2018: We Dumb & The World Sucks Because Algocracy

anthony tran
4 min readDec 27, 2018

It’s the eve of 2019 and this is not the dystopia that I imagined for myself: this was supposed to be the year when Akira (1988) and Blade Runner (1982) became real. Those films envisioned a world where the digital became tangible — either through technical infusions of biology or vice versa as cybernetic replicants. But the issues of the present moment are exacerbated online rather than manifested as semi-organic material, beyond the screen. Even in those movies, underground subversives promised hope, but our form of neoliberalism and capitalism consumes the smallest growth of resistance.

Algorithms have visceral real-life implications, but are mostly an invisible hand of destructive greed. Of course, IRL is everywhere, even online, but it’s sad to me that there are no actors or weightedness to this crumbling present world we live in: lawmakers still don’t get Cambridge Analytica. This untethered feeling of technological collapse buries within us, like that stomach-sinking feeling of guilt, but in our minds. We deserve climate change so at least we know something is awry around us.

Culture sucks. Not only what it is but the vampiric cycles it creates. We dissect and create new vocabulary for it, in the attempt of containing the trash fire that it is, but it then just burns brighter in different hues that we are even more entranced by. Content used to mean substance but now it’s just media trying to coat the inner walls of hollowed-out branches as micro-genres. We’re at peak virtualization of authenticity as influencers are faking branded content. Instead of fashioning the best Instagram caption, let’s actually work at Netflix or Spotify or any place that creates AND pays. Is it really time for another remake of a remake? I hate the 90s. I will actually wait for this clip to end so something will end. It’s intentionally sad how hard Spotify wants to subdue everyone with too many of its Chill Playlists. Just send me my Year-In-Review because data mining is cool, if it’s useful to me, right?

I’m sick of podcasts about politics. Democracy is the voice of an echo chamber. I’m looking for some light, maybe the false pretense of a digital prophet. Will the solution to technology be technology? Sounds counterintuitive, but also that just might be the Baby Boomers whispering in our ears. How about the next generation, “Gen Z”? Was our generation the casualty, where we thought we were so special to see the flicker of the Internet turn on? Maybe it blinded us, and the kids have adjusted well enough that they can differentiate the serotonin changes influenced by likes and loves. 54 percent of Chinese born after 1995 chose “influencer” as their most desired occupation. It’s nice that protest has become more mainstream, so that those hashtags can become viral. Hack me with that viral worm and then let me vote via an Instagram poll sticker. Don’t send me another meme that is about how people relate to each other via network effect.

Am I concerned about deepfakes? Worried about that the already cheapened image of real (fake?) people will be jeopardized as we become able to puppet them to do anything we want? Isn’t that what acting is? As always, pornstars were the first ones to see that one coming. Most of the entire Internet is fake, anyway. We copyright intellectual property and people are corporations. I want to 3D print an Ariana Grande. Machine learning in general is a sham: we feed millions of our leftover interactions in the world, like the faces we give to our locked phones, to a dumb algo to recreate reality — it’s a 7-year-old child that cannibalizes itself in order to show us something new because we want the same newness. Frankenstein is now available as decentralized terabytes of clustered data. This personalized filter bubble of oil still tastes crude and gross.

Where is the light? It’s definitely not in New York or LA. Should I move to Austin because Apple, or Queens because Amazon? There are so many end-of-year lists because every year is literally the worst. Is relevance even relevant-adjacent anymore? Airbnb didn’t own homes, but I guess we could move into one of their apartment complexes. Just find me a place where I can get my Amazon boxes and premium mediocre subscription products delivered in peace.

Someone please buy this insightful bullshit so I have to stop disguising myself as the voice of a generation for corporate America.