Internet: Trapped In An Andrew Niccol Film
Whatever Happened To The Internet Dream (part 4)
This is the 4th in a series about the affect of Internet on society. Part 1 was the new mass media, part 2 the new politics and religion, part 3 movies and TV. Today’s topic: social instability brought on by technology.
Andrew Niccol is a screenwriter/director who often makes films with the theme of technological perfection undermining humanity. His first was GATTACA, a film about a technology to create genetically perfect babies which inevitably leads to these perfect babies having a huge advantage over natural born children, creating haves and have nots at birth. The second was The Truman Show, about a perfect society designed for one guy, who ultimately rejects his perfect life. Since then there was S1m0ne a pygmalion story about the perfect artificial celebrity, Lord of War about the effect of guns on society (which does not quite fit the theme, but still good), In Time about life where nobody ages as long as you have “time”, and The Host about aliens creating a perfect peaceful society which humans hate. Not all of these movies are great, but they are all at least thought provoking.
(Another screenwriter who often follows similar themes is Charlie Booker, creator of the excellent anthology series Black Mirror.)
Today, between the internet and constant communication access using smart phones is fulfilling a growing number of our human needs, and yet systematically destroying our society a piece at a time.
I loved browsing in record stores and bookstores and video stores and software stores. MP3s killed the record stores, kindle killed the bookstores, and Netflix killed the video stores. Shopping now only consists of food and clothes. Technology has eliminated the need for most shopping. A major “technology” store near me that used to specialize in the latest CDs, DVDs, Games, and Books, now sells toys where the CDs, DVDs, Games, and Books used to be.
I remember every Sunday morning having arguments over who got to read the comics first. We had great arguments at the video store over what to rent, and arguments over the TV remote, and who was hogging the only phone. All of this is disappearing fast. Remember arguing over trivial matters for hours with friends? Now someone will google the answer and the arguments over in a few seconds. We can’t even argue anymore.
Friendly arguing has been replaced by a new noise pollution as illustrated in this video: I Forgot My Phone.
I am currently fascinated by the rate of change I see happening today. Industries come and go at ever shorter intervals. Video rental stores are pretty much dead. Bookstores are in the dying category, so is Television. Who would have ever dreamed that TV networks and cable and Satellite TV would become a declining industry? Virtually all the traditional careers are in decline: Doctors, nurses, teachers, police/fire, lawyers, scientists, clerical, manufacturing, etc. Even the sex and porn industries are being destroyed in the new Internet economy.
The best jobs are in non traditional careers, which themselves will be in decline by the time people graduate trade school to learn them. It was just a few years ago when web site design was a growth industry.
The lack of stability in any field is bringing about a Post-employment economy. People are working for nothing as interns to improve their chances at a paid job (which statistically turns out to be bogus). Major publications are publishing articles and only paying the writers with the honor of being published in a major publication. Artists in all fields are running into the same issues when trying to get paid for their work.
The Internet is a technology designed to make us smarter and communicate better. It was supposed to make our lives easier, but by forcing competition in every endeavor it is driving the “supply” side of the economy way too fast. Whatever your skill set, a quick internet search will link potential employers and clients to dozens of others willing to do it faster, or cheaper, or better.
We are all living in a Truman Show world, and there does not seem to be an exit door to a more livable one.
Next time: One of the fastest growing industries is about to hit a brick wall: The App Stores (for basically the same reasons as described above). In the mean time, find out “Why The Scariest Sci-Fi Robot Uprising Has Already Begun.” (again same reason as above)
Internet Part 5: Tech Apocalypses
“The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.” — Was Karl Marx right after all?
Well, I guess that already happened, sort of, but not in the way Marx would have wanted. I think the grand bourgeois became the super-rich, while the petit-bourgeois largely became proletariat. Now the proletariat are falling as well.
We don’t really live in a post-scarcity economy, and in a sense we never will. But we do live in a worker-glut economy. As labour and its work-product become less scarce compared to land, natural resources, and even certain kinds of social status and personal influence, the price of labour drops. This creates a feedback loop as labourers support less of the consumer demand aspect of the economy, lowering the price of labour even more. We tried to stave off the spiral for a while by buying on credit, but that fell apart.
The internet contributes to price deflation, and a glut economy, by enabling price competition, and useful aftermarket resale on a large scale. Also by the ability to publish very cheaply, useful both to your competitors and your product’s pirates and aftermarket recording-sharers (to the point that those look like the same thing now).
Meanwhile, land, fresh water, and sneaky abstract social goods like power and influence are not in glut. Our labour loses value by comparison to those.
I think the future economy will have to be based in property or something like it, not just labour and work-product. The question is how broadly ownership will be distributed, and if it is to be broadly, how we get there.
Oh, what I was going to say, was this has implications for that science-fiction idea of a post-scarcity economy. One’s ability to sell goods or services at enough compensation to make a living depends on those goods and services having some scarcity (or more accurately, on their local distribution being somewhat scarce). Once labour, or food, or whatever stops being scarce, it stops being a way to make a living. Its natural rate of compensation is zero, plus whatever custom and pity impels customers to pay, until custom changes, and pity is revealed as mere charity.
Anything still scarce increases in value enormously by comparison. If nothing anyone actually wanted were scarce, there wouldn’t be a market or an economy as we know it. I’m not even sure theft would be understood as a crime, unless it was of something unique or somehow otherwise non-fungible.
And as Honda Asimo comes closer to perfection of it’s AI, humankind will have mechanical servants that will do their bidding. Humans might not even leave home.
Pingback: Five Things That Could Destroy the Internet | Ariane's Life in the Metaverse
Pingback: The Tech Apocalypses – Ariane's Life in the Metaverse
Pingback: Internet memes are destroying civilization! – Ariane's Life in the Metaverse
Pingback: Internet: The Decline of Movies and TV – Ariane's Life in the Metaverse
Pingback: The Internet Dream is Dead! | Ariane's Life in the Metaverse