Idiocracy Assimilated: The Borg Collective Gets An Upgrayedd

Idiocracy Assimilated

In 2063 Zephram Cochrane was to have invented the warp drive that would free humanity not only from its cosmic captivity, but from its own petty weaknesses and excesses, by virtue of giving it something better to do. However some Vulcans who were observing Sputnik and ended up stranded on Earth in 1957 dramatically changed the timeline. Unbeknownst to them a human scientist found their ‘hidden’ ship and was able to get enough information about it to pioneer microprocessors nearly fifty years before it would have happened on the earlier timeline.

As a result the internet was unleashed on humanity before it had culturally matured enough to to fully appreciate it’s tremendous power. Human beings began to rapidly adapt according to properties of this new cybernetic environment. Methods of giving and getting approval in that new environment skewed peoples tastes, but even worse, had massive effects on their psychological well being and maturity. The replacing of complex written language with a wildly popular form of reductionist images called ‘memes’ quickly eroded human rhetoric and critical thinking skills. As the new viral images made people increasingly less intelligent, the new psychological kinks also made them believe that their devolving intellects were in fact superior. Through these two factors combined with many other internet culture issues, like passive aggressiveness and constant barely masked insinuations, humanity began dumbing down at an exponential rate.

When a Borg ship from the future visited Earth on its new timeline in 2063, they did not immediately recognize that humanity had devolved, and began the process of assimilation by unleashing nanoprobes into the planets oceans, and thus into the entire worlds water supply. Having not realized the Vulcan visit had changed the timeline so radically, the Borg showed up and assimilated a planet full of idiots.

Having added the technological and biological distinctiveness of the Idiocracy to their own, over time the Collective itself began to become infected by the same viral stupidity that had conquered humanity via the internet. By the end of the 21st century, the Borg had become a hive of dumbasses. Although their collective nature and cybernetic implants kept them from becoming as hopeless and useless as the humans had been when assimilated, the Borg took a turn that would prevent them from realizing perfection, while allowing them to continue to assimilate ever more species into their galactic idiocracy.


The man once known on Earth as Dr. Lexus was now in a giant sphere somewhere in the alpha quadrant looking for new species to assimilate. He was the seventh member added to the interplanetary adjunct of Unimatrix Dicks, though his scroes just called him Seven of Dicks. But usually pretty much every drone in the Borg collective, just shortened it Septdick.

Septdick was scrubbing plasma conduits in Borg Sphere #Pota2-11 when he must have spaced out for a minute. Gone were both his own thoughts and those of the collective. When he came out of his haze he found that he was attempting to assimilate his own leg. At first he began to panic at his predicament. But when he heard the collective, audible again within his own mind, laughing at his zoned-out blunder, he allowed himself to laugh along with them as he retracted his nanoprobe tubules from himself. He looked over at the drone closest to him and said, “I like assimilation.”

The drone, who was known to the Borg as Fart of Twelve and was once a member of species #879 dead-panned back, “I like assimilation, too.”

The two drones did a hopping high-five before a single voice boomed through the mind of the entire collective. It was the Borg queen, Beef Supreme, announcing that they were just about to assimilate a new species. The minds of the hive went silent as Beef Supreme spoke through a drone into a loudspeaker in a far away sphere hovering over a world full of new recruits.

“We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your planet. We will add your biologicalal and technical dickstinkyness to our own. Your cult chore will adapt to service us. Resist us is futile.”

Septdick went back to work on the plasma conduits and watched the assimilation, through the eyes of the drones doing it, in his mind. He felt a slight euphoria as the rush of new individual consciousnesses were added to his own. He spoke again to the nearby drone, “The corrective is pretty badass.”

It answered back, “Yeah, those planet guys are totally butthurt fags.”

Rather than answering back, Seven of Dicks shot Twelve of Farts an image of a famous actor from Earth history making a face of surprised uncertainty that was overlaid with some text about some human disease and sexual practices. Much of the Borg Collective now used such memetic symbols to make associations between phenomena and response. Since assimilating the Idiocracy and becoming infected with its intellectual viruses, the Borg increasingly used memes to communicate to one another. They were simple yet effective tools for providing cohesion of the dumbed-down group mind. If information is reduced to only its implicit message, it is easy to understand and agree upon. The sort of explicit-rich and implicit-blind information sharing that had helped destroy the human beings intelligence just before the Borg showed back up to assimilate them also worked as a great tool for keeping the Borg strong despite the cerebral cancer it was now infected with.

After finishing up the warp coil maintenance, Septdick went to check out the aeroponics bay to see if any of the organic matter he had been attempting to grow was sprouting yet. He hoped to be able to devise a process for assimilating lower life forms, like plants, algae and fungus, so the collective could benefit from their knowledge and experience. But so far nothing has stirred from the seeds he had placed in the dirt. It just didn’t make sense. The soil was nutrient rich and he had all but flooded it with Borgade, which had nanoprobes. And nanoprobes are what organic life needs. Something should have been popping up by now. He took some sensor data and went off to find an open regeneration alcove to process it while his own nanoprobe rich organic matter was recharged through the conduits of technology that supplemented his body.

While he was regenerating he dreamt of the place where only some drones ever visited in their down-cycle. There his scroes and hoes were all free of the collective and were able to interact with one another as the individuals they were before they were assimilated. Unfortunately, most of the other species avoided the human drones who were somehow able to visit there, and seemed to look down on them as inferior. Meanwhile, the humans there thought the other species shit was retarded and that they tended to talk like fags. Yet the humans did not judge them as harshly because, in their view, there were plenty of tards out there living dank lives, so who were they to play Judge Judy and executioner?

Seven of Dicks felt a jostle and was suddenly awake and looking into the face of a rather confused drone who must have bumped into him and interrupted his regeneration cycle. Septdick said, “Go away, ratin’!” and then stepped back into the alcove and that other place.

When he returned the formerly human Borgs had gathered together for a meeting. After everyone was done greeting each other by punching them in the groins, one of the more intelligent particular individuals began giving an impassioned speech.

“I know shit’s fucked up. Everyone’s shit is real emotional right now. But we got this guy, Don’t Know, who is gonna help us figure our shit out.” The speaker then fired a phase pistol, which was set to incinerate, into the ceiling of the building they had gathered. Just before the ceiling collapsed on the dreaming drones, Septdick and the others were pulled from their slumber by an urgent message from Beef Supreme.

“We are experimenting technological difficulties. Please stand by and prepared to be bored.” Suddenly the collective mind was in absolute disorder. Klaxons blared all over the ship as he tapped into the ships sensors to see if he could figure out what was going on. He looked around and it appeared all of the other Borg drones surrounding him were doing the same. A view outside the ship showed another sphere that had somehow triggered its own self-destruct sequence. As it blew up, he and the others could not help but jump around pumping their fists and cheering at the scene of carnage. Even though it was one of their spheres, the scene was pretty badass. Beef Supreme continued, “Please remain chill while we adapt for a solution.”

Somewhere in that endless collection of individual minds a single voice rose up, “I got a solution, yer a dick!” That got the collective going and the meme-sharing threatened to break the internets that connected them.

Beef Supreme boomed over the cacophony, “You guys are just butthurt, but I can super-size with your concerns. Shit’s real fucked up right now. I think we accidentally ass-stimulated a viral us. I am trying recaliber rate the nanoprobes to fix the misfunctions. As soon as I figure it out I will send you all the instructions to fix your nanprobes. Nanoprobes got what Borgs need. Peace out, bitches.”

The drone closest to him asked aloud, “What was that ho saying about banana pros?”

The Borg queen came back, “I think I have found the problem. We seem to have been in-fucked-ed by the genes of a species forgery known as humans. I am preparing to upload the solutions to your data breaks.”

“What did she say about jeans? What does she think we are, some kind of pants goblins?” the nearby drone asked.

The collective became an overwhelming rush of confusion and panic. Seven of Dicks was taking in so much data that he was no longer aware of himself or his environment. The collective was too noisy and he couldn’t even meme with his scroes. When he came back to his own mind, he was trying to assimilate the drone he had been talking to before.

“Sorry, Butt of Fucks, I don’t know why I did that.” he paused. “I like assimilation.”

The confused drone, Butt of Fucks, looked back at him and smiled. “I like assimilation, too.”

In the middle of a leaping double high five, augmented by mutual heel clicks, the voice of Beef Supreme spoke again.

“I have completely the adoptations required to make the upgrayedds necessary to destroy the viral lice. That is upgrayedd with two ‘d’s for double download. As in a double download of pimpin’.”

A moment after he received the re-assimilation programming, he looked around him. Drones were dressed in neon print t-shirts with strange primitive designs that said ‘Assimilation’ on them. The ones who were formerly female were wearing clothes that nearly revealed the areas of the body that once contained genitals, before they had been converted into asexual copies of their former selves. The ship looked like a targ pit and on monitors all around there was a show playing in which drones were all taking cheap stun gun shots at a single drones implants, while everyone else looked on in hysterical rapture. Seven of Dicks could hear the collective in his mind asking the same questions. What are we? What happened to us? What do we do now? Instead of trying to answer them, or get the answer, he made his way to the nearest empty alcove and prepared himself for the next regeneration.

Society On the Surface: Distinguishing Between the Explicit and Implicit

society on the surface

Pretend that you have just opened a cool, crisp can of your favorite soft drink. You take a few short sips and savor them, then take in a long gulp of that sticky sweet stuff. Now, if I ask you to describe that can of soda, how would you respond? My guess is that most of us would use adjectives like- cold, sweet, refreshing, etc. A huckster might instead describe the can rather than the beverage it contains and say it is- cylindrical, opens at one end, is predominately red and black. These are all of the directly observable qualities or experiences of the can of soda. They are its explicit messages.

Now let us say that you wanted to start a soda company of your own. What are the things you would have to know about soda to do so? Surely you would have to understand the explicit nature of soda in order to make a product that is enjoyable and marketable. But you would have to know some things about cans of soda that can not be related directly by cans of soda themselves. You would have to know about ingredients and the supply chains by which you attained them. You would have to know about properties of the packaging to be used.

If you followed those bits of explicit knowledge further down the rabbit hole of implicit messages you might learn about the resources used to create the ingredients. You might also learn of the labor used to harvest and adapt them and the socio-political implications of that process. And from this you could continue branching off endlessly into infinite new paths of knowledge that all contribute to a fuller knowledge of a can of soda. Eventually your description of a can of soda might be something like, ‘a sticky sweet beverage, often chilled, and reliant on resources, labor and supply chains associated with industrial era global oligarchs who often exploited their laborers/consumers and the environment in order to increase profits from selling  a product with disturbing health implications, and gaining a monopoly on socio-economic paradigms in the process’.

Everything you observe or experience has both explicit and implicit properties. Before we go further, lets get a better understanding of what those two concepts mean.

Explicit properties are obvious. Those properties are apparent through observations and direct experience. They are the properties on the surface. They are the content of the subject. Explicitness ‘is what it is’.

Implicit properties are not obvious. They often require further thought or research of properties or connections not immediately apparent to an observer. They are beneath the surface of the thing itself.  They are its contextual information, knowledge that creates a big picture of a world in which soda exists and its implications and underlying effects in that world.

I have spoken a lot recently about implicit information. Recent articles on Chaos, Like Buttons, Institutions, Facts, Niceness, Survival and Memes (and more Memes), as well as others, have all been an attempt to describe the often overlooked implicit information all around us. I have spoken about content vs. context and signifier vs. signified, as well as other semiotic confusion I often encounter with people. I have discussed Marshall McLuhan’s idea that The Medium Is the Message, which is an excellent example of understanding the difference between the explicit and implicit; as well as why implicit information has greater effects and consequences than explicit info. Because it is easier to attain the explicit and ignore the implicit, we often find ourselves ignoring implicit information and its importance.

Here is an interview with McLuhan that, although long, contains an incredibly rich amount of information and explanation on the topic.

When McLuhan spoke up there of mediums he included social systems and other cultural artifacts and ideologies. Besides the obvious mediums that appear in media, he was talking about how the implicit information about a thing always says much more about its meaning and effect on individuals and society than the explicit.

As our world grows more technologically and socially complex, we are bombarded with ever more cultural artifacts and social systems. There are always more and more mediums being created. And through media we are consuming more and more of the explicit information contained in them. As the bombardment of explicit messages increases, the implicit messages become increasingly hidden and faint. In order to keep up with the increasing amount and complexity of the explicit we have had to ignore the implicit to make room in our expanding collective consciousness. As a result we are constantly applying this shortcut compulsively. We have turned off our implicit thinking, critical thinking, in order to manage the avalanche of explicit information in our environment.

One strange outcome of this paradigm is that modern studies and tests assure us that we are growing increasingly more intelligent as a species, based on scales which measure our ability to regurgitate explicit information. And what determines the sort of explicit information test results reward us for regurgitating often depends on external agendas or attempts to specialize. The agendas are intentional attempts by power structures to condition our thinking and responses to be amenable to the power structures those agendas were created by. They dumb us down to manipulate us using explicit information overload and engineering. The specialization is a response to socio-economic paradigms which reward us for filling in areas of labor necessity that also often works in the overall favor of power structures. Yet the specialization narrows our knowledge to such a degree that even most specialists are buried in the explicit knowledge of their area of expertise to the degree that they cannot see where it fits in the bigger picture.

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
-Robert A. Heinlein, from ‘Time Enough for Love’

Before we continue to analyze the problem of implicit-blindness in our society on the surface, lets look at another form of explicit information that behaves in very much the same ways as memes. In fact, many memes past and present have incorporated this far older medium into their own. The medium I am discussing is ‘platitudes’. Platitudes are common sayings that convey what generally seems like universally agreeable statements. But those explicit statements are always loaded with implicit context. And even when the explicit seems universally agreeable, deconstructing the implicit messages within it can reveal a platitude as being poorly thought out or outright deceptive or false. Yet because the assumption of universal agreement is also a part of sharing that platitude, those who reject it on the terms of implicit falsehoods can face social rejection, or be told that they should ‘chill out’, ‘stop overthinking it’ or not be so ‘unreasonably disagreeable’. Yet when the reason for disagreement comes directly from an investigation of the platitude using reason itself, intelligent responses to intellectual automata are not only considered acts of aggression, but make one susceptible to acts of counter aggression by those who reject the implicit. Lets look at a simple platitude-

Love is all you need.

This one is really simple because it has only three main areas we need to deconstruct to view the implicit information which negates the explicit message of the statement. Due to structure we will work in reverse with the three concepts.

  • Need- What is need? Need means that a condition must be fulfilled to avoid negative consequences. Human beings have several needs, but only a few of them must be met to basically live. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a standard often used for identifying the needs of human beings in their order of importance. Love is somewhere in the center of the pyramid of these needs, although one could, in theory, live without it.
  • All- How long do you think you would survive if all you had was love? How happy and mentally/emotionally healthy would you be if the only need being met was love, or even just stopped there on the pyramid? Does ‘all’ have any meaning in this context or is it just a small word with lots of hyperbole?
  • Love- Of all of the qualities of human experience, love may be the most subjective. Though we all agree that it seems to exist and even have similar experiences of it, we cannot say exactly what love is. Yet there are some things we know about love. Love can make you feel good, and it can make you feel bad. Loving someone, therefore, means that you will both make the other feel good sometimes and bad others. In fact, sometimes love requires us to hurt others, in order to protect them from dangers they are unable to recognize or protect themselves from.

When John Lennon wrote that trite crap, do you suppose he meant to say that ‘sometimes hurting other people for their own good is the only requirement for survival’? It is possible that he meant that. He died from an overdose of admiration before I was old enough to even consider that question. Yet what 99.99% of people think he is saying is that ‘so long as we make each other feel good, everything else will take care of itself’. In this case, even the explicit message is pretty dopey and vacant. Yet when examined even further for its implicit message, it is a completely idiotic and meaningless statement. Yet it has become so culturally persistent that it is now essentially a universal platitude.

(Exercise: Try reading the lyrics to Imagine by John Lennon while uncovering the implicit messages and see if you can get from one line to the next without wanting to knee his rotted corpse in the groin.)

Explicit information is subjective experience calling itself objective knowledge backed by the certainty of majority consensus. We are able to prop up our own self-awareness and identity on the explicit with very little danger to those concepts. Agreeing about the explicit forms the basis of social interactions and becomes a path to popularity or other social rewards. The explicit is often the feel-good content of daily interactions. Because it often makes us feel good or rewards us otherwise, it becomes a path of least resistance at best, and a total crutch at worst. When you add this to the fact that it is far easier to deal with the explicit, implicit messages are constantly being ignored, denied or scorned.

Yet explicit messages are like dots in a ‘connect-the-dots’ exercise. They are a necessary part of the end product, but are meaningless themselves. It is the lines between which gives shape and life to those dots, and the lines are the implicit. Our ignorance, distaste and rejection of the implicit is creating an intellectual environment of all dots and no lines. Even while humanity is acquiring more dots all of the time, we are becoming more like white noise than a clear signal. If we do not learn to be more connective in day to day life, to see the bigger picture or the forest through the trees, then we will eventually be awash in a cosmic sea of useless information. Dots that connect to no other dots. The noise of which will be too great to concentrate upon the implicit and save us from the feedback chamber of horrors that is explicitness overload.

It is critical that we begin to stop thinking from so many assumptions and operating from the micro. For our intellectual evolution to continue, humanity must train its minds to operate more often from the macro, and from that bigger picture to never take any information for granted. The society on the surface is one in which critical thinking is replaced by assumptions, in which we are always zooming in and never out; and in which explicit messages do not act as paths to implicit investigation, but become barriers to thinking about anything beyond its mere appearances.

The Cult of Niceness

cult of niceness

The Cult of Niceness is an umbrella term that I use to describe many different behaviors and ideas. I first noticed the problem when I was only a child. Observing adults I was able to notice that they sometimes put on an appearance of niceness in order to cloak some other agenda. I began to understand that ‘nice’ was sometimes just a deceptive ruse used to manipulate others in some way. Usually just to create an image of themselves for others who did not know them well enough to see through it. Other times it was in order to coerce people into thinking, saying or doing what they wanted thought, said or done.  I quickly noted that often the attempt to appear nice was actually just a form of passive aggressiveness that somehow worked, no matter how obvious the charade seemed to me. And I quickly refused to play into that disingenuine mindgame myself.

As a result people often think I am either an asshole, socially unrefined or both. Genuine authentic honesty is a virtue we all pay lip service to, but most people are repulsed when they actually encounter it. The very same qualities that would cause people to label me also made me immune to their classifications. Integrity and consistency generally only feel good to the person attaining them, and painful to those whose cognitive dissonance they incite. People will then push you to admit to some kind of self-loathing in order to gratify themselves, and if you do not concede they will tell you that you think you are better than them and everyone else. I have never been concerned with popularity contests or other competitions. I am not trying to be better than anyone else. I am trying to be the best possible me. Along the way I am trying to assist others in being the best possible selves they can be. I have a sneaking suspicion that the more we all improve ourselves, the more peaceful, harmonious and joyful the world we share will be. So I refuse to apologize for being who I am, even if you don’t like it, or if it makes you like yourself less.

The Cult of Niceness (CON) is predicated on peoples insecurities. It is self-doubt and existential malaise regurgitated in statements synonymous with suburban mommy talk. It is the special snowflake speech mounted on the hood of day-to-day life like cattle horns on an oil magnates Cadillac.  It is an attempt to be rewarded, validated and gratified for doing absolutely nothing deserving of those responses. The most insidious part being that not only is the behavior fake and deceptive, it also takes advantage of other peoples falsehoods and self-deception. People who like themselves do not feel the need to bully others into artificial niceties through such manufactured discrepancies. While everybody knows that the person the bully always loathes most is their self. And make no doubt, insisting that others perform the same CON roles that you are trapped in is just a form of social bullying.

Social media has, like it has with everything else, magnified this human weakness to stupendous proportions. The CON is what drives most online interactions. One of the most common behaviors that makes this apparent is the act of sharing self-deprecating thoughts in order to get rewarded, validated and gratified for an apparent act of humbleness that is actually just manipulative neediness. People will describe their weaknesses, failures or other unfavorable quirks in the hope that it will get them attention. They will self-loathe in order to fish out compliments. They will don a mask of vulnerability and timid dislike for themselves just so that others will respond to them in ways that help them identify themselves as superior to others. The CON has created an ideology that suggests that superiority comes in the form of humble self-deprecation. But oddly enough, only people who really do dislike themselves can be fooled into thinking that appearing to dislike themselves makes them better than everyone else.

Numerous messages online tell us that all we need is love and that if only we were all nice the world would be a perfect place. These oversimplistic reductionisms are dangerously ignorant. Not only because they deny the value humanity receives from a complex range of behaviors, but because they also suggest that niceness is a quality only measured in appearances. People do cruel things all of the time in order to achieve the most positive possible outcomes. If you have never hurt someones feelings with your honesty in order to save them an even greater pain, then you probably have never really loved somebody all that much. Friends and family members rely on one another to deliver harsh truths that would save them from entering treachery hiding in their own blind spots.

Given that our world has become riddled with so much conceptual ignorance, we have created great areas of blindness that threaten humanity at large. Pointing out the misconceptions and false premises that these blind spots are predicated on is itself a great kindness to our entire species. But when you fail to stroke peoples delusions or confirm their biases or point out all of this behavior their reaction is usually just to label you an asshole or as socially unrefined. By protecting themselves from the abrasive cognitive dissonance you would cause them in the name of niceness, people are poking holes in their own raft and calling it a waterpark. When people have more desire not to feel like they were wrong than they do to actually try and be right, it becomes impossible to reach them. The truth often does hurt, and those who put niceness before growing pains are wearing their ignorance with an idiots welcoming grin.

I am not just complaining about the CON because I find it distasteful. I am giving a dire warning about it because it is very important for a few different reasons. The first reason is that it is an affront to reason itself. The CON is one of the things which is contributing to the dumbing-down of humanity and ushering in the Idiocracy. The second reason is that we are entering an era of humanity that will center around the reputation of individuals. If the Reputation Economy of tomorrow is built upon the falsehoods and appearances of the CON, then we will be living in an Idiocracy in which everyone appears just as robotic, plasticine and saccharine sweet as The Stepford Wives. It will be a Nerf Hell or a Smile-Or-Die Dystopia. So my warning about this problem is not the revenge or ‘diss-track’ some people will think of it as, as they act out all of the ignorance I just warned against here. It is the solemn cautioning of a Trojan Horse at our gates. If we invite the CON into our lives because it sure does look pretty great on the outside, we are gonna be in for a big surprise when it starts unpacking its dangerous contents. Consider this a warning.

Just because I am suggesting that you do not take part in compulsive and coercive niceness does not mean that I endorse its opposite, compulsive and coercive assholery. Sometimes being an asshole, or doing things you know will get you labeled as one, is the course of action that will lead to the best outcomes for all. But doing it compulsively and as an act of senseless aggression is really just the same problem. The world has no shortage of people who are assholes just for sport. The internet is full of these people. This is not the opposite of the CON, it is just the other side of the same bad coin. Trying to exploit peoples weakness by provoking an emotional response just to reward, gratify or validate ones self is a giant pitfall we must avoid if we don’t wish to lead others over the edge of sanity like intellectual lemmings.

The CON is a dangerous social precedent to set. It is a falsehood of appearances with all of the philosophical complexity of a big purple dinosaur singing songs to children. It is important not to tread on the feelings of others for no good reason, but sometimes there are good reasons, and other times you cannot help how other will emotionally respond. Yet we cannot protect our Feelz to such a degree that it allows us to remain in ignorance to the extent that our species devolves intellectually in the process. Try to be nice when it is appropriate, but you are under no obligation to smile and nod bobble-headedly in the affirmative when the CON asks you to try their kool aid.

Ronda Rousey, Charlie Sheen & Donald Trump Walk Into the Star Wars Bar

rousey sheen trump star wars

Ronda says to the bartender, “Shot of bourbon with a beer back, please.”

Charlie then orders, “Double shot of bourbon, no chaser. I prefer to go bareback.”

Not be outdone, Trump asks the bartender for a triple shot with a vodka chaser, explaining, “Any more than three shots and I usually end up on the floor casting vomit spells the rest of the night, but what the hell, right?”

The bartender pours the drinks and while handing Trump his vodka chaser wryly comments, “May the fourth bewitch you.”


 

Although my opening pun seems to explain the title of this article, it was not the inspiration for it. The title came from pulling a few keyword subjects out of Google’s biggest searches of 2015. It is an obviously blatant attempt to opportunize on the internet’s most popular themes. And while I will certainly take any traffic that comes this blogs way, I really am trying to make a larger point here. Much of what you see on the internet has its genesis in similar logic. Capitalizing on popularity without much regard to the quality or originality of content. That is what makes ad revenue and that is what gets the greatest response at websites and in social media.

Author Bret Easton Ellis, perhaps best known as author of the cult classic novel American Psycho, recently wrote a piece sharing some of the same concerns I have been having about internet culture. In ‘Living In the Cult of Likability‘ he discusses how technical aspects of social media lend themselves to an ever-narrowing channel of groupthink, compulsive approval and unearned validation. He further goes on to discuss what this means in a Reputation Economy. While I think he is mistaken in suggesting that we already have a RepEcon, he is absolutely right about what this behavior would mean to such a paradigm. A saccharine, plasticine dystopia. In the words of Quasi’s Sam Coomes…

“A cardboard world of painted skies, ’cause we all must agree to believe in the lies.”

Where Ellis misunderstands a reputation economy is that he sees the early evolutionary markers of the thing as the thing itself. A RepEcon is not really possible alongside scarcity and currency-based economics. It cannot be achieved until certain technological and sociopolitical advances come about. Yet despite the fact that we do not have a RepEcon, we do have a lot of the early indicators of one. As I have discussed in the past, online rating and review systems as well as the way that social networks are structured and how monetary rewards for online content operate are all glances into the future in their infancy. In them we can see how a RepEcon might operate, and based on that, Bret is absolutely correct to be concerned and a bit horrified.

Should a future in which reputation is the economic status of the individual ever happen, and that reputation is determined on the metrics, culture and validation symbols that are intrinsic to the burgeoning progenitors we have now, it will be a neon Idiocracy.  The internet has become a bastion of pandering, marketing and manipulation. At the same time it has also increasingly become a source of identity, status and passive consensus. The combination of these things is that the most popular content is often the most calculated and manipulative garbage which then becomes culturally canonized by our most basic desire to gain acceptance. It is creating a feedback loop in which what we want and what we are given are increasingly narrowing in scope into the most basic things we can agree upon. We are told what to like, which then sends back a signal about what we like, which then is used to create more of what we were told to like to begin with. And every time these symbols travel around that feedback loop these lose more of their signal and become ever-degrading symbols devoid of any substance except that which can be exploited by opportunists as another way to manipulate us.

The sad part is that in social media, we do most of this to ourselves. The vapid patterns of behavior in Facebook and elsewhere are self-replicating patterns of self-validation and consensus gathering. From posturing the perfect life to expressing ourselves ever more simplistically through the appealing reductivism of memes, we are creating a lowest common denominator of the individual by which we are identified by ourselves and others, especially the predatory opportunists. These forms continue to reduce human experience and distill it into a picture of normality which we are then invited and inspired to achieve. The current forms of online reputation gathering and display work not to create value from the reputation of the individual, but from their acceptance of and aspiration to a false construct of normality.

And there are far more insidious ways that technology is catering to us against our best interest. One researcher believes it will be possible to derive our emotional states from how we are using our mouse. He plans to use this technology as a tool for web designers and marketers to cater to the responses of their users to certain types of content and formatting. Using the information, site administrators, content creators and advertisers can then produce online materials geared for the lowest common denominator. Big Data is watching our every move and figuring out how to best profit from it. It is spawning more and more technologies to measure our responses so they can be used to manipulate us into behaviors that profit those funding Big Data. It does so at the expense of the individual and at the complexity which drives human progress towards greater harmony by creating an illusion of harmony that is nothing more than an intellectual trap.

Where my original vision of the RepEcon was starry-eyed and wistful, I have come to see some of the catastrophic pitfalls should that reputation economy be based on the values perpetuated by the current forms of social media, internet culture and these technologies intrinsic technical structures. A healthy reputation economy requires healthy sets of human values that strive towards higher complexity, not more meaningless consensus constructed from the manipulative paradigms of the industrialist era. If our values do not improve and come to recognize the beauty and strength of outsiders, eccentrics and other staples of a healthy intellectual community, then the RepEcon will evolve humanity into a pitiful Idiocracy of desperate infantile behaviors seeking validation by denying their own individuality.

I have a few more upcoming articles about the RepEcon planned for the near future, just as soon as I get done spending the loads of cash that flow in from this blog. Don’t be afraid to click those share buttons just below. 😉

How Social Network Users Miss the Point of Discordianism

discotrolls

As a long time Discordian I was excited to see the internet spreading the message of Discordianism far wider than pamphlets and books were ever able to. I find the philosophy suggested by this ‘satirical’ religion to be in possession of some valuable truths with ideological premises that can be used to understand all facets of reality. I believed that were Discordianism to ever reach a greater audience, the encroaching Idiocracy might be avoided. So I have been devastated to find that the internet, particularly social media, has managed to dumb down Discordianism itself into a meaningless excuse for all sorts of mindless and often juvenile behavior.

While you can find evidence of this behavior at Reddit, Tumblr and other online meeting places for ‘Discordians’, nowhere is it more pronounced than on Facebook. The Discordian Society group on Facebook has almost 12,000 members and is the most prime example of Discordianism having been co-opted by AOL-era internet trolls. And while trolling itself is a valid form of Operation Mindfuck when done properly, the type being done by these people has no particular ideological agenda, but is just an outlet for cheap shock and attention seeking of the most juvenile sorts. These people have so little reverence for actual Discordianism that they even dumb it down further by calling it ‘Disco’.

Disco Trolls do not understand that the parables regarding, and satirical veneration of Eris are actually a complex recognition of the nature of existence. Instead they think that Eris is a symbol of literal chaos-worship whose rituals require acts of chaos. Besides missing the point here, the juvenile behavior is not even chaotic. It is just crude low brow shock humor that often includes sexism, racism and other bigotries and bad ideas as their premise. There is nothing chaotic about that. There is nothing even ‘edgy’ about it, which is the aim of Disco Trolls. Edgy would be to upset some mainstream ideologies and status quo paradigms, not to vacuously replicate them in your own image for shock value. In a world being dumbed down, intelligence is edgy. But intelligence is regarded by Disco Trolls as a cause for ridicule and abuse. Any attempt to act outside of the narrow confines of their groupthink activities is despised and when you point out their general intellectual blasphemy you are met with vicious attacks of the kind that Greyface himself would take pride in.

The most common activity taking place on Discordian social media is the making and disseminating of memes, which is also the most common activity throughout most of social media. There is nothing at all edgy about memes. Nothing could be more commonplace or normal than meme-ing. And quite possibly nothing could be more dangerous to critical thinking and human intelligence than the anti-intellectual context of that medium, which seems to replicate like a virus, invading places where there was once healthy intellectual tissue with image based reductionism and oversimplification. Yet if you point this out to Disco Trolls, their only comeback is to invoke the internet buzzword ‘butthurt‘, which is a spell people online use to ward of any attempts at actually understanding someone else’s ideological position.  In the rare case a more extensive argument was made to defend memes, it was to call the behavior an art form, which is like calling commercial jingles music. It is also suggested that memes are similar to the images used in The Principia Discordia, but the contexts of time and medium make that comparison meaningless.

What all this adds up to is a large group of people who are convinced they are being rebellious by taking part in the most normal activities possible, while trying to spread their false discord by kindertrolling their own choir. And as if all of this attention seeking juvenile behavior were not obvious enough, Disco Trolls often appear to be emotionally damaged and self-esteem deficient individuals who use blatant hyperbolized sexuality to booster their frail egos. Sharing nudes with strangers online is not edgy sexuality, it is a desperate plea to get attention with the least amount of effort. There is nothing wrong with human sexuality, but people who wrap their identities in it are not healthy expressions of it, they are examples of emotional insecurities not so dissimilar to the sexually repressed. Lest you believe I am just being a prude, this behavior has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with validation. There is nothing transcendent about people seeking validation by appealing to the instincts of others.

Why do I care so much about morons co-opting the the name Discordianism and using it as a label to justify stupid, sophomoric behavior? Because social media is where people are likely to first encounter Discordianism these days. And where those philosophies once were able to awaken people to some powerful metaphors through humor, those who encounter Disco Trolls may never see the deep truths contained therein, and will instead be redirected to participate in a symbolic replica of Discordianism with none of the substance. What was once a tool of enlightenment has been relegated by social network habits into another factor in our devolution. It has made an illness of a medicine.

So if you participate in the above described behaviors but actually have some intellectual honesty, dignity and respect for Discordianism, you might want to consider changing your habits. And if you read this before you have been indoctrinated by Disco Trolls into their pink world of false slack, don’t confuse those intolerable Normals for Discordians. And if you are one of those Disco Trolls who reads this and you get pissy and defensive about it, remember- “Tis an ill wind that blows no minds.”

Welcome to the Idiocracy – The Growing Ignorance of Intelligence

idiocracy

Human beings possess a great number of virtuous characteristics. Much of what makes us unique individuals are the infinite possible combinations and degrees of these virtues (and flaws). Most of the time we are able to recognize the virtues of others and honor them. We generally have no problem appreciating virtues in others that we do not possess ourselves. Yet today there is one virtue that our culture makes a great show of proclaiming the most virtuous of all virtues, while at the same time largely failing to recognize and appreciate it. In fact, those who possess it often become the subject of scorn. That virtue is intelligence.

If I said that I was good at sports or could draw or play the piano well, nobody would accuse me of being an intolerable egomaniac or narcissist. However, if I were to make any claim to, or even insinuate intellectual prowess, I would be derided and despised by people at all levels of the intellectual spectrum. I am intelligent. I worked incredibly hard to get that way for little more reward than the despair entailed by being intelligent in an unappreciative and apathetic society. Just as athletes endure the physical pain of training and artists and musicians endure the emotional pain of bare expression even while practicing, I have put a lot of painful effort into rising above the average intellectual standards of this time and place in history.  This is not to say that I am one of the most intelligent people in the world (definitely not) or that it makes me a better overall human being. It is simply a recognition of a virtue I have achieved through a great amount of conscious effort over many years. Yet it is a certainty that this very writing will create the kind of backlash against me that I specifically discuss as being a major problem for our species.

As a writer for CopBlock.org I am regularly subject to attacks against my intelligence. Ignorance can be found in no greater abundance than where it pools up around authoritarianism. These attacks happen in place of a rational rebuttal of the things which I wrote. This alone is often a potent clue as to the intellectual capacity of the commenter, but their intelligence comes into even greater question when you examine the vocabulary, conceptual over-simplicity and logical fallacies that their responses consist of. Even worse is that they judge my intellect (rather than my ideas) not on its own merits, but on the sole basis that I disagree with their opinions and worldview. The wider the intelligence gap between myself and the commenter, the more voraciously vicious and resistant to reason they become.

That some people have a lower capacity for intellectual pursuits is not itself problematic. What is troublesome is the inability for people to recognize intellects greater than their own, and for them to center their attack based on their ignorance of intelligence. I would not expect people to agree with another’s opinions or worldviews based solely on a judgement of their intelligence. Yet when people fail to consider new information and ideas due to an underlying prejudice against those who disagree with them, which they falsely equate with intellectual inferiority, they create a feedback loop of circular reasoning that reinforces and strengthens their ignorance. This is the most surefire way to obtain and maintain a state of stupidity. When you ignore or deny everyone who might be able to teach you something new or how to see things differently, you create yourself a trap in which your evolution and growth are stunted completely. And this is now occurring at an  exponential and alarming rate.

This growing pattern has created a hostile and dangerous trend in our society. An increase in the sum of human intelligence does not require everybody to rise above average. History is full of individuals whose singular efforts were able to bring new knowledge and its resulting applications to all of humanity. All that was required of humanity was to recognize, respect and trust those geniuses and their ideas. The dependence on a tiny fraction of individuals to recognize and solve the worlds problems and questions has worked tremendously well in moving our species ever ahead. Yet as the trend of denying and even despising superior individual intelligence has rendered useless a resource that our species has always relied upon most for progress and clarity.

As intelligence itself becomes a less acknowledged and respected trait, it faces extinction. Devaluing it, or instead valuing a false symbolic replacement, means that it will decrease as a selection trait for breeding partners, which leads us down an evolutionary path to self destruction. When we fail to respect and honor intelligence we remove the motivation for individuals to seek it out and attain it through hard work. Finally, it diminishes any examples of intelligence which could inspire future individuals and become a basis for their own explorations. We are quite literally creating the perfect evolutionary conditions by which the virtue of human intelligence could become extinct.

It becomes necessary to ask how we got to this point. While public education, mainstream media and the other tools of the oligarchy are obvious targets, I suspect a far more insidious threat has recently become a massive part of our collective consciousness. The problem I am discussing is our increasing tendency to replace substance with symbols. Like the Scarecrow who can only recognize his own intelligence after the Wizard of Oz gives him a diploma, we have come to identify symbols for intelligence as being intelligence itself. The top down bureaucracy of modern society has created an ideology which reframes intelligence as a commodity. It has become the consumption and acquisition of these symbols that we equate with intelligence. Our lauding of intelligence as the ultimate virtue serves only to pay lip service a concept that has been rendered meaningless in the semiotic confusion surrounding it. We have redefined intelligence in accordance with our widespread vapid consumerism, or at least, have allowed it to be redefined thusly for us by those who profit from that ideology.

No where is this symbol over substance problem more apparent than on the internet, especially in social media and comments sections. The internet has acquired a wealth of symbolic baggage that replaces or attempts to dismiss critical thinking, rational argumentation and the cogent expression of complex ideas. It has become a veritable battleground of compulsive reductivism, where every aspect of human experience is distilled down into a MEME. And when we are not busy oversimplifying complex ideas in image forms, we use a limited vocabulary of buzzwords in place of a rational response. Rather than consider somebody’s thoughts and ideas, we dismiss them as being BUTTHURT and then walk away as though victorious. Since emotional states are subjective individual phenomena, they cannot be measured externally by those not directly experiencing them. So it is logically meaningless to make conjecture about another person’s emotional states for the purpose of attributing the products of their intellect to them.

The internet has created an entire language and method for dismissing those we disagree with for the very worst and most misguided reasons. And since the frequency of this behavior increases all of the time, we are spending ever increasing amounts of time and effort contributing to our own dumbing down. We become ever more proficient at practicing our ignorance with great efficiency, thereby alienating ourselves from and destroying the intelligence needed to save us from this self-perpetuating cycle. Unfortunately, these behaviors are now transcending the internet and becoming part of our in-person interactions and penetrating the entire fabric of our culture.

The fictional world of Mike Judge’s prophetic film ‘Idiocracy’ is increasingly becoming our reality. Ignorance and symbolic impostors of intellect are celebrated, reinforced and rewarded, while genuine intelligence becomes more and more alien and unrecognizable. Many people can no longer even recognize the authentic substance, let alone exercise healthy ways of reacting to it. If Einstein were alive today it is not unthinkable that his genius would be met with the assessment that his ‘shit’s fucked up and he talks like a fag.’ This momentum is creating a real-life Idiocracy that, if unchecked, could lead to the destruction of our entire species and planet. In the modern world, an Idiocracy could not exist long. We rely on intelligence for things as basic as maintaining nuclear power plants which would, without the attention of intelligent humans, create an existential risk of massive proportions. We could very literally self-destruct from our own de-evolution into willful ignorance and prideful stupidity.

Despite the fact that I just went into great detail explaining the grave danger of the rising ignorance of intelligence, I am certain to be subjected to the very behaviors I just warned against. People will still take the opportunity to prove my point by responding in the very ways I have rationally deconstructed for them. Like children at arcade without quarters, they will insist they are winning when they have failed to understand even the most basic facts about the game. Their pointless button-pushing and joystick movements will come in the form of responding with memes or the old ‘yer just butthurt’ and their victory statement will be the frustrated child’s cry of “Nuhn uhn, YER STOOPID!”

And yet I must seriously consider that to be the case. If I were really all that smart I might attempt to destroy the very fabric of the universe and spare us further shame and misery, instead of making feeble attempts to help our species rise above its own ignorance and the doom it entails. Maybe all those super villains had it right.