Saturday, January 28, 2017

Artisanal Apocalypse

From the prophetic Millennium episode TEOTAWKI

At some point we're going to have to stop. Stop running towards that ever-receding omega point and reassess the objective. 

Or will those who have usurped all the power from our society simply pull up stakes and make all such rethinks moot? It's an open question.

Have you heard about the latest fad to hit Silicon Valley? It seems that Transhumanist apocalypicism is out and Y2K doomsday apocalypicism is in:

Survivalism, the practice of preparing for a crackup of civilization, tends to evoke a certain picture: the woodsman in the tinfoil hat, the hysteric with the hoard of beans, the religious doomsayer. But in recent years survivalism has expanded to more affluent quarters, taking root in Silicon Valley and New York City, among technology executives, hedge-fund managers, and others in their economic cohort.
Silicon Valley is inherently religious, foundationally dogmatic and as we see now, enthusiastically apocalyptic. And they approach the art of Armageddon with the same zest, zeal and oh yes, cash, that they set about creating apps to destroy your jobs and futures. Are you ready for artisanal apocalypticism?:
In private Facebook groups, wealthy survivalists swap tips on gas masks, bunkers, and locations safe from the effects of climate change. One member, the head of an investment firm, told me, “I keep a helicopter gassed up all the time, and I have an underground bunker with an air-filtration system.” He said that his preparations probably put him at the “extreme” end among his peers. But he added, “A lot of my friends do the guns and the motorcycles and the gold coins. That’s not too rare anymore.”
So let's look carefully at what these people are saying. They're not uniting to save humanity and stave off the breakdown of society with all the vast wealth and political power and influence that this country has showered on them, they're going to take the money and run:
…Justin Kan heard the first inklings of survivalism among his peers. Kan co-founded Twitch, a gaming network that was later sold to Amazon for nearly a billion dollars. “Some of my friends were, like, ‘The breakdown of society is imminent. We should stockpile food,’ ” he said. “I tried to. But then we got a couple of bags of rice and five cans of tomatoes. We would have been dead if there was actually a real problem.” I asked Kan what his prepping friends had in common. “Lots of money and resources,” he said. “What are the other things I can worry about and prepare for? It’s like insurance.”
And what are they afraid is leading to the breakdown of society? The very technologies that they are shoving down everyone's throats!
The fears vary, but many worry that, as artificial intelligence takes away a growing share of jobs, there will be a backlash against Silicon Valley, America’s second-highest concentration of wealth. (Southwestern Connecticut is first.) “I’ve heard this theme from a bunch of people,” Hoffman said. “Is the country going to turn against the wealthy? Is it going to turn against technological innovation? Is it going to turn into civil disorder?”
Well, the country will turn against "technical innovation" if it takes away their livelihoods. Why wouldn't it?

We don't need AI. We can get along fine without robots. This world ran perfectly fine before Uber and AirBNB and iPhones and all the rest of it. Come to think of it, the world got along fine without computers and the Internet, as painfully ironic as it is to admit that. 

Maybe it's just a question of where the line is drawn.   

What do people now see in Silicon Valley, from these people who asked for our trust and promised a bright new tomorrow?  A bunch of rats ready to jump ship as soon as their robots have destroyed our economies? How long do they think they can hide from what they've done? How long before the law of the jungle takes hold and they are cowering before their alpha-male security teams?

Their Tomorrowland never opened and never will. Well, outside of Dubai, at least. If AIs flush a lot of clever people like lawyers, doctors and accountants from the economy do they really think those people won't seek revenge? Or for heaven's sake, truck drivers! 

How deep underground do these neo-Survivalists really want to live?

Silicon Valley survivalism could be seen as just another fad of people with too much money and too much justifiable guilt on their hands. Transhumanism and uploading and all the rest of it went nowhere, like most sane people knew it would, and this might be the next escapist fantasy on the bucket list. 

Maybe this will all die down- maybe the New Yorker piece will embarrass the survivalists to sanity- and Calexit will be the next big crusade to embark on.

But it should be noted that this movement comes at the tail end of an orgy of wealth and esteem for the Valley, when they essentially had the run of the White House. All that unparalleled money and power and still they feel the icy breath of paranoia on their necks? How can this possibly be? They should be bathing in milk and rose petals and lighting their bongs with $100 dollar bills.

But maybe the bigger issue here is the constant need to reinvent the wheel, to bow down to the false god of efficiency (as bloodthirsty a god as Molech ever was), to stop allowing the bottom line to drive the course of technology and develop technologies that feel freeing and invisible, rather than overbearing and ubiquitous.

I can't help but wonder if this rash of survivalism is just a manifestation of a collective guilty conscience. If these people weren't so hellbent on eliminating jobs and industries maybe they'd worry less about the repercussions of those actions. Maybe if they turned their attention to creating meaningful work for the entire world they could start fantasizing about that Jetsons-style future again.

For all of us.