Silicon valley sex orgies, philosophies of power, the surveillance state, technoutopia, nuclear films, and more.
Oh Man, The Future! Yeah, that's the title of the song you get, by De Lux. Thanks to Katie for introducing this song to me while we were prepping for our Dance Dreams improv show. Did you know I do improv? Now you do. That show was about the life and drama within a ballet dance company, and I promise it was a great show. Worth your time if you want to see me in tights. Anyways, on to the articles!
OK, I know that drug-fueled sex parties with extremely rich men and attractive women are pretty wild and like, hooded-robes and orgies and maybe interdimensional aliens feasting on our life essence, vibes. But seriously, did anyone think that this wasn't happening in Silicon Valley (or anywhere there's tons of money)? Obviously, the issues here are what you would expect: expectations emphasized by power imbalances and social pressure, straight male fantasies driven by money and ego, pearl-clutching about so-called "founder hounders", and anything else ridiculous you'd expect out of a Silicon Valley sex orgy community. Not that I'm against drug-addled sex parties, mind you. I'd totally go for that lifestyle with the right people in an environment that emphasized consent, comfort, and calling-spades-spades. So, you know, if you need someone, hit me up. I can do tarot readings in between romps. (Jesus, did I really just solicit invites to sex parties in my newsletter? My mother reads this newsletter.)
So, I don't know a ton about Foucault, but I very much jam on this article in its exposition of his work as being an analytical, experientially-oriented study of power, as opposed to the common philosopher's obsession with reducing a word to a single idea. Foucault focused on power in its myriad forms, refusing to put forth a philosophy of power because power shifts and changes dynamically with reality and modern values. Then, exposition on the prison system, which exists to embed docility more than anything else: "The purpose of constant surveillance is not to scare prisoners who are thinking of escaping, but rather to compel them to regard themselves as subject to correction. . . . The crucial move of imprisonment is that of coaxing prisoners to learn how to inspect, manage and correct themselves. If effectively designed, supervision renders prisoners no longer in need of their supervisors. For they will have become their own attendant. This is docility."
Personally, while obviously our day-to-day lives are not remotely like actually being incarcerated, I can't not draw the frustrating comparisons in my mind to our surveillance state and the awareness of reputation--social, corporate, or even state judgment upon my person. This surveillance-as-power exists in a less overt form in our daily interneted lives. Speaking of...
Here's a dark, eight minute video on the surveillance state in China. Surveillance cameras, armored trucks, tanks, biometric recognition, constant checks, and anti-journalist measures. One show owner: "The police check my ID so many times, I don't want to go out shopping anymore." It's truly difficult to imagine the utmost logical end of an authoritarian, surveillance state--but here it is, right before your eyes, in a tight, eight minute video. One man tells a story of how he's constantly rounded up because his ID has been blacklisted, and many places he goes they end up detaining him. He tells them to shoot him, because he can't live like this. "Dangerous" goods are tracked--even the sale of cutlery is tied to your ID, and they laser burn a QR code into cooking knives. Facial recognition software is used to match people's faces to their IDs in malls and gas stations. Reeducation schools for "unsafe" people. Holy shit, I'm not even at the end of the video and there's just more and more.
This is a fascinating look into the historical origins of the worldview of technology-as-virtue, rooting back into commune anti-bureaucratic countercultures which end up replacing their power structures "with charisma, with cool, with shared but unspoken perceptions of power. You replace it with the cultural forces that guide our behavior in the absence of rules." These commune-goers, needing jobs and grounding reality, then emerged into the tech world, envisioning computers as "the new LSD" which could change the world. An investigation of techno-utopianism, the Electronic Frontier, and Burning Man.
Methinsk this is self-explanatory. Witness the awe-and-fear-inspiring ability of the split of some of the smallest pieces of matter in existence. From the comments: "When not close enough to be killed, the atomic bomb is one of the most beautiful sights in the world."
Holy shit. A debt collector threatened to rape this guy's wife. And so Andrew Therrien went for vengeance: "Somewhere—at the top of a ladder of dirty debt collectors that Therrien would spend the next two years relentlessly climbing—a man named Joel Tucker had no idea what was coming. . . . By day he was still promoting ice cream brands and hiring models for liquor store tastings. But in his spare time, he was living out a revenge fantasy. He befriended loan sharks and blackmailed crooked collectors, getting them to divulge their suppliers, and then their suppliers above them. In method, Therrien was like a prosecutor flipping gangster underlings to get to lieutenants and then the boss." Someone says, "It’s an obsession, it’s unbelievable, an outright vigilante crusade . . . It doesn’t seem to equal the harm that was done to him." Oh, this is some sweet revenge (with a good dosage of "did you really go that far?"). A wild and fantastic story--the kind of stuff I wish I had the time and determination to go after.
So, remember how I said I had my priorities in order and I wasn't going to start a Minecraft server? I totally went and did exactly the opposite of that. I used to run a fairly successful Minecraft server in my college days, and in order to desperately cling to that nostalgia, I'm hosting one again now. Luckily, unlike in college, I have a decent amount of disposable income and can afford to let this run for years. So I want you to come play with me! I'll only be playing occasionally myself, but it'll be my go-to for destressing and gaming. It's quite empty at this exact moment, but with the size of this newsletter's following, you can probably expect a decent number of people with like interests to play with.
You can join it by connecting to mc.wayspurrchen.com, or 188.8.131.52:25565 if that URL doesn't work for some reason. It's vanilla+, which means the original game pretty much, and I might add some minor stuff like shops so we can simulate the economy. Rules: don't be a dick, don't grief (the panopticon is live and I will find you and ban you), and have fun.