Programmers as priests, radical drug policy, the nuclear web, fake friends and family for hire, DNA tattoos, and more.
Do you like critical theory on the evolution of religion into technological priesthoods, filtering reality through the algorithm, subjugating the unskilled labor neighbor, degrading the human self, spreading fake news, ubiquitous surveillance, and why all that's pretty shitty? Oh boy, you do! (Well, I sure do.) Read this fantastic article by Alice Maz, who also does a real good stuff.
Short answer? Money. Long answer: Moooooooneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey. Ignoring my glib hot takes, this is a very fascinating deep dive into the cultural forces at play in Portugal, and the remnant effects of policy change and a country that was completely unprepared for the inflood of drugs after the end of a dictator's regime.
You probably already know the story of how ARPA and DARPA and FARPA (not a thing, that last one) developed the internet in order to rapidly communicate information during a potential threat of nuclear war, but did you know that it was the first time that people actually even conceptualized of computers as anything other than a massive mainframe that did batch processing? The idea of a single person being able to go, sit in front of a computer, and do more than one thing at once or even interact with a computer multiple times per day was a WILD idea. It took an article with a title like "Man-Computer Symbiosis" to get people to really grok it. A great Aeon read--as always.
Man, I love William Wolfgang Wunderbar. They're totally underrated (*editor's note: by who??), in my opinion, producing an absolute mass of work that "becomes both the gallery for, and subject of, the art displayed there. This creates a fascinating and subversive digital-alchemy that begins to reveal the hidden nature of social media itself, as well as our increasingly complicated relationship with it." Yeah, I'm quoting the article, because honestly I don't even know how to do it much more justice. Just read the interview, follow the ... entity... on Facebook, and enjoy.
* Editor's note: I am the editor. I'm questioning my own unfounded statements using a rhetorical device.
"In Japan, you can pay an actor to impersonate your relative, spouse, coworker, or any kind of acquaintance." It is entirely weird to me that this is a booming industry. Honestly, the actual interview is weirder than I can even write: "I played a father for a 12-year-old with a single mother. The girl was bullied because she didn’t have a dad, so the mother rented me. I’ve acted as the girl’s father ever since. I am the only real father that she knows. . . . If the client never reveals the truth, I must continue the role indefinitely. If the daughter gets married, I have to act as a father in that wedding, and then I have to be the grandfather. So, I always ask every client, 'Are you prepared to sustain this lie?' It’s the most significant problem our company has." Can you imagine setting a line item in your budget for "Performance Hires" or something like that? And to be an actor, doing it, for... for good? For money? What happens if the money runs out? "Sorry, I've been your father for hire this whole time and I can't do it anymore 'cause I'm not getting paid." What if you actually fall in love? What if... oh my god there are so many questions. I had an entire rant loaded about bioessentialism versus cultural norms but it just got bowled over by how weird this all is. Thanks to Henry for forwarding this one!
Look. I want your DNA. In my DNA. In ink in my DNA. I'm gonna put it in there. With your consent, of course. No, it's not weird. It's cool. --- Actually, imagine a world where this is normal? If we just commemorated our closest lovers, family, and friends into our bodies that way? It's kind of like the only type of sex you can call platonic, in that there's technically an exchange of DNA (if y'all both do it). Boy, I'm sure not going to extend this metaphor any further. But seriously, I have misgivings about tattoos and my own inconsistent nature. Will I really love what I love now in twenty years? (That's neither here nor there. I'm just thinking out loud.)