Originally published on my substack in 2020.
In most dystopian fiction, the overlords bend the population into submission by drugs, violence, fear or swoop into power after some landscape altering catastrophe or population-decimating contagion.
In the real version, circa 2020, the population opens their hearts and minds to the algorithms they keep in their pockets all day. The overlords simply have some low wage workers flood social platforms with endless conspiracy memes, put a little money into an advertising engine, slip a few fluent English speakers into some private groups to stoke some racism and a population submits willingly to the forces that are destroying their communities, families and lives.
For someone fascinated by the intersections of humanity and technology, a lover of dystopia and a former journalist, it doesn’t get much juicer than this. And honestly, if this were happening in another country, I may just go back to school and get a PHD based on this very scenario.
But no, I’m living in it. We’re all living in this hellscape of likes, retweets and shares. But we’re no longer talking about the mental impacts of dopamine hits from thumbs ups, now we’re talking about the real life consequences of people reading “freedom from mask” posts created by Russian bot farms halfway around the world and people are going into public empowered to ignore science and data, putting entire communities at risk of death.
Because a bot farm in Macedonia told them they’re “sheeple” for wearing a mask. When, ironically, they’re acting as sheep to the kleptocrats who are paying millions of dollars to place those memes in their timelines. But the people don’t care. They’re high on the algorithms perpetual onslaught of manipulation.
Science be damned. Data be damned. Truth be damned. Human life? Ha! I’ve got my freedom, fuck your life. That’s the message people are sending when they enter a public space without a mask. People are openly stating that they consume and are under the spell of the algorithms being manipulated by the kleptocracy of far off lands and they are totally cool with it.
Walking into a public space without a mask in 2020 states openly, “I don’t care about your life. I don’t care about science. I don’t believe in truth. I believe what corporations and kleptocrats are paying to put in my timeline and I am acting on that disinformation. I will spread disease and death to you and your family because my timeline told me I was a strong patriot to go maskless.”
If you had told me 10 years ago that this would be my reality, and this is how my fellow countrymen would act and that my country would succumb to the kleptocrats willingly and openly, I would have become an expat faster then you can spell “renunciation”. I’ve deliberately lived a life of little regret, but I do strongly regret not moving to Paris 8 years ago because I was “in love”. In hindsight, that was a brutal mistake.
This 2020 reality is simply exhausting. Imagine what this world might look like if three Silicon Valley CEOs had taken responsibility for the gravity of their platforms from day one. Imagine the world we might be living in now if these brilliant minds had looked beyond revenue and user acquisition to see the possible impacts of their platforms on human behaviors and the fabrics of our democracies. And yes, they were young and stupid, but they had the money to hire the top ethics minds in the world to flesh out the possible scenarios and design accordingly. The only excuse for not doing so is profit. Profit over people.
But no. Instead we have children starting kindergarten on “Mute” at the kitchen tables while moms struggle to work their job from across the table. If they’re lucky. We have lines of cars that stretch for miles at local food banks across the country. We have 40 million or more people who believe a kleptocrat placed in power by Russia is saving their jobs, keeping them healthy, creating a booming economy and fighting off “antifa” in urban landscapes. When, in reality, he is ensuring their jobs are gone forever, shifting the country’s wealth to a handful of elites, preparing to remove social safety nets like social security (using payroll tax elimination as the vehicle) and is stoking racial violence around the country to ensure he can stay in the White House for decades.
Millions of people believe the rantings of a lunatic are a secret language sending them coded messages of how to act in the world. Millions of people believe that Democrats are trafficking children and drinking their blood to stay in power. When, quite literally, there are human trafficking operations running out of our border detention facilities complete with forced sterilization of brown and black women. Open crimes against humanity happening at the hands of this government, but sure, the Clintons are funneling trafficked children through the basement of a pizza joint in Maryland.
We are exhausted by all of this. And I’m fucking tired of being told to “look at the bright side. Find the good in humanity. This too shall pass.” I get it and I want to believe it. And some days I do.
I want to believe in free and fair elections. But we don’t do that in America. I want to believe in free will and not harming the humans I share my community with. But we don’t do that in America. I want to believe that a peaceful transfer of power will happen in January to a government who believes in science, data and logic again. But we can’t do that in America.
We are drugged by the algorithms we now cling to as an escape mechanism or a life raft to a world that no longer exists. We are disillusioned by the myth that this democracy still functions and we’ll just “vote them out” on November 3rd. We are closing our eyes to the reality we are facing because it is too damn overwhelming to understand. But that’s where we are.
By all means, VOTE!! Vote as though it’s the last time you can, because it might literally be the last time for decades. Vote. And walk into this election with your eyes wide open and without the illusion of the algorithms. We are in a kleptocratic government right now. The entire system is now designed for this type of “governance”. Such a system will not allow an election to change the reality it has created. Short of a landslide for Biden followed by massive strikes and protests, this administration will not relinquish power. They’ve been openly stating that for months.
But please realize that we face a battle on multiple fronts that can not be brushed away by platitudes like, “if everyone actually votes things will change” or “the judicial system will save us” or “they can’t get away with that”.
They can. They will. And they are.
Right now, this government is using the “herd immunity” strategy to deal with this virus which predicts (based on MATH) that anywhere between 2 million and 6.5 million people will die to reach immunity (which is not guaranteed with this virus) and everyone is just accepting that reality. Because bars. Because shopping. Because bike rallies. Because frat parties. Because freedom.
Because the algorithms have drugged the masses into accepting their exceptionalism and their freedom above the collective health and welfare of our entire society.
I don’t enjoy writing about this shit. I write about it as a mental health activity to release these thoughts out into the world, hoping that someone, somewhere will read this and feel less alone. Someone, somewhere will read these words and feel understood and heard.
Not all of us are under the spell of the kleptocratic algorithm. Some of us are walking through 2020 with our eyes wide open. We’re terrified and we’re aware. And we are planning accordingly.
We are not under the spell of the kleptocratic algorithms and our eyes are wide open, but we are in the minority.