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Rabbit Holes 🕳 #15
From the death of the internet to the shifting baseline syndrome, generative tech and climate despair
Rabbit Holes 🕳
As always, here are five perspective-shifting ideas that I’ve come across recently:
🌐 Has The Internet Reached Peak Clickability?
There is a limit to everything. And it might just be the case that we have “maxed out on clicks and likes”, particularly those clicks and likes that are only designed to make money and keep us addicted to our screens.
In a recent post on Substack, Ted Goia writes that “a recent article left me genuinely shocked. The author, Sam Kriss, predicts the death of the Internet. At first glance, that’s a ridiculous forecast. Everywhere I go people stare into that tiny screen as if it were a vital life support system. […]”
“But Kriss sees things differently. He writes:
‘In the future—not the distant future, but ten years, five—people will remember the internet as a brief dumb enthusiasm, like phrenology or the dirigible. They might still use computer networks to send an email or manage their bank accounts, but those networks will not be where culture or politics happens. The idea of spending all day online will seem as ridiculous as sitting down in front of a nice fire to read the phone book.’
This is pure delusion, and I can’t even imagine it in a sci-fi movie. But…”
“….it’s quite plausible that the Internet is losing its coolness and its clickbait appeal. It definitely feels stale and formulaic, more so with each passing month, and I’m not the only person who thinks so. If you dig into the numbers, you find that engagement on the largest platforms is falling—and not in a small way.”
‘On Facebook, the average engagement rate—the number of likes, comments, and shares per follower—fell by 34%, from 0.086 to 0.057….But the same pattern is everywhere. Engagement fell 28% on Instagram and 15% on Twitter. (It’s kept falling since.) Even on TikTok, the terrifying brainhole of tomorrow, the walls are closing in. Until 2020, the average daily time spent on the app kept rising in line with its growing user base; since then the number of users has kept growing, but the thing is capturing less and less of their lives.’
“Around the same time engagement numbers started tanking, a strange rumor began circulating—it’s called the Dead Internet Theory. This hypothesis goes even further than Kriss, claiming that the Internet is already a cold corpse in the morgue. In fact, it died back in 2016 or 2017 when nobody was noticing.”
“A conspiracy theory spreading online says the whole internet is now fake,” announced The Atlantic. “It’s ridiculous,” the magazine insists, before adding ominously: “but possibly not that ridiculous?”
“According to proponents of the Dead Internet Theory, the web is now controlled by bots, fake accounts, artificial intelligence, click farms, interest groups, spam, phishing schemes, and disguised advertising—all of them trying to convince you that they are real, flesh-and-blood human beings.”
“Even people who debunk the Dead Internet Theory often admit that it feels correct. When we are engaging on the web, we don’t feel engaged anymore. The clicks and swipes no longer spark joy. We feel force-fed, manipulated, unfulfilled.”
“This is the banal truth that tech futurists never anticipated.
[…] We now know that AI prefers to sell us garbage we don’t need and force us to watch stupid 10-second videos.”
“We still bite at the clickbait, but it doesn’t taste so good. Something is wrong. We feel it intuitively and the numbers validate it. We’ve maxed out on clicks and swipes—and especially with pandemic controls and lockdowns coming to an end, it will be even harder to keep people scrolling mindlessly.”
“This is a signal that we have reached the endgame stage. And a new game is beginning with totally different recipes for success.”
📉 The Shifting Baseline Syndrome
Sustainability or regeneration is being increasingly watered down. What does true sustainability, true regeneration, true rewilding actually mean? We need clear and concrete visions of the end result, the future we want to get to!
“The Shifting Baseline Syndrom (SBS) describes a ‘gradual change in the accepted norms for the condition of the natural environment due to lack of past information or lack of experience of past conditions’. (Ecological Society of America)
Our kids think heat, drought, massive rainfalls, and seas with dirt for fish are normal. We know better - but we gradually accept all of it as the new normal.”
“The result is lowering expectations of nature and of our efforts to regenerate it. Generation per generation accepts the man-made decay of nature. We forget what "good" looks like. A malicious downward spiral.”
“SBS sneaks into Corporate Sustainability as well. Companies celebrate themselves for their sustainability performance. Expressed in, say, reducing CO2 emissions. Truth is that any given decrease in CO2 emissions today does not mean the company is more sustainable. It's just less degenerative, less destructive.”
🤖 Generative Tech Begins
You’ve probably seen some Dall-E art here and there and heard people talking about ‘AI creativity’ or so – but what’s the bigger picture here really? Well, it’s Generative Tech and it might just be the biggest next thing.
“The biggest change to the Internet since crypto just happened. A whole new world of applications opened up to Founders in the last 6 months.”
“Generative Tech is the next step in software. It’s a new level of human-machine partnership. It turns deep learning engines into collaborators to generate new content and ideas nearly like a human would.”
“Some have called it “Generative AI,” but AI is only half of the equation. AI models are the enabling base layers of the stack. The top layers will be thousands of applications. Generative Tech is about what will actually touch us – what you can do with AI as a partner.”
“If Web1 was “read only,” and Web2 is “read-write,” and then Generative Tech is “read-write-generate” then that makes Web 3 “read-write-generate-own.” Generative Tech is now happening in parallel to Web3 and moving faster. If crypto hadn’t happened, we’d probably be calling THIS Web3.”
“Human activities will now change quickly. 1-2 billion knowledge workers will become faster and better at their jobs. Some will be able to do jobs they couldn’t do before. New TYPES of jobs will be created. And while some jobs will be downgraded, threatened, eliminated – and that will cause fear and self doubt in 10s of millions of workers in the next 36 months – the expansion of people’s abilities, productivity, and efficiency will vastly outstrip the losses over all, generating trillions of dollars of value.”
“Until now, software couldn’t solve the zero to one problem because it worked FOR us. Generative Tech will work WITH us from the beginning of any project.”
“Today and for the next few years, this will feel surprising and in many ways scary. Because those creative moments where you go from zero-to-initial-ideas has always felt so uniquely human, because it has been so mysterious.”
💎 Why Climate Despair Is A Luxury
I posted this already on LinkedIn but I had to put it in here as well as it’s such an important message.
"Not acting is a luxury those in immediate danger do not have, and despair something they cannot afford."
”[And] whether you feel assured that everything is going to hell or will all turn out fine, you are not impelled to act. All these postures undermine participation in political life in ordinary times, and in the climate movement in this extraordinary time. They are generally both wrong in their analysis and damaging in their consequences."
"Proclaiming someone’s or something’s defeat contributes to it. It’s a form of sabotage. [We should not] confuse the inability to imagine a future with the impossibility of having one."
"Uncertainty brings its own anxiety, but it’s one we must come to terms with, because it is the essential nature of the future."
"To hope is to risk. It’s to take a chance on losing. It’s also to take a chance on winning, and you can’t win if you don’t try (even though the campaign may be won without you). We who have materially safe and comfortable lives, and who are part of societies that contribute the lion’s share of greenhouse gases, do not have the right to surrender on behalf of others. We have the obligation to act in solidarity with them. This begins by recognising that the future has not yet been decided, because we are deciding it now."
0️⃣ Carbon Consumption Is A Zero-Sum Game
I can’t stop emphasizing the importance of linking inequality and climate change. The ultra-wealthy are effectively stealing carbon from the poor - who really need to burn carbon to lift themselves out of poverty - by burning wayyyy more than what could be considered everyone’s fair share of carbon to burn.
Just yesterday, a new study was published showing that “the top 1% of earners in the UK are responsible for the same amount of carbon dioxide emissions in a single year as the bottom 10% over more than two decades. It would take 26 years for a low earner to produce as much carbon dioxide as the richest do in a year.”
That’s it for this week! 😉