friend who is a tech exec and he def monitored his kid's internet usage closely when the child was young, put very tight restrictions on screen time, wouldn't allow him a smartphone or any sort of soc media accounts until his teens, never used the iPad as a babysitter, was pretty much the strictest parent I knew when it came to devices etc.
I'm sure there's a happy medium somewhere....
My add/comment - I think a separate effect is piling on Big Tech is stylish, belief-as-attire; different spheres are gravitationally pulled to certain ideas whereby group members readily see certain things as obviously true/correct (witness legacy media/bluechecks on Twitter, who see Elon Musk as a target of derision/mockery, who just can't quite process Time naming him PoY). Basic idea, I'm sure you've written about it too, just adding my 2c.
Tech media has merely taken over the role of the previous institutions. Viewpoints least likely to be censored on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube are not much different from common viewpoints in the New York Times. It's just the NYT never expected to deal with 3 billion readers.
It's hard to see the freedom-expanding properties of tech media after 2 years of overt censorship and viewpoint suppression. Censoring political stories (Trump, Hunter Biden laptop), medical stories (vaccines, masks, even from professors at Harvard and Stanford Medical schools) are as effective as The Borg and as tightly run by a handful of tech CEOs.
Substack has been a ray of light in all this but it, too, will never have 3 billion readers.
Oh good, a newsletter, didn't receive one for a while so I thought I was blocked.
Boy did Europeans fight a lot of wars..
Good one, AM -- you need to get snowed in more often. ;-)
Regarding this post, there of course is not a they or them, but for consumption purposes you have to say they or them. Russia for example is a disparate group of factions as the USA political system but in order to call people to action you gotta make it a monolith. Unfortunately this leads to scapegoating and is the root of racism ('the jews x,y,z, the blacks, etc')
Great piece, but... there is definitely a "them". There always is them, aka "The Clerics". And what makes them "Them" is not a common goal - for each one of them has a self-serving goal - but rather common means to whatever their self-serving goal is. And the means are usually a combination of tactics in the averall strategy of "shaping and controlling the narrative".
In the current Tech universe, The Clerics are not just the Zurckerbergs and Dorseys but (and foremost) the VCs who inflate the tech narrative, just as some Clerics of Science like Fauci are currently doing with the pandameic. This interview with Ben Horowitz is an example of how the Tech Clerics spew their self-serving narrative. https://sotonye.substack.com/p/the-architecture-of-tomorrow-an-interview.
It's not clear to me that eliminating a human locus of control completely refutes the "They" premise. Egregore and mimetic desire are ideas that have been with us for a while.
"Without tech, the ‘Cathedral’ would have chewed them (and anyone else) up and spit them out."
"The mystery of the cathedral is that all the modern world’s legitimate and prestigious intellectual institutions, even though they have no central organizational connection, behave in many ways as if they were a single organizational structure."
- Curtis Yarvin, A brief explanation of the cathedral
And if thou gaze long into an abyss of them-ification, etc.
Banana peeling (without malice) aside, it seems likely that people ascribe a collective agency to Facebook, Twitter, etc. because, for all the behind the scenes complexity, those organizations present themselves to the world in the singular. There is one facebook.com, one twitter.com: whether a user is banned from either of those platforms--one of the sharper, more relevant ends of the agency conversation--is a binary state that exists irrespective of internal dissenting voices (voices that, however dissenting they may be, tacitly consent to the overall behavior of the organization by virtue of retaining their membership).
I can definitely see an awkward dinner playing out with someone accusing all techies of being this one online article they read. Like that one about San Francisco execs monitoring their kids tech usage. I think lots of religious, homeschool their kids types, usually moderate what their kids do online, keeps them out of trouble. Moreover, setting boundaries like on internet usage does make a kid feel more loved imo, don't want them getting too cynical too soon either.
On a different note, what really is the spirit of silicon valley? For a long time, I mostly thought about it from the extreme lens that it gets from twitter and vice, a land of bdsm and glorified escorting touted as empowered mixed with the gender neutral pronouns and what not, all of this running underneath the men that promise to change the world and have demonstrated they're better men because simply they pay more for things. It's also the land of boomers rich off the decades of harvest in what was America's last frontier for industry, and from a certain perspective, frontier for social progress, I'm not kidding when I say as an icon Silicon Valley is deeply intertwined with the cultural progressivism seen in West Coast cities like Seattle and San Francisco. What.. is.. the soul of Silicon Valley? Is it in the cruspy VC's echoing the Burt Reynolds of the yesteryears, the neckbeard 30 year old redditor with a backend job, or radical progressivism?
Chris Titus has a pretty good bit on the creation of "They"s to divide "We"s.