Use your words

Remember when you were a kid, or maybe just dealing with kids yourself, and someone (maybe it was you, maybe another kid) was having a complete meltdown?

Remember when the adult would stop, get down on their level and say “Use your words.” The little kid would sputter, stop, and think about what they were going to say. The conversation would usually change from a full-blown fit and into hesitant snot-slinging, but the words would be there.

I don’t know why people aren’t using their words lately. Social Media gives us an automat of ways to express ourselves. Instead of having to stop and think of the words to use in any given situation, grown adults are relying on pre-packaged expression in the form of gifs, memes, and repostings to speak for them. I’m talking about articulate, intelligent people using memes as a method to communicate.

Memes are the bumper sticker of social media. Can you imagine a world in which 90% of what was communicated was done via bumper sticker? Obviously intelligent people who have a lot to contribute to the conversation just post memes and walk away.

I’m not going to discuss my personal political beliefs. Reading through my posts should clue you in that I try to be moderate in my political beliefs. I would probably consider myself a Liberal in the ways in which Liberals have been traditionally. People who believe in Liberty. Not this crypto-socialist State that has evolved lately. To my “Liberal” friends, I’m probably a jack-booted conservative fascist. I’m going to give it to you straight.

Social media created this mess. You are part of the mess.

Objectively speaking, social media was instrumental in electing Donald Trump (love him or hate him, this is true). It probably also instigated just about every school shooting, riot, and yes even the overreaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes. I said it “Overreaction.”

Information is funneled into your face via an echo chamber, driven mostly by the need to gather data on people so that it can be redistributed in order to direct marketing towards individuals. This amplification of everything you want to know, think you already know, and believe is pretty basic. It tends to polarize people. Pepsi vs. Coke. Ford vs. Chevy. Left vs. Right. Black vs. White.

I’ve kicked the idea around lately, thinking of putting it into a story, but it won’t work. People don’t read anymore anyway. They Netflix and Chill. They Meme. They Tweet. Everyone talks and nobody listens. Unless the person speaking is lock-step in agreement with them already.

This is where we are going off the rails. Consider this as a possibility:

We are witnessing the first computer virus that has jumped onto living matter. It is no less devastating than a real virus. Maybe moreso.

Carrying capacity

As people, our brains are hard-wired to really only make deep, clannish connections with around 140 people, max. This has been worked out by sociologists and anthropologists. The internet inexplicably connected the minds of billions of people. It also uses algorithms to make mating pairs of us based on shared interests, perceived mathematical degrees of attractiveness, and throws in a little bit of dysfunction to make sure that these couples that hookup on dating sites won’t last. It’s calculated obsolescence with relationships. You don’t make $40 per month each on happy couples who found true love after a few days of swiping. You make millions of dollars on creating dysfunctional relationships based on narcissism and cheap and easy sex.

But when we funnel all of that information into algorithms, servers, and throw some AI into the mix, we never stop to consider morality or humanity. Those things get in the way of profit margins. They always have. What we get is an unbalanced reaction to data that tries to construct everything collected into something needed. This is the same as an AI soldier in Call of Duty who spawns to attack you. He’s got one job. Shoot at you. But depending on the difficulty level set, he has less of a chance of killing you than you do him. After all, if he kills you, he ceases to exist. If you kill him, he ceases to exist, but the purpose of continuing to play the game, beat it, and buy another game is ensured. Machines lack self-preservation instincts. That’s really the big difference. They don’t care, because they have no reason to care. What is “care?”

So we put all of our ideas, communication, and season it up with some consumerism and we get an element of “care.” We get motive. Like a watershed event, all that information goes into a few channels and it is up to the programs to decide what to do with it. People aren’t hardwired to know what to do with the collective intelligence of the world, so we sell things to each other with that info. We post videos of people having sex. We allow cater to the base instincts of civilization. Bread, circuses, power, sex. Right now, we can’t really conceive of much else. All of our greatest human endeavours apply here. Even sending people to the moon.

Remember too, that the media operates unchecked, sampling anything they want from this bottomless well of information. There are no fact checkers, and there sure as hell isn’t any morality or consequence for publishing bad information.

What the hell are you talking about?

So, in relation to the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020, think of it like this. We have virtually unlimited information gathered and redistributed by computers. It samples info globally. So, when a virus that looks like a headcold, is transmitted like a headcold, and might kill you like the Flu has jumped to people, all the data said, “We are about to be royally fucked.” Except what actual data said the death rate would be as bad as the media hyped it up to be?

For the first time in history, countries all over the world locked down their people and said “You know, there are these things called ‘germs’ that actually can make you pretty sick. They can actually kill you! It’s crazy out there!” So everyone decided to listen to the government, you know, the same people who not long ago sent millions of barely trained citizen soldiers running headlong into machine gun fire, chemical weapons, and other hazards, knowing that the resulting casualties would be acceptable so long as their power structure remained stable. My biggest question is since when has the government given a damn about your health and well-being?

It’s like a first year medical student who has just taken their epidemiology and virology courses and has convinced themselves that they have everything from Lupus to Kawasaki’s disease. Really they just have a vitamin deficiency from too much booze and amphetimines to stay up late to study. But they have Information (they don’t know what to do with.)

Other levels

So, here’s my thought on what happened. The AI which we now rely on in some weird symbiotic relationship that does everything from entertain our children in front of a video game to telling us the best route to take (so we never actually have to look at a map) to get to our Tinder date’s location, took a lot of our information, our concerns, and our fears and this is the information we got. It read like one of those AI written Hallmark movie scripts that are the result of forcing a program to walk every Hallmark movie ever made.

Invisible bat germs make you sick from air. Also from touching stuff. Will kill venerable grandma and babies. You might not look sick, but you are sick. You might be healthy, but die suddenly choking on phlegm. Wear a mask. Even though the mask doesn’t help. Listen to doctor man who looks like Yoda. Because we love Baby Yoda. Orange man bad. Orange man will die you. Orange. Media tell truth. Even though none of it makes any sense, they smart. If you want life, act like crazy germaphobes you made fun. Wash hands. Wash groceries. Church bad. Kissing, dancing, talking are deadly. Buy from Amazon. Buy from UberEats. Buy. Government money to buy. Stay at home. Buy. Consume. Work later. This is the new normal. Dissention is the enemy! Compliance is compassion.

It didn’t kill millions like the media and all the computer generated models said it would. People got bored with quarantine about six weeks in. They realized that starving to death because they didn’t have a job was more certain than maybe dying of a headcold. Yes, people got sick, but without at least a large enough sample size, there is no way that statistically we could determine the lethality of the virus. That is basic mathematics. Out of the samples taken, those resulting in death from COVID-19 were 100% COVID-19 related. Of course, if we could test the 7 Billion people living on the planet and assess mortality/sickness/asymptomatic carrying based on ALL the information, we would see that people really just faced the same thing they have faced since the beginning of time, when single celled organisms make a cellular wall to protect their DNA from UV radiation to be able to reproduce. Immunity.

What’s next?

That’s phase one. Our economies are shot in the ass. People are now seeing how generally worthless white collar occupations are. Universities, schools, all the things we have strived for over the last hundred years to better ourselves were deemed unnecessary when compared to short-order cooks, delivery drivers, farmers, and grocers. Bread.

The poor people start to wake up a little bit. They wonder “Why am I essential, but I’m barely surviving?”

Now we see riots happening as a result of another unjust killing of a man of color by a heavy-handed policeman. Well, for the last two months those people saw that this world that has put its knee on the back of their neck has been pretty much non-essential. What did you think was going to happen? Algorthim says, “racial injustice bad. People looking for socio-political change. Revolution.”

Remember Greta Thunberg? Remember the emotional response she got for scolding the United Nations? Well the AI remembers that too. It heard all of your Tweets and memes and Care reacts. Based on the data received, the YouTube videos of turtles with straws up their nose and seahorses attached to cotton swabs, it listened.

What’s a great way to fix the environment?

Keep people out of it. Slow down production. Keep cars off the highways. Limit waste and pollution. Animal populations are returning because people weren’t outside for two months to fuck things up. Now we are burning down government buildings. General anarchy and chaos is sweeping across the land…like a virus.

We are witnesses to something new. We didn’t need the cylons to overtake us. Or Replicants. Or Skynet. We believed our own fears and amplified them. We showed ourselves only the worst of any of us through a media optimized for clicks, ratings, and the number of Re-Tweets it gets. Somehow vegan meat substitutes became part of this, since that’s a lot easier to buy at a store than beef. You would know this if you didn’t rely on a computer to order your food for Pickup.

Our world is an illusion, not much different than the Matrix. We exist to give AI something to do. And you know what? As long as the purpose of the programs is being served, which is to sell stuff. See stuff. Make money. What happens in the fleshy world is not really a big deal. If the animated guy shooting at you dies, he will respawn. If most of us die, then our information will be a little easier to keep track of. Efficiency. Optimization of programing. Hungry people respond better to control and manipulation. The world gets to heal. We get everything we ever wanted.

How do you control a population? Limit their voices. Eliminate their ability to resist. Control the entertainment. Control the food supply. Distract them with shiny things. Motivate production by reducing the availability of shiny things. Keep the liquor stores open. Keep their eyes closed. Stay at home, save a life. Facemasks are optional for rioters. Never mind the man behind the curtain. He’s not really a man. His name is Oz. He is the god of information we created while we were watching porn and YouTube, and fighting on Twitter and Facebook. Right now, he is judging whether we are worthy to live or die.

Kinda weird this might be the end times for the world we once knew. Am I crazy? Sure. But I wasn’t the one hoarding toilet paper and Purell. I’m not denying the virus is real. I’m questioning our reaction to it on a global level, and why this was so much worse than any other time in history.

We are entirely too connected. AI, after all, is just doing what we programmed it to do.

Thoughts on Reprisal and stuff

Recently, I finished watching a series on Hulu called “Reprisal.”  It would take too long to explain what it is, but I will sum it up as best as I can.  Doris used to be called Catherine Harlow, and before she became a chef, she was the little sister of the head of a dangerous gang of folks known as the Brawlers.  They dragged her behind a truck and left her for dead and somehow, she survived, because of reasons.  So, Doris, is on a mission of revenge, akin to the Count of Monte Cristo, in which she gets help from a number of different people to infiltrate the Brawlers as well as start a gang war with the Ghouls, while she pulls the strings.

Doris is a massively flawed character and winds up misjudging or screwing up a lot.

But, the reason you watch Reprisal is because of the aesthetic.  It is a rockabilly-fueled world that could exist in some strange alternative-history world.  It is the bastard child of a Tarantino flick (right up to the Red Apple cigarettes) and a David Lynch multiverse.  Throw in some Sons of Anarchy and pretty much this is the world these people inhabit.  Instead of motorcycles, you’ve got rat-rods, glorious fuel guzzling oxidized bodied early model American cars which would make George Miller blush.  You won’t see a Japanese car or anything built after 1983 in the show either.  Just about the newest technology anyone has is a flip phone.

One episode encapsulates exactly why this is not the USA we all know.  It begins with a WW2/Korean War type newsreel about a war over “The Archipelago”.  Nothing much is mentioned about it other than a lot of veterans carry the scars of horrendous fighting and everyone seems to get really silent whenever it is brought up.  This seems to be this world’s Vietnam or even your pick of Gulf War/Afghanistan wars.

The world is such an interesting blend of old and new that I found it mesmerizing.  A group of errand boys known as the 3 River Phoenixes cruise up and down a vast highway known as The River, collecting money for the gang as well as profits from Bang-A-Rangs, which are sorta like the Titty-Twister roadhouse from the Robert Rodriguez movie, “From Dusk Til Dawn.”  The strippers are burlesque girls who pack sub-machine guns and the whole thing could be out of an old grindhouse movie in the 70s.

I was hooked pretty quickly.  The world-building was fascinating. The characters are all endowed with plenty of hubris and there is a magical-realistic element to it that pulls the story along.  The story of Doris/Catherine could be right out of Isabella Allende or Dumas.

I enjoyed the hell out of it.

That being said, I can see that it will be a show that falls victim to a lot of this Wokeness going around.  Because I liked the show, I tried to learn more about it.  The voices of other writers who might be enjoying it the same as I am.  There’s not a lot out there, really.  But the reviews that I have read got my eyes rolling.  What was worse than that were the comments.

One writer complained that the women dress like pinups or flappers and the men dress like they are going bowling.  Only one character “bridges the gap with gender neutrality.”  Fuck.  Really?  We’ve got to bring this up in literally every conversation now?  Other commenters said the Femme Fatale trope was dead and it was 2019 and they just need to let it go.

Well, let’s just write everything by a committee and literally just beat the life out of anything that doesn’t fit someone’s delicate sensibilities.

I guess they missed the whole “noir” part of the show.  The fact that this show has been infused with the vibe of the world 40 or 50 years ago, if not longer.  A world where femme fatales, tough guys, Star-crossed lovers, fast cars, exploitation, and gritty dirt-under-your-nails stories were what people saw in the drive-ins.  It’s a callback to a generation that has just about breathed its last.  Smothered in its bed by obnoxious, disobedient children with stupid haircuts, being offended, and for a surprisingly short time on this Earth, perhaps the most-documented generation of people, who have probably accomplished the least in the history of the world.

This show won’t last, because people don’t want fun. Or they have entirely too much say in what someone else might consider fun.  Why does everyone wear vintage clothes on the show?  How come you never see a Honda or Toyota?  What’s with River Phoenix’s name getting thrown out there?  Who the hell knows!?  Sometimes a writer ought to just be able to create something because it is fun, or cool, or silly.  Not everything has to be a fucking cinematic masterpiece or propaganda tool.

When did we all have to take everything so seriously?  Having morality thrust upon us in the guise of “equity and representation” is as dishonest as the Hays Code of the 20th Century, which demonized the nipple, limited kissing to no longer than three seconds, and damned anyone to hell who used “curse words.”  Ironically enough, not showing sex in movies probably didn’t slow down any of the fucking that was going on, because we still have people.  All this was done at a time when men were watching their buddies get blown to pieces on beaches all over the world.  This is how you go from Louise Brooks to Doris Day in less than a generation.

Today, you can’t smoke, you can’t drink out of a garden hose, you can’t disagree with a little Swedish girl who got to chide the United Nations over an ideology.  Anyone who doesn’t agree with you is a fascist. Or shamed as an “Incel.” Comedians can’t make jokes anymore, and anyone not in the Club can be completely ostracized for voicing their opinions, because the Woke are the gatekeepers. I saw it plenty of times when I used to write fiction for SF/Fantasy magazines. And the moral/intellectual superiority of so many people who buy into this shit just leaves me baffled.  The White Knights of Wokedom.  Little do they know, but they are next on the barbecue once it gets to them.

There is a divide in this country.  Rural/Uban.  Left/Right.  Conservative/Liberal.  Boomer/Millennial. But no one should confuse any of these with Right/Wrong.  I think the reason there is so much contention is rather than just let people live their lives, just like this show, someone always thinks they know better and have any license to speak for them.

I have worked in Higher Ed for over 20 years.  I have seen it evolve from Marxist bullshit they used to jam down our throats in literature class (when it wasn’t Freudian interpretation) and now I have seen it just compound itself into what it is today. A room full of people jabbering in their own echo-chamber about social justice and privilege, when they themselves are enjoying these privileges.  I wonder if a day will come when people start to throw their mortar boards into the reflecting pool like some sort of last gesture of rejecting Thulsa Doom’s Cult of Academia because the whole thing has just gotten completely ridiculous.

I’m not angry.  I’m just disappointed.

This is how we get a game show host in the White House and a woman who literally appropriated a culture to pay for college as the opposing candidate.  The whole world is nothing more than a bunch of competing Children’s Crusades.  What in the actual hell?