One of the unique ideas posed by “Hypernormalization” is the contrast between John Perry Barlow’s Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace and William Gibson’s Neuromancer where corporate networks control all commerce in secret. For most of my adult life, I have always been able to reconcile both ideas: that the compulsion of corporations to amass data in secret – which translates to wealth and power – and the duty of hackers to expose it, and for pirates to redistribute it. I was comfortable with the idea of the gentrified surface web was a front for the deep web (not necessarily the dark web), where the real shit gets done. Lately, I feel like I have lost that faith in… pretty much all of it.
Over the years, the struggle hasn’t just been about The Web. As software consumes more and more of our lives, there is no real difference between life at the keyboard and away from it. Most of us carry at least one Internet-connected computer our person most of the time; before you know it, it’s no longer going to be the Internet of Things, it’s going to be Software Defined Existence. Before I get all singularity on this, I want to call attention to the idea that advocacy for privacy and free speech, and against copyright and surveillance is rapidly becoming less about protecting people’s online lives and more about protecting “the real world” from being eaten by shitty software. I feel like I fought hard against Things That Suck on the Internet, just to have all of those things spill out into my daily physical life.
There’s a war going on outside no man is safe from
My life as a hacker, a pirate, and a crypto-anarchist has always centered on the belief that I was part of a movement that was changing things. I knew that the corporations and governments would do their best to to turn the Web into “TV with a BUY button.” But, I also knew that people like me would keep Barlow’s “Home Of Mind” alive by resisting that gentrification at every turn. There’s a war going on outside no man is safe from, and I was part of a kind of “Fifth Column” of pro-privacy, anti-copyright, and pro-free expression dissidents, rallying others to fight that war. The people like me were the tip of the spear, but there were also larger and mainstream forces at work. Mainstream forces like Silicon Valley were also doing the pushing. Sure, Google and Facebook were slowly eating our privacy for their own ends, but that was just the surface. Deep below the surface, the hackers, the pirates, and the crypto-anarchists were all keeping it real.
Lately I can’t help but feel like that is no longer the case. Silicon Valley *is* the Gentrified Web. It’s Google Safe Search. It’s the Facebook news feed.. It’s Amazon’s Choice for buying cheap plastic shit. It’s using Instagram to post pictures of the things that we love most: ourselves, at the expense of the things that matter the most: everyone else. Silicon Valley betrayed us. It was bad enough that Hollywood tricked us into working jobs that we hate to buy shit that we don’t need to impress people we don’t even like. Silicon Valley has managed to weaponize that very same cocktail of envy and ennui to the point that we are living under the tyranny that is Fear Of Missing Out. The revolution is over. The good guys lost. Nothing left to do now but take a bunch of Xanax and
watch American Idol on television watch clips of other people going to Coachella on your phone.
Occupy Wall Street and the Anti-SOPA movement were the peak. It got everyone organized, but no one could get their minds around the idea of a real conversation between real people. They can’t do it because no one can really imagine anything other than submission to the same old power of the centrally planned, corporate-sponsored, government state. Big Tech is just going to keep doing the same old rent-seeking and extraction-capitalism that everyone else has done for centuries. Big Tech isn’t revolutionary. It’s evolutionary. They will keep doing it because no one has any idea what something else looks like. Revolutions have been fought, but the infection of the old tyranny persists. The broken machine will stay broken; it doesn’t matter who is sitting in the drivers’ seat.
I don’t got time for your petty thinking mind, son. I’m bigger than those…
I guess that this is the essence of The Great Big Thing(tm): that it doesn’t matter what you do, you are part of it. If you support these broken systems, you are part of it. If you fight the broken systems, you are *still* part of it. There is no “capital T” Truth, there is just the pro-machine propaganda locked in a scorched-earth conflict with the anti-machine propaganda. No one can see a way around it; everyone just seeks to stabilize it. The thing is, it won’t stabilize – because it’s broken. Broken systems do not function as designed. They malfunction.
For every good thing the hacker community does, there are these epic dramas between [fragile] egos, and the [toxic] cliques built around those egos. It’s exhausting to be part of it. Part of washing out of Facebook was also washing out of the hacker community. I just don’t have any more patience for dorks with Asperger’s syndrome failing at interacting with other dorks. It’s a lot of talking, and not a lot of hacking. There are a few people out there (most of them female, BTW) that are doing things, but for the most part it’s 10% doing something once, and then 90% holding court. I just can’t do it anymore.